Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

CHAPTER IV.

TO WHAT EXTENT MIRACLES CAN PROVE DOCTRINES.

AVING endeavoured to show, first, that mir

acles are possible ; secondly, that they are

expedient and desirable; and thirdly, what is their proper value as evidences of a Divine revelation, we come now to notice some of the leading objections of modern infidels to the reality of the Bible miracles.

But before doing so, there is another preliminary question on which it is necessary to make a few remarks, viz., How, and to what extent, miracles can prove doctrines to be divinely true? As to this, a difficulty has sometimes been felt, which, however, is more of a speculative than of a practical kind. The question has been asked, Can a miracle be wrought by evil spirits, or can it only proceed from the direct agency of God? And if it can be wrought by the former, how, in such a case, can the miracle prove the doctrine to be true? Now, though this question, viewed as one of pure speculation, or as a theme for metaphysical ingenuity, is attended with some difficulty, yet, as we shall endeavour to show, there is no serious practical difficulty involved in it. Instead, however, of dogmatising confidently on the theoretical question, let it be admitted, for the sake of argument,

a

that it is possible for an evil spirit to work what may appear to be a miracle.

But if an apparent miracle may be wrought by an evil spirit, the question naturally arises, How can any miracle be a conclusive evidence of “the finger of God?” In answer to this, and in explanation of the difficulty, let it be observed that there are three conceivable cases in which a professed revelation may be given to man.

1. The first supposable case is that, in which a pro fessed revelation bears, on the very face of it, obvious falsehoods, or contradictions, or immoralities; as in the instance of the Koran of Mahomet, or the lying wonders of paganism and Popery. Now, as to all these, it

may be safely affirmed that not even an undoubted miracle, if it should ever be wrought, could prove such a revelation to have come from the God of truth and holiness; but it ought to be summarily rejected, as coming, not “from above," but from beneath.

2. The second supposable case is that, in which a professed revelation contains pure doctrines and correct morals. Now, in such a case, miracles would be sufficient to prove that God is its Author. If it give just and worthy conceptions of the Divine character, and if its morality be perfectly pure and faultless, then there can be no doubt that it could only proceed from the God of truth and righteousness.

3. But there is a third supposable case (and it is actually, to a great extent, the case of our Bible), in which the subject-matter of the revelation is merely above our previous knowledge, by revealing new facts, or doctrines, of which we were not previously cognisant. Now, in such a case as this, miracles, we affirm, would be sufficient to prove the truth of the revelation, and to show that it really comes from God. For it cannot be believed that the all-perfect God would permit His power of working miracles to be employed by any being to deceive His creatures in a case where they have no means of judging as to the source whence the revelation proceeds. While no miracles could render it our duty to believe an obvious absurdity, or to practise a flagrant immorality, yet, in this third case, it would clearly be our duty to bow implicitly to the authority of the miracles alone, apart from all reasonings or imaginings of our own.

Nor, in arguing thus, can we be justly charged with "reasoning in a circle ;" that is, with first making the doctrine prove the miracle, and then making the miracle prove the doctrine; as the advocates of the Papacy do, in arguing that the truth of the Bible rests on the authority of the Church, and that the authority of the Church is derived from the Bible. Such reasoning in a circle can prove nothing, except its own fallaciousness. But the case with regard to miracles, as proving the truth of doctrines, is totally different. What we affirm is, that if the doctrines of a professed revelation are self-contradictory, or its precepts immoral, then such a revelation cannot be proved by any miracles to be Divine. And further, we affirm that, in showing that the doctrines of the Bible are not self-contradictory, and that its precepts are not im·moral, we do not necessarily prove them to be divinely true, but we merely render them capable of being proved to be so by suitable and sufficient evidence. We do not build a direct argument in favour of the Divine authority of the Bible upon the absence of contradictions or immoral teachings from its pages, but we merely clear the ground in order to lay the foundation for such an argument. And when we have got this length, when we have shown, as can easily be, and as has been shown to demonstration, that there is no real contradiction or immorality in the Bible, then the proof furnished by miracles is conclusive in favour of its Divine authority. Beyond all question, the Bible, in its every page, breathes a pure and lofty morality which, if universally practised, would change this sin-burdened world into a paradise of holiness and peace-a morality which, instead of thwarting or counteracting the force of the miracles, only superadds one miracle to another. And still more, the Bible, though composed in different ages, and by various writers, under the direction of One Spirit, is so selfconsistent and harmonious in all its teachings, as to show incontrovertibly that these teachings have all come from one source, and that this source is Divine. Is it not, then, evidently true, that in so far as the case of the Bible is concerned, there is no practical difficulty whatever in applying the argument from miracles; but, on the contrary, as has been eloquently said, that "the miracles and the morality of the Bible stand side by side, and conspire together in showing that it comes from Him who unites the highest power with the highest holiness?"

CHAPTER V.

INFIDEL OBJECTIONS.

ET us now consider some of the leading

objections of modern infidels to the reality

of the Bible miracles. Here we are called to notice chiefly the well-known argument of David Hume, in his celebrated “Essay on Miracles"-an argument which has been employed by many other opponents of the Bible, and which has been substantially adopted by the late Professor Powell, in his essay “On the Study of the Evidences of Christianity;" although with this difference, that the Oxford professor went much beyond the avowed infidel in his opposition to miracles. The substance of Hume's

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »