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The Truth of Christianity By William Harry Turton Characters: 37315

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(A.) Their Credibility.

They present few difficulties; the casting out of evil spirits.

(B.) Their Truthfulness.

(1.) General marks of truthfulness.

(2.) Special marks of truthfulness.

(C.) Their Publicity.

(1.) They occurred in public.

(2.) They were publicly appealed to.

(3.) They were never disputed.

(4.) The silence of classical writers.

(D.) Conclusion.

Futile attempts to explain them away, the subject of modern miracles.

Having discussed in the last two chapters the Resurrection of Christ, we pass on now to the other New Testament miracles, and will consider in turn their credibility, their truthfulness, and their publicity.

(A.) Their Credibility.

Now with one exception, the casting out of evil spirits, the miracles present scarcely any difficulty provided miracles at all are credible, which we have already admitted. Most of them, especially those of healing, were very suitable from a moral point of view, while that they were meant to confirm Christ's teaching and claims is beyond dispute. Not only do all the Evangelists declare this, but Christ Himself though He refused to work a miracle when challenged to do so-He would not work one to order, as we might say-yet appealed to His public miracles in the most emphatic manner.

Thus, when St. John the Baptist sent messengers to inquire whether He was the Messiah, His only answer was, 'Go your way, and tell John the things which ye do hear and see; the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up,'[330] etc. And this is specially important because Christians would not have invented an incident which shows that Christ's own messenger had (apparently) lost faith in Him. Yet it is not easy to separate his question from the reply which it received; while if we admit that Christ gave this reply, it seems to settle the question as to His working miracles.

[330] Matt. 11. 4; Luke 7. 22; see also Mark 2. 10; John 5. 36.

And He afterwards condemned Chorazin, and other cities, in the strongest terms, because, although He had done so many miracles there, they had not repented; which again shows both the publicity of the miracles, and their intended evidential value.[331] And this passage also is very important, since its genuineness is confirmed by the fact that not a single miracle is recorded as having been worked at Chorazin. Yet, if the Evangelists (or anyone else) had invented the saying, they would surely have invented some miracles there to justify it. If on the other hand, they did not invent it, and the words were actually spoken by Christ, is it conceivable that He should have blamed these cities for not believing on Him in spite of His miracles, if He had done no miracles?

[331] Matt. 11. 21-24; Luke 10. 13-15. Both this passage, and the last, belong to Q, the supposed earliest source of our Gospels.

We pass on now to the casting out of evil spirits, which implies that persons may sometimes be possessed by such spirits, and this is often thought to be a difficulty. But though our ignorance on the subject is undoubtedly great, there is nothing incredible here. For we have already admitted the influence of such spirits (Chapter XII.), and what is called possession is merely an extreme form of influence. Indeed, the accounts of mesmerism at the present day, though they cannot always be trusted, seem to show that even one man may so entirely possess the mind and will of another as to make him do whatever he wishes. And it is certainly no more difficult to believe that this power may in some cases be exercised by an evil spirit. With regard to the outward symptoms mentioned in the Gospels, they seem to have resembled certain forms of madness; though, as the patients are now kept under restraint in civilised countries, they have not the same notoriety.

But it may be said, why ascribe this madness to an evil spirit? But why not? Madness often follows the frequent yielding to certain temptations, such as drunkenness or impurity; and that it may really be due to the action of an evil spirit (an unclean spirit is the significant term used in the Gospels) and be the appropriate punishment for yielding to his temptation, is certainty not incredible. And if so, considering the immoral state of the world at the time of Christ, we cannot be surprised at such cases being far more common then than now. And the writers, it may be added, do not (like some early nations) attribute all maladies to evil spirits, for we read of men having fever and palsy, as well as being blind, lame, deaf, and dumb, without any hint of its being due to an evil spirit; so they were quite able to distinguish between the two.

There is, however, one instance-the swine at Gadara-of animals being thus afflicted,[332] which undoubtedly forms a difficulty, and I have never seen a satisfactory explanation of it. But still our ignorance about animals, combined with the fact that they resemble man in so many respects, prevents us from saying that it is absolutely incredible. And as to the alleged injustice of the miracle (which is often objected to) we must remember that if Christ were the Divine Being He claimed to be, the world and all it contained belonged to Him; so His allowing the swine to be destroyed by evil spirits was no more unjust to their owners, than if He had allowed them to die by disease.

