"Chancellor Wythe's Opinion Respecting Religion, Delivered by Himself."
This document, an undated, unsigned manuscript in the collections of the Virginia Historical Society, appears to be a transcription of a portion of an 1806 newspaper article from the Charleston, South Carolina Times, by Parson Weems. In the article, Weems quotes Wythe at some length regarding his "real sentiments about religion," from a dinner conversation at Wythe's home in Richmond, Virginia.
The manuscript is part of a collection from the family of Thomas Adams (1730-1788), a merchant of Richmond, Virginia, member of the House of Burgesses and delegate to the Continental Congress. The text of the manuscript was reported in the July, 1898 issue of The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography (reproduced here), but the editor must have been unaware of the source.
The manuscript is torn along a center crease and missing a few key words and phrases from the original source. It is titled "The
late Chancellor Wythe's opinion respecting Religion as delivered by himself —" and is endorsed the same on the reverse, except that the word "late" has not been crossed out on the back.
Article text, July 1898
CHANCELLOR WYTHE'S OPINION RESPECTING RELIGION,
DELIVERED BY HIMSELF.
(From Massie Papers, Va. Hist. Soc. MSS. Collection.)
Why Sir, as to religion, I have ever considered it as Our best and greatest Friend, those glorious views which it gives of our relation to God, and of our destination to Heaven, on the easy terms of a good life, unquestionably furnish the best of all motives to virtue; the strongest dissuasives from vice; and the richest cordial under trouble, thus far I suppose We are all agreed; but not perhaps, so entirely in another opinion which is, that in the sight of God, moral character is the main point. This opinion very clearly taught by reason, is as fully * * by * * which every * * That the Tree will be valued only for its good fruit; and, that in the last day, according to Our works of love or of hatred, of mercy, or of cruelty, We shall sing with angels, or weep with devils: in short, the Christian religion (the sweetest and sublimest in the World), labours throughout to infix in Our hearts this great truth, that God is love—and that in exact proportion as we grow in love, We grow in his likeness, and consequently shall partake of his friendship and felicity forever, while others therefore have been beating their heads, or embittering their hearts with disputes about forms of baptism and modes of faith, it has always, thank God, struck me as my great duty, constantly to think of this—God is love; and he that walketh in love, walketh in God and God in Him.
- Read this article online in the Internet Archive.
- "[A]n opinion, n.d., of George Wythe concerning religion," Adams Family Papers, 1672-1792, Mss1 Ad198 a 221-222, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond, Virginia.
- M.L. Weems, "The Honest Lawyer, an Anecdote," The Times (Charleston, SC), July 1, 1806, 3.
- Philip Alexander Bruce, ed., "Chancellor Wythe's Opinion Respecting Religion, Delivered by Himself," Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 6, no. 1 (July 1898), 102-103.