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“sball shew great signs and wonders ; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall “deceive the very elect.”. In other passages the same is set forth, showing clearly enough that it was in the mind of the earliest Christians to expect false men would work miracles. In his Apology, Justin speaks of "Simeon" as a worker of miracles, not denying their supernatural, but only their Divine character. He speaks of bim as “One who was honoured as a God because of his wonderful works,
;"* but who, in fact, had been "put forward by the demons” in order to deceive mankind. Now, although it may be argued that Justin was deceived in supposing that such signs and wonders--miracles-had been wrought, it will scarcely be contended by any one that Jesus and Paul did not contemplate the existence of persons who would work them. If, however, any doubt remains, it must be swept away by the various statements in the Old Testament about miracles having been wrought by "evil ones.”. To go no farther than the Book of Exodus, we may fasten upon the account of Pharaoli’s magicians, of whom it is set forth that they worked miracles of an astounding nature. It is stated that they turned water into blood, and did other things even more marvellous, but many of the orthodox writers endeaveur to escape the dilemma by insisting, with St. Augustine, either that “the miracles were wrought by the power of Satan," or that they were not wrought at all. Farmer insists upon it that the whole course of proceeding pursued by the magicians was delusive, and Dr. Wardlaw repeats his objections.
As a specimen of special pleading where the aim is to vindicate the text while making it yield a meaning quite the reverse of that which is indicated by philology and common sense, Farmer's observations are worth reading. He says: “With
regard to the first attempt of the magicians, the turning rods into serpents; it “cannot be accounted extraordinary that they should seem to succeed in it, when “ we consider that these men were famous for the art of dazzling and deceiving " the sight; and that serpents, being first rendered tractable and harmless, as they
easily may, have had a thousand different tricks played with them, to the aston“ishment of the spectators. Huetius tells us, that amongst the Chinese there
are jugglers who undertake to turn rods into serpents; thongh, no doubt, they only dexterously substitute the latter in the room of the former. Now this is the
very. trick the magicians played: and it appears by facts, that the thing in general is very practicable. It is immaterial to account particularly how the thing was done, since it is not always easy to explain in what manner a common juggler imposes upon our sight. Should it be suggested that Moses might
impose upon the sight of the spectators as well as the magicians ; I answer, [mark this answer, which, of course, assumes all that should be proved], " that as “ he ascribes their performances to legerdemain, and his own to God; so there
might and must have been a wide difference in their manner of acting : the “ covered arts of the magicians not being used by Moses, the same suspicion “ could not rest on him as did on them. What an ingenious writer asserts is not
true, that according to the Book of Exodus, the outward appearance on both "sides was precisely the same ; for the Book of Exodus specifies a most impor"tant difference between the miracle of Aaron and the impostures of the magi“cians. For it says, that Aaron cast down his rod before Pharoah, and before “his servants, and it became a serpent. But with regard to the magicians it
uses very diflerent language; for at the same time it says, They cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents, it expressly declares that they did this by their enchantments, or covered arts. And what in the most effectual manner prevented any apprehension that the serpent of Aaron was (like those of the magicians), the effect only of a dexterous management, not a miraculous production ; God caused his rod to swallow up theirs; in which there was no
room for artifice, and which for this reason the magicians did not attempt to “ imitate.
“ With regard to the next attempt of the magicians to imitate Moses, who had “ already turned all the running and standing waters of Egypt into blood, there is "no difficulty in accounting for their success, in the degree in which they suc* Apologies i, pp. 38-40,
+ Essay on Miracles.
“ ceeded. For it was during the continuance of this judgment, when no water “could be procured but by digging round about the river, that the magicians " attempted, by some proper preparation, to change the colour of the “ small quantity that was brought them; (probably endeavouring to persuade “ Pharaoh, that they could as easily have turned a larger quantity into blood). In
a case of this nature, imposture might, and, as we learn from history, often did, " take place. It is related by Valerius Maximus, that the wine poured into the
cup of Xerxes was three times changed into blood. But such trifling feats as “ these could not at all disparage the miracle of Moses; the vast extent of which “ raised it above the suspicion of fraud, and stamped upon every heart, that was not “ steeled against all conviction, the strongest impressions of its divinity. For he “ turned their streams, rivers, ponds, and the water in all their receptacles, into “ blood. And the fish that was in the river (Nile) died, and the river stank.