[332] Matt. 8. 30-32; Mark 5. 11-13; Luke 8. 32-33.

Lastly, all the Christian miracles lose a great deal of their improbability when we consider the unique position of Christ. And what would be incredible, if told of another man who had done nothing to alter the history of the world, may easily be credible of Him. We decide, then, that all the New Testament miracles are credible: we have next to consider whether they are true.

(B.) Their Truthfulness.

Now the testimony in favour of these miracles is very similar to that in favour of the Resurrection of Christ. They are recorded by the same writers and in the same books, and everything points to these accounts being trustworthy. To put it shortly, the writers had no motive for recording the miracles unless they believed them to be true, and they had ample means of finding out whether they were true or not; while many of them are such as cannot possibly be explained by want of investigation, or an error in reasoning. Moreover, as we shall see, they contain numerous marks of truthfulness. These may be divided into two classes, general, or those which concern the miracles as a whole; and special, or those which concern individual miracles, or sayings about them; and we will consider each in turn.

(1.) General marks of truthfulness.

Among these we may notice first the extremely simple and graphic way in which many of the miracles are described, such as the curing of the man who was born blind, with the repeated questioning of the man himself.[333] Then there is the raising of the daughter of Jairus, and the curing of the man who was deaf and had a difficulty in speaking, both of which are described with the most minute details, including the actual Aramaic words spoken by Christ.[334] It is difficult to think that they do not come from eye-witnesses. And the same may be said of a large number of the miracles.

[333] John 9. 8-34.

[334] Mark 5. 41; 7. 34.

Secondly, the kind of miracles ascribed to Christ seem (as far as we can judge) to be worthy of Him. They were not for His own benefit, but for that of other people, and they are a great contrast to the imaginary miracles ascribed to Him in the Apocryphal Gospels, most of which are extremely childish. When for instance Christ was a boy, we read of His making clay birds fly; of His turning children into kids for refusing to play with Him; and of His cursing another boy who had run against Him, and who in consequence fell down dead.[335] How different such miracles are from those in our Gospels scarcely needs pointing out. Nor is the case of the barren fig-tree, so often objected to, an exception. For the tree itself could have felt no injury, and as far as we know, its destruction injured no one else.

[335] Gospel of the Infancy, chapters xv., xvii., xix.

Thirdly, the miracles are closely connected with the moral teaching of Christ, and it is difficult either to separate the two, or to believe the whole account to be fictitious. His wonderful works, and His wonderful words involve each other, and form together an harmonious whole, which is too life-like to be imaginary. Indeed, a life of Christ without His miracles would be as unintelligible as a life of Napoleon without his campaigns. And it is interesting to note in this connection that our earliest Gospel, St. Mark's, contains (in proportion to its length) the most miracles. As we should expect, it was Christ's miracles, rather than His moral teaching, which first attracted attention.

Fourthly, the miracles were as a rule miracles of healing: that is to say, of restoring something to its natural state, such as making blind eyes see; and not doing something unnatural, such as giving a man a third eye. Miracles of either kind would of course show superhuman power; but the former are obviously the more suited to the God of Nature. And this naturalness of the miracles, as we may call it, seems to many a strong argument in their favour.

Fifthly, there were an immense number of miracles, the ones recorded being mere examples of those that were actually worked. Thus in St. Mark's Gospel we are told that on one occasion, Christ healed many who were sick with divers diseases; on another that He had healed so many, that those with plagues pressed upon Him to touch Him; and on another that everywhere He went, into the villages, cities, or country, the sick were laid out, so that they might touch His garment, and as many as touched Him were made whole.[336]

[336] Mark 1. 34; 3. 10; 6. 56

Sixthly, there was a great variety in the miracles. They were of various kinds, worked in various places, before various witnesses, and with various details and characteristics. They occurred in public as well as in private; in the towns as well as in the country; at sea as well as on land; in groups as well as singly; at a distance as well as near; after due notice as well as suddenly; when watched by enemies as well as among friends; unsolicited as well as when asked for; in times of joy, and in times of sorrow. They were worked on the blind as well as the deaf; the lame as well as the dumb; the leprous as well as the palsied; the dead as well as the living. They concerned men as well as women; the rich as well as the poor; the educated as well as the ignorant; the young as well as the old; multitudes as well as individuals; Gentiles as well as Jews; nature as well as man-in fact, according to our accounts, it is difficult to imagine any miracles that could have been more absolutely convincing.

