Jefferson Referenced Jesus as “Saviour”

On February 5, 1798, Jefferson wrote some Notes on Newspaper Articles, which spoke of Jesus as “Saviour.” This term describes a redemptive mission. Jefferson also used this term or “Christ” in other letters; but in this 1798 case, like his earlier commonplace notes and other “Notes on Religion” (see DOUBTING THOMAS, pp. 10, 50, 290-291), it is impossible to say if it definitely expressed his own personal beliefs here, since Jefferson made no comment on the notes.

A few weeks later in February 1798, Jefferson “Paid…subscription for a hot press bible,” published by Thompson and Small. A hot press Bible refers to a new way they printed the holy book. A contemporary ad said that publishers John Thompson and Abraham Small believed it “to be the most beautiful production of its nature, hitherto seen.” To subscribe meant to make a pledge ahead of time to the publishers so that the capital was there to accomplish the project. But more significant was the fact that Jefferson approved his name to be listed publicly in the volume as a subscriber or advance investor. He also subscribed and thus approved his name to be printed later in two other biblical works.

Jefferson wrote a letter on April 11, 1798, to a Moravian [i.e. United Brethren] minister John G. E. Heckewelder of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, who was a missionary to Indian towns in that state and Ohio. They exchanged several letters regarding Indian missions. And later as president Jefferson endorsed treaties that funded the work of United Brethren missionaries to the Indians. Jefferson’s occasional generosity to Christian missions to the Indians was such that New York Presbyterian Rev. Samuel Miller felt comfortable to seek Jefferson’s support for same (March 4, 1800). No response by Jefferson to Miller’s request is found, either way.

In November, 1798, while Jefferson was back home, he anonymously drafted the Kentucky Resolutions. Kentucky was still part of Virginia at that point. His resolution revealed Jefferson’s Christian idea of man, which is that all men are sinners in need of restraint and essentially argued the need for decentralized (i.e., state and local) authority over religious policy. He argued that security for religious freedom lies in the Constitutional principle of federalism rather than of secularism.47 Along this line of reasoning Jefferson also wrote to Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts on January 26, 1799, saying “I am for freedom of religion, and against all maneuvers to bring about a legal ascendency of one sect over another.”

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