|Vol. VII, No. 9
Kislev 5610, December 1849
The Basis of Christianity Not Founded on Reason.
Readings for the Young
By S. S.
Were no efforts made for our conversion, or no attacks made upon that faith which we deem more sacred than life, we should neither have cause nor inclination to examine the creeds of others. But as the party attacked, it is both our duty and right to point out the weakness of our adversaries, and the strength and holiness of the cause we defend.
In every written constitution some mode is prescribed by which it may be altered or amended, and should any attempts be made to make these alterations in other modes than the prescribed rules, the alteration thus made would be invalid and without binding force.
Thus, in these States, the people being the body in which the political authority dwells, delegate certain specific powers to their representatives, who, if overleaping the barriers thus constituted, have their acts overruled by the judgment of a tribunal created <<458>>for that purpose, as being in discordance with the written will of the people at large.
Unlike the human constitutions, which generally contain provisos, to enable them to receive those alterations that the progressive wants of society may demand, the Jewish constitution, given by the Almighty himself, adapts itself to all ages and times, and contains an express clause that it shall neither have aught added thereto, nor diminished therefrom; and that it shall be the test by which all after-acts must be measured, and all prophecy defined. For instance, (were such a thing possible,) if any one could show in the historical or prophetic writings, a clause bidding us to keep the sixth and not the seventh day; to eat of the unclean instead of the clean; to believe in a triad instead of a unity: we should, on comparing these doctrines with the dogmas of our constitution, pronounce them an interpolation or the assumptions or predictions of a false prophet; for God is immutable as well as eternal.
Did those who endeavour to lead Israel astray from the God of Abraham understand this law rightly, they would cease their futile endeavours; for they would then learn that, no matter how they twisted the writings of the prophets, this part a spiritual, that a literal, and the other any or no meaning at all, to suit their argument or purpose, it could make no difference to the believing Israelite, whose duties are defined by the law, and the law alone; and which the prophecies, (though they might inspire him with a blissful hope in the future) could neither modify nor change, their meanings appearing to him clear and intelligible, strengthening in the hour of tribulation his firm trust in the revelation at Sinai.
But say they, who lay claim to the bright inheritance promised to us alone, “that although this law did emanate from the Supreme, it is nevertheless a law of blood, and though you see it not, it bore in its own bosom the seeds of its destruction; and that it needed one of a milder tendency to humanize and spiritualize Mankind.” Justice to ourselves demands that we should sift this charge and examine the grounds upon which it stands.
The first charge is, “that the Israelites were the first persecutors for opinion’s sake, and that even when fresh from the Deity’s instruction, they went to possess themselves of the promised land, <<459>>and extirpated the people who dwelt there with fire and sword.” At whose command was this done? Was it not by that of the same God who sent the deluge to purify the earth from sin, who rained destruction upon Sodom and Gomorra, to blot out their wickedness; and when their cup of iniquity was full, made use of the warriors of Israel as the instruments of chastisement to the inhabitants of Canaan? And in after-years, had any one appeared claiming that reverence due to God alone, His law, the law of God, (Deut. chap. xiii.,) meted out death as his portion.
The Jewish government, though sometimes under the dominion of kings, was at all times a Theocracy; and if all governments have the right to inflict capital punishment on pretenders to their thrones: how much greater was the right of our ancestors, if such a person as Christ ever existed, and they believed not in his mission, to punish his unjust claims; since blasphemy of the highest grade was attached to his crime. That they did not believe in his mission, we have the New Testament to prove; in the exclamation from the cross: “Lord, forgive them, they know not what they do,” (Luke xxiii., 2-4.) In all criminal codes, “those that know not what they do,” are considered guiltless of crime. As we only know Christianity by the influence it possesses over its votaries, what a commentary upon the mildness and charity it inculcates, has been the cruelty practised upon our helpless race, which like a lamb led to the slaughter, could offer no resistance.
That the evidence upon which the claims of Christ were founded were too weak to gain credence, is proven by the Christian writers themselves. Marsh, in his Ecclesiastical History, page 125, says, “Immense multitudes constantly pressed upon him wherever he went, either to hear his doctrines or to witness his miracles; but very few became sincerely attached to his person; very few were even convinced that he was the Messiah, and entered his spiritual kingdom. Those who were assembled at Jerusalem after his ascension, are said to have been about one hundred and twenty; and at the great meeting at Galilee, where all that were attached to his cause that could conveniently assemble were gathered together, there were about five hundred.” Recollect in that day as in this, that the efforts at conversion were not made on the learned or well-informed, but on the ignorant and credulous; and <<460>>yet all these miracles they are said to have seen* failed to convince them of the mission of one who claimed to be greater than Moses, though doubts about the divine origin of the inspired words of even any of the lesser prophets had never been felt by the Jewish nation. By a strange coincidence, the prophecy of Jesus, “that not one stone of the temple should be left upon another,” (upon which the Christians lay so much stress,) has been falsified, by a late discovery of some part of the vaults of the temple existing in good preservation, (Vide Occ. vol. vi., for February.)
