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It is also noticeable that the region in which the miracles of the Old Testament chiefly move, is that of external nature; they are the cleaving of the sea, (Exod. xiv. 21,) or of a river, (Josh. iii. 14,) yawnings of the earth, (Num. xvi. 31,) fire falling down from heaven, (2 Kin, i. 10, 12,) furnaces which have lost their power to consume, (Dan. iii.,) wild beasts which have laid aside their inborn fierceness, (Dan. vi.,) and such as these : not of course these exclusively, but this nature is the haunt and main region of the miracle in the Old Testament, as in the New it is mainly the sphere of man's life in which it is at home. And consistently with this, the earlier miracles, done as the greater number of them were, in the presence of the giant powers of heathendom, have oftentimes a colossal character: those powers of the world are strong, but the God of Israel will show himself to be stronger yet. Thus is it with the miracles of Egypt, the miracles of Babylon: they are miracles eminently of strength;* for under the influence of the great natureworships of those lands, all religion had assumed a colossal grandeur. Compared with our Lord's works wrought in the days of his flesh, those were the whirlwind and the fire, and his as the still small voice which followed. In that old time God was teaching his people, he was teaching also the nations with whom his people were brought wonderfully into contact, that he who had entered into covenant with one among all the nations, was not one God among many, the God of the hills or the God of the plains, (1 Kin. xx. 23,) but that the God of Israel was the Lord of the whole earth.
But Israel at the time of the Incarnation had thoroughly learned that lesson, much else as it had left unlearned : and the whole civilized world had practically outgrown polytheism, however it may have lingered still as the popular superstition. And thus the works of our Lord, though
miracle. Christ's answer, “ Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of,” is not, as it is often explained, “ Ye are mistaking a spirit of bitter zeal for a spirit of love to me;"—but the rebuke is gentler, “ Ye are mistaking and confounding the different standing points of the Old and New Covenant, taking your stand upon the old, that of an avenging righteousness, when you should rejoice to take it upon the new, that of a forgiving love."
* We find the false Christs who were so plentiful about the time of our Lord's coming, professing and promising to do exactly the same works as those wrought of yore,—to repeat even on a larger scale these Old Testament miracles. Thus that Egyptian” whom the Roman tribune supposed that he saw in Paul, (Acts xxi. 38,) and of whom Josephus gives us a fuller account, (Antt., l. 20, c. 8, § 6,) led a tumultvous crowd to the Mount of Olives, promising to show them from thence how, as a second and a greater Joshua, be would cause the walls, not of Jericho, but of Jerusalem, to fall to the ground at his bidding. (See Vitringa's interesting Essay, De Signis & Messiâ edendis, in his Obse Sas., v. 1, p. 482.)
they bear not on their front the imposing character which did those of old, yet contain higher and deeper truths. They are eminently miracles of the Incarnation-of the Son of God, who had taken our flesh, and taking, would heal it. They have predominantly a relation to man's body and his spirit. Miracles of nature take now altogether a subordinate place: they still survive, even as we could have ill afforded wholly to have lost them; for this region of nature must still be claimed as part of Christ's dominion, though not its chiefest or its noblest province. Man, and not nature, is now the main subject of these mighty powers; and thus it comes to pass that, with less of outward pomp, less to startle and amaze, the new have a yet deeper inward significance than the old.*
