THE SCRIPTURES A REVELATION FROM GOD.
I. Reasons A Pbiori Fok Expecting A Revelation From God.
1. Needs of man's nature. Man's intellectual and moral nature requires, in order to preserve it from constant deterioration, and to ensure its moral growth and progress, an authoritative and helpful revelation of religious truth, of a higher and completer sort than any to which, in its present state of sin, it can attain by the use of its unaided powers. The proof of this proposition is partly psychological, and partly historical.
A. Psychological proof.—(a) Neither reason nor intuition throws light upon certain questions whose solution is of the utmost importance to us; for example, Trinity, atonement, pardon, method of worship, personal existence after death. (6) Even the truth to which we arrive by our natural powers needs divine confirmation and authority when it addresses minds and wills perverted by sin. (c) To break this power of sin, and to furnish encouragement to moral effort, we need a special revelation of the merciful and helpful aspect of the divine nature.
(o) Bremen Lectures, 72, 78; Plato, Second Alcibiades, 22, 23; Phaedo, 85— Aoyou dtiov rtfos. lamblieus, n-cpi Too IIvt?ayopucoi/ fliov, chap. 28. (o) TVrmts Socrates: Men will do right if they only know the right. Flint, Theism, 305; Martineau, in Nineteenth Century, 1: 331, 531; Curtis, Hum. Element in Inspiration, 250; Emerson, Essays, 2: 41; Murphy, Scientific Bases, 172. (c) Versus Thomas Paine: "Natural religion teaches us, without the possibility of being mistaken, all that is necessary or proper to be known." Plato, Laws, 8: 851, c, for substance: "Be good; but if you cannot, then kill yourself."
B. Historical proof.—(a The knowledge of moral and religious truth possessed by nations and ages in which special revelation is unknown is grossly and increasingly imperfect. (6) Man's actual condition in anteChristian times, and in modern heathen lands, is that of extreme moral depravity, (c) With this depravity is found a general conviction of helplessness, and on the part of some nobler natures, a longing after, and hope of, aid from above.
Pythagoras: "It is not easy to know [duties], except men were taught them by God himself, or by sonic person who had received them from God, or obtained the knowledge of them through some divine means." Socrates: "Wait with patience, till we know with certainty how we ought to behave ourselves toward (iod and man." Disciple of Plato: "Make probability our raft, while we sail through life, unless we could have a more sure and safe conveyance, such as some divine communication would lie."
See references and quotations in Peabody, Christianity the Kelig. of Nature, 35, and in Luthardt, Fund. Truths, 156-172, 335-338; Farrar, Seekers after (iod; Garbett, Dogmatic Faith, 187.
2. Presumption of sttjiply. What we know of God, by nature, affords ground for hope that these wants of our intellectual and moral being will be met by a corresponding supply, in the shape of a special divine revelation. We argue this:
. (a) From our necessary conviction of God's wisdom. Having made man a spiritual being, for spiritual ends, it may be hoped that he will furnish the means needed to secure these ends. (6) From the actual, though incomplete, revelation already given in nature. Since God has actually undertaken to make himself known to men, we may hope that he will finish the work he has begun, (c) From the general connection of want aud supply. The higher our needs, the more intricate and ingenious are, in general, the contrivances for meeting them. We may therefore hope that the highest want will be all the more surely met. (d) From analogies of nature and history. Signs of reparative goodness in nature and of forbearance in providential dealings lead us to hope that, while justice is executed, God may still make known some way of restoration for sinners.
In the natural arrangements for the healing of bruises in plants and for the mending of broken bones in the animal creation, in the provision of remedial agents for the cure of human diseases, and especially in the delay to inflict punishment upon the transgressor and the space given him for repentance, we have some indications, which, if uncontradicted by other evidence, might lead us to regard the God of nature as a God of forbearance and mercy. Plutarch's treatise /> Sera XumiHis Vimlida is proof that this t hought had occurred to the heathen. It maj' be doubted, indeed, whether a heathen religion could even continue to exist, without embracing in it some element of hope.
The New Testament intimates the existence of this witness of God's gooduess among the heathen, while at the same time It declares that the full knowledge of forgiveness and salvation is brought only by Christ. Compare Acts 14:17—" And yet he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave you from heaven rains and fruitful seasons, filling jour hearts with food and gladness;" 17 : 25-27—" he himself giveth to all life and breath and all things; and he made of one every nation of man .... that they should seek God. if haply they might feel after him and find him;" Rom. 2: 4—" the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance;" 3: 25—"the passing over of the sins done aforetime, in the forbearance of God;" Sph. 3: 9—" to make all men see what is the dispensation of the mystery which from all ages hath been hid in God :" 2 Tim. 1:10—" our Savior Jesus Christ, who abolished death, and brought life and incorruption to light through the gospel." See Hackett's edition of the treatise of Plutarch, as also Itowen, Metaph. and Ethics, 4S2-487; Diman, Theistic Argument, 371.
