Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Jared Sparks, 4 November 1820

To Jared Sparks

Monticello Nov. 4. 20.


Your favor of Sep. 18. is just recieved, with the book accompanying it. it’s delay was owing to that of the box of books from mr Guegan, in which it was packed. being just setting out on a journey I have time only to look over the summary of contents. in this I see nothing in which I am likely to differ materially from you. I hold the precepts of Jesus, as delivered by himself, to be the most pure, benevolent, and sublime which have ever been preached to man. I adhere to the principles of the first age; and consider all subsequent innovations as corruptions of his religion, having no foundation in what came from him. the metaphisical insanities of Athanasius, of Loyola, & of Calvin, are to my understanding, mere relapses into polytheism, differing from paganism only by being more unintelligible.1 the religion of Jesus is founded on the Unity of God, and this principle chiefly, gave it triumph over the rabble of heathen gods then acknoleged. thinking men of all nations rallied readily to the doctrine of one only god, and embraced it with the pure morals which Jesus inculcated. if the freedom of religion, guaranteed to us by law in theory, can ever rise in practice under the overbearing inquisition of public opinion, truth will prevail over fanaticism, and the genuine doctrines of Jesus, so long perverted by his pseudo-priests, will again be restored to their original purity. this reformation will advance with the other improvements of the human mind but too late for me to witness it.   Accept my thanks for your book, in which I shall read with pleasure your developements of the subject, and with them the assurance of my high respect.

Th: Jefferson

RC (MH); addressed: “The revd Jared Sparks Baltimore”; franked; postmarked Charlottesville, 7 Nov.; endorsed by Sparks. PoC (DLC). Mistakenly recorded in SJL as a letter of 3 Nov. 1820.

1Manuscript: “unintelligble.”

Index Entries

  • Athanasius, Saint; criticized search
  • Calvin, John; TJ on search
  • Guegan, Henry (Louis Henri Guégan); and books for TJ search
  • Ignatius of Loyola, Saint search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; receives works search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; Jesus search
  • Jesus; TJ on search
  • Letters on the Ministry, Ritual, and Doctrines of the Protestant Episcopal Church, addressed to the Rev. Wm. E. Wyatt, D.D. (J. Sparks) search
  • religion; freedom of search
  • Sparks, Jared; Letters on the Ministry, Ritual, and Doctrines of the Protestant Episcopal Church, addressed to the Rev. Wm. E. Wyatt, D.D. search
  • Sparks, Jared; letters to search