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The Nature Marvels

The Nature Marvels

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Published by glennpease



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Published by: glennpease on Apr 09, 2013
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THE ATURE MARVELSBY THE AUTHOR OF"PRO CHRISTO ET ECCLESIA"While belief in the marvellous cures which Jesusworked upon the bodies and minds of men hasbecome comparatively easy since we have gainedevidence that such cures, although still com-paratively rare, are not out of the course of nature,those of his works classed as "nature-miracles"are still quite inexplicable to us.When the learning of men is applied todocuments written by men and facts of humanhistory, there comes a point in historic and literarycriticism when all that need be known in orderto form a sound judgment is known. That theBook of Daniel is not history ; that the writers of the ew Testament made mistakes in their inter-pretation of the Old Testament, are statementswhich can be proved by ample evidence. On theother hand, in considering those Christian marvelswhich appear to contradict the laws of nature wemust not seek an assurance inconsistent with thefact that nature is so imperfectly known to us thatwe can never be sure she has not some freshsurprise in store.263264 GOD'S CITADEL O EARTHSome of the most impossible of them formpart of the history of Jesus after the most searchingliterary tests have been applied to the record.They stand as an abiding witness that we are onlybeginning to understand what he gave us to learn,that the full meaning of his earthly ministry, as itrelates to the duties and privileges of the kingdomon earth, is for future generations — just as thechiefest gains of science, the higher social life, and
the fruition of all our progress, is for futuregenerations. Yet there is something to be learntfrom them now.Having seen that two out of the three classesof our Lord's marvels may well be conceived aswithin the province of nature, we have a strongpresumption, in turning to the nature-miracles,that we shall find the same true of them.In the first place, it is certain that the Gospelslay no claim to record any miracle in the modernsense — by which term we mean, any action of Godwhich, even if the same earthly conditions werepresent, need not occur again. At the beginningof the Christian era men had not tried to draw adividing line between the possible and impossiblein nature. Cataclysms which belong strictly tothe domain of nature, such as thunderbolts, earth-quakes, and other prodigies, were called marvels,in common with minor things which appeared tocontradict natural order. The wonderful workswhich Jesus did were never catalogued as super-natural by the mind of the time, because natureherself was looked upon as the mother of marvels.God and nature had never been dissociated : whatchap, ix THE ATURE MARVELS 265God did nature did; what nature did God did;or if the devil was supposed to be the agent, therewas no dissociation of his works from those of nature, however extraordinary his actions might be.When science had her first beginnings she wasbound to attempt to draw a line between thepossible and impossible; but in so doing shescarcely took time to classify the Gospel marvels,until a frightened and self-defensive Church took upon her unbidden a quarrel with the knowledgeof nature that comes through science, and insistedon claiming them as miracles in the scientificsense.Secondly, if the signs we are discussing were' miraculous,' we are bound to admit that they fall
far short of what men might naturally expect, andhad been taught to expect, of the unconditionedaction of divine power. They did not realise theconception which man in the ancient world had,which man still popularly has, of power and glory.The psalms, the prophetic writings of Israel, arefull of descriptions of more glorious acts of God'spower; and in the poetry of polytheistic religionsworks of greater splendour are attributed to theirdeities when they would manifest their presenceto men. The pillar of fire and cloud whichwent before Israel in the wilderness; the thundersof Jove; the flaming arrows of Apollo, andthe earthquakes of Poseidon, "shaker of the seaand land" — all these suggest divine power bytheir magnificence. Jewish expectation in thetime of Christ was moulded by such passages inprophetic poetry as these: — "The child shall die266 GOD'S CITADEL O EARTHan hundred years old." "The wolf and the lambshall feed together; the lion shall eat straw likethe bullock. They shall not hurt nor destroy.""The Lord will come with fire and with hischariots, like a whirlwind." "Then shall thylight break forth as the morning, and thine healthshall spring forth speedily, and thy righteousnessshall go before thee, and the glory of the Lord shallbe thy rearward." Or they had God's powersuggested by figures drawn from earthly powerand victory, such as, "I will gather all nationsagainst Jerusalem to battle . . . Then shall theLord go forth and fight against those nations."Or they had the mysteries of the unseen requisi-tioned in all those abnormal psychic phenomenadescribed by the prophet Joel and joyfully claimedby St. Peter as fulfilled in the days of Pentecost.We are familiar with the idea that the Jewsexpected the Messiah to be an earthly king witha temporal kingdom and were disappointed; butwe do not sufficiently dwell on the fact that,whatever may have been the expectations of gloryraised by the figures in which the prophets foretold

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