Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Alexander Hamilton's Religion: Part Two

In "Alexander Hamilton's Religion: Part One," we left off on Hamilton's trip the United States, where he was to attend an American university. He arrived in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1773, where he finished up some business for his former employer Nicholas Cruger, and collected his wages. He then took a trip to New York City, where he presented the introductory letters from Doctor Knox to the Reverends Mason and Rodgers, who were to become valuable friends of Hamilton. Hamilton boarded in the house of Hercules Mulligan, a friend of both the ministers and possible of Hugh Knox. Hamilton and Mulligan became instant friends, and Mulligan recollected much of this friendship in his "Narrative of Alexander Hamilton" many years later. Hamilton's education, however, had hence far been so menial, that he needed to attend an academy in order to prepare himself for college. Hamilton continued his journey to New Jersey, where he attended Francis Barber's Academy, and hoped to attend a university. Upon his arrival in Elizabethtown (now just "Elizabeth"), New Jersey -- the hometown of the academy -- Hamilton gave the introductory letters that Knox had sent with him to William Livingston and Elias Boudinot, two influential (would-be) Founding Fathers and New Jersey statesmen. Hamilton spent time among the families of both these men, and both had a deep impact upon his education, and perhaps even his religious temperament. Both of these men were dedicated Christians, and even spent parts of their lives in some sort of ministry or theological pursuit.

William Livingston, though known for his statesmanship on behalf in New Jersey, grew up in New York state, along with his brother Philip Livingston (who signed the Declaration of Independence as a delegate from New York) and their cousin Robert R. Livingston (who was on the Committee which drafted the Declaration, and swore George Washington in as first United States President). At the tender age of fourteen, William ventured into the wilderness of western New York as an aide to a Christian missionary to the Mohawk Indians. William later moved to New Jersey, where he was apparently swept up in the fervor of the Great Awakening, and changed his denomination from the family denomination of Dutch Reformed to Presbyterian. He even went to the dangerous extent of publicly criticizing the Anglicans who opposed the leaders of the Great Awakening. This deed was indeed very dangerous because the Anglican denomination was the established church of England -- mother country -- and the head of that church was none other that the King of England; therefore, to publicly criticize his denomination came very close to committing an act of treason against the crown. William Livingston settled down in the town of Elizabethtown, where he lived at the time he boarded Hamilton in his home. Livingston, although not a licensed preacher, was nevertheless a layman pastor of a congregation in that town. Interestingly, he called himself a Calvinist, but openly rejected John Calvin's philosophy of predestination as unscriptural and reducing men to "mere machines" (On Two Wings, by Michael Novak; p. 153). So Livingston, who probably had a part in Hamilton's early education, most likely left the indelible stain of Christianity on young Hamilton.

Elias Boudinot had much in common with Livingston. Elias Boudinot,
too, was greatly influenced in favor of the Great Awakening. Like Hamilton, Boudinot was a direct descendant of a French Huguenot family, who had immigrated not to the West Indies, but to America, to escape the horrific persecution of Christians under the rule of Louis XIV. Boudinot was converted under the preaching of George Whitefield, and was baptized by Whitefield himself (1). Elias Boudinot went on to display himself as a strong believer in the Bible and in Christian evangelism. In later life, Boudinot became the first President of the American Bible Society (2), and earlier in life, he defended the Bible from the attacks of skeptics such as Thomas Paine. Boudinot appears to have been very familiar with the events of the Great Awakening as they occurred in New Jersey, for he wrote a biography of William Tennet, which is available from the New York State Library and elsewhere. Boudinot and Hamilton remained good friends for life. During the time when Hamilton was soldiering during the Revolutionary War, he and Boudinot, who was a member of the War Committee of the Continental Congress, often exchanged letters as to what really happened on the battlefield. Boudinot also served under Hamilton in the early years of the United States under the Constitution, as the director of the United States Mint. Boudinot, too, no doubt, left an indelible impression upon Hamilton's mind and soul concerning Christianity. John Church Hamilton wrote a footnote on page 48 of his History of the Republic of the United States, volume 1 (which book was a look at the Founding Era through the life and eyes of Alexander Hamilton and the writings of his contemporaries):

