Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

stance that the apostle places these miracles, which happened on Christ, as the pith and centre of His gospel; and, on this ground, did not consider it admissible to give any secondary foundation to the faith in them, by the side of the 'assertio scripturarum.' At the same time, we do not say that they should absolutely not be considered with any regard to the point of view laid down. The question is certainly allowable, where there may be probability, and where improbability,-whether it is the accepted fact, that the diligence of the apostles and the rise of the Christian Church are the fruits of the resurrection of Jesus, as really accomplished, or of a supposition which the disciples had imagined, and then persuaded themselves of its truth ; whether we take the view, that the teaching and acts of Jesus (the impression produced, and the consequent results being included) are the operation of One, not like us below, and of this world, but who has come from above; or if we take the opposite one, that Jesus also proceeded from a natural development, -an improver, certainly, of the human ideal, but neither the first of them nor the last. However, this is not the probability which we have in our mind; for we do not mean any proceeding from reflection, but exclusively that which comes by intuition. It is therefore on this account that we must naturally confine our consideration to those miracles which, by their nature, can be placed in the light of such a probability, to those whose details the eye can follow, that is, to the miracles of Our Lord Himself.

1 This is the place to announce a still further restriction of our material, to which we find ourselves necessitated. We will not leave the miracles related in the fourth Gospel unconsidered, but we cannot devote more than a cursory attention to them. It is impossible to obtain any light on the result of their probability, by going into details in a work, whose single parts cannot, with impunity, be taken away from their connection with the whole.

The supposition that a glance at the way in which they happened is really granted to us, hardly stands in opposition to the assertion, on which Rothe lays great stress, that in a miracle the process does not positively take place—that it is the effect alone which we can observe. Strictly speaking, this proposition will only apply specially to those miracles which we have determined to put aside as not to be considered.

The miracle of the supernatural birth of Jesus, or that of His resurrection from the dead, could have been seen as happening by no human eye; they were perceptible only to the God-man Himself, and to the Risen One Himself. Even with regard to the miracles of Jesus Himself, we must unhesitatingly exclude as many 'as, from their original connections and surroundings, no one could have seen;'—the peculiar process by which the bread was increased, and the wine was transformed, was certainly excluded from the view of witnesses. However, the manner in which our Lord acted, the circumstances among which He' accomplished His miracles, and the words which He then spake (that is, all that which the older apologetics call the circumstantiæ'),—all belong to the process, and are the very data by which we must assure ourselves of their probability, and especially urge for the settlement of the question ; and on them, in each individual case, pre-eminently depends the question as to the motive.

It will now be seen from this preface what is the way in which we expect to solve our problem. We have no intention of appealing simply to the feelings, or even to sober sense, though this could be easily done, without it being able to be said that we have made our observations unsuitably. It appears that the evangelical narratives of the miracles cannot be brought better into the bright light of probability,

to some,

than by drawing a comparison between them and those contained in the apocryphal Gospels. We do not undervalue the importance of such a point of view; but, in opposition to the latest criticism, it is far too inadequate. Strauss himself would allow an important, even if a gradually decreasing, difference between these twofold species of narratives; he would pronounce a judgment something to this effect: that in the former we have the formation of myths on the part of the Christian Church; while in the latter we have the vagaries of the unbridled fancy of individuals. But still less have we in view to raise the question, by means of any explanation of miracles, of the amount of their probability. From all suche attempts, and from the manner in which they are always employed, we ourselves decidedly and expressly dissent. 'In the very conception of a miracle, it is understood that it is unexplainable, as it is the work of God performed without any intermediate agency; but to explain an event, is to point out the intermediate means between it and its causality' (Rothe, in the work before quoted, p. 100). “It is the character of miracles, that they cannot be explained by the natures of created things (Leibnitz, Theodicée, $ 207). Notwithstanding the evident correctness of the above propositions, the most unfortunate and the most unprofitable attempts at explanation have been constantly renewed, from the earliest times of the Church unto the present. The endeavours employed have been manifold, diverging from one another in various minor degrees; but they have all been compelled to return to a double method of treatment.

