I send you some remarks on the scriptural view of miracles, from which infidels and the defenders of Christianity seem to me to have alike wandered.
As to infidels, any moral apprehension of what miracles are, or anything else is, of the misery of man, or the love of God, or the power and value of the truth, is absent from their minds. Exalting man as he is, the false fancy that in these days of enlightenment the lancet and the microscope have found out everything, and exploded God’s truth and love and man’s ignorance both together, reducing everything to general laws without being able to tell us where they came from, and thus to a materialism, which, as an able but honest materialist has said, leads them up to a blind wall beyond which they cannot get. Such is the true character of modern science: very interesting in the discovery of laws which govern matter (that is, the material world beneath us), but excluding from man every moral principle, every excellent affection, and all divine goodness and truth. They tell us that this is no part of science: I quite agree.
But are there no such things as love, and goodness, and morality, and right affections? no knowledge of God? When they come to “the blind wall,” can they assure us there is nothing behind it? or tell us something of what is? Neither. It is simply excluding man from everything beyond matter, even to openly denying all responsibility, degrading man and denying God. The first they do, pretending to exalt him; the other is the stupid pretension to deny that of which they confess they are wholly ignorant (and they are quite right); though (thank God) it is a knowledge that is as open to them in God’s love as to those who already enjoy its light.
There is an evidence of truth which one who has the Spirit of God cannot use to a mere natural man, though it often carries the strongest evidence with it, and in that way may tell upon him—the possession of the thing that the other is disputing. To him who has it, it is the strongest of all evidences, different in its nature from external proofs. Take even natural things:—I am in pain. No surgical evidence is required for him who is in pain in order to make him know it; there is no deception as to it for the man who suffers. The surgeon may shew the physical cause, a stone in the bladder, or what produced it; inflammation either of the blood, or of some mucous membrane; but with all his science he cannot tell me why it gives me pain, nor what pain is. Yet who that suffers it does not know what it is? He may talk to me about ganglions, or sensitive nerves distinguished from motor nerves. But this does not tell me one atom of what or why pain is; though he may talk, and in a surgical sense rightly, of what its cause, its material cause, is; but this is not what pain in me is. Does anyone doubt what it is when he suffers it?
That is, the most certain knowledge even in the lower creation is entirely out of the reach of science. I do not blame science for this; it is not its sphere. Science arranges phenomena, learns by experience their sequence and often with great sagacity. Nobody denies it. But it cannot go farther. I can say I suffer; I am so made, so constituted, that under certain circumstances I suffer. But no one can tell me what makes me suffer. He can tell me, very likely better than I can, the circumstances through which I suffer, and perhaps relieve them; he can relieve an animal that knows where and what it is suffering; he can trace the material part, bring in electricity or any other biological power; but what makes me sensible and suffer pain, he cannot tell me. Let him trace it to nerves and electricity and whatever you please; but electricity does not make a tree or a stone suffer, though it may make a dead frog leap perhaps (that is, produce material effects), but it cannot make dead matter feel. I feel, and hence have no doubt of it; I have absolute certainty of it, much greater than any of his science, however extensive and accurate it may be. You will tell me a dog knows it. Just so, but the scientific man does not; and that is the point I am upon just now—that there are kinds of knowledge which are the most certain of all, which science knows nothing of—has nothing to say to, which the boor is just as certain of as the philosopher.
Now I say distinctly there is the same kind of knowledge in the things of God; its effects may shew to others that it is there, but it is not to be explained to or by men. A man groans or writhes, and a dog howls, if he is in pain. That is not the pain, but a testimony to it. So where God dwells in man, where His Spirit dwells in him, there is no uncertainty in himself: the effect is one of which he is perfectly conscious in himself. It cannot be in itself a proof for another, because it is in himself, and another cannot be a partaker of that any more than he is of another’s pain; but it is absolute certainty for him who has it, and its effects make themselves known to others as pain and illness do to those who are not suffering. It has another effect which can hardly be communicated to another. It confirms, by its inward effects, the truth and authority of the word of God; because—if the love of God is shed abroad in my heart by the Holy Ghost given to me; if I enjoy that love inwardly as a deep source of happiness; if I can look up and cry Abba, Father, in the unquestioning consciousness of what He is for me; if my soul is at liberty before Him in unfeigned confidence, and at liberty from sin that beset me before, and from a sense of guilt which I had; if I am conscious of my connection with Christ and His presence with me—I find all these things which I have in my heart, recognised and taught fully in that word. I find what is there said connected with the glorifying of the man Jesus when He had accomplished the work of redemption; this, with a life here wholly without parallel in holiness and love, absolutely unselfish—meekness and self-denial and patience, understood of none—a life which condemns me in spite of me by its perfectness, and which is yet not what men admire in their heroes, though more heroic in reality than all. This, with a statement that this Man that none was like—save indeed in a distant measure as following Him—was the Word (that is, God) become flesh.
I find, that is, to say my own every-day new but actual and known happiness (proved to others by the change they see in me) connected with an immense system of truth unfolded in the word, but which I find experimentally verified in my own soul (though the source of it be hidden from sense and science, and science can go no farther than inference from sense); but what that word declares to be the effect in me, by which the unseen is known and the revelation of what is divine is made to my soul—is in fact produced there, so that what is unseen is known, and what is divine revealed; not a history, but what God is now, though revealed in that history in its outward facts; and I know the truth of it by what I possess, and the inseparable connection with all the revelation made, which is but the divine development of that of which the effect is in me.
And so scripture speaks. “He that believeth in the Son of God hath the witness in himself; and he that believeth not God hath made him a liar, because he hath not believed the record that God hath given concerning his Son.” The infidel will say, That is no proof for me. In effect it may be; in itself I recognise that it is not. He has it not, and of course cannot have the proof that having it gives. But this does not weaken it for those that have. No more does the doctor’s not having pain alter my knowledge of having it; and if he were to tell me “I was perfectly in health: all the tissues right, and there was no cause for pain, it was imagination,” I should know better; it would only prove his science did not reach to the knowledge of the cause. He will despise, too, my enjoyment of divine things, because he does not know what is enjoyed. He will tell me it is imagination; but imagination does not produce holiness and godly affections, but poetry. There is nothing permanent. It may take me out of self and sorrow for a moment, but never delivers from either—leaves the man what he was, or worse. No man can stay the hungry edge of appetite by bare imagination of a feast. Imagination deals with things outside us which are not real; this is what is actually and abidingly in us, a present reality. It is based on what is in its perfectness objective as a source outside us, just as my friend is, though I am conscious of my affection and of his. And when human imagination seeks to make a scene with which it can be occupied, it fails entirely, bringing cannon into heaven, and making Satan the most interesting person in the dramatis personae.
Proofs may and do leave responsibility without excuse; but enjoyment of the thing itself within takes the need of proof away. “Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not; but one thing I know: whereas I was blind, now I see.” Where was the proof that Christ could open the eyes of one born blind for him who was so? And, note here, we are not speaking of the truth of that history, but of the nature of the proof.
Let it be remembered that of love, obligation to God or man, or a father, or a wife, science can know nothing; it is not its business. But man’s happiness or unhappiness even as man here, and everything right and comely, depends on this. Science knows material phenomena and laws and connections, and no more. Up to a certain point they may prove a connection of thought and organic structure; but of one single moral idea it is incapable. I do not blame science for this. Phenomena and their laws are its sphere. It is degrading man’s moral nature I denounce. There is no love in geology or chemistry; and if, as men have done, they deny responsibility, the best answer is they are not to be trusted with my keys. Who would trust his child to them, if he had any love or sense of obligation?
They have assumed that science has left all witchcraft, possession, and the like, far behind in the dark, and in the light they have these things dare not shew themselves. But they delude themselves. That if men are completely infidels, trusting their puny reason, there is no need of superstition to dazzle them with what is false, is true because they are stone-blind already. But what is all the spirit-rapping that is in the midst of their pretended light, and putting people to sleep, and taking their minds, in a certain sense, into possession, and the coming up of spirits of the departed, the identical necromancy of which we read in scripture?
That there is a vast deal of deception I have no doubt, but they have not explained and cannot explain the half of it. Witchcraft is not gone. You may find half the housewives in parts of England stop hæmorrhage instantly with a few muttered words; you may give them the number of your warts one day, and have none the next. To this day there are in France stones with certain marks upon them, to which women who desire to have husbands or children go, and which they worship, and which have jovial celebrations attached to them. They are similar to others consecrated to Mahadeva (Siva) in India, whose symbol is the linga, and worshipped by women in the same way a little more grossly. They come with a dead child in them to revive it. They are probably also connected with the worship of the dead or fairies. (See Materiaux pour l’Histoire de l’homme, 1878, 6e livraison.)
It is very easy to sit in a drawing-room or a lecture-hall, and say, See how, with our wisdom and science, all these things have disappeared! They have not disappeared; it is mere pretentious ignorance to say they have. It is very possible that infidelity, if it had penetrated where superstition reigns, might make it disappear, though bringing up the dead or spiritism is no great proof of it. Our infidels may not believe that these are spirits of the dead (I do not); but their science cannot explain what happens now.
It is very easy to say, I do not believe the facts, but plenty of other people know they happen, and at any rate the superstition is there if the facts are not facts. There is no difficulty in distinguishing such things from real miracles; but the things to be accounted for are there. It is quite idle to say it is in dark places—I do not doubt or question that certain of them are—not spiritism. If a man finds to-day he has no warts when he had yesterday, and you tell him he is living in an ignorant condition, he may say, May be so, but I have no more warts; and if he has been among the more enlightened, he may reproach them with spiritism, a great deal of which none of them has explained yet. If you ask me, I say a great deal of it is deceit; but there is that wherein there is power, not of man, and certainly not of God. Of what, then, but of Satan? In their infidelity all is of Satan, to shut out God more completely in another way.
Nor is it in the country parts of England alone that superstition wields its power. I suppose we have infidelity and scientific light enough, and philosophy of all sorts in France; yet superstition reigns there. Not only has the worship of the Virgin Mary taken largely-increased proportions in general, but La Salette (proved false by judicial investigation of the civil authorities, and condemned by the prelate of the diocese thereupon) is now approved and in full vigour, and the poor railway that passes by Lourde makes a very good business with holy water and pilgrims; confessed to be false, yet educated English pilgrims going there. And what has science done to hinder it? It leaves both the imagination and the higher wants of man’s heart and conscience wholly unreached; it cannot satisfy heart and conscience, having none; it can explain the development of ova and protoplasm; but of what comes of me when all my ova, and what they tell me can alone rightly be called protoplasm—a living combination which chemistry cannot reach, are gone in death, not one word can they say; no gleam of hope, no cry of conscience met. A God unknown on earth makes all darker still beyond it: for God, or even for man, no love; for self, no conscience. What has science to do with them? Affection is at the utmost warmer blood as to this world!
The whole moral world is wholly and absolutely outside their reach. Morality they have none; they will tell me it is the pursuit of the good of all. And what is that good? and who is to decide it? Their happiness; but for no two men is it the same, if I take man’s thoughts. It may be scalping, or opium, for the existence of passions forms no part of their philosophy. Many good people are not aware where philosophy has got to. Kant, in his treatise on morality,17—a man not nearly so bad as the fruits of the philosophy he set going— declares in terms that if the will of God, or fear of God, be introduced, there can be none. It is a principle outside man. Morality is the principle of pure reason applied to practical conduct. But he admits at the end that how the principle of pure reason can be so applied it is impossible to say. Mill tells me that justice is the animal desire for vengeance modified by utility to all. Kant’s is merely natural conscience with the name changed, and shutting out relationships with God and man, on which all morality is based. Mill, remark, feeling a motive was needed as a rule, makes vengeance the motive. Animal vengeance the sole motive of morality—the rule; one which has been never settled yet, save by Christ.
But my object now is to take up specially the question of miracles, and see how scripture presents them. There are those who are opposed to infidelity who take them as the basis of Christianity. Infidels tell us there cannot be miracles in the nature of things; that general laws cannot be infringed; that the vast mass of evil alleged to be removed by them is the effect of natural laws, and cannot be taken out of their uniform operation; that where they are such as cannot be so viewed, as demoniacal possession and the resurrection, they are proved to be mere superstition, or false.
The first famous proof is, that they are contrary to experience; and we had not experience of miracles, but had of human falsity. But first it is to be remarked here that it is a question of induction (not deduction), which only affords probability, and this Mr. Hume admits. He weighs probabilities, the greater against the less. But inductions have nothing to do with facts. Hume says, “When at last he fixes his judgment, the evidence exceeds not what we properly call probability.” Now I conclude, for all practical purposes (and man as an earthly creature has to act on such induction), that, the sun having risen day after day, it will rise to-morrow. But do I believe it shines to-day by experience, or induction? Clearly not induction. That is induction which calculates in the future from experience of the past, having nothing to do with facts at all. And, note here, talking of concluding for a long time hence how it will be, is throwing dust in the eyes. For it is because it has always been the same I conclude it will be. But the whole proof rests on its remaining the same. There is nothing to foretell. One is the certainty of a fact, the other the probability of an induction. I may deceive myself, reasoning badly; my senses may deceive me as to facts. But the nature of the proof is different. Induction has absolutely nothing to do with facts. Take even sunshine. I believe the fact that the sun has risen every day, not by any induction but as a fact on testimony, and hence conclude that it will; but the ground of my believing is distinct. I may question the evidence of a fact; but, question it or not, it is not induction; and if I have to reason on experience of motives or circumstances, and bring in induction, it is then only a probability and not a fact.
