The Irrationalism of Infidelity: Section e.

Being a reply to "Phases of Faith"*

J. N. Darby.

{*London: 1853.}

<06001-129E> File Section e.


Mr. Newman objects to Abraham's saying twice, and Isaac once, that his wife was his sister, as being improbable. (Phases, p. 124.) Now it is stated that Abraham and Sarah had agreed to do it on beginning their wanderings. Nor is it therefore very extraordinary that Isaac should have thus learned it in his father's house.


Mr. Newman alludes to certain "small phrases which denote a later hand than Moses." (Phases, p. 124.) There is no reason to doubt that, whatever Samuel may have done, Ezra edited the sacred writings after the return from Babylon: from these sources the expression "to this day" is no doubt drawn. The prophets, Josephus informs us, were the authority on which books were revered as inspired, and that the canon closed in the time of Artaxerxes.*

{*This, though of course a mere human authority, but a competent one, as far as any are in these matters, falls in with Malachi and Esther being the last books, as to date, of the Old Testament, and the probable epoch of the close of genealogies in Chronicles.}

He notices particularly that "the kings of Israel are once alluded to historically." (Phases, p. 124.) In Genesis 36:31 it is said, Before there was any king in Israel. So that "alluded to historically" is rather an inaccurate expression; their non-existence is alluded to. Edom had kings before Israel had any; that is all that is said. Edom's having any when Israel had had none was the point wished to be recorded. It was a settled nation ruled over regularly, before God's people Israel were so. In the chapter before, kings had been promised to arise out of the loins of Jacob. Yet the natural went first in apparent strength: God's people must wait His time. The list of kings in Edom consists of eight. Now Phinehas was the seventh from Jacob, and he was in full activity and vigour in the time of Moses. So that the kings of Edom, as mentioned in Genesis, very possibly did not extend beyond the time of Moses; though data are not given to determine when they commence. The reader will remark that it is not said, before kings, or the kings reigned, as if it were a history; but, before a king or any king reigned, which rather seems to belong to a time when there was none at all that was known. Yet kings had been promised to Jacob, and the pre-eminence, and none to Esau; yet Esau had them when Jacob had none. The contrast is not with kings in Israel and none in a by-gone time, but of kings in Edom when Israel had none.


Mr. Newman next refers to quotations. He tells us that no "unbiased interpreter" would have dreamed of applying Isaiah 7 to Jesus. (Phases, p. 125.) Why not? From Adam's time, the woman's seed was the subject of promise. It was confirmed, with fuller and more specific details, to Abraham, confining it to Isaac's line, then to Jacob's, then to Judah's family, and at last, as is well known, to David's family, in a very definite way, so as to have been the constant expectation of the Jews at the time Christ came — as Tacitus declares in a well-known passage. To the Jews the place where He was to be born was familiarly known. The coming of Christ, then, we know to be the grand object always kept in view in the Old Testament; and, on the supposition of God being the Author of the scriptures, a continual reference to this, accompanying a direct appeal to conscience connected with an already given law, would characterize the books which compose the Old Testament. An "unbiased" and intelligent reader must expect to find it continually — it is the great object of the book; and to find it particularly in connection with David's family and with the restoration of Israel in a spared remnant, whom David's Son would save. No attentive reader of the Old Testament can dispute this.

148 Now Isaiah 7 begins by alluding to a prophetic and mystic son of the prophet — a common prophetic figure — called, "the remnant shall return." (Shear-jashub.) According to the Old Testament doctrine, this would immediately suggest the thought of Messiah. So we find the pious Simeon and Anna prepared at once for the thought, and the disciples asking, Are the σωζόμενοι, the spared remnant, few in number? [translated, "few that be saved"? Luke 13:23.] Now Ahaz began the apostasy of David's family, the last stay of Israel; for, on the people "Ichabod" had long ago been written, and David raised up, and the peace and safety of the people made dependent on the faithfulness of his family in an express manner. 2 Chr. 7:17-21.

Now Ahaz walked in the way of the kings of Israel, and made his son pass through the fire; he made molten images also for Baalim, and (though perhaps after this prophecy) introduced an idolatrous altar, after a Damascus pattern, into the temple, and set aside the brazen altar for himself to use as an oracle. To him Isaiah comes with his "remnant shall return," and addressing himself to the house of David, and referring to their unbelief and rebellion, judges it, and gives as a sign from God the birth of the virgin's son. Now that a* virgin should marry and have a child is nothing that can be a sign from God, nor anything particular to do with the house of David. Nor would there be any reason for calling his name Immanuel, that is, God with us. I know it has been said — Mr. N. does not condescend to say why "an unbiased interpreter" would not apply it to Jesus* — that Hezekiah was meant, in whose reign there was deliverance for Israel. Now Hezekiah had been born several years before the date of the prophecy. Thus the application of the prophecy to David's promised Son is the most natural and only intelligible one of the passage.

{*In the original it is not a virgin, but the virgin — an expression not used but with some particular reference. When quoted in Greek in the New Testament the same expression is preserved —  ἡ παρθένος.}

{**Mr. N.'s words are — the thought is a common-place infidel one — "First is the prophecy about the child Immanuel; which in Isaiah no unbiased interpreter would have dreamed could apply to Jesus." (Phases, p. 125.)}

"Out of Egypt have I called my son"* may present more difficulty, as supposing more knowledge of the ways of God. Hosea 11:1, Matt. 2:15.

{*They are, Mr. N. tells is, "imagined by Matthew to be prophetic of the return of Jesus from Egypt." (Phases, p. 125.)}

The Son of man is presented in scripture as beginning in a new way of grace the whole condition of man. He is called the Second Adam.

149 So is it with respect to Israel. Christ was to begin all Israel's history over again under the new covenant, as the true stock in whom the promises were to be enjoyed, the old vine having been proved worthless. Thus, in John, I do not doubt with reference to this, it is said, "I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman," John 15:1, referring to Isaiah 6 and Psalm 80:8, to the end. The disciples thought He was a chief branch perhaps of the old vine, but that was not the true one now. He was the vine, the real fruit-bearing plant of God, and they the branches.

This substitution of Christ for Israel was taught in a very plain and remarkable manner by the prophets. Thus, in Isaiah 49, the prophet begins with presenting Israel as addressing the nations as being the One in whom Jehovah was to be glorified. Then, verse 4, Messiah says he has in that case laboured in vain; and then, verse 5, the Lord places Him with a yet more glorious inheritance in Israel's place, though gathering Israel too to God. He takes the place of servant to glorify God. In the end of the prophecy the faithful remnants are found as the servants.

This word "servant" is just the key to the whole prophecy from Isaiah 40 to the end. First, Israel is the servant to shew forth Jehovah's praise. He failed. Messiah becomes His servant for it and is rejected by Israel, who thus fills up his guilt; and then the remnant, who, when the body becomes adversaries, are separated from it, and are the servants, accepted and delivered by Him at His return. Hence Matthew, or really the Spirit of God, applies this passage according to the whole tenor and purpose of the prophets — this judgment of Israel, Messiah being rejected, and the setting up of the kingdom in Him according to the prophecies, being the great subject of this gospel. Such too was the constant judgment of the Jews in a crowd of passages. It is not spiritualizing.* Jesus was not brought out of the world in any spiritual sense. He came down from heaven. Egypt is a great deal to Messiah, as taking up the lot of Israel itself.

{*"This instance moved me much; because I thought, that if the text were 'spiritualized' so as to make Israel mean Jesus, Egypt also ought to be spiritualized and mean the world, not retain its geographical sense, which seemed to be carnal and absurd in such a connection: for Egypt is no more to Messiah than Syria or Greece." (Phases, p. 125.)}

As to John 10:35, Mr. N. entirely perverts what is said. He says (Phases, p. 125), "Psalm 82 rebukes unjust governors, and at length says to them, 'I have said, Ye are gods,'" etc. In other words, "though we are apt to think of rulers as if they were superhuman, yet they shall meet the lot of common men," and then accuses the Lord of using this "as His sufficient justification for calling Himself Son of God: for 'the scripture cannot be broken.'"