We conclude this section upon the reasons a priori for expecting a revelation from God with the acknowledgement that the facts warrant that degree of expectation which we call hope, rather than that larger degree of expectation which we call assurance; and this, for the reason that, while conscience gives proof that God is a God of holiness, we have not, from the light of nature, equal evidence that God is a God of love. Keason teaches man that, as a sinner, lie merits condemnation; but he cannot, from reason alone, know that God will have mercy upon him aud provide salvation. His doubts can be removed only by God's own voice, assuring him of "redemption .... the forgiveness of ... . trespasses" (Eph. 1: 7), and revealing to him the way in which that forgiveness has been rendered possible.
II. Marks Of The Revelation Man May Expect.
1. As to its substance. We may expect this later revelation not to contradict, but to confirm and enlarge, the knowledge of God which we derive from nature, while it remedies the defects of natural religion and throws light upon its problems.
2. As to its method. We may expect it to follow God's methods of procedure in other communications of truth.
Bishop Butler (Analogy, part ii, chap, iii) has denied that there is any possibility of Judging a priori how a divine revelation will be given. "We are in no sort judges beforehand," he says, "by what methods, or in what proportion, it were to be expected that this supernatural light and instruction would be afforded us." But Bishop Butler somewhat later in his great work (part ii, chap, iv) shows that God's progressive plan in revelation has its analogy in the slow, successive steps by which God accomplishes his ends in nature. We maintain that the revelation in nature affords certain presumptions with regard to the revelation of grace, such for example as those above mentioned.
(a) That of continuous historical development,—that it will be given in germ to early ages, and will be more fully unfolded as the race is prepared to receive it.
Instances of continuous development in God's importations are found in geological history; in the growth of the sciences; in the progressive education of the individual and of the race. See sermon by Br. Temple, on the Education of the World, in Essays and Reviews; Rogers, Superhuman Origin of the Bible, 374-384; Walker, Philosophy of the Plan of Salvation.
(b) That of original delivery to a single nation, and to single persons in that nation, that it may through them be communicated to mankind.
Each nation represents an idea. As the Greek had a genius for liberty and beauty, and the Roman a genius for organization and law, so the Hebrew nation had a "genius for religion" (Renan): this last, however, would have been useless without special divine aid and superintendence, as witness other productions of this same Semitic race, such as Bel and the Dragon, in the Old Testament Apocrypha; the gospels of the Apocryphal New Testament: and later still, the Talmud and the Koran. See British Quarterly, Jan., 1874: art.: Inductive Theology.
(c) That of preservation in written and accessible documents, handed down from those to whom the revelation is first communicated.
Alphabets, writing, books, are our chief dependence for the history of the past; all the great religions of the world are book-religions; the Karens expected their teachers in the new religion to bring to them a book. See Hogers, Eclipse of Faith, chapters on Book-revelation, 73-96, 281-304. But notice that false religions have scriptures, but not Scripture; their sacred books lack the principle of unity which is furnished by divine inspiration.
3. As to its attestation. We may expect that thiB revelation will be accompanied by evidence that its author is the same being whom we have previously recognized as God of nature. This evidence must constitute (a) a manifestation of God himself, (6) in the outward as well as the inward world, (c) such as only God's power or knowledge can make, and (d) such as cannot be counterfeited by the evil, or mistaken by the candid, soul. In Bhort, we may expect God to attest, by miracles and by prophecy, the divine mission and authority of those to whom he communicates a revelation. Some such outward sign would seem to be necessary, not only to assure the original recipient that the supposed revelation is not a vagary of his own imagination, but also to render the revelation received by a single individual authoritative to all (compare Judges 6: 17, 36-40—Gideon asks a sign, for himself; 1 K. 18 : 36-38—Elijah asks a sign, for others).
But in order that our positive proof of a divine revelation may not be embarrassed by the suspicion that the miraculous and prophetic elements in the Scripture history create a presumption against its credibility, it will be desirable to take up at this point the general subject of miracles and prophecy.
HI. Miracles, As Attesting A Divine Revelation.
1. Definition of Miracle. A miracle is an event palpable to the senses, produced for a religious purpose by the immediate agency of God; an event therefore which, though not contravening any law of nature, the laws of nature, if fully known, would not be competent to explain.
This definition corrects several erroneous conceptions of the miracle:— (a) A miracle is not a suspension or violation of natural law; since natural law is in operation at the time of the miracle just as much as before. (6) A miracle is not a sudden product of natural agencies—a product merely foreseen, by him who appears to work it; it is the effect of a will outside of nature, (c) A miracle is not an event without a cause, since it has for its cause a direct volition of God. (d) A miracle is not an irrational or capricious act of God, but an act of wisdom, performed in accordance with the immutable laws of his being, so that in the same circumstances the same course would be again pursued, (e) A miracle is not contrary to experience, since it is not contrary to experience for a new cause to be followed by a new effect. (/) A miracle is not a matter of internal experience, like regeneration or illumination, but is an event palpable to the senses, which may serve as an objective proof to all that the worker of it is divinely commissioned as a religious teacher.