The scientific men say the course of the physical world is such that it must have had a beginning, and must come to an end. If they are right, the sun will cease to give its light as it has done, and the experience of the past would not be a sound induction in an absolute way. And this leads me to another important principle, the character of the experience and the induction from it, and the whole basis of reasoning from it. It is based on this, that the material phenomena in which we live are the limits of all man has to do with. Hence, in speaking of the good of all, the view of the object of man’s life is confined entirely to the material system in which he lives. It is perfectly clear that phenomena and experience exist only in what is phenomenal; and induction from experience, as to what may or must be, cannot go beyond the sphere to which the experience applies. It belongs to this. It may so far go beyond what is material, as that we have a certain experience of men’s passions and motives; but the motives are too various and unknown, and the will and circumstances have too much to do with it, to have any definite general laws. And this Mr. Mill admits, though reasoning as if it were not so, and declares that he was founding a new science, to which he gives the name of Ethology, as sure as any science referring to matter! for these men can pretend to anything.
But this system of general laws, which in ordinary material things no one denies, is assumed to be the only possible existing cause for anything. Yet no one can go one step beyond observed facts with which reason has nothing to do, save classifying and binding them together by experience as cause and effect, from which man has an instinctive habit of thought that they will continue. But it is only what is observed, and continuously observed. Take such a thing as death. It was only after centuries—if the patriarchal ages are true, many long centuries—that death could be taken to be a law of nature. Seeing a man die, or a world destroyed, would not prove it, as Mill so illogically states. Man must have seen (what was practically) all die, to make it a general law. Till then life was the general state, and death might be casual. Thus the conclusion as to anything could be only after a regularly consecutive experience of facts not known by reason at all, but by sight or testimony—facts which (in its very nature, as I have said, and it is all-important to observe) reasoning never gives. It gives conclusions, or the natural tendency to think that what is, as a general law, will go on as it has because it has hitherto; which, while sufficient to act on, and no doubt meant to be acted on, yet can only give probability, which is never a fact, but necessary if the principles are true. That is, reasoning never can, in any case, give us a fact or truth, but a conclusion by deduction, or by induction a mere probability.
Let us have it fixed in our minds—no facts are known by reason. Thus the fact of Christ’s existence in the world, or His miracles, cannot be the subject of reasoning, but of sense or testimony. All the conclusions of reasoning, or the induction of man’s mind, are founded on facts which are known without those, and form the basis on which they are grounded. But, further, experience does not touch the origin of that of which observation takes notice. The experience being of phenomena cannot go beyond phenomena. Thus, the sun rises; but what makes it rise? We may find successive sequences, and come to where we can go no farther, as well as immediate ones; but this alters nothing. First or last, we come to a point where something has produced the facts, or produces the facts, which form the experience. With that something science has nothing to do. Science does not go beyond the phenomena and conclusions drawn from it. But here I come to a power producing these facts or these laws, of which reason has no cognisance. I do exist. I do not always exist. I began to exist. Of that, the first cause to which it leads, there can be no experience. Now whether I take “causa causata” or “causa causans,” is all one. I have something that has given rise to the phenomena, something which science cannot touch or reason about—admits it cannot (even Mill and materialists do). That is, a thing being, no matter of experience and yet existing, is certain. If I say, anything had a beginning; clearly when it began, it was contrary to experience, or rather no experience did or could exist. This cannot exist, till the constant succession expressed by general laws had lasted long enough to be known as such. Science tells us things had a beginning. That is, there was a time when judging by experience had no place at all, and yet facts were there and true, or experience never could have come to exist.
I quote one passage from Mill: “This class of consideration leads to a conception which we shall find to be of great importance; that of a permanent cause, or original natural agent. There exist in nature a number of permanent causes, which have subsisted ever since the human race has been in existence… These have existed, and the effects or consequences which they were fitted to produce have taken place (as often as the other conditions of the production met) from the very beginning of our experience. But we can give no account of the origin of the permanent causes themselves. Why these particular natural agents existed originally, and no others, or why they are commingled in such and such proportions and distributed in such and such a manner throughout space, is a question we cannot answer… The co-existence therefore of primeval causes ranks to us among merely casual occurrences. Not only, for instance, is the earth itself a permanent cause… the rotation itself is entitled to be ranked as a permanent cause. It is, however, only the origin of the rotation which is mysterious to us.” This last I may touch on, but do not pursue here. He then states that no event happens in the known universe, which does not depend on some preceding one, the necessary, or in other words the unconditional, consequence of some former collocation of the permanent causes. He admits that these effects, though invariable while these causes co-exist, would, if the co-existence terminates, terminate along with it. “We can only calculate on finding these sequences or co-existences where we know by direct evidence that the natural agents—on the properties of which they ultimately depend—are distributed in the requisite manner,” (Logic, ed. 8, pp. 398-400). But all this, “at least unless some new condition of a power capable of constructing the universe should supervene” (page 400).
Another able materialist, but who declares himself at the same time a Christian, arrives at the same result, after quoting indeed part of what is quoted above from Mill.
The method of science is thus essentially sceptical, and continually leads to reject all interference of casual powers not themselves phenomena, till we reach a point where analysis can go no farther, and we are compelled to admit a primordial cause or causes, of whose nature logic and science can tell us nothing.
Thus we are conducted to a blank wall by a method which is wholly powerless to penetrate the mystery which lies behind. The only thing it conducts to is not really what these authors say. The last says, “What we may term logical or negative atheism”; the former, who could not—being melancholy almost to madness for several years—but see the misery and degradation in which men were, and even creation itself, and not believing in the fall of man, concluded that a God of very feeble power, but in the main benevolent, had made the best He was able out of the materials He had at hand! The simple and only true history of the matter is this—man is so constituted that he cannot conceive a thing which has a form or individual existence without a cause. He sees something so existing: it came into existence by a cause. Hence he goes on to a primordial cause because he cannot conceive anything existing without one. But this is exactly what a first cause does, it exists without one. That is, he cannot conceive it. He knows it must be. What it is he cannot conceive. That is where man’s mind ends, so that such is the result of science; “it conducts us to a blank wall by a method which is wholly powerless to penetrate the mystery which lies behind.” Poor comfort to those led by it! Or, to use the larger work, and say with Mr. Mill, “We can give no account of the origin of the permanent causes themselves. Why these particular natural agents existed originally, and no others, or why, etc., is a question we cannot answer.”
Now, in these statements, the substantive truth of which cannot be denied, we have the proof that the whole a priori argument against miracles entirely fails. Science, based on experience, reaches no farther than the actual sensible course of things already set in motion within the present limits of our senses or experimental discovery. Now, within that course— and science knows nothing but that, as science—we have, of course, no reason to expect a change so far as we reason from that, and this is all we can do. It is indeed tautology. It would not be a course of things else.18 But it does do something more. It leads us to the blind wall, to its own end; but to what discloses that there is something of which it knows nothing, for it proves that everything we know comes from something that preceded it. This is a fixed principle, then. There are primeval causes of which we know nothing but that they exist, save that they must have a cause of which science is simply and wholly ignorant—cannot touch, as beyond its kind, and sphere of knowledge.
Things exist of which to science the origin is not known. What the men of science know is only the actual course they follow when they exist. Of their origin, of the force which gave them that course, what imposed on them the form of operations we find them to have, of everything that is constituent, science is ignorant; the constituted it can inquire into. Not only this, but it must, for its conclusion, have the circumstances, the collocations of existing things, their conditions of existence, just the same, or else all conclusions fail, indeed are false, have no bases, for they are drawn from what exists. Hence the condition is inserted by Mr. Mill, and very justly, “unless there is a counteracting cause.” One step farther. Mr. Mill tells us, that any one who knew all the agents, their collocations in space, the laws of their agency, could predict the whole subsequent history of the universe, at least unless some new volition capable of constructing the universe should supervene. Now, there is not much science in this, which merely says that a state of things going a regular course would continue what it is unless something changed it, a proposition which I suppose no one would contradict, save by reason of another possibility that the course is a changing one (as is said to be the case), so as to come to an end.
Further, I must add that it is not necessary to change the universe: a power which could originate anything could do that without changing an atom, anything whatever, of the regular course of things, though it might introduce something new which was not of that course. Thus a man might rise from the dead and go to heaven, or an angel come down from heaven and leave the course actually known to science untouched. I am not saying any such thing ever happened, but a power which can originate does not necessarily change anything in that beyond which science cannot go. Men may go on eating, drinking, dying, and an angel come down, or a man may be raised, without anything of experienced phenomenal order being changed. This might go on as usual, and, physically speaking, its course be predicted just as before. When the man died, science came to its absolute end, to the blind wall, as much as in primeval causes at the other end, and the angel go away again, and no one care whether he had been there or not. Science can know nothing but the existing course of sensible phenomena, and presume its continuance as it is, if nothing interfere. If it attempts to go farther, it must say, I cannot answer, or knock its head against a blind wall.
But then, mark, we have this positively recognised, that there is a primeval cause, perhaps causes19 (for they do not like to own one—it would be too near God—though Mr. Mill in the most wretched way did), whose origin is wholly unaccounted for. Science has its sole task to investigate their course when they are at work, but their origin and the origin of the laws which govern their course must be ascribed to a source of which science is ignorant. The course they follow is the whole it can inquire into; their existence is a “casual circumstance,” stands by itself, is no part of the general law which science can discover when it is in operation. The conservation of force now insisted on alters this in nothing; it is only a more general law, which we cannot apply beyond the universe subject to observation, nor does it reveal its origin more than the rest. Let evolution be true, which in some respects it may be, and cells and protoplasm be the starting-point of everything: you only have the starting-point of development, only what is material with possible action, as organic, on mind. As to the origin you are exactly where you were.
A volition capable of originating, science can tell nothing of—cannot say that it does not exist. For science, save that there is the insuperable conviction of a cause, it is the other side of a blind wall. This being so, all that denies the possibility or credibility of a miracle is wholly out of court. Experience has nothing to do with it. It is not the subject of its knowledge, or this knowledge would not be experience. That knows the course of what is, and nothing more; but the origin of all that is, and of the force that acts in the uniform operations which they call a general law, is out of their reach, but must be, for these things so governed exist; and it may, of course, operate independently now, as it did in the origin, when it could not be a matter of science, for the knowledge of a general law was only when they had existed long enough, and been so operated on as to be able, to predicate a course. Of these causes or cause there never was knowledge in science. They were there when the ground of science was laid. They had an origin, and what originated them may originate a miracle, a casual circumstance, for what were originated were only “casual circumstances “at first. Science can tell us nothing about those “casual circumstances”; such are altogether out of its sphere. No experience applies here, and so of miracles.
I do not say this proves any particular miracles to be true, but it proves the reasoning as to their credibility and possibility utterly foundationless and false. Whatever power produced or was the origin of the first, may be of the other, and is just as active in one as in the other. All the appeal to experience is only to say that the continued action of general laws, which they can explain as a mere fact, is not the same as the power that originated them, which they cannot explain at all. And even this, which in a certain sense may be admitted, so far as that it is a different kind of exercise of it, they cannot say. For my own part, I am satisfied that the force or power which created and set the universe in movement is a power which keeps it in movement. The material world would not move itself unless it was moved, and the power and will which started it must always operate to continue it, or it could not continue. This is the true conservation of force: the perpetual operation of divine will, just as it operated at the beginning in setting what appear now as general laws a-going. It is always exactly the same thing.
This force was acted by and followed a certain order in starting, by will and power; and it continues by the same power and will every instant. It has never been proved that the power which sustains is not the same power which at first originated. Science knows no more of one than the other. It only knows phenomena and the recognition of general laws by which they are governed, that is, the fact of constant sequence, or uniform effects when all is already there, the whole of which is as to its existence confessed to be a casual circumstance, just as a miracle is. Both are known by sense or testimony, and by no other means.