150 Now, this is either a good deal of ignorance, or, to say the very least, very culpable carelessness. At any rate, Mr. N.'s paraphrase has nothing to do with the matter. "We are apt to think" is on the face of it a very different thing from Jehovah's saying "I have said." Further, the Lord is not saying anything to prove what He is, but convicting the Jews of unreasonableness in their blame of Him, on the ground of their own scriptures What He says is perfect, as surely it must be. In the psalm, Elohim is judging amongst the Elohim, and declared that He had called these judges — perverse as they had become, so as to call judgment down on themselves — Elohim.

Now that is just the fact. In the Pentateuch frequently the parties are directed to be brought to the Elohim (as Ex. 21:6, 23; Ex. 22:8-9, twice), so called, because in judging they were to act in God's stead. (See Deut. 1:17.)

They have this name, particularly in the instructions given from Sinai, for causes to be brought to them — the parties were to make it good according to [the award of] Elohim — God or the judges. Hence the Lord says, "If the scriptures, which you own have irrefragable authority, give the name of Elohim to persons instructed by the word, how can you call it blasphemy that I apply the title 'Son of God' to one whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world?" The argument is of the plainest force to shew their injustice, which is the Lord's object.

Mr. N. has not only misrepresented the reasoning of the Lord, but he has misrepresented what He says.

Mr. N. then takes in, in the lump, all the quotations of the New Testament: some had always been "a mystery" to him. Now they were clearly wrong; if canvassed, "it may appear that not one quotation in ten is sensible and appropriate." (Phases, p. 126.) Then it is assumed, that "it is so manifest that they most imperfectly understood that book," that the decision of the New Testament writers concerning the value and credibility of the Old Testament is not to be accepted. Thus it is settled. The only answer one can give to an assertion of this kind is, that it is not manifest. The only thing manifest that I see is, that Mr. N. has not the smallest notion of the purport and character of the Old Testament, as clearly expressed in it. The passages he has referred to certainly will not make any "unbiased interpreter" think so.

151 It is merely setting up his decision, after having shewn himself to be singularly incompetent to judge, not only above that of the New Testament writers, but above the clear judgment of hundreds, founded on sound reasoning and investigation, and intelligent study of the real bearing of the Old Testament, as the expression of the purpose of God. The decision of one who can turn "I have said, Ye are gods" — the plain fact which we find in the Psalms, and in a remarkable part of the Old Testament, applying to the subject — into "We are apt to think rulers superhuman" is not worth much attention in the investigation of the applicability of passages of the Old quoted in the New.


Mr. Newman next refers to another common objection. Jude has quoted the prophecy of Enoch. He has this excuse that this is commonly so stated, since Archbishop Lawrence published his book; and Origen has taken it for granted.

But I beg leave to say, that there is not the smallest proof of any kind that he has done so. The fathers are historically very useful, like all contemporaneous authors; their judgment, and not the least so Origen's, is nothing worth.

Now what proof have we that Jude quoted this book? Just none. It is evident that there was a traditional account that such a prophecy existed. This book of Enoch records it. Jude authenticates the prophecy as far as his authority goes. But that Jude took it from the book of Enoch, there is not the slightest proof whatever.

Enoch, all know, was favoured of God; the prophecy ascribed to him is a testimony of a doctrine established by a multitude of passages. Its written preservation in Christian times was more timely, as then Christ's coming in glory was the immediate and proper hope of the Church. While at all times a most solemn prophetic warning, it was less suited to be preserved as a part of the divine record, while God was still carrying on His government under the law. Everything is in its place.

It is the simple fact of the existence of the passage in both Jude and Enoch, which is used as a proof that it is quoted, which is no proof at all, because it is evident each may have taken it up if it was current by tradition. And the copying is very much less probable than the latter supposition, because the passage is not the same in both. It is thus given by Archbishop Lawrence: "Behold, He cometh with ten thousand of His saints, to execute judgment upon them, and destroy the wicked, and reprove all the carnal for everything which the sinful and ungodly have done and committed against Him."

152 Thus it stands in Jude: "And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodlily committed, and of all their hard [speeches] which ungodly sinners have spoken against him." Jude 1:14. Now, that these passages refer to the same prophecy I see no reason to doubt; but I do not see the smallest sign that one was copied from the other. They differ very sensibly one from the other. There is nothing about what ungodly sinners have spoken in the book of Enoch — no expression such as "destroy the wicked" in Jude. The phraseology too in Jude is quite different and very peculiar. I should say, from the language and omissions, that it certainly was not a quotation.

But, further, the doctrine also is very different. The book of Enoch makes God come to execute judgment on His saints. There is no such doctrine as this in Jude. And the book of Enoch distinguishes particularly executing judgment on them, the saints, and destroying the wicked. No such idea as this exists in Jude. Nor is it a mere question of Ethiopic,* which I certainly could not solve. It is the positive doctrine of the book of Enoch, "while judgment," it is said, just before, "shall come upon all, even all the righteous." Thus His executing judgment upon them [the preserved] is the specific doctrine of the passage. It certainly is not that of Jude; for he says Enoch prophesied of the reprobate. And, while speaking of executing judgment on all, there is no such a thought as executing judgment on the saints and destroying the wicked. Jude goes on to speak of His convicting the ungodly for their deeds and their words against Him. So that the substantial meaning of the passages is quite different, as one contains what the other does not; and the language is quite diverse too. I conclude, with undoubting certainty, that one was not quoted from the other (unless the author of the Book of Enoch used Jude in his own way), and that Jude's is divine, accordant as it is with the whole testimony of the word, and the apocryphal Enoch's human.

{*De Sacy's Latin translation is exactly the same with Dr. Lawrence's. He supposes that the author may have borrowed from Jude.}

153 But further: What proof have we that the book of Enoch was written first? I doubt it exceedingly. Dr. Lawrence takes as his fixed point of departure, in making the enquiry, that the quotation of Jude proves it was written before his epistle. But this is begging the question. I have already shewn that, to say the least, it is an assumption without any proof (what can be adduced in the way of evidence proving, as I judge, the direct opposite).

Indeed, the proof that the writer was before Jude is to me very doubtful.

There are passages which seem to be quoted from the New Testament. Some of them I should not insist upon, because they may have been proverbial, and so used by the Lord Himself among the Jews.

They are the following:

"It would have been better for them had they never been born." "At that time I beheld the Ancient of Days while he sat upon the throne of his glory, while the book of the living was opened in his presence, and [while] all the powers of the heavens stood around and before him." "And he, the Son of man, shall be the light of nations" (this may be from Isaiah). "But in the day of their trouble the world shall obtain tranquillity." "In these days shall the earth deliver up from her womb, and hell deliver up from hers that which it has received." "The word of his mouth shall destroy all the sinners and all the ungodly, who shall perish at his presence." "Trouble shall come upon them as upon a woman in travail." "Before the Son of man, from whose presence they shall be expelled."

These look very like allusions to passages in the New Testament. But there is another circumstance. The writer says, referring to the destruction of the temple at Jerusalem, "Then I grieved extremely on account of the tower, and because the house of the sheep was overthrown. Neither was I afterwards able to perceive whether they again entered that house." Now this comes after a passage (chap. 88:92) where it is said, "I saw, too, that he forsook the house of their fathers and their tower, giving them all into the power of every beast," which refers to the Babylonish captivity; and after he had announced the call of seventy accountable shepherds, which Dr. Lawrence himself applies to the rulers from Nebuchadnezzar down to Herod the Great. So that the destruction here alluded to was under or after the seventy shepherds; whereas their accountable rule began with Nebuchadnezzar: so that this was evidently another overthrow of "the house of the sheep." At any rate, as he gives the Jewish history up to Herod, he must have known they had their house again; indeed, he speaks evidently of Zerubbabel, Joshua, and Nehemiah or Ezra, and of the rebuilding of the temple. (Phases, p. 113.) This would lead one then to suppose that he wrote after the destruction of Jerusalem* by the Romans, and was thus unable to say that the temple would be restored.

