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and exposed, and Christianity would have been stifled in its birth as an imposture, which sought to rest the credit of a false Christ upon false miracles. If the miracles of the Bible from first to last, in Old and New Testament, are examined, it will be always found that they were wrought in precisely the opposite circumstances from those of Rome. Egypt witnessed their grand opening. It was when Israel was disobedient and incredulous that miracle was brought forth to them. Christ and His apostles wrought their great works in the hostile and incredulous lands of the Gentile and the Jew.
It seems a strange recommendation of the alleged miracles of Rome beyond those of Scripture, to say that they only met with a partial belief even in quarters where one would have looked for a cordial reception. And yet Mill seems to think this is a recommendation of their evidence, as Hume certainly did in regard of an alleged miracle recorded by Cardinal de Retz. He says of the miracles of Rome, and this with especial regard to those of them which have the highest amount of testimony, that they are “ miracles which no one but a Roman Catholic, and by no means every Roman Catholic, believes." (238.) In our judgment this is a very grave discredit to those miracles. Certain we are that if a charge of this kind could be brought against the miracles of the New Testament it would be esteemed by very many minds a sufficient reason for refusing them all belief whatsoever. For our own part, we must confess that a charge of this nature established against the Christian miracles would shake our own faith in them very considerably.
Suppose, for example, it could be said with truth of the miracles of Jesus Christ, and in particular of those said to have been wrought by Him in the most public manner, that no one outside the circle of His own disciples had ever believed them to have been really wrought, that without a single exception the inhabitants of Jerusalem, Bethany, Chorazin, Capernaum, and other places where Christ is said to have wrought in the most public manner many wonderful works, could either have said that they were ignorant that any works of the kind had ever been even attempted, or, that they had been attempted but never seemed to them worthy of any credence, and that no one except a little knot of fol. lowers around Christ attached to them the smallest importance, who does not see how very serious a discredit would hereby have accrued to the miracles of Christ ? But such a charge has never been made. It would have been made over and over again in the first centuries of Christianity, and re-echoed in every city of the Roman Empire, if it could. The Jewish opponents of Christianity would have said that their countrymen had known nothing, and believed nothing of those miracles which were Vaunted so shamelessly in the Christian Scriptures. But they could not. The Jews did not accept Jesus of Nazareth for His miracles, but they allowed that He wrought miracles. The nation to this day continuing in their rejection of Christ's claims, does not pretend to dispute His works. The conviction of their nation in the lifetime of Christ on earth was too strong, and has come down by too unbroken a tradition to allow them now to attempt a denial. It cannot be said of the miracles of Christ that no one but His disciples believed them. Numbers who were not His disciples became His disciples because they believed them. The
nation of Israel accepted His miracles as true, while they, for other reasons which seemed to them sufficient, rejected His claims notwithstanding. The attitude of the unbelieving Jew towards the miracles of Jesus amounts in itself to proof of their truth.
Again, suppose that in the early Churches there had existed any party of importance, or any party whatever, however inconsiderable, who denied the truth of the miracles of Christ or those of His apostles, who does not see that here indeed would exist a very grave discredit to their reality and truth? People would most naturally and most reasonably say, “O, here were persons who by their profession of Christianity must have been favourably disposed to accept the alleged miracles; who, from their position, whether as acquainted with the alleged witnesses of the miracles, or from having been themselves in the position to know whether they were wrought or not, and yet these men did not themselves believe !" What would be the natural and inevitable inference? It would be either said that their knowledge of the witnesses of the miracles was such that they did not think them worthy of any credit, or that having been themselves witnesses of feats alleged to be miraculous, and having sufficient means to judge whether they were of this nature, and were performed, they could not give them their assent. We would at once conclude most unfavourably against the miracles. We would set them down either as downright impostures, or extraordinary but not supernatural feats magnified into miracle by credulity and predisposition. Of the witnesses who had attested miracles, but to whom credence was refused by their contemporary fellow Christians, we would say, doubtless there was very considerable ground for this refusal ! Those witnesses were probably known to be men who would not disdain such a thing as pious fraud for what they believed to be a good cause, or who were of such an ignorant and a credulous character that their testimony on any subject would be of little moment, and least of all of moment in the case of miracle which requires testimony of the very highest character. And so we would probably dismiss the whole question of early Christian miracle as incapable of being established with us of the nineteenth century, when it was rejected by Christian men who were either said to have witnessed that which was claimed as miracle, or who, knowing the character of the eye witnesses, did not think them worthy of belief. Such a thing as the refusal of belief to the miracles of the New Testament is not upon record. The miracles of Christ, the miracles of the apostles of Christ, were universally accepted by all parties in the professing Christian Church.
