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this very persuasion in turn gives new confidence to faith and new energy to action, and that the faith in, and imagination of, the miraculous, thus excited, are potent natural forces, which are acknowledged in common speech, to work miracles of healing and of heroism. That God's hand may be in such events we do not deny,--and that God at such times brings into play more than is usual of the common agencies of nature, and vivifies them with an intense energy, we will not dispute, but that God works a miracle, is, to say the least,“ not proven.”
We urge also, that miracles are not likely to occur, because they are not required. We apply the criterion already considered, that miracles are to be expected when an occasion requires them, or when the ends of the supernatural require an invasion of the accustomed order. To this it will be suggested, that it is presumptuous for man to judge, and hard to prove that such occasions do not exist. We reply, it is no more presumptuous than it is for man to judge that they do. When Dr. Bushnell or others urge that such occasions do arise from time to time in the history of the church, that she may be aroused from her atheistic doubt and sloth, we reply, that these circumstances are not to be compared with those which attended the advent of Jesus, and the first setting up of his kingdom. To say or to think this, is to forget the fearful odds against which that kingdom contended—the savage tenacity with which all the powers of earth and hell held fast to their strong-holds, and the fanatic rage with which they sallied forth to swallow up the “little flock” that contended against such fearful foes. Nay, it is to forget the person of Jesus himself, and the splendid argument in which Dr. Bushnell conducts us to the conclusion, that miracles of sense were fitly to be looked for in connection with a being so wonderful.
There is now no necessity so stringent as in those early times, nor is there a personage so wonderful. The history of Christianity is itself more wonderful to the right-minded inquirer, than the raising of Lazarus from the dead, and the power of a consistent and fervent Christian life a mightier agency for the propagation of the gospel, than the tongues of fire on the day of Pentecost. If the church betrays her trust, or a generation
relapses into atheistic or scoffing unbelief, God can awaken both by judgments, such as those which he poured over Europe in floods of fire, in the days of Napoleon. We do not then expect miracles, because we know that we do not need them, inasmuch as we are untrue to those wonders of grace and comfort which God gives to those who believe. It is by the conviction of these truths that we justify and explain the sentiment of the Christian church, which is so decided and so strong against their recurrence.
Another reason why we do not and ought not to expect the return of these supernatural gifts is, that if given often they would lose their power, and would be abused to the service of gossiping and vanity. The sweetest things are most easily soured, the best things are the soonest corrupted, and the most sacred things are the most readily profaned to common and perverted uses. A8 Dr. Bushnell phrases it, miracles and gifts tend to issue into “a wild Corinthianism.” Even the wonders which we do behold, we can scarcely bear with a reverential composure. Our wonders of healing and of grace given in answer to prayer, are retailed with a gossiping vulgarity. Our revivals evaporate in story telling and censorionsness, are distracted by sectarian acrimony, or become the disgust of the right-minded, through the clap-trap with which their managers dishonor them, and what could we do with miracles if we had them? The wonders which the church beholds, either pall upon her sense, or turn her sobriety into giddiness. Then the faithful and worshiping who believe in God's ever active grace, find his ordinary ways full of wonder, and see occasions for no workings more extraordinary than those which they witness day by day. The men of other days, who needed miracles to arouse their besotted senses, could bear them when they came, but stimulants so potent as these would be sure to disturb our more sensitive patures. It is true that our faith may be very weak in these days. We are sure that our heads are not over strong.
For these reasons we do not find reason to expect miracles. For the same reason we are cautious and distrustful when they are reported to occur, by very honest and credible men.
There was as much wisdom as wit in the answer of Coleridge to a lady who asked him, “Do you believe in ghosts?” “No madam, I have seen too many myself!” These events or occurrences that are put forth as undoubted miracles, do not come up to the criterion. They are not signs to the senses. Some of them are wonderful. Not a few are as surprising and interesting-nay, we think more so—as if they were the manifest workings of a supernatural power. They are workings of the same power that works miracles whenever miracles are wanted. Some of them are to be accounted for by natural agencies. Others, and not a few, are slightly altered in the recital. Others are more than slightly intensified in the coloring. Others we may not be able to explain. But as we have had no opportunity to discriminate and judge, we are content not to furnish a a solution. Only we are quite certain that we are not bound to declare them undoubted miracles.
