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Or to vary the case a little, suppose a man whom you knew to be selfish and wicked, should declare himself the prophet of the Almighty, and profess to have the power of miracles--could any amount of testimony convince you of it? Certainly not. Why not? Because you know that God would not lend the aid of his divine power to strengthen the hands of a man whose objects and purposes in life are notoriously evil.
But suppose on the other hand, that a state of society should come upon us, in which iniquity should abound; all purity, and innocence, and virtue, be blighted-every day bring forth some more dreadful instance of enormous crime--the wicked bear rule in every country, and should league to put down re. ligion, truth, and goodness. Suppose that a scene of moral evil should come sweeping like a deluge over the earth, resembling those terrors described by the vision of St. John, when vial after vial is poured forth, and as trumpet after trumpet sounds, a more fearful woe than the last begins. Suppose yourself to be living in such a time--imagine if you can, the breaking of the seals, the pouring out of desolation the conquering progress of the beast and his armies--the dragon and his host: and then suppose, that in the midst of this darkest night, one should appear in character and spirit like the Son of Man, and declare that God had given him power, and anointed him to make war with Satan and overcome him—to rescue the saints from persecution, and establish once more the kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy. Would it seem to you then improbable, incredible? Oh no, the PURPOSE is sufficient. It is fit and to be expected that God would interfere to rescue the human race from the power of sin. You would go to him-you would say, show me some token that you are sent, I wish to believe it, convince me that I may follow you to victory. And EXACTLY THE SAME OUTWARD EVIDENCE, which in the former case you would have rejected, you now accept, as sufficient proof that “God has anointed him with the Holy Ghost and with power.”
See then where we are. It is our idea of the importance of THE PURPOSE for which the miracle is performed, which is the foundation on which rests ultimately our acceptance or rejection of it.
Now what was the purpose of Christ's miracles ? to save souls from sin, and to give them everlasting life. Who feels the importance of this object? Does the worldly man feel it? Does the sensual man feel it? No. He cannot. Only he who has begun 10 feel the weight of earthly bondage-only he who has begun to seek for spiritual life-only he
can feel that the wakening into being, the creation for eternity, of an immortal soul, is worth every effort which God or man may make-is worth the creation or the destruction of an outward world. (Note F.)
Let us then strive to walk more in the spirit—to have a closer communion with God, and so we shall perceive the meaning of Christ's saying--“ No man can come to me except the father draw him;” and of that other memorable benediction_“Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona, for flesh and blood have not revealed this to thee, but my Father in Heaven.”
J. F. C.
NOTES. (A.) But not only is it the result of all intellectual inquiry to give a conviction of the universality of law. This conviction is also the secret impulse which leads to intellectual inquiry. There is a deep, fundamental law of the mind, which impels it to believe in the permanence of causation. This impels every thinker, consciously or unconsciously, to look for uniformity in variety, unity in diversity, and something permanent in fleeting phenomena. This inborn faith in the coherence of things, has given spring to the researches of Keplers and Newtons. If a miracle then, be an interruption of the laws of nature, it is a violation of the rational instincts of man—the fundamental laws of thought. Then reason and revelation are plainly at war. But if a miracle be not a suspension of any laws of nature, but merely the manifestation of higher supernatural laws, then is there no such variance, and revelation does not come to destroy but to fulfil nature.
(B.) This view of the nature of a miracle has lately been advocated with great force and beauty by Mr. Furness, (Remarks on the Four Gospels,) and it appears to us, is unobjectionable. It has however, been considered by some writers, as tending to destroy the supernatural character of a miracle. We regard miracles as proceeding from a power above common nature, but not opposed to nature. Miracles are natural in the highest sense. They belong to the great system of things, and work into it as harmoniously as the dawning and close of day connects itself with the wants of plants, animals, and man. And here we cannot deny ourselves the pleasure of quoting a passage from that excellent and profound little work, “ Reed on the growth of the mind.”
