Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

CELAPTER W.

THE ASSAULTS ON THE MIRACLES.

1. THE JEwish.

A RIGID monotheistic religion like the Jewish, left but one way of escape from the authority of miracles, which once were acknowledged to be indeed such, and not mere collusions and sleights of hand. There remained nothing to say but that which we find in the New Testament the adversaries of the Lord continually did say, namely, that these works were works of hell: “This fellow doth not cast out devils but by Beelzebub, the prince of the devils.” (Matt. xii. 24; cf. Mark iii.22—27; Luke xi. 15–22.) We have our Lord's own answer to the deep malignity of this assertion; his appeal, namely, to the whole tenor of his doctrine and his miracles—whether they were not altogether for the overturning of the kingdom of evil—whether such a lending of power to him on the part of Satan would not be wholly inconceivable, since it were merely and altogether suicidal. For though it would be quite intelligible that Satan should bait his hook with some good, should array himself as an angel of light, and do for a while deeds that might appear as deeds of light, that so he might the better carry through some mighty delusion—

“Win men with honest trifles, to betray them
In deepest consequence,”

just as Darius was willing that a small portion of his army should perish, that so the mighty deceit which Zopyrus was practising against Babylon might succeed?—yet a lasting, unvarying, unrelaxing assault

* They regarded him planum in signis (TEarullian, Adv. Marc, l. 3, c. 6; cf. Apolog, c. 21). This charge is dressed out with infinite blasphemous additions in the later Jewish books. (See EISENMENGER's Entdeckt. Judenth, v.1, p. 148, seq.) + HERodorus 1.3, c. 155.

on his kingdom is unintelligible as being furthered by himself: his kingdom thus in arms against itself, could not stand, but hath an end. He who came, as all his words and his deeds testified, to destroy the works of the Devil, could not have come armed with his power, and helped onward by his aid. It is not a pact with the Evil one which this tells of but of one mightier than that Evil one having entered with power into his stronghold, and who, having bound him, is now spoiling his goods. Our Lord does in fact repel the accusation, and derive authority to his miracles, not on account of the power which they display, however that may be the first thing that brings them into consideration, but on account of the ethical ends which they serve. He appeals to every man's conscience whether the doctrine to which they bare witness, and which bears witness to them, be not from above and not from beneath: and if so, then the power with which he accomplished them could not have been lent him from beneath, since the kingdom of lies would never so contradict itself as seriously to help forward the establishment of the kingdom of truth.* ** There is indeed at first sight a difficulty in the argument which our Saviour draws from the oneness of the kingdom of Satan—namely, that it seems the very idea of this kingdom, that it should be this anarchy— blind rage and hate not merely against God, but each part of it warring against every other part. And this is most deeply true, that hell is as much in arms against itself as against heaven; neither does our Lord deny that in respect of itself that kingdom is infinite contradiction and division: only he asserts that in relation to the kingdom of goodness it is at one: there is one life in it and one soul in relation to that. Just as a nation or kingdom may embrace within itself infinite parties, divisions, discords, jealousies, and heart-burnings; yet if it is to subsist as a nation at all, it must not, as regards other nations, have lost its sense of unity; when it does so, of necessity it falls to pieces and perishes. To the Pharisees he says: “This kingdom of evil subsists; by your own confession it does so; it cannot therefore have denied the one condition of its existence, which is, that it should not lend its powers to the overthrowing of itself—that it should not side with its own foes; I am its foe, it cannot therefore be siding with me.” This accusation against the miracles of Christ, that they were done by the power of an evil magic, the heathen also sometimes used: but evidently having borrowed it from the Jewish adversaries of the Christian faith.f Yet in their mouths, who had no such earnest idea of the king.

[ocr errors]

dom of God upon one side, and the kingdom of evil on the other, and the fixed limits which divide the two, who had peopled the intermediate space with middle powers—some good, some evil, some mingled of both—the accusation was not at all so deeply malignant as in the mouth of a Jew. It was little more than a stone which they found conveniently at hand to fling, and with them is continually passing over into the charge that those works were wrought by trick—that they were conjur. er's arts; the line between the two charges is continually disappearing. The heathen, however, had a method more truly their own of evading the Christian miracles, which is now to consider.

2. THE HEATHEN. (CELsus, HIERocles, Porphyry.)

A religion like the Jewish, which, besides God, and the angels who were in direct and immediate subordination to him, left no spirits conceivable but those in rebellion against him, the absolutely and entirely evil; this, as has been observed, allowed no choice, when once the miracle was adjudged to be not from God, but to attribute it to Satan. There was nothing between; it was from heaven, or if not from heaven, from hell. But it was otherwise in the heathen world, and with the “gods many” of polytheism. So long as these lived in the minds of men, the argument from the miracles was easily evaded. For, what did they prove at the uttermost with regard to the author of them? What but that a god, it might be one of the higher, or it might be one of the middle powers, the Öaiuovsk, the intermediate deities, was with him? What was there, men replied, in this, which justified the demand of an absolute obedience upon their parts? Wherefore should they yield exclusive allegiance to him that wrought these works? The gods had spoken often by others also-had equipped them with powers equal to or greater than those claimed by his disciples for Jesus; yet no man therefore demanded for them that they should be recognized as absolute lords