Seventhly, the miracles of Christ were (with trifling exceptions) worked suddenly. They were not like gradual cures, or slow recoveries, but they were done in a moment. The blind man immediately received his sight; the palsied immediately took up his couch: the leper was straightway cleansed; the infirm was straightway made whole; the dead immediately rose up, etc.[337] This was evidently a striking feature in the miracles, and the Evangelists seem to have been much impressed by it.

[337] Luke 18. 43; 5. 25; Mark 1. 42; Matt. 8. 3; John 5. 9; Luke 8. 55.

Eighthly, many of the miracles were of a permanent character, and such as could be examined again and again. When, for instance, a man who had long been lame, or deaf, or blind, was restored to health, the villagers, as well as the man himself, could certify to the cure for years to come. And miracles such as these are obviously of much greater value than what we may call momentary miracles (such as Christ's calming the storm) where the only possible evidence is that of the actual spectators.

Lastly, and this is very remarkable, the Evangelists nearly always relate that Christ worked His miracles by His own authority: while the Old Testament prophets, with scarcely an exception, worked theirs by calling upon God. Take for instance the similar cases of raising a widow's son.[338] Elijah prays earnestly that God would restore the child to life; Christ merely gives the command, I say unto thee, Arise. The difference between the two is very striking, and is of itself a strong argument in favour of Christ's miracles; for had the Evangelists invented them, they would certainly have made them resemble those of the Old Testament. But instead of this, they describe them as worked in a new and unprecedented manner, and one which must at the time have seemed most presumptuous.

[338] 1 Kings 17. 21; Luke 7. 14.

The Gospel miracles then, from the simple and graphic way in which they are described; their not containing anything childish or unworthy; their close connection with the moral teaching of Christ; their naturalness; their number; their variety; their suddenness; their permanence; and above all from the authoritative way in which they are said to have been worked; have every appearance of being truth fully recorded.

(2.) Special marks of truthfulness.

Moreover several individual miracles, and sayings about them, are of such a kind as could scarcely have been invented. Take, for instance, the raising of the daughter of Jairus.[339] Now of course anyone, wishing to magnify the power of Christ, might have invented this or any other miracle. But if so, he is not likely to have put into the mouth of Christ Himself the words, The child is not dead but sleepeth. These words seem to imply that Christ did not consider it a miracle; and though we may be able to explain them, by the similar words used in regard to Lazarus,[340] they certainly bear the marks of genuineness.

[339] Mark 5. 39.

[340] John 11. 11.

We are also told, more than once, that Christ's power of working miracles was conditional on the faith of the person to be healed, so that in one place He could do scarcely any miracles because of their unbelief.[341] This is not the sort of legend that would have grown up round a glorified Hero; it bears unmistakably the mark of truthfulness. But then if the writer had good means of knowing that Christ could do no miracles in one place, because of their unbelief; had he not equally good means of knowing that Christ could, and did, do miracles in other places?

[341] Matt. 13. 58; Mark 6. 5-6; Luke 18. 42.

And what shall we say of Christ's frequent commands to keep His miracles secret?[342] There were doubtless reasons for this in every case; but Christ's followers, who presumably recorded the miracles in order to get them known, are not likely to have invented, and put into His mouth the command to keep them secret. Nor is Christ likely to have given it, had there been no miracles to keep secret. Nor again is anyone likely to have added, unless it was the case, that the command was generally disobeyed. This seems surprising, yet it is very true to human nature that a man who had been suddenly cured of a long complaint, should insist on talking about it.

[342] E.g., Mark 3. 12; 5. 43; 7. 36.

In the same way the discussions about working miracles on the Sabbath Day have a very genuine tone about them and it is difficult to imagine them to be inventions.[343] Yet such discussions could not have arisen, if there had been no miracles on the Sabbath, or any other day.

[343] Mark 3. 1-5; Luke 13. 10-17; John 5. 9-16; 9. 14-16.

