Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature: An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891. Vol. III: Literature of the Revolutionary Period, 17651787
An Admonition to Aaron Burr
By Samuel Hopkins (17211803)
[Letter to Aaron Burr, Vice-President of the United States of America.]
HONORED SIR: You will probably be surprised (though it is hoped, not offended) by being addressed by a person above four-score years old, who has no personal acquaintance with you, and whom you never saw and perhaps never heard of. The only apology I have to make for this, is the intimate acquaintance and friendship which subsisted between me and your grandfather and grandmother Edwards, and their daughter, your mother, and President Burr, your father; and my consequent benevolent, respectful regard for you.
After the death of President Burr, President Edwards, and your mother, Mrs. Edwards was informed that you and your sister were taken to Philadelphia, by a friend of your deceased parents. She thought it her duty to make a journey to Philadelphia and take the best care she could of her two little orphan grandchildren. The day she set out on her journey, she called at my house, as I then lived at Great Barrington, and proposed to me to write the life of the late President Edwards; to which I objected my being very unequal to such a work. But being urged by her solicitations, I consented to attempt it. Accordingly it was written, and by the approbation of his surviving friends it was published; to which was added a Sketch of the Character of Mrs. Edwards and Mrs. Burr. This has been reprinted in London, which you have doubtless seen, and read the account your mother has given of her pious exercises respecting you, when you were a fatherless infant, and sick unto death, as was feared, but mercifully recovered in answer to fervent prayer. But to return from this perhaps needless digression.
Mrs. Edwards arrived at Philadelphia in apparent good health, but was soon seized with sickness, which put an end to her life in a few days, which was, in a sense and degree, sacrificed in behalf of her two orphan grandchildren.
In whose hands you were left after this, and who had the care of your education in your childhood and early youth, I do not recollect that I was ever informed. But that you have had a liberal education, and when you entered on the stage of life you studied and practised the law with success and reputation, and that in our late revolutionary war with Britain you were an active and useful officer under Washington, is sufficiently ascertained; and you are now raised to the dignity of Vice-President of the United States, and consequently are a candidate for the highest office which the people of these States can confer.
It is reported and it is believed by a number, that you do not believe in divine revelation, and discard Christianity as not worthy of credit. I know this is an age of infidelity, but I do not think I have such evidence of the truth of this report as to exclude all hope that it is not true. It would be very grievous to me, and I know it would be inexpressibly so to your pious and worthy ancestors, were they now in this world, to know that one of their posterity, for whom they had made so many prayers, who was educated in a Christian land, and was possessed of such great and distinguished natural powers of mind, was an infidel; especially as it is certain that such a character cannot be so useful as mischievous, nor can he be happy, but miserable, in this life; and dying so, will be inconceivably miserable forever.
I am as certain that the God revealed in the Bible is the only true God, and that Christianity is from heaven, and the only way to true happiness, as I am that there is a God, or that there is any existence, either visible or invisible; therefore that all infidelity, whether it be called deism, atheism, or skepticism, renounces the true God, has its foundation in a very depraved and corrupt heart, and will land in endless misery. There is the most certain and clear evidence which cannot but be seen by every discerning, attentive mind, both from reason, experience and divine revelation, that all the worldly riches, honors, and enjoyments, that any man can possess, cannot make him happy, but are attended with more pain than pleasure; and commonly, if not always, with peculiar trouble and vexation, if he seek happiness in this life only; and the best that he can hope for is the awfully dark and precarious cessation of existence, when he shall leave this world. But if this forlorn hope fail, as it certainly will, nothing remains but certain, inconceivable, endless misery.
And there is equal evidence and certainty from the above-mentioned sources, that the true Christian, whether rich or poor, in a high or low station, honored and applauded, or neglected and despised by men, is in the possession of a high, solid, and refined enjoyment which the men of the world know not, and which the world cannot give or take away; consisting in the knowledge, belief, and love of the truths and realities contained in the gospel, and the exercises of heart and practice conformable thereto, and the hope of future happiness and glory with which Christianity inspires when cordially embraced, to which he will soon be brought under the care of an infinitely powerful, wise, and benevolent Saviour, where he will enjoy complete and growing felicity without any end.
Sir, however needless, futile, or assuming this address may appear, I hope, it will be received without offence, from one who, with his best wishes for your prosperity in all things, is your sincere friend and ready servant in all your lawful desires and commands.