The excellent family of the Boudinots relate that he [Hamilton] occasionally made a family prayer in their presence.
Hamilton, after finishing a year at the academy, and now ready for college, had only to choose a university. According to Hercules Mulligan, Hamilton desired to attend Princeton University, for it was more "republican" in principle than the other colleges open to him in New York. Mulligan prepared an interview for Hamilton with the prestigious president of Princeton, the Reverend Doctor John Witherspoon, who was, like most of Hamilton's other mentors, a Presbyterian American patriot. During the interview, Witherspoon became deeply aware of Hamilton's intense mind and love for hard work, discipline, and study. Hamilton, however, made a request that Witherspoon was not certain would be granted: Hamilton said that it was his great desire that he would be able to work at his own pace, and be allowed to speed as quickly as his abilities permitted him through the course. Witherspoon, knowing that such was strictly against the policies of the university, presented Hamilton's request before the college board in hopes of squeezing Hamilton in as a unique admission to the university. His efforts failed, and a disappointed Witherspoon gave Hamilton his apologies, because he believed that Hamilton would have been "an ornament" to the academy.

And so Hamilton returned to New York City, where he attended King's College (after the Revolutionary War it was renamed Columbia University). Here, he would make a host of friends who would prove invaluable to him, and him to them. Among those friends was Robert Troup, who was Hamilton's roommate at the university. Years later, he recounted about Hamilton's character at college, to Hamilton's son John, who said:
'At this time,' Troup relates, 'the "General" was attentive to public worship, and in the habit of praying on his knees night and morning. I lived in the same room with him for some time, and I have often been powerfully affected by the fervor and eloquence of his prayers. He had read many of the polemical writers on religious subjects, and he was a zealous believer in the fundamental doctrines of Christianity. I confess that the arguments with which he was accustomed to justify his belief, have tended in no small degree to confirm my own faith in revealed religion.' (3)
This is not the description of a deist or a theistic rationalist. Anyone who lives a life of prayer -- not just religious prayer, but powerful prayer, as Hamilton's were described above as being -- and defends the "Christianity", its "fundamental doctrines," and has the ability to defend "revealed religion" so as to strengthen someone else's faith in it, has to be a fervent Christian.

John Church Hamilton writes that "
a hymn of some merit written at this time, entitled 'The soul entering into bliss,' is preserved." (4) The exact date of writing is uncertain; John C. Hamilton dates it at the time that Hamilton was attending school in America, but the editors of The Papers of Alexander Hamilton date it October 10, 1772 (read their footnote at the bottom of the page) when Hamilton was still in the West Indies. Whatever the case, it was written after the 1772 hurricane, and, combined with the testimony of Troup, this writing refutes the theory, advocated by David Loth (discussed in the previous post) that Hamilton was insincere in his sudden outburst of Christian fervor in his "hurricane letter." Troup's testimony also collaborates with the claim of the Boudinot family that Hamilton was a praying man.

Samuel Smucker, a biographer of Hamilton, commented on Hamilton's college years. His comments were obviously based upon the evidence presented above:
Now also he experienced the most fervent religious emotions, examined the evidences of Christianity, and gave utterance to devotional feeling in prayers and hymns whose eloquence was long traditional. There was nothing morbid or fanatical in this phase of his college career; but, as with all natures rich alike in sensibility and in intelligence, as life and consciousness awakened, and their problems demanded solution, he meekly and ardently, and from a spiritual necessity, sought communion with Eternal Truth; and amid the excitements, the ambition, the daring speculations, the brave and absorbing enterprise, the glory and the errors of after years, the convictions thus borne in upon his youthful heart were never effaced. (5)
The next post, "Alexander Hamilton's Religion: Part Three," will explore two important changes that occurred in Hamilton's life during his college years, and shall explore the religious basis of his early political expression.

