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We will allow His disciples to tell us what it was which convinced them that their Master was the Messiah. It was miracle-miracle beyond any other thing! It would have been a fatal bar to the claim to be the Messiah, which might have been set up for John Baptist, that he "did no miracle;" and very probably it was to prevent any danger of misconception as to the true place which John occupied that nothing approximating to miracle was performed by, or claimed for him. It was, in the minds of the disciples, the grand proof that their Master was the Messiah, that He wrought the wonderful works that are ascribed to Him. The effect of the miracle at Cana of Galilee, is thus described: "This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth His glory and His disciples believed on Him" (John ii. 11); and these miracles drew men of every rank to Jesus. The learned member of the Sanhedrim is by them convinced that Jesus is the Christ as much as simple villagers and fishermen. It was His miracles which forced upon the conviction of multitudes of the Jewish people that He was, and must be, the Prophet promised by Moses. So overpowered were they by one miracle in particular that, after witnessing it, they-carrying out their own notions of what Messiah was to be-wanted at once to proclaim Him as the King of Israel (John vi. 14, 15). When John Baptist sent his disciples to Jesus to ask Him if He was the One who should come, or whether they were to look for another, He appealed to miracle as an all-sufficient and convincing attestation: "Go," He said, "and show John again those things which ye do hear and see: the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up" (Matt. xi. 4). It was the wonderful effect of His miracles which filled the hearts of His foes with the deepest consternation. At the council gathered after the resurrection, it is in these words that they describe the effect of those works, which Mill would fain persuade us were supposed to prove nothing: "This Man doeth many miracles. If we let Him thus alone, all men will believe in Him" (John xi. 47, 48). Everywhere throughout the Book of Acts and the Epistles to the churches, we find that miraculous power is said to have accompanied and attested the preaching of the apostles. Whether we accept the accounts as true, or not, these accounts alike overthrow the rash theory of Mill, that, according to general belief, miracles proved nothing, for they are everywhere put forward because it was everywhere held that, if performed, they were a powerful proof that those who wrought them were sent by God.
From a sceptical philosopher we appeal to a sceptical historian to know whether miracle was in the first ages of the Gospel supposed to prove nothing. Let us hear what Gibbon has to say. In the fifteenth chapter of his history of the "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire," he enters upon an elaborate inquiry into the means by which the Christian faith obtained its remarkable victory
over the established religions of the earth. He enumerates five causes as principally producing this effect. The third of these causes, according to one deeply versed in the history of those times, was "the miraculous powers ascribed to the primitive Church." So far from supposing, as Mill does, that in those ages miracle was not thought to prove anything, we find the man who is best acquainted with the actual state of opinion, telling us that the ascription of miracle was a very principal cause of the most astonishing revolution in religious sentiment that has ever been exhibited in the history of the world. The supernatural gifts which Mill would fain persuade us persuaded nobody, Gibbon tells us conduced in numberless instances to the conviction of infidels. The sceptical, the curious, and the credulous, alike were, according to the arch-sceptic Gibbon, persuaded into joining the Christian Church, at a time when neither honour nor wealth was gained by joining it, solely by the claim to the possession of miraculous power. The very example which he brings forward, and which he insinuates to be proof that the miraculous power claimed was really not possessed, is, at least, proof to the full that miracle, such as marks that of the Gospels, was considered to prove a great deal, and was by no means considered to be a common possession. He tells us that on one occasion a noble Grecian promised Theophilus, Bishop of Antioch, that, if he could be gratified with the sight of a single person who had been actually raised from the dead, he would immediately embrace the Christian religion. Passing over Gibbon's affected surprise that the Bishop of Antioch should not have gratified his heathen friend in this fair and reasonable request, we remark that this challenge proves two things. The first is, that the heathen of that ancient period were so far from believing that it was a common thing to work such miracles as are characteristic of the Gospel, that, on the contrary, they seem to have believed them contrary to universal experience. The second is, that so far from supposing that the performance of them would prove nothing in favour of the doctrine for which they were wrought, it was supposed that the performance of but a single one of them would be considered as affording sufficient ground for the most solemn operation any man can undertake in mature life, viz., the total change of his religious faith. So unjust is Mill's argument against the testimony to the miracles of the Gospel, that no one thought it worth while to contradict them because, in truth, they were considered to prove nothing.
