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BY REV. WILLIS LORD, D. D.,
PASTOR OF THE SECOND PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, BROOKLYN, N. Y.
DIVINE TRUTH ATTESTED BY MIRACLES.*
"We know that thou art a Teacher come from God, for no man can do these miracles which thou dost, except God be with him.”—JOHN iii, 3.
THAT the Bible was written at the time and by the men it claims to have been, is one of the most certain of all things. The genuineness of no other book on earth, ancient or modern, has anything like the amount or perfection of proof which demonstrates the genuineness of this book.
This conclusion involves its truth; i. e., its historical truth; and this again, its moral truth, by clear and logical consequence. For the great facts which it records not only came under the personal knowledge of its writers, but they were recorded and published at the time, and among the people, when and where they took place, and were not denied. On the day of Pentecost for example, and in Jerusalem itself, the great scene of these facts, Peter said, "Ye men of Israel, hear these words-Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you, by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did by Him in the midst of you-—as ye yourselves also know!" They were bold words, but true. They fell on that mocking crowd like a thunder-bolt. They did know these great facts. Not a man among them had the hardihood to confront Peter with a denial. And knowing the facts, the conviction that flashed through their inmost being was irresistible. The religion
* Preached before the Presbytery of Nassau, at Jamaica, Long Island, October 5, 1857.
which such facts attested must be divine. No wonder then, that before the sun-set of that day, thousands took upon them the name and faith of Christ.
But Peter was addressing the common people-the masses. And they, unbelief suggests, are not accustomed to discriminate-they are liable to be imposed on. In a question of this kind it is needful to get at the convictions of those who move in a higher sphere, of cultivated intellect, who can analyze testimony, and accurately estimate its worth.
Very well; let us follow this suggestion. From Jerusalem let us go to Cesarea. There Paul is arraigned before the great and noble. Festus and Agrippa are there in imposing array. The elite of the court; the Ecclesiastics and Civilians of the land; wealth, rank, learning, beauty-all are there. They have come from curiosity, or to be amused by the fearless and famous disciple of the Nazarene. Look in upon that assembly. In conscious innocence Paul rises-conscious, too, of the power within him that had already made Felix tremble. He stretches forth his hand despite the chain that binds and galls it- and begins. His exordium is skilful and courtly. He adverts then to his former life his memorable conversion, the nature of the accusations made against him and their groundlessness - adroitly interweaving with the whole tissue of his unsurpassed discourse the great facts of christianity; and then in open court, in the presence of all those witnesses, he appeals to his royal Judge, as having a personal knowledge of their verity. "For the King, said he," the King knoweth of these things, before whom I speak freely for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him, for this thing was not done in a corner!" It was a daring, but sublime appeal. It must have electrified that august assembly. It must have thrilled Agrippa's own soul to its centre. And did he deny his knowledge of these facts? Never! Or did any one in that throng of cultivated men and women deny them? Never! They knew what Paul affirmed, that the great facts of christianity, whose record makes up the warp and woof of this God-given Book, "were not done in a corner," that they were done in the clear daylight, and on that broad theatre where nations act, and the world looks on. No wonder then that the convictions of Agrippa, overcame for the moment, at least, his prejudice and pride, and that he cried out far more in seriousness than jest, "Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian!" No wonder that thousands and tens of thousands, just where and when these facts took place, seeing they could not deny their reality, yielded to their power, and made them the ground of their faith, and hope for eternity.
But, without pressing the inference thus generally resulting from the genuineness of the Scriptures, let us fix our attention on
that evidence for the Christian truth, which comes from a single class of facts-to wit, its Miracles.
Of course, if God has made a revelation to men, it must bear his name and seal. It must be attested to be from Him by something beyond the reach of any impostor and deceiver. If the men who wrote this Book were in fact the amanuenses or agents of God in writing it, He would put into their hands unmistakable proofs of their divine commission. He would enable them to exhibit credentials-such as neither men nor devils could counterfeit; and, having these credentials, the communications they should make in the name of God, would have precisely the same reliability on the one hand, and binding force on the other, as though they were made by God in his own person. Now, they claim to have had these credentials, and they did have them. Among others, they possessed and exercised the power of mira
1. Look for a moment at the great Founder of Christianity. The circumstances of his birth were extraordinary-the perfection of his character and the beneficence of his life, unexampled. But independently of these, he made the specific claim of one sent from God--even of the long looked-for Messiah; and to authenticate this claim, he performed works beyond the reach of all creature power. These works were God's visible signature to his divine character and mission. He healed the sick, gave hearing to the deaf, speech to the dumb, sight to the blind, not by natural means or in accordance with natural laws, but by a word or touch. At the sound of his voice, wild winds were hushed--the heaving sea sunk to rest-legions of devils fled-and death itself gave back its prey. Such works--surpassing the power of creatures-he performed almost daily, and he appealed to them as the conclusive vouchers of his Messiahship. When his enemies demanded-"What sign showest thou that we may see and believe thee?" He answered "The works that I do, they bear witness of me." When John the Baptist, in a moment perhaps of despondency, or rather to confirm their faith in Jesus, sent two of his disciples to inquire" Art thou He that should come-or look we for another?" he pointed them to those acts of his power and mercy which Isaiah long before had specified as the very acts Messiah should perform, and so make himself known to Israel. "Go, and tell John, he said, the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up." And these appeals were resistless. They silenced cavil. They extorted confession. Nicodemus expressed the conviction of multitudes, when he said, "We know that thou art a Teacher come from God." And how did they know it? Because, is their answer, "No man can do these miracles which thou dost except God be with him." It was the clear and inevitable verdict of their common sense.
2. In like manner the Hebrew Prophets and the Apostles of Christ, as the human media and agents of the divine Word, bore the same credentials. It was necessary they should. In so vast a matter it was imperative that nothing should be taken on trust. When once we have God's word, we may indeed believe. Never can we do it too implicitly. But, on the question of fact, whether this or that volume is the word of God, we must have proof. That is a question of reason not of faith. If God spoke in the Prophets and Apostles, it was necessary that he should work by them, that thus, the visible act might attest the presence of the invisible and divine agent. Accordingly, as they went forth among men, in the name of God, He bare "them witness, both with signs and wonders, and divers miracles and gifts of the Holy Ghost."
3. But, some one asks, What is a miracle? The question is pertinent. Indeed its answer is necessary to disclose the true nature and value of our present argument, or rather, fragment of an argument, for the Christian truth.
In the merely verbal sense, a miracle is any wonderful workany work which, because of its seeming or real difficulty with reference to human skill or power, is adapted to excite surprise or awe. In this sense, the feats of the conjuror, or ventriloquist, or juggler of any sort, are miracles-i. e., they excite the wonder of men, especially of those who are ignorant of the secret arts, by which they are done. So too, those great processes in nature, which, while they surpass human power, are yet the result of natural laws and forces-such as the ebb and flow of the tides-the revolution of the planets-the succession of the seasons-all these are miracles-that is, they are wonderful. No thoughtful eye can contemplate them without admiration and astonishment. But, then, none of these things are miracles in that specific sense in which the Scriptures use this term, and in which we use it in the argument for the Scriptures as the word of God.
4. What then is a miracle in this sense? I answer-a work, or an effect--not only wonderful or even superhuman, but supernatural; not only impossible to man, but impossible to nature; a work which can be wrought only by God-and this by means either supra-natural or contra-natural-above nature or against nature.
For an illustration, go back to that day when" Joshua ascended from Gilgal-he and all the people of war with him—and all the mighty men of valor," to encounter the five-kings of the Canaanites. On the morning of that day an immense globe, as if of fire, was seen emerging from below the eastern horizon, casting a very flood of beauty and brightness upon hill-top and valley, and rolling up the concave of the heavens, in grandeur and glory unspeakable. Had this phenomenon occurred then for the first time, no language could express the wonder and awe upon men's minds. That, however, was not a miracle. It was indeed superhumanbut it was not supernatural. It was only the sun pursuing his
daily course of beneficence and majesty, in accordance with, nay, as a result of those forces and laws which God at the beginning established for this very purpose. It was just a natural process and event-though, indeed, very wonderful. But look now. While that glorious orb rushes through the heavens with a velocity difficult to conceive and fearful to think upon--while, having passed the zenith and impelled by all the power of nature, it makes haste to its hiding place in the west-the Leader of the Lord's people, cries out in the sight of all Israel--“ Oh Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon!" The sun stood still! For about a day it stood still in mid heaven! That was a miracle. Man did not work it. Such an achievement would baffle all men. Nature did not work it. It was beyond and against nature. God worked it. The fixed laws and mighty forces of nature were turned back and held in check by Him who made them; and that He did this "at the voice of a man," was a demonstration that there and then, that man was the representative of God.
5. Take another illustration. Enter your garden or meadow. Take the bulb of a tulip--the root of a rose-bush, or an acorn from the ancient forests. Place them in the mellow ground. Let them have the influence of the air, light, heat and moisture. Presently there are signs of life--there is a visible process of growth -formation, expansion. In due time the unsightly bulb puts on a form and dress that no touches of the pencil can rival: the dry root sends out its stems, branches, leaves; and, amidst the airs of summer, gracefully waves with its load of beauty and fragrance, the acorn re-appears in the strength and stateliness of the oak. The whole process, as well as result, is most interesting and wonderful. It is superhuman too. No man could effect it, any more than by his own power, he could create. But there is no miracle in it. If there is the superhuman, there is not the supernatural. If man is not competent to such results, nature is. The tulip, the rose-bush, and the oak are just the product of fixed natural laws and powers, made and established at the creative period, and ever operating in order to these very ends.
But suppose now, while you stand admiring these beautiful or grand creations of God, in and through nature, there should come to you a man claiming to be sent from God, and authorized to make known his will. You at once demand his credentials. You say to him, "I must see God's unquestionable signature attesting your mission, or I cannot yield you my faith." Certainly," he replies, your demand is reasonable and I will answer it. I will speak, and at the word, there shall spring from the earth duplicates of these wonderful things you are now admiring as the result of nature's processes and laws." He does speak. The miraculous effect at once follows! The tulip, in all its gorgeousness-the rose-bush, in all its perfection-the oak, in all its majesty--are visible and palpable before you. The conviction is instant and resistless.