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Letters On Christianity.

No. IV.

By A Jewish Layman.

WHEN I first read the advertisement of Matthew H. Miller in the Asmonean offering for sale his book on the identity of Judaism and Christianity, it was not my intention to notice the subject in any manner whatsoever. I then, as now, regarded it as the madness of the wild fanaticism of the age, and unworthy the consideration of any sober-minded person; but as Mr. Miller has dared to attempt a vindication of his obnoxious doctrines in the pages of the Occident, a Jewish publication devoted to the diffusion of knowledge on Jewish literature and religion, I have determined to offer to the readers of your periodical my views on this new phase of Christianity. And here I would remark that I think you wrong* to give up one line of your valuable publication to any writer favouring Christianity; not because I fear the effects of their writings, but because the columns of their religious papers are closed to us.

*In this we differ from our correspondent; truth can only gain by discussion; if others are illiberal, this is no reason why we should be; our religion courts inquiry, and hence we have always allowed persons differing from us to use our magazine.—Ed. Oc.

We do not fear discussion—they do. The simple unity of God stands impressed upon all nature, animate and inanimate. In unity there is strength. It is proclaimed in the thunder, in the storm, in the roar of the ocean and the cataract—it is seen in man, made in the image of his Maker, and in all the grandeur, and majesty, and power of the works of God. But a triune God has no foundation in nature, and cannot stand the test of reason. And I have no hesitancy in saying that Christianity would soon fall, and crumble into nothingness, if it were not sustained by its armies of priests, and the millions expended to keep it up. But to return.

I will not pause to inquire what is Christianity, because, to this <<399>>question, I could obtain no satisfactory reply, even from the professors of this faith;—each of the numerous sects into which Christianity has been, and is, divided and subdivided, would set up its own peculiar belief as the standard of the true faith; and no honest man will pretend to assert that the Christianity of the Catholic is the same as that of the Protestant, or that the Protestants themselves unite in any one subject of belief save the immortality of the soul, a future state of rewards and punishments, and the worship of three Gods. The Episcopalians deny the existence of any church but their own, and will not suffer the ministers of any other sect to preach in their pulpits. Other Christian sects do not admit a free intercourse even at the Communion table. Some believe in predestination and election; others repudiate them as immoral and anti-Christian. Indeed if a close analysis were to be made of the various beliefs and creeds of Christians, from the early days down to the present time, it would be found that Christianity was anything, everything, nothing. In fact, what is this idea of Mr. Miller but a new phase of Christianity, ever shifting, ever changing, everything by turns, and nothing long?

Mr. Miller has read the works of Christian divines, and the history of Christianity to but little purpose, if he has not learned that Judaism has always been regarded as a very different thing from Christianity. Have we not ever been looked upon as vile outcasts—utterly unworthy and lost—and our faith as pure unbelief? Have not learned Christian divines asserted that the ancient Jews did not believe in the immortality of the soul, and a future state of rewards anti punishments? And yet a new light has arisen, which would exhibit Jews and Christians as hitherto ignorant of their respective faiths, and that so far from differing, they are one and the same. The idea is almost too ludicrous for a grave examination.*

* I observe a vein of ridicule in Mr. Miller’s reply to Dr. Wise’s remark, that all attempts to convert the Jews are ridiculous. Now ridicule is not argument, and although at first the idea of the circulation of the blood may have been regarded as ridiculous, and afterwards proved to be true, yet that does not prove that the remark of Dr. Wise is incorrect. By a parity of reasoning nothing is ridiculous. Tell the Millerites and Mormons that their doctrines are ridiculous, and they may make the same answer. Are the doctrines of

Mahomed ridiculous? Let Mr. Miller answer. If he says no, then Christianity is a humbug—if he says yes, then I answer him with his own words, and with greater truth, for Mahomedanism has been more successful and more consistent than Christianity. But, as you have said, I leave Dr. Wise to answer him.

Before, however, I enter into this examination of the identity of Judaism with Christianity, I must appeal to Mr. Miller to remove some difficulties. Why is the seventh verse of the fifth chapter of first John retained, when it is known to be spurious? Luther expunged it, and its spuriousness was established by Erasmus, Sir Isaac Newton, and Porson. The verse is not contained in any Greek manuscript written earlier than the fifteenth century, nor any Latin manuscript earlier than the ninth. In the Bibles of Henry VIII., Edward VI., and Elizabeth, it was printed in small type, or included in brackets. By what authority is it now retained?

