A Letter to President Thomas Jefferson




Accept the affectionate address of the Catoctin Baptist Association, Holden in Loudon County, State of Virginia, August 18th, 1808. You will permit us to offer you our sincere congratulations while we see you about to be relieved From the laborers inseparable from the trust you have been called to sustain; While we anticipate your repose in the bosom of domestic Tranquility, we deeply lament the loss of your useful service, which we believe has been a blessing to the United States, and Virginia especially, is indebted to your zeal and patriotism.

To you, Sir, under the superintending Providence great father of the human family, we feel greatly indebted for our deliverance from the galling chains of an ecclesiastical establishment. We have not forgotten that until your hand are partitioned on this interesting subject was put, and we reflect with great pleasure on the wisdom, firmness and zeal, that manifested itself in every part of your conduct until the chains were broken and religious tyranny gave up the ghost and lies buried in eternal death, Never to experience a resurrection, we hope, in this happy country; and reflection, becomes abundantly more pleasing when we view every part of your political life so perfectly in the unison with the principles, that shone, with such superior luster at that early dawn of your political career.

We have seen in your answers to those who have solicited your continuance and the important trust you now hold, the reasons you offer for retiring from the noise and bustle, of public life, and feel conscious that age must weaken the eternal system, and as this. Is the medium through which the intellectual faculties display their force when the former, through age or any cause is impaired, the latter, must suffer a proportional Diminution; But, at the same time, it is with deep regret that we part with your useful talents, although necessity might compel the measure, and frequent changes in a republican government may we best secure its terminology. Another term used quite often is "providence." This word is found in one place (Acts 24:2), and it is not used in reference to the Almighty. However, one need only read through the book of Esther to see how the Lord mightily works His providential hand over His people for their protection and His glory. Therefore, a term is worthy provided the principle is solid and the presentation clearly brought forth. On the other hand, if a man brings terms into the Lord's house such as regeneration, the gospel, and confession with the intent to use these concepts to make children of God then I cannot labour with such. These terms are Biblical, but if the application is man-made regeneration, gospel means, and confession to invite Jesus to be our Saviour, then no matter how Biblical the word the concept is rotten. Terminology is very needful to converse about the goodness of the Lord.

So, may we present the principles of the Bible in a clear manner, and utilize the talents that He has bestowed unto us to the edification of Zion and praise of His matchless Name.

[Reprinted in Zion's Advocate, July 15th, 1880. The Catoctin Association is the oldest such continuing body in the nation, having been organized in 1776. Mr. Jefferson did reply at some length to the Association's letter.] Printed from: The Primitive Baptist (Est. 1886), The Christian Pathway (Est. 1954), and The Gospel Appeal (Est. 1966) Issue: February 2020 “Stand ye in the ways and see and ask for the old paths.”