Now it so happens that we have in the circumstances of the early Christian Churches the very ones which would have given rise to denial to miracle upon the part of considerable numbers of their members, if such a denial had been possible. Those circumstances were very similar to, in their essence in fact identical with, those which produced a denial by some members of the Church of Rome of miracles alleged to have been wrought by other members of that Church. We refer here in par. ticular to the miracles said to have been wrought in the eighteenth century, in France, at the tomb of the Abbé Paris, on behalf of the Jansenist party in the Gallican Church, which miracles were altogether rejected by the enemies of the Jansenists, the acute and powerful Jesuit body.
Paul had many
Let us take a case very parallel in its circumstances with this, viz., the case of the Apostle Paul in the Church of Corinth. bitter and influential enemies in that church (2 Cor. x. 10). He had in that church as his enemies and opponents men who set up to be themselves apostles, and who strenuously denied his claim to be an apostle at all (1 Cor. ix. 1). Paul himself was not backward in casting upon them the very same charge which they brought against him. Words cannot be stronger than those he used against them when he said, “Such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works ” (2 Cor. xi. 13). There can be no doubt that the men whom Paul here denounced with a condemnation so sweeping and so terrible would in every way in their power retaliate upon him. Their enmity towards him, their resolution to expose him and his claims to derision and contempt, would equal that of the relentless Jesuit body against their rivals of the Jansenist party in the Gallican Church.
They did seek to do so. They attacked him on the tenderest point. They called in question and denied his claim to be an apostle.
He was not one of the original twelve. He was now falsely claiming to have since been called. Accordingly they carefully raked up everything connected with Paul in order, if possible, to bring him into disrepute and overthrow his claims to apostleship. In their petty spite against the object of their bitterest hate, they descend to attack his very personal appearance and mode of speech. Unable to deny the power of his letters, they say, “ His bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible” (2 Cor. x. 10). Their presence on the spot, their numbers, their influence, their persevering and artful attacks upon his character and authority, had almost gained over the Church at Corinth to their side. Moral misconduct on the part of many of the Corinthian Christians about to be exposed and punished by Paul on his approaching visit to them, united to the insidious attacks on his authority on the part of his ecclesiastical foes, had brought the Church of Corinth to "seek a proof of Christ speaking in him” at all (2 Cor. xiii. 1-3).
In opposition to all this Paul boldly claimed to be an apostle of Jesus Christ as truly as Peter was (1 Cor. ix. 1-5). He will abate no jot or tittle of his high pretension. He gloried in his call by Christ. Despised by the world of his old life, he rejoiced to think that the Divine Man had honoured him. In opposition to the attacks of his enemies he insists that he is an apostle, and challenges every gainsayer to dispute his claims. He appeals above all, and beyond all other proof, to miracle. He does not appeal to his conversion. That had not been witnessed by friend or foe at Corinth. He does not appeal to those visions and revelations which God had vouchsafed to him. Whatever they were to him, to others they were as nothing save as accepted on his word (2 Cor. xii. 1-5). He will appeal for proof of his disputed apostleship to miracles wrought before the whole Church where he pleaded his cause. Miracles were a necessary proof of apostleship. Without them no other claims could stand. He might have every other apparent
claim, but if God had not enabled him to exert and put forth supernatural power, and to put it forth before the eyes of men so as to satisfy their understanding, no one was warranted to accept him as an apostle in the sense that Peter, James, and John were apostles of Christ.