And again if Christ and God are one, with equal power, be pleased to explain 1 Cor. xv. 28. In that verse we are told that, “Then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.” Farther, let Mr. Miller explain how does Christianity arrogate to itself the title of a “religion of peace,” when Christ tells us in Matt. x. 34, 35, that he “came not to send peace on earth, but a sword—to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother,” &c., &c.

Also let him settle whether Judas returned the silver to the elders, and hung himself, as in Matthew, or whether he purchased a field with the reward of iniquity, and he burst asunder, and his bowels gushed out, as in the Acts?

Men may express similar ideas or similar moral laws in different language or words, as Mr. Miller says that the Decalogue is not the same in Exodus and Deuteronomy; but facts must not, and cannot, differ. As for example, Moses may have said, without a charge of discrepancy, in Exodus, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” and in Deuteronomy, “Thou shalt have none other gods before me.” But he could not, without a charge of falsehood, have said in one place, that, the children of Israel crossed the Red Sea in boats, and, in another, that they crossed it on dry land. Nor will it <<401>>do for Mr. Miller to criticise the Old Testament, for that is received as unquestioned truth by both of us, but not so what is called the New Testament.

But to return to the investigation of the question of the identity of Judaism and Christianity:—I repeat that I will not attempt an examination into the question, “What is Christianity?” but, relying upon the fact that it consists in a belief in the Trinity, or three gods (to call things by their right names), and salvation, not by the power and mercy of God, but by means of the atonement effected by the death of Christ, I shall proceed to examine this new light, emitted by Mr. Miller.

Now, although I can conceive of nothing on earth so dissimilar as Christianity and Judaism: yet if I were to select any one form of Christianity more unlike Judaism than all others, that form would be Presbyterianism. Its doctrine of predestination and the extent to which it carries its belief in original sin would alone raise a wall of separation beyond which no pure-minded Jew could pass. A distinguished Presbyterian divine has said, “Hell is paved with the skulls of infants;” and Jews, who proverbially love their offspring, are called on to believe that the tender babe, smiling on its mother’s bosom, is the doomed child of perdition; that the helpless infant, who knows not right or wrong, and who is physically and morally incapable of sinning, is yet steeped and dyed in vice. Mr. Miller must remove this foul blot from the escutcheon of Presbyterianism before he can ask us to worship at its altar.

The belief of the Jew is so simple, that we may at once proclaim it, and then institute a short comparison between it and those fundamental points of belief on which all Christian faiths may be said to rest.

We believe in one God, whose unity is unending; who is without form, and incorporeal; the Maker of heaven and of earth; who has no beginning, and no ending; omniscient, omni-present, all-powerful, and all-merciful. Such is the God whom Jews adore, and such are his attributes as declared to us by his word, revealed through his prophets.

“Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” (Exod. xx. 2.)

“Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord.” (Deut. vi. 4; iv. 35, 39.)

“See now that, even I, am he, and there is no god with me.” (Deut. xxxii. 39; Samuel ii. 2; 2 Samuel vii. 22.)

“To whom will you liken me, or to whom shall I be equal? saith the Holy One.” (Isa. xl. 25.)

“I am the Lord, and there is none else; there is no god besides me.” (Isa. xlv. 5, 6.)

“There is no god else besides me, a just God, and a Saviour; there is none besides me. Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth, for I am God, and there is none else.” (Isa. xlv. 21, 22.)

From these texts of Scripture, and they might be multiplied, we believe in the unity of God, and in his power and willingness to save and redeem the repentant, without any aid or co-operation. And such was the belief of the Patriarchs and Prophets of old.

“I, even I, am he who blotted out thy transgressions, for my own sake,” &c. (Isa. xliii. 25), and, if I may not be accused of profanity, I would add, “and not for Christ’s sake.” What Jew can forget the beautiful assurances of the gifted Isaiah,—“Let the wicked forsake his ways and the iniquitous man his thoughts: let him return unto the Lord, and he will receive him with compassion, and to our God, for he aboundeth in forgiveness.” (Isa. lv. 7.) “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it can not save,” &c., &c. (Isa. lix. 1.)

