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You cannot repress it, if you would. It vibrates through your being. "Man has not done this! Nature has not done this! No, no, God has done it! It is a miracle! It authenticates the claim of his servant. It brings me under the power of a divine obligation to hear his voice and obey his commands!"
6. Take one illustration more--such an one as comes within the actualities of the Gospel history. Go to some death-scene. Alas! it will not be difficult to find. The ghastly king invades alike the lowliest cabin and the proudest palace, the city and the wilderness, the land and the ocean, and never wearies in his work. Go to that darkened room where the daughter of Jairus has just fallen asleep; or to the gate of that retired city, whence they are bearing for burial the widow's son; or, as meeting fully all the demands of the case-go to that grave, in which four days since Mary and Martha laid their beloved Lazarus. Take away the stone from the door. Within is the muffled and already putrefying corpse! Invoke now the power of man to quicken this dead body. If the power of one man will not avail, combine the power of all men and bring it to bear. How utterly vain! Man cannot give life to the dead. Invoke then the mightier power of nature. Those energies that sometimes shake the earth, or heave the ocean, or roll the stars along; surely they can vitalize this mortal frame. Ah, my brethren, nature has stupendous powers; we see them in the earthquake and the storm; we see them in the minute and the grand movements and changes of the universe from tiny atoms to huge planets-nature has stupendous powers, but they have no adaptation to a work like this. While life lasts there are laws and forces of nature which operate steadily to preserve it; but, when at length these are overcome-when death is actually present, the whole drift and might of nature are reversed. The direct and resistless tendency and pressure of every natural law are to corruption and decay. The sad process begins at once, and decomposition, putrefaction, dust, are the inevitable result. Unless we can apply some power above man and above nature, Mary and Martha must still weep-Lazarus must remain dead. In order to his revivification there needs, not only the superhuman, but the supernatural; not only the power of creatures but the power of God. There must be a miracle!
As then you still stand by this open grave, invoke the power of Jesus Christ. He is there as one sent from the Father. He has already pronounced those sublime words "I am the resurrection and the life!" He prepares now to demonstrate their truth. While the tear of sympathy yet moistens his eye, which shows him to be man, He calmly speaks, as if conscious that he is also God, "Lazarus come forth!" Why does that concourse of strong men start back with sudden terror? Why do those confiding sisters flee from the door of the sepulchre to the side of Jesus? Why! The dead has heard his voice! that ghastly form stands up with
a renewed life-the process of decay is arrested and turned back -the decomposing flesh is made sound and fair again-sight has come to the glassy eye-speech to the rigid tongue-sensation, thought, emotion again fill the soul of Lazarus, and he comes forth! It is a miracle! Not man, not nature, but God has done it! He has done it without man. He has done it in contravention of nature. No power but that of God, supernaturally exerted, could do it. God, therefore, was with Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ, therefore, came from God. This Holy Book, therefore, which is the testimony of Jesus Christ, is divine.
But let us not anticipate. These illustrations serve to show that a miracle, in the specific sense of the word, is an effect of divine power, put forth, not in consonance with natural laws, but always independently of them, sometimes reversing them. It is not enough that a work be wonderful in its character to make it a miracle, for it may be that without requiring more than human ingenuity and dexterity to perform it. Nor is it enough that it transcend the resources of men. It may do that, and yet be only a result of the fixed laws by which God governs the universe. It must be more than wonderful-it must be more than superhuman-it must be supernatural, or it cannot be a miracle. That is the work of God, in distinction from any effect which man or nature can produce, and exceptional even to God's own works in his ordinary operations. A miracle, therefore, is the clear tes timony of God in reference to that for which it is wrought. From the perfect holiness of his character, it results that He cannot bear testimony except to truth. When, therefore, a miracle is in fact wrought, to attest a person or doctrine as coming from God, the point is settled. There is no more room for question or doubt. We have his own testimony, and from it there can be no appeal.
Thus far our way is clear. If miracles have been wrought to authenticate the Scriptures as a divine revelation, then the Scriptures are a divine revelation. The infidel, therefore, calls in question the fact. He can meet our argument only by destroying its premises. If the premises stand, the conclusion is invincible. He therefore attempts to discredit the miracles of Scripture. He professes to doubt their reality. He asserts them unprovable. He would class them with the prodigies of superstition, or the feats of the juggler or magician. He has tried all possible means, fair and foul, to place the miracles of Moses and of Christ in the category, either of nonentities or of tricks. We may thank him for his attempts, while we deplore the spirit which has impelled them. Every assault has shown more clearly the invincibility of our bulwarks. Divine truth, like Christian character, shines the brighter for trial. The furnace refines-it does not consume. Conflict issues in greater strength, and heralds the final victory.
The word of God to-day is as a citadel built on the everlasting rock.
Time will permit us now to glance at only one of the attempts of scepticism to subvert the fact of miracles. Let it be the grand assault of Mr. Hume. Retiring from the domain of written and authentic history, he seeks the murky sphere of metaphysics. Ignoring the testimony of ages, his own brain devises a sophism, armed with which he comes before the world, and affirms, "Miracles cannot be proved."
That is easily said, and, if it be true, sweeps from us one of our many proofs that the Bible is from God. But is it true? Other facts of history can be proved, and why not these? Surely there is no want of testimony, the only kind of proof which the nature of the case admits. Explicit, abundant, conclusive, this stretches from generation to generation in an unbroken chain.
