One's Own Responsibility

As Moses got the Ten Commandments, the one against graven images was accompanied by a reason for it: "for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments" (Ex. 20:4-6). Finding these words with one of the Ten Commandments, adults as well as children naturally wonder what they can mean; for no one who has not been taught to do so will believe that God would punish an innocent person for another person's sin. Christian Scientists do not ignore these words, but interpret them consistently with the true idea of God.

The best indications are that Moses delivered the Ten Commandments about twelve hundred years before the Christian era. How he construed the words in question cannot be determined now. They are in another book attributed to him (Deut. 5:8-10), but evidently it was compiled long after his time. This book also contains a contrary rule, "The fathers shall not be put to death for the neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers" (Deut. 24:16),which is reiterated in II Chronicles 25:4 and Jeremiah 31:29, 30. Finally, perhaps six hundred and fifty years after Moses, Ezekiel declared the divine law at length and in carefully chosen terms (Ezek. 18:1-32). The following sentence contains the gist of this pronouncement: "Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord God."

No speaker or writer in the New Testament appears to have discussed the question whether God punishes any person for the iniquity of another. Probably, the chapter on this subject by Ezekiel in the latter part of the Jewish Scriptures kept it from being an issue during New Testament times. Theology between then and now can be disregarded for the present purpose, because Christian Science is independent of it. For this religion, Mrs. Eddy has spoken plainly: "It is error to suffer for aught but your own sins. Christ, or Truth, will destroy all other supposed suffering, and real suffering for your own sins will cease in proportion as the sin ceases" (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 391). See also "Miscellaneous Writings" 72:7.

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"The plea of Christian Science"
November 1, 1930

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