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Letters on Christianity.

To the Editor of the Occident.

Reverend and Esteemed Sir:

The synod of New York, no doubt, anticipated that your people, if they should condescend to reply to the Address, would find in the Christian doctrines of the second person in the Godhead and the Deity of the Messiah, their chief objection to their embracing Christianity. If the synod through their Address have elicited from you a reply which gives a candid and friendly expression of your objections to Christianity, their object is, to a great extent, reached. You have most liberally assured me that your periodical is open to me, and that you are ready to carry on the discussion farther. I am willing and anxious to enter any field with any of your people where there is a fair prospect of an instructive and friendly discussion.

First, let me, in one important point, as politicians say, “define my position.” I am not conscious that I defend a single sentiment,—that I favour any influence adverse to the perpetuation of the Jews as a distinct people. In embracing Christian principles, you would relinquish all that you hold in common with the millions of Mahomedans and Unitarians against the Trinity; and if you can be one with Mahomedans on the Unity of <<186>>God, and yet remain a distinct people, how would your union with Christians on the same point necessarily destroy your peculiar nationality? In removing the great wall that separates you from Christians, you would break the great band that makes you one with Mahomedans. I confess myself deeply impressed with the intense feeling of nationality that distinguishes the Jews,—their love of their holy language and holy land, and their pride of descent. The hand of God is manifest in the separate existence of this people to this time, and I would not lay a single obstacle in the way of this continued separation in coming ages. It is possible that God will use this separation in carrying out some of his greatest plans of mercy to all mankind. I cannot see why the Jew who becomes convinced of Christianity and who believes that Christ was a Jew, should not have the strongest sentiment of nationality, and be most anxious that his posterity should know themselves as the descendants of Abraham.

In all  circumstances the man, who has no desire to perpetuate the name of his fathers and honour of his nation, furnishes good evidence that he is of little worth; and the circumstances with the Jews are most peculiar. It is then not against the Jews as a separate people, but against their errors, that I write; and I have no apprehension of finding error so entwined with the nationality of  the Jews that both must be opposed together. Judaism might once demand the extermination of the seven nations of Canaan; Christianity in no circumstances demands a national extermination.

You will receive in a few days a small volume from my pen, entitled “Identity of Judaism and Christianity,” in which I endeavour to prove unanswerably that the Jews, in acknowledging Jesus Christ as their Messiah and God, would separate themselves from the Mahomedans and Unitarians, and return to the ancient faith of the patriarchs and prophets who lived long before Christ. I prefer not to transcribe any of the arguments in these letters, but to commit the volume to you, hoping that, without any direction from me, you will readily see the points in the argument which I consider most important, and faithfully fulfil your promise “to do me justice,”

The Christian doctrines of <<187>>the second person in the Godhead, and of the Deity of the Messiah, appear most clearly sanctioned in your own Scriptures. We will hope that hundreds and thousand of your people, as the advocates of the inestimable right of private judgment, and the friends of free discussion, of intelligence, and truth, will examine our arguments, and not in either indifference or contempt pass us by as unworthy of notice. Many thanks to you for the various notices taken of the Synod’s Address; our obligations to you will be still greater if you permit us to prove in the sight of you all, that we worship no other than the God of Israel.

I do not expect to write more than two additional letters in this series, unless some unforeseen event should call me out to defend myself. Take this as a promise that I will not, according to my present expectations, occupy much space.

Yours, most respectfully,

M. R Miller.

Note by the Editor.—When, last winter, the Synod of the Presbyterian Church of New York invited the Jews to join their communion, they being the most Synagogue-like church, it caused a good deal of remark, and the Rev. Dr. Schlessinger particularly came out with some happy observations, which, together with the invitation and the remarks which we thought the case demanded, are contained in the January number of the seventh volume of the Occident, to which we refer the reader. We took especial care that these replies to the invitation should duly reach the hands of the parties making it; but, rather to our surprise, neither public nor private notice was taken of them.