The infidel argument is utterly illogical. It is this— “We cannot admit a proposition as a law of nature, and yet believe a fact in real contradiction of it. We must either disbelieve the real fact, or believe we were mistaken in admitting the supposed law.” But this is merely saying there is no possible power in existence but the law of nature; which is not only not proved, but the contrary is admitted. We have seen that it is admitted that there are primeval causes, of which science knows nothing—that it were contrary to experience. The effect B, they say, must follow from A, as it has always done, unless there be some counteracting cause; confining thus all possibilities to the existing phenomena, that is, assuming the whole question; denying anything else can be, yet admitting primeval causes. That anything happens not the consequence of existing phenomena, they say, must be disbelieved. A general conclusion that the usual phenomenon will follow no one disputes, because it always has. How the phenomena themselves did originally, unless it be a changing, not an unchanging, course. But it is not the question. That is, whether Z cannot do something, which is neither A nor B, or set A in motion to produce B. The consequence is supposed in the order of known phenomena. But the conclusion cannot go beyond a positive one: that there will happen a consequence when these causes act according to the known course. The action of power (for law is not power, but order produced by power) cannot be touched by that order, unless originating be denied, for this is power independent of existing order, and an origin, no part of the sphere of science, is admitted; were it not, its possibility cannot be denied. With that science has nothing to do.
Mill then takes the ground that we must believe in the existence of a being with supernatural powers before we can believe miracles. Now this proceeds on the supposition of our large ignorance of natural causes; a pretty plea for men of science who profess so to know nature, that the course of it is so fixed, that we cannot believe anything which contradicts that course; nay, which is not part of it. Now, when there is the consciousness that they cannot be denied, there must be previously the belief of supernatural power. But supposing we did so believe, which it is clear to me that we may and must without any miracles at all, this would not help us on a bit, because on their own shewing it may be from some unknown cause. Nay, they say that He who formed the course could not interrupt it. But this previous belief is not necessary. I may now assume miracles, for the question is their cause. Events happen which no known cause ever yet produced. They happen not of themselves. There is no antecedent natural cause discoverable; they happen only by the intervention of particular persons, and do not exist when these are not there. A man walks on the sea, stops the earth going round, raises a dead man who was buried and passing into corruption. All outward evil disappears before a given individual, a word suffices even when He is not there. No sorrow or evil withstands His word. The facts happen before hundreds of thousands, and to thousands, and nobody is able to call them in question: they cannot deny it.
You say, But I do not believe what really would be miracles, as Joshua’s stopping the sun’s course, or Lazarus’s resurrection, etc. I quite understand you, but you do not, because they would prove the supernatural power if admitted. Now that is our present question, and you contradict your own statement; and I say, that a man who could deny that miracles cannot prove miraculous or supernatural powers, as they might be attributed to causes unknown to boasting science, ought not to write on logic, or pretend to analyse the true character of induction. “Thy wish was father, Harry, to that thought.” The truth of alleged miracles may, of course, be disputed, their character be investigated; but to say that miracles, if true, cannot prove supernatural power, but that this must be first assumed, is in every sense absurd, and worthy only of infidelity and men of science, who cannot get beyond phenomena and the petty investigations of the general laws which govern them; very entertaining, I admit, but which in no possible case lead to a right affection or to the sense of moral obligation.
And this is the proposition of the Humes and Mills, and of the anonymous author of Supernatural Religion.
But Mr. Mill makes one or two remarks of great importance here: “The miracle, as an extraordinary fact, may be satisfactorily certified by our senses or testimony.” But then there is a power which can interrupt the course of general laws and act by its will so as to produce “casual circumstances.” Mr. Mill will say there is no miracle, but a previously unknown law. I only admit an extraordinary fact. But I have a fact that is not accounted for by any known law or cause. Adequate evidence is admitted of facts, and that there is no way to account for the fact. Suppose the fact to occur at the command of an individual, and repeatedly, and to be contrary to every known law, as walking on the sea. We have clearly what is not the effect of general laws, but contrary to them, and attached to an individual and those empowered by Him. That there may be evidence of it is admitted; to deny it is merely returning not to evidence or science, but to the assumption that there cannot be, which is just a begging of the question, which before he did his best to deny practically, but now, pleading the ignorance of science, he seeks to throw necessary uncertainty on its being supernatural. We find, if adequately certified, they always happened by the intervention of given individuals, never without them; that they never happened before at any time, by any natural cause known or unknown. They belong to no general laws, and they always happened when the will of these gifted persons interfered.
The other remark is that an important element of the question will be the conformity of the results to the laws (read characters, for with “laws” given to others, save as sanctions, they had nothing to do) of the supposed agent.
I have said that the statement that a miracle can be certified by observation or testimony is important, as it was sought to be proved impossible. This may be easily understood by the statement, “If an alleged fact be in contradiction, not to any number of approximate generalisations, but to a completed generalisation grounded on a vigorous induction, it is said to be impossible, and to be disbelieved totally.” (Mill’s Logic, 8th edition, chap. 2, page 115.)
We have already seen there is no ground for this, for the induction is only from the course of nature known as general laws. And the miracle, if such, is a casual circumstance, like the origin of permanent causes, and has nothing to do with these laws, or it is not a miracle. The statement, then, that “we cannot admit a proposition as a law of nature and yet believe a fact in real contradiction to it” (Mill, chap. 2, p. 167), is simply a statement that there can be no exercise of power other than the course of nature known to us: which is simply absurd and a mere assumption, contrary moreover to their own admission—that the origin of all is by some power which science knows nothing of.
In sum, we have come to the conclusion, or rather gathered up their admissions, that casual circumstances have taken place revealing power not within their experience or the general laws of science, and of which science can give no account. And that is just what a miracle is.
Let me now consider the way in which scripture presents miracles. It is alleged, and Christian apologists seem to acquiesce in it, that miracles are the proof of Christianity. This is a great mistake. They are graciously given of God in compassion to man’s weakness to confirm the word. But the revelation of God in the word, His nature and actings, are the first things. Thus we have in Mark 16 the Lord working with them, and confirming the word by signs following; so in Hebrews 1, God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders and with divers miracles and gifts of the Holy Ghost. And this is so much the case, that a faith founded on miracles is not owned of the Lord: the moral element which links man’s quickened soul with God is wanting. “Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover on the feast day many believed in his name, seeing the miracles which he did; but Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men and needed not that any should testify of man, for he knew what was in man.” It was a human conclusion, drawn from the testimony of His works, and a just one; there was no new life, no moral renewal, it was “what was in man.”
Hence we find as a fact in the ways of God, that, as a rule, miracles were wrought only at the introduction and establishment of a divine religious order, or where it was abandoned by those whom He had not yet abandoned; in a word, where a testimony needed to be confirmed in this way. Thus Moses wrought miracles, but no prophet in Jerusalem, where (however evil the people were) as a system the religion established by Moses remained, ever wrought miracles. When Israel had set up the golden calves, and God visited the people to maintain a testimony of the truth for a poor remnant, Elijah and Elisha work miracles. Again, whatever the miraculous power, it was to confirm the truth proposed, never for self. Paul leaves Trophimus at Miletus sick. Yet how many had he healed? Epaphroditus was sick nigh unto death, but God had mercy on him. Hence, if a miracle was wrought leading away from divine truth the miracle-worker was to be stoned; Deut. 13. In mercy to man, adequate outward testimony was given, leaving man without excuse; but faith which God owned rested in the word, and its effectual working morally in the heart.
So the Lord puts the double character of His testimony: “If I had not come and spoken to them they had not had sin, but now they have no cloak for their sin. If I had not done among them the works which none other man did they had not had sin, but now they have both seen and hated both me and my Father.” But while condemned for rejecting this testimony, faith formed on this alone is not owned, because it was purely human assent and not the moral power of the revelation working in the heart, and faith which is owned is always by the word. Of His own will begat He us by the word of truth. “My sheep hear My voice.” “He that heareth My word and believeth on Him that sent Me hath everlasting life.” “The words that I have spoken unto you they are spirit and they are life.” It is equally even the ground of judgment. “The word that I have spoken the same shall judge him in the last day.”20 Thus, while special miracles confirm the truth, yet if they are not attached to the truth known from the word, they are to be rejected. The word is the test.
Further, closely connected with this is the fact that these miracles were entirely separated from any honour attached to the persons who wrought them, though of course they attested the divine character of their ministry; they were wholly a testimony borne to the Living Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, and all He taught. This is true even as to Moses’ works of power; as Exodus 16:8, and elsewhere, “What are we? Your murmurings are not against us, but against the Lord.” And when once they provoked his spirit, so that he spake unadvisedly with his lips, saying, “Hear now, ye rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” as an expression of the strict regime of the law, he was not suffered to lead the people into Canaan; Num. 20:10. So, Acts 3:13, Peter disclaims all regard to himself or John, putting Jesus alone forward. The Lord’s power and resurrection are that to which the miracles testified. This gives a definite character to them. There was no personal relief, as we have seen, no self-aggrandisement by them, no glory sought for themselves or for their company. So Paul and Barnabas; Acts 14:14.
Now, it was the opposite of this in every other case. It was to glorify the individual, a St. Anthony, or Gregory Thaumaturgus, or Martin, or the church corporately—in a word themselves. They were always from motives, or for objects, which the scriptural miracles never were. The religion was already established as a religion, for which they had been needed. They were wrought in mercy to a tigress who brought a deer-skin in recompense to the saint for giving sight to her cubs, and who was told the saint could not work miracles for her if she went on with such work; or a cow was set right on which a demon was riding, whom the saint only could see, and the cow, coming and kneeling to him, was ordered to go quietly back to the herd, which she did. This saint promised Satan salvation if he ceased to tempt man. Or let any one compare the miracles of the pseudo-gospels with the miracles attributed to Christ; and if they cannot discern the difference of these and scripture, we need not be troubled about their judgment as to anything. The things I have referred to were in the very first centuries. The church was utterly fallen.
It is a constant fact in the ways of God that He gives counterchecks. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth. The form of holiness cannot be received as of God if it be not founded on the truth, nor what is presented as the truth if it be unholy, nor one who presents truth itself as a minister of God if he be unholy. So pretended miracles, or apparent works of power, if used to confirm what is not the truth of the word, are to be at once rejected. I may be unable to explain them: that alters nothing; they are not of God. He can only give testimony to the truth. Let the sign be one of real power, as we have seen in Deuteronomy 13, if it deny the Lord or His word, it condemns the worker, but does not deceive him who knows the Lord and walks with Him. This supposes the truth known, the testimony of the Lord, in the word received (and that is our case), or else a heart deceived by falsehood, which, of course, cannot discern.
And here we see the importance of the scriptural fact that miracles were on the introduction of the truth and to confirm it. Their holiness of walk, truth and power, went inseparably together. It was not a record of past miracles; nor, on the other hand, when truth was there, a means to judge pretended ones by, but the truth introduced with the accompanying testimony, which none could deny. In the case of Christ, neither heathen nor Jews denied them; they might ascribe them to Beelzebub, or magic, or the shem hammaphoresh; but the facts were there.
Miracles were a present visible testimony which, in point of fact, did so affect men that the religion was established in the face, and in despite, of all the power of the world. For, after all, Christianity exists, and has had a cause of its existence. That that existence was identified with the person of the Lord Jesus Christ is unquestionable for any sober-minded person. Next to His Person and death, of which even heathen authors (of course of more weight with infidels, because they believed no truth) testify, came the truths they testified of (which indeed could not be separated from Christ’s Person and work); but with these, both in the case of Christ Himself and those He sent out, miracles accompanied the testimony to confirm it, and the testimony was believed, and the religion was founded, in the midst, doubtless, of violent opposition and persecution. But the testimony and the miracles were before the eyes of those who did believe. The account is, that they saw persons who had been dead and buried, alive again and conversant with men; all sickness at once healed; lunatics, and those held to be possessed—for the difference is clearly made—instantly healed and delivered. And a religion, which has possessed the civilised part of the world, was founded through the effect produced making head against every prejudice and the whole power of the Roman. Empire; and divine truth such as meets and heals man’s soul was introduced by it.
Other religions have been compared with it. Mahometanism, everyone knows, was propagated by the sword, and gives a sensual paradise of houris, consecrating men’s lusts. Buddhism, the most interesting phenomenon in the world, had no god, it was despair at the state of human nature without a remedy, and its founder obtained—Nirwana—practical annihilation by eating too much pork when he was fully eighty years old. Now he is a kind of god, and in one vast country where it prevails, is embodied in a man and, when he dies, another is ready prepared, and the living power passes into him. The miracles the word of God insists on were for the establishment of the faith, and the faith was established, and the grace and truth taught in it shine yet with undiminished and undeniable moral lustre, while its shell is picked at by those who do not like the truth itself, because it has a power which speaks too plainly to conscience—proves itself too clearly for the conscience to like it.
And this leads me, too, to the character of the miracles, which, as Mr. Mill says, ought to be characterised by what suits the law (character) of the author of them. Let us consider them in this view.
