« PoprzedniaDalej »
ON THE NAMES OF THE MIRACLES.
Every discussion about a thing will best proceed from an investigation of the name or names which it bears; for the name ever seizes and presents the most distinctive features of the thing, embodying them for us in a word. In the name we have the true declaration of the innermost nature of the thing; we have a witness to that which the universal sense of men, finding its utterance in language, has ever felt thus to lie at its heart; and if we would learn to know the thing, we must start with seeking accurately to know the name which it bears. In the discussion upon which now we are entering, the names are manifold; for it is a consequence of this, that, where we have to do with any thing which in many ways is significant, that will have inevitably many names, since no one will exhaust its meaning. Each of these will embody a portion of its essential qualities, will present it upon a single side; and not from the exclusive contemplation of any one, but only of these altogether, will any adequate apprehension of that which we desire to know be obtained. Thus what we commonly call miracles, are in the Sacred Scriptures termed sometimes “wonders,” sometimes “signs,” sometimes “powers,” sometimes, simply, “works.” These titles they have in addition to some others of rarer occurrence, and which easily range themselves under one or other of these;—on each of which I would fain say a few words, before attempting to make any
further advance in the subject.
1. To take then first the name “wonder,” in which the effect of as. tonishment which the work produces upon the beholder is transferred to the work itself, an effect often graphically portrayed by the Evangelists, when relating our Lord's miracles, (Mark ii. 12; iv. 41; vi. 51; viii. 37; Acts iii. 10, 11,) it will at once be felt that this does but touch the matter on the outside. The ethical meaning of the miracle would be wholly lost, were blank astonishment or gaping wonder all which they aroused; since the same effect might be produced by a thousand meaner causes. Indeed, it is not a little remarkable, rather is it singularly characteristic of the miracles of the New Testament, that this name “wonders” is never applied to them but in connection with other names. They are continually “signs and wonders,” or “signs” or “powers” alone, but never “wonders” alone. Not that the miracle, considered simply as a wonder, as an astonishing event which the beholders can reduce to no law with which they are acquainted, is even as such without sts meaning and its purpose; that purpose being that it should forcibly startle from the mere dream of a sense-bound existence, and, however it may not be itself an appeal to the spiritual in man, should yet be a summons to him that he should open his eyes to the spiritual appeal which is about to be addressed to him.
2. But the miracle, besides being a “wonder,” is also a “sign,”f a token and indication of the near presence and working of God. In this word the ethical end and purpose of the miracle comes out the most prominently, as in “wonder” the least. They are signs and pledges of something more than and beyond themselves; (Isaiah vii. 11; xxxviii. 7;)* they are valuable, not so much for what they are, as for what they indicate of the grace and power of the doer, or of the connection in which he stands with a higher world. Oftentimes they are thus seals of power set to the person who accomplishes them, (“the Lord confirming the word by signs following,” Mark xvi. 20; Acts xiv. 3; Heb. ii. 4;) legitimating acts, by which he claims to be attended to as a messenger from God. We find the word continually used in senses such as these: Thus, “What sign showest thou?” (John ii. 18,) was the question which the Jews asked, when they wanted the Lord to justify the things which he was doing, by showing that he had especial authority to do them. Again they say, “We would see a sign from thee;” (Matt. xii. 38;) “Show us a sign from heaven.” (Matt. xvi.
* Tépac. The term 6aúua, near akin to tépac, and one of the commonest in the Greek Fathers to designate the miracles, never occurs in the Holy Scripture; 6avuáatov only once; (Matt. xxvi. 15;) but the 6avuáčew is often brought out as a consequence. (Matt. viii. 27; ix. 8, 33; xv. 31, &c.) IIapáčošov, which in like manner brings out the unexpectedness of the wonder, and so implies, though it does not express, the astonishment which it causes—a word of frequent usage in ecclesiastical Greek-is found only Luke v. 26.
# It is not satisfactory that a word, which is thus only the subordinate one in the Greek, should be the chief one in our language to designate these divine facts, that the two words almost exclusively in use among us, namely wonders and miracles, should bring out only the accidental accompaniment, the astonishment which the work creates, and should go so little into the deeper meaning of the work itself. The Latin miraculum (which properly is not a substantive, but the neuter of miraculus) and the German Wunder lie exactly under the same defect.
+ Xmuelov. Our version is not entirely satisfactory from its lack of consistency in rendering this word. There is no reason why amuelov should not always have been rendered “sign;” but in the Gospel of St. John, with whom the word is an especial favorite, far oftener than not, “sign” gives place to the vaguer “miracle,” and this sometimes not without injury to the entire clearness and force of the words. See for instance, iii. 2; vii. 31; x. 41; and especially vi. 26, where the substitution of “miracles” for “signs” is greatly injurious to the meaning. Our version makes Christ to say to the multitude, which, after he had once fed them in the wilderness, gathered
round him again, “Ye seek me not because ye saw the miracles, &c.” But rather should it be, “Ye seek me not because ye saw signs,” (amueia without the article.) “not because ye recognized in these works of mine tokens and intimations of a higher presence, something which led you to conceive great thoughts of me: they are no glimpses of my higher nature, which you have caught, and which bring you here; but you come that you may again be filled.” The coming merely because they saw miracles, in the strictest sense of the word—works that had made them marvel—the coming with the expectation of seeing such again, would have been as much condemned by our Lord as the coming only for the satisfying of their lowest earthly wants. (Matt. xii. 39; xvi. 1–4.) * Basil upon this passage: "Eart amuelov opäyua pavepôv, xexpvuuévov rivác ka? &@avoic ēv Šavrö täv Óñāootv škov. (SUICER's Thes, s. v.) And Lampe is good here (Comm. in Joh., v.1, p. 513): Designat sané amuelov naturâ suá remnon tantúm extraordinariam, sensusque percellentem, sed etiam talem, quae in rei alterius, absentis licet et futurae significationem atque adumbrationem adhibetur, unde et prognostica (Matth. xvi. 3) et typi (Matth. xii. 39; Luc. xi. 29) nec non sacramenta, quale est illud circumcisionis, (Rom. iv. 11,) eodem nomina in N.T. exprimi solent. Aptissimé ergo haec vox de miraculis usurpatur, ut indicet, quod non tantùm admirabili modo fuerint perpetrata, sed etiam sapientissimo consilio Dei ita directa atque ordinata ut fuerint simul characteres Messiae, ex quibus cognoscendus erat, sigilla doctrinae quam proferebat, et beneficiorum gratiae per Messiam jam praestandae, nec non typi viarum Dei, earumque circumstantiarum per quas talia beneficia erant applicanda. # The Latin monstrum, whether we derive it with Cicero (De Divin, 1.1, c. 42) from monstro, or with Festus from moneo, (monstrum = monestrum,) though commonly used as answering most nearly to Tépac, is in truth by either etymology more nearly related to amusiov. Thus Augustine, who follows Cicero's derivation (De Civ. Dei. l. 21, c. 8): Monstra sané dicta perhibent à monstrando, quod aliquid significando demonstrant; et ostenta ab ostendendo, et portenta à portendendo, id est praeostendendo, et prodigia quod porrö dicant, id est futura praedicant.