Then there is the striking passage where Christ warned His hearers that even working miracles in His name, without a good life, would not ensure their salvation.[344] This occurs in one of His most characteristic discourses, the Sermon on the Mount, and it is hard to doubt its genuineness. But even if we do, it is not likely that Christ's followers would have invented such a warning, if as a matter of fact no one ever did work miracles in His name.

[344] Matt. 7. 22.

And much the same may be said of another passage where Christ is recorded as saying that all believers would be able to work miracles.[345] If He said so, He must surely have been able to work them Himself; and if He did not say so, His followers must have been able to work them, or their inventing such a promise would merely have shown that they were not believers. On the whole, then, as said before, the accounts of the New Testament miracles have every appearance of being thoroughly truthful.

[345] Mark 16. 17.

(C.) Their Publicity.

But the most important point has still to be noticed, which is the alleged publicity of these miracles; and as this renders the testimony in their favour peculiarly strong, we must examine it at some length.

(1.) They occurred in public.

To begin with, according to our Gospels, all the miracles of Christ occurred during His public ministry, when He was well known, that at Cana being definitely called the first.[346] And as they were meant to confirm His teaching and claims, it was only natural for them to begin when His teaching began. But if they had been invented, or had grown up as legends, some at least would have been ascribed to His earlier years (as they are in the Apocryphal Gospels) when there was less chance of their being disputed.

[346] John 2. 11.

Moreover, many of them are stated to have been worked openly, and before crowds of people, including Scribes, Pharisees, and lawyers.[347] And the names of the places where they occurred, and even of the persons concerned, are given in some cases. Among these were Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue; Lazarus, a well known man at Bethany; Malchus, a servant of the High Priest; and the centurion at Capernaum, who, though his name is not given, must have been well known to the Jews, as he had built them a synagogue. While the miracles recorded in the Acts concern such prominent persons as the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, at Cyprus, and the chief man, Publius, at Malta. And it is hard to overestimate the immense difficulty of thus asserting public miracles, with the names of persons, and places, if none occurred; yet the early Christians asserted such miracles from the very first.

[347] E.g., Luke 5. 17-21.

Take for instance the feeding of the five thousand, near the Lake of Galilee. This is recorded in the earliest Gospel, St. Mark's, and must therefore have been written down very soon after the event, when a large number of the

five thousand were still alive. Now is it conceivable that anyone would have ventured to make up such an account, even twenty years afterwards, if nothing of the kind had occurred? And if he had done so, would not his story have been instantly refuted? Or take the case of healing the centurion's servant at Capernaum. This, as before said, belongs to Q, the supposed source common to Matthew and Luke, and admitted by most critics to date from before A.D. 50. And how could such a story have been current within twenty years of the event, if nothing of the kind had occurred?

It is also declared that the miracles were much talked about at the time, and caused widespread astonishment. The people marvelled at them, they wondered, they were amazed, they were beyond measure astonished, there had been nothing like them since the world began.[348] The miracles were in fact the talk of the whole neighbourhood. And we are told that in consequence several of those which occurred at Jerusalem were at once officially investigated by the Jewish rulers, who made the most searching inquiries about them;[349] and in two instances, at least, publicly admitted them to be true.[350] And this also is not likely to have been asserted, unless it was the case; and not likely to have been the case, if there had been no miracles.

[348] Matt. 9. 33; 15. 31; Mark 5. 42; 7. 37; John 9. 32.

[349] E.g., John 9. 13-34; Acts 4. 5-22.

[350] John 11. 47; Acts 4. 16.

(2.) They were publicly appealed to.

Moreover, these public miracles were publicly appealed to by the early Christians. According to the Acts, this was done in the very first public address, that at Pentecost, by St. Peter, who reminds his hearers that they had themselves seen the miracles (even as ye yourselves know), as well as in one other speech at least.[351] And this is important, because even those critics, who deny the genuineness of the Acts, yet admit that these speeches date from a very early time. And if so, it shows conclusively that some of Christ's immediate followers not only believed themselves that He had worked miracles, but spoke as if their opponents believed it too.

[351] Acts 2. 22; 10. 38.

