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Christ was

a sinner,” a breaker of the “ Sabbath day!” His origin is dwelt upon! “ This fellow, we know not from whence He

The Man is attacked ; but what of the Man's work? From the charge that He was a sinner, how easily and rapidly would the envenomed mind of the enemies of Christ run on, if that were possible, to the kindred charge that He was here but an emissary of the Devil, working wonders by diabolic aid ! A charge of this kind would be almost forced into their mouth by their accusations of His sinning on this occasion by this very work. If it were indeed their opinion, or that of the people generally, that such works could be done by a lying spirit as well as by the Spirit of God, they would most certainly have said that He healed the blind man by the power of Beelzebub. But they say nothing of the kind. On the contrary they acknowledge that, while Christ was a sinner, it was God who had wrought this work! (ver. 24). Unable for a single moment to parallel this miracle with those supposed to be within the power of evil spirits, they assert the absurd and illogical proposition that God had done a work which apparently favoured one of the most blasphemous claims that could be set up against God! From this alleged miracle of Christ, we see that His bitterest enemies confessed that, between His works and those supposed to be within the power of evil spirits, there was a barrier of distinction which no malice or ingenuity could pass.

Just exactly as it was in the case of the alleged miracles of Christ, it was in the case of those of His apostles. Mr. Mill's view, allowing it to be just to the utmost, that miracles could, according to Jewish opinion, be worked by a lying spirit as well as by the Spirit of God, has no practical effect whatever, because the miracles claimed for the apostles were confessedly, in their general character, of a totally different kind from those supposed to lie within the power of the evil spirit. This is seen from the conduct and language of the Jewish Sanhedrim, assembled to deliberate about the miracle wrought by Peter and John on the lame man at the beautiful gate of the temple (Acts iv. 16-22). They did not deny the reality of the cure. They could not do so.

But neither were they able to class it as, in its nature, proving nothing, because it was of such a kind as might have been wrought by an evil spirit as well as by the Spirit of God. Most gladly would they have done so if they could ; for the object of their meeting together was to prevent the effect of this very work, which was operating on the minds of the people. One of the most effectual ways would have been, by showing to the people that the work was, in itself, of no different kind from those which they all allowed could be wrought by an evil spirit. But they can do nothing of the kind. The miracle, they one and all confessed was a notable miracle ; out of that class altogether which were associated in their and the common mind with the power of evil spirits. Peter claimed it as work wrought by the " God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob "

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(ver. 13). The people, aware of its circumstances, hailed it without à dissentient voice as a work of God (ver. 21). The rulers and elders and scribes, with Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest (vers. 5, 6), all of them men of the first influence and knowledge in the nation, and the bitterest foes to the spreading doctrines of Christ, did not dare to say, did not dare to hint, that the miracle was not wrought by God, but could have been effected by some other power. They allow it in the case of the apostles, as before they had confessed in the instance of a work wrought by Christ Himself, to have been “notable ; ” of the class of wonders wrought by their ancient prophets by the power of God, and cannot attempt to confound it with the works supposed by them to be within the power of the spirits of evil.

From these instances we see how it was with the miracles of the Gospel as regarded by its unrelenting and unwearied enemies. From the very outset of the Gospel it had enemies; malicious, ingenious, and powerful. They began their opposition to it by bringing Jesus Christ to death. Enraged to find that His death had not put a stop to it, but that on the contrary it thenceforward spread more than ever, they seek, in every way permissible to them by the dominant Roman power, to stifle it ere it should assume proportions against which they could not contend. It was amid such a people that the Gospel of Christ was cradled. It was preeminently in their metropolis, Jerusalem, that it was nurtured and grew, and from thence that it was propagated. And yet, when the leaders of the opposition to that Gospel come to confer together on its alleged miraculous works, they are compelled, so far from being able to ascribe them to Satan working for and through those deceived by him, to ascribe them to God. All the absurdity, or rather the impiety, of such a supposition, on their idea that Jesus of Nazareth was a deceiver, is overlooked and stified by the overpowering nature of the works. These they must needs confess to be notable, divine, beyond any other power to effect but that of God. And so they are forced to occupy the position of men affirming that God had wrought works in and through men who either made or sustained claims of a kind the most opposite possible to His will and pleasure! The alleged miracles of the Gospel were indeed, on the confession of its enemies, altogether of a different kind from those which they supposed within the power of evil spirits (John ix. 16).

