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Occasional Papers by R.W. Church

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_Guardian_, 15th May 1889.

The claim maintained by the Archbishop in his Judgment, by virtue of
his metropolitical authority and by that alone, to cite, try, and
sentence one of his suffragans, is undoubtedly what is called in slang
language "a large order." Even by those who may have thought it
inevitable, after the Watson case had been so distinctly accepted by
the books as a precedent, it is yet felt as a surprise, in the sense in
which a thing is often a surprise when, after being only talked about
it becomes a reality. We can imagine some people getting up in the
morning on last Saturday with one set of feelings, and going to bed
with another. Bishops, then, who in spite of the alleged anarchy, are
still looked upon with great reverence, as almost irresponsible in what
they say and do officially, are, it seems, as much at the mercy of the
law as the presbyters and deacons whom they have occasionally sent
before the Courts. They, too, at the will of chance accusers who are
accountable to no one, are liable to the humiliation, worry, and
crushing law-bills of an ecclesiastical suit. Whatever may be thought
of this now, it would have seemed extravagant and incredible to the
older race of Bishops that their actions should be so called in
question. They would have thought their dignity gravely assailed, if
besides having to incur heavy expense in prosecuting offending
clergymen, they had also to incur it in protecting themselves from the
charge of being themselves offenders against Church law.

The growth of law is always a mysterious thing; and an outsider and
layman is disposed to ask where this great jurisdiction sprung up and
grew into shape and power. In the Archbishop's elaborate and able
Judgment it is indeed treated as something which had always been; but
he was more successful in breaking down the force of alleged
authorities, and inferences from them, on the opposite side, than he
was in establishing clearly and convincingly his own contention.
Considering the dignity and importance of the jurisdiction claimed, it
is curious that so little is heard about it till the beginning of the
eighteenth century. It is curious that in its two most conspicuous
instances it should have been called into activity by those not
naturally friendly to large ecclesiastical claims--by Low Churchmen of
the Revolution against an offending Jacobite, and by a Puritan
association against a High Churchman. There is no such clear and strong
case as Bishop Watson's till we come to Bishop Watson. In his argument
the Archbishop rested his claim definitely and forcibly on the
precedent of Bishop Watson's case, and one or two cases which more or
less followed it. That possibly is sufficient for his purpose; but it
may still be asked--What did the Watson case itself grow out of? what
were the precedents--not merely the analogies and supposed legal
necessities, but the precedents--on which this exercise of
metropolitical jurisdiction, distinct from the legatine power, rested?
For it seems as if a formidable prerogative, not much heard of where we
might expect to hear of it, not used by Cranmer and Laud, though
approved by Cranmer in the _Reformatio Legum_, had sprung into being
and energy in the hands of the mild Archbishop Tenison. Watson's case
may be good law and bind the Archbishop. But it would have been more
satisfactory if, in reviving a long-disused power, the Archbishop had
been able to go behind the Watson case, and to show more certainly that
the jurisdiction which he claimed and proposed to exercise in
conformity with that case had, like the jurisdiction of other great
courts of the Church and realm, been clearly and customarily exercised
long before that case.

The appearance of this great tribunal among us, a distinctly spiritual
court of the highest dignity, cannot fail to be memorable. It is too
early to forecast what its results may be. There may be before it an
active and eventful career, or it may fall back into disuse and
quiescence. It has jealous and suspicious rivals in the civil courts,
never well disposed to the claim of ecclesiastical power or purely
spiritual authority; and though its jurisdiction is not likely to be
strained at present, it is easy to conceive occasions in the future
which may provoke the interference of the civil court.

But there is this interest about the present proceedings, that they
illustrate with curious closeness, amid so much that is different, the
way in which great spiritual prerogatives grew up in the Church. They
may have ended disastrously; but at their first beginnings they were
usually inevitable, innocent, blameless. Time after time the necessity
arose of some arbiter among those who were themselves arbiters, rulers,
judges. Time after time this necessity forced those in the first rank
into this position, as being the only persons who could be allowed to
take it, and so Archbishops, Metropolitans, Primates appeared, to
preside at assemblies, to be the mouthpiece of a general sentiment, to
decide between high authorities, to be the centre of appeals. The
Papacy itself at its first beginning had no other origin. It interfered
because it was asked to interfere; it judged because there was no one
else to judge. And so necessities of a very different kind have forced
the Archbishop of Canterbury of our day into a position which is new
and strange to our experience, and which, however constitutional and
reasonable it may be, must give every one who is at all affected by it
a good deal to think about.




_Eight Lectures on Miracles: the Bampton Lectures for 1865_. By the
Rev. J.B. Mozley, B.D. _The Times_, 5th and 6th June 1866.

