« ZurückWeiter »
From the Christian Remembrancer. were equally valil against the remnant of
religious faith which was still upheld. Thus Eight Lectures on Miracles preached before the opponents of the supernatural have been
the University of Oxford, on the Foundation forced into a continued downhill course. of the late Rev. John Bampton, M.A. By Position after position has been abandoned, J. B. Mozley, B.D., Vicar of Old Shore- till they now stand shivering on the very ham. London : Rivingtons. 1865. brink of the bottomless pit. In short, no
tenable position has been found between The recent attack upon the supernatural supernatural faith and utter atheism when it first broke upon the public had all signally has the light wherewith we were to the character of a surprise. The general be enlightened turned into gross darkness. public were unprepared for it; and those The strength of Christianity lies in occuwho had the character of leaders were for pying the field from which the enemy has the moment at a loss how to meet it. The thus been driven. It is a wide and bound. consequence was, that unbelief gained at the less field — a world more vást and varied outset great advantages; it secured to its than the outer world of physical science, side a large part of the irreligious press; It is a world of realities, of great ideas, and and many well-meaning Christians, ignorant high hopes a world of freedom as opof the real character of the matters at stake, posed to slavery, and self-immolation as were animated by a false liberalism. We opposed to selfishness. Let us show how were openly taunted with our silence, and this world, so essential to humanity, has challenged to answer our opponents if we been conquered for it by Christ; how its dared, it being taken for granted that no existence is bound up in Him; and how, answer could be given. But what is the without Him, man must resign himself to present position of the question ? Possibly hopeless bondage. Redemption will thus our estimate might not be considered an un- assume a new and striking light, which will biassed one.
But we may point to two no- especially come home to the nineteenth centable facts which have some meaning. In tury. At all events, we have here got hold the first place, the challenge has been an- of something tangible. We are not mere swered beyond the expectation of our op- dreamers and sentimentalists. We have ponents. A succession of able writers have facts and possessions for the human race from time to time appeared on the side of which have at least an equal value, in a faith — writers whose comprehensiveness of practical point of view, with anything which mind will contrast favourably with that science can bring. If we cannot annihilate of their opponents, whose inherent vice has science (which we do not desire), so neither been one-sidedness — inability to look at will science be able to annihilate us. We the question except from one point of view. can wait in patience for a deeper philosophy, Many of the arguments at first paraded as which will reconcile both. Such a philosounanswerable have been sifted and exposed; phy cannot be far distant, and when it comes and the general effect has been that the dis- it will show the world that the truths of scicussion has changed from scientific to phil-ence are only outward and phenomenal ; osophical ground. Arguments brought for that they do not touch the world of real exward as resting on truths of science have istence; and that they have nothing permabeen found not to rest on science at all, but nent in them. The world with which reon extreme forms of the sense-philosophy. ligion deals is the only real and perinanent On the whole, it has been found that the world. And it will profit a man but little Christian religion has something to say for if he gain the outer world, and lose that itself, and is not to be overthrown by igno- which is inner and true. rant dictation or coarse sneers.