The next objection which Mill advances in order to discredit the strength of the testimony in favour of the miracles of the New Testament is, that "we do not possess the direct testimony" of the alleged witnesses of those miracles (237). Having first sought, without success, to disparage their testimony as that of extremely ignorant and credulous persons which would, therefore, be of very little consequence even if we had it, he goes on to add that, poor as
it would be in itself, we yet possess no "direct testimony." As Mill makes no exception whatsoever to this statement of his, we are warranted in bringing him forward as asserting that for the miracles alleged to have been wrought by Jesus Christ, and for the miracles alleged to have been wrought in His name by His apostles and others after His resurrection, we do not possess the direct testimony of a single original eye-witness!
We are certainly often struck with the appearance of ignorance or utter rashness which Mill displays in his observations upon matters upon which every commonly-instructed Christian child is informed. Of course we cannot tell what alterations or additions Mill might have made in his " Essays upon Religion," if they had been presented to the public in his lifetime and by himself. The writer of the "Introductory Notice," referring specially to the Essay on "Theism," on which we are now chiefly commenting, supposes it probable that it would have been subjected to "revision" if he had himself made it public (x). With this, however, we cannot deal. This Essay is especially presented to the consideration of its readers as showing "the latest state of the author's mind, the carefully-balanced result of the deliberations of a lifetime." Put forward as the deliberate result of his life-long studies, we must deal with it as we find it. It is very probable that the scrutiny to which he would have subjected the work, if he had himself given it to the world, would have led him to amend several parts of it which are readily open to reprehension. But all this is only conjecture. We can only deal with his views as we have them given to us in print, at a time when the writer can give no further sign. In dealing with them exactly as they are, we have one advantage which we should not have had if they had been subjected by him to such a close and jealous scrutiny as might have led him to correct some unfounded statements. The advantage is this: that here we have the actual ideas of Mill up to a period very shortly previous to his death, those ideas upon which he founded his conclusions touching the credibility of the Christian revelation. If those ideas were in some respects crude and hasty, such as he would have altered if he had given a closer attention to the question; then, in exact proportion as such revision would have led him to alter his statements, do we take from the authority of a judgment formed by him adversely to Christianity upon notions and ideas now seen to have been inaccurate. It is undoubtedly our opinion that Mill would have altered several of his statements in his article upon Theism, and more especially in his observations upon the evidences for Christian miracles, if he had given the question a closer scrutiny. We cannot help thinking that in these observations he put together hastily, and as they occurred to him, the views floating loosely in his mind. Otherwise we cannot account for several of them. But the more that such an idea is conceded in extenuation of loose and hasty statements, the more is to be
detracted from the value of that judgment adverse to Christianity which Mill founded upon notions of which those hasty statements are the expression. We are sure that too many judgments unfavourable to Christianity are based upon ideas hastily adopted, and not carefully scrutinised! If we remember rightly, David Hume acknowledged that, while he rejected the New Testament, he had never read it through! While we are far from charging Mill with such an extreme and most unphilosophical contempt for his subject as this amounts to, we cannot help thinking that, in his study of those Christian evidences, which he rejects as insufficient to satisfy a rational mind, he failed to give anything like the amount of careful attention which the subject demands, at the hands as much of him who rejects, as of him who accepts those evidences.
In his assertion that we have "no direct testimony" in attestation of the miracles of the New Testament, Mill is palpably guilty of want of due attention to the facts of the case. We cannot, indeed, but wonder at such a statement from such a man. We have "direct testimony" in attestation both of the miracles of Jesus Christ and of those of His first followers.
