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THIS TRAIT, NOT APPRECIATED.
to lay it upon the head of a little child, more simply and naturally than he stretched it forth to touch and cure the leper or the blind.
Here it is that a very great peculiarity of the miracles attributed to Jesus Christ has never yet been distinctly perceived. The way in which he is recorded to have wrought them has been observed to differ from that of all other wonder-workers, but only in respect of a certain simple brevity. My meaning is, that the methods of Jesus in working miracles have, in popular estimation, no relation to the effects produced but as magical spells or charms. These methods are commonly conceived of as mere pretences, having only an artificial connexion with their extraordinary results, and employed, not as instruments, but merely with a view to the spectators. When, for instance, Jesus stood before the open grave of his deceased friend, and cried with a loud voice, "Lazarus! come forth!" this articulate utterance, this loud voice, this direct address to the dead man-all this is not understood as the bona fide sign and means of the power, by which the individual addressed was awakened from the sleep of the grave, but only as a show, used for the sake of the by-standers, the miracle being considered as wrought, not by means of the voice of Jesus, but by an act of divine power, extraneous and wholly independent of him. So again when he extended his hand, and touched the leper, this movement is not seen as the simple prompting of his will, operating to its end, with wonderful power indeed, but still like all other means. The methods of Jesus being thus erroneously conceived of, it is virtually denied that his miracles were wrought as the history gives it to appear that they were. And, if the prevalent idea be correct, it would have been in
stricter agreement with the actual fact, if, instead of that loud command, addressed directly to Lazarus, he had prayed to God to work the wonder, and referred the attention of the spectators to that Divine Agency, which, as it is commonly understood, was not exerted in, and through, the will and voice of Jesus, but extraneously and coincidently. But never, at any time, did he make any such reference. On the contrary he never, on any occasion, spake with a more decisive tone of personal authority than when he performed miracles. "Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean," said the leper to him. Mark the reply of Jesus. It is not "God wills," but "I will: Be thou clean!"? Never king upon a throne spake from such a clear consciousness of personal power as appears to have inspired the will and the voice of Jesus, when he bade the blind to see, the leper to be cleansed, the impotent man to rise up and walk, the winds and waves to be still, and the dead to rise. "Young man!" said he to the dead son of the widow of Nain, "I say unto thee !" (i. e. I command thee!) " Arise !" In the same way he addressed the daughter of Jairus.
It is of the first importance to a correct understanding of this great subject of the Miracles, that this feature of them, which I am now endeavouring to exhibit, should be fully considered. Hitherto it has been entirely overlooked. Admit the facts to have occurred as they are represented, then were they the works of God. But they were not immediate acts of the Supreme. There was here, as in all things else, the instrumentality of means. So far then, there was not only no violation of the order of nature, but a manifest observance of her method.
But it will be objected that the means employed
were obviously so inadequate the disproportion between them and the phenomena produced was so great, that they are to be accounted as nothing.
To this, I reply, that all means, when duly meditated, appear utterly inadequate, wholly disproportionate to the effects by which they are followed. It is strange indeed that miracles so imposing should have been wrought by methods so simple, that a dead body should awake and come forth out of the grave at the brief bidding of a human voice, that a loathsome disease should vanish at the touch of a human hand. But the voice and the hand are perpetually working miracles, even in the commonest movements; and how the utter ance of a few, feeble articulate sounds should act upon the living, how the human hand communicates motion to the smallest particle of matter-these are things which reveal a supernatural, invisible force. The most familiar effects of the voice and the hand are inscrutable, and, strictly considered, are literal miracles, phenomena, manifesting a mysterious power of unascertained limits. All sights and sounds, all sensible appearances, are signs of an unseen, indefinable force, an infinite, ever active spirit in the centre and essence of things; and we are justified in looking for new manifestations, new signs of the Infinite one, only it must be our care not to mistake the fictions of man for the workings of God.
But it will again be urged that the means employed in the working of the Christian miracles were, not merely inadequate, disproportionate to their results, as all means are, but were such means as have never before nor since produced like effects.
This objection will be best met by considering what the means actually were, that were used in and by Jesus of Nazareth. Thus far I have only stated the
fact that means were employed. I proceed now to inquire into their nature, to ascertain, if I may, the character of the conditions under which the Christian miracles were wrought. In the course of this inquiry, still more powerful evidence will be disclosed in their favour, as actual facts, corresponding with all the ways and works of God in nature and providence. The means by which they were wrought, I have already stated briefly to be the Faith, the will, the hand and voice of Jesus. The principal instrument was Faith.
In previous attempts to elucidate this subject, I fear I have spoken of faith in a manner not sufficiently perspicuous. I have represented, or appeared to represent it, as the cause of the miraculous effects produced by Jesus. This is erroneous. The very term, faith, implies the existence of an antecedent object of faith. To believe necessarily involves the idea of some power or force to be believed in. And then again, admit the extraordinary events related in the Gospels to have actually been, and they must be referred to that invisible, unknown, undefined Power which we denominate God, of whom, through whom, and to whom are all things, as their absolute, ultimate cause -causa causans. Faith was the cause of the miracles only in a secondary sense, only as a condition or means essential in the constitution of things. The miracles as facts, like all things else from the highest to the lowest, even to the falling of a sparrow, must, upon every theory of the case, be referred to the invisible cause of all causes, living in all life, moving in all motion, and operating in the miracles, as it always operates, through means, by the instrumentality of faith especially. And the doctrine which I exhibit, and believe reason and Scripture to warrant, is, that the miracles, like all facts, manifest order and law, that
every particular of their occurrence, so far as the history has given us information, shows us the Supreme Cause acting in and by Jesus Christ, as it ever acts, in perfect harmony with itself, with the nature of Jesus, and the whole constitution of things. One of the chief considerations that justify this belief is that the miracles were consequent upon the exercise of Faith, that a certain mental state was the condition upon which they occurred. This we learn from the express language and the general tenor of the Scriptures.
When the man, who brought his sick child to Jesus, said, 'If thou art able to do any thing for us, help us,' Jesus replied, "If thou art able! Do thou believe. He who believeth is able to do all things."* Again and again he declared to his disciples, that, if they only had faith, they might uproot trees and overturn mountains by a word. When they asked why they could not cast out the evil spirit that possessed the child just mentioned, his answer was, "This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting," by which I understand (and I know not how else it can be understood,) you cannot subdue and command a disease so frightful and intimidating in its appearance, except by a force of faith attainable only by the strictest selfdiscipline.' He repeatedly told those whom he relieved that their faith it was that healed them, that the effect produced was according to their faith.' "Believe ye that I am able to do this?" inquired he of the blind men who besought him to restore them to sight. When Peter attempted to walk on the water and was begin
* That is, so the reply of Jesus should be understood, 'What do you mean by asking if I am able? Do you believe? All things are possible, &c.', This I believe to be the true meaning of the original. In the passage, as it stands in our common version, the force of the words Suvaca,' and * τα δυνατα, ig wholly overlooked.