“ The laws of divine operation are perfectly uniform and harmonious; and a miracle is a particular instance of divine power, which, for want of a more interior and extended knowledge of the ways of God, appearing to stand alone, and to have been the result of an unusual exertion of the divine will, creates in the minds of men, what its name implies, a sensation of wonder, That there are miracles in the bible, proves that there are laws of the divine operation, and of the divine government, which are not embraced within the utmost limits of that classification and arrangement, which is the result of natural reason. While therefore, human reason professes to be convinced of the reality of revelation from its miracles, let it humble itself before them. Let it bow itself to the earth, that it
may be exalted to a more intimate acquaintance with the heavenly strangers. Let it follow the Lord in the regeneration, till the wonderful disappear in the paternal. Miracles are like angels who have sometimes been visible to men, who would much more willingly have introduced them to an acquaintance with the laws and society of Heaven, than have filleủ them with fear and consternation. They are insulated examples of laws as boundless as the universe, and by the manner in which we are affected by them, prove how much we have to learn, and how utterly incompetent we are to judge of the ways of God from that reason which is founded on our own fallacious and limited observation. The resurrection of our Lord must have been a very different miracle to the angels at the sepulchre, from what it was to Mary. They saw it from the other side of the grave, with a knowledge of the nature of that death which they had themselves experienced; she saw an iusulated fact, not at all coincident with her views or the subject of which it was an illustration. They saw the use and design of that which had already been accomplished ; she saw the sepulchre and the linen clothes lying. As they gazed intently at the same subject, the veil of heaven was withdrawn, and they beheld each other, face to face. She was filled with fear ; they with love and compassion.
We find in this extract from Sampson Reed, the Swedenborgian philosopher, all the views of Mr. Furness anticipated. If we turn to German theology, we shall find them the orthodox views of miracles, as opposed to those of the neologists. For instance, we read as follows in “ Hahn on Christian doctrine," a work recommended by the orthodox in Europe and America.
Many of our elder theologians held the false opinion, (which is neither taught in scripture, nor is conceivable in itself,) that by the exercise of the divine power in a miracle, the course of natur e was interrupted, or the laws of nature violated. For example, (he quotes instances from Quenstedt, Buddeus, and Wegschneider.) But even Augustine, (Civ. Dei, xxi. 8.) correctly asks, “Quomodo est contra naturam, quod est voluntate Dei, quum voluntas tanti utique creatoris conditæ rei cujuslibet natura sit?” According to the supposed opinion, every miracle sup, poses another miracle, to restore again the order of things which has been interrupted. And so in fact have the friends of this view actually maintained, ( see Plattner, &c.)”
Hahn then goes on to quote with approbation, the view of miracles maintained by Tieftrunk, who speaks thus" Miracles do not disturb nor suspend the laws of nature.”
“ The miraculous does not consist in that which is against nature, but that which is out of nature.” “ Neither must one think, that the power producing a miracle acts lawlessly. Every thing must come under law, whether it belongs to that nature which is seen or unseen-only we are unacquainted with the laws of the supernatural nature, &c.” Hahn Glaubens lehre, p. 24.
So C. J. Nirtsch, (System der Christ, lehre,) speaks. “ Were a miracle a lawless, unnatural, and unintelligible occurrence, the defender of christianity would have to contend with unconquerable difficulties."
(C.) Thus Luther. “It is nevertheless true, that the same power and influence of Christ always remains in Christianity, so, that were it necessary, the same miracles might happen even now. Interpretation of the Gospel for Ascension Day.
(D.) Matt. ix. 6, 22, 23. John ii. 11. v. 14. vii. 27. ix. 35, 36, 37. xi. 26, 40, 42, &c.
(E) “Then certain of the Scribes and Pharisees answered saying, Master we would see a sign from thee.
But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign, and there shall be no sign given unto it, &c.” (Matt. xii. 38, 39.)
“Some of them said, He casteth out devils through Beelzebub, prince of the devils. (Luke xi. 15.) So John ix. 34. xi. 47, 48.