(1) Original Intent: The Courts, the Constitution, and Religion, by David Barton; Appendix C: "Boudinot, Elias"

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Alexander Hamilton's Religion: Part One

The debate has long raged over the religion of the Founding Fathers. One side asserts that all of the Founders were deists, while the other side claims that the Founders were Christians instead. At the same time, some claim that the Founders were perhaps neither of the above, but were rather something in between. In perusing the Founders writings, any unbiased mind finds that it would be very erroneous indeed to paint all of the Founders with a broad brush in regard to their religion; not all of the Founders believed exactly the same thing.

In the case of Alexander Hamilton, he has been portrayed as being all of the above each at a different point in his life. In the next several articles, we shall examine in depth both the claims and the evidence for and against those claims. Not being a long-time historian (yet), I continue to study this subject. However, I have studied intensely for the past 3-and-a-half years, and what my research has yielded thus far is more than what any historian or professor (that I have ever read) has henceforth revealed.

In this post, I wish to examine the early period of Hamilton's life, focusing particularly upon his religion.

Our narrative begins, of course, when Hamilton was born on the island of Nevis, which John Adams called "a speck more obscure than Corsica." (1) Obscure it was and still is, for it is hardly a pin-prick on a map, and most people in America would not be able to locate it, for many have never heard of it. The exact year of Hamilton's birth is still disputed. According to a legal document that was drawn up by the court of St. Croix (where Hamilton spent his childhood) upon the death of Hamilton's mother in 1768, Hamilton's birth was in 1755. Hamilton, however, claimed that he was born on January 11, 1757. It is difficult to discern which one is more accurate, but since my motto is "When in doubt, listen to the Founders themselves," I will use 1757 as a base for all figures of Hamilton's age.

Little of Hamilton's childhood is known, since he hardly wrote anything that has survived to this present day, and since he hardly ever spoke of his childhood to anyone. Hamilton, did, however, make an exception in one incident. John Church Hamilton, one of Alexander's sons, would later recollect:

"As an instance of which [AH's early education], rarely as he alluded to his personal history, he mentioned with a smile, his having been taught to repeat the Decalogue {the Ten Commandments] in Hebrew, at the school of a Jewess, when so small that he was placed standing by her side upon a table." (2)
Of the earliest writings of Hamilton which still survive (besides his famous letter to Edward Stevens, a childhood friend), are chiefly those which shed great light upon his religion. Most noticeable of these is a key writing, one which not only is key to discovering Hamilton's religion, but which writing itself is what brought Hamilton out of the Caribbean to America.

But before I introduce the letter, I will introduce the background of it.

Earlier that same year, 1772, a Reverend Hugh Knox from America arrived in on the island of St. Croix, apparently for the purpose of missionary work. At that time, the Caribbean Islands were notorious for their decadence and vice. The practice of the slave trade was the most horrifying on the seaports of the Caribbean Islands, dueling was frequent and gruesome, and all kinds of fornication, though generally looked down upon, prospered in the crowded port-cities of the Caribbean. Knox, who had personal connections to the newspaper editor of St. Croix, and well as to the illustrious New York/West Indian merchant Nicholas Cruger.

Ron Chernow's book Alexander Hamilton has shed some fascinating light upon the background of Knox. Knowledge of this background is significant to the study of Hamilton's life in two ways: (1) it sheds light upon Knox's religious and political convictions, and thus sheds light upon the man and mind who would influence Hamilton's earliest reflections on those two fields, and (2) Knox's background helps the student of Hamilton's life to see the bigger picture beyond Hamilton, and into the Providential plan that manifested itself throughout Hamilton's dramatic life.

Hugh Knox was born in Northern Ireland, and immigrated to the state of Delaware, where he became a schoolmaster. Chernow relates that Knox was at this time anything but fit for a preacher; Knox mocked the local pastor of the town, the Reverend John Rodgers, a friend of the Reverend George Whitefield, in order to impress his own friends. But one Sunday morning, as Knox sat in his church pew mocking to his friends beside him, the words of Rodger's sermon on repentance from dead works to faith toward God began to deeply move Knox. The result was his total transformation from the life of a skeptic, to a passionate believer who committed himself to the ministry. He went on to attend Princeton College (more commonly known at that time as the College of New Jersey), where he was ordained a Presbyterian minister. In one of histories great ironies, Knox's college tutor (who was then the president of the university) was Aaron Burr, Sr., Jonathan Edwards' son-in-law and the father of the very man who would murder Knox's greatest protege, Alexander Hamilton.