The way in which the subject of Miracles has been treated, and the
place which they have had in our discussions, will remain a
characteristic feature of both the religious and philosophical
tendencies of thought among us. Miracles, if they are real things, are
the most awful and august of realities. But, from various causes, one
of which, perhaps, is the very word itself, and the way in which it
binds into one vague and technical generality a number of most
heterogeneous instances, miracles have lost much of their power to
interest those who have thought most in sympathy with their generation.
They have been summarily and loosely put aside, sometimes avowedly,
more often still by implication. Even by those who accepted and
maintained them, they have often been touched uncertainly and formally,
as if people thought that they were doing a duty, but would like much
better to talk about other things which really attracted and filled
their minds. In the long course of theological war for the last two
centuries, it is hardly too much to say that miracles, as a subject for
discussion, have been degraded and worn down from their original
significance; vulgarised by passing through the handling of not the
highest order of controversialists, who battered and defaced what they
bandied about in argument, which was often ingenious and acute, and
often mere verbal sophistry, but which, in any case, seldom rose to the
true height of the question. Used either as instruments of proof or as
fair game for attack, they suffered in the common and popular feeling
about them. Taken in a lump, and with little realising of all that they
were and implied, they furnished a cheap and tempting material for
"short and easy methods" on one side, and on the other side, as it is
obvious, a mark for just as easy and tempting objections. They became
trite. People got tired of hearing of them, and shy of urging them, and
dwelt in preference on other grounds of argument. The more serious
feeling and the more profound and original thought of the last half
century no longer seemed to give them the value and importance which
they had; on both sides a disposition was to be traced to turn aside
from them. The deeper religion and the deeper and more enterprising
science of the day combined to lower them from their old evidential
place. The one threw the moral stress on moral grounds of belief, and
seemed inclined to undervalue external proofs. The other more and more
yielded to its repugnance to admit the interruption of natural law, and
became more and more disinclined even to discuss the supernatural; and,
curiously enough, along with this there was in one remarkable school of
religious philosophy an increased readiness to believe in miracles as
such, without apparently caring much for them as proofs. Of late,
indeed, things have taken a different turn. The critical importance of
miracles, after for a time having fallen out of prominence behind other
questions, has once more made itself felt. Recent controversy has
forced them again on men's thoughts, and has made us see that, whether
they are accepted or denied, it is idle to ignore them. They mean too
much to be evaded. Like all powerful arguments they cut two ways, and
of all powerful arguments they are the most clearly two-edged. However
we may limit their range, some will remain which we must face; which,
according to what is settled about them, either that they are true or
not true, will entirely change all that we think of religion. Writers
on all sides have begun to be sensible that a decisive point requires
their attention, and that its having suffered from an old-fashioned way
of handling is no reason why it should not on its own merits engage
afresh the interest of serious men, to whom it is certainly of

The renewed attention of theological writers to the subject of miracles
as an element of proof has led to some important discussions upon it,
showing in their treatment of a well-worn inquiry that a change in the
way of conducting it had become necessary. Of these productions we may
place Mr. Mozley's _Bampton Lectures_ for last year among the most
original and powerful. They are an example, and a very fine one, of a
mode of theological writing which is characteristic of the Church of
England, and almost peculiar to it. The distinguishing features of it
are a combination of intense seriousness with a self-restrained, severe
calmness, and of very vigorous and wide-ranging reasoning on the
realities of the case with the least amount of care about artificial
symmetry or scholastic completeness. Admirers of the Roman style call
it cold, indefinite, wanting in dogmatic coherence, comprehensiveness,
and grandeur. Admirers of the German style find little to praise in a
cautious bit-by-bit method, content with the tests which have most
affinity with common sense, incredulous of exhaustive theories, leaving
a large margin for the unaccountable or the unexplained. But it has its
merits, one of them being that, dealing very solidly and very acutely
with large and real matters of experience, the interest of such
writings endures as the starting-point and foundation for future work.
Butler out of England is hardly known, certainly he is not much valued
either as a divine or a philosopher; but in England, though we
criticise him freely, it will be a long time before he is out of date.
Mr. Mozley's book belongs to that class of writings of which Butler may
be taken as the type. It is strong, genuine argument about difficult
matters, fairly facing what _is_ difficult, fairly trying to grapple,
not with what _appears_ the gist and strong point of a question, but
with what really and at bottom _is_ the knot of it. It is a book the
reasoning of which may not satisfy every one; but it is a book in which
there is nothing plausible, nothing put in to escape the trouble of
thinking out what really comes across the writer's path. This will not
recommend it to readers who themselves are not fond of trouble; a book
of hard thinking cannot be a book of easy reading; nor is it a book for
people to go to who only want available arguments, or to see a question
apparently settled in a convenient way. But we think it is a book for
people who wish to see a great subject handled on a scale which befits
it and with a perception of its real elements. It is a book which will
have attractions for those who like to see a powerful mind applying
itself without shrinking or holding back, without trick or reserve or
show of any kind, as a wrestler closes body to body with his
antagonist, to the strength of an adverse and powerful argument. A
stern self-constraint excludes everything exclamatory, all glimpses and
disclosures of what merely affects the writer, all advantages from an
appeal, disguised and indirect perhaps, to the opinion of his own side.
But though the work is not rhetorical, it is not the less eloquent; but
it is eloquence arising from a keen insight at once into what is real
and what is great, and from a singular power of luminous, noble, and
expressive statement. There is no excitement about its close subtle
trains of reasoning; and there is no affectation,--and therefore no
affectation of impartiality. The writer has his conclusions, and he
does not pretend to hold a balance between them and their opposites.
But in the presence of such a subject he never loses sight of its
greatness, its difficulty, its eventfulness; and these thoughts make
him throughout his undertaking circumspect, considerate, and calm.

The point of view from which the subject of miracles is looked at in
these Lectures is thus stated in the preface. It is plain that two
great questions arise--first, Are miracles possible? next, If they are,
can any in fact be proved? These two branches of the inquiry involve
different classes of considerations. The first is purely philosophical,
and stops the inquiry at once if it can be settled in the negative. The
other calls in also the aid of history and criticism. Both questions
have been followed out of late with great keenness and interest, but it
is the first which at present assumes an importance which it never had
before, with its tremendous negative answer, revolutionising not only
the past, but the whole future of mankind; and it is to the first that
Mr. Mozley's work is mainly addressed.