(F.) Hahn (Christ Glaub. p. 27,) thus speaks of the value of miracles as proofs of the Divinity of Revelation.
“They are necessary, in order to show the divine character of a religion already recommending itself through its inward truth and goodness, and to fix on it the stamp of perfect goodness. But even so their value is conditioned, they are worth nothing in opposition to decidedly holy truth, but only valuable when supporting it.”
So Luther—"No miracle nor sign must be recieved in opposition to the true doctrine."
So Chemnitius—“Miracles are not to be preserred to doctrine. ”
So Gerhard Miracles if not connected with truth of doctrine can prove nothing.
So Brochmaud—-"Two things are required to constitute a true miracle. It must possess truth in action and in object. (Verilas rei, et veritas finis.) We mean by truth in action, that it shall be what it seems to be, and that it shall be above the unassisted power of a creature to perform. But truth in object means, that its purpose must be to confirm and support truth.”
So Ammon, Bretschneider, Augusti, fc.
To this may be added, that our Saviour (Matt. vii. 15--20.) in pointing out the way of distinguishing a true prophet from a false one, does not indicate miracles as the test; but the fruits, good or bad, of their doctrine.
If it be said that in other places he appeals to his works as a proof of his mission, (John v. 36. x. 37, 33. Luke vii. 20, 22.) we reply that it was not to his works simply as wonderful, but as uniting to their miraculous character a benevolent character and purpose worthy of God. So for instance, (Luke vii. 22.) he speaks of the blind and lame being healed, and the poor having the gospel preached to them, as equal evidences of his mission. It is to be noticed too, that (John vii. 17,) he expressly says, that if any man will do the will of God he shall know the doctrine.
We repeat, that by the coming of Christ the thoughts of many hearts were to be revealed, and their state tested. Those who were waiting for the consolation of Israel, who were looking and hoping for a heavenly guide, came to him “ drawn by the Father.” Those whose desires were low and purposes selfish, not wishing for more light, did not come to him nor believe in him. For it was not the design of God, and it is noi his design now, to compel any one to believe in the Sayiour,
‘UNANIMITY OF FAITH.
In reading our exchange papers, we sometimes meet with wild assertions, and palpable mistakes, which we are tempted to expose.
But the following little article which we lately cast our eyes upon, taken from the Religious Magazine, is absolutely so bristling with errors in every part, that we feel compelled to notice a few of them.
UNANIMITY OF FAITII. “ There is a vague impression in most minds, that the christian world has always been in a state of confusion and dispute, respecting the doctrines of the gospel. But the fact is exactly the reverse. The unanimity which ever has, and does now pervade the christian world, is truly astonishing. That the doctrines now distinctively called Evangelical, have been the prevalent doctrines with the overwhelming majority of christians, from the earliest ages, is as susceptible of proof as any historical truth whatever.
“ There are discussions going on, and ever have been, respecting the forms of the church and points of intellectual philosophy. But if there is such a thing as evidence to be derived from the decision of councils, the letters, and the sermons of the early fathers, and the testimony of historians, the fundamental doctrines of christianity have been held undisputed by nine tenths, and I might perhaps say, with more truth, by ninety-nine hundredths of the christian community from the days of the Saviour to the present hour.
“ Take this country, for instance, where there is more of the conflict of mind with mind, than in any other portiun of the world. According to the most recent statistics, there are in this country about
1,000,005 Lutherans, Dutch Reformed, and Moravians. “ Now with this immense mass of nominal christians, there is no dispute respectiug the character of Christ, the nature of the atonement, the work of the holy spirit, the new birth, and judgment 10 come-all the fundamental doctrines of the bible.
They differ about forms, but as to the real nature of religion there is no dispute. 66 On the other hand there are
180,000 Unitarians. “We must leave out of the computation, the Christians, the Shakers, the Quakers, the Mormonites, the Dunkers, and the Swe