Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

222

Miracles not primarily proofs

According to this view it is wrong to speak of miracles as being in a primary sense proofs of a revelation, or of Christianity in particular. No such claim is made for them in the New Testament. On the contrary, the external testimony of facts is distinctly subordinated to the testimony of words, that is, to the power which man is still assumed to possess of recognising the Divine (John xiv. 11; xv. 22 ff.; compare also John v. 33 ff.).

A certain condition of faith is required in those for whom, both in the wider and in the narrower sense, miracles are wrought (Mk. vi. 5; ix. 23; Matt. ix. 28 f.). They are properly a manifestation of Christ's 'glory,' and those who can see this are confirmed by them (John ii. 11; xi. 40).

But on the other hand, when the challenge was given to Christ to shew 'a sign from heaven,' it was peremptorily declined (Mk. viii. 11 ff.; Matt. xii. 38 f.; xvi. 1: notice the use of μolχαλίς).

Miracles are indeed 'signs' which those who desire to learn can interpret; but when Christ Himself refers to the signs which are to supply the revelation of His character, the last is not the raising of the dead, but the preaching of a Gospel

[blocks in formation]

to the poor (Matt. xi. 5), in which there is the foreshadowing of the 'greater works' which the disciples were to accomplish (John xiv. 12).

The same law is observable throughout the record of the Apostolic teaching. Miracles were wrought, by the Apostles, so to speak, naturally. They were the flashings forth of the more glorious Divine life when an opening was made for its course. They were not offered as proofs to the unbelieving, but as blessings, and lessons, to the believing. They could be questioned, misinterpreted, denied: they could be accepted as real, and yet carry no conviction of faith (Acts iv. 10, 16 f., 22; xiv. 11, 19).

On the other hand they undoubtedly moved sympathetic witnesses and hearers (iv. 30; viii. 6 ff.; ix. 42; xiii. 12), though the effect was in some cases transient (xiv. 11, 19); and St Peter, speaking both to Jews and Gentiles, appeals to Christ's works of power and love as witnessing to the presence of GOD with Him (ii. 22; x. 38).

The treatment of the Resurrection-the sovereign sign, the sovereign revelation—in the narrative of the Acts illustrates the Apostolic view of miracles. The fact of the Resurrection is treated as the key to a great mystery, the suffer

224 They place us in God's presence,

ings of the Christ (Acts ii. 24, 31). Appeal is made to the gift of the Spirit as the sign of the Resurrection, rather than to the Resurrection as the proof of the message (v. 32). The Resurrection itself was the message, not as being an overwhelming wonder, but so far as it was recognised as the beginning of a new life (xiii. 33). By raising Christ from the dead GOD 'gave assurance to all men' of a coming judgment (xvii. 31). The vital import of the fact and not its exceptional nature was that which was of primary moment.

We are not then justified either by reason or by Scripture in assigning to miracles, and still less to the record of miracles, a supreme power of proof. But none the less they fulfil externally an important function in the Divine economy. They are fitted to awaken, to arouse, to arrest the faith which is latent. They bring men who already believe in GOD into His Presence. They place them in an attitude of reverent expectation. This they do both at the crisis of performance, when their full character can be but imperfectly apprehended, and even more decisively afterwards when they are studied in their spiritual aspects.

For while, as has been already said, our general conception of GOD will decide finally whether a

and reveal more of His will.

225

particular fact can be referred to Him, as an indication of His will for us, or not, the fact itself which is admitted as consistent with His attributes, in its immediate or final scope, will be able to (may it not be said, will of necessity?) reveal to us something more of His Nature and modes of action. For it is wholly groundless to suppose that we can anticipate or discover of ourselves what we can feel to be true when it is made known to us. Our power of discovery is not a measure of our power of recognition.

In this relation it is of the utmost importance in studying the miracles of the Bible to observe the narrow limits of their occurrence, to note their absence from the history of particular periods and of particular men: to pay attention to the distinguishing character, the contrasts and correspondences, of groups of miracles: to consider their relation to the work and person of each Divine messenger. Whole structures of popular objections, for example, fall before a simple statement like that in which the Evangelist undesignedly contrasts the ministry of the Baptist with the ministry of Christ, 'John indeed did no sign' (John x. 41).

So, again, it will appear upon examination

W. G. L.

15

226

The Miracles of the LORD.

that the miracles of the Lord are in fact a revelation of His Person, differing (as a whole) from all other miracles in the mode of their accomplishment and in the completeness of their range. Christ fulfilled His Works as in direct personal fellowship with the Father by His own power. He conveyed to others by His commission the power of working like signs (Matt. x. 8; Luke x. 9). And in the Gospels the record of these characteristic works appears as part of the ordinary narrative. No emphasis is laid upon their significance, but at the same time it is indicated that they were designed to cast light upon mysteries, to be sacraments, as it were, of divine working, as when the fact of the forgiveness of sin was illustrated by the healing of the paralytic (Matt. ix. 1 ff.).

And there is one special function which 'signs' were fitted to fulfil at the beginning of the life of the Church. They set vividly before the believers through whom they were wrought a personal relation of GOD to themselves. In these, if we may so speak, He was seen directly acting with them. And this consideration helps us to understand why 'signs' should be grouped together at certain critical periods, and why at other times they should not occur. If the sense of personal

« PoprzedniaDalej »