If someone merely quotes someone else talking about Christ, that does not tell us anything about what the person doing the quoting believes. If someone is raised in an orthodox environment and only mentions Christ as a young man, but as an adult at the time of the Founding says contrary things, the original quote tells us little about what he believed as “a founder.” If someone reports the subject of a conversation in which someone else mentioned the word “Christ,” that tells us nothing about the views of the reporter – especially when, in his commentary on the event, he expresses heretical views of his own about Jesus. If someone is defending a pastor and reports what the pastor taught, that tells us nothing about the beliefs of the defender. If, in that same situation, the defender uses the language of the judges/jurors to try to favorably influence them, that tells us nothing about the views of the defender. If, in more than 20,000 pages of someone’s writings, there is only one reference to “Jesus” or “Christ” and that is not in the person’s handwriting, but in the handwriting of an aide of his who was a Christian, that tells us little about that person’s belief in Christ. Use of the word “divine” must also be evaluated in context because in 18th century common usage, “divine” also meant simply “preeminently gifted or extraordinarily excellent” (like some people even today refer to symphonies or desserts as “divine” or to Bette Midler as “the divine Miss M”). It was also a common term for a merely human representative of God, such as pastors. When a 21st-century evangelical sees the word “divine,” he/she automatically assumes a reference to God – but not so in the 18th century. This is context. In the case of one of the key founders, quotes given in which he says “Christ” and even expresses belief in Christ actually make my point: he does not do so until after he has a conversion experience and is born again (long after he was a “founder”).
As a general rule, the public statements and pronouncements of politicians sensitive to public approval are not as reliable indicators of true belief as private statements which they did not expect the public to see. Like politicians today, they often had aides who wrote public documents. They wrote their own private correspondence, however, and, depending on the recipient, usually had no reason to hide their true beliefs. On numerous occasions, key founders aware of the heterodoxy they expressed in a letter, instructed the recipients of correspondence to return or to burn the letters to keep them from the public eye. Surely we are all aware of the propensity of politicians to “tickle the ears” of the public in order to become or remain popular – the key founders were no exception; they were not gods or demi-gods, they were merely political men (albeit much better ones than we have today).