For vurious definitions of miracles, see Alexander, Christ mid Christianity, 302. On the whole subject, see Mozloy. Miracles; Christlieb, Mod. Doubt and Christ. Belief, 28533H; Fisher, in Princeton Rev., Nov.. 1880, and Jan., 1881; Art. by A. H. Strong, in Bii|>tist Review, April, 1879. The definition (riven above is intended simply us a definition of the miracles of the Bible, or, in other words, of the events which profess to attest a divine revelation in the Scriptures. The New Testament designates these events in a twofold way, viewing them either subjectively, as producing effects upon men, or objectively, us revealing the power and wisdom of God. In the former aspect they nre called Ttpara, 'wonders.'and <TTfMeia,'signs' John 4: 48; Acts 2: 22}. In the latter aspect they are called Svyojmi, 'powsrs,' and <>>a, 'works iM»t. 7: 22; John 14:11). See II. B. Smith, Led. on Apologetics, 90-llri, esp. 94—" vrjutiov, sign, marking the purpose or object, the moral end, placing the event in connection with revelation."
It has been claimed by some that the Biblical miracle need not be defined us an event produced by the direct and immediate agency of God, but that it may be regarded as belonging to a higher order of nature, and so as being only indirectly and mediately the work of God. We grant that there are wonderful events narrated In Scripture which may belong to the class of ' providential miracles,' or marvellous special providences, in which the result is due to the operation of natural laws which are themselves, however, ordained and superintended by God. If all miracles were of this sort, we might define the miracle as "an event in nature, so extraordinary In itself and so coinciding with the prophecy or command of a religious teacher or leader, as fully to warrant the conviction, on the part of those who witness it, that God has wrought it with the design of certifying that this teacher or leader has been commissioned by him."
See this view stated and illustrated by llabbage, Ninth Bridgcwater Treatise, chap. viil. Bonnet held this view; see Dorner, Gluubcnslchre, 1: SMI, 692; Eng. translation, 2: 155, 156. In favor of this view, it may be claimed that it does not dispense with the divine working, tmt only puts it further back at the origination of the system, while it still holds God's work to be essential, not only to the upholding of the system, but also to the inspiring of the religious tvueher or lender with tin? knowledge nt.'eded to predict this unusual working of the system. The wonder is eontiiied to the prophecy, which may equally attest a divine revelation.
But- it is plain thuta miracle of this sort lacks to a large <le(free the element of ' signality' which is needed, if it is to accomplish its purpose. It surrenders the great advantage which miracle, as first defined, possessed over special providence, as an attestation of revelation—the advantage, namely, that while special providence affords mme warrant that this revelation comes from God, miracle gives full warnint that it comes from God. Since man may by natural means possess himself of the knowledge of physical laws, the true miracle which God works, and the pretended miracle which only man works, are upon this theory far less easy to distinguish from each other. Certain typical miracles, like the resurrection of Lazarus, refuse to be classed as events within the realm of nature, in however wide a sense the term nature may be used. Our Lord, moreover, seems clearly to exclude such a theory as this, when he says: "If I by dm finger of God cast out demons *' (Luke 11: 20). Since therefore the Scriptures seem to represent the miracle as an event wrought by the immediate agency of God, our further discussion of the subject is a discussion of miracles us first defined. See Mozley, Miracles, preface, ix-xxvi; 7, 143-168; Bushnell, Nature and the Supernatural, 333-338: Smith's Diet, of Bible, art.: Miracles, by Bp. Fitzgerald and Edwards A. Park; Bp. Temple, Bumpton Lectures for 1884: 1H3-221.
2. Possibility of Miracles. An event in nature may be caused by an agent outside of and above nature. This is evident from the following considerations:
(a) Lower forces and laws in nature are frequently counteracted and transcended by the higher (as mechanical forces and laws by chemical, and chemical by vital), while yet the lower forces and laws are not suspended or annihilated, but are merged in the higher, and made to assist in accomplishing purposes to which they are altogether unequal when left to themselves.
By nature we mean nature In the proper sense—not 'everything: that is not God,' but 'everything that is not God or made in the image of God '; see Hopkins, Outline Study of Man, 258, 250. Man's will does not belong to nature, but is above nature. On the transcending of lower forces by higher, see Murphy, Habit und Intelligence, 1: 88,
(b) The human will acts upon its physical organism, and so upon nature, and produces results which nature left to herself never could accomplish, while yet no law of nature is suspended or violated. Gravitation still operates upon the axe, even while man holds it at the surface of the water—for the axe still has weight (cf. 2 K. 6: 5-7).
Versus Hume, Philos. Works, 4: 130—" A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature.'' Christian apologists have too often needlessly embarrassed their argument by accepting Hume's definition. The stigma is entirely undeserved. If man can support the axe at the surface of the water while gravitation still acts upon it, God can certainly, at the prophet's word, make the Iron to swim, while gravitation still acts upon it. But this last is miracle. See Mansel, Essay on Miracles, in Aids to Faith, 26, 27; Fisher, Supernat. Origin of Christianity, 471; Hamilton, Autology, 685-690; Bowen, Metaph. und Ethics, 445; Row, Hampton Lectures on Christian Evidences, 54-72.
(c) In all free causation, there is an acting without means. Man acts upon external nature through his physical organism, but, in moving his physical organism, he acts directly upon matter. In other words, the human will can use means, only because it has the power of acting initially without means.