{*In chapter 104 he turns back to consider the conduct and accountability of the shepherds already spoken of from the beginning (chapter 103 having closed the direct history, which would much confirm its being the Roman destruction of the temple).}

154 One passage looks very much as if he considered the Christians as a perverse race; but that a remnant would be preserved, to whom the power and glory would be given. At any rate, he speaks of the Jews being perverse at this epoch. These are his words, "Afterwards, in the seventh week [coinciding with that in which Christianity appeared], a perverse generation shall arise; abundant shall be its deeds, and all its deeds perverse. During its completion the righteous selected from the plant of everlasting righteousness [a remnant of the Jews] shall be rewarded, and to them shall be given sevenfold instruction concerning every part of his creation." (Chap. 92:12.) After this they shall execute judgment on oppressors, sinners shall be delivered up into the hands of the righteous, and the house of the great King shall be built up for ever.

That is, he promises, after this week of perverse men, the full establishment of Jewish privileges in a Jewish way.

He speaks much of the Son of man, the Elect, the concealed One revealing the wisdom of the Lord of spirits; but Judaism is set up by power. And the only notice of the Christian week is perverse men doing a great deal.

It would rather appear to me the work of a Jewish writer, who, when Christianity had come, sought to buoy up the hopes of the Jews in their own expectations, when now given up a prey to the lions and all beasts.

The house was destroyed, perhaps Christianity prevalent. He made use of the name of Enoch as being one of which tradition had preserved some memorial. The Cabalists seem to have possessed this book from allusions in the book Zohar, quoted by Dr. Lawrence.

155 There is a difficulty apparently in the twelve shepherds, which Dr. Lawrence applies to the Asmonean princes and Herod. But he introduces Matthias, which I should judge doubtful, and Alexandra, a woman. Take away these two, and you have two shepherds after Herod. Were it not so, it would be merely closing the account of native princes with Herod, after which the state of Palestine was so uncertain (either a tetrarchy or a province, or for a little while again nearly united under Herod Agrippa) that he drops the history of it as a distinct thing. The view that I have presented is corroborated by chapter 89. After the twelve shepherds, he gives a sword into the sheep's (Jews') hands to slay the beasts of the field; and the Lord judges. That is, he puts power into the hands of the Jews at the close of this period.

I need not pursue this subject any farther. It suffices to have shewn that there is no probability whatever that Jude quoted from this spurious book — I may say a certainty that he did not, and that there is great ground to suppose that the Book of Enoch was written after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans.* But if Jude has not quoted it, it is very little matter when a mere spurious book full of nonsense was written. It is useful historically, as shewing the Jews' opinions in those days. I may remark that he is most distinct in his assertion, that there were openings for the abyss of waters to break forth from beneath for the deluge, and clefts for it in which to run back again, just, indeed, as the heathen shewed at Delos and other places for the retreat of their deluge.**

{*This was in the year 70 of our era, how much after I cannot pretend to say, because the dates fail; he says he could not see if they entered into the destroyed house. After that there are only prophecies of Jewish deliverance and grandeur.}

{**It is curious enough, that the book speaks of a modern solution to the cause of the deluge, which I do not think needful to discuss here, when Noah saw the earth inclined, and that its destruction approached.}

This objection of Jude's quoting from the Book of Enoch I hold to be totally unfounded. It certainly is wholly unproved. The ancients supposed it merely, they give no evidence as to the fact.

Mr. N. goes on to say, that "it does not appear that any peculiar divine revelation taught them [the New Testament writers] that the Old Testament is perfect truth." (Phases, p. 126.) They did not need one. They knew prophets had delivered it from God, as Peter says, and had not spoken by the will of man. But I further answer, they had; for the Lord confirmed this their faith in the Old Testament over and over again in the most explicit way.


Mr. Newman's statement* as to Paul is wholly unfounded — worse than unfounded. Paul recognizes the authority of the Old Testament in the fullest possible manner, always using it as conclusive authority. He maintains also, and insists on the full authority of the law, but shews that its action against us was averted by the death of Christ. We are not bound, he argues, by a law of a relationship which subsists no longer, as it cannot when a man is dead. But he takes particular care to shew that he does not undermine the authority of the law. Christ's bearing its curse (Gal. 3) is the strongest possible proof of that.

{*"So far as Paul deviates from the common Jewish view, it is in the direction of disparaging the law as essentially imperfect." (Phases, p. 126.)}


As to the introduction to Luke's Gospel Mr. N.'s remarks are equally unfounded. "He could not possibly have written thus," he says, "if he had been conscious of superhuman aids" (Phases, p. 127); and just before: "He opens by stating to Theophilus, that since many persons have committed to writing the things handed down by eye-witnesses, it seemed good to him also to do the same, since he had 'accurately attended to everything from its sources (ἄνωθεν).'" Now I beg leave to say he says no such thing. He says nothing like that I may "do the same." These are his words, "Since many have taken in hand* to compose a narration of the things believed with certainty amongst us, as they have delivered them to us, who from the beginning were eye-witnesses and servants of the word, it seemed well to me fully acquainted from the beginning with all things [and that] accurately, to write to thee methodically, most noble Theophilus, that thou mightest know the certain truth concerning the things in which thou hast been instructed."

{*Origen's remark here is, that Luke's words, "many had taken in hand," are a tacit accusation that they had attempted in their own strength, without the Holy Ghost, to write gospels — absque gratiâ Spiritûs Sancti. But here Matthew, Mark, and John, he adds, did not take in hand to write, but being full of the Holy Ghost wrote gospels.}

157 Now this contrasts (whether we accept Origen's interpretation of taking in hand or not) what he had done with what others had, it declares that he had written differently, and with more certainty than the others — in a word, that he had not done the same. If the others had given the ἁσφάλειαν, the demonstrated certainty of the things, as he did, he need not have spoken of them as he does. I do not say that he alleges them to be false; but they were not such as hindered him from giving an account of the same thing, that Theophilus might have positive certainty about the history of the Lord.*

{*It has been amply shewn that he does not refer to Matthew and Mark. John's Gospel was not written.}

Further, Mr. N. translates ἄνωθεν "from the sources."* Mr. N. is undoubtedly a better scholar than I; but here dictionaries are adequate authority, and I think I may venture to say that the English translation is correct, and that  ἄνωθεν  has not the sense at all which Mr. N. gives it;  ἄνωθεν  does not mean "from the sources," i.e., from some other originals. It has it neither by etymology nor by use. It has the sense of "from above," hence, "from heaven," "anew," "from the beginning." I have searched Liddell and Scott, Scapula, and Stephens' Thesaurus, and I find no trace of such a meaning. The English translation is the natural clear meaning of the word so used. If by "the sources" is merely meant "from the outset," as tracing a river from its source, it is the same thing; and why change it, suggesting the meaning of other sources, not inspiration?

{*It is fair to mention that Moses Stuart does the same — at least if I remember right.}

But as this preface is often adduced, a few more words here may be justly offered to my reader.

No historical book is edited by the writer with "Thus saith the Lord." It would have been quite unsuited. The contents were not words spoken as such directly and solely from the Lord to men, but an account of various historical circumstances, often of very bad ones done by men; and when of good or even perfect ones, as in the case of Jesus, mixed up with others in a variety of transactions. The business of inspiration then was to secure the writer's giving a true account of what passed, to fix his attention on the right objects, and to connect them in such a manner as to produce the moral picture the Spirit meant to produce. Thus the Lord says, the Holy Ghost should bring to their remembrance what He had said. Now what was thus brought to their remembrance, in the form divinely suited to God's object in their history, they so set down. If they remembered it themselves as God would have it set down, God having for their own sakes so impressed it on their spiritual affections, the Spirit had only to lead them to record what they so already remembered. If it was recorded even by some one else already, or recounted by an apostle; if led by the Spirit to adopt such account, the case would be the same. The only thing to be looked for was, that the result produced was (in result, as a whole, in everything, and in all its parts in their connection) exactly what God Himself meant to give as the history of His beloved Son, or indeed of any other part of the divine history. So in what they saw. If Luke was present when Paul and the disciples knelt down and prayed on the shore, and the Holy Ghost had given him the feeling and impression about it which He meant to act on others by, he put it down in that way exactly under His power. He knew the thing as an eye-witness. The facts had not to be communicated to him by inspiration, though his manner of presenting them is perfectly according to the mind of God, and comes from Him. Now every one feels how entirely inappropriate it would be and out of place to introduce, "Thus saith the Lord: Then we went out to the sea-shore and knelt down."

