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النشر الإلكتروني

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TWO REMARKABLE PASSAGES.

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worldly character of his office partially known, at least to some few minds, was calculated seriously to obstruct the great work in which he was engaged. The people would have broken all bounds, and either have destroyed him at once, or compelled him to assume the regal style, identified in their hearts with the idea of the Christ. What can be more simple and dignified, than the manner in which he is represented as producing the astonishing effects ascribed to him?

There are two passages recording miracles of Jesus, which deserve particular attention. They both occur in the narrative of Mark. Once, as we read, when Jesus raised to life a young female, he approached the bed where she lay, and said, “ Talitha-cumi,” that is to say, “ Young maid, I say unto thee arise.” Again, when a man was brought to him deaf, and having an impediment in his speech, after making clay of his saliva, and touching the tongue of the man, * he sighed, and, looking up to Heaven, said “ Ephphatha,that is to say, “ Be opened.” Now, here is a peculiarity in the narrative which requires explanation. Why, we cannot help asking, why did the narrator—no matter who he was—why did he introduce here the original --the precise words of Jesus? They are not singular words.

They are among the simplest, and admit without the least difficulty of being translated. Nay, they are translated in the very next breath. How shall we account for this curious feature in the narrative? What is the cause of it? It admits of an explanation which is to my mind wonderfully natural. Imagine the utterance of these sim

* With what view he employed this means, see ch. vii.

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THE PROOF OF THE REALITY OF THE MIRACLES.

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ple words to have been instantly followed by the effects which they are said to have produced, namely, the restoration of the girl to life in the one case, and the recovery of the powers of hearing and speech in the deaf and dumb man in the other, and we perceive what stupendous power must have instantaneously passed in the minds of those present into those brief articulate sounds that issued from the lips of Jesus, and the utterance of which naturally enough seemed to be the cause of the astonishing effects produced. What peculiar, supernatural, and untranslatable significance must these words have instantly been thought to possess, which wrought, or appeared to work, so mightily! In the minds of the bystanders, those few sounds were instantly divorced, as by a stroke of lightning, from all familiar associations. Their ordinary import was lost in the new, instant, and unheard of power which their utterance revealed. They no longer had any satisfactory correspondence with the articulations of any other language. No other forms of speech were felt to convey the same miraculous meaning-to possess the like force. I know not whether I make myself understood, but I recognize here, in this peculiarity of the narrative, an irresistible argument for the reality of the wonderful facts here recorded. That feature of these relations upon which I remark, discloses to me in a manner the most natural, incidental, and unconscious, a state of mind which could have been produced by nothing but the actual sight of a sudden miracle.

As I intimated in the commencement of this chapter, it is in the perfect correspondence of the miracles

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WE HAVE THE ACCOUNTS OF THE MIRACLES

of Jesus, both in spirit and in form or manner, with the simplicity, originality, and dignity of his character, that I discern an overwhelming evidence of their reality. If they did not take place as they are represented, then it must be supposed either that the accounts of the miracles were fabricated, and inserted into the narrations at an after-period by some other than the original writers of these histories, or else, that the original writers themselves, carried away by a love of the marvellous, or from ignorance or weakness of some kind, were led to misapprehend ordinary events, and without meaning to deceive, to describe as miraculous what was not miraculous.

That we have these histories substantially as they were originally written; that no considerable additions or alterations have been made in them, is a point, I conceive, on which we may be abundantly satisfied. That these books have to any extent suffered from interpolation, is an opinion which has sometimes been suggested, but never, amidst all the disputes and controversies that have prevailed, seriously maintained. There are only a very few passages indeed, in which the original text is supposed to be corrupted, and those are passages relating chiefly, not to facts, but to speculative points. From the earliest ages of the Christian era, fierce controversies have raged. There has been an incessant, and oftentimes a bloody war of opinions, and every sect has laid claim to the peculiar authority of the Scriptures. If, therefore, they have been garbled and interpolated for any purpose, it must have been for the sake of opinions; to favour one or another of the different tenets that have been at va

SUBSTANTIALLY AS THEY WERE WRITTEN. 187 rious periods advanced. But we may be confident that no interpolations of this kind have been made, because in examining these books, we find that they furnish no support-make no allusions to the doctrines that have been so zealously upheld. I find in them no trinitarian arguments, nor anti-trinitarian. They know nothing of any such questions. Only by implication, not by design, do they take part in our theological disputes. Here, by the way, what a decisive proof have we that the Gospels must have been written previously to the appearance of the doctrines referred to. Had they been the work of any period subsequent to that in which they purport to have been written, they would have borne numerous and unquestionable traces of the dogmas which, in one form or another, have ever since prevailed.

Besides, however anxious the different sects of Christians may have been to secure the authority of Scripture each for itself, there was but little temptation to corrupt and garble the text, when the arbitrary and fanciful methods of explaining these books, so early adopted, allowed almost any doctrine to be proved from almost any passage.

The allegorical mode of interpretation, so much favoured and practised by the early Christian writers, fruitful as it was in errors, still served one good purpose. It protected the sacred text from all tampering and interpolation. There was little inducement to forge or corrupt a passage, when by the exercise of a little ingenuity, a favourite opinion might be discovered on every page, in almost every syllable.*

* The reader who wishes to see to what extent the Fathers carried

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IF FICTIONS, THEY WOULD INJURE

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As there are few interpolations worth speaking of, calculated to affect doctrines, we may be very confident that there are none in the case of the facts related. But to perceive how utterly groundless is the suspicion, that the accounts of the miracles may have been inserted into these narratives at a period subsequent to that in which these books were written, we have only to glance at the Apocryphal Gospels. There is one, for instance, entitled, the Gospel of the Infancy of Jesus.' It is full of stories, the most childish and ridiculous ; stories which satisfy us, at once, of the impossibility of fabricating miracles that should not betray their falsehood by their palpable inconsistency with the character of Jesus.

But none, not even the authors of the New Testament histories themselves, could have forged miracles that should harmonize with the Spirit of Christ. In him we have a new manifestation of moral beauty. So much is admitted, even by those who deny any extraordinary agency in the introduction of Christianity. To connect mere fabrications with such a character, without producing the most striking discordancy, would be combining the grossest delusions with the loftiest truths. Can the brightest light and the deepest darkness be so united that the eye cannot instantly discern the widest difference? Now to my mind it is wonderful enough, that the miracles attributed to Jesus, do not directly and manifestly militate against his character. But this negative evidence of their reality,

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the allegorical method of interpretation, may be gratified by consult. ing a review of the “ Publications of Bishop Hopkins."'- Christian Examiner, 3rd Series, No. vi.

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