See Hopkins, on Prayer-gauge, 10, and In Princeton Review, Sept., 1882: 188.
d) What the human will, considered as a supernatural force, and what the chemical and vital forces of nature itself, are demonstrably able to accomplish, cannot be regarded as beyond the power of God, so long as God dwells in and controls the universe. If man's will can act directly upon matter in his own physical organism, God's will can work immediately upon the system which he has created and which he sustains. In other words, if there be a God, and if he be a personal being, miracles are possible. The impossibility of miracles can be maintained only upon principles of atheism or pantheism.
See Westcott, Gospel of the Resurrection, 19; Cox, Miracles, an Argument and a Challenge: "Anthropomorphism is preferable to hylomorphism." Newman Smyth, Old Faiths In a New Light, ch. 1—" A miracle is not a sudden blow struck In the face of nature, but a use of nature, according to Its inherent capacities, by higher powers."
3. Probability of Miracles.
A. We acknowledge that, so long as we confine our attention to nature, there is a presumption against miracles. Experience testifies to the uniformity of natural law. A general uniformity is needful, in order to make possible a rational calculation of the future, and a proper ordering of life.
Sec Butler, Analogy, part 2, chap. 2; F. W. Farrar, Witness of History to Christ, 3-45: Modern Scepticism, 1: 179-227: Chalmers, Christian Revelation, 1: 47.
B. But we deny that this uniformity of nature is absolute and universal, (a) It is not a truth of reason that can have no exceptions, like the axiom that a whole is greater than its parts, (b) Experience could not warrant a belief in absolute and universal uniformity, unless experience were identical with absolute and universal knowledge, (c) We know, on the contrary, from geology, that there have been breaks in this uniformity, such as the introduction of vegetable, animal and human life, which cannot be accounted for, except by the coming down upon nature of a supernatural power.
(a) Compare the probability that the sun will rise to-morrow morning with the certainty that two and two make four. Huxley, Lay Sermons, 138, indignantly denies that there is any 'must' about the uniformity of nature. See Edward Hitchcock, in Bib. Sac, 20: 489-581, on "The Law of Nature's Constancy subordinate to the Higher Law of Change": Jevons, Principles of Science, 2: 480-438; Mozley, Miracles, 28. (b) Coleridge: "Experience, like the stern-lights of a ship, illuminates only the track over which it has paised." (O Other breaks in the uniformity of nature are the coming of Christ and the regeneration of the human soul. See British Quarterly Rev., Oct., 1881: 154.
C. Since the inworking of the moral law into the constitution and course of nature shows that nature exists, not for itself, but for the contemplation and use of moral beings, it is probable that the God of nature will produce effects aside from those of natural law, whenever there are sufficiently important moral ends to be served thereby.
Beneath the expectation of uniformity is the intuition of final cause: the former may therefore give way to the latter. See Porter, Human Intellect, 592-818: Efficient causes and final causes may conflict, and then the efficient give place to the final. This is miracle. See Hutton, in Nineteenth Century, Aug., 1885.
D. The existence of moral disorder consequent upon the free acts of man's will, therefore, changes the presumption against miracles into a presumption in their favor. The non-appearance of miracles, in this case,
would be the greatest of wonders.
See Mozley, Miracles, preface, xxiv; Turner, Wish and Will, 291-315; N. W.Taylor, Moral Government. 2: 388-423.
E. As belief in the possibility of miracles rests upon our belief in the existence of a personal God, so belief in the probability of miracles rests upon our belief that God is a moral and benevolent being. He who has no God but a God of physical order will regard miracles as an impertinent intrusion upon that order. But he who yields to the testimony of conscience and regards God as a God of holiness, will see that man's unholiness renders God's miraculous interposition most necessary to man and most becoming to God. Our view of miracles will therefore be determined by our belief in a moral, or in a non-moral, God.
It is commonly, but very erroneously, taken for granted that miracle requires a greater exercise of power than does God's upholding; of the ordinary processes of nature. But to an omnipotent Being our measures of power havq no application. The question is not a question of power, but of rationality and love. Miracle implies selfrestraint, as well as self-unfolding, on the part of him who works it. It is therefore not God's common method of action; it is adopted only when regular methods will not suffice; it often seems accompanied by a sacrifice of feeling on the part of Christ (Hit. 17:17—" 0 faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I bear with you? bring him hither to me " ; Mark 7: 34—" Looking up to heaven, he sighed, and saith unto him, Ephphatha. that is, Be opened;" c/. Mat 12: 39—"An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet."
Like creation and providence, like inspiration and regeneration, miracle is a work in which God limits himself, by a new and peculiar exercise of his power,—limits himself as part of a process of condescending love and as a means of teaching sense-environed and sin-burdened humanity what it would not learn in any other way. Self-limitation, however, is the very perfection and glory of God, for without it no self-sacrificing love would be possible tsee page 6, F). The probability of miracles is therefore argued not only from God's holiness but also from his love. His desire to save men from their sins must be as infinite as his nature. The incarnation, the atonement, the resurrection, when once made known to us, commend themselves, not only as satisfying our human needs, but as worthy of a God of moral perfection.
4. The amount of testimony necessary to prove a miracle is no greater than that which is requisite to prove the occurrence of any other unusual but confessedly possible event.
Hume, indeed, argued that a miracle is so contradictory of all human experience that it is more reasonable to believe any amount of testimony false than to believe a miracle to be true.
