Writings by George Burgess (1829-1905)
The natural principle of sacrifice is universal in all existence – and it acts and produces sure results according to its fixed laws.
Occasional Sacrificers are saviours, usually personal and optional, and only sometimes partly substitutionary. A sailor plunged into the Thames to save a fireman, but both were lost. A mother rushed through the flames and caught up her child, and dropped it out of an upper window, and then jumped herself. The child was saved, but the mother was lost – died! For that occasion she was the child’s saviour. So these occasional sacrifices are never sure in securing the desired results, being outside the fixed laws attached to natural sacrifice. But the occasional sacrifices prove that the Devine is in the Human.
The natural, universal and compulsory principle of sacrifice – acting by designed law – is sure in its results. But it is never substitutionary. The sea sacrifices itself to the river, but does not “save” the river from sacrificing itself again to the sea. The seed sacrifices itself to produce its own kind, but does not “save” its kind from a continual like sacrifice. The father and mother sacrifice their own substance, and their flesh and blood, and their life, to generate – But that does not “save” their offspring from an exactly similar sacrifice. The eternal processes of like know nothing of substitutes. The sacrificed father only a little while precedes the sacrificed son. Both are Gone. All shall die!
No one ever has been, and never can be, a natural substitute for others. The workings, within a man, of the principle of life and Death, and the countless millions of attendant Experiences – all centre right down on every man for himself.
Natural sacrifice however, is not all pain. It is mainly a pleasure! It is a universal organic expenditure and income, in natural and unceasing motion. The sacrifice of the “Great Deep” to the Rivers rolls up to human view as sublime grandeur and beauty. The willing sacrifice of the seeds sends forth to man bread, and fruits, and sweet odours, and flowers. And the loving sacrifice of father and mother brings them “joys unspeakable” and fills the world with “human forms divine” – beings made in the very “image of the God” – “crowned with glory and honour”. There is no happiness without sacrifice, for this natural and divine principle, wisely used, is the real, and true source of the world’s joys. “It is more blessed to give than to receive”.
There are those to try to believe that this divine and human principle of sacrifice was exercised by Jesus, to save people from the results of their sins – especially in the future world. But, all know that “no means” have been found to save people from the results of their sins in the present world. Therefore, logically, this is a sound reason for believing that here will be “no means” found for saving them from the just effects of their sins, in the future world, or in any world.
The theory of the sacrifice of Jesus instead of men seems to be mentioned, not very clearly though by some of the Apostles. Yet, Jesus himself never taught it at all, and it certainly is not true. However good a “believer” in Jesus, a man may be, it he commits a sin his punishment is sure, and it will begin at once, here in this world, and no faith and no sacrifice can save him from it. Every living good man knows this to be true, from bitter experience. Many people have an ungenerous desire that after they have done the sinning, Jesus shall bear their punishment, and this is called “believing in, and loving Jesus”!
But here is the TRUTH. Men may believe what they like, but unless they do that they ought, they are doomed to punishment. All the Prophets, and Jesus himself, taught this changeless TRUTH. And God’s eternal law of Sacrifice compels all being, who sacrifice their opportunities for doing good to reap an evil reward.
George Burgess – March 1899