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Religious Liberty Committee Spotlight: James Madison’s Letter to Frederick Schaeffer

Posted: 6/17/17 at 7:30am

Religious Freedom: What is it, and why should persons have it? Check here each month to see how historic Baptist and other champions of religious freedom have answered these questions. These spotlights are sponsored by the BGAV’s Religious Liberty Committee.

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James Madison’s Letter to Frederick Schaeffer

James Madison, Jr. (1751 – 1836) was an American statesman, political theorist, the fourth President of the United States, and is generally regarded as the “Father of the Constitution.” On December 3, 1821, he wrote a letter to Reverend Frederick C. Schaeffer, a Lutheran clergyman, responding to Schaeffer’s homily at a cornerstone ceremony. In it, Madison refers to Matthew 22:21, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s,” as well as Martin Luther’s Two Kingdoms doctrine. It shows his belief that American history has proven that religion thrives most when it is independent of government.

To Frederick C. Schaeffer

Montpr. Decr. 3. 1821

Revd. Sir

I have recd. with your letter of Novr. 19: the copy of your address at the ceremonial of laying the Corner Stone of St. Mathews Church in N. York.

It is a pleasing & persuasive example of pious zeal, united with pure benevolence; and of cordial attachment to a particular creed, untinctured with Sectarian illiberality. It illustrates the excellence of a system which, by a due distinction to which the genius & courage of Luther led the way, between what is due to Cæsar & what is due to God, best promotes the discharge of both obligations. The experience of the U.S. is a happy disproof of the error so long rooted in the unenlightened minds of well meaning Christians, as well as in the corrupt hearts of persecuting Usurpers, that without a legal incorporation of religious & civil polity, neither could be supported. A mutual independence is found most friendly to practical Religion, to social harmony, & to political prosperity. In return for your kind sentiments I tender assurances of my esteem & my best wishes.






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