The original form of the argument can be found in Hume's Philosophical Works, 4: 124-150. See also Bib. Sae., Oct., 186": 815. For the most recent and plausible statement of it, see Supernatural Religion, 1: 55-94.
The argument is fallacious, because
(a) It is chargeable with a petitio principii, in making our own personal experience the measure of all human experience. The same principle would make the proof of any absolutely new fact impossible. Even though God should work a miracle, he could never prove it.
This is granted by John Stuart Mill, in his Essays on Theism, 216-241.
(6) It involves a self-contradiction, since it seeks to overthrow our faith in human testimony by adducing to the contrary the general experience of men, of which we know only from testimony. This general experience, moreover, is merely negative, and cannot neutralize that which is positive, «xcept upon principles which would invalidate all testimony whatever.
Flchte: "We are born in faith—we learn unbelief." Our faith in testimony cannot be due to experience.
(c) It requires belief in a greater wonder than those which it would escape. That multitudes of intelligent and honest men should against all their interests unite in deliberate and persistent falsehood, under the circumstances narrated in the New Testament record, involves a change in the sequences of nature far more incredible than the miracles of Christ and his apostles.
On this point see Chalmers, Christian Revelation, 3: 70: Starkie on Evidence, 739; De Qulnce.v, Theol. Essays, 1: 162-188; Thornton. Old-fashioned Ethics, 143-153; Campbell on Miracles.
5. Evidential force of Miracles.
(o) Miracles are the natural accompaniments and attestations of new communications from God. The great epochs of miracles—represented by Moses, the prophets, the first and second comings of Christ—are coincident with the great epochs of revelation. Miracles serve to draw attention to new truth, and cease when this truth has gained currency and foothold.
Miracles are not scattered evenly over the whole course of history. Not a single miracle is recorded during- the 2500 years from Adam to Moses. When the N. T. Canon is completed and the internal evidence of Scripture has attained its greatest strength, the external attestations by miracle are either wholly withdrawn or begin to disappear. The spiritual wonders of regeneration remain, and for these the way has been prepared by the long progress from the miracles of power wrought by Moses to the miracles of grace wrought by Christ. On the cessation of miracles in the early church, see Henderson, Inspiration, «3-490; BUckmann, In Zeltschr. f. Luth. Theol. u. Kirche, 1878: 216. John Foster: Miracles are the great bell of the universe which draws men to God's sermon. H. W. Beecher: Miracles are the midwivesof great moral truths: candles lit before the dawn, but put out after the sun has risen. See Diman, Theistic Argument, 376.
(6) Miracles, however, certify to the truth of doctrine, not directly, but indirectly; otherwise a new miracle must needs accompany each new doctrine taught. Miracles primarily and directly certify to the divine commission and authority of a religious teacher, and therefore warrant acceptance of his doctrines and obedience to his commands as the doctrines and commands of God, whether these be communicated at intervals or all together, orally or in written documents. See Murphy, Scientific Bases of Faith, H7-167; Farrar, Life of Christ, 1: 168-172.
(c) Miracles, therefore, do not stand alone as evidences. Power alone cannot prove a divine commission. Purity of life and doctrine must go with the miracles to assure us that a religious teacher has come from God. The miracles and the doctrine in this manner mutually support each other, and form parts of one whole. The internal evidence for the Christian system may have greater power over certain minds and over certain ages than the external evidence.
Pascal's aphorism that " doctrines must lie Judged by miracles, miracles by doctrines," needs to be supplemented by Mozley's statement that "a supernatural fact is the proper proof of a supernatural doctrine, while a supernatural doctrine is not the proper proof of a supernatural fact." Vermi* Supernatural Religion, 1: 23, and Stearns, in N. Englander, Jan., 1882: 80. See Mozley, Miracles, 15: Nicoll, Life of Jesus Christ, 133; Mill, Logic, 371-382; H. B. Smith, Introd. to Christ. Theology, 167-169; Fisher, in Journ. Christ. Philosophy, Apr., 1883: 270-283.
(d) Yet the Christian miracles do not lose their value as evidences in the process of ages. The loftier the structure of Christian life and doctrine the greater need that ite foundation be secure. The authority of Christ as a teacher of supernatural truth rests upon his miracles, and specially upon the miracle of his resurrection. That one miracle to which the church looks back as the source of her life carries with it irresistibly all the other miracles of the Scripture record; upon it alone we may safely rest the proof that the Scriptures are an authoritative revelation from God.
In our arguments with sceptics, we should not begin with the ass that spoke to Balaam, or the fish that swallowed Jonah, but with the resurrection of Christ; that once conceded, all other Biblical miracles will seem only natural preparations, accompaniments, or consequences. Godet, Lectures in Defence of the Christian Faith, lect. i—Dilemma tor those who deny the fact of Christ's resurrection: Either his body remained in the hands of his disciples, or it was given up to the Jews. If the disciples retained it, they were impostors; but this is not maintained by modern rationalists. If the Jews retained it, why did they not produce it as conclusive evidence against the disciples? See Alexander, Christ and Christianity, 9, 158-224, 302; Mill, Theism, 216; Auberlcn. Divine Revelation, 56; Boston Lectures, 203-239. On the resurrection of Christ, see Milligan, Resurrection of Christ; Morrison, Proofs of Christ's Resurrection; Christlieb, Mod. Doubt and Christ. Belief, 448-503; How, Bampton Lect. for 1877 : 358-423; H utton, Essays, 1: 119; Scliaff, in Princeton Kov., May, 1880: 411-419.
