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"There is a certain character or style, (if I may use the expression) in the operations of Divine Wisdom;-something which every where announces, amidst an infinite variety of detail, an inimitable unity and harmony of design." DUGALD STEWART.
"We ought to expect to see one course of divine action impressed with the same signatures, which we trace on another, proceeding from the same source." PALFREY'S ACADEMICAL LECTURES.
As the Man of Nazareth went about announcing the approach of the Kingdom, pourtraying its grand spiritual characteristics, and warning men of the absolute necessity of personal holiness as a preparation for its blessedness, he performed numerous acts of unprece dented power and mercy. The sick were healed, the blind restored to sight, and the dead raised to life by the touch of his hand or the word of his mouth.
These acts are what we term the Christian Miracles. By some they are rejected as essentially incredible. By others, who recognise the divinity of the words and character of Jesus, they are neither acknowledged nor denied. While others again warmly
THE COMMON VIEW OF THE MIRACLES.
affirm their truth, insist upon their importance, but believe that they were principally valuable at the time when they occurred, and to the persons in whose presence they were wrought, and feel no interest in them for themselves, valuing them not for any intrinsic worth, but merely as fundamental to other facts or truths. Their belief in them amounts to but little more than a vehement assertion of their reality.
These false impressions respecting the miracles of Jesus may be traced to a false theory of the facts. That some have pronounced them incredible, that others have been at a loss to form any satisfactory idea of them, and that even those who have maintained their truth, have yet failed to feel their value-all is owing to the false representation which has been given of their nature and design. They are represented as violations or suspensions of the established laws of Creation, alterations of the Divine method, changes in the way of the Divine proceeding. It is not affirmed in so many words that the Universe is a machine. But such has been the prevalent mode of describing the miracles, that the idea is unavoidably produced of a huge mechanism, whose regular action was on a particular occasion interrupted, simply to exhibit the power of the Great Superintendant attesting the authority of Christ, as if, on all other occasions, God sat passively apart, and only then put forth his own right hand, and produced certain effects, for the occurrence of which there was no provision in the original plan and construction of things. Such, as nearly as I am able to describe it, is the common view of the miracles. It is insisted that they must be regarded in this way, or they are not believed in at all, as if the rejection of a particular theory of the facts were not perfectly con
JESUS REFERRED ALL THINGS
sistent with the fullest admission of the facts themselves.
But it is not my purpose to enlarge upon the erroneousness of the common view of the miracles. Upon this point I have only two remarks to offer.
In the first place it is observable that there is nothing in the term miracle,' that requires us to regard the facts to which this name is given as violations of the laws of nature. Its meaning is simply a wonder.'
And secondly, there is not the shadow of authority in the Scriptures themselves, for the opinion that the wonderful works of Jesus, were departures from the established order of nature, however much they vary from the order of human experience. It is true he referred them directly to the Father. "The Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works." But precisely with the same explicitness did he refer other events, confessedly within the course of nature, to the immediate agency of God. "Blessed art thou, Simon, son of Jonas," said he to Peter, who had just avowed his faith in him as the Christ, "for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father who is in Heaven." Did he mean to say that Peter had been the subject of a special revelation, that, in this case, the common laws of the mind had been suspended, in short, that a miracle (using the word in its popular sense) had been wrought in Peter? Surely not. The plain fact was, Peter had come to the recognition of Jesus as the Christ, not by relying on human authority, 'flesh and blood,' not under the guidance of fleshly passions, but through an ingenuous and true spirit of mind, which is the spirit of God in the soul. And it is unnecessary to suppose that Jesus intended, by the foregoing language, to state any thing more than this
TO THE POWER OF GOD.
simple fact. He saw a divine agency, the Spirit of God, in the truth of Peter's mind. Peter had come to a faith in Jesus naturally, but nevertheless divinely. The whole language of Jesus is fashioned upon the recognition of the direct agency of God. His words as well as his works he ascribed to the Father. Facts most obviously natural he described precisely in the same way with his miracles. His disciples once asked him why he always spake to the people in parables. Mark the mode of speech which he uses in reply, "Unto you it is given to know the hidden things of the kingdom, but unto them it is not given." The language implies that a knowledge of certain things had been directly (miraculously, according to the popular idea of these times,) given to the disciples, and as directly withheld from the people at large. The simple meaning of Jesus is, you are able to understand the hidden things of the kingdom, but they are not able.' This is all, I conceive, that he intended, a simple statement of fact. The people were unable to understand him except by parables. This inability, which had been produced naturally enough, Jesus refers to the direct appointment of Heaven. Again, "Murmur not among yourselves," said he to the Jews, "no man can come to me, except the Father who hath sent me draw him." He certainly did not intend to teach that no one could understand him, unless a miracle were wrought on him. His meaning is, 'If you are to understand me, you must be moved by the same spirit that moves me. As I am sent to you, you must be sent to me.' It was necessary to a sympathy of mind between him and his hearers that they should have some measure of that spirit which he possessed without measure. The whole phraseology of the Scriptures is modified by this idea, that all things, the common as well as the
DID THE MIRACLES ACTUALLY OCCUR ?
extraordinary, are to be referred to a divine power. This is the philosophy of the Bible. And in no instance, does the language of Jesus, taken by itself, require us to consider the events thus referred to God as deviations from the order of things, as miracles in the common meaning of the term. Jesus simply declares that his works are divine works, the works of God.
The one question which we are chiefly concerned to decide is, Did these remarkable facts occur as they are represented? Were the sick healed, the blind restored to sight, the dead raised at the touch and command of Jesus of Nazareth? This is the point to be determined. And it can be settled only by a thorough examination of the records of these extraordinary events which have come down to us. We can decide whether these facts actually occurred only by a careful examination of the facts themselves, and of the manner in which they are related.
Are they told as such things would be told were they true?
And are they consistent with themselves, with the character of the Person to whom they are ascribed, and with all the circumstances of the case? These are the questions to be answered.
The first thing that strikes us is the extraordinariness of the facts reported. It is related that Jesus touched the lepers, and instantly they were cleansed. He spake, and the lame walked, the paralytic received strength, the blind sight, and the dead awoke from their mysterious slumbers. He walked upon the waves, and with a few loaves and fishes satisfied the hunger of thousands. And finally he himself on the third day