Imágenes de páginas

their claims calmly. As a Jew, he himself expected the Messiah; and as a Pharisee, he believed the resurrection of the dead. Why, then, might it not be true that Jesus of Nazareth had been proved to be the Messiah by his resurrection from the dead? The disciples quoted many prophecies as fulfilled by Jesus, and he himself might remember others apparently accomplished by him. The idea once admitted, agitated him incessantly during the journey; he must decide for or against Jesus before reaching Damascus; and during a faintness occasioned by the heat of the sun at noonday, he thought he saw and heard Jesus himself appealing to him. Upon a man of strong imagination and much given to visions, 2 Cor. xii. 1, it is not surprising that the impression made in such circumstances should be so strong as to influence his whole life. His energy of character permitted him to do nothing imperfectly. During the three years spent at Damascus and in Arabia, from the materials afforded by the Jewish prophets, and by his own meditations and visions, he formed an improved system of Christianity; and, not contented merely to follow in the footsteps of the first disciples, he determined to proceed as a new and special apostle of the Christ or Messiah, to the conversion of the whole world.

The speeches in the Acts cannot be relied on as Paul's own words; for these we must look to his Epistles, and the following are the only passages which they contain, seeming to allude to the event near Damascus :

Gal. i. 15—17, "But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus."

1 Cor. ix. 1, "Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? Are not you my work in the Lord?

1 Cor. xv. 8, "And last of all, he (Christ) was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time."

None of which bear out Luke's statement; for the appearance of Jesus on which Paul founds his claim to the apostleship might be a vision, as there is reason to suppose it was in the case of James. See chap. vii. Earthquake The earthquake in the prison of Philippi has at Philippi. several marks of fiction. The keeper prepares to kill himself, before he knows whether the prisoners are fled or not. Paul guesses, in the dark, what the keeper is doing, and calls out in time to save him. This heathen keeper having obtained a light, addresses Paul and Silas with the very Christian phrase, "What must I do to be saved?" Moreover, the two prisoners' release is attributed, not to the earthquake, but to the order of the magistrates the next morning. In Paul's Epistle to the Philippians no allusion is made to this miracle.




PALEY admits (Evid. part iii. ch. v.), that the Apostles appealed less frequently than he himself should have done to the miracles, and he attributes this to the want of a due appreciation of miracles in that age, owing to the general belief in magical agency. But the excuse seems insufficient. The church of Rome, whilst denouncing practisers of witchcraft, has been eager enough to set forth its own miracles. The Jews who believed in the magical acts of Pharaoh's magicians, were not the less forward to celebrate the miracles of Moses; and the disciples, if not admitting the absolute conclusiveness of a miracle as a divine credential, were yet well aware of its great value. For they admit that the Jews frequently required a sign, and John makes Jesus say, "Unless ye see wonders and signs, ye will not believe."

The four Gospels and the Acts were written at a comparatively late period, viz. forty years and upwards after the death of Christ, or a distance of time varying from ten to forty years after the events recorded. But most of the Epistles were written earlier, whilst the Apostles were administering the affairs of the church, and consequently in the midst of the miraculous period. Moreover, in these writings, at least in the Epistles of Paul, John, James, and the first of Peter, we may fairly calculate upon having very nearly these Apostles' own words. Let us collect all the passages in these Epistles which seem to allude to the miracles of Jesus or of his disciples.


Rom. xv. 17-19: "I have therefore whereof I Jesus Christ, in those things which pertain to God. to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me, to make the Gentiles obedient by word and deed, through mighty signs and wonders by the power of the spirit of God."

1 Cor. ii. 4: “ And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the spirit and of power."

1 Cor. xii. 8-10: "For to one is given, by the spirit, the word of wisdom; to another, the word of knowledge, by the same spirit; to another faith, by the same spirit; to another, the gifts of healing, by the same spirit; to another, the working of miracles; to another, prophecy; to another, discerning of spirits; to another, divers kind of tongues; to another, the interpretation of tongues."

Ver. 28: "And God hath set some in the church; first, apostles; secondarily, prophets; thirdly, teachers; after that miracles; then, gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues."

2 Cor. xii. 12: "Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs and wonders, and mighty deeds."

Gal. iii. 5: "He, therefore, that ministereth the spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?”

may glory through For I will not dare

There are no allusions to miracles in the Epistles of James, John, Jude, or the first of Peter. In the second, or doubtful* Epistle of Peter, there is an allusion to the prophecy of Peter's death, and to the transfiguration. But the word of prophecy is said to be "more sure.”

The above passages in Paul's Epistles shew that the church, in general, valued miracles as divine credentials, but they are insufficient to prove that any had been really wrought; for-

1. Not one instance of a miracle is cited; which is extraordinary in such a large collection of letters to the communities amongst whom they were supposed to have

* The testimony of Eusebius seems almost enough to stamp this Epistle as spurious, since it appears incredible that the early church should have hesitated to receive any real writings of the chief Apostle. Nevertheless, it may be appealed to as assisting to shew the opinions of the early Christians.

been frequent; the subject of miracles being occasionally introduced, and Paul being in the habit of frequently appealing to facts within their own knowledge. For instance, he reminds Timothy of the afflictions he met with at Lystra, but never alludes to the healing of the lame man there. The ill health of Trophimus is mentioned, and also that of Timothy, but none of the miraculous cures at Ephesus or Melita.

2. The low rank in which Paul places miracles appears inconsistent with the supposition that those of which he speaks were real and indisputable ones. A manifest suspension of the laws of nature must be one of the most impressive events that could happen to men of any age or country; and persons commissioned to command or declare such suspensions from time to time could hardly fail to be regarded, in any society, with the highest degree of reverence ever paid to men; yet Paul speaks of the Corinthian miracle-workers in this depreciating manner,-"thirdly, teachers; after that, miracles," &c. The only explanation seems to be, that he knew that the performances in question were far from being clear miracles, and would not bear to have much stress laid upon them. Hence, although he himself did not wholly reject the pretensions in question, and was willing that they should contribute as far as they might to the service of the church, he urges the Corinthians to seek after gifts, which he was conscious might be claimed with less danger of discredit.

3. It appears that Paul's claims to the apostleship were resisted by a strong party, although, according to his own account, he had wrought all the signs of an apostle, including wonders and mighty deeds. Yet in 2 Cor. xi. xii., where he asserts his claim to be considered one of the chiefest apostles most forcibly, he makes very little use of his miracles; and when speaking even of his adventures at Damascus, does not mention the miracle of his

« AnteriorContinuar »