6. Counterfeit Miracles.
Since only an act directly wrought by God can properly be called a miracle, it follows that surprising events brought about by evil spirits or by men, through the use of natural agencies beyond our knowledge, are not entitled to this appellation. The Scriptures recognize the existence of such, but denominate them "lying wonders " (2 Thess. 2 : 9).
These counterfeit miracles in various ages argue that the belief in miracles is natural to the race, and that somewhere there must exist the true. They serve to show that not all supernatural occurrences are divine, and to impress upon us the necessity of careful examination before we accept them as divine.
False miracles may commonly be distinguished from the true by (a) their accompaniments of immoral conduct or of doctrine contradictory to truth already revealed—as in modern spiritualism; (6) their internal characteristics of inanity and extravagance—as in the liquefaction of the blood of St. Januarius, or the miracles of the Apocryphal New Testament; (c) the insufficiency of the object which they are designed to further—as in the case of Apollonius of Tyana, or of the miracles said to accompany the publication of the doctrine of the immaculate conception; (d) their lack of substantiating evidence—as in medifeval miracles, so seldom attested by contemporary and disinterested witnesses.
Mozley, Miracles, 15,161; F. W. Farrar, Witness of History to Christ, 72; A. S. Farrar, Science and Theology, 208; Tholuck, Vermischte Schriften, 1: 27; Hodge, Syst. Thcol., 1: 630; Presb. Rev., 1881: 687-719. For the view that the gift of miracles still remains in the church, see Boys, Proofs of the Miraculous in the Experience of the Church; Bushnell, Nature and the Supernatural, 446-492; Gordon, Ministry of Healing. Review of Gordon, by Vincent, in Presb. Rev., 1883: 473-502; Review of Vincent, in Presb. Rev., 1884: 49-79; Vincent's reply, in Presb. Rev., April, 1884. On the power of the will
over the body, see Harris, Philos. Basis of Theism, 381-386. We incline to the view that in these later ages God answers prayer for healing, not by miracle, but by special providence and by special gifts of courage, faith, and will, thus acting by his Spirit directly upon the soul, and only Indirectly upon the body,
IV. Prophecy As Attesting A Divine Revelation.
We here consider prophecy in its narrow sense of mere prediction.
1. Definition. Prophecy is the foretelling of future events by virtue of direct communication from God—a foretelling, therefore, which, though not contravening any laws of the human mind, those laws, if fully known, would not be sufficient to explain.
Payne Smith, Prophecy a Preparation for Christ; Alexander, Christ and Christianity, 235; Newton on Prophecy; Fairbalm on Prophecy; Farntr, Science and Theology, 106.
2. Relat ion of Prophecy to Miracles. Miracles are attestations of revelation proceeding from divine power; prophecy is an attestation of revelation proceeding from divine knowledge. Only God can know the contingencies of the future. The possibility and probability of prophecy may be argued upon the same grounds upon which we argue the possibility and probability of miracles. As an evidence of divine revelation, however, prophecy possesses two advantages over miracles, namely: (a) The proof, in the case of prophecy, is not derived from ancient testimony, but is under our eyes. (b) The evidence of miracles cannot become stronger, whereas every new fulfilment adds to the argument from prophecy.
Hume: "AU prophecies are real miracles, and only as such can bo admitted as proofs of any revelation." Wardluw, Syst. TheoL, 1: 347.
3. Requirements in Prophecy, considered as an evidence of revelation. (a) The utterance must be distant from the event.
(6) Nothing must exist to suggest the event to merely natural prescience.
Stanley instances the natural sagacity of Burke, which enabled him to predict the French Kevolution.
(c) The utterance must be free from ambiguity.
Illustrate ambiguous prophecies by the Delphic oracle to Croesus: "Crossing the river thou destroyest a great nation "—whether his own or Ills enemy's the oracle left undetermined. "Ibis et redibis nunquam peribis in bello."
(d) Yet it must not be so precise as to secure its own fulfilment.
Strauss held that O. T. prophecy itself determined either the events or the narratives of the gospels. See Gregg, Creed of Christendom, chap. 4.
(e) It must be followed in duo time by the event predicted.
4. General features of Prophecy in the Scriptures.
(a) Its vast amount—occupying a large portion of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and extending over a period of four thousand years.
(6) Its unity in diversity—finding its central point in Christ; and excluding all possibility of human fabrication, lets 10 :43—" To him bear all the prophets witness "; Rev. 19:10—" The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy."
(c) Its actual fulfilment as regards many of its predictions,—while all attempts have failed to show that any single one of these predictions has been falsified by the event.
Instances of specific predictions fulfilled are the mentioning- of Cyrus by name a hundred and fifty years before his birth, and the foretelling- of the sending back of the Jews from Babylon (Is. 44 : 26-281.
