where he and Satin and Deaf Dick Follard had waited for
Whatever is spiritual, is eo nomine supernatural; but must it be always and of necessity miraculous? Miracles could open the eyes of the body; and he that was born blind beheld his Redeemer. But miracles, even those of the Redeemer himself, could not open the eyes of the self-blinded, of the Sadducean sensualist, or the self- righteous Pharisee--while to have said, I SAW THEE UNDER THE FIG- TREE, sufficed to make a Nathanael believe.
To assert and to demand miracles without necessity was the vice of the unbelieving Jews of old; and from the Rabbis and Talmudists the infection has spread. And would I could say that the symptoms of the disease are confined to the Churches of the Apostasy! But all the miracles, which the legends of Monk or Rabbi contain, can scarcely be put in competition, on the score of complication, inexplicableness, the absence of all intelligible use or purpose, and of circuitous self-frustration, with those that must be assumed by the maintainers of this doctrine, in order to give effect to the series of miracles, by which all the nominal composers of the Hebrew nation before the time of Ezra, of whom there are any remains, were successively transformed into AUTOMATON compositors--so that the original text should be in sentiment, image, word, syntax, and composition an exact impression of the divine copy! In common consistency the theologians, who impose this belief on their fellow Christians, ought to insist equally on the superhuman origin and authority of the Masora, and to use more respectful terms, than has been their wont of late, in speaking of the false Aristeas's legend concerning the Septuagint. And why the miracle should stop at the Greek Version, and not include the Vulgate, I can discover no ground in reason. Or if it be an objection to the latter, that this belief is actually enjoined by the Papal Church, yet the number of Christians who road the Lutheran, the Genevan, or our own authorised, Bible, and are ignorant of the dead languages, greatly exceeds the number of those who have access to the Septuagint. Why refuse the writ of consecration to these, or to the one at least appointed by the assertors' own Church? I find much more consistency in the opposition made under pretext of this doctrine to the proposals and publications of Kennicot, Mill, Bentley, and Archbishop Newcome.
But I am weary of discussing a tenet which the generality of divines and the leaders of the religious public have ceased to defend, and yet continue to assert or imply. The tendency manifested in this conduct, the spirit of this and the preceding century, on which, not indeed the tenet itself, but the obstinate adherence to it against the clearest light of reason and experience, is grounded--this it is which, according to my conviction, gives the venom to the error, and justifies the attempt to substitute a juster view. As long as it was the common and effective belief of all the Reformed Churches (and by none was it more sedulously or more emphatically enjoined than by the great Reformers of our Church), that by the good Spirit were the spirits tried, and that the light, which beams forth from the written Word, was its own evidence for the children of light; as long as Christians considered their Bible as a plenteous entertainment, where every guest, duly called and attired, found the food needful and fitting for him, and where each--instead of troubling himself about the covers not within his reach--beholding all around him glad and satisfied, praised the banquet and thankfully glorified the Master of the feast--so long did the tenet--that the Scriptures were written under the special impulse of the Holy Ghost remain safe and profitable. Nay, in the sense, and with the feelings, in which it was asserted, it was a truth--a truth to which every spiritual believer now and in all times will bear witness by virtue of his own experience. And if in the overflow of love and gratitude they confounded the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, working alike in weakness and in strength, in the morning mists and in the clearness of the full day; if they confounded this communion and co- agency of divine grace, attributable to the Scripture generally, with those express, and expressly recorded, communications and messages of the Most High which form so large and prominent a portion of the same Scriptures; if, in short, they did not always duly distinguish the inspiration, the imbreathment, of the predisposing and assisting SPIRIT from the revelation of the informing WORD, it was at worst a harmless hyperbole. It was holden by all, that if the power of the Spirit from without furnished the text, the grace of the same Spirit from within must supply the comment.
