صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني


fectly acquainted with the character of the Centurion; but that he affected to be surprised, in order to impress others with this uncommon instance of faith. In this way, let me repeat, the idea of Jesus has been divested of all naturalness, and it is no wonder that he does not move our deepest sympathies, and kindle our loftiest enthusiasm. My mind may be tending to an opposite extreme. Still I beg leave to say, that while I recognize in Jesus a constant regard to the circumstances and wants and feelings of those around him, I look always in every, even the slightest particular of his conduct, for some higher motive than a mere view to effect. When he was astonished at the confidence of the Centurion, he undoubtedly aimed to make an impression on the minds of others; still, I believe, he expressed the sincere, strong, irrepressible emotion of his own soul-that he was unaffectedly astonished. And so, in respect to his miracles, when he touches the leper, accompanying the action with the words, "I will be thou clean,' I do not deny that he may have intended to show that the cure proceeded from him, and also, that he did not shrink from contact with that terrible disease. But then I must believe that he touched the leper in order to his cure; that the contact, connected with the few words he uttered, was actually the means by which he inspired the mind of the sufferer with the faith essential to his cure, by which he excited in him that mysterious mental power which instantly communicated health to the body. We may wonder how an act so simple should have such an effect. But the efficacy of means is in all cases equally inscrutable.


[ocr errors]

We can have but a dim idea of the predisposition to believe in Jesus, produced in the leper by all that he had suffered, nor is it probable that we have been conscious of a state of mind, or of a degree of faith like that which he evinced, when he said, "Lord, if thou wilt," &c. In his state of mind, the word and the touch of one like Jesus, thrilling him to his inmost soul, were omnipotent. In the instance of the deaf man who had an impediment in his speech, he used saliva, and we are told that he took the man apart from the crowd, which would seem to show that he had no direct reference to the spectators, in the means which he used. Here again I believe, that the simple method he adopted was employed to express or communicate his own faith, the power and authority of his own spirit, to the spirit of the individual whom he relieved, and so to act upon his physical infirmity. That he should use such means, and that they should be effectual, will occasion but little difficulty, if we only bear it fully in mind, how miraculous it is that spiritual power, in the ordinary intercourse of life, ceaselessly passes from mind to mind through the utterance of a few articulate sounds. The influence of speech in imparting and awakening mental force, were it observed for the first time, would seem as inadequate, as amazing, as inexplicable, save upon the supposition of supernatural power, as the effect of the methods employed by Jesus to give health to the sick, hearing to the deaf, and sight to the blind.

Agreeably to these representations, I believe that when Jesus stood before the open tomb of his friend, and cried with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come forth,"

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]



he did not utter this cry merely to indicate to the bystanders the connexion between the cause and the effect, but because he expected, he believed, he knew that Lazarus would hear him and awake, and that the body, re-animated by the awakened mind, would come forth. But Lazarus was dead! Yes, he was indeed dead. But then, most earnestly do I beg the reader to pause and ask himself, what is death? Do we know enough of this event to be able to say that a voice, inspired by such a spirit as that of Jesus of Nazareth, cannot, in the very nature of things, penetrate the ears of the dead, and awaken them from their mysterious slumbers? Remember, there was a spirit present here, a spirit of unknown powers, of unprecedented greatness. Just before Jesus summoned Lazarus from the tomb, he lifted up his eyes to heaven and said, "Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me, and I know that thou hearest me always; nevertheless, because of these here present I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me." For what did he thank the Father? Not for a special communication of miraculous power at that moment, because the history of his life gives us to understand that this extraordinary power, whatever it was, was exerted by him at will. It was, I conceive, not for the power of working the miracle, but for such an opportunity as was then afforded him. Lazarus had been his friend, bound to him by those ties of faith and love, which no physical change can break. And we know not what influence this circumstance may have had in facilitating the exertion of his extraordinary power, except, that on all occasions faith was represented as an indispensable condition of its exercise.

But, as I have already said, it is not necessary to the establishment of our theory, that we should be able, in a given instance, to trace the influence of that spiritual force by which I believe these extraordinary effects to have been produced. These views cannot be dismissed as altogether extravagant and groundless, so long as it is admitted that there was concerned in the production of the miracles of the New Testament a power of unknown extent, a power intimately related to matter, and continually acting upon matter in unnumbered and inscrutable ways.

It will be objected to the mode of regarding the Christian miracles which I have now sought to unfold, that if it be correct, we should have had more numerous manifestations of the wonder-working power of the spiritual law. I observe, in reply, that as we cannot without presumption suppose that all the laws of nature have been made known to us, so there must be some of its laws, which have been only rarely, and at the remotest intervals, demonstrated. The wonder is, that a law, so grand and all enlightening, should have been revealed at all. And although, in the person of Jesus Christ, we have the only beautiful and consistent revelation of its agency, yet in all ages there have prevailed impressions and rumours which, rightly interpreted, obscurely intimate a transcendent power in the soul of man, in his inmost nature, a spirit of undefined authority. In the days of Jesus, there were those who regularly followed the profession of exorcists, undertaking to drive out the evil spirits by which the insane were believed to be possessed, by certain forms, medicaments, and incanta



tions. Is it to be supposed that they were never successful, and if they were occasionally successful, is there any mode of explaining their success more rational, than by supposing that they gained an extraordinary influence over the minds of their patients, securing their confidence, and so operating upon the physical frame through the spiritual? How shall we solve the existence of empiricism, flourishing, in one form or another, in all ages of the world, but by reference to the mysterious power of mind over matter, of the thought over the body? Without the lucid demonstrations of this power in the introduction of Christianity, we have much in the history of the world that indicates its existence, although its nature, limits, and conditions have been wrapt in the greatest obscurity.

In denying that the order of nature has been violated, I may be charged with helping to perpetuate that narrowing influence which the observation of this order has sometimes exerted, and which Dr. Channing has so well described in the discourse already quoted. On the contrary, I maintain, it is the common idea of the Christian miracles, as interruptions or violations of the natural order of things, that contributes to this unhappy effect. It virtually concedes that a divine spiritual agency is in nature indirect. It allows nature to be conceived of as a sort of labour-saving contrivance, a machine without any intrinsic worth or beauty, going by itself, with only an indirect dependence upon a higher power. It promotes in men's minds the idea of a separation between the common works and ways of the creation and the Creator himself, and so induces them to contemplate the

« السابقةمتابعة »