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to your works. Woe to you, ye powerful, who with power strike down righteousness! for the day of your destruction shall come. Woe to you who frustrate the word of the righteous! for to you there shall be no hope of life. Woe to you, ye sinners! for with the words of your mouths and with the work of your hands have you acted impiously; in the flame of a blazing fire shall you be burnt.'1
This is obviously the source from which Jesus borrowed his formula of denunciation; and in multiplying woes for scribes and Pharisees, regarded by him as atrocious sinners, he piously followed the example of an inspired prophet.
1 Enoch xcii.-xcix.
ALTHOUGH science finds no trace in Nature of the supernatural, and evangelical miracles have no historical existence, Reason must still contest their claims, until finally rejected by Orthodoxy in harmony with some ingenious apology, indicating that the gospel is quite as independent of miracles as of eternal fire.
Belief in supernatural healing and exorcism was prevalent among Greeks and Romans as well as Hebrews. Tacitus records miraculous cures effected by the Emperor Vespasian ; and Josephus states that he saw one of his own countrymen extracting a demon through the nostrils of a demoniac.
In harmony with the superstition of their age, the Jews expected a supernatural physician in the Messiah and the compilers of Matthew accordingly depict Jesus healing the sick and casting out demons. But these scenes in his life might be repeated in our own time, if we could revert to the superstition which saw in insanity the presence of Satan, and in disease the visitation of God. Under these conditions, some venerable Bishop need but summon around him a crowd of patients, to accomplish wonders in healing the sick and vanquishing Satan. It is true that sight would not be restored to the blind, nor hearing to the deaf; a man with a wooden leg would not receive one of flesh and blood ; nor would the bones of a fractured arm unite at the sound of the episcopal voice; but all forms of disease susceptible of influence through the imagination would be so sensibly relieved by spiritual treatment, that grateful convalescents and enthusiastic eyewitnesses would authenticate the presence of the miraculous; and demons, being invisible, would be ejected by the score, much to the relief of the possessed, and to the edification of the faithful.
Thus obviously originated the evangelical miracles, which, reaching the Gospel-makers of the second century in traditional versions, had grown into those exaggerated violations of natural law which modern science inevitably rejects, as unattested by any reliable proof.
The legendary complications of tradition clearly shown in the mental confusion with which the evangelical compilers perform their task. (i.) Jesus begins his career as the publicly recognised worker of numerous miracles, anon he discloses anxiety to conceal that he had effected a single cure. (ii.) He wrought miracles to evoke faith, but in the absence of faith he could not work miracles. (iii.) He admits that miracles were necessary to convince the Apostles, and yet refers others to the sign of Jonas swallowed by a whale. (iv.) He declines to establish his mission by a sign from heaven, and yet refers John the Baptist to miracles as the proof of his Messiahship. (v.) He proved the truth of the resurrection by raising men from the dead, and yet supplies no stronger argument in its favour than that Jehovah had said, “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.' It is obvious we
cannot accept historical miracles from men so deficient in critical acumen as to overlook the inconsistency of these statements.
The demoniacs of the Evangelists evidently suffered from hysteria, epilepsy, or insanity. When acute mania had subsided in the presence of Jesus, the demon in possession had made his escape ; and when an attack of epilepsy had passed away, another evil spirit had been successfully ejected. The Evangelists are silent as to the future history of these cases; it would have been important to learn whether the patients had a relapse. Jesus may never have seen or heard of them again, but in the case of Mary Magdalene—his constant companion-he cast out seven demons ; in other words, the hysteria or epilepsy from which she suffered was recurrent, in defiance of the miraculous.
How deplorable that Jesus could not rise above the pernicious superstition of demoniac possession! If it had occurred to him how destructive of his own ideal of a heavenly Father was this monstrous combination of the human and diabolical, he would have assuredly detected and disavowed the divine abasement involved in so barbarous a superstition.
Some evangelical miracles recall the injudicious work of modern editors publishing all available gossip respecting the illustrious dead. How immeasurable the credulity of men who depict Jesus utilising the services of an inspired fish to meet the demands of Roman taxation !1 Hagiology speaks of a crab which carried ashore in its claws a sacred cross dropped by some saint into the sea.
If we piously accept the marvellous fish, can we reasonably reject the wondrous crab ? Can moderns who reverence the name of Jesus, accept the miracle of water transformed to wine? How many generations removed from the preacher of the Sermon on the Mount was the man who wrote such words as these !
1 Matt. xvii. 24-27.
—This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed in him.' Did the Son of Man glorify himself by actions susceptible of imitation by any dexterous juggler? and was the faith of Apostles won by means which impious scoffers might have called mere sleight of hand ? If these are the signs and wonders which established Christianity, how boundless the field left open for the charlatanism of false prophets !
The legend of the transfiguration records the miraculous appearance of Moses and Elias conversing with Jesus on a mountain, followed by a voice from heaven announcing the Father's approbation of the Son. But as Jesus never revealed the miracle to mankind, and Peter, James, and John, the only witnesses, are absolutely silent on the subject, why should we accept the credibility of improbable and unattested phenomena ?
It is said that Peter preached the gospel at Rome ; let us, therefore, imagine his informing an educated Roman that he had seen Hebrew prophets, who had been dead for centuries, conversing with his Master on a mountain in Judæa. “Did you, therefore, hasten to proclaim the miracle ?' 'No; our Master commanded us to keep the secret until after he had risen from the dead.' Then he has risen, and you hold the proof?
' He appeared to us, his eleven Apostles, in the solitude