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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 24a

Original Sin

Original Sin.

Another Sunday evening the subject was "Original Sin," which gave occasion to some remarks such as the following:—

Respecting original sin, Mr. S——has rightly informed us that the originator of anything, is he who gives beginning to it, or is the source whence it proceeds. This being so, reference to the Scriptures will furnish us with a clear solution of this stumbling block. Isaiah says, "I make peace and Create Evil; I The Lord do all these things," It is thus impossible to avoid the conclusion, according to the Bible as well as Mr. S——, that the Lord alone is the cause, creator, and originator of sin. Both of them thus establish the Lord as the only original sinner; and if the Bible he God's word, the Lord is plainly convicted out of his own mouth, as being the sole original arch sinner. The intervention of man, or even the devil, can be no more than instrumental and secondary; for both are asserted by the same authority to have been created by God, who is indeed page 27 positively asserted to have made all things. He is said to have deliberately made both man and devil, with full fore-knowledge of all the evil consequences which must ensue! He cannot plead the excuse,—that man certainly has if not the devil,—of ignorance; for he created (They Say) the devil, man, and sin, with full and complete knowledge of all the evil consequences! If he so foreknew it—it follows that they could not act otherwise. For he could not possibly foreknow, what it was possible might never happen. From this there is no escape. By asserting an omniscient creator of all things, full and entire responsibility for all evil is unavoidably fixed upon, and imputed to him; man and devil are made mere instruments and puppets, and deprived of all responsibitity whatever! What pernicious nonsense! Yet these are not only the legitimate, but the necessary consequences of the consistent application of the fundamental doctrines of Christianity!

The basis of the absurd doctrine of original sin, is confessedly the childish story related in Genesis of Adam and Eve in Eden. But a critical examination of that story should convince any unbiassed person that it was written for entirely opposite purposes, by a worshipper of the Serpent. Possibly by Moses, but perhaps not. It is wholly absurd as related, but less so if regarded as an imperfect version of the legend of Prometheus. Observe—that it was the Serpent that desired to confer upon man the inestimable boon of the knowledge of good and evil; and that it was the Lord (or Evil Demon) who wanted to keep it from him! The Serpent succeeded—the Lord failed. It was the Serpent who truly foretold that the result would be to place man comparatively in the position of a god—knowing good and evil.* It was the Lord who falsely predicted that man would surely die on the day he ate the apple.

Nothing can be more absurd and immoral than the climax of the story, namely—the punishment of Adam and Eve. For as it is expressly stated that they only acquired a knowledge of good and evil by eating the apple, they could not possibly have erred consciously in eating it. They must therefore have been necessarily innocent, and unjustly punished. It is a principal feature in the story that they had no such knowledge, till they ate the fruit. They therefore, obviously, could not know any good or evil in obeying or disobeying, or in anything else. In fact every thinking man must know that such knowledge can only be acquired by experience and comparison of both, and that he can judge of the quality of any action solely by its results.

Is it not clear that this fable was stolen by the stupid Jews,—entirely misunderstood by them, and mis-appropriated to wholly foreign and opposite purposes? Or that it was "borrowed" by Moses, and ignorantly distorted afterwards? For we should remember that Moses is said to have made in the wilderness, a brazen Serpent for the Jews to fall down and worship; and previously that Moses' rod (or god) took the form of a Serpent which swallowed or overcame those of the Egyptian magicians. But the circumstance that the benevolent Serpent, like Prometheus, was cursed for conferring a benefit on man suggests, if it does not prove, page 28 that the story was of extra Jewish origin; but stupidly misconceived—and stultified, and spoilt in the process of un-naturalization. There could be scarcely stronger proof of the dull incapacity of the Jews to appreciate or comprehend any relations of right and wrong—of good or bad—than the way in which in this story, they made their god guilty and convict himself of gratuitous malevolence, falsehood, and injustice; and imputed at the same time truthfulness and benevolence to their own conception of an evil being, whom they made to suffer for the good he did to man!

Obtuse however as were the Jews, Christians are as bad, and worse. They out-Herod Herod. The Jews began by sacrificing innocent animals to appease their cruel demon god, Jehovah, in important cases slaughtering human beings to placate his wrath; but it was reserved for Christians to impute to a god of justice and of love, the stupid inversion of all notions of right and wrong; by which the wicked are to be put on a level with the virtuous, on condition that the punishment that they deserve, shall be suffered—not by them—nor by himself for making them so sinful, but—by the best and most virtuous of beings,—his own innocent son! If anything could be worse than the original sin of the creation of evil, it must be this. For observe the pernicious consequences of this principle. It obviously becomes the interest of men to be among the wicked, and to have an innocent person sacrificed in their stead! To be virtuous would be to provoke similar treatment to that experienced by Jesus. For what else can be expected of a being who crucified his own innocent son, because he was angry with bad men, for whose bad conduct he was himself, as their creator, solely responsible? What more natural than to expect, that if he should take a fancy to redeem some devil from hell—he would require the blood and sufferings of another virtuous man as the necessary ransom? We can only judge of the future, by the past.

But Common sense itself teaches us that the idea of sin, original or otherwise, is absurd. For evil deeds invariably cause their own retribution, as virtue brings its own reward. Consequently no one would sin, or rather do evil, but from a defect of knowledge; and obviously every man would, if he could, know everything. Errors therefore must in every case be errors of judgment, not intentional. If our most definite and invincible notion of cause and effect be really true, as we cannot but deem it, it should be of universal application; and if so, it should be clear that man cannot possibly act otherwise than as his original constitution impels, and as circumstances (including knowledge) admit. How many drunkards would give anything for the power to refrain from drink? Who would not be rich, healthy, learned, and virtuous, if he could? Knowledge of what is good, of what constitutes one's own real true interest, is the one thing needful,—to create the desire for it; the essential preliminary to the endeavor to secure it. Therefore that knowledge is what every man should above all things strive to get, to give, and to extend.

* Acknowledged by the Lord himself!—Gen. iii. 22.