Indeed, it may safely he averred that Judaism was established, and has been perpetuated, to proclaim the mercy of God, and His power and willingness to save the repentant, and to make known His glorious and majestic unity in contradistinction to polytheism, whether in the ancient form, as it existed when God selected Abraham as his “friend,” or in the more modern and more incomprehensible form of three in one. Now no Christian believes in the unity or oneness of God, nor in his mercy, or power to save. God, according to Christianity, is powerless to save, except through the mediation of Christ. He is a being of dark passions, and burning with impotent revenge. Because Adam sinned, every descendant of Adam, through countless <<403>>ages, is doomed to an eternity of punishment. No good deeds, no purity of character, can save. He may do all that our God, the God of Israel, requires; he may “do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God;” he may “fear God, and keep his commandments;” but it will avail him not with the Christian’s God, without faith in the atoning blood of Christ. Hence it will be seen that no two beings, spiritual or mortal, can be more unlike than Israel’s God, all-merciful, and all-powerful to save, and the Christian’s God, who cannot exercise the power of pardon except through another, and that other his son.

But Mr. Miller is wrong in supposing that our sole objection to Christianity consists in the second person of the Trinity. It is true that the polytheism of Christianity is abhorrent to us, the “witnesses” of God’s unity; but still more abhorrent is the doctrine of the atonement, which we regard as sinful and immoral. Because Adam sinned, all men are sinners from the moment of their birth, and doomed to perdition; God himself has no power to save. At this point the son of God, more merciful than his father, steps in, and, by undergoing death by the awful punishment of the cross, appeases the wrath of God: and faith in the redemption of the world by this atonement is necessary to salvation. There is such confusion of ideas in the whole scheme, and such manifest injustice, that it cannot stand the test of reason or revelation. We have already seen what revelation tells us is necessary to salvation, and will now apply the test of reason. In addition to the texts of Scripture already quoted, I would refer to a very memorable passage in Scripture, decisive of the whole controversy. When the children of Israel strayed from God to worship a golden calf, Moses prayed to God to allow him to atone, but God said: “Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book." (Exod. xxxii. 32, 33.) See also Ezek. xviii. 20, 21, 22.

But it is unnecessary farther to quote Scripture.

And I might here add with propriety, that I challenge Mr. Miller, and the whole priesthood, to find one sentence in the whole Old Testament that speaks of a trinity in the Godhead. The sentence “Kiss the son, lest he be angry with you,” so much <<404>>quoted by the ignorant, is a false translation, and so known to Christian and Jewish Hebrew scholars. Now I appeal to the candour and common sense of any unprejudiced mind, and ask if it is reasonable that God, who constantly proclaims his unity, and his desire and power to pardon the repentant, should have concealed from the readers of the Bible so important a fact as this mystical unity of three, and this means of redemption by faith in another’s sufferings. And if Scripture affords no light, surely reason does not; and this all honest Christians admit for when reason is appealed to, they at once say, “Oh, it is a mystery!”

Can any man by reason establish the doctrine of the Trinity? Clearly not. And is it not abhorrent to our ideas of justice to suppose that God would punish one man for the sins of another, or that He would receive the sufferings of Christ as an atonement for any wickedness? And if Christ’s sufferings are necessary to save the world, what saved the world before he suffered? But how can God suffer? or how can an infinite and eternal being die? And again, if it was necessary that God should die to appease God, who created the necessity? If God created the necessity, then God could have pardoned without any sacrifice, or He is not all-powerful. But I cannot pursue this train of reasoning, for we are taught not to revile the gods of other nations, and I beg it to be expressly understood that I speak not of the God of Israel.

It has always appeared strange to me that, whilst the Council of Nice were purifying the gospels by making an arbitrary selection, they did not also expunge the two remarks of Christ whilst on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” and, “My God! my God! why hast thou forsaken me?” These two remarks at once destroy his divinity, and the whole doctrine of the atonement. Why ask forgiveness for the Jews for doing an act necessary for their salvation, and that of the whole world, and why ask for their forgiveness when he was equal with God? And finally, how could God forsake himself, or how could he, who had supreme power, be forsaken? If, however, the Christian should reply, he spoke and suffered <<405>>in his human and not his divine nature, then I answer, human reason cannot understand the distinction; and if his divine nature did not suffer, then I would ask, how could the sufferings of a human being be an infinite sacrifice, and an infinite atonement? From the above it will be clearly seen that the Jew and the Christian are antipodes in belief, and that they can never amalgamate.

In conclusion I would say to Mr. Miller, that if I have said aught to offend, I beg him to remember that I sought not the controversy, and but for his intrusion into a Jewish publication he should never have heard from me.