The difficulty which attaches to miracles in the period of thought
through which we are now passing is one which is concerned not
with their evidence, but with their intrinsic credibility. There
has arisen in a certain class of minds an apparent perception of
the impossibility of suspensions of physical law. This is one
peculiarity of the time; another is a disposition to maintain the
disbelief of miracles upon a religious basis, and in a connection
with a declared belief in the Christian revelation.

The following Lectures, therefore, are addressed mainly to the
fundamental question of the credibility of Miracles, their use and
the evidences of them being only touched on subordinately and
collaterally. It was thought that such an aim, though in itself a
narrow and confined one, was most adapted to the particular need
of the day.

As Mr. Mozley says, various points essential to the whole argument,
such as testimony, and the criterion between true and false miracles,
are touched upon; but what is characteristic of the work is the way in
which it deals with the antecedent objection to the possibility and
credibility of miracles. It is on this part of the subject that the
writer strikes out a line for himself, and puts forth his strength. His
argument may be described generally as a plea for reason against
imagination and the broad impressions of custom. Experience, such
experience as we have of the world and human life, has, in all ages,
been really the mould of human thought, and with large exceptions, the
main unconscious guide and controller of human belief; and in our own
times it has been formally and scientifically recognised as such, and
made the exclusive foundation of all possible philosophy. A philosophy
of mere experience is not tolerant of miracles; its doctrines exclude
them; but, what is of even greater force than its doctrines, the subtle
and penetrating atmosphere of feeling and intellectual habits which
accompanies it is essentially uncongenial and hostile to them. It is
against the undue influence of such results of experience--an influence
openly acting in distinct ideas and arguments, but of which the greater
portion operates blindly, insensibly, and out of sight--that Mr. Mozley
makes a stand on behalf of reason, to which it belongs in the last
resort to judge of the lessons of experience. Reason, as it cannot
create experience, so it cannot take its place and be its substitute;
but what reason can do is to say within what limits experience is
paramount as a teacher; and reason abdicates its functions if it
declines to do so, for it was given us to work upon and turn to account
the unmeaning and brute materials which experience gives us in the
rough. The antecedent objection against miracles is, he says, one of
experience, but not one of reason. And experience, flowing over its
boundaries tyrannically and effacing its limits, is as dangerous to
truth and knowledge as reason once was, when it owned no check in
nature, and used no test but itself.

Mr. Mozley begins by stating clearly the necessity for coming to a
decision on the question of miracles. It cannot remain one of the open
questions, at least of religion. There is, as has been said, a
disposition to pass by it, and to construct a religion without
miracles. The thing is conceivable. We can take what are as a matter of
fact the moral results of Christianity, and of that singular power with
which it has presided over the improvement of mankind, and alloying and
qualifying them with other elements, not on the face of the matter its
products, yet in many cases indirectly connected with its working, form
something which we may acknowledge as a rule of life, and which may
satisfy our inextinguishable longings after the unseen and eternal. It
is true that such a religion presupposes Christianity, to which it owes
its best and noblest features, and that, as far as we can see, it is
inconceivable if Christianity had not first been. Still, we may say
that alchemy preceded chemistry, and was not the more true for being
the step to what is true. But what we cannot say of such a religion is
that it takes the place of Christianity, and is such a religion as
Christianity has been and claims to be. There must ever be all the
difference in the world between a religion which is or professes to be
a revelation, and one which cannot be called such. For a revelation is
a direct work and message of God; but that which is the result of a
process and progress of rinding out the truth by the experience of
ages, or of correcting mistakes, laying aside superstitions and
gradually reducing the gross mass of belief to its essential truth, is
simply on a level with all other human knowledge, and, as it is about
the unseen, can never be verified. If there has been no revelation,
there may be religious hopes and misgivings, religious ideas or dreams,
religious anticipations and trust; but the truth is, there cannot be a
religion in the world. Much less can there be any such thing as
Christianity. It is only when we look at it vaguely in outline, without
having before our mind what it is in fact and in detail, that we can
allow ourselves to think so. There is no transmuting its refractory
elements into something which is not itself; and it is nothing if it is
not primarily a direct message from God. Limit as we may the manner of
this communication, still there remains what makes it different from
all other human possessions of truth, that it was a direct message. And
that, to whatever extent, involves all that is involved in the idea of
miracles. It is, as Mr. Mozley says, inconceivable without miracles.