As will be demonstrated later, Knox made some very important connections in the Mid-Atlantic states, and most all of these people would go on to be leaders in local and national spheres as American patriots. But Knox felt the urge to leave that circle and confront the horrors and frights of tropical seaport decadence. He believed that God was calling him to leave the American continent and sail to the West Indies, in order to reach those who had been the victims of the most hideous forms of sin in those parts of the world. Little did Knox know that his giant leap of faith would result in a giant leap forward in the history of humankind.

Hugh Knox was not a total stranger when he arrived in the West Indies. A good friend of his, a merchant by the name of Nicholas Cruger, ran a business in both New York City and St. Croix. Cruger was proud of his fifteen-year-old employee, Alexander Hamilton, who only a year previously had come to Cruger seeking employment as a penny-less, home-less, name-less orphan, who was now capable of managing the business in Cruger's absence. Cruger introduced Hamilton and Knox to one another, and it was then that a life-long friendship developed that would prove extremely beneficial to both parties. Knox quickly observed Hamilton's sharp mind, which was constantly preoccupied with the timeless questions of human history and human nature. Knox took Hamilton under his wing, and fed Hamilton's keen appetite for knowledge, and his tireless ambition to study the history of human government. This desire of Hamilton never wained, for near the very end of his life, Hamilton expressed a desire to embark, with the help of several friends, upon a boldly ambitious project to spend the retiring years of his life in a thorough study of governments throughout human history to a close friend Chancellor James Kent, to whom Hamilton wished to assign the project of researching "ecclesiastical history." (3)

John Church Hamilton, in writing of Hamilton's early years and his relationship with Dr. Knox, of whom Hamilton probably spoke of to his own children, wrote:
"There is reason to believe, from the low state of education in the West Indies, that the circle of his [Hamilton's] youthful studies was very limited, probably embracing little more than the English and French languages, which he wrote and spoke with fluency. With a strong propensity to literature, he became a lover of books, and the time that other youths devote to classical learning, was by him employed in miscellaneous reading, happily directed by the advice of Doctor Knox, a respectable Presbyterian divine, who was delighted with the precocity of his mind, took a deep interest in its development.
"The fervent piety of this gentleman gave a strong religious bias ["bias" in the era of J. C. Hamilton's writing was not always used in the negative sense; it simply meant "leaning" or "inclination" or "preferred viewpoint"] to his feelings, the topics of their conversation opening to him [Hamilton] a glimpse of those polemical controversies which have called forth the highest efforts of intellect." (4)
Before Hamilton's mind was ever opened to the theories and ideas of "secular" philosophers from the Enlightenment, Hamilton was influenced by a Bible-believing preacher of the Gospel.

Christianity's influence on Hamilton through Knox is made clear in the famed "hurricane letter" which Hamilton wrote during the horrific hurricane that swept the island of St. Croix in 1772. The flow of Hamilton's writing indicates that he probably wrote this letter just as the hurricane was ravaging the town around him. For a young man with little or no security in life from his fellow man, to see the horrors of death around him (and young Hamilton definitely feared for his life at this point) must have certainly been a very unnerving experience. At this dreadful time, Hamilton had no one in whom to physically confide his feelings, except his father, whom Hamilton had not seen in six years. It probably gave Hamilton some comfort to express his feelings on paper, and then eventually send the letter to his father, which he did.