In the sacred Volume they saw and reverenced the bounden wheat-sheaf that STOOD UPRIGHT and had OBEISANCE from all the other sheaves (the writings, I mean, of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church), sheaves depreciated indeed, more or less, with tares,
"and furrow-weeds, Darnel and many an idle flower that grew Mid the sustaining corn;"
yet sheaves of the same harvest, the sheaves of brethren! Nor did it occur to them, that, in yielding the more full and absolute honour to the sheaf of the highly favoured of their Father, they should be supposed to attribute the same worth and quality to the straw-bands which held it together. The bread of life was there. And this in an especial sense was BREAD FROM HEAVEN; for no where had the same been found wild; no soil or climate dared claim it for its natural growth. In simplicity of heart they received the Bible as the precious gift of God, providential alike in origin, preservation, and distribution, without asking the nice question whether all and every part were likewise miraculous. The distinction between the providential and the miraculous, between the Divine Will working with the agency of natural causes, and the same Will supplying their place by a special fiat--this distinction has, I doubt not, many uses in speculative divinity. But its weightiest practical application is shown, when it is employed to free the souls of the unwary and weak in faith from the nets and snares, the insidious queries and captious objections, of the Infidel by calming the flutter of their spirits. They must be quieted, before we can commence the means necessary for their disentanglement. And in no way can this be better effected than when the frightened captives are made to see in how many points the disentangling itself is a work of expedience rather than of necessity; so easily and at so little loss might the web be cut or brushed away.
First, let their attention be fixed on the history of Christianity as learnt from universal tradition, and the writers of each successive generation. Draw their minds to the fact of the progressive and still continuing fulfilment of the assurance of a few fishermen, that both their own religion, though of Divine origin, and the religion of their conquerors, which included or recognised all other religious of the known world, should be superseded by the faith in a man recently and ignominiously executed. Then induce them to meditate on the universals of Christian Faith--on Christianity taken as the sum of belief common to Greek and Latin, to Romanist and Protestant. Show them that this and only this is the ordo traditionis, quam tradiderunt Apostoli iis quibus committebant ecclesias, and which we should have been bound to follow, says Irenaeus, si neque Apostoli quidem Scripturas reliquissent. This is that regula fidei, that sacramentum symboli memoriae mandatum, of which St. Augustine says:- noveritis hoc esse Fidei Catholicae fundamentum super quod edificium surrexit Ecclesiae. This is the norma Catholici et Ecclesiastici sensus, determined and explicated, but not augmented, by the Nicene Fathers, as Waterland has irrefragably shown; a norm or model of Faith grounded on the solemn affirmations of the Bishops collected from all parts of the Roman Empire, that this was the essential and unalterable Gospel received by them from their predecessors in all the churches as the [Greek text which cannot be reproduced] cui, says Irenaeus, assentiunt multae gentes eorum qui in Christum credunt sine charta et atramento, scriptam habentes per Spiritum in cordibus suis salutem, et veterum traditionem diligenter custodientes. Let the attention of such as have been shaken by the assaults of infidelity be thus directed, and then tell me wherein a spiritual physician would be blameworthy, if he carried on the cure by addressing his patient in this manner:-
"All men of learning, even learned unbelievers, admit that the greater part of the objections, urged in the popular works of infidelity, to this or that verse or chapter of the Bible, prove only the ignorance or dishonesty of the objectors. But let it be supposed for a moment that a few remain hitherto unanswered--nay, that to your judgment and feelings they appear unanswerable. What follows? That the Apostles' and Nicene Creed is not credible, the Ten Commandments not to be obeyed, the clauses of the Lord's Prayer not to be desired, or the Sermon on the Mount not to be practised? See how the logic would look. David cruelly tortured the inhabitants of Rabbah (2 Sam. xii. 31; 1 Chron. xx. 3), and in several of the Psalms he invokes the bitterest curses on his enemies: therefore it is not to be believed that THE LOVE OF GOD TOWARD US WAS MANIFESTED IN SENDING HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON INTO THE WORLD, THAT WE MIGHT LIVE THROUGH HIM (1 John iv. 9). Or, Abijah is said to have collected an army of 400,000 men, and Jeroboam to have met him with an army of 800,000 men, each army consisting of chosen men (2 Chron. xiii. 3), and making together a host of 1,200,000, and Abijah to have slain 500,000 out of the 800,000: therefore, the words which admonish us that IF GOD SO LOVED US, WE OUGHT ALSO TO LOVE ONE ANOTHER (1 John iv. 11), even our enemies, yea, TO BLESS THEM THAT CURSE us, and to DO GOOD TO THEM THAT HATE us (Matt. v. 44), cannot proceed from the Holy Spirit. Or: The first six chapters of the book of Daniel contain several words and phrases irreconcilable with the commonly received dates, and those chapters and the Book of Esther have a traditional and legendary character unlike that of the other historical books of the Old Testament; therefore those other books, by contrast with which the former appear suspicious, and the historical document (1 Cor. xv. 1-8), are not to be credited!"