If, then, a person of evident integrity and loftiness of character
rose into notice in a particular country and community eighteen
centuries ago, who made these communications about himself--that
he had existed before his natural birth, from all eternity, and
before the world was, in a state of glory with God; that he was
the only-begotten Son of God; that the world itself had been made
by him; that he had, however, come down from heaven and assumed
the form and nature of man for a particular purpose--viz. to be
the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world; that he
thus stood in a mysterious and supernatural relation to the whole
of mankind; that through him alone mankind had access to God; that
he was the head of an invisible kingdom, into which he should
gather all the generations of righteous men who had lived in the
world; that on his departure from hence he should return to heaven
to prepare mansions there for them; and, lastly, that he should
descend again at the end of the world to judge the whole human
race, on which occasion all that were in their graves should hear
his voice and come forth, they that had done good unto the
resurrection of life, and they that had done evil unto the
resurrection of damnation,--if this person made these assertions
about himself, and all that was done was to make the assertions,
what would be the inevitable conclusion of sober reason respecting
that person? The necessary conclusion of sober reason respecting
that person would be that he was disordered in his understanding.
What other decision could we come to when a man, looking like one
of ourselves, and only exemplifying in his life and circumstances
the ordinary course of nature, said this about himself, but that
when reason had lost its balance a dream of extraordinary and
unearthly grandeur might be the result? By no rational being could
a just and benevolent life be accepted as proof of such
astonishing announcements. Miracles are the necessary complement
then of the truth of such announcements, which without them are
purposeless and abortive, the unfinished fragments of a design
which is nothing unless it is the whole. They are necessary to the
justification of such announcements, which, indeed, unless they
are supernatural truths, are the wildest delusions. The matter and
its guarantee are the two parts of a revelation, the absence of
either of which neutralises and undoes it.

A revelation, in any sense in which it is more than merely a result of
the natural progress of the human mind and the gradual clearing up of
mistakes, cannot in the nature of things be without miracles, because
it is not merely a discovery of ideas and rules of life, but of facts
undiscoverable without it. It involves _constituent_ miracles, to use
De Quincey's phrase, as part of its substance, and could not claim a
bearing without _evidential_ or _polemic_ ones. No other portion or
form of proof, however it may approve itself to the ideas of particular
periods or minds, can really make up for this. The alleged sinlessness
of the Teacher, the internal evidence from adaptation to human nature,
the historical argument of the development of Christendom, are, as Mr.
Mozley points out, by themselves inadequate, without that further
guarantee which is contained in miracles, to prove the Divine origin of
a religion. The tendency has been of late to fall back on these
attractive parts of the argument, which admit of such varied handling
and expression, and come home so naturally to the feelings of an age so
busy and so keen in pursuing the secrets of human character, and so
fascinated with its unfolding wonders. But take any of them, the
argument from results, for instance, perhaps the most powerful of them
all. "We cannot," as Mr. Mozley says, "rest too much upon it, so long
as we do not charge it with more of the burden of proof than it is in
its own nature equal to--viz. the whole. But that it cannot bear." The
hard, inevitable question remains at the end, for the most attenuated
belief in Christianity as a religion from God--what is the ultimate
link which connects it directly with God? The readiness with which we
throw ourselves on more congenial topics of proof does not show that,
even to our own minds, these proofs could suffice by themselves,
miracles being really taken away. The whole power of a complex argument
and the reasons why it tells do not always appear on its face. It does
not depend merely on what it states, but also on unexpressed,
unanalysed, perhaps unrealised grounds, the real force of which would
at once start forth if they were taken away. We are told of the obscure
rays of the spectrum, rays which have their proof and their effect,
only not the same proof and effect as the visible ones which they
accompany; and the background and latent suppositions of a great
argument are as essential to it as its more prominent and elaborate
constructions. And they show their importance sometimes in a remarkable
and embarrassing way, when, after a long debate, their presence at the
bottom of everything, unnoticed and perhaps unallowed for, is at length
disclosed by some obvious and decisive question, which some person had
been too careless to think of, and another too shy to ask. We may not
care to obtrude miracles; but take them away, and see what becomes of
the argument for Christianity.

It must be remembered that when this part of Christian evidence
comes so forcibly home to us, and creates that inward assurance
which it does, it does this in connection with the proof of
miracles in the background, which though it may not for the time
be brought into actual view, is still known to be there, and to be
ready for use upon being wanted. The _indirect_ proof from results
has the greater force, and carries with it the deeper persuasion,
because it is additional and auxiliary to the _direct_ proof
behind it, upon which it leans all the time, though we may not
distinctly notice and estimate this advantage. Were the evidence
of moral result to be taken rigidly alone as the one single
guarantee for a Divine revelation, it would then be seen that we
had calculated its single strength too highly. If there is a
species of evidence which is directly appropriate to the thing
believed, we cannot suppose, on the strength of the indirect
evidence we possess, that we can do without the direct. But
miracles are the direct credentials of a revelation; the visible
supernatural is the appropriate witness to the invisible
supernatural--that proof which goes straight to the point, and, a
token being wanted of a Divine communication, is that token. We
cannot, therefore, dispense with this evidence. The position that
the revelation proves the miracles, and not the miracles the
revelation, admits of a good qualified meaning; but, taken
literally, it is a double offence against the rule that things are
properly proved by the proper proof of them; for a supernatural
fact _is_ the proper proof of a supernatural doctrine, while a
supernatural doctrine, on the other hand, is certainly _not_ the
proper proof of a supernatural fact.