In the beginning of the letter, Hamilton gave a very vivid account of the hurricane, almost as if he were a reporter for the local newspaper. After giving his frightening descriptions, he then wrote down his thoughts and reflections as they came to him.
"Where now, oh! vile worm, is all thy boasted fortitude and resolution? What is become of thine[(original reads "they")] arrogance and self sufficiency? Why dost thou tremble and stand aghast? How humble, how helpless, how contemptable [sic] you now appear. And for why? The jarring of elements – the discord of clouds? Oh! impotent and presumptuous fool! how durst thou offend that Omnipotence, whose nod alone were sufficient to quell the destruction that hovers thee, or crush thee into atoms? See thy wretched and helpless state, and learn to know thyself. Learn to know thy best support. Despise[(original reads "despite")] thyself, and adore thy God. How sweet, how unutterably sweet were now the voice of an approving conscience; Then couldst thou say, hence ye idle alarms, why do I shrink? What have I to fear? A pleasing calm suspense! A short repose from calamity to end in eternal bliss? Let the Earth rend. Let the planets forsake their course. Let the Sun be extinguished and the Heavens burst asunder. Yet what have I to dread? My staff can never be broken – in Omnip[o]tence I trusted.

"He who gave the winds to blow, and the lightnings to rage – even him I have always loved and served. His precepts I have observed. His commandments I have obeyed – and his perfections have I adored. He will snatch me from ruin. He will exalt me to the fellowship of Angels and Seraphs, and to the fullness of never ending joys."
This selection reads like one of the impassioned sermons of the Great Awakening, and indeed, Hamilton's words show his great familiarity with Christianity and with the life and mindset of the believer. However, Hamilton knew then, as death looked him squarely in the eye, that such was not his case, and that he had not only death but hell itself to fear. He continued:
"But alas! how different, how deplorable, how gloomy the prospect! Death comes rushing on in triumph veiled in a mantle of tenfold darkness. His unrelenting scythe, pointed, and ready for the stroke. On his right hand sits destruction, hurling the winds and belching forth flames: Calamity on his left threatening famine disease and distress of all kinds. And Oh! thou wretch, look still a little further; see the gulph [sic] of eternal misery open. There mayest thou shortly plunge – the just reward of thy vileness. Alas! wither canst thou fly? Where hide thyself? Thou canst not call upon thy God; thy life has been a continual warfare with him.
"Hark – ruin and confusion on every side. 'Tis thy turn next; but one short moment, even now, Oh Lord help. Jesus be merciful!"
Thus did I reflect, and thus at every gust of wind 'till it pleased the Almighty to allay it. Nor did my emotions proceed either from the suggestions of too much natural fear, or a conscience over-burthened [sic] with crimes of an uncommon cast. I thank God, this was not the case. The scenes of horror exhibited around us, naturally awakened such ideas in every thinking breast, and aggravated the deformity of every failing of our lives. It were a lamentable insensibility indeed, not to have had such feelings, and I think inconsistent with human nature.
"Our distressed, helpless condition taught us humility and contempt of ourselves. The horrors of the night, the prospect of an immediate, cruel death – or, as one may say, of being crushed by the Almighty in his anger—filled us with terror. And every thing that had tended o weaken our interest with him, upbraided us in the strongest colours, with our baseness and folly. That which, in a calm unruffled temper, we call a natural cause, seemed then like the correction of the Deity. Our imagination represented him as an incensed master, executing vengeance on the crimes of his servants. The father and benefactor were forgot, an in that view, a consciousness of our guilt filled us with despair."
At this time, when Hamilton thought he had his last moments on earth, he cried out to God for another chance to be reconciled to God. Up to this point, Hamilton had respected Knox, and saw religion as good and useful, and perhaps even true. His letter indicates that he always knew and believed in the existence of God, and that he believed that the Bible was true. If Hamilton had not thought so, then he would not have been convicted, as this letter indicates he was.

Just as Hamilton believed that he was about to die as a result of the "wrath of the Almighty," and fervently prayed for mercy, the storm began to calm, and Hamilton knew that his prayer had been instantly answered.
"But see, the Lord relents. He hears our prayer. The Lighting ceases. The winds are appeased. The warring elements are reconciled and all things promise peace The darkness is dispell'd and drooping nature revives at the approaching dawn. Look back Oh! my soul, look back and tremble. Rejoice at thy deliverance, and humble thyself in the presence of thy deliverer."
This letter is indisputably Hamilton's own account of his spiritual regeneration.