158 In a word, the historical accounts are given under the care of God, by the Holy Ghost recalling if needed, directing in the use of known facts, fixing the attention exactly on the part of a transaction suited to the object of the history (for God must have an object in it), which has produced God's own history of the Lord's life, or other scriptural subjects. Now that is exactly what we want. He used men and men's minds for this; and what they used as means for it is perfectly immaterial. God allowed their circumstances to be such as to render the objections of infidel men the height of folly as to the general truth of Christianity. This is not the ground on which the believer receives it indeed. Taught of God, he enjoys, according to his progress in the divine life, the unfolding to his soul of all the rich truth which God has treasured up there, in a book that unfolds all that lies between the extremes of the sin of man and the love and holiness of God, and all the means which divine love has employed to bring back those who lay in one, to the sweet and blessed enjoyment of the other, and that in the development of those divine counsels which attach themselves to the person of Jesus.

159 But the circumstances in which the writers of the New Testament were shew the gross absurdity of the infidel on human grounds, so as to leave him without excuse. The truth of Christianity, as a general fact, is established as no other history in the world is; so also are its true character and the details which establish the divine power connected with it. God has granted an external and internal evidence which confounds the infidel — convicts him of being utterly unreasonable; and, of course, graciously strengthens as an outwork, the heart of the true disciple. The infidel pretends to know God so much better before-hand than anybody else, that he can shew that Christianity cannot be true. But the man that would attempt to shew it was not true would prove himself a fool in his wisdom. On no other subject would he be considered of sane mind, if he disputed on such evidence. It is the consciousness, as I have already said, that it is divine, and that it has a claim on the conscience, which is the reason of its being disputed. Were it not, no one would attempt to do it; but man cannot bear God Himself, though he may pride himself on his own thoughts about Him, if he can judge Him.

Let not my reader suppose that I have a thought of weakening in the smallest degree the fullest, highest character of inspiration in the historical books of scripture. Far from it: I believe it entirely and completely divine. It is the joy of my heart, as the security of my understanding, to receive it directly from God — my God. The thought that He thus deigns to converse with and instruct us is inexpressibly sweet. No one can know God, and not feel this.

But I do not allow that dictation (that is, the communication of words without the exercise of the mind of him who receives it) is the only means of this. God can wield a mind and a heart as He wields lips, and He can govern and produce impressions on them so entirely that the expression of them, while still that of the heart itself, shall be entirely and without mixture that of God's mind. So of the memory. The result is the same, with the difference, often very important, of making the heart and mind of the inspired person the vessel as well as communicator of it. Both may be true. He may teach the words (and that even at another moment from the first acquirement of the thoughts) exactly, but He may act in the mind, and make it His instrument in unfolding truth (or fact) as He means it to be unfolded.

160 Having said this, I turn again to the preface of Luke, to examine its force, which seems to me very simple. Many had taken in hand to compose a narrative of what Christians had received from eye-witnesses. Theirs was a human work, very well intended very likely, and perhaps correct in many things; but a work undertaken and executed by men. It was very natural when such wonderful and interesting events had taken place. But God had fitted Luke as a means to use for this purpose; he had an exact knowledge of all from the outset. The word employed and translated "having had perfect knowledge" Luke 1 is the same as in 2 Timothy 3:10, where Paul says Timothy had fully known everything about him. Now this means "personal acquaintance with." St. Luke said he had this from the outset; he does not say how, nor do I pretend to say. Others had them from eyewitnesses. This he does not say himself; but only that he had thorough, personal, detailed, and accurate acquaintance with everything from the very outset. This is the force of παμηχολουθηχότι ἄνωθεν πᾶσιν ἀχμιβῶς. And he writes this, that Theophilus may know the certainty of the things he had been instructed in.

Now suppose Matthew or John gave an account in the same manner as Luke. They were, we know, personally companions of the Lord. No doubt this fitted them as witnesses (so the Lord, indeed, says, John 15, and as to the Lord's person and glory, the same principle was established in the case of Paul. He could say, "Have I not seen the Lord?") Did this render unnecessary the work of the Holy Ghost, which should bring to their remembrance what Jesus had said, so as to give it with divine accuracy? Quite the contrary, as the same Lord promises, John 14:26; so John 16:13. Why should it then not be thus with Luke? He had the means of very accurate knowledge of everything. This did not preclude the divine aid of inspiration; for it is positively promised to those who were eye-witnesses with the same object. And this is what we want. Not that suitable instruments should not be employed that there is divine fitness in, but that God should use these instruments so that we should have the word of truth from Him, and really His word. The heart wants it and joys in it. Man's need requires it. It is what is worthy of God. He mixes Himself up, so to speak, with men — blessed be His name! — employs them intimately — often in a way their hearts can feel; but He always remains Himself. We want both these to be thoroughly happy; and God would make us thoroughly happy.


Mr. Newman then takes up (Phases, p. 127) the accounts of demoniacal possession and brings, as a proof that it cannot be, the belief among the Arabs that it is. This may be very forcible; but I am too blind to see the value of the reasoning. That superstition may be mixed up with it among unenlightened Arabs is possible; but why their conviction of the truth of it is a proof that it is not true is beyond my capacity. They believe, I suppose, that God made the sun, and yet this is true, though they have Mohammedan superstitions connected with it. So of many facts of Jewish history connected with Abraham, Ishmael, Esau, the passage of Israel through the desert. As in the case of all nations who derive their origin from those who were at the sources of truth, you see proofs of the existence of that truth mixed up with superstitious traditions. This any one, soberly enquiring into facts, will find to be the universal truth on this matter. But details of facts are disagreeable to infidels.

So of witchcraft: Mr. N., founding himself on the popular infidelity of the day, takes for granted that there is no such thing. Now I humbly beg leave to say, that I judge that this is very unphilosophical. I am quite aware that, when mere infidelity is established, it is itself a shorter way to shut God out. But it is a very convenient thing to the enemy, in the case of ignorant and superstitious minds, to do that which establishes his authority in a way more suited to their state. And he has done so the wide world over. I grant that nine-tenths of it are priestly imposture; but an accurate examination of facts does not allow the denial of a kind of power, which is not merely human, exercised over men. That when this power is gained, and in the hands of men, it is used to deceive and impose on credulity, no man in his senses, or believing in the word of God, would for a moment deny. But how came this influence all over the world? The devil — some mischievous, terror-striking, corrupt being (call him Teufel, or Sammael, or Obo, or what you please) — has got himself worshipped by means of some influence over men's minds. That is a fact. Those who have carried on the mysterious influence, and have been delivered from it, have acknowledged the greater part to be imposture; but have also declared that they were under an unknown influence at times. Take the history of the oracles. I doubt not corruption; but they existed, and there was a mysterious influence. So of various effects beyond human power. The cessation of oracles when Christianity began to prevail; the undoubted deliverance of persons labouring under certain distressing symptoms during and subsequent to the apostles' days; the fact of man's universal sense of some superior agency (and as shewn in terror and evil no righteous mind will attribute it to the true God) — all concur to prove that there is an evil power exercising a real influence over the bodies and minds of men. I have no doubt of the existence of positive power in witchcraft in England at this day. 1 do not doubt there is superstition and imposture; but I defy Mr. N. or any infidel to account for facts, perfectly well authenticated, on any rational or philosophical principles. I despise the arrogant pretension to philosophy which neglects facts. The world's history shews the existence of an unknown power acting on the minds and bodies of men — a power from which Christianity entirely delivers.

162 There are various forms of disease. In a general way all come from the evil one; but in the sense of "possession," his power cannot be applied to all of them: such diseases may be accompanied by possession or not; and so they are treated in scripture. We find the Lord healing diseases and casting out devils. We find lunatics and demoniacs distinguished in the same phrase.