"Ah!" but replies Mr. Hume, "testimony cannot prove miracles!" That, too, is easily said; and if true, is damaging to the Christian cause. But why cannot testimony prove miracles? It proves all other facts. There is no other possible way by which facts can be proved, except those which are immediately within our personal cognizance. Hence all past history is a testimony. Hence, too, all the doings and findings of jurisprudence, from the beginning of the world, proceed on testimony. It must be so. Mathematics, for example, cannot prove historical or moral facts. Reasoning cannot prove them. In regard to such facts, if there be no personal knowledge or reliable testimony, there can be no proof. The world over, and time through, testimony has been held as valid proof in reference to every other class and kind of facts. Why should it not be held valid in the case of miracles?
"Because," answers Mr. Hume, "our experience of the constancy of Nature is greater, and more to be relied on, than human veracity." In other words, men sometimes lie, but Nature is unchangeable. Miracles, therefore, which imply changes in nature, cannot be true, though men testify to their occurrence.
Let us look at this. "Our experience is," says Mr. Hume, "that Nature never changes." Whose experience? He plainly means the experience of men generally--of the present and past generations of mankind, otherwise his argument were simply ridiculous. But pray tell me what does Mr. Hume know of their experience except by testimony. "Our experience" is really just that of each individual. In the case of Mr. Hume, "our experience" was simply his own experience, where and when he lived -nothing less and nothing more. Whatever he knew of the experience of other men, living or dead, he knew only and wholly by means of that very testimony whose value as evidence he so desperately tried to impeach. His logic, therefore, has no bottom. It falls in on itself. It is forceless, as it is baseless. The experi
ence of the Siamese king was that nature never changes, and therefore no testimony could prove to him that water sometimes becomes solid. Mr. Hume's experience was that nature never changes, and therefore no testimony could prove to him that God has sometimes used nature to certify revelation. Admirable logic -and profound as admirable! The heathen king and the Scotch philosopher alike making their limited individual experience the ground and test of universal truth.
The simple fact is, Mr. Hume's sophism is not only false in its issue, but false in its data. The experience of men is, as we learn it from their testimony, and we can learn it noway else, that nature is not absolutely unchangeable; that, while regularity and uniformity are the great characteristics of the laws and forces by which God governs all material things, he has sometimes, for great moral reasons, hastened, or suspended, or reversed them; that in the majestic march of his great purposes concerning man, He has, at every now and then, made nature the minister of judg ment or of grace, subordinating the physical to the moral and spiritual, and especially encompassing and attesting the records of his wisdom by the wonders of his power. And so the planets have heard his voice, and stood still in their orbits. The sea has heard his voice, and gathered its waves on either side, firm as brazen walls, that his people might go through. The mountains have quaked at his presence and flowed down, burning but not consumed. Ravens have ministered to the exiled prophet. The cruse of oil has been unwasting. Fire has refused to scorch, and lions to destroy. Thousands have been fed in the wilderness, and the fragments that remained were more than the loaves at the beginning. Devils have been cast out from tormented men. Incurable diseases have given place to health. Nay, death itself has awakened into life! And all this to attest the character and mission of Apostles and Prophets-all this to verify and magnify the Word of God!
Shall it be in vain with respect to you and me? Despite the manifold and great acts of God in thus certifying the Bible to be from Himself, shall we, on some frivolous pretence, or thousand times refuted cavil, put ourselves, with theoretical or practical unbelievers? Ah! my brethren, the crime in this case could be equalled only by the loss. The intelligence and virtue of the universe are with the Bible. The influences that conserve, refine, ennoble, are with the Bible. The light that reveals sin and God, the way to heaven, and the grace and power that lead there, are with the Bible. The cross and the atoning blood, the white robes and palms of victory, the crowns and thrones that gleam with undimming brilliance, the songs that warble from immortal tongues, are with the Bible. Redeemed sinners, glorified saints, seraphs and cherubim, the Lamb that was slain, God on his eternal throne,
are with the Bible. And what, O man, is there without it? Ignorance, folly, sin, wo, forever!
Come, then, thou little child; come, then, thou ardent youth; come, then, thou aged man, to this blessed light of life and immortality-this glorious and imperishable word of God! Cleave to its truth, live in its holiness, rejoice in its hopes, until the shades of time vanish before the eternal day!
My beloved brethren in the ministry,
To us has been committed this Divine Word. It is our special office to preserve it, defend it, expound it, enforce it. Can there be a holier vocation? Can there be a vaster responsibility? And you see with what calm, immovable confidence we may ply our work. We are not deceiving immortal men. We are not amusing them with trifles. We are not setting before them the vagaries and dreams of human reason. We are not exciting within them hopes that will perish. No, no; this wondrous Word is truth; truth given in God's name; certified by God's power; glowing with God's wisdom; attractive with God's love, and that will lead to God's glory! Away, then, with all the pretentious but miserable substitutes of men's folly, and Satan's cunning; and, in the prosecution of our sacred work, let us abide steadfast on God's everlasting Word.
BY REV. WM. C. WHITCOMB,
"Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.”— Ps. cxxxii. 1.
"Let brotherly love continue."-Heb. xiii. 1.
CHRISTIAN union is my theme on this occasion. Christian union -not simply the union which should prevail among the members. of any particular denomination of Christians, but the love and unity which ought to exist among all the real people of God. The subject thus brought before you by David the Psalmist, and Paul the Apostle, in the words of our text, and so beautifully expressed by the Lord Jesus Christ in his "New Commandment," is a subject of peculiar importance, especially at the present day.
If and take a stand upon some watch tower of our beloved Zion, and glance abroad over Christendom at this interesting pe