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conversion, which would have supplied a very pertinent argument. The twelfth verse 2 Cor. xii. is added, when he appears to have nearly concluded the subject.
Upon the whole, the notices of the miracles found in the apostolic writings are too scanty to agree with the reality of such numerous and striking miracles as are recorded in the Gospels and the Acts. Such miracles, whilst yet in the eyes and ears of men, must have formed a constant topic of discourse; and, although much of the Epistles is argumentative and hortatory, we should have expected that some allusions to the miraculous as well as to the ordinary occurrences within the knowledge of the persons addressed, would have found their way
The lower classes in every age and country, owing to their less acquaintance with physical science, are disposed to see special interventions in ordinary events, and receive readily miraculous tales when brought to them; but about the time of Christ, even grave historians, both Greek and Roman, admitted such tales into their most finished compositions. Amongst the Jews, especially, the national temper, creed, and low degree of scientific attainments, promoted the taste for the miraculous; consequently, their accomplished historian Josephus, although obviously checked by his fear of Greek and Roman criticism, and without any other apparent motive than a pure love of the marvellous, could not resist the temptation of introducing abundance of miraculous stories. The historians of the early reformed Jewish, or Christian, churches, were inferior to Josephus in education and literary attainments, wrote under stronger excitement, had in view the interest and honour of their own newly risen sect, and apparently intended their works for the use of their brethren, who were influenced by the same
feelings and opinions as themselves. It was to be expected, then, that these histories should contain a larger proportion of the miraculous than that of Josephus. And as it would be thought very harsh to condemn Josephus as totally unworthy of credit, and to throw aside his history because he partook somewhat of a vice peculiar to his age and country, so may we also look indulgently upon the inaccuracy or credulity of the evangelic historians,— venerate their compositions as the chief remaining records of the rise of that pure and intrepid sect which has revolutionized the moral world,-admire the highly wrought feelings and imagination which could enliven Patmos with a glimpse of the kingdom eternal in the heavens, refreshing the common-places of the world with visions unspeakable, and with angels ascending and descending amongst the sons of men,-and respect even their recognized fictions as being not attempts at gross fraud and imposture, but the aberrations of zeal for an honourable cause, or as exhibiting that tinge of romance which times and events of interest almost unparalleled in history had disposed the minds of men to infuse into the realities of life.
To traverse the evangelic writings, exposing their weak points, and throwing down successively, with the apathy of mere criticism, fictions consecrated by the authority of ages, is a harsh and ungracious task; and it is only a belief in the expediency of reducing such tales to their due estimation in the opinion of mankind, that can induce minds accustomed to venerate them to enter willingly upon the destructive process. The cause of progressive mental improvement may at length require that such narrations should be placed amongst the things of romance rather than of history: but this being done, the imagination may still delight itself by contemplating them in what now appears to be their true and proper light; and the more freely, from its being now unchecked
by the necessity of explaining and reconciling those absurdities and inconsistencies which must belong to them when viewed as matters of fact. Many of the finer thoughts and feelings of mankind find a vent in fiction, expressed either by painting, poetry, or the poetic tale; and the perception of historical inaccuracy does not prevent our sharing the thoughts and feelings which have embodied themselves in this manner. The monotheist of the present day feels awakened in himself the conceptions of the beautiful belonging to ancient Greece, when viewing the varied and graceful forms of the council of Olympus: the Protestant, who regards monachism as a social evil, and who sees amongst the fathers of the church men of character and claims worse than doubtful, may yet appreciate the feeling which led men to tread in cloistered cells as on holy ground, and to attribute supernatural influence to the relics and images of martyrs and saints: and the critical inquirer, who sees in the mother of Jesus merely the obscure Jewish matron, may yet comprehend the mixture of devotion and chivalry which gradually raised homage into adoration, and depicted her with the placid and majestic features of the Virgin Mother of God. In like manner, whilst recognizing the true character of the evangelic fables, we may still discover in them and share the feelings from which, for the most part, they sprung,-respect and attachment towards a character of unwonted power and excellence. A rude age expressed its perception of moral ascendancy by decking it with those ornaments which were then considered to be its appropriate and deserved accompaniments,-miracles, wonders and signs; the followers of the Reformer of Galilee endeavoured to express their own sentiments towards him, and to excite the same in others, by attributing to him the command over nature, and by representing him as ascending to the right hand of God. The modern observer has learned to distin
guish more correctly the boundaries of the moral and physical worlds, and can appreciate superiority in the one, without ascribing to it an extraordinary control over the other. Nevertheless, he may be able to understand, feel, and translate the rude but emphatic language of former ages; and, in the delineations of Jesus healing the sick, stilling the tempest, walking on the sea, or transfigured on the mount, may contemplate a fact of no small interest or importance, viz. the deep and solemn reverence which mental and moral power, unassisted by grosser means of influence, had been able in a remote age and country to inspire, and may thus refine the false glare of the miraculous thrown around Jesus into a more serene and steady light.
ON THE PROPHECIES.
SOME of the incidents in the life of Jesus appeared to agree with detached sentences in different parts of the Jewish scriptures. This confirmed the belief of his disciples, that he was, as he claimed to be, the Messiah whom those scriptures foretold. And returning to them with this prepossession, they were able, by straining the facts a little on one side, and the meaning of their scriptures on the other, to find in almost every page some fresh coincidences. A new and intense interest was thus imparted to the revered but familiarized writings; words and sentences, fallen through the lapse of time into dry forms, were vivified by the discovery of a mysterious connexion with present things; coincidences the most doubtful were magnified into fulfilled prophecies; and imagination found abundance of connexions which common sense alone would never have discovered.
From the confidence and frequency with which the Apostles directed inquirers to search the Scriptures for the evidence of the Messiahship of Jesus, it seems clear that they relied upon the fulfilment of prophecy as their strongest argument.*
* The comparative infrequency of the appeals to miracles proves that they were less relied on. This neglect of the miracles is the more remarkable, since it is evident that the Apostles needed all the arguments they could find, many of the Jews themselves resisting the evidence of prophecy, Acts xiii. 45; xix. 9; xxviii. 24. A tacit, although unintentional, slight seems to be cast upon the evidence from miracle by Irenæus, when he says that he who laboured amongst the Gentiles had a harder task, because they had not the Scriptures, and that the faith of the Gentiles was more generous. See note page 57.