The Gospel and its Ministry - Appendix


THE subject of miracles, and of "evidences" in general, is too large to treat of here; but yet the reference I have made to them compels me to add a few remarks.
1st. The mere fact of miracles is no proof of divine intervention. A miracle is such an interference with the course of nature as is beyond our own power. Any creature, - therefore, entirely superior to us can perform what we deem a miracle. The miracles worked by Satan in the temptation of our Lord (Luke iv. 5) are far more wonderful (I do not say "greater ") than all the miracles of all the apostles combined; and Scripture testifies that the devil will again exert miraculous power on earth.
2nd. Miracles are never appealed to in Scripture as ". an evidence," save in connection with a preceding revelation tct which they are referred. The gospel of Christ was not "the beginning of the oracles of God" ; it was another chapter in a long-continued revelation. But it had a two-fold aspect. He came to a people whose every hope, for earth and heaven centred in a Messiah promised to their fathers, and He came, moreover, to a world that was ruined and lost. His mission, therefore, had a two-fold character and purpose. He was the Messiah to the Jew; He was the bread of God to give life to the world. It was with the former that the miracles had specially to do The knowledge of His higher mission and character was not an inference from miracles. It was the subject of a special revelation to John the Baptist, and through him to those who afterwards became the first disciples of the Lord (John 1. 33—34). These all belonged to the little company spoken of in Luke ii. 38 as waiting for the redemption of Israel. They followed Him because they were already God's people, and yet even these needed a word from God to enable them to know Him.
3rd. If this be so, we shall expect to find that it was to Jews that the testimony was based on miracles, and that when the kingdom gospel, or special national testimony, ceased, miracles became of secondary importance. Both these points are plain upon the face of Scripture. As soon as the Sanhedrin decreed the destruction of Christ, He sought to keep His miracles secret (Matt. Xii. 14 - 16). He could not be face to face with need and refuse to meet it, but He no longer wished the fame of His power to go forth. And when, after His final rejection, the gospel became a purely spiritual testimony, miracles were never appealed to in confirmation of it. The national testimony which the apostles had been sent forth to render at the first was based on miracles (Matt. x. 7, 8). The gospel of Pentecost was a living power, independent of all extrinsic proof; it was itself the means of the conversion of 3000 souls (Acts ii. 41). "To the Jew first," is characteristic of the Acts, and of the transitional period the book embraces. After the conversion of Cornelius, the public testimony was no longer confined to the Jew, but the Jew retained the right to priority in the offer of grace (see ex. gr. Acts xiii. 46). The miracles therefore continued, though without their former prominence. And when Paul went forth preaching to Gentiles, miracles seem to have been divorced from his testimony. His miracle at Lystra was in response to the faith of the man who was the subject of it (Acts xiv, 9) and the effect it had upon those who witnessed it was that, they owned the apostles as gods, as was natural with heathens, and prepared to sacrifice to them. So was it also at Melita (Acts xxviii. 6).

That miraculous power existed in Gentile Churches the 12th chapter of 1st Corinthians establishes; but the question is, Did the gospel which produced those Churches appeal to miracles to confirm it? Can any one read the first four chapters of that very Epistle, and retain a doubt as to the answer? The great question here involved resolves itself, sooner or later, into this: When God speaks to man's heart through the gospel, does He speak in such wise that the word carries with it the certainty that it is from Him? To say that God cannot do this is to deny that He is supreme; and to deny a Supreme Being is sheer Atheism. To say that He does not is to remove the truth of revelation out of the region of certainty altogether. For the genuineness of miracles must, of course, depend on evidence; and if, as Paley declares, the reality of a revelation must be proved by miracles, it is only by weighing evidences that we can determine what is revealed; and that form of proof can never, in such matters, reach higher than probability; indeed, no accurate or astute thinker has ever claimed more for it. The degree of conviction thus attainable is, doubtless, an overwhelming condemnation of the infidel, but it is a poor substitute for the faith of the Christian. According to Paley, the value of the Christian revelation is determined by the miracles. According to Scripture, the value of the miracles was determined by the revelation. it was not that miracles were wrought. but that the miracles of the ministry were precisely what Isaiah prophesied the Messiah would accomplish. The whole system is false, and must drive simple-minded folk to Rome; for the many are quite incapable of reasoning out Christianity from evidences, and, if that be our only foundation, they must trust the Church. With what a sense of relief we turn to a word like this, "I thank Thee, 0 Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes." I have dealt with this subject in The Silence 0f God, Chapters III., IV.. and V.