So that, whatever comes of the inquiry, miracles and revelation must go
together. There is no separating them. Christianity may claim in them
the one decisive proof that could be given of its Divine origin and the
truth of its creed; but, at any rate, it must ever be responsible for

But suppose a person to say, and to say with truth, that his own
individual faith does not rest upon miracles, is he, therefore,
released from the defence of miracles? Is the question of their
truth or falsehood an irrelevant one to him? Is his faith secure
if they are disproved? By no means; if miracles were, although
only at the commencement, necessary to Christianity, and were
actually wrought, and therefore form part of the Gospel record and
are bound up with the Gospel scheme and doctrines, this part of
the structure cannot be abandoned without the sacrifice of the
other too. To shake the authority of one-half of this body of
statement is to shake the authority of the whole. Whether or not
the individual makes _use_ of them for the support of his own
faith, the miracles are there; and if they are there they must be
there either as true miracles or as false ones. If he does not
avail himself of their evidence, his belief is still affected by
their refutation. Accepting, as he does, the supernatural truths
of Christianity and its miracles upon the same report from the
same witnesses, upon the authority of the same documents, he
cannot help having at any rate this negative interest in them. For
if those witnesses and documents deceive us with regard to the
miracles, how can we trust them with regard to the doctrines? If
they are wrong upon the evidences of a revelation, how can we
depend upon their being right as to the nature of that revelation?
If their account of visible facts is to be received with an
explanation, is not their account of doctrines liable to a like
explanation? Revelation, then, even if it does not need the truth
of miracles for the benefit of their proof, still requires it in
order not to be crushed under the weight of their falsehood....
Thus miracles and the supernatural contents of Christianity must
stand or fall together. These two questions--the _nature_ of the
revelation, and the _evidence_ of the revelation--cannot be
disjoined. Christianity as a dispensation undiscoverable by human
reason, and Christianity as a dispensation authenticated by
miracles--these two are in necessary combination. If any do not
include the supernatural character of Christianity in their
definition of it, regarding the former only as one interpretation
of it or one particular traditional form of it, which is separable
from the essence--for Christianity as thus defined the support of
miracles is not wanted, because the moral truths are their own
evidence. But Christianity cannot be maintained as a revelation
undiscoverable by human reason, a revelation of a supernatural
scheme for man's salvation, without the evidence of miracles.

The question of miracles, then, of the supernatural disclosed in the
world of nature, is the vital point for everything that calls itself
Christianity. It may be forgotten or disguised; but it is vain to keep
it back and put it out of sight. It must be answered; and if we settle
it that miracles are incredible, it is idle to waste our time about
accommodations with Christianity, or reconstitutions of it. Let us be
thankful for what it has done for the world; but let us put it away,
both name and thing. It is an attempt after what is in the nature of
things impossible to man--a revealed religion, authenticated by God.
The shape which this negative answer takes is, as Mr. Mozley points
out, much more definite now than it ever was. Miracles were formerly
assailed and disbelieved on mixed and often confused grounds; from
alleged defect of evidence, from their strangeness, or because they
would be laughed at. Foes and defenders looked at them from the outside
and in the gross; and perhaps some of those who defended them most
keenly had a very imperfect sense of what they really were. The
difficulty of accepting them now arises not mainly from want of
external evidence, but from having more keenly realised what it is to
believe a miracle. As Mr. Mozley says--

How is it that sometimes when the same facts and truths have been
before men all their lives, and produced but one impression, a
moment comes when they look different from what they did? Some
minds may abandon, while others retain, their fundamental position
with respect to those facts and truths, but to both they look
stranger; they excite a certain surprise which they did not once
do. The reasons of this change then it is not always easy for the
persons themselves to trace, but of the result they are conscious;
and in some this result is a change of belief.

An inward process of this kind has been going on recently in many
minds on the subject of miracles; and in some with the latter
result. When it came to the question--which every one must sooner
or later put to himself on this subject--Did these things really
take place? Are they matters of fact?--they have appeared to
themselves to be brought to a standstill, and to be obliged to own
an inner refusal of their whole reason to admit them among the
actual events of the past. This strong repugnance seemed to be the
witness of its own truth, to be accompanied by a clear and vivid
light, to be a law to the understanding, and to rule without
appeal the question of fact.... But when the reality of the past
is once apprehended and embraced, then the miraculous occurrences
in it are realised too; being realised they excite surprise, and
surprise, when it comes in, takes two directions--it either makes
belief more real, or it destroys belief. There is an element of
doubt in surprise; for this emotion arises _because_ an event is
strange, and an event is strange because it goes counter to and
jars with presumption. Shall surprise, then, give life to belief
or stimulus to doubt? The road of belief and unbelief in the
history of some minds thus partly lies over common ground; the two
go part of their journey together; they have a common perception
in the insight into the real astonishing nature of the facts with
which they deal. The majority of mankind, perhaps, owe their
belief rather to the outward influence of custom and education
than to any strong principle of faith within; and it is to be
feared that many, if they came to perceive how wonderful what they
believed was, would not find their belief so easy and so
matter-of-course a thing as they appear to find it. Custom throws
a film over the great facts of religion, and interposes a veil
between the mind and truth, which, by preventing wonder,
intercepts doubt too, and at the same time excludes from deep
belief and protects from disbelief. But deeper faith and disbelief
throw off in common the dependence on mere custom, draw aside the
interposing veil, place themselves face to face with the contents
of the past, and expose themselves alike to the ordeal of wonder.

It is evident that the effect which the visible order of nature
has upon some minds is, that as soon as they realise what a
miracle is, they are stopped by what appears to them a simple
sense of its impossibility. So long as they only believe by habit
and education, they accept a miracle without difficulty, because
they do not realise it as an event which actually took place in
the world; the alteration of the face of the world, and the whole
growth of intervening history, throw the miracles of the Gospel
into a remote perspective in which they are rather seen as a
picture than real occurrences. But as soon as they see that, if
these miracles are true, they once really happened, what they feel
then is the apparent sense of their impossibility. It is not a
question of evidence with them: when they realise, e.g., that
our Lord's resurrection, if true, was a visible fact or
occurrence, they have the seeming certain perception that it is an
impossible occurrence. "I cannot," a person says to himself in
effect, "tear myself from the type of experience and join myself
to another. I cannot quit order and law for what is eccentric.
There is a repulsion between such facts and my belief as strong as
that between physical substances. In the mere effort to conceive
these amazing scenes as real ones, I fall back upon myself and
upon that type of reality which the order of nature has impressed
upon me."