Mr. Mozley has gained a high place in But, in the second place, perhaps the the list of those who have come forward in most noteworthy result bas been the gradu- defence of the faith. His book has a wonal dislodging of our opponents from the po- derful solidity about it; and it is very charsitions from which they assailed us. They acteristic of the English mind, being of a professed to make war on unnecessary ap- practical rather than a speculative kind. pendages; to retain the kernel while they Though extremely logical, and acutely arcast away the shell; but it was discovered gumentative, still he never for a moment that they had planted their batteries on quits the standpoint of practical humanity. Christian ground, and that their shot, if From this point he measures the great probsuccessful at all, must slay not only their lems with which he deals. His inquiry is enemies, but themselves. 'In effect, the ar- not, What is absolutely and certainly true ? guments brought forward against miracles but, What means have we, placed as we are, of judging of these matters? What extent a special revelation of Himself, and are the probabilities of the case ? While who yet think miracles unnecessary! What this method will not satisfy some minds, is most needed is to point out what kind of there are others to which it is specially faith requires a miracle, and what kind does adapted. And in this consists the value not. Let it be distinctly understood that and strength of his work. He will influ- the faith which finds its expression in the ence a large class of readers who take the Apostles' Creed, or accepts the dogma of a pains to master his arguments, who could personal God, must stand or fall with miranot be reached by other means. At the cles. If this is once made clear, then all same time, the result of his labours, consid- possibility of mistake is avoided. It is seen ered as a wbole, is not such as we could ac- that those who discredit miracles are to the cept. His theory of the supernatural, both same extent, it may be unconsciously, distheologically and philosophically, would crediting the Apostles' Creed. break down, we believe, under the pressure In a former article we entered pretty fully of facts. But this by no means destroys the upon this point. Mr. Mozley adopts in genutility of his book. The bulk of his argu- eral the same line of argument, and his conments are of such a solid kind, that with a clusion is the same. Miracles and the little alteration in point of form they could supernatural contents of Christianity, mast easily be adapted to a more perfect system. stand or fall together' (p. 22.) Why is this
The question as to the supernatural is so so? If we ask ourselves why we believe extensive, that Mr. Mozley has done wisely our Lord to be the Son of God, we shall in limiting himself to the consideration of easily see. No doubt we have this faith reone point - the intrinsic credibility of mira- garding Him because He testified this of cles. The difficulty of the present day is Himself. But would our faith have sufficient not so much taken up with the question of ground if it rested simply on this testimony ? evidence as with the prior question, how a Mr. Mozley in answer to this question miracle is possible at all. On the one hand, brings out from his own point of view, in a we have science, like an angry farmer, vio- very able way, a line of argument used by lently vociferating, and warning us off its ourselves :: territory, on the other, the philosophers or the enlightened 'would equally exclude us
'If, then, a person of evident integrity and from the moral and spiritual worlds. The loftiness of character rose into notice in a parmost pressing need of the present day is ticular country and community eighteen centu. thus the vindication of a place for the su- ries ago, who made these communications pernatural in God's universe. Mr. Mozley, about himself -- that he had existed before his from his own point of view, addresses him- natural birth, from all eternity, and before the self with great success to this task. After, world was, in a state of glory with God; that in his first lecture, discussing the question world itself had been made by him; that he had,
he was the only-begotten Son of God; that the as to the necessity of miracles, he proceeds however, come down from heaven and assumed in his second and third to grapple with the the form and nature of man for a particular scientific difficulty ; then follow in subse- purpose, viz. to be the Lamb of God that taketh quent lectures discussions on the relation in away the sins of the world ; that he thus stood which miracles stand to belief in a God,' in a mysterious and supernatural relation to the to testimony,'-to' unknown law,' and prac- whole of mankind; that through him alone tical results. The last lecture is devoted mankind had access to God; that he was the to an attempt to distinguish between the head of an invisible kingdom, into which he Scripture miracles and the running mirac- should gather all the generations of righteous
men who had lived in the world; that on his ulous' of ordinary religious life.
departure from hence he should return to hear. The question of the necessity of mira- en to prepare mansions there for them; and, cles, meaning thereby the higher or more lastly, that he should descend again at the end marked kind of miracles, is one which, as of the world to judge the whole human race, on preliminary, ought not to be overlooked. which occasion all that were in their graves On this point the public are especially lia- should hear his voice, and come forth, they that ble to be imposed upon. General language had done good unto the resurrection of life
, and is often used, plausible in itself, to show they that had done evil unto the resurrection of their non-necessity; and this not only by tions about himself, and all that was done was
damnation — if this person made these asser. men whose religious conceptions are in accord with their arguments, but by a class of itable conclusion of sober reason respecting that
to make the assertions, what would be the inerwell-meaning Christians whose intellectual person? The necessary conclusion of sober position is a marvel to us – men who dis- reason respecting that person would be that he tinctly confess a personal God, and to some was disordered in his understanding. What
other decision could we come to, when a man, thrown into a different shape. It is to be looking like one of ourselves, and only exem- borne in mind that the advance both of plifying in his life and circumstances the ordi- science and philosophy in recent years has, nary course of nature, sad this about himself, rightly or wrongly, altered our conception but that when reason had lost its balance, a of the world as a whole. Neither scientific dream of extraordinary and unearthly grandeur might be the result ? By no rational being
men nor philosophers look at nature in the could a great and benevolent life be accepted as
same way as our fathers did; and it is to be proof of such astonishing announcements. remembered that the conception we form of Miracles are the necessary complement, then, nature largely influences our conception of of the truth of such announcements, which, the supernatural. It stands to reason, without them, are purposeless and abortive, the therefore, that a rationale of the supernatunfini-hed fragments of a design wbich is noth- ural which was perfectly adapted for coming unless it is the whole. They are necessary bating Deism is no longer applicable to the to the justification of such announcements,
Even if we sucwhich indeed, unless they are supernatural
present war with science. truths, are the wildest delusions. The matter ceed in establishing it by the strength of and its guaranty are the two parts of a revela- our reasons, it will, in its old form, have to tion, the absence of either of which neutralizes the scientific mind a forced aspect. It will and undoes it.' * — P. 13.