5. Different kinds of Prophecy, (a) Direct predictions of events— as in Old Testament prophecies of Christ and of the fate of the Jewish nation. (6) General prophecy of the kingdom in the Old Testament, and by Christ himself in the new. (e) Historical types in the nation and in individuals— as Jonah and David, (d) Preflgurations of the future iu rites and ordinances—as in sacrifice, circumcision, and the passover.
Types are intended resemblances, designed preflgurations: for example, the people of Israel is a type of the Christian church; outside nations are types of the hostile world: Jonah and David are types of Christ.
6. Special Prophecies tillered by Christ, (a) As to his own death and resurrection, (b) As to events occurring between his death and the destruction of Jerusalem (multitudes of impostors; wars and rumors of wars; famine and pestilence), (c) As to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish polity (Jerusalem compassed with armies; abomination of desolation in the holy place; flight of Christians; misery; massacre; dispersion). (d) As to the world-wide diffusion of his gospel (the Bible already the most widely circulated book in the world).
7. On the double sense of Prophecy.
(a) Certain prophecies apparently contain a fulness of meaning which is not exhausted by the event to which they most obviously and literally refer. A prophecy which had a partial fulfilment at a time not remote from its utterance, may find its chief fulfilment in an event far distant. Since the principles of God's administration find ever recurring and ever enlarging illustration in history, prophecies which have already had a partial fulfilment may have whole cycles of fulfilment yet before them.
In prophecy there is an absence of perspective: as in Japanese pictures, the near and the far appearequally distant; the prophet seems freed from the law of space and time; as in dissolving views, the immediate future melts into a future immeasurably faraway. In Is. 10 and 11, for example, the fall of Lebanon (the Assyrian) Is immediately connected with the rise of the Branch (Christ): in Jer. 51 : 41. the first capture! and the complete destruction of Babylon are connected with each other, without notice of the interval of a thousand years between them.
Instances of the double sense of prophecy may be found in Is. 7 :14-16; 9 : 6, 7—"a virgin shall conceive and bear a son" ... . "Unto us a son is born "—compared with Mat. 1: 22, 23, where the prophecy is applied to^Chrlst (see Meyer, In loco); Hosea 11:1, compared with Hat. 2 :15— "nrst-born son - both Israel and Christ; Mat 24 and 25, especially 24 : 34 and 25:31—where Christ's prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem passes into a prophecy of the end of the world. Lord Bacon: "Divine prophecies have springing and germinant accomplishment through many ages, though the height or fulness of them may refer to some one age." For this reason the preterist, the continuist, and the futurist interpretation of the Book of Revelation may each have its elements of truth; see further, on Esehatology. See also Dr. Arnold of Rugby, Sermons on the Interpretation of Scripture, Appendix A, pages 441-454; Aids to Faith, 449-462; Smith's Bible Diet., 4 : 3727. Per contra, gee Elliott, Hone Apocalyptiae, 4 : KU2.
(b) The prophet was not always aware of the meaning of his own prophecies (1 Pet. 1 : 11). It is enough to constitute his prophecies a proof of divine revelation, if it can be shown that the correspondences between them and the actual events are such as to indicate divine wisdom and purpose in the giving of them—in other words, it is enough if the inspiring Spirit knew their meaning, even though the inspired prophet did not.
It is not inconsistent with this view, but rather confirms it, that the near event, and not the distant fulfilment, was often chiefly, if not exclusively, in the mind of the prophet when he wrote. Scripture declares that the prophets did not always understand their own predictions: 1 Pet 1:11—"Searching what or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did point unto, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that should follow them." Emerson: "Himself from God he could not free: He builded better than he knew." Keble: "As little children lisp and tell of heaven, So thoughts beyond their thoughts to those high bards were given."
8. Purpose of Prophecy—so far as it is yet unfulfilled, (a) Not to enable us to map out the details of the future; but rather (6) To give general assurance of God's power and foreseeing wisdom, and of the certainty of his triumph; and (c) To furnish, after fulfilment, the proof that God saw the end from the beginning.
Dan. 12 : 8, 9—" and I heard, bat I understood not; then said I, 0 my Lord, what shall be the issue of these things? and he said. Go thy way. Daniel: for the words are shut up and sealed till the time of the end;" 2 Pet. 1:19— prophecy is "a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawn'- not until day dawns can distant objects be seen; 20 — "Ko prophecy of scripture is of private interpretation"^- only God, by the event, can interpret it. Sir Isaac Newton: "God gave the prophecies, not to gratify men's curiosity by enabling them to foreknow things, but that after they were fulfilled they might be interpreted by the event, and his own providence, not the interpreter's, t>e thereby manifested to the world."
9. Evidential force of Prophecy—so far as it is fulfilled. Prophecy, like miracles, does not stand alone as evidence of the divine commission of the Scripture writers and teachers. It is simply a corroborative attestation, which uuites with miracles to prove that a religious teacher has come from God and speaks with divine authority. We cannot, however, dispense with this portion of the evidences,—for unless the death and resurrection of Christ are events foreknown and foretold by himself, as well as by the ancient prophets, we lose one main proof of his authority as a teacher sent from God.
See Annotated Paragraph Hible, Introd. to Prophetical Books; Stanley Lcathes, O. T. Prophecy; Cairns, on Present State of Christian Argument from Prophecy, in Present Day Tracts, 5: no. 27; Edereheim, Prophecy and History.