Whilst thus wondering at the pertinacity of those who love Israel so greatly, deeming it strange that they should call on us for a great end and then not be willing to look into the causes of our declining to join with them, we were favoured with a letter from our correspondent, the Rev. Mr. Miller, asking of us to permit him to send a rejoinder to Dr. Schlessinger’s article to all our readers in a separate pamphlet. We did not think it proper to comply with his request, and hence Mr. M. has since then issued it through the usual channel, and offers it for sale in various quarters (as we perceive by an advertisement in the Asmonean), at a nominal rate, his intention being the dissemination of truth as he understands it, not the obtainment of any pecuniary gain. Mr. M. also promised us to cause any reply of our own to be inserted in some of the papers be<<188>>longing to his party.

Accordingly we sent him a sermon on Zechariah ii. 10, preached in Philadelphia on last Sabbath, Chanukkah, in view of this question; but we regret to perceive that up to the moment of writing this no paper or magazine in connexion with the Presbyterian Church has thought proper to give it publicity, although asked by one of its ministers as a matter of good faith, and as it was necessary that we should not be regarded by the world at large as unable to give a reply. We may leave our readers to judge for themselves, whether if the remarks we offered in the above address had been very weak our friendly opponents would not have spread it before their readers long before this.

We may as well mention in this connexion that some weeks ago we obtained a letter from our valued correspondent J. R. P., of Hackney, England, containing a formal reply to a part of the Synod’s arguments, which we, at his request, duly forwarded to the Rev. John M. Krebs, D. D., stated Clerk of the Synod of New York, with a note of  our own, in which we complained of the unfairness of the gentlemen signing the invitation maintaining so profound a silence when two answers had been placed in their hands by persons who could not justly be overlooked as unworthy of respect. Dr. Krebs, in a few days after, sent a reply, in which he stated that neither he nor any officer of the Synod had any right to reply for himself, but that all the papers in his possession, and any others that might reach him, should be laid before the Synod at its next assembling in October.

We confess that it looks curious to us to witness this unwillingness on the part of learned doctors of divinity to assume this responsibility of contending with a few simple Jews. Is it the intention of the learned doctors to issue a formal bulletin once a year, and to wrap themselves up in their dignity for the remainder of the time, and say, We cannot reply? In what manner is truth ever to be elicited under such a system of self-imposed silence? It is true that no one can answer for the Synod as such; but each one of its component members can speak for himself, and as the Jews fight singly, their antagonists ought to do the same. There is no fair play in a whole body of the highest talent in the country trying its skill against a plain merchant like our friend J. R. P., or against a person who has never obtained a college degree like the editor of this magazine; and hence we suppose it is against Dr. S. that the caution is required. Indeed it is a noble resolve; as usually, “the better part of valour is discretion.”

At all events the Jews have shown hat they are ready; three champions have entered the lists, and if their fanfare is not replied to, if the chal<<189>>lengers back out and will not redeem their gage, it is no fault of theirs; and hence, let no one say hereafter that our people are afraid to meet the issue.

But to revert again to Mr. Miller. When we returned from our journey south we found on our table the above communication, together with his pamphlet, the latter however we have not yet found time to read, as our prolonged absence has not left us any leisure for more than our ordinary work, which had accumulated unduly since we left. We promise him, however, that his reasonings shall not be treated with scorn, and that if necessary they shall be replied to. In the meanwhile, however, let us confine our remarks to his article. We offered him the use of the Occident to speak to our readers, although we did not think it proper to permit him to send them through our means a sectarian tract. Mr. M. has consented to avail himself of our permission, and has transmitted accordingly the first of a series of papers.

It is scarcely requisite to meet Mr. M. at the very outset of his discussion before he has adduced any proofs. But let us nevertheless state at once that his opening is very unsatisfactory. He draws a comparison between Jews being Unitarians, with Mahomedans professing the same views around them, and that still they remain Jews. But does not every one see that there is a material difference between the two cases? The Jews do not agree with the Mahomedans any farther than that one mere abstract principle; in everything else they act irrespective of the customs of their neighbours, they are in other words no Mahomedans, though both believe in the unity of God. The Jews observe their religion, and deny the truth of Mahomed’s mission. Is not this dissent enough?

But how would the case be if we were to act according to the views of the New York Synod and adopt Christianity with all its faults and beauties, supposing it has either or both? How would we maintain our identity? Can any one imagine that the Jews, having embraced the ideas of their neighbours, could continue to form a sort of separate empire among themselves? to refuse eating the flesh of the swine? to continue to observe the seventh day Sabbath? the feast of redemption? the fast of the atonement? when their new brothers reject all these as the ancient order of things which has been done away with by the alleged second (or third) person in the Godhead?

