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of some) entirely repudiate their claims to credibility ? And regarding them thus, how can we place confidence in any of their statements? How do we know that the history of the early Church, which history we derive from their writings, is not all a romance? What reason have we to rely upon what they say concerning the antiquity of the books composing the New Testament 2 Perhaps you are disposed to inquire, If it be true that they were mistaken, or that they purposely falsified in regard to miracles, “shall we not receive from them what they have said that is true o’’ I trust I shall not be blamed by a certain preacher, to whom I have referred in this lecture, if I reply by saying, “No, not from them. We will apply for truth to better authority than false witnesses "’
Josephus, the celebrated Jewish historian, who was born A. D. 37, relates that miracles were frequently performed, in his day, in the name of Solomon. He Says:
“I saw one of my countrymen, Eleazer, casting out devils, in the presence of Vespasian, his sons and officers, and a multitude of soldiers. His method was this: he applied to the nose of a person possessed, a ring, which had a certain drug or root under the seal of it, which Solomon had prescribed; and so, by the smell of the ring, he drew out the devil, through the nostrils of the patient, who fell presently to the ground; upon which, he adjured the devil never to return, rehearsing the
name of Solomon, with certain charms, which he had composed and left behind him; and being desirous to convince the company that he was really indued with this power, to which he pretended, he placed a certain cup or vessel filled with water, at a little distance from the person possessed, and commanded the devil, as he was going out of him, to overturn the cup, so as to give the spectators a manifest proof, that he had quitted the body of the man."*
This is about as wonderful as the miracle of sending devils into a herd of swine.
If, as the old Testament relates, the power of heal ing the sick, raising the dead, and miraculously dividing the waters of a river, was bestowed upon Elijah and Elisha,t—and if devils were cast out, malignant dis eases cured, and even the dead brought to life, in the time of some of the early Fathers, (of which we have far more historical evidence than we have for the mira cles of Jesus)-how can the power to perform such works be the “SEAL of Christ's Messiahship,”—his distinguishing prerogative, and the ground of his au thority, as the highest of all teachers ? If, in this re spect, he has been fully equalled both before and since his time, how can this alone prove his superiority over all others? I propose these questions, because there are some who pride themselves upon their logical acu. men, who contend that miracle-working formed the
* Jewish Antiquities. +1 Kings, xvii. 17-24. 2 do. iv. 32-35. See also Josh. ii. 14-17.
grand basis of Christ's authority as a truthful and divine instructor. A clergyman, to whom I have already alluded once or twice, speaks thus, in treating of Christ's mission: “Deny the miraculous in his character and works, and you take away his authority as the infallible teacher of the ultimate religion.” Says another, “God’s seal of Christ's Messiahship lies in the powers he bestowed upon him—in the miracles he enabled him to perform.”f
Will these logical reasoners condescend to inform us in what manner the same power which was exercised by Moses, Joshua, Elijah, Elisha, and several others, may be said to constitute Jesus a personage superior to all the rest of mankind? If his highest characteristic—his distinctive, official “SEAL”—was nothing greater than what had been exhibited many hundred years previous, what reason had the people to suppose that he was any other than one of their old prophets, Moses or Elias, returned from the dead?
The seal of a King generally bears an emblematic device;—a combination of several expressive figures. What are the designs enstamped upon the alleged miraculous “seal” of Christ : Let us look at a few of them. 1. A wedding scene: turning water into wine. This was hardly equal to the wonder performed by Eli.
* Rev. S. Cobb, in his Beverly Dedication Sermon.
f Rev. A. A. Miner, in the “Universalist Quarterly,” for July, 1846. Of the volume, Art. xix. p. 309.
sha, when he miraculously filled several empty vessels with oil.* 2. Healing the sick. That was done by Christ's disciples, who certainly were not immaculate Messiahs. They misunderstood the very nature of the true Messiah's kingdom! Yet, at the same time, they could heal the sick and cast out devils. 3. Feeding more than five thousand persons with only five loaves and two fishes. No greater than replenishing the cruise of oil and filling the barrel of meal, as Elijah did, -repeating the miracle from day to day, so as to supply the wants of a whole family, for two years !t 4. Stilling the waves of a stormy sea. How much greater was this than the division of Jordan, which parted its waves when the feet of the priests that bear the ark were dipped in the brim of the water”?$ 5. Fasting forty days. Moses and Elijah both did the same. 6. Raising the dead. Elijah and Elisha performed that miracle, a long while before the time of Jesus. || 7. Ascension. This was by no means unheard-of. Christ had been preceded, in this respect, by Enoch and Elijah. T I have omitted, from this enumeration, the resurrection of Christ; be cause that is a miracle alleged to have been performed upon, rather than by him. “This Jesus hath God raised
Verily, this "geal,” which has been declaimed about
*2 Kings, iv. 1-7. t 1 Kings, xvii. 12—16. Joshua, iii. 15–17. $ Exod. xxxiv. 28. 1 Kings, xix. 8. ll 1 Kings, xvii. 17-23, and 2 do. iv. 32-35. I Genesis, v. 21. Heb. xi. 5. 2 Kings, ii. 11, 12. ii. 32; iii. 15; iv. 10; x. 40. Rom. X. 9. I Cor. vi. 14. 1 Pet. i. 21.
so pompously, is a borrowed one, and withal very oldfashioned Would it not be well to style it a coat-ofarms, rather than a seal,—as its possessor might thereby establish a claim to royal descent? If the Messiah was to come from David's “royal line,” I wonder the power of casting out devils, has not been regarded as a species of heraldry, to prove its possessor's lineage from SoLoMox (David's son) who, according to Josephus, had the power to exorcise demons.
If our religion rests entirely, or principally, upon reputed miracles, it is based upon a weak and mutable foundation. I say this, because all past history unites with present observation in showing us that it is not the most inconceivable task for Enthusiasm to conjure up marvellous narrations; which, if the real or imagined wonders they treat of be regarded as purely natural, may have some foundation in solid fact; but if considered otherwise, may be reasonably looked upon as the offspring of Imagination, when unduly excited, and which, in growing older, have likewise, in accordance with a natural law, increased in bulk and stature, sometimes reaching a state of gross corpulency.
Every system of religion, prevalent on this globe, has its records of past miracles; and some teach that the ability to perform such works is perpetually conferred upon the faithful.
The continuance of miracles was, as I have before