Hamilton's letter then takes a sharp turn in a different direction. Instead of focusing his attentions upon himself, he then turned his attention to the welfare of his fellow man. His moving descriptions and reflections are a far cry from the Hamilton that has been portrayed in our current textbooks as a hater of the poor and a protector of the rich.
"Yet hold, Oh vain mortal! Check thy ill timed joy. Art thou so selfish to exult because thy lot is happy in a season of universal woe? Hast thou no feelings for the miseries of thy fellow-creatures? And art thou capable of the soft pangs of sympathetic sorrow? Look around thee and shudder at the view. ... Oh sights of woe! Oh distress unspeakable! My heart bleeds, but I have no power to solace! O ye, who revel in affluence, see the afflictions of humanity and bestow your superfluity to ease them. Say not, we have suffered also, and thence withhold your compassion. What are you[r] sufferings compared to those? Ye still have more than enough left. Act wisely. Succour [sic] the miserable and lay up treasure in Heaven" [Matthew 6:19-20; 19:21].
One biographer of Hamilton, David Loth, wrote that Hamilton's expression of concern for his own soul was temporary if it was genuine at all. Loth made this statement, but offered no evidence for his evidently erroneous assertion. Although many more recent biographers of Hamilton do not see Hamilton as having been a truly regenerate Christian throughout his entire life, I am not aware of their hearty support for this theory. There is much evidence against Loth's assertion in Hamilton's subsequent writings that the theory becomes impossible to defend. The evidence for this will be covered further covered in "Alexander Hamilton's Religion: Part Two," in its place in the chronology which not long after followed the "hurricane letter."

Hamilton did not intend for this letter to be viewed by the public. It was completely private correspondence with his father. However, Hugh Knox discovered a copy of it, and upon reading it, was fascinated by Hamilton's powers of writing and Hamilton's power to think deeply. He showed the letter to several of his own friends, who were of some wealth and influence, and they afterwards asked Hamilton for permission to publish it in the newspaper, for the purpose of giving a description of the late hurricane, and of collecting funds for Hamilton to be sent to a university in America. At first, Hamilton was hesitant to consent to his private and rather personal letter being published for the whole island to read; but Knox and the other gentleman convinced him, and the letter appeared in The Danish Royal Gazette. Funds were collected from the public, from Knox's congregation, and from one of Hamilton's relatives, and he set sail for America in August of 1773. Knox, who was still managing his ministry and congregation in St. Croix, did not accompany Hamilton, who sailed alone. However, Knox gave letters of introduction to several of his own friends back in America: William Livingston, Elias Boudinot, the Reverend John Rodgers, and the Reverend John Mitchell Mason, Sr. These men would become Hamilton's early American mentors, as well as staunch patriots upon the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War.

"Alexander Hamilton's Religion, Part Two," will cover Hamilton's religion over the first several years that he spent in America.

Friday, August 17, 2007

The Quote in Question

While Henry Cabot Lodge was preparing his own edition of Alexander Hamilton's works (John Church Hamilton had published his own in the 1840s and 1850s), he discovered an incomplete writing of Hamilton's that had never been published. The piece itself was an extraordinary criticism of the French Revolution, and Hamilton usually did, he started his denunciations of the French Revolution by denouncing their blatant rejection of Christianity. The work was undated, but several clues lead me to believe that it was written sometime in the mid-1790s:

(1) Hamilton's language is very strong, passionate, and fervent, as if the news of the infidelity of France was still fresh in Hamilton's mind, and he sat down and scrawled down his thoughts on paper (as was his habit).

(2) The words, phrases, and structure are very similar to Hamilton's published pamphlet The Stand, No. III, which was published in 1798. It is probable that this writing in question, which Lodge titled "Fragment on the French Revolution," was a rough draft of The Stand, No. III.

