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Not very different is Strauss's own method of proceeding. He wields the same weapons of destructive criticism, thinking to show how each history will crumble at his touch—will remain a heap of improbabilities, which no one can any longer maintain. It needs not to say that he is a more accomplished adversary than Woolston, with far ampler resources at command,-more, if not of his own, yet of other men's learning; inheriting as he does all the negative criticism of the last hundred years, of an epoch, that is, which has been sufficiently fruitful in this kind. Here indeed is in great part the secret of the vast sensation which his work for a season caused: all that was scattered up and down in many books he has brought together and gathered into a single focus; all which other men had spoken faintly and with reserve, he with a greater boldness has spoken out; he has dared to give utterance to all which was trembling upon the lips of numbers, but which, from one cause or another, they had shrunk from openly declaring. Yet as regards the treatment of the miracles, for with that only we have now to do, there are differences between him and Woolston. He unites in his own person the philosophical and the critical assailant of these ; for he starts from the philosophic ground of Spinoza, that the miracle is impossible, since the laws of nature are the only and the necessary laws of God; and he then proceeds to the critical examination of the Gospel miracles in detail; but of course in each case to the trial of that which is already implicitly tried and condemned. Thus, if he is ever at a loss—if any of them give him trouble—if they oppose a stubborn resistance to the powerful solvents which he applies, threatening to stand in despite of all, he immediately falls back on his philoso
certain spiritual truths; for which, indeed, the authority of the chiefest allegorists in the Church, as Origen and Augustine and others, may be adduced;—yet so, that Woolston imputes falsely to them the intention of thrusting out, as he would do, the literal interpretation by the allegorical altogether; while yet they, a few instances on Origen's part being excepted, are inclined to let both explanations stand, the one by the other. Woolston's statement of the case may leave a doubt to which of the two alternatives which he sets over against one another, he with his own judgment inclines. If one calls to mind, that before he came forward as an opponent of Christianity, as received in his day, he occupied himself with allegorical interpretations of the Scripture, one might regard this as the opinion which was most truly his own. But on the other hand, all that he can adduce of incongruities in the literal sense of the miracle histo
ries is brought forward with such one-sided zeal, and so colors the whole with its mocking tone, that one must rather conjecture that the Deist seeks only, by urging the allegorical sense, to secure his own rear, so that he may the more boldly let himself
loose on the literal meaning.” (Leben Jesu, 3rd edit., v.1, p. 14.) There is a very accurate and carefully written account of Woolston, and his life and writings in LECHLER's Geschichte des Englischen Deismus, pp. 289—311.
phic ground, and exclaims, “But if we admit it was thus, then we should have here a miracle, and we have started from the first principle, that such is inconceivable.” This mockery in every case he repeats, trying them one by one, which have all been condemned by him beforehand in the gross.
There is, too, this further difference, that while Woolston professed to consider the miracles as the conscious clothing of spiritual truth, allegories devised artificially, and, so to speak, in cold blood, for the setting forth truths of the kingdom, Strauss gives them a freer birth and a somewhat nobler origin. They are the halo of glory with which the infant Church gradually and without any purposes of deceit clothed its Founder and its Head. His mighty personality, of which it was livingly conscious, caused it ever to surround him with new attributes of glory. All which men had ever craved and longed for—deliverance from physical evil, dominion over the crushing powers of nature, victory over death itself—all which had ever in a lesser measure been attributed to any, they lent in larger abundance, in unrestrained fulness, to him whom they felt greater than all. The system may be most fitly characterized as the Church making its Christ, and not Christ his Church.