suggest, and seem to be bound up with, a
view of nature which, wrongly perhaps, But, besides this, the very form which the they have cast aside as untenable. And statement of our faith takes in the Apostles' we believe, as a matter of fact, no small Creed is the assertion of miracles. To amount of the scepticism prevalent among assert that God created the heaven and the scientific men is attributable to this face. eari h (and belief in a personal God involves
The impatience and contempt with which the dogma of creation) is to assert a most they thrust aside without examination the stupendous miracle. 'What else is it to claims of faith seem to point to this. assert that Jesus Christ is His only Son our
But, besides this, there are other reasons Lord ? that He rose again ? that He as- purely theological which point the same way. cended into heaven? Miraculous facts thus The present form in which we express the form the essence, so to speak, of our faith supernatural is the growth of Protestantism, in Christ. And if this is so, of what use is it and that too of the very narrowest kind. It for any one to argue that our Lord's goodness, is no longer adapted to the theological conor the response which His Gospel finds in our ceptions which prevail
. The tendency of hearts, are enough to determine our faith? the present age has been to the abandonIf
, on examination, we find that the things ment of old Protestant moiles of thought: which we believe in are themselves miracles, on the one hand, in the direction of Latituwhat do we gain by dispensing with mirac- dinarianism — on the other, towards a fuller ulous aid? I believer in a personal God or appreciation of Catholic truth. It is an in the Apostles' Creed cannot discredit anomaly of the greatest kind that our themiracles without the grossest act of self- ory of the supernatural should still be stultification.
expressed in the very straitest form of Assuming, then, the necessity of miracles, Protestant narrowness.
Such a state of they being involved in the only kind of things is especially disadvantageous to us Christianity we care to contend for, an im- who hold the Catholic faith. We are thereportant question arises. In what light are by unnecessarily encumbered by grave we to look upon them as a whole ? How, improbabilities and awkwardnesses, which considered as a system, do they fit into the seriously embarrass us in contending for the
faith. general system of the universe ? Or, in other words, what is the definition of a mir
For these reasons we think that the time acle? How are we to conceive the super
has now come when the question ought to natural in its relation to the natural ? Here be re-examined.
We would throw out a we regret to find ourselves totally at issue few hints of the kind of modification we with Mr. Mozley. He has seen no reason suggest : they will, in some respects, be a tu depart from those conceptions brought to repetition, but also an enlargement, of what maturity in the last century, which are now
we advanced before. It will be more conreceived traditionally. We think the time venient in the first place to discuss the point has come when the whole question of the in its theological aspect. supernatural ought to be re-examined and Mr. Mozley has stated with singular abil
ity and clearness the old evidential theory; 'I enter upon the consideration of the posi- | the extraordinary coincidence which was ‘con. tion woich I have chosen as the subject of these tained in it. And hence it follows that, could Lectures — viz. that miracles, or visible suspen- a complete physical solution be given of a whole sions of the order of nature for a providential miracle, both the marvel and the coincidence to, purpose, are not in contradiction to reason. it would cease from that moment to perform its And first of all I shall inquire into the use and functions of evidence. Apparent evidence to purpose of miracles, especially with a view to those who had made the mistake, it could be ascertain whether, in the execution of the Divine none to us who had corrected it.' – P. 6. intentions toward mankind, they do not answer a necessary purpose, and supply a want which
and it will be best to give it in his own * See Christian Remembrancer, October, 1863, p. 272, et seq.
