The Silence of God - APPENDIX - Faith Healings and Miracles Today


NOTE I. (page 18).
IN these pages I am dealing only with miracles in the theological sense; that is, with Divine miracles. The phenomena of Spiritualism I have never personally investigated; but if genuine they are clearly miraculous, and to reject, on a priori grounds, the mass of evidence adduced in proof of them in books like Professor A. R. Wallace's "Miracles and Modern Spiritualism," seems to me to savour of the stupidity of unbelief. Assuming their genuineness, no Christian need hesitate to account for them by demoniacal agency. To attribute them to departed spirits is unphilosophical as it is unscriptural. It would seem that in this Christian dispensation, when the third Person of the Trinity dwells on earth, demons are subject to restraints which were not imposed in a preceding age, bet there is no reason to refuse belief in their presence or their power.
Religious miracles also claim a passing notice here. I do not allude to the tricks of priests, but to cases of extraordinary cures from serious illness; and some at least of these appear to be supported by evidence sufficient to establish their truth. The phenomena of hysteria and mimetic disease will probably account for the majority of cases of the kind. Others again may be explained as instances of the power of the mind and will over the body. The diseases which are necessarily fatal are comparatively few. But when a patient gives up hope his chances of recovery are greatly reduced. On the other hand, the progress of disease may be controlled, and even checked, by some mastering influence or emotion which turns the patient's thoughts back to life, and makes him believe he is convalescent. But while the vast majority of seemingly miraculous cures may thus be explained on natural principles, there may perhaps be some which are genuine miracles. There are no limits to the possibilities of faith, and God may thus declare Himself at times.
There is nothing in this admission to clash with the concluding statement of my second chapter, that in our dispensation, unlike those which preceded it, there are no public events to compel belief in God. I am there dealing, not with the mere fact of miracles, but with their evidential value; and if there have been miracles in Christendom, that element is wanting in them. I may add that among Christians it is pestilently evil to make the exceptional experience of some the rule of faith for all. The Word of God is our guide, and not the experience of fellow-Christians; and when this is ignored the practical consequences are disastrous. The annals of "faith-healing," as it is called, are rich in cases of mimetic or hysterical disease, but about the spiritual wreckage due to failures innumerable they are silent.
NOTE II. (page 45).
According to the dictionary the primary meaning of religion is "piety." But this, of course, is entirely personal and subjective. In these pages I use the word only in its original sense, in which alone it occurs in our English Bible. "How little 'religion' once meant godliness how predominantly it was used for the outward service of God, is plain from many passages in our Homilies, and from other contemporary literature." But though Archbishop Trench, from whose "English Past and Present" this sentence is quoted, suggests that such a use of the word is now obsolete, I venture to maintain that it is in this, its original, but now secondary, meaning that it is commonly used at the present day. And I may appeal to the fact that the Revisers have retained it even in Gal. i. 13, 14, where "the Jews' religion" is twice given as the equivalent of "Judaism." In the only other passages where it occurs (Acts xxvi., and James i. 26, 27), it is the rendering of the Greek , a word which means the outward ceremonial service of religion, the external form, as contrasted with the word which, with one exception, is always translated gadlintus in the fifteen passages where it occurs. The first is rendered worshipping in Col. ii. i 8, thus plainly showing that it is outward ceremonial it implies. Its use in Acts xxvi. needs no comment, but in James i. its significance is generally missed. "Pure religion," the writer declares, "is this "-and every Israelite (for to such the Epistle was specially addressed) would expect a reference to new ordinances in lieu of those of the bygone dispensation; but his thoughts turn in a wholly different direction-" to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." As Archbishop Trench remarks, the very Opicricda of Christianity "consists in acts of mercy, of love, of holiness." The words are intended, not to indicate a parallel, but to suggest a contrast. In no more forcible and striking manner could the apostle teach that Christianity is not a Opicricda at all.
NOTE III. (page 56).