It was only to be expected that Christian apologetics, from the beginning until now, should have entered into the objections which present themselves to thinkers of moderate intelligence, as to the antagonism between miracles and the laws of nature as empirically established. If they could not, and ought not, to have kept themselves free from these matters, they could at least have employed no more irrelevant means, than by seeking to show that this antagonism did not exist, but was only apparent, and at the same time exerting themselves to mitigate and weaken it.

The definition which Augustine has given to a miracle, 'miraculum voco quidquid arduum aut insolitum supra spem vel facultatem mirantis apparet' (de util. cred. c. 16), convinces us that he would not have been averse to this method. We understand him to consider the miracle also as simply an acceleration of the work of nature. The key with which he seeks to open to the light of reason the event at Cana— ‘ipse fecit vinum in nuptiis, qui omni anno hoc facit in vitibus ; illud autem non miramur, quia omni anno fit; assiduitate amisit admirationem'-suits also other miracles of the Lord (similar expressions of this Father are to be found collected in the little work of Nitzsch, Augustine's Doctrine of Miracles, Berlin 1865, p. 81 and following), as, for instance, the cursing of the figtree, in so far that the tree would at last have withered of itself; or the many accounts of healing in the Gospels, for an illness which is not fatal is gradually mitigated by the healing power of nature. We are unable to discover any real difference between a method of considering them of that kind, and the end attained by

1 It is hardly necessary to remark, that we cannot employ, according to our view, such a manner of explaining the miracles as Paul Venturini and others have used in treating them. We are silent regarding it, not because the reasons for not accepting a folly well-nigh forgotten would be superfluous, but on the ground that by this method it is attempted to explain away the miracles as such. We are concerned alone with that method of exposition which

preserves the miracles themselves intact, and seeks merely to justify them from the suspicions raised against them from the point of view of the laws of nature.

[ocr errors]

those who pass them over, in consideration of our deficient insight into the laws of nature. In both cases, the miracle threatens either to evaporate in mist, or to be raised up as a pure delusion before our eyes. If there really exists such a peaceful harmony between miracles and the laws of nature, that the former are the products of the latter,-only that these latter are either not known to us, or, if known to us, have been placed in an unusually rapid flow,—then, in fact, the conclusion is as good as drawn, that everything is a miracle, and again, that nothing is a miracle. There is, at the most, a necessity for the adoption of a generally held providentia extraordinaria, - a providence which, by means of the combination of single factors, will produce those effects of nature before which human reason is silent. We certainly know that all who move within these barriers, and especially Augustine himself, do not draw out these consequences, or can even be considered to acknowledge them ; but then the whole labour they have expended has been purely in vain. For if, for the purpose of the miracle, the causc secundæ experience an extraordinary influence, if the laws of nature have been set in motion in a

10. Bagge has lately in his work quoted before, p. 88 and following) represented this oft-repeated proposition in such a manner that he points it out as a reality on theistic grounds, and as the true solution of the problem in question. Consequently he arrives at the hackneyed phrase, that man himself is a miracle, without, indeed, knowing that Montaigne had already written: 'I know no greater miracle in the world than man himself, only we forget it, because we are accustomed to it;' it even, though far otherwise intended, is to be found in Augustine (de Civitate Dei, x. 12). It is one of the many services of Strauss, that he has contributed to set aside this perversion of the conception of a miracle, this misuse of the expression. Especially in one of his controversial works, die Halben und die Ganzen, Berlin 1865, he has proved by evidence that hollow declamations on the miracles, such as Schenkel has promulgated, could only be possible when the same expressions are used for two different things (in work quoted, p. 45). We ought also to discontinue reviving afresh the assertion, which has now become trite, that where no knowledge of the laws of nature existed, as in the Old Testament, there could have been no miracle. The

« НазадПродовжити »