That they are not more frequently alluded to in the Acts is not surprising, when we remember that, according to the writer,-and he was an eye-witness in some cases, as they occur in the We sections,[352]-the Apostles themselves worked miracles. There was thus no occasion for them to appeal to those of Christ as proving the truth of what they preached; their own miracles being quite sufficient to convince anyone who was open to this kind of proof. But still the important fact remains that in the first recorded Christian address the public miracles of Christ were publicly appealed to. And this was within a few months of their occurrence; and at Jerusalem, where the statement, if untrue, could have been more easily refuted than anywhere else.

[352] Acts 16. 18, 26; 28. 6, 8-9.

Passing on to St. Paul's Epistles; it is true that they do not contain any reference to Christ's miracles, except of course the Resurrection. But as they were not written to convert heathens, but to instruct those who were already Christians, there is nothing surprising in this; and they do not mention any of His parables either. On the other hand, they do contain direct reference to Apostolic miracles. St. Paul in two of his undisputed Epistles positively asserts that he had worked miracles himself; and he uses the same three words, signs, wonders, and mighty works, which are used in the Gospels to describe the miracles of Christ.[353]

[353] Rom. 15. 18, 19; 2 Cor. 12. 12.

The second passage is extremely important, since he speaks of them as the signs of an apostle; and calls upon his opponents at Corinth to admit that he was an apostle because he had worked these miracles. And this implies not only that the miracles were done in public, but that his readers as well as himself believed that the power of working miracles belonged to all the Apostles. And it will be noticed that he is addressing the very persons among whom he declares he had worked the miracles; which makes it almost inconceivable that his claim was unfounded, quite apart from the difficulty of believing that such a man as St. Paul would wilfully make a false statement.

From all this it follows that the first preachers of Christianity not only appealed to Christ's miracles; but also to their own, in support of their claims. And, as just said, how they could have done so, if they worked no miracles, is not easy to understand.

We next come to a class of writings where we should expect to find Christ's miracles alluded to, and these are the first Christian Apologies. Nor are we disappointed. The three earliest, of which we have any knowledge, were by Quadratus, Aristides, and Justin; the first two being presented to the Emperor Hadrian, when he visited Athens, A.D. 125.

Quadratus, in a passage preserved by Eusebius, lays stress on what we have called the permanent character of Christ's miracles. He says: 'The works of our Saviour were always conspicuous, for they were real; both they that were healed and they that were raised from the dead were seen, not only when they were healed or raised, but for a long time afterwards; not only whilst He dwelt on this earth, but also after His departure, and for a good while after it, insomuch that some of them have reached to our times.'[354]

[354] Eusebius, Hist., iv. 3.

Aristides bases his defence of Christianity on its moral character, and does not appeal to any public miracles, though as before said (Chapter XIV.) he asserts the Divinity, Incarnation, Virgin-birth, Resurrection, and Ascension of Christ.

Lastly, Justin, about A.D. 150, not only specifies many of Christ's miracles; but also says in general terms that He 'healed those who were maimed, and deaf, and lame in body from their birth, causing them to leap, to hear, and to see by His word. And having raised the dead, and causing them to live, by His deeds He compelled the men who lived at that time to recognise Him. But though they saw such works, they asserted it was magical art.'[355] Justin, however, does not base his argument on miracles, but on prophecy, because, as he tells us again, the former might be ascribed to magic.

[355] Dial., 69; Apol. 1. 30.

But still, the actual occurrence of the miracles, he evidently thought to be indisputable. He even says that the Emperor and Senate can learn for themselves that Christ worked miracles (healing the lame, dumb, and blind, cleansing the lepers, and raising the dead) by consulting the Acts of Pilate.[356] And this certainly implies that such a document, whether genuine or not, then existed in Rome; and that it contained an account of the miracles. Thus two out of the three earliest writers in defence of Christianity appealed to Christ's miracles, in the most public manner possible, when addressing the Emperor.

[356] Apol. 1. 48, 35.

(3.) They were never disputed.

But now comes another important point. Though these public miracles were publicly appealed to by the early Christians, and though written accounts of them were in circulation very soon after they are stated to have occurred; yet, as far as we know, they were never disputed. And this is the more remarkable, since they are said to have been worked among enemies as well as friends. They were thus peculiarly open to hostile criticism; and we may be sure that the bitter opponents of Christ, who had brought about His death, would have exposed them if they could. Yet, as just said, they were never disputed, either by Jews or Gentiles; though, of course, they both denied their evidential value.