The antagonism to the idea of miracles has grown stronger and more
definite with the enlarged and more widely-spread conception of
invariable natural law, and also, as Mr. Mozley points out, with that
increased power in our time of realising the past, which is not the
peculiarity of individual writers, but is "part of the thought of the
time." But though it has been quickened and sharpened by these
influences, it rests ultimately on that sense which all men have in
common of the customary and regular in their experience of the world.
The world, which we all know, stands alone, cut off from any other; and
a miracle is an intrusion, "an interpolation of one order of things
into another, confounding two systems which are perfectly distinct."
The broad, deep resistance to it which is awakened in the mind when we
look abroad on the face of nature is expressed in Emerson's phrase--"A
miracle is a monster. It is not one with the blowing clouds or the
falling rain." Who can dispute it? Yet the rejoinder is obvious, and
has often been given--that neither is man. Man, who looks at nature and
thinks and feels about its unconscious unfeeling order; man, with his
temptations, his glory, and his shame, his heights of goodness, and
depths of infamy, is not one with those innocent and soulless forces so
sternly immutable--"the blowing clouds and falling rain." The two awful
phenomena which Kant said struck him dumb--the starry heavens, and
right and wrong--are vainly to be reduced to the same order of things.
Nothing can be stranger than the contrast between the rigid, inevitable
sequences of nature, apparently so elastic only because not yet
perfectly comprehended, and the consciousness of man in the midst of
it. Nothing can be stranger than the juxtaposition of physical law and
man's sense of responsibility and choice. Man is an "insertion," an
"interpolation in the physical system"; he is "insulated as an anomaly
in the midst of matter and material law." Mr. Mozley's words are

The first appearance, then, of man in nature was the appearance of
a new being in nature; and this fact was relatively to the then
order of things miraculous; no more physical account can be given
of it than could be given of a resurrection to life now. What more
entirely new and eccentric fact, indeed, can be imagined than a
human soul first rising up amidst an animal and vegetable world?
Mere consciousness--was not that of itself a new world within the
old one? Mere knowledge--that nature herself became known to a
being within herself, was not that the same? Certainly man was not
all at once the skilled interpreter of nature, and yet there is
some interpretation of nature to which man as such is equal in
some degree. He derives an impression from the sight of nature
which an animal does not derive; for though the material spectacle
is imprinted on its retina, as it is on man's, it does not see
what man sees. The sun rose, then, and the sun descended, the
stars looked down upon the earth, the mountains climbed to heaven,
the cliffs stood upon the shore, the same as now, countless ages
before a single being existed who _saw_ it. The counterpart of
this whole scene was wanting--the understanding mind; that mirror
in which the whole was to be reflected; and when this arose it was
a new birth for creation itself, that it became _known_,--an image
in the mind of a conscious being. But even consciousness and
knowledge were a less strange and miraculous introduction into the
world than conscience.

Thus wholly mysterious in his entrance into this scene, man is
_now_ an insulation in it; he came in by no physical law, and his
freewill is in utter contrast to that law. What can be more
incomprehensible, more heterogeneous, a more ghostly resident in
nature, than the sense of right and wrong? What is it? Whence is
it? The obligation of man to sacrifice himself for right is a
truth which springs out of an abyss, the mere attempt to look down
into which confuses the reason. Such is the juxtaposition of
mysterious and physical contents in the same system. Man is alone,
then, in nature: he alone of all the creatures communes with a
Being out of nature; and he divides himself from all other
physical life by prophesying, in the face of universal visible
decay, his own immortality.

And till this anomaly has been removed--that is, till the last trace of
what is moral in man has disappeared under the analysis of science, and
what ought to be is resolved into a mere aspect of what is, this deep
exception to the dominion of physical law remains as prominent and
undeniable as physical law itself.

It is, indeed, avowed by those who reduce man in nature, that upon
the admission of free-will, the objection to the miraculous is over,
and that it is absurd to allow exception to law in man, and reject
it in nature.

But the broad, popular sense of natural order, and the instinctive and
common repugnance to a palpable violation of it, have been forged and
refined into the philosophical objection to miracles. Two great
thinkers of past generations, two of the keenest and clearest
intellects which have appeared since the Reformation, laid the
foundations of it long ago. Spinoza urged the uselessness of miracles,
and Hume their incredibility, with a guarded subtlety and longsighted
refinement of statement which made them in advance of their age except
with a few. But their reflections have fallen in with a more advanced
stage of thought and a taste for increased precision and exactness, and
they are beginning to bear their fruit. The great and telling objection
to miracles is getting to be, not their want of evidence, but, prior to
all question of evidence, the supposed impossibility of fitting them in
with a scientific view of nature. Reason, looking at nature and
experience, is said to raise an antecedent obstacle to them which no
alleged proof of fact can get over. They cannot be, because they are so
unlike to everything else in the world, even of the strangest kind, in
this point--in avowedly breaking the order of nature. And reason cannot
be admitted to take cognizance of their claims and to consider their
character, their purpose, their results, their credentials, because the
mere supposition of them violates the fundamental conception and
condition of science, absolute and invariable law, as well as that
common-sense persuasion which everybody has, whether philosopher or
not, of the uniformity of the order of the world.


