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of the most notable of the alleged miracles of the ancient church. Such was the miracle, so called, of the thundering legion, which occurred in the latter part of the second century. The Romans were engaged in war with a tribe of Germans, when their army came very near perishing for want of water. In the army were many Christians, as well as pagans, the former of whom earnestly prayed for rain, and the latter as earnestly called upon their gods. In their extremity they were visited with a plentiful shower, which relieved and saved them. Both parties agreed to call the shower a miracle; the Christians ascribing it to the only living and true God, and the pagans to their own divinities. But obviously it was no miracle at all. It was only a remarkable interposition of providence, by which much suffering was alleviated and many lives were saved.
To the same class may be referred the alleged miracle, at the time of Constantine's conversion. Eusebius' account of this matter is as follows: "While the Emperor was praying with earnest entreaty, a most singular Divine manifestation appeared. A little past the middle of the day, as the sun began to verge towards the west, he saw in the heavens a little over the sun, a bright appearance of the cross, with an inscription upon it, toutw vixēt, By this conquer. Amazement seized' him, and the whole army at the sight.” The historian goes on to say, that the same night the Emperor saw the sign again in a dream, and received a direction from Christ to frame a standard in the likeness of it, to be borne in future in the front of his armies.
In regard to this statement, the main question is, Is it strictly true? Was there really such an appearance in the heavens, in the view of the Emperor and his whole army, as Eusebius describes? If so, it must have been a matter of immediate and general notoriety, heard of and talked of throughout the empire. How strange, then, is it that it seems to have been entirely unknown for twenty-five years; and then to have leaked out, in a private conversation between the Emperor and Eusebius! Other writers of the age mention the dream of the Emperor, and the consequent change in his military standard ; but none except Eusebius have a word to say about the appearance in the heavens ; nor he, until a full quarter of a century after the alleged appearance was witnessed.
There is no need of impeaching the veracity of Eusebius, or even of the Emperor, in this matter. But the probability is, that it was all a dream, or a vision, occurring (as such things most commonly do) in a state of partial slumber, and when the subject could hardly determine whether he was asleep or awake.
To the same class I refer the miracle of the fire-balls, bursting forth from the earth, which defeated Julian in his mad attempt to rebuild Jerusalem. This event (if it occurred at all) was doubtless of an electric or volcanic character, or was in some way the result
of natural causes. There is no necessity for supposing any miracle in the case.
To the same class I also refer another pretended miracle, which took place in the fifth century. I allude to those whose tongues Huneric, the Arian king of the Vandals, caused to be cut out, and who could afterwards pronounce the Nicene creed. The facts here seem to be well attested, and may be in the main true, and yet involve no miracle. The tongues of the confessors may not have been very thoroughly extracted, nor their speech, subsequently, very plain. Other instances are on record, in which persons have been able to speak, with tolerable distinctness, after having lost a considerable portion of the tongue.
of the second class of alleged miracles, viz: those to be set down as palpable impositions, I might give instances enough to fill a folio. Not only the legends of the Romish church, but the most respectable ancient ecclesiastical histories, are full of them. When Clovis, king of the Franks, was baptized, in the fifth century, a dove is said to have come down from heaven with a phial of holy oil to anoint him. Yet no one, at this day, supposes that such a thing actually took place. It was either a trick got up for the occasion, or an unfounded story forged afterwards.
Such, also, was the alleged miracle upon St. Francis, when an angel descended from heaven, and impressed on him the five wounds of the Savior. That St. Francis received wounds, or had sores, on his hands, feet, and side, is quite probable; but that an angel from heaven inflicted them-or if he did, that it amounted to a proper miracle-is not so clear. A large proportion of the alleged miracles in the ancient church consisted in the casting out of devils ; a kind of performances in which it was very easy for the principal actor to impose, not only on others, but on himself.
But the great mass of the miracles of the early and middle ages fall under the third class to which I referred, viz: the absurd and ridiculous. If any one wishes to amuse himself with stories of this sort, let him read the lives of such men as Simeon the Stylite, or Paul the hermit, or the more respectable history of the venerable. Bede. Or he may dip almost anywhere into the Acta Sanctorum of the Romish church, and be sure to find marvels in abundance.
In illustration of what is here said, I may refer to St. Corbin's miracle of the bear, who, having killed one of the Saint's packhorses, was saddled and bridled, and made to serve in its place. There is also the miracle of St. Winnock’s handmill, which, when he let go of it to say his prayers, would turn itself. And when a too inquisitive monk looked through a crevice to behold the wonder, he was smitten with blindness for his presumption,
The following is one of the most romantic and marvellous of the class of miracles to which I now refer. St. Winifrid was a THIRD SERIES, VOL. III.
noble lady of Wales. Being a devout nun, she could not yield to the suit of Caradock, a young prince of the country. Enraged at her obstinate refusal of him, the prince pursued her, and with a cruel blow, cut off her head. And now occurred, instantly, three splendid miracles. 1. The earth opened under the feet of the young villain, and swallowed him up. 2. On the very spot where the nun's head dropped, a spring of water burst forth, at which miracles have been wrought from that day to the present. 3. At that critical moment, St. Benno made his appearance, caught up the nun's head, kissed it, placed it on the bleeding stump, covered it with his mantle, prayed to the Virgin, and said mass; when, lo, St. Winifrid is instantly well! Her head is on her shoulders just as before, and the only visible evidence of the wound is a scarlet line or circle about her neck!