That which was thought of the miracles of the Gospel by its enemies was thought of them also by its friends. In fact, it was such thoughts of them that first made them friendly to Christ and His teaching. And this was the case alike with the educated and the uneducated among the early disciples. Thus Nicodemus, a man of remarkable erudition, a member of the Great Council of the Sanhedrim, a man acquainted thoroughly with the religious opinions of his people, knowing what was supposed to lie within the power


of the evil spirits, and knowing, too, the nature of the works ascribed to Christ, unhesitatingly confessed of the latter that they were of a nature and a kind beyond any other power

but the power of Almighty God (John iii. 2). He did not say this merely of one miracle, but he pronounced it of all the miracles which Christ had up to this period wrought publicly at Jerusalem, at the great festival of the Passover (John ii. 23). Had he supposed them no other in kind than those popularly thought to lie within the power of evil spirits, they would certainly have had no force with him. It was the absolutely distinctive nature of those works which forced this timid time-server at first forth to a living Jesus in the darkness of the night, and afterwards gave him nerve to own a dead Christ as his Master. This distinctive nature of the works of Christ he owned at his first secret interview with Jesus: “Rabbi,” he said to

we know that Thou art a Teacher come from God; for no man can do these miracles that Thou doest, except God be with him(John iii. 2). Such was the deliberate verdict of a learned man, into the composition of whose character very little boldness and very little enthusiasm seem to have entered. This judgment of the erudite councillor is eminently useful to our purpose, inasmuch as it is his judgment on the miracles of Christ as compared with other works which were yet in his opinion also supernatural. Fully acquainted with all these, he yet gives the acknowledgment to the works of Christ that they exceeded them in their character, and exceeded them in this very respect, that, whereas it was possible for the former to have been performed by some power superior to that of man, while inferior to that of God, no power whatsoever could by him be supposed capable of performing the works of Christ except the power of the supreme God.

Such as was the judgment of the learned Nicodemus was the judgment of the unlearned and ignorant man who was led to believe in Jesus of Nazareth from Christ's work of healing upon himself (John ix. 32). He was probably as well, possibly almost better, able to judge comparatively of a matter of the kind than Nicodemus. Extravagant stories of supernatural power are often listened to with cold ear by men of education, neglected by them, and forgotten. It is among the lower strata of society that such chiefly circulate, and in their circulation very often assume characteristics greatly in excess of the original tale. In the blind man before us, we have just the sort of person who would have heard and drunk in all the supernatural stories current among a people possessed of a very large amount of credulity and superstition. Whatever Satan and Beelzebub, and their hosts of inferior spirits might be supposed capable of working upon the bodies or the minds of unhappy men, or on the lower creation, would be listened to greedily by a man from whom was shut out the great source of knowledge derived from sight, and who was therefore thrown exclusively upon information derived through the ear. With all his knowledge of supernatural story, he came without hesitation to the same verdict upon the one miracle, with which he was intimately acquainted, that Nicodemus came to on all the miracles of Christ witnessed by him. He expresses his judgment in the unrestrained language natural to illiterate men, and particularly natural to him at a time when all his nature was exuberant with delight on the opening to him of the glorious sense of sight. “Since the world began," he

