Imágenes de páginas


from the standpoint of Hegel's own philosophy ; but he thinks Hegel's position in this matter be fairly examined by one who does not profess to have mastered Hegel's system. This shows that he thought himself capable of honestly criticizing Hegel without first ascertaining what it was Hegel really meant. One cannot even surmise how Dr. Smith came to put into Hegel's words a meaning so entirely different to what they clearly convey.

We have here, not merely a question of 'a new basis for the Calculus,' but also a question concerning literary criticism. Surely no criticism of any writing, ancient or modern, is justifiable unless the critic is sure of the writer's meaning! If the meaning is not clear, a critic may say so, but he ought not to put into the words a meaning entirely foreign to the general scope and bearing of the author's writings.

In the sphere of literature, especially such as had a more direct bearing on the Old Testament writings, Dr. Smith was more than an ordinary expert. Our chief excuse for introducing him here is, that if he erred so much in criticizing so modern a work as Hegel's, it behoves us to be very cautious in accepting his conclusions on the Biblical record, where it is more difficult to follow him.

The condition and surroundings of the Bible writers belong to such a dim and distant past, and are withal entangled in such manifold, erroneous reasoning as then prevailed among the surrounding nations, that in dealing with such matter, those who follow this line of research are very liable to yield to even more erroneous conclusions. Indeed, truth cannot be obtained by this method, which only tends to greater and greater confusion of thought on all subjects essential to man's salvation.

In recent times, however, the more sober critics

[ocr errors]

have chiefly aimed at showing that 'evolution,' applied to the Bible, helped to bring to light a more rational conception of its Divine inspiration. We hold this has not improved the Christian situation, and that a solid foundation must be sought elsewhere. It is not enough, after tearing and rending the Bible from end to end, to say that the process has increased, and not lessened, our confidence in its Divine authority.

Probably the strongest point of attack on the credibility of the Bible record arises from the numerous miracles recorded therein. Some of these are often referred to with the view of bringing the others into discredit, and thus opening a way to a free treatment of the texts of the record. Among the miracles especially selected are : the speaking of Balaam's ass; the falling of the walls of Jericho; the flood of Noah; the standing still of sun and moon; the passage of the Israelites through the Red Sea ; the plagues of Egypt; Jonah and the whale; Daniel in the lion's den; the three Hebrews in the fiery furnace; and many others of the like kind in the Old Testament. In the New Testament considerable prominence is given to the miracle of the swine, and the injustice therein done to the owners by their loss. The New Testament, as well as the Old, contains many remarkable miracles, not the least being the resurrection and ascension of Christ. Whether any miracles have been interpolated into the original record it is difficult or impossible to ascertain with certainty, but even if it could be proved that some have been afterwards inserted, this would be no gain to those who argue against the fact of miracles, unless it can be proved that all are false, and that miracles are absolutely in the nature of things impossible ; nor is the possibility of miracles lessened by the fact that men have believed in pretended miracles.

It is of no use talking about the fixed laws of nature, the regularity of nature's law, or the uniformity of nature. We utterly reject the view that the miracles of the Bible imply in any sense the setting aside of the laws and constitution of Nature. Millions of changes are constantly being made through the action of human thought and will that would never have occurred if Nature had been left to its ordinary course. If it is said that miracles are widely different from the ordinary changes brought about by man, we still affirm that the ordinary course of Nature is changed by the power and free exertion of man's thought. The changes wrought in nature by man do not change the constitution of the universe, any more than miracles involve such a change. Even the standing still of the sun and moon does not involve such a change any more than the quick increase or decrease in the speed of our great ocean steamers disturbs the order of nature. The size of our earth in comparison with the magnitude of the starry heavens is not equal to that of all engines, steamers, and other powers used by man daily, when compared with the earth itself, and yet all these motions go on as if nothing were being done by man. Why, a little boy can make his top spin more slowly or quickly according to his pleasure ! yet God must have no freedom, but must be tied to some so-called fixed order that never was fixed except according to His own perfect reason, love and pleasure. The notion of fixed laws and the consequent impossibility of miracles has, by constant repetition and custom, got into the blood and bones' of many men, even through their very educatedness, just as the craving for signs and wonders had got wrought into the very nature of many Jewish minds.

Many write about miracles as if those who believe

[ocr errors]

in the reality of those recorded in the Bible were obliged for that reason to make its Divine authority depend on miracles. Surely this is a very narrow and unwarrantable way of treating so important a subject. Of course, if it can be proved that some miracles are unreasonable because they are impossible, there would then be a solid reason for rejecting them as real facts. No rational person can think for a moment that even if miracles were wrought by thousands in the sight of men they could have any direct influence on their hearts in renewing their moral nature in righteousness and holiness. This power is not claimed for them either by the prophets, apostles, or by Christ Himself. Such a renewing can only be accomplished by a knowledge of and trust in the saving truth of God in Christ, no matter how or by what means a knowledge of such truth may come to men; though as a rule it can only come by the direct preaching to them of the once-crucified Christ, and through the witness of God's Spirit in man's spirit. Still, it does not follow that miracles were useless in drawing men to a genuine trust in God, and to a saving faith in Christ, just as now, reading about the miracles of Christ unquestionably does some real good.

The divine authority of Christ does not rest on the miracles, but the reality of the miracles rests on the reality of God and His Christ. The reality of miracles cannot be regarded as logically impossible so long as the reality of God and Christ stands logically sure. Whether any spurious miracles have been interpolated, is another matter.

I confess that for upwards of forty years I have been astonished that intelligent men should have stumbled so much at the speaking with man's voice of Balaam's ass, the falling of the walls of Jericho, and the return of the sun ten degrees backwards. So long as God is the centre and circumference of the universe, such return of the sun backwards cannot affect the harmonious movement of the heavenly bodies, the mathematical calculations of Laplace, or Newton's law of gravitation. So long as the miracles of Christ and His resurrection stand firm, there is no logical, philosophical, scientific difficulty respecting the others; they cannot be logically disproved. Thorough disbelievers in the possibility of miracles see clearly that if they accept one miracle as real they may accept all, therefore they endeavour to explain them all away. Those who only go halfway fall into a ditch of their own making.

I cannot explain fully how God revealed the future to His servants the prophets, but such revelation cannot be proved to be impossible. I cannot explain fully how at the Pentecost the disciples were enabled to speak miraculously in divers tongues. These two miracles I consider more difficult of explanation than any other recorded in the Bible. But the known operations of man's thought, and its logical essential relation to the Divine thought is so real and glorious as to render not only possible, but probable, the gifts of tongues and prophecy. However, just as accept innumerable facts in nature without explanation at present, so we can just as rationally accept the psychological facts recorded in the Bible without explanation at present, if we cannot prove them to be impossible, and only in part probable. Miracles possibly involve one of the least revealed mysteries in the Christian revelation, and their true logical nature may remain unsolved for some time, but this is no solid reason for rejecting their reality. Quite as great, too, is the mystery of the spiritual growth of plants. Hegel's logical exposition of the spirituality


« AnteriorContinuar »