With respect to the miracles of Christ, we have the "direct testimony "of two of those men who accompanied Him during the entire of His public ministry, viz., the apostles Matthew and John. We do not here present the Gospel of Mark as such direct evidence, though it certainly was such; nor that of Luke, which would seem to have been gathered by him from the mouths of those who were themselves "eye-witnesses" (i. 2, 3). But in the Gospels of Matthew and John we have the most direct testimony to the miracles of Christ that can be conceived-the testimony of the men who were the chosen friends and companions of Jesus, and witnessed His works. John and Matthew were by His side when He healed the withered hand in the synagogue, and restored sight to the blind man at Jerusalem, and called Lazarus from his grave at Bethlehem. John and Matthew were two of those who received the bread and the fishes from His hands, and distributed the food, that was by natural laws enough only for a few men, among hungry thousands. And John and Matthew have left their Gospels behind them, stating that they had seen Christ working these, and many other miracles.
That these Gospels were written by the men whose names they bear has been accepted upon testimony to which no fair objection can be taken. We have better evidence of the fact of their authorship than we have that Cæsar wrote his "Commentaries," or Cicero his "Orations," or Demosthenes his "Philippics." Some fifty years hence, we venture to say, that the evidence in favour of their authorship of their respective Gospels will be found to be infinitely superior to that which can be advanced in proof of John Stuart Mill's having written his "Three Essays on Religion." HENRY CONSTABLE.
HOW CAN GOD BE KNOWN?
"That which may be known of God."-Rom. i. 19.
S there a God, and if there be, has he made Himself known to us? This, and the closely connected question, Is there anything for man beyond that impenetrable veil of death to which we are day by day drawing nearer ? are the deepest and most vitally important problems of which we can be called upon to attempt the solution. And never, perhaps, in the history of the world, was the solution of them sought with such earnestness and anxiety as at the present hour. the former question that we are on this occasion concerned.
It is with
At the outset, let the admission be taken as granted, that the perfect revelation of the Creator to the creature-that is to say, in other words, of the Infinite to the finite-is, in the nature of things, an utter impossibility; inasmuch as it is inconceivable that the greater can be contained by the less; or, that the partial should comprehend the universal. Can we gather the waters of the illimitable ocean within the little cup we dip into the tiny wavelet as it ripples on the sea-shore ? Nay; to attempt to do so would simply be to shatter the frail earthen vessel, and render it for ever incapable of containing even that minute quantity of water which it before securely held. Can we concentrate the solar light which floods the universe upon a human eye? Nay; could we do so we should not enlighten, but simply destroy the weak and delicately-constructed organ; the insufferable splendour blasting the mortal vision, and condemning the victim of our rash experiment to a perpetual blindness. Can we condense the whole atmosphere of this. earth into our human lungs, so that we may breathe not a portion only, but the entire mass of vital air? Nay; were we to succeed in doing so, we should not be filled with a new life, or inspired with a nobler energy, but, on the contrary, smitten with instantaneous death. And so, in like manner, were it possible for the whole thunder of the Divine power to be made audible to any human creature; or for the depth beyond depth of the Divine wisdom to be opened up to any created intelligence; or, for the infinite fulness of the Eternal love to be revealed even to the capacious heart of a Gabriel or a Michael; assuredly, the strings of the mortal harp would be snapped by the tremendous concussion, the plummet of creature reason would sink and be lost in the unsounded abyss, and the meridian splendour of the Divine glory become dark even with excessive light: "The spirit would fail before God and the soul that He had made."
And this obvious deduction of our reason is not only sanctioned, but most explicitly confirmed by the language of Scripture. "No man hath seen God at any time." "He dwelleth in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see " (John i. 18; 1 Tim. vi. 16). Such is the testimony of the Christ Himself, and of His apostle; while an apologist of the Divine procedure, in an earlier age, triumphantly inquires, "Canst thou by searching find out God? canst those find out the Almighty unto perfection? It is high as heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than Sheol; what canst thou know?" (Job xi. 7, 8).