And now mark Mr. N.'s way of reasoning: it is genuine philosophy, which is a mere popular prejudice after all. Arabians believe in possession. I read a treatise of Farmer which convinced me they were diseases; but not that the evangelists treated them as such. "Nay, the instant we believe that the imagined possessions were only various forms of disease, we are forced to draw conclusions of the utmost moment, most damaging to the credit of the narrators." (Phases, p. 128.) Be it so. But we have no proof yet. Then follows, "Clearly they are then convicted of mis-stating facts under the influence of superstitious credulity. They represent demoniacs as having a supernatural acquaintance with Jesus, which it now becomes manifest they cannot have had. The devils, cast out of two demoniacs [or one], are said to have entered into a herd of swine. This must have been a credulous fiction." (Phases, p. 128.) This came upon me by surprise. I had read indeed that Arabians believed in genii, and that in Eastern countries possession was believed in. I had read that Mr. N. was convinced, by a treatise of Farmer's, that a belief of demoniacal possession was not a superstition more respectable than that of witchcraft. But to tumble then on "Clearly they are then convicted of mis-stating facts" brought me up, I confess, rather suddenly in the argument. Is it the Mohammedans' believing in possession, or Mr. N.'s being convinced by Farmer's book, which clearly convicts the evangelists of mis-stating facts? Logic here has lost its breath by the surprise; and then Mr. N. runs away so tremendously fast that one has no chance, in such a state, to regain or overtake the argument. It is now manifest that the devils did not know Jesus, and the story of the swine must have been a credulous fiction. And then "at first sight" (it appears, with Mr. N., at last sight too), and no wonder this acts so as "to impair our faith in His [Jesus's] miracles altogether." (Phases, p. 128.) And the evangelists are convicted of their misstatements by Mr. N.'s believing that the imagined possessions were diseases, and by the Arabians' believing that they were not. How easy to settle things by "must have been," when we are convinced! It saves an amazing deal of trouble as to facts and consequences.

163 It is well known that in the second century Justin declares to the whole Roman world that persons living at Rome had been healed, and others yet were healed of demoniacal possession by Christians adjuring them by the name of Jesus; and Tertullian states in the beginning of the third, that those pretending to prophesy among the heathen or possessed would confess it was a demon if adjured by a Christian (saying, they had only to bring them before their tribunals, and to try). I would add, that I see no need to call even this a power of working miracles.*

{*I doubt much, historically, that miracles continued after those were gone who were brought into the Church by apostolic ministry. I do not doubt that God may interfere, if He sees good, in an extraordinary manner at any time; but this is not a gift of miracles conferred on a person. I believe (inasmuch as He, the Holy Ghost, who is in us, is greater than he, Satan, who is in the world) that Satan's proper power ought to be overcome always, however our having grieved the Spirit may deprive us of the power of doing so. I do not think that special answers to prayer are miracles either.}

At any rate, a sober man must have something more conclusive than Mr. N.'s reasoning to do away with the universal mass of facts not only in ancient but in modern times. See the accounts of the Angekoks in Crantz's "Greenland," or Brainerd's account of those whom he met with among the North American Indians. The denial of powers above those of man is, it seems to me, a low, proud, and foolish philosophy. A fancy that nothing can be above oneself is a ridiculous and suspicious fancy, and that in the presence of facts which shew results in good and evil which man has never been able to explain on mere human principles — immense and lasting results too. It is an old and just remark of Tertullian and Justin, that the demons led men into something like the truth in connection with natural conscience, that superstitious minds might think all religious systems equally true, and philosophical ones all equally false; and thus, either way, gain their end. I must be forgiven if I do not see much to prefer in the indiscriminate rejection of self-sufficient philosophy to the indiscriminate reception of credulous superstition.


The different character of John's Gospel, noticed by Mr. N. (Phases, p. 129), is deeply interesting; but he relates not only no miracles, but no facts that are not immediately connected with some great doctrine or remarkable discourse.

I am not aware why Mr. N. (ib.) places Matthew seventy or eighty years after the fact, as no critic in existence places it at that epoch (the very latest of all is A.D. 64; many placing it so early as A.D. 38). None of the Gospels was written so late as seventy years after Christ's birth, not even John's. I do not think it needful to make any further remark on this part of Mr. N.'s statement.


MR. NEWMAN speaks (Phases, p. 130) of the star accompanying the magi. It is a common but very strange error. The scripture not only gives no hint of it, but contradicts it. "When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy." They had seen it in the east, and after they had made enquiry of Herod, it appeared again and pointed out the birthplace of Jesus. I see nothing wonderful,* if the Son of the Highest was born into the world, that it should be marked out by an extraordinary phenomenon, suited to the wise men's minds, and attracting the attention of all. The presence of the Son of God in the world was much more wonderful than that of the star. It was evidently a local supernatural phenomenon.

{*"I now thought of it, only to see that it was a legend fit for credulous ages; and that it must be rejected, in common with Herod's massacre of the children, an atrocity unknown to Josephus." (Phases, p. 130.)}


Why must Herod's massacre of the children be rejected? I would remark, that Mr. N.'s plan seems to have been a very useless and unphilosophical one. It would have been much more simple to have rejected the New Testament altogether, when it had lost its divine authority with him. What matter whether the details were true or not? To spend his time in disproving details, when he really did not believe any, was foolish work. It had, indeed, one natural use — to discredit the book with others. It has another — to shew the utter groundlessness of what satisfied Mr. N.'s willingly convinced mind.

Now has Mr. N. any reason for rejecting the massacre of the infants? None. Josephus does not mention it: that is all. Mr. N. says it was unknown to him. But that is a mere supposition, an invention of Mr. N.'s. Is it anything extraordinary that an historian should omit a fact which another records? Has Suetonius related all that Tacitus has, or has Tacitus related all that Suetonius has? The contrary is well known. The objection has no force whatever. It is really tedious to reply to such futilities.

But in this case there is more than this. There was the strongest reason, if Josephus did know it, for not mentioning it; for he must have given some reason for the massacre — an account of what occasioned it — if he had spoken of it. That is, he must have spoken of Herod (whose jealousy as to his government was the principal source of his horrible conduct) having received the intimation, accompanied by such very remarkable circumstances, that the Messiah was born. It was not jealousy of a grown-up competitor, or of a rival son even. To slay a number of infants in a particular place, and that place David's city, where all knew that Christ was to be born, must have had some cause which pointed out an infant who claimed the throne born there at that time; and an infant's claim was not made by himself. It must have been the circumstances that marked him out — hence some extraordinary circumstances which would have designated the child with peculiar evidence as Messiah the King. Was Josephus likely to record this carefully? Roman interests and Jewish national prejudices would concur to close Josephus's mouth, parasite as he was, as to the event itself. Besides this, there is some strong reason to believe, that he has attempted to conceal it under a very obscure account of court intrigues just at that moment, which he speaks of as occasioning the jealousy and anger of Herod. The passage is obscure, and has something concealed under it of a king to be set up with miraculous power. I do not pretend to decide as to what gave occasion to it. Two passages in his works refer to it. (Antiquities, book 16, last chapter, at the end; and ibid. book 17, chapter 2, section 6.) They may be seen in Lardner.

166 If Matthew wrote his Gospel A.D. 38, as many suppose, living witnesses must have known the truth or falsehood of it; and even sixty years afterwards it would hardly have been forgotten. Justin, Irenaus, and Origen refer to it as a known fact; and in the fourth century a heathen author, Macrobius, speaks of it; this I mention merely as shewing it was notorious. This difficulty is one for those who will have one.