To make room for reason to come in and pronounce upon miracles on their
own merits--to clear the ground for the consideration of their actual
claims by disposing of the antecedent objection of impossibility, is
Mr. Mozley's main object.

Whatever difficulty there is in believing in miracles in general
arises from the circumstance that they are in contradiction to or
unlike the order of nature. To estimate the force of this
difficulty, then, we must first understand what kind of belief it
is which we have in the order of nature; for the weight of the
objection to the miraculous must depend on the nature of the
belief to which the miraculous is opposed.

His examination of the alleged impossibility of miracles may be
described as a very subtle turning the tables on Hume and the empirical
philosophy. For when it is said that it is contrary to reason to
believe in a suspension of the order of nature, he asks on what ground
do we believe in the order of nature; and Hume himself supplies the
answer. There is nothing of which we have a firmer persuasion. It is
the basis of human life and knowledge. We assume at each step, without
a doubt, that the future will be like the past. But why? Hume has
carefully examined the question, and can find no answer, except the
fact that we do assume it. "I apprehend," says Mr. Mozley, accepting
Hume's view of the nature of probability, "that when we examine the
different reasons which may be assigned for this connection, i.e. for
the belief that the future will be like the past, they all come at last
to be mere statements of the belief itself, and not reasons to account
for it."

Let us imagine the occurrence of a particular physical phenomenon
for the first time. Upon that single occurrence we should have but
the very faintest expectation of another. If it did occur again
once or twice, so far from counting on another recurrence, a
cessation would come as the more natural event to us. But let it
occur a hundred times, and we should feel no hesitation in
inviting persons from a distance to see it; and if it occurred
every day for years, its recurrence would then be a certainty to
us, its cessation a marvel. But what has taken place in the
interim to produce this total change in our belief? From the mere
repetition do we know anything more about its cause? No. Then what
have we got besides the past repetition itself? Nothing. Why,
then, are we so certain of its _future_ repetition? All we can say
is that the known casts its shadow before; we project into unborn
time the existing types, and the secret skill of nature intercepts
the darkness of the future by ever suspending before our eyes, as
it were in a mirror, a reflection of the past. We really look at a
blank before us, but the mind, full of the scene behind, sees it
again in front....

What ground of reason, then, can we assign for our expectation
that any part of the course of nature will the _next_ moment be
like what it has been up to _this_ moment, i.e. for our belief
in the uniformity of nature? None. No demonstrative reason can be
given, for the contrary to the recurrence of a fact of nature is
no contradiction. No probable reason can be given, for all
probable reasoning respecting the course of nature is founded
_upon_ this presumption of likeness, and therefore cannot be the
foundation of it. No reason can be given for this belief. It is
without a reason. It rests upon no rational ground and can be
traced to no rational principle. Everything connected with human
life depends upon this belief, every practical plan or purpose
that we form implies it, every provision we make for the future,
every safeguard and caution we employ against it, all calculation,
all adjustment of means to ends, supposes this belief; it is this
principle alone which renders our experience of the slightest use
to us, and without it there would be, so far as we are concerned,
no order of nature and no laws of nature; and yet this belief has
no more producible reason for it than a speculation of fancy. A
natural fact has been repeated; it will be repeated:--I am
conscious of utter darkness when I try to see why one of these
follows from the other: I not only see no reason, but I perceive
that I see none, though I can no more help the expectation than I
can stop the circulation of my blood. There is a premiss, and
there is a conclusion, but there is a total want of connection
between the two. The inference, then, from the one of these to the
other rests upon no ground of the understanding; by no search or
analysis, however subtle or minute, can we extract from any corner
of the human mind and intelligence, however remote, the very
faintest reason for it.

Hume, who had urged with great force that miracles were contrary to
that probability which is created by experience, had also said that
this probability had no producible ground in reason; that, universal,
unfailing, indispensable as it was to the course of human life, it was
but an instinct which defied analysis, a process of thought and
inference for which he vainly sought the rational steps. There is no
absurdity, though the greatest impossibility, in supposing this order
to stop to-morrow; and, if the world ends at all, its end will be in an
increasing degree improbable up to the very last moment. But, if this
whole ground of belief is in its own nature avowedly instinctive and
independent of reason, what right has it to raise up a bar of
intellectual necessity, and to shut out reason from entertaining the
question of miracles? They may have grounds which appeal to reason; and
an unintelligent instinct forbids reason from fairly considering what
they are. Reason cannot get beyond the actual fact of the present state
of things for believing in the order of nature; it professes to find no
necessity for it; the interruption of that order, therefore, whether
probable or not, is not against reason. Philosophy itself, says Mr.
Mozley, cuts away the ground on which it had raised its preliminary
objection to miracles.

