« PoprzedniaDalej »
0N 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 astonishment 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 its 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. 1.) St. Paul speaks of himself as having “the signs of an apostle,” (2 Cor. xii. 12,) in other words, the tokens which should mark him out as such. Thus, too, in the Old Testament, when God sends Moses to deliver Israel he furnishes him with two “signs.” He warns him that Pharaoh will require him to legitimate his mission, to produce his credentials that he is indeed God's ambassador, and equips him with the powers which shall justify him as such, which, in other words, shall be his “signs.” (Exod. vii. 9, 10.) He “gave a sign” to the prophet whom he sent to protest against the will-worship of Jeroboam. (1 Kin. xiii. 3.)* At the same time it may be as well here to observe that the “sign” is not of necessity a miracle, although only as such it has a place in our discussion. Many a common matter, for instance any foretold coincidence or event, may be to a believing mind a sign, a seal set to the truth of a foregoing word. Thus the angels give to the shepherds for “a sign” their finding the child wrapt in the swaddling clothes. (Luke ii. 12.) Samuel gives to Saul three “signs” that God has indeed appointed him king over Israel, and only the last of these is linked with aught supernatural. (1 Sam. x. 1–9.) The prophet gave Eli the death of his two sons as “a sign” that his threatening word should come true. (1 Sam. ii. 34.) God gave to Gideon a sign in the camp of the Midianites of the victory which he should win, (Judg. vii. 9—15,) though it does not happen that the word occurs in that narration. Or it is possible
* Tápac. The term baúa, near akin to répac, and one of the commonest in the Greek Fathers to designate the miracles, never occurs in the Holy Scripture; Bavuáalov only once; (Matt. xxvi. 15;) but the flavučew is often brought out as a consequence. (Matt. viii. 27; ix. 8, 33; xv. 31, &c.) IIapáðošov, 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 mira. culus) and the German Wunder lie exactly under the same defect.
f Smutiow. 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 Tpāyua pavepôv, kekpupplévov riváç kal døavoic v šavrò Ty 65% oatv Brow. (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 répac, 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 signific cando demonstrant; et ostenta ab ostendendo, et portenta à portendendo, id est praeostendendo, et prodigia quod porrö dicant, id est futura prædicant.