The Acts of the Apostles is divided by theologians into three main periods: The Hebraic (chap i.-v.); the Transitional (vl-xii.), and the Gentile (xiii.-xxviii.). But this classification is arbitrary. The Hebraic section includes at least the first nine chapters; and if the view of the Book here advocated be correct, the rest must be regarded as transitional. That it is so in a real sense no student can fail to recognise; and that this is the intention of the narrative I venture to maintain. The admission of the Gentiles, recorded in chap. x., was on strictly Jewish lines, as the apostles came to understand, and James explained at the Council of Jerusalem (xv. 13, &c.). Those that were scattered by the Stephen persecution preached "to Jews only" (xi. 19). The marginal note to ver. 20 in R.V. shows that the passage must not be strained to imply a denial of this. That Paul's ministry during the year he spent in Antioch was confined to Jews, appears from xiv. 27. When from Antioch Paul and Barnabas came to Salamis "they preached in the synagogues of the Jews" (xiii. 5). When they came to Pisidian Antioch, they again repaired to the synagogue (ver. 14). And it was not till the Jews rejected the ministry that the apostles "turned to the Gentiles" (ver. 46). This passage marks one of the minor crises in the narrative. At Iconium again the apostles preached in the synagogue of the Jews (xiv. i) As the "Greeks" here mentioned were attending the synagogue, they were evidently proselytes, and are not to be confounded with the "Gentiles" of verses 2 and 5. Verse 27 of the fourteenth chapter, makes it clear that Paul's ministry among the Gentiles began with his sojourn in Pisidia (chap. xiii.). Chap. xv. claims far fuller notice than can here be given to it. Any one can see, however, that it records the session of a council of Jews to deal with new problems to which the conversion of Gentiles had given rise. Chap. xvi. i-8 records the apostles' visits to existing Churches. The vision of ver. 9 then called them to Philippi where (as probably at Lystra) they found no synagogue. But on passing thence to Thessalonica "Paul, as his manner was," frequented the synagogue (xvii. 2). So also at Berea (ver. io), and at Athens (ver. i7).
From Athens Paul came to Corinth where "he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath" (xviii. 4). So also at Ephesus (ver. 19, and xix. 8). Thence it was he turned towards Jerusalem upon that mission which is regarded by some as the fulfilment of his ministry, and by others as a turning away from the path of testimony to the Gentiles, seemingly marked out for him to follow. Be this as it may, having been carried a prisoner to Rome, his first care was to call together -not the Christians, much though he longed to see them (Rom. l. 10, ii), but-" the chief of the Jews," and to them to give the testimony which he had brought to his nation in every place to which his ministry had led him. In his introductory address to them he claimed the place of a Jew among Jews:
"I have done nothing (he declared) against the people, or the customs of our fathers (xxviii. 17); but when these, the Jews of Rome, refused the proffered mercy, his mission to his nation was at an end; and for the first time separating himself from them, he exclaimed, "Well spake the Holy Ghost through Isaiah the prophet unto your fathers "- and he went on to repeat the words which our Lord Himself had used at that kindred crisis of His ministry when the nation had openly rejected Him (Acts xxviii. 25 R.V.; Matt. xiii. 13, xii. 14-16).
My contention is that the Acts, as a whole, is the record of a temporary and transitional dispensation in which blessing was again offered to the Jew and again rejected. Hence the sustained emphasis with which the testimony to Israel is narrated, and the incidental way in which the testimony to Gentiles is treated. Of the thousands baptized at Pentecost a large proportion doubtless were of the strangers mentioned in ii. 9-11; and these carried the testimony to the Jews in all the places there enumerated. The 5,000 men mentioned in iv. 4 were apparently resident in Jerusalem, and these, when scattered by the Stephen persecution, "went everywhere preaching the Word," "but to the Jews only" (vili. I, 4, and Xl. 19). Surely we may assume that there was not a district, not a village, inhabited by Jews, where the gospel did not come.
Some, perhaps, will appeal to passages like Actsi xv. 12 to disprove my statement that miracles had special reference to the favoured nation. The careful student, however, will see that nothing in the narrative is inconsistent with what I have urged. For example, the miracle at Lystra was in response to the faith of the man who benefited by it (xiv. 9), and its effect on the heathen who witnessed it was not to lead them to Christianity, but first to make them pay Divine honour to the apostles, and then, finding they were not gods but men, to stone them. I have not said that there were no miracles wrought among the heathen, but that, when the gospel was carried to the heathen, miracles lost their prominence, and that they ceased absolutely just at the time when, if the recognised hypothesis were true, they would have been of the highest value. The great miracle of xvi. 26 was a Divine intervention on behalf of the apostle. And among the Jews of Ephesus (xix. 1 i) and the Christians of Corinth (i Cor. xii. io) there were miracles, as doubtless elsewhere also. But there were no miracles seen by Felix or Festus or Agrippa; and, as already noticed, when Paul stood before Nero the era of miracles had closed. The miracles of Acts xxviii. 8, 9 are chronologically the last on record, and the later Epistles are wholly silent respecting them.
