Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The central message.................

     The ensuing letters, continuing through 1813, were equally learned, grave, thorough - and strikingly nondogmatic.  Adams regarded the Bible not as infallible text but as a human narrative inspired by revelation - the greatest of all works of literature.  He knew all the debates and did not wish to be distracted by them from the central message.  He told George that it was unknowable, and unnecessary to know, whether Jesus was "a manifestation of almighty God" or simply his only son.  He explained why the ethical system of Scripture was superior to that of the classical world Adams otherwise admired so deeply:  in the solicitude Jesus expresses toward the widow, the orphan, the deaf and blind, and his own enemies, "we see a tenderness to the infirmities of human nature, a purity, a sublimity of virtues which never entered I say not into the codes of the Ancient legislators but into the imaginations of their profoundest and most exalted Philosophers."  The great moral revelation of the gospel was: "You must love one another."  Adams did not say so here, but the doctrine of the brotherhood of man was the source of his conviction that the Declaration of Independence was a realization in political form of the the Gospels.

-James Traub,  John Quincy Adams:  Militant Spirit

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