The Jews-that is to say the Scribes and Pharisees-did this, by ascribing them to the Evil One. And though this was a very strange expedient, as their effect was obviously good, and not evil, they had really no alternative. The common people were much impressed by the miracles, and were anxious to welcome Christ as their Messiah;[357] yet the Pharisees decided that such a man as this-so unlike what they expected-could not possibly be their Messiah. They had then to explain away the miracles somehow. And since they denied that they were worked by God, they were bound to ascribe them to the Devil, for these were the only supernatural powers they believed in; though of course both of these had subordinate angels under them. But we may ask, would the Jews have adopted such an expedient had there been any possibility of denying that the miracles occurred? Yet that they did adopt it can scarcely be disputed. It is positively asserted in each of the first three Gospels;[358] and Christians are not likely to have reported such a horrible suggestion as that their Master was an agent of the Evil One, unless it had been made.

[357] John 6. 15; Mark 11. 10.

[358] Matt. 9. 34; 12. 24; Mark 3. 22; Luke 11. 15.

The Gentiles on the other hand, believed in a variety of gods, many of whom were favourable to mankind, and could be invoked by magic; so they could consistently ascribe the miracles to some of these lesser deities; or, in popular language, to magic. And we have abundant evidence that they did so. As we have seen, it is expressly asserted by Justin, who in consequence preferred the argument from prophecy; and Iren?us did the same, and for avowedly the same reason.[359]

[359] Bk. ii. 32.

Moreover, Celsus, the most important opponent of Christianity in the second century, also adopted this view. His works are now lost, but Origen in answering him frequently and positively asserts it; saying that he often spoke of the miracles as works of sorcery.[360] And though Celsus lived some years after the time in question, it is most unlikely, if the early opponents of Christianity had denied that the miracles occurred, that its later opponents should have given up this strong line of defence, and have adopted the far weaker one that they did occur, but were due to magic. We are quite justified, then, in saying that Christ's miracles were not disputed at the time, and considering their alleged publicity, this is a strong additional argument in their favour.

[360] Origen cont. Cels., i. 38; ii. 48.

(4.) The silence of classical writers.

All that can be said on the other side is from the silence of classical writers. Had the miracles really occurred, it is said, especially in such a well-known place as Palestine, the writers of the day would have been full of them. Yet, with the single exception of Tacitus, they do not even allude to Christianity; and he dismisses it with contempt as a pernicious superstition.[361]

[361] Tacitus Annals. Bk. xv., ch. 44.

Now these words of Tacitus show that he had never studied the subject, for whatever may be said against the religion, it certainly was not pernicious; so he must have rejected Christianity without examination. And if the other classical writers did the same, there is nothing remarkable in their not alluding to it. Alleged marvels were common enough in those days, and they probably did not think the Christian miracles worth inquiring about. But we do not know of any writer who did inquire about them, and was not convinced of their truth.

It may, of course, be replied that some of the events ought anyhow to be alluded to, such as the darkness over all the land at the time of the Crucifixion. And if this extended over the whole of Palestine, it is certainly strange that it should not be noticed. But it may only refer to the neighbourhood of Jerusalem. Compare the expression all the country of Jud?a[362] (when referring to the people being baptized) which is evidently not meant to be taken literally. And if the darkness was limited to the neighbourhood of Jerusalem, there is nothing surprising in its not being recorded by any except Christians, for whom of course it had a special significance.

[362] Mark 1. 5.

It should also be noticed that in some respects the testimony of Christian writers is more valuable than that of either Jews or Gentiles: since none of the writers of that country were brought up as Christians. They were all unbelievers before they were believers; and if such testimony from unbelievers would be valuable, it is still more so from those who showed how thoroughly convinced they were of its truth by becoming believers. Indeed, the best Jewish or Gentile evidence conceivable is that of well-educated men, like St. Paul and St. Luke, who, on the strength of it, became Christians.

Lastly, it must be remembered that the argument from silence is proverbially unsound. We have, for instance, over two hundred letters of the younger Pliny, and in only one of these does he mention Christianity. Suppose this one had been lost, what a strong argument could have been formed against the spread of Christianity from the silence of Pliny, yet this one shows its marvellous progress (see Chapter XXII.). This objection, then, is quite insufficient to outweigh the positive testimony in favour of the miracles, to which we have already alluded.

