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of Christ's mission, he says, Nulla major est comprobatio quam gestarum ab eo fides rerum, quam virtutum,-and then appeals through ten elo
MOST interesting question remains; What place should
they who are occupied with marshalling and presenting the evidences of Revelation ascribe to the miracles? what is the service which they may render here? The circumstances have been already noticed which hindered them from taking a very prominent place in the early apologies for the faith. The Christian miracles had not as yet sufficiently extricated themselves from the multitude of false miracles, nor was Christ sufficiently discerned and distinguished from the various wonder-workers of his own and of past ages;
and thus, even if men had admitted his miracles to be true and godlike, they would have been hardly nearer to the acknowledging of Christianity as the one faith, or to the accepting of Christ as the way, the truth, and the life.'
A far more prominent position has been assigned them in later times, especially during the last two centuries; and the tone and temper of modern theology abundantly explains the greater, sometimes, I believe, the undue, because the exclusive, prominence, which in this period they have assumed, The apologetic literature of this time partook, as was inevis
1 Thus, in the Apologies of Justin Martyr, they are scarcely made use of at all. It is otherwise indeed with Arnobius, who (Adv. Gen: i. 42) lays much stress on them. Speaking of the truth of Christianity and quent chapters to his miracles.
table, in the general depression of all its theology. No one, I think, would now be satisfied with the general tone and spirit in which the defences of the faith, written during the last two centuries, and beginning with the memorable work of Grotius,' are composed. Much as this book and others of the same character contain of admirable, yet in well nigh all that great truth of the Italian poet seems to have been forgotten,
• They struggle vainly to preserve a part,
Who have not courage to contend for all.' These apologists seem very often to have thought that Deism would best be resisted by reducing Christianity to a sort of revealed Deism. As men that had renounced the hope of defending all, their whole endeavour was to save something; and when their pursuers pressed them hard, they were willing to delay the pursuit by casting to these much that should have been far too dear to them for this. They have been well compared to men, wbo should cry “Thieves and robbers !' and were yet themselves all the while throwing out of the windows the most precious things of the house. And thus it sometimes happened that the good cause suffered quite as much from its defenders as its assailants: for that enemies should be fierce and bitter, this was only to be looked for; but that friends, those in whose keeping was the citadel, should be timid and half-hearted and ready for a compromise, if not for a surrender, was indeed an augury of ill. Now this, which caused so much to be thrown greatly out of sight, as generally the deeper mysteries of our faith, which brought about a slight of the inner arguments for the truth of revelation, caused the argument from the miracles to assume a disproportionate importance. A value too exclusive was set on them; they were rent away from the truths for which they witnessed, and which witnessed for them,-only too much like seals torn off from the document which at once they rendered valid, and which in return gave
1 De Veritate Religionis Christiane.
importance to them. And thus, in this unnatural isolation, separated from Christ's person and doctrine, the whole burden of proof was laid on them. They were the apology for Christianity, the reason men should give for the faith which was in them.'
It is not hard to see the motives which led to this. Men wanted an absolute demonstration of the Christian faith,one which, objectively, should be equally good for every man : they desired to bring the matter to the same sort of proof as exists for a problem in mathematics or a proposition in logic. And consistently with this we see the whole argument cast exactly into the same forms of definitions, postulates, axioms, and propositions. Yet the state of mind which made men desire either to find for themselves, or to furnish for others, proofs of this nature, was not altogether a healthy one. It was plain that their faith had become very much an external historic one, who thus eagerly looked round for outward evidences, and found a value only in such ; instead of turning in upon themselves as well, for evidence that they had not followed cunningly devised fables,' and saying, “We know the things which we believe,they are to us truer than aught else can be, for we have the witness of the Spirit for their truth. We have found these things to be true, for they have come to us in demonstration of the Spirit and in power.' In place of such an appeal to those mighty influences which Christ's words and doctrine
1 I include, in the proofs drawn from the miracles, those drawn from the Old-Testament prophecies,—for it was only as miracles (miracula præscientiæ, as the others are miracula potentiæ), that these prophecies were made to do service and arrayed in the forefront of this battle; as by the learned and acute Huet, in his Demonstratio Evangelica, in which the fulfilment of prophecy in the person of Jesus of Nazareth is altogether the point round which the whole argument turns, as he himself in the Preface, § 2, declares. · For example
, by Huet in his work referred to above. He claims for the way of proof upon which he is entering that it is the safest, and has the precision, and carries the conviction, of a goometrical proof (Præfatio, $ 2): Utpote quæ constet hoc genere demonstrationis
, quod non minus certum sit quam demonstratio quævis geometrica.
exercise on every heart that receives them, to their transforming, transfiguring power, to the miracles of grace which are the heritage of every one who has believed to salvation, in place of urging on the gainsayers in the very language of the Lord, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God’ (John vii. 17), this all as vague and mystical (instead of being seen to be, as it truly was, the most sure and certain of all) was thrown into the background. Men were afraid to trust themselves and their cause to evidences like these, and would know of no other statement of the case than this barren and hungry one :Christianity is a divine revelation, and this the miracles which accompanied its promulgation prove.
What must first be found fault with here is the wilful abandonment of such large regions of proof, which the Christian apologist ought triumphantly to have occupied as his proper domain—the whole region, mainly and chiefly, of the inner spiritual life; the foregoing of any appeal to the mysterious powers of regeneration and renewal, which are ever found to follow upon a true affiance on Him who is the Giver of this faith, and who has pledged Himself to these very results in those who rightly receive it.
To these proofs he might at least have ventured an appeal, when seeking not to convince an unbeliever, but, as would be often his aim, to carry one that already believed round the whole circle of the defences of his position, to make him aware of the relative strength of each, to give him a scientific insight into the grounds on which his faith rested. Here, at any rate, the appeal to what he had himself known and tasted of the powers of the world to come, might well have found room. For, to use the words of Coleridge," • Is not a true, efficient conviction of a moral truth, is not the creating of a neu heart, which collects the energies of a man's whole being in the focus of the conscience, the one essential
· The Friend, vol. iii. Essay ii.
miracle, the same and of the same evidence to the ignorant and to the learned, which no superior skill can counterfeit, human or demoniacal ; is it not emphatically that leading of the Father, without which no man can come to Christ; is it not that implication of doctrine in the miracle, and of miracle in the doctrine, which is the bridge of communication between the senses and the soul ;-that predisposing warmth which renders the understanding susceptible of the specific impressions from the history, and from all other outward seals of testimony ?' And even were the argument with one who had never submitted himself to these blessed powers, and to whose experience therefore no like appeal could be made, yet even for him there is the outward utterance of this inward truth, in that which he could not deny, save as he denied or was ignorant of everything, which would make him one to be argued with at all,—the standing miracle, I mean, of a Christendom 'commensurate and almost synonymous with the civilized world,'—the mighty changes which this religion of Christ has wrought in the earth, - the divine fruits which it everywhere has borne,—the new creation which it has everywhere brought about,—the way in which it has taken its place in the world, not as a forcible intruder, but finding all that world's preëstablished harmonies ready to greet and welcome it, to give it play and room,-philosophy, and art, and science practically confessing that only under it could they attain their highest perfection, that in something they had all been dwarfed and stunted and incomplete till it came. Little as it wears of the glory which it ought, yet it wears enough to proclaim that its origin was more than mundane. Surely from a Christendom, even such as it shows itself now, it is fair to argue to a Christ such as the Church receives as the only adequate
It is an oak which from no other acorn could have unfolded itself into so tall and stately a tree.
It is true that in this there is an abandoning of the attempt to put the proof of Christianity into the same form as