Having thus removed the presumption originally existing against miracles and prophecy, we may now consider the ordinary laws of evidence and determine the rules to be followed in estimating the weight of the Scripture testimony.
V. PRINCIPLES OF HISTORICAL EVlDENCE APPLICABLE TO THE PROOF OF A
Divine Revelation (mainly derived from Greenleaf, Testimony of the Evangelists, and from Starkie on Evidence).
1. As to documentary evidence.
(a) Documents apparently ancient, not bearing upon their face the marks of forgery, and found in proper custody, are presumed to be genuine until sufficient evidence is brought to the contrary. The New Testament documents, since they are found in the custody of the church, their natural and legitimate depository, must by this rule be presumed to be genuine.
The Christian documents were not found, like the Book of Mormon, in a cave, or in the custody of angels. See Starkie on Evidence, 480 sq.; Chalmers, Christian Revelation, in Works, 3: 147-171.
[6) Copies of ancient documents, made by those most interested in their faithfulness, are presumed to correspond with the originals, even although those originals no longer exist. Since it was the church's interest to have faithful copies, the burden of proof rests upon the objector to the Christian documents.
Upon the evidence of a copy of its own records, the originals having been lost, the House of Lords decided a claim to the peerage; see Starkie on Evidence, 61. There is no manuscript of Sophocles earlier than the tenth century, while at least two manuscripts of the N. T. go back to the fourth century.
(c) In determining matters of fact, after the lapse of considerable time, documentary evidence is to be allowed greater weight than oral testimony. Neither memory nor tradition can long be trusted to give absolutely correct accounts of particular facts. The New Testament documents, therefore, are of greater weight in evidence than tradition would be, even if only thirty years had elapsed since the death of the actors in the scenes they relate.
See Starkie ou Evidence, 51, 730. The Roman Catholic Church, in its legends of the saints, shows how quickly mere tradition can become corrupt.
2. As to testimony in general.
(a) In questions as to matters of fact, the proper inquiry is not whether it is possible that the testimony may be false, but whether there is sufficient probability that it is true. It is unfair, therefore, to allow our examination of the Scripture witnesses to be prejudiced by suspicion, merely because their story is a sacred one.
(b) A proposition of fact is proved when its truth is established by competent and satisfactory evidence. By competent evidence is meant such evidence as the nature of the thing to be proved admits. By satisfactory evidence is meant that amount of proof which ordinarily satisfies an unprejudiced mind beyond a reasonable doubt. Scripture facts are therefore proved, when they are established by that kind and degree of evidence which would iu the affaire of ordinary life satisfy the mind and conscience of a common man. When we have this kind and degree of evidence it is unreasonable to require more.
(c) In the absence of circumstances which generate suspicion, every witness is to be presumed credible, until the contrary is shown; the burden of impeaching his testimony lying upon the objector. The principle which leads men to give true witness to facts is stronger than that which leads them to give false witness. It is therefore unjust to compel the Christian to establish the credibility of his witnesses before proceeding to adduce their testimony, and it is equally unjust to allow the uncorroborated testimony of a profane writer to outweigh that of a Christian writer. Christian witnesses should not be considered interested, and therefore untrustworthy; for they became Christians against their worldly interests, and because they could not resist the force of testimony. Varying accounts among them should be estimated as we estimate the varying accounts of profane writers.
John's account of Jesus differs from that of the synoptic gospels; but, in a very similar manner, and probably for a very similar reason, Plato's account of Socrates differs from that of Xenophou. Each saw and described that side of his subject which he was by nature best fitted to comprehend.
(d) A slight amount of positive testimony, so long as it is uncontradicted, outweighs a very great amount of testimony that is merely' negative. The silence of a second witness, or his testimony that he did not see a certain alleged occurrence, cannot counterbalance the positive testimony of a first witness that he did see it. We should therefore estimate the silence of profane writers with regard to facts narrated in Scripture precisely as we should estimate it if the facts about which they are silent were narrated by other profane writers, instead of being narrated by the writers of Scripture.
Egyptian monuments make no mention of the destruction of Pharaoh and his army; but then, Napoleon's dispatches also make no mention of his defeat at Trafalgar. Even though we should grant that Josephus does not mention Jesus, we should have a parallel in Thucydides, who never once mentions Socrates, the most important character of the thirty years embraced in his history. Wleseler, however, in Jahrbuch f. d. Theologie, 23: 98, maintains the essential genuineness of the commonly rejected passage with regard to Jesus in Josephus, Antiq., 18: 3: 3, omitting, however, as interpolations, the phrases: "if it be right to call him man"; "this was the Christ"; "he appeared alive the third day according to prophecy "; for these, if genuine, would prove Josephus a Christian, which he, by all ancient accounts, was not.
(e) "The credit due to the testimony of witnesses depends upon: first, their ability; secondly, their honesty; thirdly, their number and the consistency of their testimony; fourthly, the conformity of their testimony with experience; and fifthly, the coincidence of their testimony with collateral circumstances." We confidently submit the New Testament witnesses to each and all of these tests.
See Starkie on Evidence, 728.