These instances are enough to give some idea of the kind of miracles which are said to have been continued in the church from the beginning to the present time. My readers must decide as to the measure of credit which is to be attached to them. For one, I feel quite satisfied to fall back on my former position,—that the era of miracles closed about the middle of the second century. I have adduced considerations to show that it might reasonably be expected that it would be so; and I know of no well attested historical fact which is not perfectly consistent with this supposition. I do not believe that a proper miracle has been performed on this earth, for the last sixteen hundred years ; nor do I expect another, for centuries to come. The great object of miracles has long since been answered ; "the canon of Scripture is closed; God has given to the world all the revelations that are necessary, or that we are to expect, until “the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of his Son;" and until that period arrives, a renewal of miracles, I think, is not to be anticipated.
Meanwhile, let us cling to, and rejoice in, that abundantly attested revelation which God, in mercy, has put into our hands. To much of the evidence in support of this revelation-many columns of evidence, as might be easily shown—I have not adverted in this discussion at all. My limits did not admit of it, nor did my object require it. I have simply gone into a consideration of the evidence from miracles. But this alone is conclusive and incontestable. It is such as can never be set aside, but by discrediting the sacred record, and calling in question the truth of the Bible history. If the Bible is true-a point which is here assumed-then ihe miracles which it records actually took place.
Some good men think every instance of regeneration a miracle. But their ideas, either of regeneration, or of the nature and object of miracles, or of both, must be very different from mine.
And if they actually took place as there described, the hand of God was in them, and the seal and sanction of the Almighty is upon the whole of that sacred volume which contains them.
This, then, is altogether a book by itself. It is the book of books, and is well denominated in our good English tongue, THE BIBLE; or (which is the samé) THE Book. It becomes us all to cherish such a regard for it, that we can never so much as open it without feelings of reverence. We should read and ponder it under the impression that it is in very deed, what it professes to be, God's Book ; that its instructions, its counsels, its predictions, its warnings, its promises, its threatenings, all are from God. And we should “give diligent heed to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in our hearts.”
LYRICAL POETRY OF THE BIBLE.
By Rev. Geo. H. HASTINGS, New York.
'The knowledge that avails us in the hour of Bible reading, is to be counted with our incorruptible treasures. Next to a heart open to the spirit of God's Word, ranks a mind open to its beauties. The Hebrew scholar is often rewarded for days of toil by the primitive meaning of a single word ; for Hebrew words are pictures,
l and that primitive meaning may reveal to him an image of beauty that shall always delight his imagination, and live freshly in his heart. While, for example, the reader of the English only receives from the line, “the rain is over and gone," the plain thought that the rain has ceased; the reader of the original sees that “the rain has walked away with itself;" and that nature is all alive in Hebrew. For such an one, the Lyrical Poetry of the Bible, quivering with life in its every word, possesses an interest unrivalled by the poetic literature of the world : and although investigation may establish but a few principles concerning it, yet the knowledge of these becomes unspeakably precious to him; such meaning and spirit do they impart to the Sacred Record.
But the Hebrew scholar is not alone in his enjoyment of this subject. All who read with a clear mind our noble Saxon translation of the Bible, can be made to apprehend the peculiar beauty of its Lyrics, when these are drawn out before them in their original forms.
It is much to be regretted that, to the mass of readers, the Bible
songs of Zion.
is all prose. Nearly one third of it, indeed, is poetry. Yet there it lies, cut up into false divisions, as falsely called " verses,” and marred by figures as a work correlative to the Concordance-a book of texts; a quiver of equal arrows for the preacher's bow; and by some regarded as a Homeopathic medicine box, with doses duly numbered, and each for best effect, to be taken carefully by itself. How unlike the manner in which the word of God was received by the Hebrews! It came to the mass of that people most often, through the poetic sensibilities of men, kindled by the Holy Spirit. It touched men's hearts as poetry; and it was used as such to inspire the nation with heroic sentiment, and lift it up in devotional ardor. The people heard the prophet as the bard also, and caught up his strains as their national anthems. Not the temple only, but the valleys and hill-sides of Judea, harvest fields and battle fields, home and the exile's prison, rang with the
In the same manner ought the same strains to come to us. Read as doctrinal formulas, as the careful utterances of moral philosophy, as the deliberate statements of men learned in all the controversies of the schools, the Psalms are lifeless to us, compared with what they once were to the Hebrews. Yet, as inspired poetry, they were intended for us also. As God's dealing with that chosen people fitly represents to us his dealing with the individual soul, so those national odes, with lawful accommodation of the language to Christian conceptions, become the heart-songs of his people in all ages.
There are a multitude of facts, and interesting associations, connected with the sacred Lyrics, which do not appear to the popular mind, and which in the customary use of the Bible are rendered of little avail to any. We think it cannot prove otherwise than refreshing to theologians, as well as to Bible readers in general, to bring the Lyrical Poetry of the Bible under review in respect to its original use, and its influence on the character and fortunes of the chosen people of God. At the same time, we hope, by the facts and principles adduced, to commend to all Christian worshippers that use of the sacred Lyrics which does justice to them as poetry, and most effectually moves a congregation with their devotional sentiment.
Those who have attentively studied Lowth, Michaelis, Herder, and De Wette, and verified their statements by reference to their own Hebrew Bibles, are doubtless satisfied, and justly so, that these scholars have exhausted the subject, so far as the characteristics and genius of Hebrew Poetry are concerned. But after all, the highest praise of these men is, that they have elegantly reproduced the ideas of the Bible; and inasmuch as the same ideas glow upon the sacred page for every mind gifted with poetic perceptions, and rightly instructed as to what is Hebrew, it is apology enough for any one who is moved to write upon the subject