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" They besought him that he would depart out of their coasts." —Matt, viii, 34 This request of the G-adarenes indicates the effect produced on the popular mind, by the presence among them of our Blessed Lord, in power. It is, as I take it, a typical illustration of the impression created on the human mind by an act of great power, viewed simply as such, and without consideration of the motive principle behind the power. A poor demoniac had been cured of the most distressful malady which can afflict a human being, and the district delivered from one who had for years been its dread and its disgust. But these good offices had been attended by a disastrous circumstance. "When the demoniac was restored to reason, the last frenzy of his madness seems to have been so wild and demonstrative, as to startle a herd of swine feeding close by. These animals breaking away in a mad panic from the control of their herds, stampeded headlong
THE REJECTED OF GADARA. 241 down the steep hill-side into the waters of the lake, and were drowned. This fatality involved a serious loss to the owners ; and dreading, lest the sojourn among them of one, whose arrival had been associated with so great a commercial disaster, should lead to further and greater loss, they unanimously besought him to
depart out of their coasts. From their point of view it was a most natural request. These G-adarenes regarded this wonder-worker as the repository merely of a mighty, preternatural power. That power, they judged, had been already exerted to their great prejudice ; and, like shrewd business men, they were not to be exposed to loss and damage, a second time, if they could help it. Doubtless, their idea was erroneous. There could be no necessary connection between the power which so graciously delivered the demoniac, and the unfortunate destruction of their property. To assume such a connection, was to make the Master, at one and the same moment, benevolent, and malevolent. Moreover, they had before their eyes, in the recovered demoniac, an undoubted trophy of the triumph of good over evil. The new-comer must have been a good 16
242 JESUS OUR LIGHT A D LIFE. man, to do so great a good. evertheless, their minds were full of the one thing, and they were not to be reasoned with. They could think only of the business calamity which had befallen them ; and in it they lost sight of the obvious blessing to the wild maniac, who had been so long the pest of the neighbourhood. Jesus was to them, for the moment, the incarnation simply of tremendous power, and from the demoniac to his deliverer seemed but to pass from one alternative of power to another; in fact, was to escape from under the shadow of a power which could burst assunder iron fetters,
only to pass under the shadow of a power greater far. In their consternation, they saw nothing but a change of powers. They could only shrink away trembling, therefore, from a presence fraught with great actual damage ; and, with how much future mischief, who could forecast ? So far, these G-adarenes were quite logical. Their premises being granted, the conclusion could not be denied. If power only was represented by the Prophet of azareth, then he could never be a welcome guest in Gadara, or, for that part of it, anywhere else. But I am not to linger over the facts of this
THE REJECTED OF GADARA. 243 episode. I have only taken it, to illustrate a mode of presenting our Lord and his authority, once highly popular, but now happily passing away, and to suggest a more excellent method. The old apologists used to rest their main argument, for the divinity of Christ, on the preternatural events which are recorded of him. They laboured to prove that he worked real miracles, so that they might find in his divine works, the surest evidence for his divine rank. Their theory was this : — " Jesus Christ performed a brilliant series of actions beyond the power of ordinary men. He performed them in the full blaze of the midday sun, in the streets, in the public places, in the presence of friends, before immense crowds, under the eager and malicious gaze of enemies. Moreover, there is no natural way of explaining these wonders. Therefore, doing supernatural works, and by his own authority, he has proved himself to be divine." Such was the argument of the old
apologists, and they carried their method to perfection. They never were really answered by the other side. evertheless, the principle on which they rested could only be considered satisfactory, in an age better pleased to trace the divine in