Now this whole ra'ionale we conceive to could not be supplied in any other way.
• There is one great necessary purpose, then, be radically wrong, and to lead to the most which divines assign to miracles, viz. the proof deplorable consequences. It rests upon the of a revelation. And certainly, if it was the fundamental position that a miracle is a will of God to give a revelation, there are plain suspension of a law of nature, or an extraand obvious reasons for asserting that miracles ordinary and unwonted event. Now it is are necessary as the guaranty and voucher for sufficiently obvious, if we take up this posithat revelation. A revelation is, properly tion, that we are involved in a whole train speaking, such only by virtue of telling us of corresponding conceptions. The end of something which we could not know without it. the miracle is attestation, to the exclusion But how do we know that that communication of what is undiscoverable by human reason is of other ends. This again involves a corretrue ? Our reason cannot prove the truth of it, sponding narrowing of our conception of the for it is by the very supposition beyond our rea- Bible. It is a revelation, or, more approson. There must be, then, some note or sign priately still, a message from Almighty God, to certify to it, and distinguish it as a true com- which the miracle atiests. This, in its turn, munication from God, which note can be noth- affects our idea of the relation in which we ing else than a miracle.
stand to Almighty God. We might pursue * The evidential function of a miracle is based the inquiry through other branches of theupon the common argument of design as proved ology; and if we do, we shall find that we by coincidence. The greatest marvel or inter- have contracted our theological conceptions ruption of the order of nature occurring by itself, as the very consequence of being connected in a way which is thoroughly repugnant to with nothing, proves nothing ; but if it takes Catholic truth. But let us rather examine płace in connetion with the word or act of a some of these conceptions, and see how far person that coincidence proves design in the they are tenable. marvel, and makes it a miracle ; and if that To think of Almighty God as a la per:on professes to report a message or revela breaker is to our mind on the very verge of tion from heaven, the coincideure of the miracle blasphemy. But to pass over that for the with the professed message from God proves design on the part of God to warrant and the end of the miracle to say that it is
present — Is it an adequate statement of authorize the message. The mode in which a miracle acts as evidence, is thus exactly the simply for purposes of attestation ? or an same in which any extraordinary coincidence adequate conception of the contents of the acts; it rests upon the general argument of de Bible to call them a revelation ? Let us not sign, though the particular design is special and be misunderstood. We do not deny to the appropriate to the miracle. And hence we may miracle its evidential function, nor that some see that the evidence of a Divine communica- miracles have been wrought for that end tion cannot in the nature of the case be an ordi- only; nor do we deny that one aspect of nary event.
For no event, in the common the Bible is that of a revelation, or that pororder of nature, is, in the first place, in any tions of it are pure revelations and nothing coincidence with the Divine communication; it else. We would give full significance to the is explained by its own place in nature, and is connected with its own antecedents and conse.
words of the Apostle, when he describes quents only, having no allusion or bearing out God's relation to man under this aspect : of them. It does not, either in itself or to God, who at sundry times and in divers human eye, contain any relation to the special manners spake in times past unto the facommunication from God at the time. But if thers by the prophets, hath in these last there is no coincidence, there is no appearauce days spoken unto us by His Son.' But the of design, and therefore no attestation. It is question is, not whether this point of view true that prophecy is such an attestation ; but is correct, but whether it is the primary or though the event which fulfils prophecy need the only one : whether, when we look at the not be itself out of the order of nature, it is an indication of a fact which is, viz. an act of miracle and the Bible in this light, we form superhuman knowledge. And this remark to ourselves an adequate conception of what would apply to a miracle which was only mi- they are. In most books on evidences this raculous upon the prophetical principle, or from is assumed. The formula is, -- "A miracle
is a violation of a law of nature, and it is | vine knowledge ; but it is a perversion to the proof of a revelation. Mr. Mozley, as describe His mission as directed to the end we have seen, accepts this formula. His of revelation, and not rather to the higher view of the Bible and its evidence never end, in respect of which the revelation was rises above this level ; and the consequences, subordinate. as we think, are very disastrous. He is Let no one suppose that this distinction placed at a singular disadvantage in arguing is a matter of small moment. The absence against science : at a still greater in dealing of it will tell with amazing force in all à with Spinoza. He is driven into awkward priori arguments as to the credibility of the positions and untenable distinctions, as may faith. Let us suppose two disputants whose be seen from his Lectures on · Testimony' subject is the verisimilitude of the mission of and · False Miracles.'
