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THE MIRACLES OF CHRIST ILLUSTRATE HIM.
bility. We do not know what death is; nor have the secret powers of the human spirit ever yet been ascertained. How do we know but that it is in and through the human soul that the Infinite Soul reveals its highest glory, and puts forth its most awful power? No man therefore can refuse to examine the Christian miracles as if they were utterly incredible. Nay, we cannot refuse to examine any event, however strange and extraordinary, unless we know beforehand all the conditions and limits of the forces concerned in bringing it about. The miracles of Jesus have a claim upon our attention as things capable of proof, which we cannot reject without violating also the claims of candour and good sense.
The subject of the present chapter is, the miracles of Jesus considered in relation to his character. Here, if I do not greatly err, we shall find the grand test of their truth. If there is an indubitable harmony between them and the spiritual features of Jesus, I confess that, for my own part, I ask for no evidence of their reality more convincing. If they are mere fictions, the offspring of cunning or weakness, I maintain that it is impossible they should not obscure and deform palpably his spiritual beauty.
The merest glance at the extraordinary works of Jesus awakens within us a new sentiment of disinterestedness. How continually is the world's history teaching us what a dangerous, fatal gift to its possessor is any peculiar endowment of fortune or genius, though it be of quite ordinary worth ! How quickly does the consciousness of the slightest advantage blind the mind to its true relations to mankind, and induce the idea
GREAT GIFTS, GREAT TRIALS. that its own glory should be its chief end! The rich and great and gifted, comparing themselves, as they cannot escape doing, with other men, and perceiving their own superiority in certain respects more or less striking, have almost unconsciously adopted the pleasing conclusion that they must be of more value than the rest of the world, and of course they have come to claim as a matter of right that they should be magnified and made much of. They have fancied that they were sent hither, “not to do a great kindness, but to receive a great kindness ;” to be the world's idols ; and so, instead of being benefactors, they have proved selfish, exacting oppressors, grinding their brethren in the dust, or drenching the earth with blood. Only a very few, at remote intervals, have shown that they interpreted any peculiar advantage of condition or any uncommon power of mind, as a peculiar and peremptory summons to every species of toil and self-sacrifice. Seldom, very seldom indeed, have those possessed of a higher wisdom, of an uncommon force of character, gloried in the possession because it enabled them to disregard all that the world most values ; to do and endure with an unconquerable and evergrowing patience, for the sake of some unworldly aim ; esteemAng as their highest honour, their unutterable distinction, the ability given them to love man and labour ind agonize and die for him, not the less willingly, but he more so, because he resisted their fraternal offices, ind rejected their affectionate counsels, and would have none of their services, struggling with them even unto blood! This spirit, I repeat, the world has seldom witnessed. When it has descended and dwelt in
JESUS CONSCIOUS OF HIS GREATNESS.
some few bosoms, it has never for the time been to any extent appreciated. It has been denounced as madness and fanaticism. Still it has been secretly felt that there is something in it which is not of earth-aliquid immensum, infinitumque.' And when it has wrought out its beneficent effects, then the human heart has been true to itself, and done homage to the rare generosity of those, who have flung behind them every thought of their own happiness, and been consecrated to an unselfish end. In individuals of this class, it has begun to be felt that we have the brightest manifestation of real greatness.
What an idea of this nobleness dawns upon our minds when, bearing in mind that the miracles of Jesus were acts of beneficence, we strive to conceive, as we can at best but dimly, what must have been his feelings in the consciousness of this stupendous inborn authority! He knew that he was possessed of a mighty wisdom of which the world was not aware. In comparison with all other men, he could not be insensible to his own vast superiority. And he was not. God alone, he says, knew him—knew what he was about, and he adds the all-elevating thought that he alone, in any worthy sense of the word, knew the Father. Does his bosom heave with pride at the thought? The very next language which he is recorded to have uttered is, “ Come unto me all ye who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” He declares himself a king, born to the divinest end. But under what circumstances is this declararation made? He is standing arraigned before the Roman governor, his mind made up to suffer most
DEEPLY MOVED BY TOKENS OF SUCCESS,
ignominiously. Deep as was his conviction of the lofty height at which he stood, it never led him to misconceive in any one respect his true relation to the world. That selfish thoughts never suggested themselves to his mind we cannot affirm, for the history expressly states otherwise,
“ Evil into the mind of God or man
May come and go, so unapproved, and leave
But no idea of self-aggrandizement ever caused him to swerve a hair. Not one trace of that contempt which besets those who are able in any respect to look down upon their fellow men, is found in him. He walked not apart. He did not separate himself from a world whose unworthiness he must have felt, as it was never felt before. On the contrary, in among life's coarsest realities he entered, and found there a sphere for his victorious love.
I would not represent it as his highest praise that he never used his extraordinary power for any purpose palpably private selfish—personal.
For he must have been above being blinded by any such object. And besides, had he consciously attempted to work a miracle for some selfish end, his power would have gone from him instantly. It consisted, if I conceive his case rightly, in the very singleness and disinterestedness of his impulse. Here lay that transcendent energy that was within him. To suppose him to have been actuated by a different purpose, is to suppose him to be deprived of the very power by which he wrought miracles. But the unspeakable wonder is,
BUT NOT TO A DOUBTFUL USE OF HIS POWER.
that his very benevolence never misguided him ; that the suggestions of personal ambition, disguised under the air of the most generous feelings, never blinded his judgment, nor narrowed his beneficent will. We gather from these histories that he was by no means insensible to indications of success to the effects of his ministry. When the seventy, whom he had sent forth to announce the approach of the expected kingdom, returned and related the striking results of the annunciation, he broke forth in the triumphant language--" I beheld Satan fall like lightning from Heaven." A vivid vision of the overthrow of moral evil blazed before his mind. Again, at the well in Samaria, he sat down weary, hungry, and athirst. But in a little while, after some conversation with a stranger, a female whom he accidentally met there, and upon her exhibiting some signs of being impressed by the interview, he forgets his bodily wants. His spirit is refreshed, and the bodily craving for food vanishes. He sees the influence of his religion spread out visibly before him. He intimates that those who were to come after him, would have nothing to do. In the natural exhilaration of his mind, all obstacles for a moment disappear. When in connexion with this sensibility, we consider how rarely he was favoured with any decisive tokens of success, we are struck with the fact that he was never hurried into any doubtful and hasty use of his extraordinary influence. It was a fearful power in the hands of one living in a world like this. Most dangerous and awfully trying must have been the consciousness of authority by which it was attended. In the sensation which its