244 JESUS OUR LIGHT A D LIFE. the extraordinary, than in the common, in disorder and convulsion, than in scenes of peace and beauty. "We are not to judge our fathers harshly, nor minimise the value of the heritage which they have transmitted to us. evertheless, we cannot fail to perceive, that in resting their case almost exclusively on the power of the miracles, and almost ignoring the character which inspired them, our ancestors really reversed the proper order of things, and attempted to perform the impossible. They thought the human soul could be made to worship power, and that in his omnipotence, the church had the kernel of truth concerning the person of Christ. It was a delusion, however. There is only one thing which human nature can love and adore, and that is, merit. The Gradarenes were really more logical than our ancestral defenders of the faith. Before Jesus, as a great power represented in the calamity to their swine, they could only cry out, like St. Peter on a similar occasion, "Depart from us." Could they have looked a little deeper than the brute power of the miracle, so to speak, they would doubtless have found in the spiritual power which directed it, a sure foothold for devotion ; but stopping short
THE EEJECTED OF GADARA. 245
where they did, their prayer was the logical outcome of their belief. But the old apologists deliberately tried to strike the spark of love, by the iron of logic, on the flint of power ; and the result was a Jesus very much like the Elohim of Jewish history — a being of vast power which overshadowed all his other attributes. The more excellent method, into which the church has been growing steadily during this century, is to centre interest in the wonder of love, rather than in the wonder of power — in short, so to exalt the love which attracts, that the power which repels may be cast into the background. It is to stamp the miracles as magnificent testimonies to a holy cause more by the sublime merit they illustrate, than by the childish amazement they excite. God is in them, but far less in the power that controls the insane, or heals the sick, or makes the crystal fountain blush into rosy wine, than in the still small voice of compassion and tenderness, which woos and wins, to the submission of love. This view of our Lord's miracles is sustained by the whole tenor of the ew Testament narrative. Though he did wonderful things, there is nothing to show, that the people generally
246 JESUS OUR LIGHT A D LIFE. shrank from his presence as from some mysterious, powerful Magus. On the contrary, the simplest and the gentlest natures clung to him with child-like fondness. Multitudes flocked to him, drawn by the pure kindliness and goodness of his works, and never dreaming that his mighty
power could ever be exerted, save for beneficent ends. Even his foes, who, on their own showing, recognized in his works a preternatural power, never seem to have entertained the suspicion, that those works of mercy might become works of vengeance, against those who were plotting his destruction. The railers around the cross admitted, that he saved others ; but wondered that he did not save himself. And thousands of good Christians have, oftentimes since, cherished the same wonder. Their Messiah is one who can rule the nations with a rod of iron, and break them in pieces as a potter's vessel. That is frail man's symbol of authority. But our Jesus never seeks so to rule ; he never can draw the glittering sword nor wield the jewelled sceptre. He is the great phenomenal ruler of history. His ambition, was to rule in men's hearts ; and the way, in which his fellow-men gathered round him shows that he succeeded.
THE REJECTED OF GADARA 247 The miracle of character was greater far than any miracle of power. Many came to him drawn by the fame of his power ; those who stayed when they came, were held by the loveliness of his character. In point of fact, whatever power our Lord possessed was constantly controlled, directed, or restrained by his character. The sublime selfrestraint, which he practised, habitually, in very trying circumstances, is, to me, the greatest miracle of his ministry. It is much easier, for ordinary human nature, to obey the call of compassion, and perform good and kind deeds, if it has the power, than to restrain itself when character
is to be vindicated, or calumny refuted. Only a mind of the finest fibre can remain selfrestrained under insult and wrong, and bear it all meekly for the sake of some good cause. Our Lord possessed that marvellous self-restraint. The motto of his ministry was this : " The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost." " Be ye wise as serpents and harmless as doves," was his counsel to the twelve. He never wantonly provoked opposition, nor heedlessly courted a bitter word. For opposition and raillery, plotting and treachery, he had
248 JESUS OUR LIGHT A D LIFE. only patient meekness. Malice he met with mild rebuke ; for the traitor's foul kiss he had only, " Friend, wherefore art thou come ? " The cross, with all its suffering and shame, could only wring from him, "Father, forgive them ; they know not what they do." Had righteous indignation flared up in his bosom, to blast with the lightnings of heaven those guilty defamers and persecutors, our poor human nature had applauded him to the echo. But had he yielded to this very natural temptation, his work had been a ruin to-day. He would have been honored as a great prophet and martyr; he would not have been worshipped as the Saviour of the World. He would not have stood before admiring mankind, in the glory of a splendid self-restraint utterly unparalleled in the history of our race. Our noblest, and our highest would have given him the first place among the sons of men ; they would never have exalted him to the virgin heights of divine purity, the one pure soul, at whose feet the nations are destined to worship, in ever-growing