The "Fragment" began,

Facts, numerous and unequivocal, demonstrate that the present ÆRA is among the most extraordinary which have occurred in the history of human affairs. Opinions, for a long time, have been gradually gaining ground, which threaten the foundations of religion, morality, and society. An attack was first made upon the Christian revelation, for which natural religion was offered as the substitute. The Gospel was to be discarded as a gross imposture, but the being and attributes of GOD, the obligations of piety, even the doctrine of a future state of rewards and punishments, were to be retained and cherished.
In proportion as success has appeared to attend the plan, a bolder project has been unfolded. The very existence of a Deity has been questioned and in some instances denied. The duty of piety has been ridiculed, the perishable nature of man asserted, and his hopes bounded to the short span of his earthly state. DEATH has been proclaimed an ETERNAL SLEEP; "the dogma of the immortality of the soul a cheat, invented to torment the living for the benefit of the dead." Irreligion, no longer confined to the closets of conceited sophists, nor to the haunts of wealthy riot, has more or less displayed its hideous front among all classes. (1)
Here, Hamilton is clearly attacking atheism and deism (that defeats the popular argument that Hamilton became a deist). And yet there is a new theory that is being popularized by the secularists. They are losing the "The Founders were deists" argument, and so now they are giving the Founders labels such as "religious, but not Christian" and "theistic rationalists." And a theistic rationalist accepts the existence of God, has respect for Jesus as a "good teacher," and accepts parts of the Bible to be true, perhaps even inspired. It believes that divine revelation does exist, but that man's rational faculties are superior to anything with the label "divine revelation" on it. Now, to any rational and unprejudiced mind, Hamilton is not defending theistic rationalism, but rather Christianity. Here's the proof:

(1) He refers specifically to the "Christian revelation" and "the Gospel." He never uses any language that is distinctly "rationalist," but rather "Christian."

(2) "Theistic rationalism" may not discard ALL of the "Christian revelation," but it cannot accept "the Gospel," to which Hamilton not only makes direct reference, but implies an equation of "Christian revelation" and "the Gospel." Theistic rationalism is incompatible with the Gospel, and if one takes Hamilton's definition of "natural religion" at face value, one must admit the following obvious facts:

Theistic rationalism is incompatible with the Gospel, and may be categorized ultimately as "natural religion" (because theistic rationalism ultimately holds the dictates of man's reason and the laws of nature to be the sources of absolute truth). The Gospel, according to the rationalist, is fundamentally erroneous.

The basic tenets of the Gospel are as follows:

(1) Jesus Christ is the Son of God, who became a human being as the son of a chaste virgin.

According to the mind of any rationalist, this is impossible, as it goes beyond the comprehension of reason and it is contrary to the laws of nature.

(2) Jesus Christ performed the miracles described in the Gospels, and fulfilled the divinely-inspired prophesies of the Old Testament.

According to theistic-rationalistic reasoning, the miracles that Jesus performed (multiplying fishes and loaves, casting out demons, walking on water, etc.) are merely myths or parables, since it is impossible for such things to REALLY happen because they transgress the bounds of reason and natural laws.

(3) Jesus Christ died on the cross to atone for the sins of the human race, and accomplished what moral codes alone could not accomplish.

Atonement is impossible, according to the theistic rationalist, because only God incarnate could possible and truly atone for humanity's sins, and since theistic rationalism has ruled out the possibility of God being incarnate, and being born of a virgin, atonement is rationally impossible.

(4) Jesus Christ truly died, and yet He arose from the grave physically alive, just as the Gospels record.

According to theistic rationalism, this is rationally incomprehensible, and once again, it transgresses the bounds of natural law.

Theistic rationalism, although not specifically referred to by Hamilton in the above quotation, must then be included in the philosophies which "attack ... the Christian revelation" and discard the Gospel "as a gross imposture." If you reject some of Christian revelation, you reject all of it, because you acknowledge a higher source than revelation. If the basic tenets of the Gospel are untrue, than the Gospel is untrue, and is, according to the theistic rationalist, "a gross imposture," although he may not refer to the Gospel in such strong terms.

Thanks for Reading!