Thursday, August 30, 2012

Triumph of infidelity Rightly Attended An Electronic Edition

By Rev. Timothy Dwight, here.  It's a satirical poem.  It's the kind of thing that you have to read very carefully to understand.  As far as I understand it, the work attacks not just the "deists" but also the "soft infidels" like Rev. Charles Chauncy whose understanding of reason and revelation led him to deny both the Trinity and eternal damnation.  This is important because "the key Founders" -- without question, Jefferson, J. Adams and Franklin, and probably Washington and Madison -- believed in a theological system that was closest to Chauncy's, not Dwight's, and not that of the "hard deists."  Was it a form of "soft infidelity?"  Or was it a kinder, gentler form of "Christianity"?  I won't judge; I'll just throw the issue out there.

Anyway here is a passage from the poem:

There stood the infidel of modern breed,      
Blest vegetation of infernal seed,      
Alike no Deist, and no Christian, he;      
But from all principle, all virtue, free.      

To him all things the same, as good or evil;      
Jehovah, Jove, the Lama, or the Devil;      
Mohammed's braying, or Isaiah's lays;      
The Indian's powaws, or the Christian's praise.      
With him all natural desires are good; .
His thirst for stews; the Mohawk's thirst for blood:      
Made, not to know, or love, the all beauteous mind;      
Or wing thro' heaven his path to bliss refin'd:      
But his dear self, choice Dagon! to adore;      
To dress, to game, to swear, to drink, to whore; .
To race his steeds; or cheat, when others run;      
Pit tortur'd cocks, and swear 'tis glorious fun:      
His soul not cloath'd with attributes divine;      
But a nice watch-spring to that grand machine,      
That work more nice than Rittenhouse can plan, .
The body; man's chief part; himself, the man;      
Man, that illustrious brute of noblest shape,      
A swine unbristled, and an untail'd ape:      
To couple, eat, and die–his glorious doom–      
The oyster's church-yard, and the capon's tomb.

That is Dwight describing the "rational Christianity" of the American Founding, what Gregg Frazer terms "theistic rationalism."

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