Wednesday, January 16, 2013

John Adam's: A Political Puritan?

As I am now on my second biography of a U.S. President I have come to the conclusion that this is going to be a more difficult task than I originally had planned. It is hard to peer into the soul of a man through pages and ink! If the biographer doesn't give you anything to work with then you are put in a very difficult position to make any safe calls on the man's life. Such is the case with John Adams. Without pouring over his personal letters from hundreds of years ago and doing more reading than I have time for, Adams is a hard man to nail down.

John Adams was born and raised in Massachusetts during the beginning of the 18th Century and this means he was raised in the Puritan tradition. This also places him at the heart of the Great Awakening when men like Whitefield and Edwards were prominent public figures. If we remember, Adams was going to school originally to be a minister and we can judge from this that there was always at least some interest in the religion of men like Edwards. Adam's letters to his wife Abigail and Thomas Jefferson (later in life) include many reflections on religion. The following are quotes from Adams:

"There is great pleasure in hearing sermons so serious, so clear, so sensible and instructive as these..."  -July 4,1774
 "I had rather go to church. We have better sermons, better prayers, better speakers, softer, sweeter music, and genteeler company. And I must confess that the Episcopal church is quite as agreeable to my taste as the Presbyterian...I like the Congregational way best, next to that the independent." -October 9, 1774
"I have examined all religions, as well as my narrow sphere, my straightened means, and my busy life, would allow; and the result is that the Bible is the best book in the world. It contains more philosophy than all the libraries I have seen." -December 25, 1813
 "The ten commandments and the Sermon on the Mount contain my religion..." -November 4, 1816
 "As I understand the Christian Religion, it was, and is, a revelation"- December 17, 1816
 These and many more quotes give us an insight into the theology of Adams and it is clear that doctrinally he had swerved very little from the men who impacted Puritan thought. Adams held true throughout his life to the Christian profession and was much more up front than Washington. This makes him an easier subject in one way. Yet, men are men at best.

Adams was known for being stubborn and many times was called vain by his critics. He was known for his blunt style of argumentation. Adams was so embittered against Jefferson's tactics to win the 4th Presidential Election that he refused to go to Jefferson's inauguration. Adam's also was not one to allow his name to be slandered without a defense thereof. At times refutation is necessary as the truth is important and has to be stood up for but in an effort to defend every slander and accusation thrown at him, Adams came off as a man who was too wrapped up in his own image and ideals. Whether his character faults disqualify Adams as a follower of Christ is not my place to say. Public life as a political figure during this time was very similar to today in that your faults will always get more attention than your strengths.

 John Adams held to orthodoxy when it came to Christianity and was a professing Christian through his entire life. He had character flaws that people made a point to bring up. These sins, like all sins are not beyond the forgiving power of Jesus for those who are walking by faith (1 John 1:9). Will I meet John Adams when I get to heaven? I don't think I can say right now, but I can rest assured that whatever state John Adam's soul was in as it entered eternity, His creator knew his soul much better than I did..."will not the judge of all the earth do right?"