With one only observation I will pass on, and not detain the reader any longer from more pleasant and more profitable portions of the subject. It is this, that here, as so often, we find the longings and cravings of men after a redemption, in the widest sense of that word, made to throw suspicion upon him in whom these longings and cravings are af. firmed to have been satisfied. But if we believe a divine life stirring at the root of our humanity, the depth and universality of such longings is a proof rather that they were meant some day to find their satisfaction —that they were not always to be hopes and dreams; and if so, in whom, but in him whom we preach—in whom, but in Christ? What other beside him could, with the slightest show of reason, be put forward as the fulfiller of the world's hopes : If we do not believe in this divine life, nor in a divine leading of our race—if we hold a mere brutal theory about man, it were then better altogether to leave discussing miracles and Gospels, which indeed have no meaning for, as they stand in no relation to, us.
THE APOLOGETIC WORTH OF THE MIRACLES.
A Most interesting question remains: namely this, What is the place which those who are occupied with marshalling and presenting the evidences of Revelation should give to the miracles? what is the service which they may render here? The circumstances have been already noticed which were sufficient to hinder them from taking a very prominent place in the early Apologies for Christianity.” The Christian miracles had not 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; so that, 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 of him as “the way, the truth, and the life.” But a different and far more important position has been assigned them in later times, especially during the last two hundred years; and the tone and temper of modern theology abundantly explains the greater prominence, 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 inevitable, in the general depression of all its theology. There is no one, I think, who would now be satisfied with the general tone and spirit in which the defences of the faith, written during the two last centuries, and beginning with the me.
* Thus, in the Apologies of Justin Martyr, they are scarcely made use of at all It is otherwise indeed with Arnobius, who (Adv. Gen., l. 1, c. 42) lays much stress on them. Speaking of the truth of Christianity and of Christ's mission, he says, Nulla major est comprobatio quâm gestarum ab eo fides rerum, quam virtutum— and then appeals through ten eloquent chapters to his miracles.
morable work of Grotius,” are composed. Much as this and many others 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, on the contrary, would seem very often to have thought that Deism was best to be resisted by reducing Christianity to a sort of revealed Deism. Like men that had renounced the hope of defending all, their whole endeavor was to save something, and when their pursuers pressed them hard, they were willing to delay the pursuit by casting to them as a prey much that ought to have been the dearest to themselves. It has been well observed, that they were like men who should cry “Thieves and robbers!” who 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, this was indeed an augury of ill. Now this, which caused so much to be thrown greatly out of sight, as generally the mysteries of our faith, which brought about a slight of the inner arguments for revelation, caused that from the miracles to assume a disproportionate magnitude. 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 gave 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 which men were taught they should give for the faith which was in them.; It is not hard to see the motives which led to this; they were chiefly the desire to get an absolute demonstration of the Christian faith—one which objectively should be equally good for every man; it was the wish
* De Veritate Religionis Christiana.
ł I include, in the proofs drawn from the miracles, those drawn from the Old Testament prophecies—for it was only as miracles, (miracula praescientiae, as the others are miracula potentiae) 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.
to bring the matter to the same sort of proof as exists for a proposition in mathematics or in logic. And consistently with this we see the whole argument cast exactly into the same forms of definitions, postulates, axioms, and propositions.” But at the same time the state of mind which made men to desire either to find for themselves, or to furnish others with, proofs of this nature, was not altogether healthy. It was plain that their faith had become very much an external historic one, when they 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.” Instead of an appeal to those mighty influences which Christ's words and doctrine 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, instead of an addressing of 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 mystical and uncertain, (instead of being seen to be, as it truly was, the most certain thing of all,) was thrown into the background. Men were afraid to trust themselves and their cause to arguments 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 in this is the wilful abandonment of such large regions of proof, which the Christian apologist ought triumphantly to have occu
pied as his proper domain—the whole region, mainly and chiefly, of ,
the inner spiritual life; his foregoing an appeal to the mysterious powers of regeneration and renewal, which are ever found to follow on a true adherence to him who is the Giver of this faith, and who has pledged himself to these very results. On such he might at least have ventured, when he was 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
* 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: Praefatio, § 2: Utpote quae constet hoc genere demonstrationis, quod non minus certum sit quam demonstratio quaevis geometrica.