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CHAPTER VII. Jewish Opinions on the present moral Condition of Humun Nature:- Sin :-Remedies for Sin:- Repentance :Punishment :- Salvation :- Case of Apostates and Christians.
RESPECTING the moral condition of human nature, Jewish writers have been far from main. taining an uniformity of opinion. The variety of sentiments promulgated in the rabbinical books, and the total silence of the thirteen articles, render it difficult to ascertain the precise doctrine of the synagogue on this important subject. There is reason, however, to believe that the notions entertained by the generality of its members are nearly, if not altogether, the same that in the Christian Church have been distinguished by the name of Pelagianism.
In some of the Jewish prayer books the following passage forms part of the morning service for every day: My God! the soul which thou ' hast given me, is pure; thou hast created, formed, ' and breathed it into me; thou dost also carefully
guard it within me; thou wilt hereafter take it ' from me, and restore it unto me in futurity.'* From the natural import of this language it would seem that those who adopt it consider themselves as free from all sin. But this interpretation is completely at variance with the numerous con
* Spanish and Portuguese Jews' Prayer Book. p. 4.
fessions of sin contained in the same service. The principal idea designed to be conveyed in this extraordinary passage, probably, is — that men derive no corruption from their first parents, but are born as pure as Adam was when he came from the hand of his Creator.
To the question, Whether the Jews believe original sin? a learned rabbi gives the following answer. " The Jews deny original sin, and that 'for the most weighty reasons. For the seat of
sin is exclusively in the soul, and all souls derive * their origin, not from Adam, but from God the
Creator; whence it follows that the souls of the descendants of Adam could not have sinned. "That sin is seated in the soul, is evident; for ' that vice or delinquency is committed by the soul 'or intellect. And the scripture expressly de
clares, “ That soul shall utterly be cut off: his iniquity shall be upon him," or in it. Hence 'then it may be clearly perceived that sin is seated in the soul. In like manner, that souls are
created by God, without the mediation of any 'instrument, is testified by Isaiah : “ The spirit
should fail before me, and the souls which I have 'made.” Ezekiel confirms the same, when he
represents God as saying, “ All souls are mine, ' as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the 'son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die." 'Hence then it clearly and certainly follows, that 'the souls of Adam's posterity could not have 'sinned in him, and that all mankind are born
obnoxious to the punishments due to the sin of ' Adam, which, as they are all corporeal, affect
also the bodies of all his children, inasmuch as they are his children with respect to their bodies : just as, if a man be brought into a state of slavery, all his children become slaves also, in
consequence of being the offspring of an enslaved * parent.'* By Maimonides, original sin is rejected as a most flagrant absurdity; the idea of a man being born with an inherent principle of sin or holiness, he pronounces to be as inconceivable as his being born an adept in any art or science.to
On the other hand the Talmudists and other Jewish writers, frequently speak of something which they denominate (197 789) Jetser Hara, a term that may be rendered Evil Principle, Inclination, Desire, or Propensity; which they represent as the internal cause of all the sins that men commit.
The Talmud mentions a form of supplication introduced by Rabbi Alexander: · Lord of the ' universe ! it is known to thee, that our desire is 6 to do thy will. And what hinders us? The leaven that is in the mass.' Jarchi says: The leaven that is in the mass, is the evil principle which is in our hearts, and corrupts us.' Another eminent rabbi says: By our doctors of • blessed memory, the evil principle has been • called the leaven that is in the mass : because as a little leaven leavens and corrupts a large mass, so the evil principle corrupts men. 'I
* Hoornbeck contra Jud. L. iv. c. 2. p. 356. * More Nevoch. p. ). c. xxxiv. cit. by Basnage, B. iv. c. 13. . 14.
Berachoth, c. ii. p. 17. Rashi in loc. R. Abraham Shalom in Neve Shalom, trac. xi. c. 2. apud Bartoloc. Bib. Rab. tom. i. p. 65, 66.
Another part of the Talmud states that this principle is designated in the scripture by seven different appellations: that God calls it evil; that Moses describes it as uncircumcision ; that David calls it uncleanness; Solomon, an enemy; Isaiah, a stumbling block; Ezekiel, a stone ; and Joel, a hidden thing.*
Very different accounts have been given by the rabbies, of the origin of this principle.-An eminent expositor says: “ The evil principle is born with "a man, and grows with him all his days.'+-On part of the fifty-first Psalm, Aben Ezra has the following comment: · Because of the concupis- , . cence implanted in the human heart, David says, C“I was shapen in iniquity :" the meaning is that
the evil principle is implanted in the heart in the hour of nativity. When he prays, “ Create in 'me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me;" the meaning is, that the concupiscence implanted in him had seduced him to sin, and therefore he supplicates God to assist him against his inherent concupiscence, that he ‘may never fall into a similar transgression. I The compiler of the Mishna is represented as vacillating in his opinion, whether the evil principle is implanted in man at the moment of his birth, or at an earlier period. Ş
* Succa, c. v. p. 52. apud Bartoloc. Bib. Rab. tom. i. p. 45, 46. For these seven appellations references are made to the following texts: Gen. viii. 21. Deut. x. 16. Ps. li. 10. Prov. xxv. 21. Isai. Ivii. 14. Ezek. xi. 19. Joel ii. 20.
+ Medrash Tillim, Ps. xxxiv. p. 26. apud Bartoloc. Bib. Rab. tom. j. p. 71, 72.
Raym. Mart. Pug. Fid, p. 586.
Another rabbi * says: There is no reason to wonder why the sin of Adam and Eve was 'inscribed and sealed with a royal signet, to be propagated to succeeding generations : because on the day in which Adam was created, all things were finished; he was the perfection and completion of the whole mundane structure : so ' when he sinned, the whole world sinned; and we 'bear and suffer for his sin: but this is not the
case with the sins of his posterity.' · Some rabbies have unblushingly maintained that this evil principle in the heart of man was created by God. On that passage of Jeremiah, (x. 23.) “ O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in “ himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct “ his steps :" Jarchi says, "The evil principle " which God has created in him, causes him to 'wander from the way.' Another of the doctors, not content with simple blasphemy, has put this horrible declaration into the mouth of God himself: I am affrighted because I have created the evil principle in man: for if I had not created it in him, he would never have rebelled against me.'oto
Some rabbies speak of two principles in man, one evil, the other good ; the former bom with him, the latter implanted at the age of thirteen. This doctrine is extracted from a passage in the book of Ecclesiastes, which has been tortured by
* R. Menachem Recanatensis, Medrasb Tillim, sect. Bereshith, apud Raym. Mart. Pug. Fid. p. 590.
+ Jarchi in Jerem. X. 23. Bereshith Rabba, Paras. xxviii. p. 30. col. 3. apud Bartoloc. Bib. Rab, tom. ii. p. 47, 48.