NOTE IV. (page 87).
Every one recognises that the advent of Christ marked a signal "change of dispensation," as it is termed: that is, a change in God's dealings with men. But the fact is commonly ignored that the rejection of Christ by the favoured people, and their fall in consequence from the position of privilege formerly held by them, marked another change no less definite and important (Rom. xi. 15). And yet this fact affords the solution of many difficulties and a safeguard against many errors. As indicated in these pages, it gives the clew to the right understanding of the Acts of the Apostles -a book which is primarily the record, not, as commonly supposed, of the founding of the Christian Church, but of the apostasy of the favoured nation. But it also explains much that perplexes Christians in the teaching of the Gospels.
During the last Carlist rising in Spain a wealthy Spanish marquis was said to have mortgaged his entire estate to its utmost value, and to have thrown the proceeds into the war-chest of the insurrection. It was a reasonable act on the part of any one who believed in the Pretender's cause. To him, and to others like him, the accession of Don Carlos to the throne would bring back their own, and far more besides. So was it with the disciples in days when the kingdom was being preached to the earthly people. Certain of the Lord's precepts had reference to the special circumstances of that special dispensation. Take "the Sermon on the Mount" for example. Our Lord was there unfolding the principles of the promised kingdom, and giving precepts for the guidance of those who were awaiting its establishment. It is all for us, doubtless, but not always in the same sense that it was intended to convey to them. Christians, for instance, pray the kingdom prayer. But with us "Thy kingdom come" is a general appeal for the advancement of the Divine cause: with them it was a definite petition for the near realisation of the promised earthly reign. And what a meaning the prayer for daily bread had for those who were enjoined to carry neither purse nor scrip, but to trust their heavenly Father to feed them as He feeds the birds; for, like the birds, they had "neither storehouse nor barn"
Principles are unchanging, but the definite precepts recorded in such passages as Matt. V. 39-42 and vi. 25-34 were framed with reference to the circumstances of the time, and to the special testimony which the kingdom disciple was to maintain. The Christian, unlike the kingdom disciple in this respect, is entitled to defend himself against outrage, and to resist any invasion of his personal or civil rights; and he is expressly enjoined to make provision for the future. Banking, insurance, and thrift are not forbidden by Christianity. "Take nothing for your journey," the Lord directed, as He sent out the Twelve, "neither staves, nor scrip, nor bread, nor money; neither have two coats" (Luke ix. 3). And referring to this, when He was about to be taken away from them, He asked, "When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye anything? And they said, Nothing. Then said He unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip; and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one" (Luke xxii. 35, 36). What can be plainer than this? In civilised communities, of course, the State takes charge of "the sword" (Rom. xiii. 4), and the individual citizen is not left to defend himself; but the principle is the same. One who is "instructed unto the kingdom," the Lord declares, is like "a householder who brings out of his treasure things new and old" (Matt. xiii. 52). But Christians nowadays are not thus "instructed." They are rather like householders who, bringing out whatever comes first to their hand, give new milk to their guests and old wine to their babies! And as the result Holy Scripture is brought into contempt, and earnest and honest-hearted believers are stumbled or perplexed. Another clew is needed to guide us in the right use of the teaching of the Gospels. Some of the Lord's words were addressed to the apostles as such, and we must remember this in applying them to ourselves.
With reference to the Sermon on the Mount it may be asked, Does any one imagine our Lord supposed that people would wish to add twenty inches to their height? Matt. vi. 27 should no doubt be read as the American Revisers render it, "Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit to the measure of his life?"
NOTE V. (page 109).
The primary and usual meaning of (Greek) in Biblical Greek is indicated by its use in the Septuagint. It occurs eight times in the second chapter of Daniel (verses i8, 19, 27, 28, 29, 30, 47 (twice), and again in chap. iv. 9), and in every case it is translated secret in our English version. The word occurs also in the Apocrypha, and always in this same sense. This, too, is its ordinary use in the New Testament; but the word was then already acquiring the further meaning which belongs to it in the writings of the Greek Fathers, namely, a symbol or secret sign. And in this sense it appears to be used in Rev. i. 20 and xvii. 5, 7. In chap. x. 7 it occurs in its earlier meaning. So also apparently in Eph. V. 32, though the Vulgate understands it differently, using the word sacramentum to translate it. If it is to be read in the one way, the secret referred to is that believers are members of the Body of Christ: if in the other way, marriage is the symbol intended. The Latin version of Eph. v. 32 is of special interest as indicating the original meaning of sacrament, as "a mystery; a mysterious or holy token or pledge"(Webster). Bishop Taylor thus speaks of God sending His people "the sacrament of a rainbow." And Hooker writes: "As often as we mention a sacrament, it is improperly under stood; for in the writings of the ancient fathers all articles which are peculiar to Christian faith, all duties of religion containing that which sense or natural reason cannot of itself discern, are most commonly named sacraments. Our restraint of the word to some few principal Divine ceremonies irnporteth in every such ceremony two things, the substance of the ceremony itself, which is visible; and besides that, something else more secret, in reference whereunto we conceive that ceremony to be a sacrament."