Christianity views man as guilty and lost by sin, and (while recognising the law as the just measure of what was required from man, yet none having fulfilled it) purports to be the revelation of God in sovereign goodness to save what was thus lost. Now, Christ’s miracles and those of His disciples were not merely signs of power, but all of them of goodness as well as power. There is but one absolute exception, and the accessory of another: the cursing of the barren fig-tree, a usual figure of the Israelitish nation, that is, of man under the old covenant (this is finally judged, and it was never to bear fruit); the other was the case of the swine, when the miracle itself was a striking and mighty act of delivering goodness, and a sufferance thereupon of the demons shewing themselves such as they were—a sad picture of what happened to the Jews when they rejected Christ as the Gadarenes had. The allowance of the manifestation of the reality of these evil spirits is a remark of one of the old so-called fathers.
With these exceptions, all the miracles of the Lord were the expression of goodness present in power, that man might be won back to confidence in God. Every outward effect of sin, all the evil that was in the world, was removed and set aside when met by the power that wrought in goodness amongst men. This did not change man’s heart, but it did reveal God’s, and this was what man wanted. God came into the midst of sinful men shewing that love flowing from His own thoughts and nature was greater than the sin and evil that was in the world. For what we have in Christianity is what never was before: God come out in grace revealing Himself in goodness when man was a sinner; and man gone in, in righteousness, into the divine glory, so that God’s love and God’s righteousness should be revealed to sinners far from Him.
Now, no one can shew that one miracle of Christ’s, or of those sent by Him, was not thus power displayed in a way suited to the present need and sorrow of man. Moses’ miracles, though partly the glorious deliverance of a people and the proof of governmental care, were not always this. There were judicial wonders suited to the position of the people when God was hid behind the veil and the people placed under the law and tested there. To be exact, I should add one temporary judgment pronounced by Paul on Elymas (a sad picture of the state of the Jews resisting grace), and, after all, the means of far better blessing to the proconsul, before whom the question of the truth of Christianity was raised.
The miracles of Christ were, then, not only perfectly suited to God’s nature and character, but perfectly suited to man and the purpose of Christ’s mission, and the expression of it where man’s heart could feel and understand it. His birth (if God was to be thus manifested, so that man should learn God’s nature and feel His profound interest in him) was exactly what it must have been, a true, real man, born of a woman, but perfectly sinless; such was the suited temple of God as near to man as God could be, and yet God near to him. As to the resurrection, He having become capable of dying to accomplish the work of redemption, and having accomplished that work, there was the recognition of its effectual value for the justification of everyone that believed. God had accepted it, and inseparably from this—a to us—new life,21 and a new state of it beyond the effects of sin, in a people of which He was the first-born and head. And thus mark that all His miracles were an essential part of an immense scheme of truth, the only key to man’s state in connection with God’s righteousness and mercy, and the only full and real revelation of what He is which exists in the world. The infidel may condescend to have to say to God, provided He keeps far enough away from him for them to have nothing to do with one another; but this is a revelation, when man, beyond all controversy, is in sin and misery and degradation, as a fact, if there be no revelation—a revelation of God having to do with him in grace and love, and yet maintaining His holy and righteous nature, no trace of which is found anywhere else.
But, further, while miracles were a confirmation of the word, which was the proper and express revelation of God’s mind, they were also a testimony in and of themselves; for they told, not simply of power but of goodness, of God working in goodness in the midst of sorrow and misery, and that in the most definite and distinct way. “He had compassion on the multitude.” Still there was distinctly and definitely a testimony to the person and truth, or, to speak again as scripture speaks, the grace and truth which came by Jesus Christ, and word and works were a like testimony to it. Hence, too, both belonged specially to the Person of the Lord and His immediate followers, whose part after His death I will speak of just now.
Thus in John 10:37, 38, we read, to the world, “If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not; but if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works, that ye may know and believe that the Father is in me and I in him”: to the disciples (John 14:10, 11), “Believest thou not that I am in the Father and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake.”
I add what follows for another point that will come before us. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also, and greater works than these shall he do, because I go to my Father.” Again, chapter 15:22, “If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin. He that hateth me hateth my Father also. If I had not done among them the works which none other man did they had not had sin, but now they have both seen and hated both me and my Father.” Thus both the word and the works give testimony to all the expression of the perfectness of the person who was there—of God’s living dealing with men. As to the word, this is the force of John 8:25: “in principle and wholly what I say to you”; His words were the expression of Himself. He was the truth, and the truth thus expressed was the revelation of Himself and so of the Father. This gives a distinct character to His words and miracles, and the difference between His and all others. None could be in themselves a similar testimony. The fact that the apostles, and probably some on whom they had laid their hands, wrought miracles, and more and greater works than Christ Himself, may seem a contradiction to this.
A few words here may be called for. It was a necessary consequence of the truth as to Christ. As to His life He was the necessary and natural witness to Himself. But this manifestation of God in grace in the world was only half the truth. If He as God descended here in love becoming a man, as man He is gone up into heaven, the righteousness of God being so revealed to men through the Holy Ghost sent down. Of this the Holy Ghost, speaking and acting in men sent out by Christ, was the witness. “Greater works than these shall ye do because I go to my Father.” But the testimony was still to Jesus alone: the apostles disclaimed all glory for themselves. The miracles were all for the establishing of Christ’s religion upon earth, and belonged entirely to that testimony, either to His coming here from on high or to His being gone up on high as man.
No miracles of wandering Jews or Christians in subsequent times can be compared with them, and he who can compare warnings to grateful lionesses and demons riding on cows’ backs, done to the honour of Thaumaturgs, must have lost every trace of moral sense and divine apprehension.
The infidels must remember that the judgment we form on things is sometimes a test of the state of our minds. The state of the church fell with the departure of the apostles, and even in their time. All, says the apostle, seek their own, not the things of Jesus Christ; and John and Jude both testify that the failure was come in their days. The history of the church shews it utterly fallen in doctrine and practice at once, as all that had been entrusted to man ever had. It is all very well to talk of the primitive church with those who know nothing about it. But the doctrine and practice were such as are not fit to be put upon a drawing-room table for common reading, and that what was read in the churches forty or fifty years after John’s death; one hundred years after, this corruption was general.
That superstition and spiritual ignorance governed the “Fathers’” minds, there is not the smallest doubt. Milner in his Church History admits that not one ever held the fundamental doctrine of justification by faith. I should go farther, but let that suffice. It became quite early the practice to get drunk in the churches in honour of the saints whose memorial had taken the place of that of the demi-god on the same site. In Africa Augustine tried to put a stop to it, and was nearly stoned for his pains; he excuses “the primitive church” by saying, they thought it better to get drunk in honour of a saint than in honour of a demon. But more of this in detail hereafter.
The disposition of the Jews to believe all sorts of signs and wonders is insisted on by infidels, as in the book Supernatural Religion, referring to Lightfoot, and Schoetgen, and Gfrorer, who quote the Talmud, etc. Now this is freely admitted. But such infidels forget that the Jews as a body did not receive Jesus as the Christ. Light had come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light. John the Baptist claimed repentance without miracles; those whose consciences were reached received the Lord’s testimony, but none else. They might rejoice in the miracles for present comfort, but did not believe, so that the faith in Christ was exactly in contrast with this superstitious temper of the Jews. One would think that these wise men had forgotten that Christ was rejected and crucified, and that the Jews’ wonderful love of the marvellous failed to reconcile them to the light—perhaps helped to darken their eyes. At any rate the argument is worse than nothing, because they did not believe because of the truth that came with the miracles, but rejected Him that wrought them; ascribed them to Beelzebub—anything rather than receive the truth; and the judgment they were warned of came upon them.
I should not demand better evidence of the difference of the human mind and the divine as communicated in the Gospels than for a person to read the spurious gospels, if he has patience to get through them, and compare the senseless fatuities of what was not written by inspiration in those days and the four Gospels; and if he cannot find out the difference, he is quite fit to be an infidel author. Christ, it is said, when a child was making mud birds and ponds, and it was the sabbath, and a big boy came and broke His ponds, the birds took flight and went away, and Christ said, As you have dried my ponds, may you be dried up! So he dried up and died. In this kind of way He became the means of the death of so many that His mother had to keep Him at home in the house. He maltreated the master that taught Him His letters in a like way.
Let me remark here that scripture gives perfectly and soberly according to God, what there are legendary traditions of, or the truth of God’s ways in connection with Himself, where man’s imagination has invented a mass of false statements to impose on man’s fears or love of the wonderful. Thus, take the Book of Tobit (the expression so far of Talmudical and Jewish ideas when they had not present revelation, and the scriptural account of the service of angels), and see how the last is worthy of God and comfortable to us. The denial of these things, as if it was a settled point, and sober men had given it all up, is all very well for infidels and those who are afraid of them; but they must know that men as sober and as sound as they, fully believe in the scriptural statements of angelic administrations and demoniacal power. The Sadducean denial of a world of spirits is prejudice, not sober judgment, as if power (because it was not visible and material) could not exist.
The scriptures—and in spite of infidels, Christians believe them—are plain as to the ministration of angels: “Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister to them who shall be heirs of salvation?” As regards the wickedness of man they do believe in the fall of man, they do not believe that God made the world as it is morally. They see man degraded in abominable idolatries where Christianity has nothing to do with it, where in the highest state of civilisation they worshipped and do worship objects that mark the lowest possible degradation, and indulge, even the wild Indians, in the careful practice of nameless degradation themselves. They know that in the centre of modern civilisation, man is let loose and boastingly casting off Christianity and God, indulging in horrors too horrible to repeat. They know that where there are not such outbreaks, and where there is a great profession of religion, sin and vileness prevail and scarce hide their face; and they do not believe that God made the world in this state—they leave that to infidels. They believe, knowing God to be holy and good, that man is a fallen being. The evil state is a fact. They will excuse its violence as rising up against oppression, there is a measure of truth as to certain parts of this, but they are only deeper in the mire. Where did the intolerable oppression come from? and is violence, glutting in blood and debauchery, the only remedy they have? Further, God’s remedy they reject, and are helping people to reject, to their own destruction.
Kuenen is referred to in Supernatural Religion as a very able book. With sufficient contradiction to make their judgment of little worth, all these rationalists are in substance on the same ground. The Pentateuch is not a really historical book at all, but a compilation from a few old documents, partly made in the time of Judges, partly in David’s or Solomon’s reign, partly after the exile. There, at any rate, it received its priestly form. Every divine element is completely excluded; of course therefore, no prophecy. Hence, when events later than the professed date of the writing are found, it was written after these events. Jahve was the national god, but Monotheism was only that into which they gradually grew up (through a Semetic tendency). Some think Jahve (Jehovah) a Canaanitish god; at any rate it was one party, and a small one, who held to his exclusive worship; other gods being equally recognised, even in the Pentateuch, and by the best kings. One party would have fellowship with the Canaanites; another drive them wholly out.
I may mention two cases as specimens of their systems. As it is rejected as historically true, and what professes to be of Moses invented or legends, they try and compose a system, putting things together by the probabilities drawn from man’s motives; rejecting all thought of any revelation of God—of course all prophecy and any mind of God in the matter. The whole is put together and compiled finally after the exile, with the object of exalting the priests and the authority of Jahve. But I must give in my specimens:
Abimelech was disposed to unite Canaanites and followers of Jahve, and did get power thus. Gaal was a Jahvist, according to the system. Genesis 49 was written in the time of the Judges. But what is to be made of verses 5-7, the judgment on Simeon and Levi? According to them, the then state of Simeon and Levi led the poet of Genesis 49 to put into Jacob’s mouth this judgment of the tribes. That comes, says Dr. Oort, from Genesis 34, written at that time, “for we know of no other inducement for the invention of this story than the covenant made between the cities of Shechem.” But it is not certain that we should know the inducement, says Kuenen, and chapter 34 was written long after. Oort himself had a difficulty—the statement in verse 13, that they dealt deceitfully. That is easily met: it is interpolated. No, says Kuenen; it is a confused reminiscence of the time of the Judges, long after Gideon and Abimelech.
It is well that those interested should know the principles of Dr. Kuenen, so lauded by the author of Supernatural Religion. At the beginning of his book, speaking of the standpoint of his history, he tells us it is one of a number of monographs of the principal religions. The idea of including the Israelitish and the Christian among the principal religions deserves approbation and applause only if there exist no difference between these two and all the other forms of religions. The idea of a special divine revelation, he says, would place too deep a gulf between them and others to count these among them. And at the end he adopts the statement of Mr. Revillo, that if liberal Judaism prevails (for they have their rationalists), it will closely approach liberal Christianity, which, by its openly avowed Unitarianism, will not excite the same repugnance as orthodoxy. A fusion is hardly probable; but if all religious sects laid down their weapons, religious sentiment would only gain by it. Of course, if a man believes nothing, though there are principal religions, there is nothing to fight for. Divine revelation does not exist; and then, whether Genesis 34 be an existing fiction of the time of Abimelech, or a much later writing of confused reminiscences of that time, is very little matter, and may be left to Drs. Oort and Kuenen, who would hail a fusion of Judaism and Christianity on the ground of there being nothing divine in either.
