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The Egyptian magicians, his servants, stood in relation to a spiritual kingdom as truly as did Moses and Aaron. Only when we recognize this, does the conflict between those and these come out in its true significance. It loses this nearly or altogether, if we contemplate their wonders as mere conjurors' tricks, dexterous sleights of hand, with which they imposed upon Pharaoh and his servants; making believe, and no more, that their rods also changed into serpents (Exod. vii. 11, 12), that they also changed water into blood (Exod. vii. 22). Rather was this a conflict not merely between the might of Egypt's king and the power of God; but the gods of Egypt, the spiritual powers of wickedness which underlay, and were the informing soul of, that dark and evil kingdom, were in conflict with the God of Israel. In this conflict, it is true, their nothingness very soon was apparent; their resources came very soon to an end; but yet most truly the two unseen kingdoms of light and darkness did then in presence of Pbaraoh do open battle, each seeking to win the king for itself, and to draw him into its own element." Else, unless it had
phantasmata decepturus sit (Antichristus]; ut quod non faciat, facere videatur; an quia illa ipsa, etiamsi erunt vera prodigia, ad mendacium pertrahent credituros non ea potuisse, nisi divinitus fieri, virtutem diaboli nescientes. According to Aquinas they will only be relative wonders (Summ. Theol. p. io, qu. 114, art. 4): Dæmones possunt facere miracula, quæ scilicet homines mirantur, in quantuin eorum facultatem et cognitionem excedunt. Nam et unus homo in quantum facit aliquid quod est supra facultatem et cognitionem alterius, ducit alium in admirationem sui operis, et quodam modo miraculum videatur operari. And again, qu. 110, art. 4: Miraculum proprie dicitur, cum aliquid fit præter ordinem naturæ. Sed non sufficit ad rationem miraculi, si quid fiat præter ordinem naturæ alicujus particularis ; quia sic, cum aliquis projicit lapidem sursum, miraculum faceret, cum hoc fit præter ordinem naturæ lapidis. Ex hoc ergo aliquid dicitur miraculum, quod fit præter ordinem totius naturæ creatæ. Hoc autem non potest facere nisi Deus.
The principal argument against this, is the fact that inexplicable feats of exactly like kinds are done by the modern Egyptian charmers ; some are recounted in the great French work upon Egypt, and attested by keen and sharp-sighted observers. But taking into consideration all · which we know about these magicians, that they apparently have always constituted an hereditary guild, that the charmer throws himself into an ecstatic state, the question remains, how far there may not be here a
been such a conflict as this, what meaning would such passages have as that in Moses' Song, 'Who is like unto thee, O Lord, among the gods' (Exod. xv. 11)? or that earlier, ' Against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment; I am the Lord' (Exod. xii. 12; cf. Numb. xxxiii. 4). As it was then, so probably was it again at the Incarnation, for Satan's open encounter of our Lord in the wilderness was but one form of his manifold opposition; and we have a hint of a resistance similar to that of the Egyptian magicians in the
withstanding of Paul ascribed to Elymas (Acts xiii. 8; cf. 2 Tim. iii. 8).' But whetber at that time it was so, or not, so will it be certainly at the end of the world (Matt. xxiv. 24; 2 Thess. ii. 9; Rev. xiii. 13). Thus it seems that at each great crisis and epoch of the kingdom, the struggle between the light and the darkness, which has ever been going forward, comes out into visible manifestation.
Yet, while the works of Antichrist and his organs are not mere tricks and juggleries, neither are they miracles in the very highest sense of the word; they only in part partake of the essential elements of the miracle. This they have, indeed,
wreck and surviving fragment of a mightier system, how far the charmers do not even now, consciously or unconsciously, bring themselves into relation with those evil powers, which more or less remotely do at the last underlie every form of heathen superstition. On this subject Hengstenberg (Die Bücher Mose's und Ägypten, pp. 97-103) has much of interest.
1 According to Gregory the Great (Moral. xxxiv. 3) one of the hardest trials of the elect in the last great tribulation will be, the far more glorious miracles which Antichrist shall show, than any which the Church shall then be allowed to accomplish. From the Church signs and wonders will be well nigh or altogether withdrawn, while the greatest and most startling of these will be at his beck.
2 «Therefore hath God reserved to Himself the power of miracles as a prerogative; for the devil does no miracles; the devil and his instruments do but hasten nature, or hinder nature, antedate nature, or postdate nature, bring things sooner to pass, or retard them; and howsoever they pretend to oppose nature, yet still it is but upon nature, and but by natural means, that they work. Facit mirabilia magna solus, says David (Ps. cxxxvi. 4); there are mirabilia parva, some lesser wonders, that the devil and his instruments, Pharaoh's sorcerers, can do; but when it comes to mirabilia magna, great wonders, so great as that
in common with it, that they are real works of a power which is suffered to extend thus far, and not merely dexterous feats of legerdemain; but this, also, which is most different, that they are abrupt, isolated, parts of no organic whole; not the highest harmonies, but the deepest discords, of the universe;' not the omnipotence of God wielding his own world to ends of grace and wisdom and love, but evil permitted to intrude into the hidden springs of things just so far as may suffice for its own deeper confusion in the end, and, in the mean while, for the needful trial and perfecting of God's saints and servants.