“ Pharaoh not yielding to this evidence, God proceeded to further punishments, " and covered the whole land of Egypt with frogs. Before these frogs were
removed, the magicians undertook to bring into some place cleared for the purpose) a fresh supply: which they might easily do, when there was such plenty
every where at hand. Here also the narrow compass of the work exposed it to “the suspicion of being effected by human art; to which the miracle of Moses was “ not liable; the infinite number of frogs which filled the whole kingdom of Egypt
(so that their ovens, beds, and tables swarmed with them) being a proof of their “ immediate miraculous production. Besides, the magicians were unable to pro
cure their removal, which was accomplished by Moses, at the submissive applica" tion of Pharaoh, and at the very time that Pharaoh himself chose; the more
clearly to convince him that God was the author of these miraculous judgments, “ and that their infliction or removal did not depend upon the influence of the “ elements or stars, at set times or in critical junctures."*
They who object to the criticisms of Strauss and others upon the “Miracles of Jesus," as being refined, uncandid, and altogether at variance with the obvious meanings of the text, should bear in mind that those critics have but bettered the instruction given by Farmer and others, who undertook to demonstrate, so clearly as to leave no opening for doubt, that there was nothing miraculous in the doing's of the heathen magicians. And the same course has been pursued when dealing with the celebrated instance of the “Witch of Endor raising the Spirit of Samuel. We do not believe in the story, neither do the orthodox; but then, having to defend it, they are constrained to distort, and practically to ignore, the true meaning of the text. They have in that the double difficulty, witchcraft and pagan miracle-working: Obviously, the idea of the author who furnished the narrative was, that the witch-woman actually called up the spirit of Samuel, and, consequently, that such miracles could be wrought by evil-disposed persons. The same, too, occurs in the history of “ the temptation in the wilderness,” the narrative, taken in its integrity, involves the conclusion that Satan possesses powers to transcend the ordiuary laws of nature, and consequently to work miracles. So that if we were to see a miracle wrought before us, we should not have, in that fact, a proof of “Divine Interference," seeing that, according to the Scriptures, the evildisposed have power to work them.
* Farmer on Miracles, p. 291.
LONDON: PUBLISHED BY M. PATTIE, 81, PATERNOSTER Row, AND GEORGE
GLAISHER, 470, New OXFORD STREET.
A JOURNAL OF
PURE THEISM AND RELIGIOUS FREETHOUGHT,
THE ORGAN OF INDEPENDENT RELIGIOUS REFORM,
CONDUCTED BY P. W. PERFITT.
New series, No. 36.] SEPTEMBER 7, 1861.
OUT OF THE CLOUD;
A TALE; BY P. W. P.
SAM STOKES, TIIE SHOEMAKER. It was upon a beautiful morning in July that the Rector left home upon his long-contemplated mission of converting Samuel Stokes, better known in Crosswood as “the wicked old shoemaker.” The sun shone forth in great splendour, and with warmth sufficient for inducing groups of tiny insects to venture out from their nests to frolic in its beams. There was a calmness in the atmosphere which was almost holy; and while the old hedgerows near the rectory filled the air with sweet-briar and honeysuckle fragrance, he could not avoid pausing to ask himself, how it were possible for intelligent men to deny the existence of God. IIe had a strange habit of discussing with himself, and sometimes he spent hours debating important points, quite as cagerly as if a living antagonist had been his companion. At such times he spake, now in loud and then in lower tones; and although he had no settled method of proceeding, commencing generally when some doubt crossed his mind, and always without any intention of pursuing his studies in such a way, he argued his best on both sides, and frequently made his own more difficult by the masterly manner in which he arranged the arguments of his imaginary opponent. On the present occasion his mind turned in the direction of Theistic cvidences, and the argument he held was sufficiently powerful to deepen his conviction that it is far more difficult to conceive of a Universe without a God, than it is to demonstrate the being of an Intelligence which outlies and controls the forces of nature.
Roused from his argumentative reverie, he slowly pursued his way to the cottage in which Stokes resided. After passing through the little wicket he could not refrain from pausing to admire the neatness and well-tended aspect of the almost overstocked flower-garden in front of the shoemaker's home-it was so much superior to the similar patches in front of the neigh. VOL. VI. NEW SERIES, VOL. IL,
bouring cottages. Many choice plants were there, and all in a thriving condition. The pansies, of which several varieties were in full bloom, deserved all the admiration he bestowed upon them; the cloves, carnations, and picotees looked particularly strong and healthy, promising an abundance of rich bloom, all of which were well-provided with neatly-painted sticks and bits of wire to hold up their heavy heads; the pinks, some of which were in full bloom, were much finer than any the rectory garden could boast, and, although not well up in the mystery of propagating plants, he knew enough about pipings and layers to resolve upon asking Stokes for a few of each to plant in the next season under his study window.