devotion. If our Lord's spontaneous readiness to good-doing was a true mark of his divine nature, much more so was his perfect restraint
THE REJECTED OF GADARA. 249 from vengeance, under circumstances of extreme provocation. Once only did his restraining power falter, if I may be allowed the expression ; and that episode reveals not the weakness of his character, but the strength of his compassion. The occasion, was the healing of the poor woman with the issue. In her modesty she approached him from the rear, whispering to herself, " Oh ! if I can but touch the hem of his garment, I shall be cured." " Blessed among women be thou, Veronica, who didst thus creep up stealthily to thy Lord ! Thou hast been one of the great benefactresses of thy race. For thou hast lifted the veil to disclose how deep was the common faith in thy Lord's ability to save, and how sweet the attractions of his grace. Thou hast shown how naturally he moved among his people, A kindly man among his kind. Better blessing still, hast thou bequeathed to us. For thee was it reserved, to discover the only weak point in the Messiah of the World. Thy faithful touch drew from him those blessed and suggestive words : " Who touched me ? Somebody hath touched me ; for I perceive that vir-
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tue is gone out of me." To thee, oh ! poor, shamefaced sufferer, was it first given to find out, that thy Lord was weak, only in restraining himself from helping and blessing men. Thou didst trust in his character, and thou wast not disappointed." The manner of our Lord's working is a valuable aid to faith. The sacred writers relate, that he performed his greatest works, with the artlessness and naturalness of a child. From the deep repose of " tired nature's sweet restorer, balmy sleep," he rises calmly to speak, " Peace !" to the raging billows, and the untamed spirit of the storm cowers meekly at his feet. o Ajax he, defying the lightning, but the simple, unaffected Son of God, doing as a matter of course his Father's business. In the home of Jairus, he is offended by the hireling outgush of wild lamentation ; but melted by the silent sorrow of the broken-hearted parents. Taking the hand of the dead, he speaks the quiet, strong word, " Maid, arise !" ; and the great deed is done. The whole story, from beginning to end, is as natural as possible. He gives, as if there were nothing remarkable in the gift ; the parents receive their child, from the dead, as if she had
THE REJECTED OF GADARA. 251 come into the room, to receive a morning kiss. All through the gospels, it is the same perfect simplicity. Our Lord never takes any pains to proclaim his pow^er ; he never w^orks ostentatiously. He does take pains to avoid publicity, and the inconvenient popularity of the w^onderworker. His best w^orks are performed in the
most ordinary way; he is never so calm as when he is conferring the grandest favors. The miracles of Our Lord, in the sense I have indicated, are a valuable branch of the Christian evidences. In any other sense, they must, I fear, be an evidential delusion, and they may often be a religious snare. As illustrations of power merely, they actually put the thoughtful reader in a stand-oflP attitude, towards him at whose feet he would lay the offering of his life. To the uncultured reader, on the other hand, they suggest a faith, which is no faith. The preternatural is not to be excised from the gospels, without violence to every canon of literary criticism. Miracle is in our Lord's life, in his speech, in his character. Though the miraculous be excised from his works, there will be as great difficulty with his character, or with his teaching. Our Lord had great faith in the
252 JESUS OUR LIGHT A D LIFE. power of character, and he never showed that he had faith in the power of works. He utterly refused to give a sign, to prove his Messiahship. o converts were made to his following by the miracles. The strength of Christianity must, therefore, lie in the character it presents, and in the type of character it produces. Man must love the highest when he sees it ; and if those who decline to accept Christianity because of the miraculous in the gospels were to begin with the character of the Master, I am persuaded that they could not remain in the attitude of those benighted G-adarenes. Eather would they find growing up in them, as they realized the Christ character, the creed of St. Thomas, when
the living Lord appeared to him, " My Lord and my Grod." They would realize, in the personal, spiritual fellowship of Christ, that their difficulties were really least where they thought them greatest. A divine character would become to them the very bread of their life, and they would not desire to live or die away from such heavenly nutriment.
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