Meanwhile if miracles are wronght or shall be wrought in these times, we stand ready to believe them, when they are proven-but not before.
We honor the earnestness and frankness with which Dr. Bushnell has declared his convictions on this subject. We accept the suggestions of wisdom with which he has qualified them, but would rather pray for faith to do justice to the wonders which we see, than ask for others which might shock us by their novelty or inflate us with religious vanity.
At the same time, we would rather believe with Dr. Bushnell, than scorn with Voltaire, or serenely but coldly smile with Emerson. We would sooner bow and tremble before a manifested God at the elevation of the Host, than, with the Pantheist, own no God, but the actual universe, or its impalpable conception with its abstract relations. We would sooner hear and believe in the modern gift of tongues than be marshaled through the proprieties of a fashionable congregation. Nay, we would soooner shout in a camp-meeting, than freeze in a rationalistic chapel.
We have omitted all notice of three chapters of this book : the tenth, twelfth, and thirteenth. The tenth is by far the ablest and the most interesting in the volume. The delineation of the character of Jesus is, in our view, the finest upon its theme in English literature. To have written this chapter in the circumstances and for the object for which it was done, is honor enough for a single life. It is skillful, just, eloquent, and warm, with ardent reverence for its wondrous theme. That Dr. Bushnell has witnessed a confession so good of his faith in Jesus, before those who are so ready to dishonor his claims, and in words and thoughts so worthy of his theme, will be the brightest crown of his glory, when he shall see Him as he is, and which, we doubt not, he will be ready to cast before the throne of Him when He shall be "admired of all them that believe. We trust it will lead many of the ingenuous and thoughtful youth of this generation to renounce their bewilderment and fantastic distrust, and to make the same open-hearted confession, to be followed by a life animated and sustained by a living faith in the Son of God.
The twelfth chapter is a skillful development of the system of Christian faith from Christ as its center and starting point, which with some want of clearness and fullness in its theory of justification by his death will be owned to be a scriptural and living presentation of Christian truth. The thirteenth gives us the elements of the philosophy of history, in which Christ takes his lawful place, as the beginning and object of all the purposes of God.
The last chapter gathers and applies the results of the discussions to various uses of truth and the life, in which the defects and excellencies of the entire argument of course reappear.
Most of these defects may be comprehended in the single statement, that the author has deferred too much to the Nature from which he has sought to escape. He has not always, in our view, sufficiently honored the supernatural, but has lowered it too nearly to the conception of the natural. The roots and principle of character he has found too much in the nature of the soul, and too little in the will. The nature and the evil of the sin are too exclusively limited to the evil which the will has wrought in nature, and not preëminently in the evil will. The supernatural is needed for redemption, chiefly to bring a power above nature to heal her disease, rather than to subdue and constrain the perverse and unbending man
The miraculous is confined and imprisoned within the limits of nature, in too subservient an homage to those laws whose supremacy is elsewhere so nobly subjected to the creative spirit and his superior ends.
But though the book bristled as thickly as a porcupine with defects like these, or with greater heresies, we should not hesitate to pronounce it a magnificent book.
It so nobly redeems the free spirit from the shackles to which it has been subjected by prevailing assumptions, it so heroically exalts the soul above its bodily investiture, and the unseen Spirit above the garment of nature which He wears, though that garment be the glorious light; it so heroically addresses itself to exorcise the spell that has bewildered and misled so many of the noblest minds of this generation ; it furnishes such am
; ple materials for a successful argument for the miraculous ; it has so skillfully and powerfully demonstrated the fact of sin, so impressively illustrated its helplessness and degradation, and above all, it has so demonstratively and so cordially vindicated the claims of Him who " came unto his own and his own received him not,” that we do not hesitate to commend it as a truly Christian book, and a book preöminently adapted to the times in which we live.