The next has more appearance of reason in it to a person who does not believe, nor consequently apprehend the bearing of the gospel accounts. It is this: Matthew states that the Lord was taken into Egypt; Luke, that after they had performed all things according to the law for Him, they returned to Nazareth. I cannot of course take popular habits of traditional belief in such an enquiry. Mr. N. of course can take them, and trouble people's minds by an objection to them. Such traditions it may be difficult to reconcile with other facts related, although the soul may sometimes lose little by the difference between the tradition and the history. Such traditions may be a mere careless interpretation of a particular fact. Thus it is assumed that the Magi's visit was at the time of Christ's birth. Who has not seen them from early youth represented amid asses and oxen, kneeling before a mother and a new-born babe with glories round their head? Now, morally, the departure from the history, if such means are to be used at all, is not very material. But there is not a tittle in the history given in scripture to prove that the Magi came at the moment of Christ's birth, but a good deal to shew that they did not. It is pretty evident from Herod's inquiry as to when the star appeared (Matt. 2:7), that that appearance was at His birth. Now they may have taken their time to prepare to start; they certainly must have taken time for their journey — how much I do not pretend to say. Some little time was spent at Jerusalem before the visit. Further, Herod sends and kills from two years old and under, according to the time which he had accurately inquired of the wise men. Now we may well allow that Herod's jealousy and cruel character would have left margin enough to secure Him at all events, and that he was not particular about how many suffered. But, as it is said, according to the time accurately ascertained from the wise men, it must be certainly rather supposed that Jesus must have been on towards two years, or at least not just born. The woman's offering for a male child was thirty-three days after its birth. To kill all from two years and under, after accurately ascertaining that the child was less than thirty-three days old (which must have been the case if their visit was before Mary's presenting Him in the temple), would have a character of needless cruelty beyond all reason, particularly when it is said that he did so according to the time which he had diligently or accurately inquired of the wise men. There is a relation between the age of the children killed and the babe's age in Herod's mind accurately formed, and he slays them according to that accurate information. Now if he had ascertained Him to be less than a month old, and killed all under two years old, there was no relation between them whatever. All this shews that the presenting in the temple preceded the visit of the Magi, and there may have been even ample time to go to Nazareth and return to Bethlehem for the visit of the Magi. But that that visit was not made in the crowded state of the inn, spoken of at the time of His birth, is made probable by the fact, that the wise men came into the house to offer their gifts. There is no appearance of Jesus being then in the manger. Whatever other call they may have had, His parents certainly came up once a year at the feast of the passover. Their being, therefore, again at Bethlehem was nothing extraordinary.

167 Now in answering an alleged contradiction, to shew that the facts can be reconciled, is a complete answer. Now both the narratives in this way may be true. Even supposing Luke is speaking of an immediate departure, it is a very probable thing that, being enregistered, and having performed their duty in the temple, they should go home; while the occurrence of such circumstances as accompanied the birth of Jesus would almost naturally bring them back to David's city, with the Jewish feelings they had; and these poor people had nothing to connect them with Nazareth more than another place. They were in that miserable place perhaps from poverty. It was, not, at any rate, a place they had any tie to. If their son was the divinely-sent Heir to David of Bethlehem, whither would such a thought lead them? The circumstantial probabilities connected with the slaying of the infants tend to shew some time had elapsed. The birth of the babe mentioned in Matthew connects itself with the regal title associated with that place in every Jew's mind, and not with the date of the event. The important matter was that He was born there; for so not only prejudice but prophecy claimed; and it is in this connection it is used in Matthew. But the fact is, the "when" in English (which to the simple English reader is a natural note of time) has nothing to answer to it in the Greek, which is merely "Now Jesus having been born in Bethlehem of Judea" Matt. 2:1  - a fact of all importance to His history, and to this passage in particular. There is no note of time more particular than "In the days of Herod the king" — a fact also indirectly material to His history, and which tends to set aside the idea of a more accurate note of time being given in the same passage, and to give a general character to the statement. Hence nothing is more easy than the connection of the facts, while the objection falls to the ground.


At the same time, I must express my conviction that, while Luke says nothing but what is quite consistent with Matthew's history, he does not mean to give any note of time in the passage The Spirit's object in Matthew was to shew Christ's meeting the fulfilment of all that Jewish scriptures declared of a Jewish Christ, and such a one's rejection. In Luke's Gospel it was quite otherwise. He was shewing a Christ who, connected with Adam by His human nature, though He sinlessly fulfilled all looked for in a Jew, opened the door of faith to Gentiles in spirit; who was, in a word, Son of man.

Hence, having shewn Him duly accomplishing what the law required, this gospel at once transplants Him, neglecting all else, to the position in which all the Gospels place the Lord, as having given up the Jews, considered as attached to the temple and Jewish hopes as a nation, and labouring in despised Galilee (according to Isaiah 8 and 9) in the gathering a remnant by faith. Even if it be chronologically exact, that it was at that moment He returned to Nazareth, as it well may be, still I should judge the object of the Spirit in Luke was not that exactitude, but the moral fact that He did accomplish legal requirements, but, that once done, took His place among the poor of the flock, far from Jerusalem. We find an analogous instance in what follows, in His coming up to Jerusalem at the passover, and being subject to Joseph and Mary, but, His true character coming out, though He was not yet to act upon it: He came to be a Nazarene; He came to be about His Father's business. Luke marks this distinctly before He enters on His public ministry, that it might be seen to be connected with His person, and not to depend merely upon His office. He was the Pastor of the poor of the flock in spirit and character. It belonged to Him. He was the Son of the Father, though He might abide God's time for shewing it. This is just as much according to the tenor of Luke's Gospel, as what Matthew recounts is in accordance with the tenor of his. Luke 2:39 contains the whole moral history of the place the Lord took in Israel. Of course Mr. N. is insensible to these things, because the intention of God in the scriptures is, by the position he has taken, wholly unknown to him.


Mr. Newman speaks of John's omitting the temptation. (Phases, p. 130.) Of course he did. He was shewing the divine character of Jesus above all dispensation, as God before the world, as the Creator, and the totally new thing He was introducing into the earth, without reference to anything man was before, except setting it aside. Hence His infancy, His temptation, and all relating to His dispensational position on earth, is entirely left out. It begins before Genesis, and gives the origin of the saint's life, its place in Christ before the world. Thus it suffices to say, "He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not." Those who did He entitled to take the new position He was introducing man into — gave them authority to become the sons of God. From that time onwards the Jews are treated as reprobates; and, beginning with His discourse with Nicodemus as to the new nature, and the cross, and the heavenly things, and with the woman of Samaria as to new spiritual worship of the Father seeking such in grace, the new thing is opened out. All is perfectly consistent. And I recall to the reader's mind what I have already said — that if God does inspire a book, it must be with a moral purpose, and not merely to write a history. With that purpose, as gathered from the tenor of each book, all that Mr. N. objects to is perfectly in keeping. Had it been otherwise than it is, he who had seized the purpose of the book would have been sensible of defect.


The reason why napkins from Paul's body* had an importance, that pocket-handkerchiefs dipped in martyrs' blood had not, is as simple as possible. In Paul's case God was confirming the word preached by Paul by signs following; in the other case He was not. I must say, if a person has not some more sensible objections to make, it is hardly fair to waste rational people's time with such as these.

{*"Why should I look with more respect on the napkins taken from Paul's body (Acts 19:12), than on pocket-handkerchiefs dipped in the blood of martyrs?" (Phases, pp. 130, 131.)}


That the Spirit of the Lord (Phases, p. 131) caught away Philip depends of course on the authority of the book otherwise proved. There is perfect consistency, because the whole book is developing the extraordinary intervention of God Himself. His obedient servant had gone into the desert; God miraculously brings him back. The difference between oriental stories and this (to which Mr. N. seems always insensible) is, that God was acting here, and in order to make Himself known as interfering in grace, and attesting the words of these men in a way which authorized the setting aside a system which He had Himself established, and attested the pretension of Jesus to be the Son of God, which He had made to rest on His sending the Comforter, whose presence was now sensibly proved in a miraculous way.


The curse on the barren fig-tree* was peculiarly appropriate, Matt. 21:19. The fig-tree was the symbol of the Jews as a nation, as the vine represented them figuratively as a religious system. Now the Lord had come seeking fruit, and just at this moment was really passing sentence on the nation. Each part of it, Herodians, Pharisees, Sadducees, lawyers, scribes, priests, come up in turn to question in appearance, but really to receive their judgment at His mouth. Christ takes, therefore, this symbolical tree, and pronounces the curse on it for ever. So it was now with Judaism under the old covenant. Hence, it is added, The time of figs was not yet. Many have shewn that there might notwithstanding have remained some of the old crop, for it is double on the fig-tree. But Israel was not really to bear fruit under the old covenant. All the prophets bear witness, that it is when they are brought back through grace, and under the new covenant and the Messiah, that Israel will blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit. The Lord had a right to seek fruit as they were; but it was not the time. The real crop was to come, though there was plenty of profession — leaves, but no fruit. Nothing could be more significant, or closely applicable in the instruction it afforded.