One thing is certain, that taking the Acts of the Apostles as an authentic work, which we, to confess the truth, do not farther than probability goes; it would appear that from the very beginning of Christianity a systematic effort was made, especially by Paul, the so-called <<190>>Apostle to the gentiles, to dispense with the observance of the Mosaic law; and to follow faithfully in his steps and those of his colleague, Peter, on whom the Church of Rome founds its authority, seems to have been the business of all their successors up to this very hour. No one more than a Presbyterian divine is sedulous in making it apparent that the weekly Sabbath has been, literally speaking, abolished so far as the Bible injunction goes, and that an inferential day was substituted therefor.

Now this change is either defensible or not; if the first, it must be that the Sabbath was no more necessary, as the world, we presume, was no longer created by divine power, to commemorate which it was instituted, when the Christian Messiah appeared; and that moreover some greater event than the creation had taken place, which it was necessary to signalize by a Sabbath of some sort, we say of some sort, because no one has ever yet transferred the whole obligation of the Jewish Sabbatic rest to the first day of the week. But the Bible teaches that the children of Israel should keep the Sabbath forever as a perpetual covenant, as a sign of God’s power; consequently, if the change be correct, there must be an error somewhere in the Scriptures, and we may freely leave it to the Christian divines to point it out and to reconcile it with their views the best way they can.

But if the change be indefensible upon scriptural  grounds, the only method by which the respective parties can measure truth, what is then to be alleged in favour of a system which subverts the whole biblical scheme of duty, and establishes in its place an arbitrary enactment of fallible mortals, who, to say the least, cannot show any claim to a better knowledge of divine things than those whom they wish to transform into mere copyists of their unsound opinions? The very transfer, or rather the abolition of the Sabbath, proves that there is an irreconcilable difference between the assumption of the unity of God as a principle of faith, and that which enforces a trinity; for only on such a ground of necessity, as a requisite of self-preservation against the power of the ancient religion, can the Christians excuse the unwarrantable liberty they have taken with God’s holy law.

The early Catholics were honest at all events; they prohibited Jewish practices, even the very observance of the Sabbath in question, so that their adherents should not Judaize, as they aptly termed it. We also think it was the council of Trent, assembled in the middle of the 16th century, which decreed for the same reason that the Christian Easter should not be celebrated at the same time with the Jewish Passover, so as to place an entire barrier between the adherents of the monotheistic idea and those who favour a plurality in the Godhead.

The subject admits of a long argument which, it is possible enough, we may present hereafter on some fitting occasion. But for the present we must confine it within very narrow limits, too narrow indeed for a proper elucidation thereof. It will, however, be readily apparent without entering very far into theological disputes, that the Jew, to remain separate in his nationality, must have national principles. Say, however, that he is to adopt Christianity, as respects the idea of a trinity, a three joined in one, three persons yet but one god, three essences and still but one being, an idea which we deem both absurd and unscriptural, unreasonable and irreligious: he is certainly also bound to learn his practices from those who profess the same ideas.

The very first thing that would present itself to a young man thus converted, or rather perverted from the truth, would probably be, his settlement in life, or what is the same, to become the head of a family. He would marry then, not a Jewess born, who does not share his opinions, for she would reject him, and he, for the sake of domestic peace, ought to refuse placing his happiness upon a person so devoid of his opinion on salvation. Besides, why should he confine himself to his sisters in the flesh? is he not one now with the great church of Christ—we use the common phrase? are not all gentiles equally his brothers and sisters in spirit? why should he reject an alliance with them? Besides all this, worldly  advantage would counsel him to choose from the larger congregation; he will have more choice as respects wealth, beauty, and family alliance, advantages not often overlooked, if attainable, by candidates for the married state.

Now, let our worthy correspondent tell us what would become of this Jew’s separate nationality? His wife, to a certainty, would not go to the Synagogue to hear doctrines preached which she and her husband think heretical; she would not keep the Sabbath of the Lord to please his notions; she would not observe the Passover, because his conscience demands of him to eat unleavened bread; she would not circumcise her son at eight days old, when infant or adult baptism is all she deems necessary.