(D.) Conclusion.

In conclusion we must notice certain rationalistic explanations which have been given of the miracles. It was hardly to be expected that, with such strong evidence in their favour, the modern opponents of Christianity would merely assert that the accounts were pure fiction from beginning to end. Attempts have of course been made to explain the miracles in such a way that, while depriving them of any supernatural character, it may yet be admitted that some such events occurred, which gave rise to the Christian accounts.

The miracles of healing are perhaps the easiest to explain in this way, as some wonderful instances of sudden, though natural, cures have been known. But it is doubtful whether any of Christ's miracles were of such a kind, for St. Paul is careful to distinguish between gifts of healing and working of miracles.[363] Both were evidently known to the early Church, and known to be different.

[363] 1 Cor. 12. 9-10, 28.

And of course no such explanations will apply to most of the miracles, which have to be got rid of in various other ways. Thus Christ's walking on the sea is explained as His walking on a ridge of sand or rock running out just under the water; the raising of Lazarus as his having had himself buried alive, so that when Christ came, there might be a pretended miracle;[364] and feeding the five thousand as nothing more than the example of Christ and His friends, who so freely shared their small supply with those around them, that others did the same, and thus everyone had a little. It seems scarcely necessary to discuss these theories in detail, as they are all most improbable.

[364] This extraordinary theory was maintained by Rénan in the earlier editions of his Life of Jesus, though he afterwards abandoned it.

Moreover, their difficulties are all cumulative. The Christian explanation has but one difficulty for all the miracles, which is that they are miracles, and involve the supernatural. Once admit this, and twenty miracles (provided they occur on suitable occasions) are no more difficult to believe than two. But the difficulties of these explanations are all cumulative. If for instance, the raising of Lazarus is explained by his having been buried alive, it does not account for Christ's walking on the sea. If this is explained by the supposed ridge of sand, it does not account for feeding the five thousand, etc. Thus each difficulty has to be added to all the others, so taken together they are quite insuperable.

One other point has still to be considered, which is the subject of modern miracles. Why, it is said, are there no miracles now, when they could be properly tested? If they were really employed by God as helps to the spread of His religion, why should they not have accompanied it at intervals all along, as it is said they did the Jewish religion? They are surely wanted for the support of Christianity at the present day; and if God were, after due warning, to work a public and indisputable miracle every half-century, all the other evidences of Christianity might be dispensed with.

The answer to this objection is that the Christian revelation does not claim to be a gradual one, like the Jewish; but a final and complete revelation, made once for all through Christ and His Apostles. Therefore, as there is to be no fresh revelation, there can be no fresh miracles to confirm it. The question of other miracles, such as those which are said to have been worked by Christians at various periods, need not be considered here. If true, they would of course tend to prove the New Testament ones; while, if untrue, they would not disprove them, any more than imitation diamonds would disprove the existence of real diamonds.

Of course, it may be replied that God might still work a miracle now by a man, who stated that it was not to confirm anything that he said himself, but merely what the Founder of Christianity had said; and this is no doubt possible. But it would be a different method from that recorded in the Bible, where a messenger from God always brings his own credentials, even though, as in the case of a prophecy, they may not be verified till afterwards. And what reason have we for thinking that God would change His method now? It is also very doubtful whether a public miracle at the present day, would convince everybody.

This objection, then, must be put aside, and we therefore conclude, on reviewing the whole subject, that the New Testament miracles are not only credible, but that there is extremely strong evidence in their favour. Indeed their marks of truthfulness, combined with their alleged publicity, form together a very powerful argument. And it is rendered all the stronger by their having been so thoroughly successful. Their object was to establish the truth of Christianity, and this is precisely what they did. The evidence they afforded was so decisive, that a hostile world found it irresistible.

Moreover it is doubtful whether any other religion, except, of course, the Jewish, has ever claimed to have been confirmed by public miracles. Christianity thus rests upon a unique foundation. Unlike other religions, it appealed at first not to abstract reasoning, or moral consciousness, or physical force, but to miraculous events, of the truth or falsehood of which others could judge. They did judge, and they were convinced. We decide, then, that the New Testament miracles are probably true.

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