A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.
close

Browsing: Diary of John Quincy Adams, Volume 1


Docno: ADMS-03-01-02-0008-0001-0020

Author: Adams, John Quincy
Date: 1786-01-20

20th.

A Number of Ladies, drank tea here, and Judge Sargeant also. I went with Mr. Thaxter and my brother Charles, and spent the Evening at Mr. Osgood's. This is a very ingenious Sensible man, well versed in English Literature, and has had what here is called a liberal Education; which means, he has been through the University. We conversed upon subjects, which please me more than cards, or dress or scandal, upon history and upon a book publish'd about a year since, by Dr. Chauncy, upon universal Salvation.1 His System is, that all mankind will finally be saved, and he pretends2 to prove it, from the Scriptures. When the English Translation of the Bible tells us, that the wicked shall be cast into eternal fire, it does not render the original Idea. The greek word εις αιωνα, means an unlimited space of time: it sometimes signifies a century, and sometimes the life of man. Reason alone, will inform us, that the Goodness as well as the power of the Almighty require that all mankind should be saved, and if the authority of the Scriptures, is not opposed to this System, the Christian religion is undoubtedly, the noblest plan, that was ever followed by men. But even after the great and admirable reformations, that have taken place within these three Centuries, there are many absurd, unnatural, and trifling articles, to which every sect of it are too much attached; great veneration is due to the holy writings, but it must be confessed, they have many Imperfections in the original Languages, and still more in the modern translations of them. The writings of Moses, subsisted, during a period of 3000 years, before the invention of printing, in the numerous Copies that were taken of them; many false words must have crept in, and in some passages may have altered entirely the original Sense. The Translators, may have mistaken, many places, and given Ideas which are not intended in the true Language. If therefore we find in the modern Translations of the Bible, Sentiments which are repugnant to Reason, we must suppose, that they are not of those, that are the truly { 392 } inspired. In short Mr. Osgood said, when he first heard of Dr. Chauncy's Book, he had a great deal more to say against his System, than he had after he had read it. Although I have not seen the Book, as I have no Idea of a supreme being, that is not infinitely merciful, and good, as well as powerful, I cannot but admire every thing that tends to inculcate that Principle. Mr. Thaxter said, he fancied that opinion would gain ground very much within half a Century in this Country: and supposed it could not do any harm, if it was rightly understood.
1. [Charles Chauncy], The Mystery Hid from Ages and Generations, Made Manifest by the Gospel-Revelation: Or, The Salvation of All Men . . ., London, 1784.
2. Pretends: puts forward an explanation ( OED ).

Docno: ADMS-03-01-02-0008-0001-0021

Author: Adams, John Quincy
Date: 1786-01-21

21st.

Finished the Epodes of Horace, and the third book of Xenophon's Cyropaedia. There is no poem of Horace's, that has ever pleased me more, than that which closes the odes: the Carmen Saeculare. The beauty of language, and of numbers seem very well united. And of all the kinds of verse, that are used by this Poet the Sapphic, I think has the most dignity. The Saecular Games were celebrated in honour of all the Gods, but this poem, is addressed wholly, to Apollo, and Diana: at least, very little is said of any of the rest. I do not know but it may be very presuming to think that The Cyropaedia, is a very childish thing. There are now and then, it is true some noble Ideas. But I do not see that any great improvement can be derived from reading it.

Docno: ADMS-03-01-02-0008-0001-0022

Author: Adams, John Quincy
Date: 1786-01-22

22.

The Weather has softened so much, that, it thaw'd last Night, and has, all this day. We had nevertheless in the forenoon, a Sermon, from, Psalm CXLVII. 17. who can stand before his cold. And a cold Sermon it was. The Subject indeed was such, as that much, was not to be expected from it, nor indeed was much made of it. It was however short, which is a very good Quality at this Season of the year. The afternoon text, from I Corinthians. III. 18. Let no man deceive himself, opened a much wider field for reasoning, and morality. The discourse pleased me much better. My Brother sat up with me; I began upon the first Book of the Satires,1 which are upon a very different plan from the Odes. Close reasoning, sharp ridicule, and few ornaments are the { 393 } Characteristics of this kind of Poetry. Ridicule, and even reasoning, may be made use of in an Ode, but it absolutely requires the most fragrant flowers of rhetoric, and Poetry to adorn it.
1. JQA apparently also made at this time a translation of Horace's Satires; there is an undated fragmentary document in M/JQA/44 (Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 239), which contains translations of Satires 1 and 3–10 of Book I, Satire 1 being incomplete; and Satires 1–8 of Book II, Satire 8 being incomplete.