Before reaching the green-painted cottage door, Lester had accounted to his own satisfaction for the superior aspect of this garden above all the others, by supposing it to be a source of relief for the owner to lay by for a time his lasts and awls in order to work a little with the spade. It served by its newness, by its being a change, as a kind of healthful recreation, which it would not be to others. They who had to win their daily bread as agricultural labourers cared not, as he imagined, to add to its amount by cultivating their cottage patches, and thus was explained their untended condition. But even if this were true, which is rather doubtfiul, Lester had forgotten to account for the neglect exhibited by the tailor, farrier, carpenter, wheelwright, and other skilled hands who lived in the same row, and whose patches were as full of weeds as were those belonging to the agricultural labourers. The former had more time upon their hands than Stokes bad, and to them the use of a spade would have proved quite as refreshing as it did to him. But they used it not, and cared nothing about cultivating flowers. They liked a rose for the button-hole, but were not disposed to devote any time to rearing rose-bushes. The true cause or causes of this lay deeper than Lester had supposed. They were low in taste and self-respect, and knew nothing of what constitutes the truest pleasure of life. They had no education, no conception of mental culture, and consequently were without refinement and elevation of mind. The Blue Lion furnished them with occupation, far more attractive than a flower-garden, in the form of skittle-playing and dominoes ; and they who lament that fact must not delude themselves with the belief that denouncing the folly is a step towards improvement. Until village education rises above its present miserable level, and some steps are taken towards supplying the fitting incitements to healthier and more elevating pursuits, the power of the Blue Lions and Poachers will continue unimpaired, and such men will surely tread the path which leads to social ruin. A few honourable exceptions—such as that of Stokes--of men fighting their own way into a much higher sphere of thought and life, will occasionally occur, but only as exceptions, for the majority will sink lower and still lower, until all hope of their future elevation, as a class, will become utterly vain.
The Rector's knock at the door was followed by the usual cry of “Come in !" at which he entered, and found the redoubtable Samuel Stokes, lapstone on knee, busy with his shoemending.
Stokes was a shortish, thickset, healthy-looking man; one who carried the mark of labour upon his horny hand, and wore a look of thorough honesty upon his face. His was one of those open countenances which win respect even before the owner has spoken. It was calm without being weak, and thoroughly independent without being either bold or impudent. Moreover, there was a certain waggery about the corner of his small mouth, and in the glint of his hazel eye, which spoke of good humour, and not less of healthy digestion. There was nothing formidable or wicked in his appearance, and, indeed, it had been frequently urged against him that his countenance was so open, so honest, so prepossessing, and there was such an air of candour about him, that he was likely to deceive even the saints themselves. He gave himself no airs, and yet there was an undefined indication of pugnacity about him; not strong enough to justify the charge of being a challenger, but sufficiently marked to render it certain that he would not miss the chance of picking up the glove should it be cast at his feet. Ile was probably surprised at seeing Lester enter his cottage, but his manner gave no indication of it; for, with an air of good-breeding, he treated the visit as an event which called for neither apology nor flurry. Certainly he was amused at the look of astonishment his visitor cast over the interior, which was plainly and yet neatly furnished. Every cottage convenience was there; the walls were pretty well covered with engravings, set in homespun morocco paper frames ; the dresser was well supplied with crockery ware, and a set of shining pewter plates; the floor was sanded, and every article in the room was in its place, as well as clean and free from dust, giving indications of good housewifery, with a love of order and neatness, without great display.
“Good morning, Sir,” said Sam, " glad to see you in my little workshop. Is there any shoemaking or mending I can do for you?"
Lester was about to answer, when Mrs. Stokes entered from the back room, and modestly repeated the greeting. There was something in her mild look and manner which completely took him by surprise. She was not beautiful, but yet pleasant to look upon, in her printed cotton gown, checked apron, and clean white neckerchief. The neatest little woman, as he afterwards told his sister, that he had ever seen. And what surprised him most was her perfectly easy and graceful, or true matronly manner. There was nothing approaching to boldness in her address, and quite as little of servility.
Becoming conscious that his fixed gaze was likely to prove painful, Lester turned to answer the shoemaker's question.
“No, Mr. Stokes," said he, “I cannot say that I have any little job for you at present, and, indeed, my visit to-day has no connection with ordinary business. As the rector of this parish I have a strong desire to know all my parishioners, you, of course, among the rest. But my visit to-day has yet another cause. The fact is that I have been informed—I sincerely hope wrongly, and from what I have seen both out and inside of your cottage I believe it must be so—that you are an enemy of our holy religion, that you are in the habit of speaking very disrespectfully of the Scriptures, and, in fact, excuse my plainness, that you are a very bad and dangerous man. Having heard these things, I felt it to be my duty to pay you a visit, so that, if the rumour be true, I should try to open your eyes to the error of your ways; but I hope that, after all, the account I have heard is utterly untrue, and without any real foundation.”
Without giving Sam time to reply, Mrs. Stokes interposed, saying,
“Yes, Sir, they do say my husband is a very bad man, but they know nothing about it, and from my heart I wish that every woman had as good a husband, and every child as good a father. I knows what it's all about well enough; for it's true that he doesn't go to church, and it's true, too, that he doesn't
go to the public. If he'd go to them two places uobody 'ud have a word against him. But I don't want it. I know there's many of 'em who go to church that are right good people, and there's a many who go that never knew what makes real goodness.”