In this passage, it will be noticed, the word is used precisely in the secondary sense assigned to it in Johnson's "Dictionary," viz., "An outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace." Johnson's first meaning of the word is "an oath"; and the Latin word sacramentum may possibly have acquired that meaning on account of some outward act or sign which accompanied the taking of an oath. According to Hooker's use of the word sacrament, the English practice of kissing the Testament would be so described.
NOTE VI. (page 118).
If the reader will take up the New Testament, and with the help of a good concordance turn to every passage where the devil is mentioned or referred to, he will be startled to find how little there is to give even a seeming support to the popular superstition upon this subject. Three passages only can I find that seem to suggest that Satan tempts to acts of immorality. Of John iii. 8-io, I have already spoken. The other two are i Cor. vii. 5, and I Tim. v. 15; and with these I will deal presently.
In the temptation of our Lord there was of course no question of morality. The devil's aim was to draw Him away from the path of dependence upon God, and specially to divert Him from the path which led to the Cross. It was this also which brought such a terrible rebuke upon Peter when the Lord addressed him as "Satan "(Matt. xvi. 23). And when Satan asked to have Peter (as he had asked to have Job) it was his faith he sought to destroy. "I made supplication for thee," the Lord added, "that thy faith fail not" (Luke xxii. 31, 32 R.V.).
And with the memory of this before him no doubt it was that the apostle wrote the words, "Your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom withstand stedfast in your faith" (i Pet. v. 8-9). In the parable of the tares in the field, it is the devil who sows the tares (Matt. xiii. 39). And in the parable of the sower the devil's work is described as taking away the word out of the hearts of those who hear it, "lest they should believe and be saved." And if Elymas the sorcerer was called a "son of the devil," it was because of his "seeking to turn aside the proconsul from the faith" (Acts xiii. 8, lo).
Two passages indicate his mysterious "power of death," viz., Heb. ii. 14, and Jude 9, which tells of his claiming as of right the body of Moses. And two passages again indicate his power of inflicting disease and pain, namely, Luke xiii. i6, and. Acts x. 38, but these may probably be explained by reference to the case of Job.
In Rev. xii. 9 (R.V.), he is called "the deceiver of the whole world" (cf Rev. xx. 10); and in that book he is represented as the leader in the great coming struggle between faith and unfaith, between the acknowledgment of God and the denial of Him. There is no need to quote the many passages which indicate his malignant hatred of God and of His people, but if he be the obscene monster of Christian tradition, how is it that, from cover to cover, the Bible is silent on the subject? In his "devices" upon men the Satan of Scripture is the enemy, not of morals, but of faith.
And if in view of the mass of testimony leading to this conclusion we turn back to the two passages above cited, we shall be prepared to read them in a new light. In i Tim. v. we shall read verse 15 in the light of verse 12. The "turning aside after Satan" there referred to is "the setting at nought their first faith." And the Christian will not hesitate to follow Calvin in understanding the "faith" here intended as the faith of Christ. The word (Greek)occurs two hundred times in the Epistles; and in this sense only is it used, with the solitary exception of Tit. ii. 10. There is the very strongest presumption therefore against the suggestion that here it means no more than a woman's "troth" to her dead husband. Such a suggestion, moreover, makes the apostle contradict himself. It makes him say that young widows "have condemnation" because they wish to marry again; and yet he ends by expressly enjoining that they are to marry again! (ver. 14 R.V.). Verses 1-13 give his reasons for that injunction. The passage is incidentally an overwhelming condemnation of nunneries, but the usual construction put upon it is an outrage upon Holy Writ and a gross libel upon women. And I may add that if that construction were the true one the limit of age at which widows were to be provided for would certainly have been fixed much earlier than sixty.
