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Dias Letters, Letter 26

Original Sin

(Continued from p. 42)

The 53d chapter of Isaiah is famous amongst Christian expositors; the whole is applied to and explained of Jesus. They tell us that he is therein described and represented, as a person despised and rejected, as a man of sorrow and acquainted with grief; as one on whom the sins of the whole world were to be laid, as one who should offer himself to an ignominious death and be chastened for our transgressions and iniquities,—thereby redeeming lost mankind and working their reconciliation with an infinite and offended God,—atoning with his life and suffering for original and actual sin; the whole human race (as they pretend) being slaves of the devil, and under God’s wrath and damnation, as partakers of Adam’s sin;—God requiring infinite satisfaction, which not being in the power of any finite creature to make, could only be done by Jesus as being both God and man.

It is ready surprising to what lengths they stretch these doctrines; asserting that no person <<244>>can be saved by his own merits, making salvation attainable only by the merits of Jesus (that is declaring we are only to be saved by proxy); and they will have all good or beneficent works to be sinful without faith in Jesus, holding all accursed who believe they shall be saved by the law, or sect which they follow. Thus one absurdity giving rise to another, they banish that charity which on many occasions they pretend to be the distinguishing characteristic of their religion, but with what little foundation I appeal to their creeds, as these doctrines and inventions are the foundation of the present system of Christianity, and are the consequences of, and have their foundation on original sin, from whence they draw a pretence for Jesus’s sufferings and ignominious death, and the necessity of infinite satisfaction, that is the necessity of one God dying to satisfy another, or the same God.

It will be necessary to sift this matter and show its absurdity, and prove that there is no manner of foundation either in reason or Scripture for such invention; for, as is judiciously observed, one of God’s revelations cannot contradict another, because He gave us the first to judge all others by.* It will be, therefore, vain to pretend that these doctrines are above reason, if they contradict reason and common sense; that being the criterion by which all doctrines must be judged.

* Warburton Dir. Leg, vol. i. p. 83

It is very plain and evident that Adam and the rest concerned in original sin, had sentence pronounced on them by God himself, which sentence was inflicted on the offenders; we have it in the following words: “And the Lord God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go and dust shalt thou eat, all the days of thy life; and I will put enmity between thee an the woman, and between thy seed and her seed, it shall bruise thy head and thou shall bruise his heel. Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception, in sorrow shall thou bring forth children, and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shall not eat of it, cursed is the ground for thy sake, in sorrow shall thou eat of it all the days of thy life,”† &c.

† Gen. iii, 6-14.

This was God’s own definitive sentence, which being executed on the different (or several) offenders, will any one say that God required either a greater or a different satisfaction than that which <<245>>he himself imposed? Can any one say, that He was not satisfied with his own judgment?

Go wiser thou, and in thy scale of sense
Weigh thy opinions against Providence.—Pope.

Can there be a greater absurdity and contradiction, than to pretend that God himself must suffer that He may pardon? How inconsistent (not  to say impious) are such doctrines! how unacquainted must those who propagate, and inculcate such notions, be of God and his attributes! Is it to be imagined that the sin of our first parents, after judgment and sentence executed, should again be revived after some thousands of years? What tribunal or court of justice would allow this? Or who could be the appellants? Was it Adam that appealed against his Maker, or did the Almighty appeal against himself, or his sentence? Is not such a proceeding, in fact, inflicting punishment on the Deity, as if He were the aggressor for giving a merciful sentence against Adam?

Snatch from his hand the balance and the rod,
Rejudge his justice, be the God of God. —Pope.

Can anything be mom ridiculous? and shall we believe people, nay, learned people are serious, when they pretend to impose such absurdities for doctrines?

It is pretended that God being infinitely offended, required infinite satisfaction; but can God require of his creatures that which He never put in their power to give? Can we consistently with the natural notion we have of God, think He can act thus with his creatures, or that He in his infinite goodness can ever require more than is in our power to give? or can finite creatures give infinite offence?

But for argument’s sake let us suppose that such a satisfaction was necessary, and then let them tell us, how it was possible that it should be made at all; for if God the son (as is pretended) be of the same essence with God the Father, how can one suffer and not the other? Besides, original sin must have equally offended the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, since they are all but one, or of one and the same essence,—for which reason all three must have aired the like satisfaction; for, as they all can have but one will, none could pardon without it; and why might not the Father or Holy Ghost be mediators as well as the Son, and if one could pardon or did not require infinite satisfaction, why not the other?

And if we are told that nothing suffered, by this satisfaction made on the cross but only the human nature; then they cannot make out the satisfaction <<246>>which they pretend was necessary; for if human sufferings were sufficient, there was no necessity for any satisfaction to be made by Jesus, as God and man. Adam, or any of his descendants, would have done it as well.

But let us inquire farther, Did Jesus make full satisfaction, or did he do it only in part? If the first, pray what was it that was pardoned? Why nothing; for the debt being fully paid, or satisfaction given, there was then, of course, no pardon; for supposing you owe me a sum of money, can it be said that I pardon you anything, on receiving payment, or satisfaction to the full amount? Would it not be ridiculous for me to say, I pardon you, having received the whole? Is it not equally absurd to say pardon was obtained, when full satisfaction was made and given? But we may be told, that though full satisfaction could not be made, yet, that God accepted it, and took it for such; if so, then must they allow, that God can pardon without full satisfaction, which, if He can, how absurd must it be, to say He required infinite satisfaction; and why He might not pardon Adam, on the punishment he inflicted, will be impossible for them to show.