2. THE MIRACLES OF THE APOCRYPHAL GOSPELS.
The apocryphal gospels, abject productions as, whether contemplated in a literary or moral point of view, they must be allowed to be, are yet instructive in this respect, that they show us what manner of gospels were the result, when men drew from their own fancy, and devised Christs of their own, instead of resting upon the basis of historic fact, and delivering faithfully to the world true records of him who indeed had lived and died among them. Here, as ever, the glory of the true comes out into strongest light by comparison with the false. But in nothing, perhaps, are these apocryphal gospels more worthy of note, than in the difference between the main features of their miracles and those of the canonical Gospels. Thus in the canonical, the miracle is indeed essential, yet, at the same time, ever subordinated to the doctrine which it confirms,-a link in the great chain of God's manifestation of himself to men; its ethical significance never falls into the background, but the act of grace and power has, in every case where this can find room, nearer or remoter reference to the moral condition of the person or per sons in whose behalf it is wrought. The miracles ever lead us off from themselves to their Author; they appear as emanations from the glory of the Son of God; but it is in him we rest, and not in them, they are but the halo round him; having their worth from him, not contrariwise, he from them. They are held, too, together by his strong and central personality, which does not leave them a conglomerate of marvellous anecdotes accidently heaped together, but parts of a great organic
* Julian the Apostate had indeed so little an eye for the glory of such works as these, that in one place he says, (CYRILL., Adv. Jul., 1. 6,) Jesus did nothing wonderful, “ unless any should esteem that to have healed some lame and blind, and exorcised some demoniacs in villages like Bethsaida and Bethany, were very wonderful works."
whole, of which every part is in vital coherence with every other. But it is altogether otherwise in these apocryphal narratives. To say that the miracles occupy in them the foremost place would very inadequately express the facts of the case. They are every thing. Some of these So-called histories are nothing else but a string of these; which yet (and this too is singularly characteristic) stand wholly disconnected from the ministry of Christ. Not one of them belongs to the period after his Baptism, but they are all miracles of the Infancy,-in other words, of that time whereof the canonical Gospels relate no miracle, and not merely do not relate any, but are remarkably at pains to tell us that during it no miracle was wrought, that in Cana of Galilee being his first. (John ii. 11.)
It follows of necessity that they are never seals of a word and doctrine which has gone before; they are never “signs,” but at the best wonders and portents. Any high purpose and aim is clearly altogether absent from them. It is never felt that the writer is writing out of any higher motive than to excite and feed a childish love of the marvellous -never that he could say, “These are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God, and that believing ye might have life through his name.” (John xx. 31.) Indeed, so far from having a religious, they are often wanting in a moral element. The Lord Jesus appears in them as a wayward, capricious, passionate child, to be feared indeed, seeing that he is furnished with such formidable powers of avenging every wrong or accidental injury which he meets; and so bearing himself, that the request which the parents of some other children are represented as making, that he may be kept within the house, for he brings harm and mischief wherever he comes, is perfectly justified by the facts.
It may be well to cite a few examples in proof, however harshly some of them may jar on the Christian ear. Thus some children refuse to play with him, hiding themselves from him; he pursues and turns them into kids.* Another child by accident runs against him and throws him down; whereupon he, being exasperated, t exclaims, “ As thou hast made me to fall, so shalt thou fall and not rise;" at the same hour the child fell down and expired. He has a dispute with the master who is teaching him letters, concerning the order in which he shall go through the Hebrew alphabet, and his master strikes him; whereupon
* Evang. Infant., c. 40, in Thilo's Cod. Apocr., p. 115; to whose admirable edi. tion of the apocryphal gospels the references in this section are made throughout. + Πικρανθείς.
Evang. Infant., c. 47, p. 123; cf. Evang. Thomæ, c. 4, p. 284.
Jesus curses him, and straightway his arm is withered, and he falls on his face and dies.* This goes on, till at length Joseph says to Mary, “Henceforward let us keep him within doors, for whosoever sets himself against him, perishes." His passionate readiness to avenge himself shows itself at the very earliest age. At five years old he has made a pool of water, and is moulding sparrows from the clay. Another child, the son of a scribe, displeased that he should do this on the Sabbath, opens the sluices of his pool and lets out the water. On this Jesus is indignant, gives him many injurious names, and causes him to wither and wholly dry up with his curse.
