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Supernatural Religion.

Supernatural Religion.

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ST JOHN iv. 48. "Then said Jesus unto him, Except ye see signs
and wonders, ye will not believe."

ST JOHN iv. 48. "Then said Jesus unto him, Except ye see signs
and wonders, ye will not believe."

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Published by: GLENN DALE PEASE on Jul 29, 2014
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved


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SUPERATURAL RELIGIO. REV. J. LLEWELY DAVIES, M.A. ST JOH iv. 48. "Then said Jesus unto him, Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe." o one can fail to see that something of a reproach is intended in these words. Our Lord means to say that it would have been better if the Jews had been willing to believe without seeing signs and wonders. And this is a very important statement. The spirit of it, you will observe, is entirely in accordance with what is described to us as having been the general practice of the Lord Jesus. He never welcomed or desired the adhesion of those who believed in him because they saw the miracles which he did. He wrought mighty works, not to overpower disbelief, but to encourage and reward faith. In places where the people shewed no dis- position to believe in him, he could not, we are told, do mighty works. ow this way of regarding faith and miracles is 266 SUPERATURAL RELIGIO. in very definite opposition to a certain mode of describing Christianity, which has prevailed amongst its defenders, but which is found to suit the pur- poses of its assailants, and which they therefore gladly employ. I will endeavour to put it into a few words. Christianity, it is assumed, is a supernatural Revelation, the contents of which are exceedingly
strange, but which we are required to believe be- cause those who brought this revelation performed miracles in attestation of its truth. It is taken for granted that we should pay no x attention to the professed Revelation, except for the miracles. It follows then, that in examining into our religion, our first business is with the miracles. These must be shewn to be so manifestly supernatural as to defy all attempts at explanation. But they are external occurrences, depending upon historical tes- timony. The evidence for things so extremely improbable in themselves, and which are to be the basis of a supernatural revelation still more extra- ordinary, ought in all reason to be irresistible. You can scarcely imagine, indeed, any evidence which would be sufficient to enforce conviction. At all events, it ought to be more conclusive than the proofs you would require of an apparently SUPERATURAL RELIGIO. 267 miraculous occurrence at the present day. This being the position held by Christianity, let us see say the doubters and disbelievers what the evi- dence is by which the Christian miracles are proved. It is very well, they observe, to allege that the miracles are astonishing enough to attest the Reve- lation ; but first of all, what is the testimony which attests the miracles ? And then they set to work, as lawyers would, to cross-examine the witnesses, and to strip and shake the evidence. But if you have been impressed at all by that language of Scripture to which I have referred, you will be little inclined to acquiesce in the primary account of Christianity from which this method starts. Christianity, it is said, is a supernatural Revelation, the contents of which could only be
received on the strength of undeniable miracles. I have admitted that this sort of account has been given by defenders of Christianity and may be found in Christian books. But I am appealing now to Scripture, to the habitual language of Christ and of his Apostles. What did Christ mean, I ask, when he said, " Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe " ? You cannot imagine him who so spoke describing his mission in any terms such as these, "I am going to tell 268 SUPERATURAL RELIGIO. you something which you would of course not re- ceive on my word by itself, and therefore I shall first perform wonders among you which you will be compelled to regard as entirely beyond human power, and these will prove to you that what I tell you, however incredible, must be accepted as true." I am sure you will feel that our Lord's method of approaching men was something quite different from this. i. The word "supernatural" is unknown in the ew Testament. And not only so, but the attempted distinctiori between natural and super- natural is alien to the ew Testament mind. You may fancy, perhaps, that the distinction is a broad and simple one ; but you will find, if you try to explain it, that it is not so. Well, only those who make or use the distinction are bound to justify it. So far as I am able to judge, it introduces confusion into any subject to which it is applied. I do not go so far as to say that either word, natural or supernatural, may not be used reasonably. But I do contend that you cannot divide life or creation or history into two parts, distinguished from one another by the condition that the one is natural

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