« PreviousContinue »
from all inference whatever."-We are rejoiced to hear this ; because, as we are perfectly satisfied that he only is a Christian who believes the greatest of all miracles, that of one of the Persons of the Trinity resident in himself, it is impossible for such a one not to have an abiding " belief in prodigies.” The argu. ment of Hume upon this subject, which we have already cited, is perfectly unanswerable ; so that all who are not predisposed to believe a miracle cannot be Christians, by the very terms of the definition. For ourselves, our wonder is, not that there are manifestations of this supernatural inhabitation, but that there are so few. Here, however, we must correct our own expression, for we do not believe that they are few : on the contrary, we believe, as we have already said, that they are very numerous amongst the poor, who are rich in faith. The cause of wonder, and of awful alarm also, is, that the power of sin should be so great as to quench the Holy Ghost within a man, and to keep the Godhead veiled, so that He should appear but seldom.
The Editor speaks of miracles as if they were“ preternaturally displayed for the proof of certain doctrines,” and as if such had been the application made of them by Mary Stuart the Papist, and in Scotland. If such inference has been drawn from their display, it is most illegitimate. But Mary Stuart may be a woman full of faith and love to Jesus, although ill instructed in other points of doctrine: she may have attended a Mass as free from self-righteousness as any schismatic who despises ordinances altogether as beggarly elements, although designing priests may persuade her that the miracle performed on her proves the validity of claims to which it has no reference. But we must draw these painful reflections to a close for the present; begging our readers, however, to bear this remarkable fact in mind, -that the soi-disant Christian World is point by point exposing its disbelief of every essential Christian doctrine, till, after rejecting the man Jesus to reign over them, they are now blaspheming against the Holy Ghost, and willing to impute His acts to any cause whatever - nervous excitement, delusion-any thing, in short, rather than to His own power, exhibited for the purpose of glorifying the name of Jesus. His manifestations are become absolutely necessary for the comfort of His members, to fortify them to withstand the enmity with which religious professors will assail them for bearing testimony to His truth, and to increase their separation from the Pharisaism of modern Evangelicals.
If we had time to enter upon the discussion, it would not be difficult to prove that miracles were neither for the confirmation of new doctrines, nor for the conviction of infidels; but in order to strengthen the faith and give supernatural courage to those in whom they were manifested. Neither Gideon, nor Elijab, nor Daniel, preached new tenets. The Pharisees were not con vinced by the resurrection of Lazarus, nor by that of our blessed Lord himself. In the iv th chapter of the Acts, however, we find that boldness is the necessary and immediate consequence of the miraculous manifestation of the presence of God. It is on this ground-namely, that they may be indued with boldness to declare those truths which the religious world of their day would not hear, and which it required supernatural courage to enable them to proclaim- that the Apostles there pray for the supernatural exhibitions of the Holy Ghost : " And now, Lord, behold their threatening, and grant unto thy servants that with all boldness they may speak thy word, by stretching forth thine hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus” (Acts iv. 29). This, then, is the true Scriptural authority for the use of miracles : it is a gift which he who receives it is to profit withal; and a gift which, instead of pufting him or her up who has been endued with it, has been attended, in all the modern instances which have come under our knowledge, with the deepest self-abasement, and devotion of heart to the service of their Lord. This accounts also for the obscurity, difficulty, and contradiction which hang over many of the histories of miracles in the ages succeeding the Apostolic times, and would help to clear up the differences between Gibbon and Middleton on the same point; and we are not disposed to deny that they have been frequent or rare in proportion to the condition and danger into which the church had come; and their rapid recurrence now furnishes an additional proof of the SIGNS OF THE TIMES.
It was remarked long ago by Tertullian, that the evidence of miracles is not alone sufficient to establish the truth of Christianity, because our Lord had himself warned his disciples against lying miracles. This opinion seems perfectly correct; yet it has been assumed, by all those who have declared themselves unbelievers in the miracles at Port-Glasgow, or in the miraculous cure of Miss Fancourt, that if there be miraculous power it must of necessity be the work of the Holy Ghost. It is this same error which has prevailed through many works that have appeared on this controverted point, on both sides of the question; and which hangs also over the remarks of the learned Bishop of Bristol, in his account of the times of Tertullian. This point we have already alluded to in No. VII, of this Journal, p. 616.
There is one other point in the creed of the modern Religious World which has come out in a very remarkable manner, and is doubly important because involuntarily on their part-namely, that which they have been calling answers to prayer.” It would seem that the Evangelical World has never believed one syllable about an answer being given to prayer; that their prayers have been offered up without the remotest expectation of an answer ; and that what they have been inculcating upon the subject has been complete delusion, and what they did not realize themselves. For be it remembered, there is no limit whatever in the Scripture to the promise of answering the prayer of faith. Elijah is brought forward as an example, not because he was peculiarly susceptible to “ nervous excitement,” but, because he was of like passions, and exactly such a man as, ourselves, in order to take away the delusive excuse that he exceeded us in any thing but faith. This is the omnipotent“ tractor" that cures, whether in the Popish or Protestant churches: a quality which never, since the days of Elijah, was in a weaker state in the church than it is now. The only limit which is placed in Scripture by the promise of God to “subduing kingdoms,”.“ stopping the mouths of lions, quenching the violence of fire," "making valiant in fight," " receiving the dead raised to life,” causing rain to cease for three years and a half, commanding it again to fall, is want of faith in God that He will fulfil his promise. In this instance, too, we find another proof of that which we have often formerly insisted upon; namely, that there is invariably a real lack of any quality which is vehemently asserted to be possessed. We appeal to the candour of every one who reads these pages, whether it is not an almost invariable custom, among Evangelical correspondents, to desire, at the close of the letter, the prayers of their friend : yet, now that a prayer is granted, behold, the Evangelical world are in as complete a state of surprise as Carlile himsell could be. The truth must be told, and laid to the heart of every child of God : faith in the plain words of Scripture, in their ordinary grammatical sense, is not to be found in the larger portion of the Evangelical Religious World.