The other specimen I would cite is, that the prediction of Genesis 49:16, 17, is a clear proof that the chapter was written in the time of the Judges, more precisely of Samson; for then Dan rose up with some vigour. Such are the speculations we are to have, instead of the word of God, publicly accredited by the Lord Jesus and the apostles. These are merely instances that occur to me, or rest in my memory; the whole system is composed of such. I have entered more into it elsewhere. I have read Kuenen, Ewald, Bleek, Graf, and looked at others. But, as I have said, they are—though the one upsets the other in detail so as to destroy their proofs— just the same in substance.
Supernatural Religion is a catalogue raisonné of all the infidel German books; an advocate’s special pleading against revelation. But while I avow I have not read the half of those he quotes, I cannot say he is fair in those I am acquainted with. I do not charge the author with false quotation, but with leading the reader, as to what he quotes, to the opposite conclusion to that the quoted book would, if the context be read.
I quite agree with Dr. Trench that possession means possession; the case of Legion leaves no manner of doubt. But, whatever Mede and others may say, these cases are expressly distinguished from lunacy, as in Matthew 4:24; and not only do the Evangelists speak of devils coming out, but the Lord expressly desires them to come out. And the case of Legion seems given expressly to shew it is really so, as one of the “Fathers” remarks. Even now, with all their boasting, in cases of epilepsy the doctors on post-mortem examinations fail generally to find any adequate trace of disease. Scientific men have to learn that they are not all the world; and Christians who are afraid through their pretensions, and yield to semi-rationalism, are the most contemptible of all writers. Milman says our Lord adopted the current language of the day because unbelief in spiritual agency was one of the characteristic tenets of the unpopular sect of the Sadducees; as if the Lord Jesus would maintain as a truth in the minds of the people a false doctrine on a most important point where the Sadducees were right, for fear of losing His popularity by identifying Himself with them by speaking the truth. Why should He even have said anything and not merely heal the sick person? It is next door to blasphemy. Meyer says, all the efforts to explain away the history of Legion are useless: either you must take it as a true history; or recognise legendary parts and separate them, and take the story of the swine as the reminiscence of some mishap. He is as unbelieving on these points as the rationalists could wish. Lange’s explanation, which Canon Farrar has borrowed, Meyer treats with the contempt it deserves.
The existence of good spirits and bad, the very dread expressed by them of judgment as yet “before the time,” and the operation of divine power in miracles, are too interwoven with the whole structure of the Gospels to take them out without destroying its whole texture. I have already remarked, that the allegation that the superstition of the Jews accounts for it, proves only the folly of the reasoner who makes it, for they were not believed in by the Jews at all. That there are many inexplicable facts, false miracles also, and wonders done by evil power is recognised in scripture; but we are tested in such cases by them; they would deceive, we read, if it were possible, the very elect, and the power of spiritual discrimination, or the want of it is shewn; and all that the author of Supernatural Religion does is to confound them all together, shewing his own incapacity to discern. Real miracles, such as those of the Old Testament, are not at all the same as the New Testament. Divine power was of course shewn, and in grace to a people owned of God to found or guard a testimony; but the whole scene of the Lord’s ministry was the expression of power in goodness in a living person there, or in a still mightier testimony to His name and redemption when He was gone.
But I ought to state why I account the statements of Supernatural Religion to be unfair. I just remark that the statement as to the book of Enoch, though very common, is entirely unfounded. The doctrine of Jude and that of this book are quite different as to the passage alleged to be borrowed. I do not call this unfair; it is too common. There was a tradition probably as to this prophecy, and the author of the book of Enoch uses it for his own objects; and in Jude the Holy Ghost gives us it, according to the truth of it. It is to me pretty clear that the book of Enoch was written by a great partisan of the Jews and enemy of Christians, and not long after the destruction of Jerusalem. He sees up to the destruction of his tower, but then can see no farther, but is full of all promises to those faithful to Judaism. Enoch, chapter 88:22, 23, refers pretty clearly to the destruction of the temple by the Romans, and he could not perceive whether they afterwards entered the house; in chapter 92 we have the final judgment. Lawrence gives the passage in question thus from Enoch, “Behold he cometh with ten thousand of his saints, to execute judgment upon them, and to destroy the wicked, and reprove all the carnal for everything which the sinful and ungodly have done and committed against him.”
Now there is in Jude a prophecy in general analogous; but copied they are not. In the book of Enoch the saints are judged, and the wicked destroyed. Judgment on the saints is unknown to Jude. It is the doctrine of the book of Enoch, because he holds the Jews to be God’s people. He says just before, “while judgment shall come upon all the righteous “; executing judgment on the preserved is the doctrine taught. Nor is the destruction of the wicked in Jude; nor is there anything of the speaking of ungodly sinners in the book of Enoch. Both the words and doctrine are different; nor is there the least proof that the book was before Jude. My own conviction is that the book of Enoch was written after the destruction of Jerusalem—I suppose, in that case, after Jude’s epistle. The idea that the prophecy was current before both is fair enough, but for copying there is no ground whatever.
There are many passages in the book of Enoch which would lead us to suppose they were taken from the New Testament— doubtless some merely proverbial sayings used by both. Both the chronological elements and the contents of the book lead, on the closest scrutiny, to the supposition that the book was written by a Jew, who was obliged to admit the judgment of his saints (those faithful to Judaism) and treated the Christians as a perverse set, had picked up a good many truths which a Jew could own, and wrote after the destruction of Jerusalem, but sought to make the Jews still believe in the accomplishment of the promises made to the nation. It is curious as exhibiting a picture of the current notions of that day. He puts the Christ as existing before the creation, but hidden; he calls Him Son of man; but this is in the Old Testament. He makes the flood come by the world getting a tilt. I do not then speak of this as unfair. It is second-hand and superficial; but it is a current notion, only it has no foundation.
But there is what I consider unfair. The author—as he does in countless other instances, stating as proved and certain, because the infidel clique he belongs to have so settled it, what is far removed from being so—tells us, “It has been demonstrated that Ignatius was not sent to Rome at all, but suffered martyrdom in Antioch itself on the 20th December 115.” He quotes then Bleek as witness of this statement. Now Bleek adopts the date, which had been greatly disputed, but in these words (Clark’s Eng. trans., chap. 1, p. 158), “Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, who was martyred at Rome under Trajan, a.d. 115.” In the same place (Sup. ReL, chap. 1, p. 268-9), we find “there are no less than three martyrologies of Ignatius, giving an account of the martyr’s journey from Antioch to Rome; but they are all recognised to be mere idle legends, of whose existence we do not hear till a very late period. In fact, the whole of the Ignatian literature is a mass of falsification and fraud.”
The author quotes Milman, chap. 2, p. 101; but Milman says nothing about it there. He does reject the acts of martyrdom, but expressly declares that he was sent to Rome, and in 102 gives a summary of his journey to Rome as we have it in ecclesiastical history, and quotes Cureton’s epistles as of authority, and fully receives the account of his journey and seeing the brethren on the way, using it as proof there was no general persecution. The author also quotes Ewald, chap. 7, p. 314. Now Ewald does reject entirely the three martyrologies published by Dressel. But he not only holds the whole history itself to be true, and the author’s statement wholly wrong, receiving Cureton’s Ignatian epistles, but he discusses it at length, and considers that the Syrian epistles have lost some passages which have been found in the Greek. As to Polycarp’s epistle, he not only receives it, but says, appealing to Irenaeus’ (3:3, 4, a e) quotation of it, that its originating with Polycarp, people in our time have doubted and even denied, but that they were utterly wrong. “Es ist die grosste Ungerechtigkeit.”
That a mass of infidel Germans, no two of whom have the same theory, and make systems at pleasure, refuting one another, and agreeing only to doubt what is true, may be cited, or Davidson, who does nothing but copy from them, no one need deny. But this seems to me very superficial, as well as unfair, in cases I have quoted. There is no original research into the questions, nor even care or fairness in quoting what is cited in the cases referred to: a vast number I have not examined. That many German infidels sustain the author in many things he says, I have no doubt.
As regards Justin Martyr, with all his details he seems to be very weak; and here also he has either borrowed or is only on the surface. That there was a multitude of accounts of Jesus current, written and unwritten, is notorious, and it is stated in Luke’s Gospel. That Justin, who was of Palestine, had heard and refers to such is most probable. But these accounts never stood on the ground the four Gospels did. Origen notices (be his remark solid or not is alike as to this) that the others had taken in hand, which was merely human, not as Luke. Irenaeus insists that there could not be more than four Gospels, of which I will speak farther on, and Tatian made a harmony of these four—plain proof that in the very earliest ages these four were distinctly recognised. That Justin, who was of Palestine, was familiar with the accounts current as published there, and reproduces them, is most probable; but no one can read even what is cited by the author of Supernatural Religion without seeing that Justin was fully acquainted with and recalls what he has read in the canonical Gospels. He does not take the roll down to copy it, but we could not have what Justin gives without our Gospels.22
As regards the Gospel to the Hebrews, it can hardly be doubted that Matthew wrote some account of Christ in Hebrew: at any rate early Fathers so state; but, after all, their statements are very vague as to what it was, Epiphanius saying it was corrupted, Jerome that he translated it, which would go to prove that it was not the canonical Matthew. What did he translate? It does not affect our Gospel, which is clearly original, as even the language proves. Jerome says he saw it at Csesarea and translated it; so that there was such in the fourth century. Still the statements of Jerome are so inconsistent that it is hard to draw any clear conclusion from what he says. He says he translated it, and that it was practically the same as Matthew: this it certainly was not, by his own testimony elsewhere. The writers of introductions, Bleek, De Wette, etc., say he gave up afterwards this thought, and I suppose did not like saying plainly he had been wrong; but it seems to me the dates do not bear this out. I do not think he is much to be trusted in the matter. Papias—a man sphodra mikros noun—assumes there was such a Hebrew Gospel by Matthew, but there were afterwards seemingly two differing editions; a few of the “Fathers” accepted it; but Origen, disposed to receive everything, says every one was free to use it if he thought it genuine, only not as authority. But it was in Aramaean; and there is no proof that Justin, a Greek, understood the tongue. He was a Greek, and though living in Palestine, it was in the Roman town Flavia Neapolis. Further, though he preferred being put to death rather than deny Christ, when, as is said, brought to martyrdom through a jealous philosopher, Crescens, yet he never gave up his philosopher’s cloak, was a Platonist, and unsound in fundamental doctrines; and, though we cannot doubt his sincerity, was on the surface of Christianity. At any rate, the Gospel to the Hebrews is surrounded critically with the greatest obscurity, with no proof that Justin understood it, or was one of Papias’s “every one interpreted as best he could.” All this part of the book comes to nothing.
The inspiration of scripture is known by divine teaching; it asserts its own inspiration formally, more formally if possible, than the spoken word; but its authority is demonstrated by evidence of every kind, such as no other book in the world possesses. The author quotes the writers of the Baur or Tubingen school in numbers, which is merely part of a progressive effort, not simply to undermine the authority of the New Testament history, but to do so by the invention of a system already seen through and refuted as alike historically unfounded and absurd, and which has now not merely lost its weight outside a few partisans, but has demonstrated the animus of the inventors and their untrustworthiness in every respect. It is this school that the author of Supernatural Religion relies on. We have seen that his quotations from others, themselves rationalist enough, cannot really be trusted.
There has been little real research into the character of the Gospels. The Fathers say Matthew wrote in order—chronologically in fact; Mark, on the contrary, no one knew how (supposed as he heard it from Peter; this from the foolish notion than an apostle must be the author, from not really believing in inspiration). Now it is exactly the contrary, Matthew’s Gospel bringing forth Christ as Messiah, Emmanuel sent to the Jews, but rejected of them; the kingdom of heaven, and the church and the kingdom in glory being substituted for the present establishment of Messiah’s glory, gives a perfect moral order of subjects with this view. Hence, too, you have in fact no proper history with a chronological sequence. This is given in one single verse (chap. 4:23); and we have His service in Galilee, and at the very end no ascension, but the whole closed with the remnant in Galilee and their mission to the Gentiles. In all the three Gospels blind Bartimaeus at Jericho begins the last events. There He is Son of David.
Mark and Luke are chronological, and relate events in the same order, as far as they are the same, up to the middle of Luke 9, which terminates the history of Luke (save always the last events). See Luke 9:51. From that verse to chapter 18:34, it is in general His last journey up to Jerusalem, introducing various discourses by the way, and adding others to the same purpose, without note of time. In general, Luke will give a quantity of events together, and develop facts which have a strong moral bearing. The difference of John is essentially this; it gives not a history at all, but Christ as God, the Word made flesh, the Jews being rejected altogether early in the first chapter, and so treated all through.