Christ: and let them set out from the posiBut let us see how the matter stands tion expressed or implied that the end of when put to the test of fact. In the first His mission was the revelation of God's place, with regard to revelation :'- if we will; do we not see what a strong case take into consideration the whole events of might be constructed for the negative on à Bible history, and continue our survey priori grounds ? When the facts of His life through the history of the Christian Church, are duly weighed it is seen that they are not does the conception of revelation cover adapted, or only very clumsily, to the end the field of view? Is it an adequate idea presupposed. If God's purpose was simply of the Bible to call it a revelation ? To have revelation, a hundred ways might be imaan adequate conception of a thing is to have gined in which the end might be more dia full idea not only of what it is in itself, rectly attained. This case indeed is hardly but also of its relations to other things an imaginary one: it turns up under many the ends and purposes to which it is adapt- aspects in modern books against the faith. ed. Well, then, in regard to the events of Revelation therefore is not the end of the Bible history, do we adequately compre- events recorded in the Bible. God aimed at hend their purport when we call them a a higher end through them. But now the · revelation'? Is not the contrary very evi- question arises, With which of these ends is dent? Take for instance the mission of the miracle connected ? In the evidential Moses. Should we have an accurate idea school, in whose footsteps Mr. Mozley fol-. of the purpose of God in raising him up, if lows, it is exclusively connected with the we said, He did it, that he might communi- inferior end. A miracle is the proof of a cate a revelation ? Would not this be com- revelation. It exists and has its place pletely to misunderstand the principal end simply and solely for this evidential purof the mission of Moses? In point of fact, pose. Now let us again put this to the test Moses added very little by way of revela- of fact. We would simply remark, to avoid tion. God was known and worshipped by misunderstanding, that we are not denying sacrifice much in the same way before as that evidence is an end attained by the miafter the time of Moses. True, he did add racle: nor are we denying that some mirasomething to the stock of Divine knowl- cles were adapted exclusively to this end. edge; and if you like you may look at his All those miracles that were worked as signs mission as a whole, and, under a certain as- were worked simply as proof. But the ques-pect, speak of it accurately enough as a reve- tion is, Is evidence the exclusive end of mi.. lation. But in doing so you will only have racles considered as a class or whole ? Do a partial and inadequate idea of the pur- they exist simply and solely for this end ? pose of God in Moses. The purpose or end Or is not evidence after all but a collateral of the mission of Moses was the establish- result? Do not miracles aim at something ment of the Theocracy, and in so far as God higher, and only hit the end of evidence as revealed through him, the revelation was it were in passing ? Let us again put the but a means to this bigher end.
matter to the test of fact: the miracles of We thus see in respect of the work of Christ, as they are the most important, will: Moses, that it is an inadequate and conse- best serve for this purpose. quently a perverted view of it to call it a How is it, then, with the miracles of revelation. The same thing will be even Christ ? Were they worked exclusively more glaringly evident in respect of our with a view to evidence? We do not think Blessed Lord. Did God send Him to reveal, any one who studies their character could or did He not rather send Him to redeem for a moment suppose so.
Whether they the world and establish His kingdom ? It had an evidential value or not, it is mani, is true these high ends involved and re- fest that that was not the end for which quired a certain amount of additional Di- | they were worked. They had a much higher.