In the foregoing remarks we have been rather solicitous to direct our observations to the arguments by which it has been attempted to be shewn that the cure of Miss Fancourt is not miraculous, than to prove by any reasoning of our own the affirmative or negative of the proposition. In this we have followed the line suggested by the Christian Observer who argued the general question, rather than this particular instance. It is perfectly true that violent excitement of the mind has frequently produced cures quite as extraordinary; it is also true that many miracles in Scripture inight be accounted for upon the same principle as would solve these : but, believing in the constant residence of the Third Person in the ever-blessed Godhead specially in His
elect, we can never feel surprised at any manifestation of that Person ; and have no doubt but that these manifestations will be frequent and powerful in proportion to our faith, the law now being, as it ever was, to each individual, “ Be it unto thee according to thy faith.”
TERTULLIAN ON THE HUMANITY OF OUR LORD. “Albeit, therefore, much of that we are to speak in this present cause may
seem to a number perhaps tedious, perhaps obscure, dark, and intricate (for many talk of the truth, which never sounded the depth from whence it springeth; and therefore, when they are led thereunto, they are soon weary, as men drawn from those beaten paths wherewith they have been inured); yet this may not so far prevail as to cut off that which the matter itself re
quireth, howsoever the nice humour of some be therewith pleased or no.” Some persons who “talk of the truth" of our Lord's humanity, but " who never sounded the depth from whence it springeth, have, upon being “ led thereto,” found the subject so “obscure, dark, and intricate,” that they have represented the words of various authors whom we have cited, as not conveying the meaning which we declare they do convey; and yet, with an ingenuity of contradiction for which it is not easy to account, they declare on the other hand that the words do convey the sense we affirm, but that, as there are other words of these same authors which convey a different meaning, we were bound to quote the words which did not apply to our subject, as well as those which did. These persons, having expatiated at large in the north, and having found kindred ignorance in others of their party in the south, have reiterated their charge of garbling the words of Tertullian; a charge the most senseless which impotent malignity ever attempted to fix. As far as the charge concerns us personally, we gave a sufficient refutation of it in our last Number ; but, since the subject affords a convenient opportunity for again stating the truth in another form, whereby we may instruct the minds of the simple, and abate somewhat of the lofty pretensions of those who endeavour by threats and violence and noise to browbeat all that intelligently profess the orthodox creed, we avail ourselves of the attack for this purpose; assuring our readers that our object is their edification, and without any expectation of stopping the mouths of cavillers : “So easy it is for every man living to err, and so hard to wrest from any man's mouth the plain acknowledgment of error, that what hath been once inconsiderately defended, the same is commonly persisted in as long as wit, by whetting itself, is able to find out any shift, be it never so slight, whereby to escape out of the hands of present contradiction.”
The charge is no less than that we did not copy into our pages the whole of Tertullian's treatise De Carne Christi, and, for aught that appears to the contrary, the whole of his other works besides : because we merely extracted as much of that Father's language as bore upon the point we wished to substantiate, we are accused of garbling. Surely, then, our adversaries admit that the words we did select do support our view ? By
no means; they positively declare that the words selected do not support our views. Then,
if that be so, how can they be garbled to support the view ? They cannot both support it, and not support it: if they are said to be garbled, we insist on the benefit of their support; if we are deprived of their support, then we claim the credit of having quoted them honestly.
But the fact is, that there was no garbling; that our adversaries feel their force, and try. by this disingenuous subterfuge to evade the question, and to turn off the discussion into another channel. If they ask us why we did not quote more; we reply, because the remainder did not apply to the point at present disputed : whereas they argue as if the modern heretics and Marcion held precisely the same opinions; and that, therefore, what was applicable to the one must be also applicable to the other.
Now, for the benefit of those who are weak in ecclesiastical history as well as in doctrine, we shall proceed to shew the difference between the form of the controversy in the days of Tertullian and Marcion, and that which it has assumed between Mr. Irving and his opposers. The accounts of the tenets of Marcion are very various, and cannot be exclusively gathered froin Tertullian. Marcion was a learned man, and, according to Epiphanius, the son of a bishop. His errors may be divided into two classes : the one relating to his notion of God, the vnity of whom he seems to have denied; the other, relating to the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Respecting the former, Irenæus tells us that he held the God of the Law and the Prophets to be a different being from the God of whom Jesus came: and Theodoret informs us, that he taught four ayevvntes polas, or unbegotten principles—first, the good unknown God the Father of the Lord ; secondly, the onpeupyov, or Creator, called by him both good and evil; thirdly, matter ; and fourthly, the evil one that governs it. Others say he held three principles; and Tertullian frequently speaks of his holding two Gods. Respecting the person of Jesus of Nazareth, he held that he had the form of a man, but had not the properties of humanity; in short, that the individual sustaining that character was a mere phantom : and it is in this particular only that the modern heretics agree with him, and yet with such a difference, as we shall presently shew, that the expressions of Tertullian apply only in a limited extent to them. . Jeroine, too, informs us that Marcion taught that Jesus was not the Son of the God spoken of in the Prophets. We pass by, for the sake of brevity, his other errors, about the transmigration of souls, and the deliverance of the wicked only by Christ's descent into hell; although these errors are all necessary to be taken into the account when we are reading the works which were written to refute him.