The three first chapters are preface before His public ministry, John the Baptist being not yet cast into prison—the two first going together; the third, the foundation principles of the new thing, being born again, and the cross; fourth, Judæa left, and the transition to the worship of the Father; fifth, life-giving power, and exclusive judicial authority of the Son of God as Son of man; sixth, self-emptied and suffering Son of man; seventh, glorified Son of man, giving the Holy Ghost instead of appearing to the world; eighth, His word rejected; ninth, His work; tenth, He has His sheep at any rate (for John all through goes on the ground of electing grace), also the Gentiles ones; eleventh and twelfth, He is testified to of God as thus rejected as Son of God, Son of David, Son of man. But to take up this He must die—episode of Bethany. In the thirteenth, He begins with what refers to His departure out of this world. These rationalists find the resurrection of Lazarus out of place, not having the most distant thought of the mind of God in scripture, nor any idea, of course, that there is any.
To return to Justin Martyr, the author’s account of his quotations is not all trustworthy, and all that really bears on the true character of Justin’s citation is left out. In the first place, Justin’s manner of quoting is practically that of all the Fathers. They habitually quote not verbally, but put two passages together if it meets their point, just as Justin does constantly. Secondly, Justin also quotes very largely indeed from the Old Testament, which there is no question he received as proper scripture, exactly in the same way he does from the New. He writes as a philosopher to the Gentiles, and habitually quoting the Christian writings, as authority would have been useless. He calls the Gospels memoirs (a term borrowed probably from Xenophon’s account of Socrates, shewing the tone of his mind), the Gospels written by the apostles and their companions, and he says they were read in the Christian assemblies. He quotes them as such expressly—seven times we are told by those who have exactly examined the details. Five agree with our Gospels; the others have variations; one a transposition of words, probably right; the rest inaccurately recorded with the same sense, and two words added— “and walk” —found nowhere else. He gives the substance as it stood in his mind; the common way of patristic quotation, as of our own.
As to the other professed quotation, we find it in others of the earliest Fathers in different words and order; and, just as in Justin, by Fathers who beyond all question recognised the four Gospels and nothing else. That Justin used other traditional accounts, and perhaps the Gospel to the Hebrews, is very likely. There is no question that the four Gospels were held to be of paramount authority at that date. Tatian’s harmony of the four was made only some twenty years after; and Jerome recounts the same of Theophilus a few years still earlier. When the Supernatural Religion says competent critics agree, it only means the infidel Tubingen school so hold. Take not only Westcott, who may be thought a prejudiced churchman, but Bleek’s introduction, a theologian sober-minded and candid, but as free-thinking as any rationalist could desire, and the statements alleged in Supernatural Religion to be quite certain are treated as certainly false. The system followed by the author is a mere and evident effort to get rid of the large and developed testimony given with so much fulness in Justin to the Christian Gospels. The citations, says Bleek, are for the greater part unquestionably taken from our present Gospels.
Few, as I have said, in words saying it is written in the memoirs, but quoting them as they were in his mind with a reference to other current statements as to those found in other writings of the Fathers. The allegation which refers them to one given writing or to heretical sources has no foundation, though the doctrines and position of Justin would give no guarantee for his own soundness. He was doubtless a Christian, but still a Platonist philosopher. It seems another philosopher got him put to death through jealousy. This statement, accompanied by a reference to Bleek in page 289, contradicts all Bleek’s teaching (as does page 293), and is as careless as it is unfounded. As to inspiration, indeed, none of them believed it; but as to the repute and esteem in which our four Gospels were held in Justin’s days, Bleek is as clear and decided as possible, and as to the use of them by Justin Martyr, among others. See with other places sections 261, 2. That infidel Germans have disputed over it, as in page 288, is perfectly true, seeking by all means to undermine the scriptures and contradict the testimonies which support their authenticity. The whole of this part of the book is full of statements which are unfounded. It is not my part to go into it in detail here.
When he says (page 215) that the first and second epistles of Clement have a canonical position, it is merely trifling with the fact of their being in Cod. Alex. (There are three hymns there also.) He himself says the second was rejected, as every one knows who has inquired. In Justin’s reference to the Lord’s baptism, instead of all being referred to the apostles’ memoirs, he carefully distinguishes what is in them, which is found in fact in our Gospels, the Holy Ghost coming down like a dove, from other things which are not there but stated by other Fathers. And this is also the case in his second reference to Christ’s baptism (Supernatural Religion, page 317); what follows is special pleading. I have no interest in defending the “Fathers”: one has only to read them, and specially the Apostolic Fathers, to see the difference of inspiration and the unsound and immoral stuff they write. You fall down a precipice from God to man!
It is treated as an extraordinary anomaly that Justin could quote as he did if he really received the four Gospels. It is a common thing with Fathers. Thus Bleek speaks of this when insisting on Justin’s use of the four Gospels (section 87). These variations are of little moment when we remember that the Fathers seldom quoted scripture verbatim and word for word. It is in this place Bleek gives the true account of what the author makes so much about (in 288). He assumes (367) that there were a number of Gospels current— “In how many more” Gospels; but this is falsifying the facts. That there was probably a Gospel according to the Hebrews is not denied; but if there was, it was in Aramaean, which, as a rule, not one of the Fathers whose works are in question understood. A mass of apocryphal Gospels we have; one has only to read them to judge of them. Traditions no doubt there were and referred to, but gradually lost. My business is in no way to justify the accuracy of Justin, but the attempt in chap. 1, page 370, to prove his altering the text is the weakest absurdity.
Such passages are justly quoted by writers on the canon to prove that Justin was acquainted with the Gospels; but to look for the words and to insist that these must be found, and that it must be a quotation from some other, is trifling with scripture. If I were to say Jesus condemns a person looking on a woman to lust after her as much as adultery, would people justly conclude I had read the Gospels? but who that it was some other apocryphal one? It is just folly.
In communicating Christ’s doctrine to the heathen for their information, it seems to me that Justin’s statements are just what we might expect in a philosophical mind like his, proving clearly that he had read and used our Gospels, though occasionally referring to other traditions, as all the Fathers did. If men were to consult him for various readings, it would be the same kind of folly as the author’s who is looking for the identical words. Justin is communicating Christ’s moral instruction to the heathen, and it is done in the most natural way. His repeating the summing-up and motive is thoroughly so. He spoke thus, He taught thus, He said thus, just shew the true character of the citations.
The author of Supernatural Religion does not even understand the force of the reasoning. The existence of the Gospel according to the Hebrews is admitted and known, though perhaps seriously altered by certain parties, and never in the canon. The possibility of Justin having used it is not generally denied. What is said is that his quotations are sufficient to prove that he knew our Gospels. That is a question of judgment on comparing them. The possibility of another Gospel having what is in Justin does not alter this. If it be produced with the whole passage as he has it, and all else is consistent, we shall have another witness. I do not believe it is or can be. Nor have, they any hint of the existence of any such thing in all the writings of that day, save the Gospel according to Peter, the supposed reference to which is quite otherwise understood by sober critics, as it is in the only place in which Justin refers to it.23 What were the numerous other works in use in the early church? Various accounts were current but were lost, I may say, at once, in the prevalence of the four Gospels recognised as an authority and divine, and so used. And the author must remember that what we have in the written Gospel are the accounts of what Jesus said; and as to three witnesses or four it alters nothing if they are true. The facts may be called to memory by the Holy Ghost according to Christ’s promise, according to the point they were connected with, and a writer quoting it may give it according to the point which is in his mind, and in the connection with the subject he is on suggests.
The question, further, is not whether Justin may not have known other current writings or traditions, but whether what he writes furnishes evidence of acquaintance with the scriptures, particularly with the Gospels, as we have them. We have only to read what he says to be convinced of it, the four canonical being acknowledged thus as such. The way in which the Supernatural Religion insists on verbal quotation is, for any one who has read Justin or other Fathers, perfectly absurd. Indeed, in the Apologies it is the last thing we should look for; these are addresses sent by a philosopher to the heathen authorities to give an idea of what the Christians were and did, to clear them from certain charges, and sometimes appealing, to shew the principles they held, to what their Master had said. I must say the discussion on Justin Martyr, and other like writers, seems to me to be the poorest piece of superficial criticism I ever wearied myself with reading,24 full of unproved assertions too, the difficulties raised by Fathers and traditions diligently searched out second-hand. The reconciling Papias and Irenaeus, and Jerome and others, proved to be difficult, but no serious research after truth at all. It is simply putting into English the infidelity of the Baur school, Schwegler, Hilgenfeld, etc., and nothing else. Of course, all inspiration is ignored. It is bringing up uncertainties of what may be, to prove what is to be uncertain, and the positive testimonies to mean nothing. What is not spoken of may be true; hence what is said cannot be. The Fathers, as to their judgment, are worth nothing; tradition is as untrustworthy for certainty of details as you please; but they suppose and prove to an intelligent mind certain facts. My faith does not rest on external evidence, but there is a certain kind of pretentious destructive criticism which is profoundly contemptible.
Our critic speaks of many other Gospels, our four thus coming into an uncertain mass. But no one can examine the facts without knowing that these four were, from the earliest days, recognised as distinct. But which are these many? He speaks of the Egyptian, the Gospel according to Peter, the Ethiopians, and all depends upon this kind of thing. But these—unless the Gospel of Peter, once mentioned in a phrase of disputed meaning—are all the same, if we can trust various patristic accounts. Adapting an account (say the Gospel according to the Hebrews) to the Ethiopians was very natural, but is not another, and says nothing about the recognition of the four which were not counted with them, nor does it alter anything. The Gospel according to the Hebrews and the Ethiopian were not in Greek, so that reasoning from quotations is utterly without force; but it serves a turn.
I must add that I do not think an honest man, knowing our Gospels, could read the passage in Justin throughout, and hesitate one moment as to his acquaintance with them. It is a long discourse, in which he brings forward, so as to satisfy the heathen, the various teachings of Christ as they stood in his mind from the Gospels, to clear the Christians from the false notions held of them, quoting as I might quote scripture myself, sometimes verbally exact, sometimes the sense, and bringing in passages from another place which gave the connected thoughts which were in his mind for the heathen. There is one passage, “and walk,” not accounted for, in reference to the cross, and not a whit more accounted for by the infidel writers. For their view of Justin’s quotations there is not the least ground whatever. In one place the author of Supernatural Religion, to make it easy to think that he used a Hebrew Gospel or other Jewish traditions, says Justin was a Jewish Christian; whereas he states himself, as was the case, that he was a heathen, and after trying Stoicism, Peripateticism, Pythagoreanism, and Platonism, found rest in Christianity; visited many Grecian cities, and afterwards went to Rome. The best thing the reader can do is to read the passage chiefly referred to (in my copy of Justin, col. 1686, pp. 61-66, about a tenth of the whole Apology from the beginning).
As to the apocryphal Gospels which remain to us, of which there are several, their contents speak for themselves; a proof of the total want of spiritual discernment in the primitive church, and also how impossible it was than an age which concocted, and more or less valued, such stuff, could have produced anything in the least resembling our Gospels. In this sense they afford the strongest proofs of the inspiration of the others. The Epistles according to the Hebrews, of Peter to the Egyptians, are not extant, and so afford a fine field for rational criticism; the connection of these with Justin I have spoken of. In Bleek’s introduction, sec. 119, and also 87, 88, the reader will find the whole system fully judged. Bleek is a rationalistic critic. Perhaps it may be well to quote his words (Clark’s Translations, Lee. 119, 1, 335): “But with regard to the memoirs of the apostles, so repeatedly cited by Justin, it is at once quite clear that these were not some single treatise, but a collection of writings differing from one another, and usually called Gospels.”
Now, since he expressly attributes these writings to the apostles and their coadjutors, we are directly led to conclude that they were the canonical Gospels we have, which ecclesiastical traditions and their very titles assign partly to the apostles and partly to their fellow-labourers and disciples. The citations made from the memoirs are, at any rate as to the greater part, unquestionably taken from our present Gospels: only, like most of the Fathers, and according to his own practice in Old Testament passages, Justin uses greater freedom in quoting, and mixes together the text of different Gospels, especially Matthew and Luke. He describes them as written by the apostles and their companions. The supposition of some modern scholars that what Justin refers to and makes use of was some one distinct work is clearly false. Again: “His own words (Justin’s) explicitly declare that they were more than one, and the citations themselves witness that all our four canonical Gospels were included.” (Sec. 87, p. 242.)
De Wette says (sec. 74, p. 124) of the Gospel to the Hebrews: “This is the oldest (of the uncanonical Gospels), but its use is traceable no farther back than Hegesippus (about a.d. 160), nor beyond the circle of the Jewish Christians; for the orthodox Fathers, far from placing it on a par with the canonical Gospels, reckon it among the ungenuine.” And (76, 125) as to the current acceptance of the four Gospels: “Various countries and parties in the church also furnish testimonies which run back nearly to the Apostolic age.” Again, as to the Gospel to the Hebrews, he says, “But the oldest accounts contradict the idea of its being an original and independent work by representing it as apocryphal, and as wavering between Matthew and Luke.” (Sec. 63, p. 88.) “One of these alterations indicates a Greek original. Hence the opinion that the Gospel to the Hebrews is the most ancient Gospel writing falls to the ground.” (Sec. 65, p. 93.)