” said to his hostile and suspicious examiners," it was not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. If this man were not of God, He could do nothing." Such was this man's judgment; the judgment of the illiterate and the superstitious of the people. Stretching backward beyond all the knowledge of the supernatural of his time, he daringly asserts that, from the very foundation of the world, no work had ever been wrought such as had been wrought upon him. It lay, in his estimation, beyond what any man, unaided by any power less than God's, could by any possibility effect. He certainly did not believe that his cure could be worked by a lying spirit, as well as by the Spirit of God. It was altogether of a different kind and nature. Between light and darkness there could not be, to his mind, a more decided line of demarcation than between the mighty work just wrought upon him by one, of whom he knew no more than that His name was Jesus," and the whole collection of mighty works ascribed to the power of evil spirits. The friends of Christ, literate and illiterate, just as we saw of the enemies of Christ, were of a wholly different mind from that ascribed to them by Mr. Mill. They never dreamed of supposing that, between the alleged miracles of Christ and the alleged miracles of lying spirits, there was any parallel whatsoever. They occupied different positions altogether in the world of the supernatural. Both were above earth. Both were looked up to and wondered at by men below. But the works of Christ lay upwards among the stars; the works of evil spirits were but lying amid the clouds that move in the atmosphere above, but of our earth.

Such as was the judgment of the declared enemies and declared friends of Christ and the Gospel, was also the popular judgment: the opinion of the great mass of the people, who, during the lifetime of Christ, seem not to have been able to make up their minds whether to believe or to reject His claims. To these men preeminently the miracles ascribed to Christ were the grand attraction. His doctrine they avowedly did not comprehend. He spoke to them in parables which He did not explain. They listened to Him gladly and eagerly, but it was certainly not from an overpowering sense of the truth and loveliness of His teaching; for that teaching did not lead them to faith in Him. Neither was it the character and conduct of Christ apart from miracle which was His grand attraction in their eyes. An ascetic character, such as was that of His forerunner, John Baptist, would have overpowered them more. It was the miracles of Christ which drew the rapt attention to Him of that fickle people, who would one day throw Him down from a precipice and on another raise Him to the dizzy height of monarchy. Witnessing those miracles, and well aware of the power usually ascribed among them to Satanic agency, it never once occurred to them to doubt that the source of the miraculous power of Christ was in God Himself.

As an example of this we refer to the cure of the palsied man, as related in Matt. ix. Here, as everywhere throughout His life, we see the eagerness with which His enemies laid hold of anything that could be turned against Him, and the fidelity which the writers of the Gospel show in narrating every charge, open or secret, made against their Master. The first address of Christ to the sick man,

Son, thy sins be forgiven thee,” is at once responded to in the thoughts of the scribes present by the accusation of blasphemy. Their idea was that Christ was here guilty of the very highest religious crime, that of taking upon Him a power which belonged only to God. Christ reads out for the bystanders the thoughts of their hearts; and then proceeds, in sight of all present, to work His cure. The knowledge on the part of the assembled people that their religious teachers thought Him on that very occasion guilty of grievous sin against God, did not for a moment cause them to doubt the source of the power which they saw displayed before their eyes. No idea crossed them, even for a moment, that any evil spirit was here putting forth his agency: “When the multitudes saw it, they marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men."

We have thus seen the view universally taken among all classes of the Jewish people of the alleged miraculous power of Christ in regard of the principal works ascribed to Him. They never hesitated as to their source. Whatever power they supposed to belong to Satanic influence, they never imagined that the ordinary class of miracles ascribed to Christ belonged to the range of diabolical skill. Even in the only class of works which, so far as we know, was ever by Christ's bitterest enemies attempted to be ascribed to the Devil, namely, the ejection of evil spirits, there was something in the working of Christ which, in the eyes of the common beholders, gave to His works an undoubted superiority, even here. Whatever were the power supposed by them to belong to Satan in this particular field, whatever had been the effects produced by any class of devilexpellers, working from what source we please, in the alleged works of Christ wrought upon demoniacs the beholders recognised a power which they had never before seen put in exercise. Thus in the expulsion of the devil from the dumb man, when, besides the expulsion of the spirit, the dumbness of the man was cured, we read that, “the multitude marvelled, saying, It was never 80 seen in Israel” (Matt. ix. 33). We are not, of course, here saying anything as to the truth or falsehood of those works of Christ which the Gospels relate to us. We are merely speaking o

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