In short, they are reduced to this dilemma: if Jesus made full satisfaction, then there was no pardon; and if he did not make full satisfaction, then there was no necessity for either his sufferings or death. The Messiah, say they, was to die for the sins of the world; grant he did so; the natural consequence must then be, that mankind were restored; but nothing like this is pretended, for inquire in what the restoration consisted, and it vanishes to a mere nothing. Was the human race restored to any of its forfeited dignities? no; was there any alteration in their affairs? no; did the Jews to whom the Messiah was promised as the greatest worldly blessing, receive any benefit or advantage by his coming? no; on the contrary, it is pretended, that the doing that which was necessary to be done, brought on their ruin.

Can there be anything more inconsistent or contradictory than to pretend that the salvation of the whole world could only be brought about by the ignominious death of a person, and that the very act that introduced this salvation excluded those very people, through whose means it was obtained, from the benefit of it? How the Jews are upbraided for that very act, let all their writers witness; one and all agree, that for this sin not only their city and temple were destroyed, but that they brought thereby damnation on themselves and posterity.

There is something very unaccountable in this affair; for Jesus must die that the world might be saved, and the Jews must be damned for the same reason. That Jesus was to suffer an ignominious death was pre-ordained, a thing settled by agreement; to <<247>>this end and purpose, it is pretended; “he came into the world, the kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ; for of a truth against the holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatever thy hand and thy council determined before to be done.”* That this was so, is evident from what Jesus himself tells Pilate: “Thou couldst have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above.”† Who can forbear lamenting this contrivance; who can forbear crying, O fatal necessity! Is It thus that the Almighty, the good, the merciful God deals his blessings to mankind, thus to deceive and doom to destruction the unhappy instruments which He was pleased to make use of in saving the world? Who could have suspected or believed that the Deity, who fills all things, should so contract his existence as to be contained in the womb of a woman,‡ that he should take a human shape, and appear among us in disguise, doing all he could to hide from those to whom he was sent not only his divinity, but also the character of Messiah?§ Was it to be imagined that the Messiah would in his discourses make use of nothing but dark sayings and parables, that he might not be known? or, as he expresses himself, “that seeing thus, may see and not perceive, and hearing they may hear and not understand, lest at any time they should converted and their sins should be forgiven them?”||

* Acts iv. 26.               † John xix. 11.

‡ It is (as it were) to cancel the essential differences of things, to remove the bounds of nature, to bring heaven and earth (and what is more), both ends of a con­tradiction together. Vide, Dr. South’s Sermons, vol. iii. p. 367.

§ Mat. xvi. 20.             || Mat. iv. 12.

Is this conduct worthy of God? is this the Messiah, promised the Jews as their greatest good? Behold him using all the art he can, from manifesting himself, “lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and should understand with their heart and should be converted, and I should heal them.”¶

¶ Ibid. xiii. 15.

Could it be imagined, that the Messiah would hinder the Jews in the means of being healed and forgiven? “And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven; but to others in parables, that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand.”** The Jews did all in their power to be rightly informed, and only desired a sign.†† But lest they should be convinced, they are refused; and a resolution taken to give them no sign, but, the sign of <<248>> Jonas,* which in fact was no sign, as it was never made good to them; for they were excluded from being present or seeing any of those transactions related of his resurrection; and I cannot help thinking, that if his death brought on the desolation of Jerusalem, and the damnation of the Jews, it was none of their fault, since the grand secret was never disclosed to those who ought to have had information.

** Luke viii. 11.          †† Mat. xvi. 1.             * Mat. xvi. 4.

Of this Jesus himself seems to have been sensible; “Father forgive them for they know not what they do,”† were his last and dying words; and St. Peter declares the Jews guiltless,—“And now, brethren, I wot, that through ignorance ye did it, and so did your rulers.”‡

† Luke xxiii. 34.          ‡ Acts iii. 17

It is, therefore a great absurdity to pretend, that the destruction of the city and temple and dispersion of the Jews were occasioned by putting Jesus to death. Was the destruction of the kingdom of Israel (which happened 700 years before Jesus) owing to his death? was the destruction of the city and temple by the Babylonians, owing to his death? were the many and frequent calamities which befel the Jews, owing to his death? were the frequent profanations and pollutions of the temple, and its being so often taken by different enemies, owing to his death? No; the Jews will be told, that all these calamities were brought on them by their manifold crimes; but, if so, why is not the last destruction of city and temple imputed to the same cause?

The history of those times furnish such scenes of wickedness and profaneness, as are not to be equalled at any other epoch: besides, were not the Jews subject to the Romans long before the coming of Jesus? were they not barbarously oppressed and ill-treated by their extortionate governors, both before, in his time, and afterwards? was not this, together with a desire of recovering their liberties, and the being misled by some crafty and wicked leaders, that which occasioned their revolt? They might as well pretend that all the misfortunes, which befel the Jews before the coming of Jesus, were owing to his death, as to pretend, that what afterwards befel them was owing to that event; when it evidently appears, that this was brought about by so many concurrent causes.

I am, &c.

(To be continued.)