Sanctified by time, Christianity exists upon the willing belief of its votaries, with, to our view, no stronger base than that possessed by later creeds. The clouds of blood raised during past ages by the altar fires lighted by the bigotry of Christian and Mahometan, are now passing away, and we may express our opinion without the fear of dungeon or stake.
The Greeks and Romans ever disliked the worship of the Jew. They were perfectly willing to erect an altar to the “unknown god,” and would worship at his shrine; but expected the Hebrew to be equally liberal (?) in principle, and bow to their deities. And when the Jewish kingdom was subverted, and the people were scattered throughout the Roman territories, their captors learned of them many of the beautiful precepts of the Bible. The unity of God they could not grasp in its spirituality, as they already deified his attributes; but with incarnations they were quite at home. Many of their gods and goddesses had had a mortal for a parent. Minerva had sprung from the head of Jove. A child of a mortal mother and an immortal father, (however repugnant it may seem to the august holiness with which our minds invest the Supreme,) was an idea entertained by them, centuries before the advent of Christianity.
They already knew of one religion whose votaries believed in a trinity, (a creator, a destroyer, a preserver,) and possessed not <<461>>yet sufficient enlightenment to comprehend the beauty of that doctrine which taught that God would blot out the sin of the transgressor if he truly repented, without other sacrifice to his justice. To them it seemed that God’s justice took form and substance, and became as it were the destroyer of his own creation, whilst the preserver, or God’s mercy stepped in, to ward off and receive the threatened blow. To make this system resemble the Christian dogmas, it needs only one of Plato’s mysticisms, to join these three personifications into one godhead, and we have it complete.
The moral and civil code by which mankind are governed, still owns the Bible as its source, as by a careful comparison of the New Testament with this ancient record, its precepts of love and charity will be found to be quoted therefrom, with just sufficient alteration to adapt them to another text. At what time this was done, it would be difficult to answer; for there is no satisfactory proof to show that one word contained in the present New Testament ever existed in the original one. None pretend that its different books were written at the time that the things they record occurred; for so many contradictory books existed, that at the council convened by the Emperor at Nice, in the year 325, and at which three hundred and eighteen bishops were present, after much argument and confusion, they decided by vote, which was the true and which was the false gospel. We should scarcely like our divine law to base its truth upon such evidence.
When Christianity first attempted to rear her superstructure, she disguised herself in the mantle of Judaism, endeavouring thus to gain proselytes to her cause. Her doctrines nowhere commanded Jews to disobey their ceremonial law. She observed the covenant of Abraham. She did not violate the Sabbath day, and had she continued in this course, Judaism might have received a severe wound. But the time had not yet dawned when the fear of the Lord should rest upon all nations, and all should acknowledge his unity. And the Sabbath, which should be a sign between the Lord and the children of Israel for ever, was still to exist for them alone; the believers in Christ having resolved to keep the Sabbath on the first day instead of the seventh.
Some of my young readers may ask, “If ours is the only true religion, why we do not seek to share its blessings with others?” It is because the law of Moses is binding on us Israelites alone; <<462>>to us it is the bread of eternal life. Nowhere does the Bible teach the awful creed that the nations of the earth shall be cut off, root and branch, unless they all believe in one doctrine. God is neither Pagan, nor Mahometan, nor Christian, nor Jew, but the God of Israel and the Father of mankind. To us He has given a loftier position, and assigned to us higher duties, and has made us a kingdom of priests and a holy nation—the witnesses of His truth and the repositories of his law. As we promised at Sinai, that we would observe his covenant and obey His commands, we cannot divest ourselves of this responsibility. But though His love to our forefathers caused this selection, He nowhere tells us that the rest of His children were doomed to torment; but His whole law proclaims that the gates of heaven will fly open to him who loves the Lord with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might, and who loves his neighbour as himself; since only through love and duty can our spiritual natures become sufficiently elevated and purified to render them meet ministrants before the throne of the great “I am.”