{*"Or what moral dignity was there in the curse on the barren fig-tree?" (Phases, p. 131).}


The tribute-money in the fish's mouth* again is one of the most beautiful and perfect of the New Testament incidents. Matt. 17:24-27. Christ had just been opening to His disciples the closing of His career of ministry among the Jews — had forbidden them to speak of His being the Christ to them, for He was going to suffer as Son of man: they must suffer with Him. Then, to three who were to be pillars, He shews His glory as Son of man, to encourage their faith in seeing Him rejected by Israel and all the religious authorities, and in taking up their cross. Just after this, Peter is questioned in a way which amounted to asking whether Jesus was really a good Jew. When he enters, Christ anticipates him by shewing His divine knowledge of what passed; but, while assuming the place of the Son of Jehovah of the temple, so as to be free from the tribute which kings did not take of their own children, He, with infinite grace, puts Peter, and in him all of us in principle, in the same place as Himself (just what He has done by redemption, when rejected as Messiah): "Then are the children free; nevertheless that we offend not." And this He does just when He had shewn His divine knowledge of Peter's thoughts, and what had passed. He then shews, in a way particularly intelligible to Peter from his occupation, that, far from being a mere Jew debtor to the temple, He disposes of creation though subject in grace to men. And, having shewn divine power and title over creation as He previously had divine knowledge, He again associates His poor disciple with Him, saying, "That give for me and for thee." Besides the touching grace of this communication to Peter, see what is brought out — His real character relative to the temple, the setting aside thereby, though submitting to, the relation in which as a Jew He stood to it; the divine glory of His person in wisdom and power; and yet the power of the redemption He was just going to accomplish to be such (and this was, as we have seen, precisely the topic in hand) that, viewed as Son of the Lord of the temple, He would set His disciples in the same relationship with God as Himself. What a touching, tender, and yet glorious way of rebuking the unbelief of Peter, and what a mass of truth is brought out exactly on the point treated of in this part of the gospels — the transition from the old things to the new! It may be clearly seen in Matthew where the establishment of the Church and the kingdom are connected with His being Son of the living God, and then His glory as Son of man brought out. Then, about to leave the faithless and perverse nation, He opens out (in the passage objected to) the full new relationship into which He was bringing those that trusted in Him, through the glory of His person and work. There is not a more beautiful and striking passage in every way than that which is here cavilled at. It affords the reader an example of the capacity of infidelity to judge of the bearing and importance of scripture facts, and the moral proofs a believer has which infidelity cannot touch, and which prove that it is ignorant of the elements of judgment.

{*"And how could I distinguish the genius of the miracle of tribute-money in the fish's mouth from those of the apocryphal gospels?" (Phases, p. 131.) My business is not, of course, to prove that Mr. N. could distinguish it.}


As to "useless miracles"* — what would Mr. N. mean by a useful miracle? I suppose one that displayed God would be quite useless to him. He does not want a revelation from God. He is too competent to know Him to need it. Useful in his point of view would mean for some human profit; for moral degradation in reasoning cannot be separated from infidelity, which makes man its end and shuts out God. Now doubtless Jesus was healing all that were oppressed of the devil, for God was with Him. But surely it is conceivable that a miracle which showed that a divine Person was come amongst men; and rendering this sensible to them, might have some usefulness in it. All men are not so able to do without God and a positive revelation of Him as Mr. N. is. They have found it useful to them to have Him revealed, a delight to them even to hear His words. They have wondered at His condescension and grace in thus communicating with them. They have understood that, where that power is, a man can walk on the waves of this troublesome world, and are glad to know that, by keeping the eye steadily fixed on Him, they can do it too; they have found it so, and that, if forgetful of this grace and power they begin to think of difficulties, they begin to sink. They go out on His word to meet Him. They have been helped when they failed; and they believe that when indeed He shall rejoin His tossed people, they will be at land immediately. They see this all fully developed in the circumstances of the miracle — Christ, acknowledged as prophet, refusing to be king, and going up to be alone on high, the disciples having to struggle on without His presence, while at last He will return, and all will be rest from labour. They see even that the whole subject of John 6, where it is largely spoken of, shews Christ as the food of His people during this outward separation. He had been satisfying the poor with bread (see Ps. 132), but the time was not come for His being king; He satisfies the saints meanwhile with far better bread — Himself come down from on high, with His flesh too and His blood: so must He be eaten to live by Him. It is again a full development of the new thing, preceded by a complete picture of the historical positions Christ would take — prophet, priest, and king — each in its place connected with it. To Mr. N. it is a "useless miracle." I am sorry for him — yes, unfeignedly sorry.

{*"What was I to say of useless miracles, like that of Peter and Jesus walking on the water — or that of many saints coming out of their graves to shew themselves, or of a poetical sympathy of the elements, such as the earthquake and rending of the temple-veil when Jesus died?" (Phases, p. 131.)}

173 Such wonderful testimony as "many saints coming out of their graves" after Christ's resurrection, surely was not useless to shew that death was then overcome. In order to furnish such a testimony they must have appeared. Their doing so "to many" precluded the idea of its being the heated imagination of an individual, or the fraudulent story of a few favourers of Jesus's pretensions.


As regards poetry, or divine sympathies, it is not difficult to see that they are foreign to Mr. N.'s habits of thought. But he is certainly unfortunate in his choice of objections to the genius of the extraordinary events mentioned in scripture. If any one have the most obvious meaning and at the same time be of the highest possible importance, and especially characteristic meaning, it is the rending of the veil. Matt. 27:51. Under the Jewish system, God had conferred benefits, given laws, sanctioned them by judgments; but man had been kept at a distance. God had never revealed Himself. He dwelt "in the thick darkness;" and if He condescended to dwell amongst men, He was within the veil, where none could approach — in a word, unseen. He governed from His throne; but direct approach was forbidden. The thick darkness and the barrier of Sinai, or the veil of an unlighted holy of holies, secluded Him from man. Had He shewn Himself in light to a sinful world, it must have been utter condemnation. Darkness had no communion with light. Unseen, He might in patient grace bear much which man's ignorance committed, and govern in mercy. But in due time, when man had been fully proved in all possible ways — without law, under law, under promise, prophecy, government, and even grace in the mission of God's own Son — and proved utterly bad, the time was come for God to shew Himself in grace, such as He really was. Had He done so before, man could not have been properly put to the test. This he now has been; and then in infinite grace, when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ dies for the ungodly. Now if God came forth merely as light or holiness when man was wholly wicked — his will antagonistic, as Mr. N. admits — He must, in the nature of things, have driven man out of His presence, unless holiness means allowing sin, whereas it means not allowing it. Yet God must be holy (that is, He cannot allow sin when He deals with it, or He would be morally like it, which would be a blasphemous denial of Him). How, then, does He act? In the death of Christ He manifests His holiness in the perfect taking away of sin, that His perfect love may flow out, never so shewn to men as in this act. Now God can fully reveal Himself without a veil. His holiness is perfect blessing, because shining out in absolute love, sin being put away. As a sign of this wonderful all-changing change, the veil which before hid Him is rent in twain from the top to the bottom, signifying Christ's death, according to the whole figurative arrangement employed to typify these things. And so the New Testament uses this event: "Having therefore … boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath opened to us, through the veil, that is to say his flesh … let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith," etc. Heb. 10:20. Again: "Into the second [that within the veil] went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood … the Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: which was a figure," etc. Heb. 9:7-8.