49; l. 8, c. 9; Augustine, De Cons. Evang, 1.1, cc. 9–11; Jerome, Brev. in Psal., 81, in fine; Arnobius, Adv. Gen., 1.1, c. 43, who brings in this as one of the calumnies of the heathen against the Lord: Magus fuit, clandestinis artibus omnia illa perfecit: AEgyptiorum ex adytis angelorum potentium nomina et remotas furatus est disciplinas; cf. also c. 53. This charge of fetching his magical skill from Egypt, which Celsus in like manner takes up, (Origen, Con. Cels, l. 1, cc. 28, 88; see also Eusebius, Dem. Evang, l. 3, c. 6,) betrays at once the Jewish origin of the accusation. It is evermore repeated in Jewish books. Egypt, say they, was the natural home of magic, so that if the magic of the world were divided into ten parts, Egypt would possess nine; and there, even as the Christian histories confess, Jests resided two years. (ElseNMENGER's Entdeckt. Judenth, v.1, pp. 149, 166.)

of the destinies of men. Esculapius performed wonderful cures; Apol lonius went about the world healing the sick, expelling demons, raising the dead; Aristeas disappeared from the earth in as marvellous a way as the author of the Christian faith: yet no man built upon these won. ders a superstructure such as that which the Christians built upon the wonders of Christ.* Thus Celsus, as we learn from more than one passage in Origen's reply, brings forward now the mythic personages of antiquity, now the magicians of a later date, though apparently with no very distinct pur. pose in his mind, but only with the feeling that somehow or other he can play them off against the divine Author of our religion, and undermine his claims to the allegiance of men. For it certainly remains a question how much credence he gave himself to the miracles which he adduced; and whether, sharing the almost universal skepticism of the educated classes of his day, he did not rather mean that all should fall, than that all should stand together. Hierocles, again, governor of Bithynia, who is accused of being a chief instigator of the cruelties under Diocletian, and who, if the charge be just, wielded arms of unrighteousness on both hands against the Christian faith, the persecutor's sword, and the libeller's pen—followed in the same line. His book we know from the extracts in the answer of Eusebius, and the course of his principal arguments. From this answer it appears that, having recounted various miracles wrought, as he affirms, by Apollonius, he proceeds thus: “Yet do we not account him who has done such things, for a god, only for a man beloved of the gods: while the Christians on the contrary, on account of a few insignificant wonder-works, proclaim their Jesus for a god.” He presently, it is true, shifts his arguments, and no longer al

* The existence of false cycles of miracles should no more cast a suspicion upon all, or cause to doubt those which present themselves with marks of the true, than the appearance of a parhelion forerunning the sun cause us to deny that he was travelling up from beneath the horizon, for which rather it is an evidence. The false money passes, not because there is nothing better and therefore all have consented to receive it, but because there is a good money, under color of which the false is accepted. Thus is it with the longing which has existed “at all times and in all ages after some power which is not circumscribed by the rules of ordinary visible experience, but which is superior to these rules and can transgress them.” The mythic narrations in which such longings find an apparently historic clothing and utterance, so far from being eyed with suspicion, should be most welcome to the Christian inquirer. The enemies of the faith will of course parade these shadows, in the hopes of making us believe that our substance is a shadow also; but they are worse than simple who are cozened by so palpable a fraud.

+ Origen (Con. Cels, l. 3, c. 22) charges him with not believing them.

# In the same way Arnobius (Adv. Gen., l. 1, c. 48) brings in the beathen adver

lows the miracles, denying only the conclusions drawn from then ; but rather denies that they have any credible attestation: in his blind hate, setting them in this respect beneath the miracles of Apollonius, which this “lover of truth,” for under that name he writes, declares to be far more worthily attested. This Apollonius, (of Tyana in Cappadocia,) whose historical existence there does not seem any reason to call in question, was probably born about the time of the birth of Christ, and lived as far as into the reign of Nerva, A.D. 97. Save two or three isolated notices of an earlier date, the only record which we have of him is a Life written by Philostratus, a rhetorician of the second century, professing to be founded on cotemporary documents, yet every where betraying its unhistoric character. It is in fact a philosophic romance, in which the revival and reaction of paganism in the second century is portrayed. Yet was not that Life written, I believe, with any directly hostile purpose against Christianity, but only to prove that they of the old faith had their mighty wonder-worker as well. It was composed, indeed, as seems to me perfectly clear, with an eye to the life of our Lord; the parallels are too remarkable to have been the effect of chance; in a certain sense also in emulation and rivalry; yet not in hostile opposition, not as implying this was the Saviour of men, and not that; nor yet, as some of Lucian's works, in a mocking irony of the things which are written concerning the Lord. This later use which has often been made of the book, must not be confounded with its original purpose, which was certainly different. The first, I believe, who so used it, was Charles Blount, $ one of the earlier English Deists. And passing over some other insignificant endeavors to make the book tell against revealed religion, endeavors in which the feeble hand, however inspired by hate, yet wanted strength

sary saying it is idle to make these claims (frustra tantùm arrogas Christo) on the score of the miracles, when so many others have done the like.

* Philalethes.

# See, for instance, upon the raising of the widow's son, the parallel miracle which I have adduced from the life of Apollonius. The above is Baur's conclusion in his instructive little treatise, Apollonius von Tyana und Christus.

+ His Philopseudes, for instance, and his Vera Historia. Thus only the latter half of this judgment of Huet's (Dem. Evang, prop. 9, c. 147) seems to me to be true: Id spectasse imprimis videtur Philostratus, ut invalescentem jam Christi fidem ac doctrinam deprimeret, opposito hoc omnis doctrinae, sanctitatis, ac mirificae virtutis feneo simulacro. Itaque ad Christi exemplar hanc expressit effigiem, et pleraque ex Christi Jesu historia Apollonio accommodavit, ne quid Ethnici Christianis invidere possent.

§ In his now exceedingly scarce translation, with notes, of The two first Books of Philostratos, London, 1680, with this significant motto from Seneca, Cúm omnia in incerto sint, fave tibi, et crede quod mavis.

« PoprzedniaDalej »