The expressions "waxing wanton against Christ," and "turning aside after Satan," are to be explained by reference to the Scriptural standard of spiritual life and the Scriptural theology of Satanic temptations. So also of 2 Cor. vii. 5. The solemn practical lesson there to be learned is that any departure from prudence and propriety may give Satan an advantage-an occasion to undermine or corrupt the Christian's faith.
As for Ananias, his story is so misread that the lesson of it is lost to the Church. He was not a bad man, but a good man. In the enthusiasm of his zeal he sold his landed property that he might devote the proceeds to the common fund. But here the suggestion presented itself to him to put aside a portion for his own use. His wife was in the plot, and boldly lied to conceal it. But Ananias spoke no lie, he only acted one, as people are used to do nowadays. If he lived today he would be held in the highest repute. Indeed there are few to be found in these selfish days who could compare with him. The moral is not the wickedness of man but the holiness and "severity" of God, and the subtlety of Satanic temptations. Satan tempted him, not to a vicious or "immoral" act, but only to do what, as the apostle said, he had an unquestionable right to do. He did not lie to men-so the Word expressly tells us-but he lied to God, and swift judgment fell on him. If God were dealing thus with men in our day, the number of the burials would be a serious difficulty! To the case of Judas I have not expressly referred, because it so obviously falls within the category of temptations aimed directly against Christ Himself.
NOTE VII. (page 123).
The exegesis here offered of John viii. is not based on the grammar of the Greek article. The Revisers have adopted an unsatisfactory compromise between exposition and translation. "To speak a lie" is not English. In our language the proper expression is "to tell a lie." But no one would so render the Greek words and by inserting in the margin the old and discarded gloss, the Revisers only betray their dissatisfaction with their own reading. The words must mean either some definite lie, or else in the abstract sense the whole range of what is false. (See Psa. v. 6 LXX). In this view of the passage all speech would be regarded as divided between truth and falsehood - God-speech and devil-speech. But this is somewhat fanciful here, and, in regard to the words which follow, somewhat forced. And if, as I venture to urge, it is not the false in the abstract which is here in view, but a concrete instance of it, the question of grammar is no longer open. And, thus rendered, the connection is clear between Satan the liar and Satan the murderer. He is not the instigator to all murders, but to the murder there and then in question, the murder of the Christ; he is not the father of lies, but the father of the lie of which "the murder" is the natural consequence.
In Rom. i. 25, where both words (" truth" and "lie ") have the article, I suppose both are used in the abstract sense. In Rev. xxi. 27 and xxii. i5 the word "lie" is anarthrous. But in 2 Thess. ii. I i it is again the lie of John viii. 44. The Lawless One who is yet to be revealed, is described as he "whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders." God does not incite men to tell lies or to believe lies. But of those who reject "the truth " it is written, "He shall send them strong delusion that they should believe the lie." Because they have rejected the Christ of God, a judicial blindness shall fall upon them that they shall accept the Christ of humanity, who will be Satan incarnate.
In these pages I have kept clear of prophecy, for they are addressed in part to those who have no belief in prophecy. But if the prophetic student will shake himself free from the Satan myth he will find the Divine forecast of the future become radiant with new light. Terrible wars are yet to convulse the nations, bringing famine in their train. But the coming Man will bring peace to the world. He will command universal homage not merely by reason of his Satanic miraculous powers, but because of his splendid human qualities. The adherents of "the truth" will, alone of all the race, have cause to mourn his sovereignty. His reign will be the era of man's "millennium," a time of order and prosperity unparalleled, when the arts of peace shall flourish, and the utopias of philosophers and socialists will be realised. And that the Satan cult which will then prevail on earth will be marked by a high morality and a specious "form of godliness," is plainly indicated by the warning that, but for Divine grace, it would "deceive the very elect." It is also, I venture to think, plainly foreshadowed by current events.
Christians are trifling with sceptical attacks upon Scripture. But the real issue involved in these attacks is the Divinity of Christ; and I venture to predict that those of us who shall live for another quarter of a century, shall yet witness a widespread abandonment of that great truth by many of the Churches. The decline of faith during the last five-and-twenty years has been appalling, and we are already within measurable distance of a more general acceptance of the Satan cult - a religion marked by a high morality and an earnest philanthropy, but wholly devoid of all that is distinctively Christian. "Free from dogma" is the favourite expression: and this "freedom" means the ignoring of the great truths of Christianity.