175 Now here we have the veil and its accompaniments declared to have precisely this force in the mind of the Holy Ghost. According to the whole system of scripture, and that in its deepest moral elements, whether of man's relationship with God, or in reference to the peculiar position of Israel, which we know historically was then closing in, the rending of the veil had the most clear and weighty significance. Nothing could have had so much. It was the central expression of the whole change of the divine way of dealing with man, and of man's relationship with God by the cross. And here I would remark, that to ascertain the importance and "genius" of a fact relating to a given part of any system, I must take such system within itself. It is another question whether the whole system be right or wrong. But within itself — and the veil was a part, and a central part, of the system then established of God — nothing could have such a distinct signification as its rending. It signified, as I have said, the change of the whole relationship of God and man. If I refer to a veil and its rending, I must consider the meaning of its being there, to know the importance of its being rent. God's being concealed or revealed is not an unimportant idea; and the rending, at Christ's death, of the veil which concealed His throne and glory, is not difficult to understand. It is a figure, of course, as all these parts of the tabernacle or temple were, but a figure of the most intelligible simplicity, and pregnant with meaning. It seems to me that the end of this page of Mr. N.'s book is an unfortunate occasion to ask people, as he there does, to withdraw the charge of being "superficial."


As to the earthquake, I cannot see anything out of place in God's marking, by an event peculiarly calculated to attract attention and overawe the mind, the solemn moment of the death of His beloved and only-begotten Son. If there were no God, or if creation were not in His power, it would be another affair; but I should have thought this eventful act of man's enmity against God, and the death of the Lord in the world which was made by Him, passing unnoticed and unmarked by some notable signal of its importance and character, would have been much more surprising. An earthquake was ever felt as shewing God's noticing, and solemnly marking that notice, of things on earth. Could there be such an occasion of doing so as the rejection and death of His beloved Son by wicked men, and the accomplishment of His mighty and wondrous work?


If the miracles of Elijah and Elisha, which form the next subject of Mr. N.'s objections, are examined, it will be seen that those of the former are judicial on evil; of the latter (save the case of the children devoured by bears, shewing that judgment will accompany, for despisers, the return of blessing), saving, and characterized by grace and life-giving. Elijah, declaring all attempt to bring back Israel useless, passes through each place which characterized Israel's relation to God, until he reaches the place of the curse, and the well-known symbol of death, and ascends up. Elisha's ministry does not proceed from Sinai, nor return to it: heavenly glory is its starting-point. He crosses Jordan again, takes away the curse from Jericho, and all his miracles were accomplished in saving, healing, cleansing, taking away death, and the like, save the one noticed. One of these remarkable servants of God marked out the course of Him whose Spirit they both had, under the law, through the curse, up to heaven; and then the other in life-giving power and blessing, as taking away the curse. This character of Elisha's ministry is closed and crowned by shewing the resurrection power attached to that which it so vividly presented. When Romish saints do such things it will be time to discuss the analogy alleged by Mr. N. to exist in this case.


As to Uzzah,* God did not make Himself known under the law as "the Father of mercies and God of all comfort." He maintained in this particular case His holy majesty, when Israel had grievously forgotten it. They were all in flagrant contravention of the law in what they were doing. It was the consequence of this to which the rash Uzzah exposed himself. 2 Sam. 6:7. He never would have been so exposed if the open violation of the law had not been going on. And this stroke produced a just sense of their being in such a state. David remembered the law, and recognized the neglect of it as having brought on this sad judgment.

{*"Uzzah, when the ark is in danger of falling, puts out his hand to save it, and is struck dead for his impiety! Was this the judgment of the Father of mercies and God of all comfort?" (Phases, p. 132.)}


As to Abimelech (Phases, p. 132), it was not justice that God was displaying; nor was He in the case of Esau. (Ib.) In that of Abraham and Abimelech, it was divine care over one He had called out to walk before Him. "He reproved even kings for their sakes, saying, Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm." Ps. 105:15. God cares for those He calls to walk before Him. Gen. 20:3. Abimelech had wantonly taken by tyrannical power a member of Abraham's family. God shews that He will not suffer His people on earth to be touched with impunity — that He would shew Himself careful of those He thus owned. He was made known by it in connection with His people; and this was of the last importance.

Esau and Jacob were distinguished, that it might be seen that it was God's grace, and not man's more agreeable character, which makes the difference between men.


The materialism of Mr. N.'s mind is extraordinarily shewn out in the two following objections,* as to God's visiting Abraham Gen. 18:1, and feeding Elijah by means of ravens. 1 Kings 17:4. The gracious intimacy and intercourse of God with Abraham, which gained for the latter the glorious title of "friend of God," to him is nothing but a physical question of eating. It is astonishing how this system debases everything it touches. There is not a lovelier picture to be found than the gracious condescension (fitted, indeed, to man's childhood in revealed blessings) of God to Abraham; while the mystery in which it was clothed added to the solemnity, and exercised faith, and indeed instructs us now in the relationship of God with the earth in Christ. Abraham was unfit to know the high spiritual privileges for which this very condescension prepared the way; but Elohim in this did the principal thing that was needed. He assured the heart of His servant, in a way in which he could seize and feel it, of His interest in him, of His affection and, I may say, confidence. Now this is everything with us. No doubt this is known now by fuller, more spiritual means; but the assuring the heart of it was the great thing — the assuring it in practical exercises. We see the effect in Abraham's pleading for Sodom.

{*"Could I any longer overlook the gross imagination of antiquity, which made Abraham and Jehovah dine on the same carnal food, like Tantalus with the gods? — which fed Elijah by ravens, and set angels to bake cakes for him?" (Phases, p. 132.) I have almost hesitated to copy this low and vulgar scoffing.}

178 It was the same in feeding Elijah by means of the ravens, during the famine by which Israel was judged. Would Mr. N. prefer indifference on God's part to those He had called to trust in Him, and who were suffering for Him? Now temporal care was the sign then of mercy. So the touching interest shewn by angelic ministry to His weary-hearted servant in the lengthened journey his impatience had cast on him. And here the peculiar fitness of God's dealing is evident. Had he been, like Moses or Christ, sustained by a kind of abstraction from a human state, it would have been out of place. Elijah, though a man of extraordinary faithfulness and devotedness, at this moment quailed before the dangers that beset the faithful, and retired to Sinai to complain to God. His journey there was in one sense ordered of God. Man could not restore the authority of a broken law. Elijah, who sought to bring back Israel to faithfulness, to Jehovah, and His law, has to go to Jehovah and tell Him it is in vain. No means could be more appropriate than the sense of failure in him who attempted it; yet he returns to Sinai as a divine witness of this failure. Hence he comes to God with the peculiar solemn separation from the world, in a measure, which marked the intercourse of Moses with God, and the temptation of Jesus; but while there was something of this solemnity in the intercourse, yet, as he was flying through failing courage to God, it was not the moment for unmingled manifestation of power. Was he to be repulsed? No. What he failed in was the adequate sense of God's interest in His people. Hence, if there was not all the peculiar glory of the forty days' abstraction from the conditions of human existence which were found in Moses and in Christ, there was what showed this tender regard of God, and care over the smallest circumstances which concerned His people, and sustained them for the difficulties of the way to come to God.

179 The ways of God are perfect; they have been ever condescendingly suited to men's, in circumstances which spoke great principles to the heart, and were immaterial save as shewing the nearness, condescension, tenderness of God, and His interest in His people — most unspeakably precious, as having this character in a human way, which could alone give the intimacy and the nearness to human thought which was fully realized in Christ. To the infidel it is a question of cakes! This is quite worthy of the system which shuts out God in His gracious nearness to man, and therefore never rises, in judging of circumstances, above the low necessities of the human mind. "Sir, give me of this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw," is the level of an unreached conscience. Conscience must be reached, to get the intelligence which can perceive that it is a prophet, and that there are higher thoughts to be had than these.


Mr. Newman refers (Phases, pp. 132, 133) to Arnold's rationalist thoughts as to scripture, as confirming his views as to the first three gospels, and leading him to accept John's at this period of his researches. Arnold meant well, doubtless, in building chiefly on the gospel of John, as Mr. N. states; but yielding to infidelity never does any good, because it is accepting its title to judge God. If I do, it has an equal right and equal reason to reject John as Matthew, or anything else it likes. It is infidelity; and woe be to it! It will be judged by the word it has rejected, and know that it is God's then, when it is a sword in Christ's mouth instead of a gospel.