“Justin mentions as the source of these sayings and accounts, writings left behind by the apostles and their assistants, which he calls memoirs of the apostles, also Gospels. The old opinion that they mean our canonical Gospels is by no means contradicted by the inexactness of the citations; for it is probable, nay it is established by the repetitions that occur, that parties cited the Gospels, as sometimes the Old Testament writers, freely from memory… and Gospels which were read in the assemblies of the Christians cannot well be other than our canonical Gospels, all of which (Mark and John more seldom) he made use of.” (Compare sec. 66, p. 94.)
De Wette goes into the objections which I have already gone over, but I do not go farther into them. Those whom I have now quoted are in the fullest sense rationalist writers, but sober and serious men who weighed facts, instead of indulging in inflated and foundationless speculations, where there is no trace of a search after truth, but merely the effort of an advocate to prove his point.
It is perhaps well to remark that the Gospel according to the Hebrews indulged in the grossest form of Jewish mysticism. We read, “The Saviour said, My mother the Holy Ghost took me by one of my hairs and carried me to the great mountain Tabor,” and much more. (Gfrorer, Tahr. der Heils. Stuttgart, 1838, pp. 332 ff.) This is quoted by Origen only saying, “if any one received it,” in Jer. Horn. 15:4. He elsewhere definitely declares the church had only four Gospels, the heretics many. Jerome quotes it, on Micah, lib. 2, cap. 7, vol. 6, 521, ed. Vail., where he states he had just translated it, so that it was not a mere Ebionitish addition. So in Comm. Isa. 11, Vail. 4,156: juxta Evangelium quod Hebraeo sermone inscriptum legunt Nazaraei. But it came to pass that when the Lord went up out of the water, the whole fountain of the Holy Ghost descended and rested upon Him, and said to Him, My Son, in all the prophets I expected Thee, that Thou shouldest come and I should rest on Thee, for Thou art my rest, Thou art my first-born Son, who reigneth for ever.
So 4, 485. He quotes the strange phrase, “my mother the Holy Ghost took me by a hair, etc.,” from the Gospel according to the Hebrews, which the Nazaraeans read, adding that no one ought to be offended, as spirit is feminine in Hebrew, masculine in Latin, and neuter in Greek; that thus being of the three genders in the three principal languages respectively, we might know that what is different is of none—going pretty far in owning the work. Origen excuses it also, De la Rue, 4, 69, but on the plea that as Christ called those who did His Father’s will, brother, and sister, and mother, so we might call the Spirit His mother. But the passage of Jerome on Isaiah 11 proves it was a systematic doctrine, and the Gospel probably heretical, on the system of Simon Magus and Helen. Yet Jerome translates it and says, many call it the authentic Matthew. This, it is said, was in a.d. 398. Later still, a.d. 415, he says it was in the library of Caesarea (the Nazarenes there using it); the Gospel according to the apostles, or, as many think, according to Matthew. (Dialogus 3, contra Pelagianos.) He quotes or refers to it very often. Circa, a.d. 321 he speaks of it as in the Caesarean library, and composed in Hebrew letters and words. Who translated it into Greek was uncertain. (De Viris III.) The Ebionites, he says, used it, joining them and the Nazarenes, where he speaks of lately translating it. But the Nazarene copy he translated. The Ebionites at any rate were divided into two classes, one certainly heretical, as were the Nazarenes or Nazarites. Origen, he says, often used it. Jerome translated it into Greek and Latin; strange if he thought it the same as Matthew, and Matthew translated by we know not whom.
That there were but four Gospels recognised is perfectly clear; for Jerome, Irenaeus, Origen, all speak decidedly. Jerome speaks of the others as concocted of the writers without the Spirit and grace of God, that to the Egyptians among them —not naming that according to the Hebrews, but he does that according to the twelve apostles, and this (in Dial. 3, contra Pelagianos) he declares to be the same. He then goes on to say that the church has four, which the Lord poured forth as the four rivers of paradise, and four angles and rings, by which, like the ark of the Lord and keeper of the law of the Lord, she is carried on unmoveable bars (liguits); and then speaks of our canonical Gospels, and referring them to the cherubim, connects the four animals there represented with the four Gospels, and declares that only four ought to be received, and the rest as useless fables to dead heretics. (Preface to Matt 7, p. 1, Vall.) Irenæus was somewhat late in date, but he says the same thing. He says, lib. 3, 8, “There can be no more than four, nor can there be fewer. There are four regions of the world, and four principal winds; and as the church is spread over all the world it must have four columns, whence it breathes forth life. So he who sits between the cherubim has given us a fourfold Gospel, composed by one Spirit, referring, I apprehend, to the Word, the Artificer who maintains everything.” And he then enters largely into the four cherubim, saying the Gospels are consonant to those in which Christ is seated. Irenaeus had been shewing that the heretics themselves received, one kind one Gospel, another another, but in result all four, and were self-condemned by what they did accept; but the church all four, the sure and full pillars of the truth.
I will now cite one or two of the miracles of the apocryphal Gospels, heretical often it may be, but in general mere fables, but notwithstanding often valued by the “Fathers.”
Christ was sent to one master, and told him all the letters and their meaning, and the master brought Him back, and said He must have been born before Noah. Then to a more learned one, and the master having raised his hand to beat Him, his hand withered and he died; then Joseph said to the divine Mary, From this time we will not suffer Him to go out of the house, since every one that opposes Him is struck with death.
There was a rabid boy who, when the fit took him, bit every one, and being in company with the boy Jesus, sought to bite His side, and struck it so that Jesus cried, but Satan fled out of the boy like a mad dog. The boy was Judas Iscariot, and it was the side that was pierced with the lance.
Then He was making figures of animals and birds out of mud. Now, He says, I shall order them to move. Are you, said the boys, the Creator’s Son? But then He ordered them, and they went and came back when He called. At another time at a dyer’s He threw all the articles out into the yard; the dyer was in a great way about it, when he returned them piece by piece of the right colour. He made all Joseph’s work fit exactly.
He went out to play, but the boys left and hid themselves, and when in each house they were denied to be there, What (said He) have you there in the furnace? Three-year-old goats, said the woman; and He said, Come out here to your Shepherd, goats, and they came out like goats and leapt around Him, and the women were all terrified, and besought Him; and then He said, Come, boys, and let us play, and immediately they were restored to their proper form.
Then He made ponds and twelve little birds, three of a side, and a Jewish boy, Hananus, it being the sabbath, came up and reproved Him and destroyed His fish ponds, but He, clapping His hands on the birds, they flew away piping; and Hananus coming up to destroy the fish ponds of Jesus also, the water disappeared, and He said, as the water disappeared, Your life shall disappear also, and immediately the boy was dried up.
I will now take up some of the Gospel miracles, and, first of all, using that of Matthew, as the structure of the Gospel is very evident with a little attention, and the place and character of the miracles through it.
The .difference of the three synoptical Gospels and the fourth is this. The three first present Christ as Emmanuel— Messiah, the prophet-servant, and Son of man, to men, and, in a narrower sense, to the Jews. Whereas in John this is not the case: it reveals what Christ is in Himself, that the world (when He was in it) did not know Him, though He made it, and that His own rejected Him; but that He put into the place and privilege of sons those who did receive Him: a new thing, but then they were born of God, not of the flesh nor of man’s will. The Jews are therefore treated all through as reprobate, but He declares that He would have His sheep out from their midst, and others from among the Gentiles; and then the Holy Ghost is spoken of as living on the earth instead of Him, when He has gone as man to the Father.
Now this presentation of Christ in the three first terminates and reaches its climax in the transfiguration, which changed all; for it was as a revelation bringing in a glorified Christ. This divides the three first Gospels into three parts: the history of the Lord up to the transfiguration (His birth, as Mark gives the prophet, being there left out); the continuance of patient mercy up to blind Bartimaeus, with various instructions, chiefly for the coming time; and, from meeting with the blind man, His last presentation as Son of David to the Jews, and the details of His being taken and crucified. Miracles Christ wrought at all times, even to the last days, when He was free in the temple, healing the ear of Malchus at the moment of His capture. Perhaps we may call the greatest of all His living miracles was His giving up His own spirit to His Father on the cross.
But, in the active life of Jesus, it is the time which closed in the transfiguration, beginning after His temptation in the wilderness, which forms the proper period of His working miracles as a testimony. The goodness expressed itself at all times in them, but that on which it rested (“or else, believe me, for the very works’ sake”) was from His victory over Satan, binding the strong man, till the transfiguration revealed a wholly new order of things coming in connected with a rejected Christ, from which time He forbade His disciples to tell men that He was the Messiah, saying the Son of man must suffer, though still till His hour was come continuing His work of grace. The general character of the Lord’s miracles I have spoken of. The revelation of God in power and goodness is that He might be known and trusted by man, and man, wicked as he might be, have confidence in Him. As the beginning of Eve’s sin was losing confidence in God’s goodness by the guile of Satan (if God did not seek their happiness fully, they must seek it for themselves, as even now), hence will, lust, transgression; so now, God was there to give in perfect goodness a blessed ground of confidence in Himself; but, I add here, so graciously and perfectly suited to the state and need of man. The person who can be insensible to the perfectness of the revelation of God in goodness to man, in Christ down here, is incapable of feeling what God and goodness are.
But I turn now to look at the miracles recorded in particular as suited to the special testimony given, and first at Matthew. The general testimony is in chapter 4:23. “And Jesus went about all Galilee teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people,” or, as expressed by Peter (Acts 10), went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil, for God was with Him. Matthew’s testimony is to the Lord as Emmanuel and as Jesus, that is, Jehovah the Saviour. For He shall save His people from their sins. He was Jehovah; but first of all Jehovah, according to promise to His own people. Hence His genealogy is traced from Abraham, and also David, to whose seed the promises were made; as Paul states it in the Romans, of the seed of David according to the flesh, a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to perform the promises made to the fathers. As this He was rejected; and then comes in another character and title, proved Son of God with power, according to the “Spirit of holiness by resurrection of the dead.” This last, on which Christianity is really based, is not our subject.
The order of the Gospel is this: chapter 4:23, He had gathered multitudes around Him. He announces to His disciples, but in the audience of the multitude, the principles of the kingdom, and who were such as could enter, adding reward in heaven itself when suffering for Christ existed. There is nothing of redemption or justification in it. In chapter 8 we have the Lord personally as Jehovah, still as rejected Son of man; in chapter 9 the character of His service down here—grace. Chapter 10 is mission to the Jews alone, any other forbidden; but from verse 15 carried on after His departure, but still in the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come. Chapter 11 is His ministry as well as John the Baptist’s in their midst rejected, but John owned by Him, and He as Son of God revealing the Father and calling the weary to Himself for rest. Chapter 12 is His utter rejection of and by the pharisaic Jews, and final break in principle with the nation. In chapter 13 He is out of the house, and unfolds the status of the kingdom when the King was rejected. In chapters 14 and 15 His mercy as being still there continues in a sovereign way, but the principles of what is brought in anew, as to both dispensational position, trial, and relationship, are unfolded; then Pharisaism, man’s religion, man’s heart and God’s laid bare, the great foundation truths of His dealing in Christ. In chapter 16 the church replaces Judaism. In chapter 17 the glory of the kingdom does: only for all this He must die. Chapter 18 is individual and collective direction founded on the new thing. Chapters 19 and 20 to 28 complete these new principles and their consequences. Verse 29 of chapter 20 begins the last events up to the Lord’s death and resurrection, only you have no ascension: the remnant are sent out from Galilee to the Gentiles.
Now in chapter 8 we have the person of the Lord as present here. First, He meets the leper. The cleansing of the leper was a simply divine work. On the other hand, not only the leper was put out of the camp, but if any one touched him he was put out too. Here the leper had seen the exercise of power in the Lord, but was not sure of His willingness, His love. “If thou wilt, thou canst.” With divine authority and reassuring love the Lord says, “I will, be thou clean.” But more, though He were Jehovah who cleansed in love, He had become a man in grace; He touched man, so to speak, not infected or unclean with theuncleanness of man, but healing and cleansing them in grace through faith. “He put forth his hand and touched Mm, saying, I will, be thou clean.” Impossible to have a more striking testimony of all that the Lord was in this world than this miracle. Next I find the recognition of universal divine authority in a Gentile. Though come amongst the Jews according to promise, God could not be confined to Israel. There was greater faith here than in heartless self-sufficient Jews; speak with a word and all was done, and so it was. Next, in home mercies, He bears our griefs and carries our sicknesses (not our sins here, though these were the fruit of sin being here). He not only heals with a word divinely, but comes as man in this power to know our sorrows. Still He is the rejected Son of man, not having where to lay His head, but come into the midst of an evil world, God manifest in the flesh. Adherence to and following Him at all cost was the test of righteousness, but following Him led into dangers and difficulties. Calm in the midst of the power of evil, rejected though He might be, He commands creation. All the power of the enemy, moreover (allowed therefore to be manifested) quails and bows before Him; He not the less rejected for that, for man, who cannot drive away Satan, gets rid of God by his will even when come in grace.25 His presence disturbs him too much.