NOTE 11.—P. i6g.

Matt. vi. g.—" Hallowed be Thy name" (and Luke xi. 2).
Matt. xxiii. 17, 19.—The temple that sanctifieth the gold: the altar that sanctifieth the gift.
John x. 36.—Say ye of Him whom the Father hath sanctified.
John xvii. i7, 19.—Sanctify them through Thy truth. For their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.
Acts xx. 32.—.Inheritance among all them that are sanctified (and xxvi. i8).
Rom. xv. x6.—That the offenng up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost.
iCor. i. 2.—Sanctified in Christ Jesus.
i Cor. vi. xi.—But ye are sanctified. . . by the Spirit of our God.
i Cor. vii. 14.—The unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband.
Eph. v. 26.—That He might sanctify it (the Church). iThess. v. 23.—God of peace sanctify you wholly.
i Tim. iv. (Every creature) is sanctified by the Word of God and prayer.

2 Tim. ii. 21.—A vessel sanctified and meet for the Master's use.
Heb. ii. ri—He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified. Heb. ix. 13.—If blood . .. sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh.
Heb. x. 10.—By which will we are sanctified.
Heb. x. 14.—flath perfected them that are sanctified. Beb. x. 29.—Blood . . . wherewith he was sanctified.
Heb. Xiii. 12.—That He ‘might sancti/y the people.
i Pet. iii. 15.—Sanctify in your hearts Christ as Lord (R.V.). Jude i.—To them that are sanctified by God the Father (the Revised reading is beloved in God the Father).
Rev. xxii. ir.—Let him be holy still (literally, let him be sanctified still).
Rom. vi. 19.—Yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.
Rom. vi. 22.—Ye have your fruit unto holiness.
i Cor. i. 30.—Christ is made unto us . . . sanctification.
1 Thess. iv. 3.—This is the will of God, even your sanctifica tion, that ye should abstain from fornication.
1 Thess. iv. 4.—Possess his vessel in sanctification.
1Thess. iv. 7.—God hath not called us to uncleanness, but to holiness.
2 Thess. 12 13.—Salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.
i Tim. ii. 15.—Saved in childbearing if they continue in holiness.
Heb. xii. 14.—Follow. . . holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.
iPet. i. 2.—Elect . . . through sanctification of the Spirit unto, etc.

NOTE IV.—P. 197.
The figment of the universal Fatherhood of God is one of the most popular of heresies. With those who hold that man is the product of evolution the claim is obviously fanciful. Nor is it much better in the case of those who accept the truth of Scripture. For we are not the children of Adam as he came from the hand of God, but the remote descendants of the sinful and fallen outcast of Eden. And were it not that in the sphere of religion people seem to take leave not only of their Bibles but of their brains, they would recognise that this cannot constitute us children of God in the Scriptural sense.
True it is that in order to expose the error and folly of thinking "that the Godhead is like unto gold or silver or stone, graven by art and man's device," the Apostle Paul when addressing a heathen audience adopted the words of a heathen poet," For we are also His offspring" (Acts xvii. 28, 29). But no doctrine of sonship can be based on this. The word here used (genos) is one of wide significance ; and the argument founded upon it would be equally valid if the lower creation were intended.

Heb. ii i4 is also appealed to in support of this figment. But the words of verse x6 are explicit :" He taketh hold of the seed of Abraham." "We must not here understand mankind, as some have done," is Dean Alford's obvious comment. The "children" of verse 14 are not the seed of Adam but "the seed of Abraham"; that is, the children of faith. We become children of God, not by descent from Adam, but by faith in Christ. The teaching of Scripture here is definite and clear: "As many as received Him, to them gave He the right to become children of God, even to them that believe in His name, which were born . . . of God" (John i. 12, 13). This is the test. The relationship depends on birth. "Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John iii. 3).

Most certain it is, therefore, that he cannot be a child of God. Still more terribly explicit were the Lord's words to the religious leaders who rejected Him. Said He: "Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father it is your will to do" (John viii. 44) This heresy teaches that we are by nature children of God: the Scripture declares that we are" by nature children of wrath" (Eph. ii. 3).