Are we right? But suppose even the convert should find or be already married to a Jewess, and they should agree in their religious opinions, and believe firmly in the division of the Godhead, can you tell us, why they should continue the practice of Judaism? is there, according to your ideas a Christianity for the gentiles and another for the Jews? We know full well that the Reverend John Oxlee, of Molesworth, England, maintains this opinion, which he has published in his letters to the Archbishop of Canterbury, respecting the folly of asking Jews on being converted to forego Jewish practices and the ob<<192>>servance of their religion according to the code of Moses; but the absurdity is nevertheless not the less glaring.

What is Judaism in its practice, but a testimony of one people that they believe in the entire scheme of revelation, as given to Moses? and what is Christian practice, but a testimony equally emphatical on the part of its followers, that they do not believe in the obligation of this law of our great teacher? or else they would endeavour to observe it in all particulars, even as we do.

You will say, however, that the original doctrine of the Jews was the belief in a separation of the divine essence into different personages. But does it not strike you as extremely unfortunate for your position, that the Israelites always rejected this very idea, at the risk of everything which man can endure? Was it for a shadow they suffered? Was it for a vanity to which they sacrificed all that man holds dear?— Pause one moment, Christian friends, think but an instant, and you must be struck with the reflection, that from the very inception of Christianity, the great opposition to its adoption could not have been made, if there had been a single voice among the Jews that a plurality was consistent with their doctrine of the unity of God.

It is indeed  something curious, that it is but a late thing that the discovery was made, that the Jewish doctrine of a unity is identical with the Christian trinity. We speak according to our knowledge in stating that this discovery is a late thing; we are however so little acquainted with polemical literature, that this assertion may be of a very ancient date. But, ancient or modern, it seems, as all history enables us to discover, that the Jews never could be persuaded that their faith was identical with any other; they always said that they stood alone in maintaining conjointly the belief in one sole God and Creator, and the obligation to observe the law which He has promulgated for their instruction. They resisted Antiochus; they resisted Hadrian; they resisted the popes of Rome; they resisted the califs of Bagdad; they resisted the sultans of Constantinople; and why? because they contended for a shadow? for a vain subtle point of theological hair-splitting? The very idea is absurd; they always understood their worldly interests too well, to risk and dare so much for something which was not every way deserving their whole mental energy, their entire worldly wealth, their very earthly life.

It is therefore evident that there must be employed some stronger convincing reasoning than the argumentum ad hominem, literally proofs against the body, which Christians have thought themselves authorized to use against us from time to time; our bodies were tortured, that our <<193>>spirit might comprehend a doctrine which we are now told, and perhaps were then assured, is contained in our very law. But if neither disputations carried on in the presence of popes and cardinals, if neither persecutions nor bribes could effect a change of sentiment in the masses: what likelihood, we ask, is there now of the whole Jewish people coming over, so as to maintain their identity as a nation, whilst they profess the belief in the trinity which is desired of them?

If it be true  that we are bound to maintain intact the Jewish nationality, since Mr. Miller says Christianity is not to destroy it: it is certain, as we have proved, that it must be done through an observance of the ceremonies and the peculiar laws of our people in general; they must intermarry only with those who believe and act with them as adherents to the Mosaic law, and they must accordingly be circumcised and baptized; observers of the Sabbath and the Sunday; believers in one god and three gods; keepers of the Passover and Easter; attendant at Synagogue and at church; eat the unleavened bread and partake of the sacrament; in short, be nondescripts in opinion and conduct, whilst to crown all, they must avoid familiar intercourse with the gentiles, who naturally, as said already, cause the disruption of such a state  of existence.

If this process be at all practicable, therefore, it must be for the whole people to be converted at once; that we might live among the Christian population believing in a trinity, as we now do among the Mahomedans, believing in the Unity, with a strict observance of our faith.—Consequently, the conversion of single persons or single families is wrong in principle, even according to the opinion of many learned  and pious Christians; and hence our correspondent and the Synod must condemn the practice of the conversion society and others, who are so sedulous to catch any stray sheep which may happen to fail into their hands.—We will take our friends at their word, that Christianity under no circumstance demands the national extermination of the Jews; so let it be;—ask no one, accept no convert, till the whole nation knocks at your door; and as this time will be long absent, we trust that they will say with us, in every sense of the words of the daughter of Zion, “Esto perpetua.”