In chapter 9 we have the same divine power in the midst of Israel, but the character of His mission, through His Person of course as manifesting God, still shines out. It is grace. He declares to the poor paralytic that his sins are forgiven him. The scribes in their hearts within judge Him as guilty in attributing to Himself what belonged to God only. He replies by exercising the power united to that of forgiving in Jehovah’s ways with Israel in Psalm 103, while taking still the place of Son of man: “Who forgiveth all thy sins, and healeth all thy diseases.” Forgiveness and healing, such was His mission if they would receive Him come in grace in the flesh. He proved the announced power and dealings of Jehovah present, but as Son of man by the exhibition of it in that part of what was announced which was sensible to men in goodness. Then He calls Matthew, not come to call the righteous, but sinners. The departure of the present Bridegroom is noticed, and the change from form to power. But then what was passing in Israel? Come to heal what was ready to die, He has in fact to raise the dead, for dead in sins we all are; but whoever by faith touched the hem of His garment was even then healed of a disease which no human physician could cure. But blind and dumb were men (Israel), as well as spiritually dead. We have here, then, miracles which shew present healing there for faith which nothing else could afford; we have what was really in its fulness being wrought, raising the dead, the blind eyes opened, the tongue of the dumb loosed, and also, as ever, the harvest more plentiful than the labourers; forgiveness and grace, the true character of what He was, being brought in, but shewed in acts which manifested in present power what man could feel in his body, as in sorrow and evil down here, what God was, and that as present in goodness in the midst of man. The character of the mission and the character of the miracles are inseparably interwoven, and both the expression of the character of God come down here and dealing in grace with man.
In the sad close of this chapter we see the effect, on man’s unchanged heart, of goodness in power of this manifestation of God: rather than receive the Lord they ascribe miracles which they could not deny to the power of the devil. But the time for entirely giving them up was not yet come. Divine patience had yet a work to do. The unfaltering love of Jesus continues to seek the poor of the flock, if the Pharisees preferred blasphemy to grace, preaching the gospel, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people, for He had compassion on the multitude, weary sheep without a shepherd. And this led to a further manifestation of power and grace; He sends others into the field, the harvest was plentiful and the labourers few. Ever is it so.
In chapter 10 we have not only power in goodness but power to give power, and this is properly divine. Their work here is wholly confined to Israel. The mission to the Gentiles was from Christ as risen (chap. 28), but by His gift they were to exercise the same power as He did. But it was seeking the remnant in Israel. If the house was worthy, peace was to rest upon it. The chapter is divided into parts all referring to Israel: their work then, to the end of verse 15; from verse 16 more general and continued, still in Israel, after His death till the Son of man came; but at present they must expect rejection; it is our lot in this world. They were not to fear. Not a sparrow fell to the ground (not merely without God but) without their Father. For the Son revealed the Father’s name; but we have seen this tested men. They could not stand the revelation of God. It brought out the enmity of the human heart against good, and especially against God: an enmity which, stronger than natural ties, wrought most where the relationship was nearest, and where the hated object—for hated, alas! as Christ has proved, it is—is more galling. The disciple is not above his Master; we have to take up our cross and follow Christ. Thus divine power and its manifestation in goodness, and its rejection, go together as before. This is fully developed in a solemn commentary on all in chapter 11. The ways and works of the Lord are summed up as testimony to John Baptist, now in prison, on the question, Art thou He that should come? The blind saw, the lame walked, the lepers were cleansed, the deaf heard, the dead were raised, the souls of the poor were cared for; but blessed he who was not stumbled at the rejected Son of man— power in goodness and rejection; the Lord gives, not receives, testimony. But the solemn warnings of the Nazarite prophet of the wilderness, and the gracious association of grace with sinners to win them, men alike rejected. But this brought all to a point, the mighty works were in vain.
In fact the truth of His Person, too glorious for man as he was to receive, and in the perfect submission of Christ to His rejection as come among the Jews, His eternal personal glory, the Son revealing the Father in grace to burdened and needy hearts, taught submission withal by His own, that they might every way have rest, was what was really there, the new thing, and glory in grace shine out through the rejected but obedient Son of man. The twelfth chapter completes the statement of the position in which Christ is here found, as well as that of the Jews as a body. There are but two particularised miracles referred to in it. The sabbath was the seal of Jehovah’s covenant with Israel; as with the rejected David, so with the rejected Son of David, all things in Israel were made common; a greater than the temple, too, was there, the Son of man was Lord of the sabbath; had they understood mercy as contrasted with mere law, they would not have condemned the guiltless. Under the Son of man’s authority as Lord of the sabbath they were guiltless, but in their state of soul the Jews could not understand this.
In the synagogue there was a man with a withered hand; convicting them of hypocrisy, well-doing was the manifestation of God and not the legal sabbath. The old covenant was passing away. He withdraws and heals all that come. Meek and lowly, the time would come for Him to shew judgment. He then works the second miracle referred to above, casting out a devil. The people say, Is it not the Son of David? The Pharisees repeat their blasphemy—He casts them out through Beelzebub. Now all was brought to an issue. If it was by the Spirit of God, the kingdom of God26 was come amongst them, they were openly blaspheming; divine power they could not deny; they were fully condemned, and at the end of their history would come under the full power of Satan. He did not own relationship in nature with Israel down here; those in whom His word wrought were His true relations. His connection with man was through what He brought, not what was in man, though He was a true man.
This closes the proper history of His ministry or service in Israel, though in divine mercy it continued, but with a testimony modified in character. But what His miracles were in testimony is clearly seen, and what they meant and said. His final breach with Israel leads to His going out and announcing the kingdom of heaven, but without the present King; full of interest, but not introducing any miracles. It is the first thing presented as taking the place of Messiah then presented on earth; but in chapter 14 His mercy continues, though in a sovereign and divine way, not as Messiah, Son of man, presented to them. The putting to death of John Baptist brought actual rejection close to His spirit: a solemn moment, felt deeply by the Lord, so that He retired apart, yet the multitude came; but the feeling for others or the solemnity of the moment never hindered the readiness of divine goodness. He was moved with compassion when He saw the multitudes; He meets it as Jehovah will fully in the last davs, according to Psalm 132. He will satisfy her poor with bread. This as a sign He does. He then goes on high to pray—as He now is— the disciples left to toil their way across the sea without Him, and rejoins them and all is still; and then is joyfully received where once He had been rejected, but historically exercises the same divine power in goodness; goodness above all the rejection and heartlessness of men, those that touched the hem of his garment made perfectly whole.
Chapter 15 is a very remarkable chapter, but I must touch on it only in connection with the miracle. There human will-worship, as contrasted with God’s law, and really to the temporal advantage of the priests, is utterly rejected; man’s religion in alleged offerings to God as contrasted with God’s law. Next man’s heart, the source of all the evil; and then with one of the accursed race of Canaan, so that as come to Israel there could be no blessing for her, the reckoning on God’s heart in sovereign goodness met at once a response. He could not deny Himself, or say God is not as good as you suppose. He was divinely above the barriers of Judaism and dispensation, and divinely good. Again, the miracle is a present witness of what and who He is. He returns to the field of ministry in the land of Israel, and satisfies yet again the poor with bread in the same divine way. I have no doubt there is an intentional specific difference between this and the five thousand, the 12, and the 7. The latter is more specifically divine with the remnant; but it is not here the place to enter into these details of interpretation. The general principle of wonted mercy, verse 30, gives us again His full and constant character. In chapter 16 we find the church substituted for a Christ present on the earth, on the confession of Jesus as Son of the living God, and the keys of the kingdom27 given to Peter, but no special miracle demands our attention. In chapter 17 we have the kingdom in glory. This was the Son of man revealed in the glory of the kingdom.
Here we find the disciples themselves unable to use that power in Christ which faith would have done. Only separation of heart and spirit, and reference to and confidence in God, could wield it and set aside the power of Satan down here. This answered, so to speak, to the coming glory of the Son of man, and made Satan powerless in presence of a humbled Saviour. But now, for all that, the new place belonging to the disciples, connected with His resurrection, is strikingly brought out. The coming glory did not belong to Christ’s then position (this was the fasting and praying part of His path); they were not to speak of the vision of glory till He was risen. But meanwhile He shews divine knowledge and divine power over creation. Those who collect the didrachma for the temple ask Peter if his master was not a faithful Jew. Christ shews His divine knowledge of things in anticipating Peter, but puts Peter in the same place with Himself, “that we offend not.” They were both sons of the great King of the temple. Then (that we offend not) He shews His power, making the fish bring the needed money, two didrachmas, and Peter was to give it “for Me and thee.” Redemption has brought us into the place of sons with Christ. Grace bowed to the lowly place, but power over all creation shewed Who was there; but grace then brought believers into the place of new and infinite blessing in which Christ stood. This blessed “Me and thee” closed, in fact, the path of Christ here with the displayed glory. We have characteristics with the walk suited to this new place of the disciples individually and collectively; but the present testimony to Christ was over: they were charged indeed not to say any more that He was the Christ.
We have one notable miracle in chapter 21. The fig-tree of God’s planting, Israel after the flesh, man under the old covenant (when the Lord of the vineyard came seeking fruit), was judged as fruitless for ever. Herewith the manifestations of the truth of Satanic power in the swine are the only miracles which were not the direct exercise of power in goodness. But they not only confirm the constant character of all the others; but shew the state of man and God’s judgment of that state as to man’s responsibility, when all the testimony of grace and power had been given. The story of the didrachma shewed the new place in grace; that of the fig-tree, man’s condition under responsibility and law as he was. In chapter 20:17-28 are shewn Christ’s and the disciples’ place here below as finally rejected. Then verse 29 begins His last presentation to Jerusalem as Son of David, and God’s testimony to Him by the mouth of babes and sucklings. The mercy indeed continued; but the testimony was closed. He who believed He was Son of David received sight; the rest were judged. The greatest miracles of all were His death (giving up His spirit, when He could say, It is finished) and His resurrection. But these were either for stability of faith to believers or for the display of powers in others as the subject of their testimony. Our subject has been Christ’s own works as a testimony to His Person, and the true character of God as so revealed.
For the present I close this paper, already extended far beyond my thought in commencing it. It may be interesting to examine the other Gospels, and study any peculiar aspect of the miracles connected with them. But for the general principle what we have found in Matthew fully suffices, and gives a character of divine goodness and entering into our sorrows which infidelity cannot touch, and, through the hardening of heart it always produces, cannot feel or see the beauty of.
17 A translation of it is used in Dublin University.
18 This is not strictly true, if, as men of science affirm, the course itself proves its beginning and its ending. But this hardly affects present practical uses of it.
19 Yet the unity of plan and law is the strongest possible inductive proof that the primeval cause is one.
20 See John 10:38; ch. 14:11; and other like passages.
21 Christ had life in Himself, and could not be holden of death; but I speak of what it is for man in general.
22 Curiously enough, I have had to correct several quotations, carelessly made like Justin’s, in reading over this paper.
23 The Gospel of Peter is a well-known but lost book. We are chiefly acquainted with it through an extract from Serapion of Antioch in Eusebius, H. E. 6:12. He had found it in the assembly at Rossus in Cilicia, and not read it through, but hearing some had been misled by it, he got it and read it, and tells them that there was a great deal that was right, but some parts were perverted; but this was in 191, twenty or thirty years after Justin’s death. It is mentioned by Origen in Matthew 13:54-56 (3:462, De la Rue). But he merely says that it was held by some that James and Jude, etc., were sons of Joseph by a former wife, and that they had received this as a tradition taken from a Gospel entitled of Peter or James. Theodoret mentions it as the Gospel used by the Nazarites. There were two kinds of Ebionites, one using only the Gospel of Hebrews, the other only that of Matthew, so that he had no idea they were the same. The Nazarites, a sort of Unitarians, holding the law as valid, who used only the Gospel of Peter. (Theod. Hær. Fab. 3:1, 2.) Jerome under Peter, the first of his De Viris Illns.t says the Gospel of Mark was called the Gospel of Peter; but under Serapion 41 he speaks of a current Gospel under the name of Peter, under James 2 a foolish story out of the Gospel according to the Hebrews, which he says he had lately translated.
24 To tell the truth, I never yet thought it worth while to finish the book.
25 But at the end of chapter 14 we have Jesus after the trials received joyfully, after He had rejoined the disciples in the country where He had been rejected.
26 Note here, Matthew says “of God.” That “of heaven” could only be when He was gone to heaven; it was at hand.
27 Not of the church. Keys of the church is a thought unknown to scripture.