This fact, however, that the kingdom of lies has its wonders no less than the kingdom of truth, is itself sufficient evidence that miracles cannot be appealed to absolutely and finally, in proof of the doctrine which the worker of them proclaims; and God's word expressly declares the same (Deut. xiii. 1-5). A miracle does not prove the truth of a doctrine, or the divine mission of him that brings it to pass. That which alone it claims for him at the first is a right to be listened to: it puts him in the alternative of being from heaven or from hell. The doctrine must first commend itself to the conscience as being good, and only then can the miracle seal it as divine. But the first appeal is from the doctrine to the conscience, to the moral nature in man. For all revelation presupposes in man a power of recognizing the truth when it is shown him,—that it will find an answer in him,that he will trace in it the lineaments of a friend, though of
they amount to the nature of a miracle, facit solus, God and God only does them.'-Donne, Sermons, p. 215.
They have the veritas forme, but not the veritas finis. ? See Augustine, De Trin. iii. 7-9.
* Jeremy Taylor (Liberty of Prophesying): Although the argument drawn from miracles is good to attest a holy doctrine, which by its own worth will support itself after way is a little made by miracles; yet of itself and by its own reputation it will not support any fabric; for instead of proving a doctrine to be true, it makes that the miracles themselves are suspected to be illusions, if they be pretended in behalf of a doctrine which we think we have reason to account false.'
a friend from whom he has been long estranged, and whom he has well nigh forgotten. It is the finding of a treasure, but of a treasure which he himself and no other had lost. The denial of this, that there is in man any organ by which truth may be recognized, opens the door to the most boundless scepticism, is indeed the denial of all that is godlike in
But he that is of God, heareth God's word,' and knows it for that which it proclaims itself to be.
It may be objected, indeed, If this be so, if there be this inward witness of the truth, what need then of the miracle? to what end does it serve, when the truth has accredited itself already? It has, indeed, accredited itself as good, as from God in the sense that all which is good and true is from Him, as whatever was precious in the teaching even of heatben sage or poet was from Him ;—but not as yet as a new word directly from Him, a new speaking on his part to man. The miracles shall be credentials for the bearer of that good word, signs that he has a special mission for the realization of the purposes of God in regard of humanity. When the truth has found a receptive heart, has awoke deep echoes in the innermost soul of man, he who brings it may thus show that he stands yet nearer to God than others, that he is to be heard not merely as one that is true, but as himself the Truth (see Matt. xi. 4, 5; John v. 36); or at least, as a messenger standing in direct connexion with Him who is the Truth (1 Kin. xiii. 3); claiming unreserved submission, and the reception, upon his authority, of other statements which transcend the mind of man,,mysteries, which though, of course, not against that measure and standard of truth which God has given unto every man, yet cannot be weighed or measured by it.
To demand such a sign from one who comes professing to be the utterer of a new revelation, the bringer of a direct
· Gregory the Great (Hom. iv. in Evang.): Unde et adjuncta sunt prædicationibus sanctis miracula; ut fidem verbis daret virtus ostensa, et nova facerent, qui nova prædicarent.
message from God, to demand this, even when the word already commends itself as good, is no mark of unbelief, but on the contrary is a duty upon his part to whom the message is brought. Else might he lightly be persuaded to receive that as from God, which, indeed, was only the word of man. Credulity is as real, if not so great, a sin as unbelief. It was no impiety on the part of Pharaoh to say to Moses and Aaron, “Show a miracle for you' (Exod. vii. 9, 10); on the contrary, it was altogether right for him to require this. They came, averring they had a message for bim from God : it was his duty to put them to the proof. His sin began, when he refused to believe their credentials. On the other hand, it was a mark of unbelief in Ahaz (Isai. vii. 10-13), however he might disguise it, that he would not ask a sign from God in confirmation of the prophet's word. Had that word been more precious to him, he would not have been satisfied till the seal was set to it; and that he did not care for the seal was a sure evidence that he did not truly care for the promise which should receive the seal.
But the purpose of the miracle being, as we have seen, to confirm that which is good, so, upon the other hand, where the mind and conscience witness against the doctrine, not all the miracles in the world have a right to demand submission to the word which they seal. On the contrary, the great act of faith is to believe, against, and in despite of, them all, in what God has revealed to, and implanted in, the soul, of the holy and the true; not to believe another Gospel, though an Angel from heaven, or one transformed into such, should bring it (Deut. xiii. 3; Gal. i. 8);? and instead of compelling
As Gregory the Great says well, The Church does not so much deny, as despise the miracles of heretics (Moral. xx. 7): Sancta Ecclesia, etiam si qua fiunt hæreticorum miracula, despicit; quia hæc sanctitatis specimen non esse cognoscit.
Augustine (De Civ. Dei, x. 16): Si tantum hi [angeli] mirabilibus factis humanas permoverent mentes, qui sacrificia sibi expetunt: illi autem qui hoc prohibent, et uni tantum Deo sacrificari jubent, nequaquam ista visibilia miracula facere dignarentur, profecto non sensu corporis,