“ Truly,” Paul says to the hesitating Church of Corinth, to his few staunch friends, to his bitter unrelenting foes—" Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you, in all
patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds : “ in nothing am I behind the very
chiefest apostles." In one particular sign, impossible to counterfeit, he claims a pre-eminence : " I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than yo all.” Here was a challenge to his enemies ! Here was opportunity to have confounded him if he spoke falsely, and in confounding him to have gratified the bitter hatred of their heart. But there was no attempt at this. They could not fling back at him the indignant taunt he flung against them, that of being a “deceitful worker.” The great apostle vindicated by miracle undisputed, because indisputable, the claim to be an apostle of Jesus Christ, and as such, and only as such, he came to Corinth and put down all opposition. How would it have been if the enemies of Paul at Corinth had been able to deny his claims ? His authority at Corinth would have been overthrown. His claims would have been denied. If we had ever heard of him, which probably we never would, it would have been as a shameless Jew who had sought by false wonders to impose pretended claims upon men and been exposed and put to shame.
No small confirmation then it is for the miracles of the New Testament that of them it can be truly said that multitudes outside of the Churches of Christ believed them to be genuine and not pretended wonders, though for a variety of reasons which may readily suggest themselves to the mind, they did not always, or even generally, lead them to adopt the faith of Christ. To our apprehension the assent of the unbelieving Jewish nation to the reality of the miraculous works of Jesus is in itself a valid and incontestible proof that they were really wrought as the Christian Scriptures relate them. Strongly confirmatory, too, it is of them that throughout the early Christian Charches, in which even then we discern but too plainly the same spirit of party and division which 80 often manifests itself in Christendom now, there was never any idea so much as suggested of disputing the miraculous power claimed by the apostles and others. Above all, in this respect, we point to the case of the Apostle Paul. Universally known throughout the Roman world ; having connection, whether by personal presence or letter, with the chief of the early Churches; having in every Church a party, the Judaising, disposed to regard his teaching with more or less of suspicion; bitterly opposed by this party in several of the Churches ; his claims to be an apostle at all contested in others ; personal enmity on the part of influential persons roused frequently against him for his uncompromising denunciation against sin ; throughout all this loftily maintaining his claim to be in no respect inferior to the ery chiefest apostles, while in his labours and success he surpassed them all ; grounding his claims to be acknowledged as an apostle upon his public exercise of miraculous power even in the Churches where he had most enemies, and allowing that on such exercise his claim must stand or fall, the fact that no
party and no man in any one of the Churches ever disputed Paul's claim to miraculous power, is proof that he truly exercised it among them. Else we would most assuredly have heard of denial, of opposition, of evil reports whispered or uttered boldly out. But there was none such. No false brother; no exposed apostle; no expelled incestuous; no parrow-minded Judaizer thwarted; no exalter of Cephas or Apollos above Paul; no puffed-up teacher taught his insignificance; no disputer with the apostle upon some vital article of faith ; no brother rebuked for idolatrous connections; no great one jealous of Pauline visions; no open sinner trembling at his coming with the rod; no teacher of circumcision told to hold his tongue; no woman forbid to teach; no pretender to miracle denounced; no Hymenæus or Alexander delivered to Satan; no Phygellus or Hermogenes reproached with cowardly desertion; no Demas held up for his love of the world; no Philetus or Hymenæus labelled to be shunned as profane and vain babblers; no one of these ever dreamed of disputing the lofty claim of Paul when he said"Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you” (2 Cor. xii. 12). They could have disputed his claim if it was not indisputable. Most gladly would they have done so if they could. Everywhere he would have them whispering against his assertions; everywhere would he have had them coming forward to denounce it. It was not outside of the Christian community that Paul had his bitterest enemies. They were within it; professing members of the household of faith. They held their peace, while they hated him because Paul was universally acknowledged to have wrought miracles as well as to have written epistles. To deny it would only be to cover themselves with the same rebuke and derision as for an Israelite to have denied Joshua's power with God when the sun stood still on Ajalon at his bidding, or to have denied Moses' power with God when the sea at the stretching forth of bis rod became a way for the ransomed to pass over.
In days of conflict sore,
To which they witness bore.
Upheld by hand Divine,
As witnesses of Thine.
For Christ they nobly fought,
His glory--all they sought.
A debt we cannot pay,
Our radiant Gospel day.