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164 THE MIRACLES, NOT TO BE THOUGHT LIGHTLY OF. former, without any necessary reference to the latter. Whereas, establish the miracles as demonstrations of a supreme spiritual force, existing in the nature of things, and acting in a manner kindred to, and in harmony with, all the other agencies that we witness; and then the power of physical causes over the mind is broken. God, who was afar off, is brought near and enthroned in Nature.
Finally, the theory now suggested of the miracles of Jesus Christ gives them a new and indescribable worth, rendering them as important, interesting, and enlightening as they are extraordinary. They become worthy the attention of the profoundest philosophy. It indicates a serious defect in the prevalent theory on this subject, that those who maintain it attach little value to these remarkable facts. At the best they are represented as mere evidences, valuable at the time they took place, but of little worth now; constituting, it would seem, a sort of argumentum ad hominem ! But surely, if they are facts, if they are admitted to have occurred, they are a part of the great whole, and, like every thing else in the creation of God, they must have an untold variety of uses and ends; and it is the grossest arrogance in man to limit their value. As if any facts, much more such as these of the life of Christ, were ever to be exhausted of all meaning and power! It seems to me a very narrow and unworthy way of thinking, to represent God as doing anything merely to prove somewhat to the human understanding. It is beautiful, nay sublime, in an ancient poem like the book of Job, to describe the Deity as entering into an argument with man. But does it comport with an
THEY SPEAK NOT TO THE UNDERSTANDING ONLY. 165
elevated conception of a supreme and perfect Being, a being whose goodness is the fountain of his wisdom, the creator of the soul with its infinite aspirations, as well as the author of the understanding, to regard Him as an Almighty Disputant, aiming principally to convince the reason of his creatures ? Undoubtedly every thing he has created or brought to pass does prove
much to the mind. But I cannot believe that this is in any case the only or the chief design of the Infinite One. The understanding is not man's highest faculty, and it cannot be God's highest aim. The miracles of Jesus are great evidences. He himself referred to them as such. And yet we have good reason to believe that it was not only, or chiefly, for what they would prove that he wrought them. He would not condescend to work miracles to convince those who, by their hostile dispositions towards him, showed that they cherished no love of truth in their hearts. “He did not many mighty works there, because of their unbelief," a remarkable declaration. Again and again he intimated, more or less explicitly, that nothing he did or said would have any effect upon men, save as they already possessed some feeling of the loveliness of truth. It would seem therefore that he appealed by his words and works not principally to the reasoning faculty, but to a loftier sentiment of the heart. Although the purest rationality (if I may so speak) characterized all that he uttered, yet he would not descend to debate and reason about the truth where the heart was not already disposed towards him, powerful as were the arguments, satisfactory as were the attestations he could bring. The
THE NECESSITY OF FAITH.
spirit which actuated him in this respect was akin to the spirit of God, and it illustrates the godlike dignity of his character and his aim.
The great doctrine I have endeavoured to set forth cannot be appreciated without faith; by which I mean that exercise or state of mind—that mental eye-by which we discern in all things a spiritual, supernatural, supersensual agency. We cannot see the miracles of Jesus as natural facts, except as we are ascending that eminence of Faith, from which we look abroad and recognize the supernatural everywhere in the natural. The common idea of the miracles is based upon a mechanical philosophy—a philosophy of the senses.
We conceive of the universe as a piece of mechanism, going in some sort of itself; so our ideas of the divine nature and agency are fashioned upon a false, human analogy, which blinds that spiritual sense within us, the principle of faith, and impedes our approach unto God. We say indeed that all power was originally from God, but we conceive of him as having delegated certain measures of power to what we call the general laws, the order of nature, so that now, as things are, He stands in the same relation to his creation that a man does to the machine he has invented, and if any departure from our experience occurs, we set it down as a peculiar interposition—a stretching forth of the arm which otherwise hangs comparatively idle and at rest! Our ideas of the Divinity are thus narrowed, and we flatter ourselves that we know him when we know him not. “If any man shall think,” says Bacon, “by view and inquiry into these sensible and material things to
THE NECESSITY OF FAITH.
167 attain to any light for the revealing of the nature or will of God; he shall dangerously abuse himself. It is true, that the contemplation of the creatures of God hath for end, as to the nature of the creatures themselves, knowledge ; but as to the nature of God, no knowledge, but wonder : which is nothing else but contemplation broken off, or losing itself. Nay further, as it was aptly said by one of Plato's school, the sense of man resembles the sun, which openeth and revealeth the terrestrial globe, but obscureth and concealeth the celestial; so doth the sense discover natural things, but darken and shut up divine. And this appeareth sufficiently in that there is no proceeding in invention of knowledge but by similitude ; and God is only self-like, having nothing in common with any creature, otherwise than as in shadow and trope. Therefore attend his will as himself openeth it, and give unto faith that which unto faith belongeth; for more worthy is it to believe, than to think or know, considering that in knowledge, as we are now capable of it, the mind suffereth from inferior natures; but in all belief it suffereth from a spirit, which it holdeth superior, and more authorized than itself.” ( Of the Interpretation of Nature.)
[Note.—That the miracle of “the walking on the water” (Matt. xiv. 25—32) actually took place is not to be doubted, because it is so closely and beautifully connected with an illustration of the character of Peter. It may seem however, at first sight, to militate against the views I have advanced in this chapter. But in fact it confirms them. As soon as they who were in the vessel recognized Jesus, Peter cried, “Lord ! if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.” And Jesus said “Come!" Now if his word broke the laws of nature, could Peter have sunk, however great his terror ? But as soon as he
“ The combination of the spirit of humanity, in its lowliest, tenderest form, with the consciousness of unrivalled and divine glories, is the most wonderful distinction of this wonderful character."-CHANNING.
In the foregoing chapter I have ventured to express, and endeavoured to support, the opinion, that the miracles of Jesus were not departures from the laws of nature, but new facts in nature, demonstrations of the sovereignty of mind over matter; that they were wrought by a mysterious force dwelling in his nature, and in various degrees in human nature, and that they vindicate the vitality and supremacy of
I have affirmed that we cannot pronounce an event a violation of the natural order of things, without assuming that we know the whole order of nature, all its forces and laws. Neither, without the same groundless assumption, can we term the resurrection of a dead man to life a natural impossi
began to be afraid—as soon as his faith wavered—he began to sink. " And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?" thus intimating very clearly that it was by the power of faith-by force of mind—this miracle was to be wrought. The walking upon the water was not an infraction of the laws of nature, but a demon. stration of the natural sovereignty of mind—that spiritual power upon which the mighty law of gravitation is in the nature of things dependent, and to which it must of course be subordinate.]