Such is the image which the authors of these books give us of the holy child Jesus ; -and no wonder; for man is not only unable to realize the perfect, he
unable to conceive it. The idea is as much a gift, as the power to realize that idea. Even the miracles which are not of this revolting character are childish, tricks like the tricks of a conjurer, never solemn acts of power and love. Jesus enters the shop of a dyer, who has various cloths from various persons, to be dyed of divers colors. In the absence of the master, he throws them all into the dyeing vat together, and when the dyer returns and remonstrates, draws them out of the vat each dyed according to the color which was enjoined. I He and some other children make birds and animals of clay; while each is boasting the superiority of his work, Jesus says, “I will cause those which I have made to go;"_which they do, the animals leaping and the birds flying, and at his bidding returning, and eating and drinking from his hand. While yet an infant at his mother's breast, he bids a palm-tree to stoop that she may pluck the fruits; it obeys, and only returns to its position at his command. || Another time his mother sends him to the well for water; the pitcher breaks, and he brings the water in his cloak. And as the miracles which he does, so those that are done in regard of him, are idle or monstrous ; the ox and ass worshipping him, a new-born infant in the crib, may serve for an example.*
In all these, as will be observed, the idea of redemptive acts altogether falls out of sight; they are none of them the outward clothing of the inward facts of man's redemption. Of course it is not meant to be said that miracles of healing and of grace are altogether wanting in
* Evang. Infant., c. 49, p. 125. In the Evang. Thom., c. 14, p. 307, he only falls into a swoon, and something afterwards pleasing Jesus, (c. 15.) he raises him up again.
† Evang. Thom., c. 3, p. 282. This appears with variations in the Evang. Infant., C. 46, p. 122. | Evang. Infant., c. 37, p. 111.
§ Ibid., c. 36.
| Ibid., p. 395. Evang. Infant., p. 121.
** Ibid., p. 382.
these books ;* that would evidently have been incompatible with any idea of a Redeemer; but only that they do not present to us any clear and consistent image of a Saviour full of grace and power, but an image rather continually defaced by lines of passion, and caprice, and anger. The most striking, perhaps, of the miracles related in regard of the child Jesus, is that of the falling down of the idols of Egypt at his presence in the land; for it has in it something of a deeper significance, as a symbol and prophecy of the overthrow of the idol worship of the world by him who was now coming into the world. The lions and the leopards gathering harmlessly round him as he passed through the desert on the way to Egypt, is again not alien to the true spirit of the Gospel, and has its analogy in the words of St. Mark, that he was with the wild beasts;" (i. 13;) words which certainly are not introduced merely to enhance the savageness of the wilderness where he spent those forty days of temptation, but are meant as a hint to us that in him, the new head of the race, the second Adam, the Paradisaical state was once more given back. (Gen. i. 28.) But with a very few such partial exceptions as these, the apocryphal gospels are a barren and dreary waste of wonders without object or aim; and only instructive as making us strongly to feel, more strongly than but for these examples we might have felt, how needful it is that there should be other factors besides power for producing a true miracle; that wisdom and love must be there also ; that where men conceive of power as its chiefest element, they give us only a hateful mockery of the divine. Had a Christ such as these gospels paint actually lived upon the earth, he had been no more than a potent and wayward magician, from whom all men would have shrunk with a natural instinct of distrust and fear.
3. THE LATER, OR ECCLESIASTICAL, MIRACLES.
It would plainly lead much too far from the subject in hand to enter into any detailed examination of the authority upon which the later, or, as they may be conveniently termed, the ecclesiastical miracles, come to us. Yet a few words must of necessity find place concerning the permanent miraculous gifts which have been claimed for the Church as her rightful heritage, equally by some who have gloried in their pre
* For instance, Simon the Canaanite (Ibid., p. 117) is healed, while yet a child, of the bite of a serpent. Yet even in miracles such as this, there is always something that will not let us forget that we are moving in another world from that in which the sacred evangelists place us.
| Evang. Infant., c. 10–12, pp. 75—77; cf. 1 Sam. v. 8, 4.