صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

If we

and by reason, we neither have, nor can possibly have, any evidence of a Deity working miracles : for that, we must go out of nature and beyond reason. could have any such evidence from nature, it could only prove extraordinary natural effects, which would not be miracles in the old theological sense, as isolated, unrelated, and uncaused; whereas no physical fact can be conceived as unique, or without analogy and relation to others and to the whole system of natural causes.

To conclude: an alleged miracle can only be regarded in one of two ways, - either (1) abstractedly as a physical event, and therefore to be investigated by reason and physical evidence, and referred to physical causes, possibly to known causes; but, at all events, to some higher cause or law, if at present unknown: it then ceases to be supernatural, yet still might be appealed to in support of religious truth, especially as referring to the state of knowledge and apprehensions of the parties addressed in past ages. Or (2) as connected with religious doctrine, regarded in a sacred light, asserted on the authority of inspiration. In this case, it ceases to be capable of investigation by reason, or to own its dominion. It is accepted on religious grounds, and can appeal only to the principle and influence of faith.

Thus miraculous narratives become invested with the character of articles of faith, if they be accepted in a less positive and certain light, or perhaps as involving more or less of the parabolic or mythic character; or, at any rate, as received in connection with and for the sake of the doctrine inculcated.

Some of the most strenuous advocates of the Chris'ian “evidences” readily avow, indeed expressly contend, that the attestation of miracles is, after all, not irresistible ; and that in the very uncertainty which confessedly remains lies the “trial of faith," * which it is thus implied must really rest on some other independent moral conviction.

In the popular acceptation, it is clear the Gospel miracles are always objects, not evidences of faith ; and when they are connected specially with doctrines, as in several of the higher mysteries of the Christian faith, the sanctity which invests the point of faith itself is extended to the external narrative in which it is embodied; the reverence due to the mystery renders the external events sacred from examination, and shields them also within the pale of the sanctuary; the miracles are merged in the doctrines with which they are connected, and associated with the declarations of spiritual things which are, as such, exempt from those criticisms to which physical statements would be necessarily amenable.

But, even in a reasoning point of view, those who insist most on the positive external proofs allow that moral evidence is distinguished from demonstrative, not only in that it admits of degrees, but more especially in that the same moral argument is of different force to different minds : and the advocate of Christian evidence triumphs in the acknowledgment, that the strength of Christianity lies in the variety of its evidences, suited to all varieties of apprehension; and that, amid all the diversities of conception, those who cannot appreciate some one class of proofs will always find some other satisfactory, is itself the crowning evidence.

* See, e.g., Butler's Analogy, part ii. chap. 6.

K

With a firm belief in constant supernatural interposition, the contemporaries of the apostles were as much blinded to the reception of the gospel, as, with an opposite persuasion, others have been at a later period. Those who had access to living divine instruction were not superior to the prepossessions and ignorance of their times. There never existed an “ infallible age” of exemption from doubt or prejudice; and if, to later times, records, written in the characters of a long-past epoch, are left to be deciphered by the advancing light of learning and science, the spirit of faith discovers continually increasing attestation of the divine authority of the truths they include. The 66

reason of the hope that is in us is not restricted to external signs, nor to any one kind of evidence, but consists of such assurance as may be most satisfactory to each earnest individual inquirer's own mind : and the true acceptance of the entire revealed manifestation of Christianity will be most worthily and satisfactorily based on that assurance of “ “ faith,” by which, the apostle affirms, “ we stand” (2 Cor. ii. 24); and which, in accordance with his emphatic declaration, must rest, “not in the wisdom of man, but in the power of God” (1 Cor. ii. 5).

SÉANCES HISTORIQUES DE GENÈVE-THE

NATIONAL CHURCH.

BY HENRY BRISTOW WILSON, B.D.

N the city of Geneva, once the stronghold of the

severest creed of the Reformation, Christianity itself has of late years received some very rude shocks. But special attempts have been recently made to counteract their effects, and to reorganize the Christian congregations upon evangelical principles. In pursuance of this design, there have been delivered and published, during the last few years, a series of addresses by distinguished persons holding evangelical sentiments, entitled 66 Séances Historiques.' The attention of the hearers was to be conciliated by the concrete form of these discourses ; the phenomenon of the historical Christianity to be presented as a fact which could not be ignored, and which must be acknowledged to have had some special source ; while from time to time, as occasion offered, the more peculiar views of the speakers were to be instilled. But, before this panorama of historic scenes had advanced beyond the period of the fall of Heathenism in the West, there had emerged a remarkable discrepancy between the views of two of the authors, otherwise agreeing in the main.

It fell to the Comte Léon de Gasparin to illustrate the reign of Constantine. He laid it down in the strongest manner, that the individualist principle supplies the true basis of the Church ; and that, by inaugurating the union between Church and State, Constantine introduced into Christianity the false and Pagan principle of Multitudinism.

M. Bungener followed in two lectures upon the age of Ambrose and Theodosius. He felt it necessary, for his own satisfaction and that of others, to express his dissent from these opinions. He agreed in the portraiture drawn, by his predecessor, of the so-called first Christian emperor, and in his estimate of his personal character. But he maintained that the Multitudinist principle was not unlawful nor essentially Pagan; that it was recognized and consecrated in the example of the Jewish theocracy; that the greatest victories of Christianity have been won by it; that it showed itself under apostolic sanction as early as the day of Pentecost: for it would be absurd to suppose the three thousand who were joined to the Church on the preaching of Peter to have been all “converted”

persons in the modern evangelical sense of the word. He especially pointed out, that the churches which claim to be founded upon Individualism, fall back themselves, when they become hereditary, upon the Multitudinist principle. His brief but very pertinent observations on that subject were concluded in these words :

[ocr errors]

“Le multitudinisme est une force qui peut, comme toute force, être mal dirigée, mal exploitée, mais qui peut aussi l'être au profit de la vérité, de la piété, de la vie. Les Eglises fondées sur un autre principe ont aidé à rectifier celui-là ; c'est un des incontestables services qu'elles ont rendus, de nos jours, à la cause de l'évangile. Elles ont droit à notre reconnaissance; mais à Genève,

« السابقةمتابعة »