And now the belief in the order of nature being thus, however
powerful and useful, an unintelligent impulse of which we can give
no rational account, in what way does this discovery affect the
question of miracles? In this way, that this belief not having
itself its foundation in reason, the ground is gone upon which it
could be maintained that miracles as opposed to the order of
nature were opposed to reason. There being no producible reason
why a new event should be like the hitherto course of nature, no
decision of reason is contradicted by its unlikeness. A miracle,
in being opposed to our experience, is not only not opposed to
necessary reasoning, but to any reasoning. Do I see by a certain
perception the connection between these two--It _has_ happened so,
it _will_ happen so; then may I reject a new reported fact which
has _not_ happened so as an impossibility. But if I do not see the
connection between these two by a certain perception, or by any
perception, I cannot. For a miracle to be rejected as such, there
must, at any rate, be some proposition in the mind of man which is
opposed to it; and that proposition can only spring from the
quarter to which we have been referring--that of elementary
experimental reasoning. But if this experimental reasoning is of
that nature which philosophy describes it as being of, i.e. if
it is not itself a process of reason, how can there from an
irrational process of the mind arise a proposition at all,--to
make which is the function of the rational faculty alone? There
cannot; and it is evident that the miraculous does not stand in
any opposition whatever to reason....

Thus step by step has philosophy loosened the connection of the
order of nature with the ground of reason, befriending, in exact
proportion as it has done this, the principle of miracles. In the
argument against miracles the first objection is that they are
against _law_; and this is answered by saying that we know nothing
in nature of law in the sense in which it prevents miracles. Law
can only prevent miracles by _compelling_ and making necessary the
succession of nature, i.e. in the sense of causation; but
science has itself proclaimed the truth that we see no causes in
nature, that the whole chain of physical succession is to the eye
of reason a rope of sand, consisting of antecedents and
consequents, but without a rational link or trace of necessary
connection between them. We only know of law in nature in the
sense of recurrences in nature, classes of facts, _like_ facts in
nature--a chain of which, the junction not being reducible to
reason, the interruption is not against reason. The claim of law
settled, the next objection in the argument against miracles is
that they are against _experience_; because we expect facts _like_
to those of our experience, and miracles are _unlike_ ones. The
weight, then, of the objection of unlikeness to experience depends
on the reason which can be produced for the expectation of
likeness; and to this call philosophy has replied by the summary
confession that we have _no_ reason. Philosophy, then, could not
have overthrown more thoroughly than it has done the order of
nature as a necessary course of things, or cleared the ground more
effectually for the principle of miracles.

Nor, he argues, does this instinct change its nature, or become a
necessary law of reason, when it takes the form of an inference from
induction. For the last step of the inductive process, the creation of
its supposed universal, is, when compared with the real standard of
universality acknowledged by reason, an incomplete and more or less
precarious process; "it gets out of facts something more than what they
actually contain"; and it can give no reason for itself but what the
common faith derived from experience can give, the anticipation of
uniform recurrence. "The inductive principle," he says, "is only the
unreasoning impulse applied to a scientifically ascertained fact,
instead of to a vulgarly ascertained fact.... Science has led up to the
fact, but there it stops, and for converting the fact into a law a
totally unscientific principle comes in, the same as that which
generalises the commonest observations in nature."

The scientific part of induction being only the pursuit of a
particular fact, miracles cannot in the nature of the case receive
any blow from the scientific part of induction; because the
existence of one fact does not interfere with the existence of
another dissimilar fact. That which _does_ resist the miraculous
is the _un_scientific part of induction, or the instinctive
generalisation upon this fact.... It does not belong to this
principle to lay down speculative positions, and to say what can
or cannot take place in the world. It does not belong to it to
control religious belief, or to determine that certain acts of God
for the revelation of His will to man, reported to have taken
place, have not taken place. Such decisions are totally out of its
sphere; it can assert the universal as a _law_, but the universal
as a law and the universal as a proposition are wholly distinct.
The one asserts the universal as a fact, the other as a
presumption; the one as an absolute certainty, the other as a
practical certainty, when there is no reason to expect the
contrary. The one contains and includes the particular, the other
does not; from the one we argue mathematically to the falsehood of
any opposite particular; from the other we do not.... For example,
one signal miracle, pre-eminent for its grandeur, crowned the
evidence of the supernatural character and office of our Lord--our
Lord's ascension--His going up with His body of flesh and bones
into the sky in the presence of His disciples. "He lifted up His
hands, and blessed them. And while He blessed them, He was parted
from them, and carried up into heaven. And they looked stedfastly
toward heaven as He went up, and a cloud received Him out of their

Here is an amazing scene, which strikes even the devout believer,
coming across it in the sacred page suddenly or by chance, amid
the routine of life, with a fresh surprise. Did, then, this event
really take place? Or is the evidence of it forestalled by the
inductive principle compelling us to remove the scene _as such_
out of the category of matters of fact? The answer is, that the
inductive principle is in its own nature only an _expectation_;
and that the expectation, that what is unlike our experience will
not happen, is quite consistent with its occurrence in fact. This
principle does not pretend to decide the question of fact, which
is wholly out of its province and beyond its function. It can only
decide the fact by the medium of a universal; the universal
proposition that no man has ascended to heaven. But this is a
statement which exceeds its power; it is as radically incompetent
to pronounce it as the taste or smell is to decide on matters of
sight; its function is practical, not logical. No antecedent
statement, then, which touches my belief in this scene, is allowed
by the laws of thought. Converted indeed into a universal
proposition, the inductive principle is omnipotent, and totally
annihilates every particular which does not come within its range.
The universal statement that no man has ascended into heaven
absolutely falsifies the fact that One Man has. But, thus
transmuted, the inductive principle issues out of this
metamorphose, a fiction not a truth; a weapon of air, which even
in the hands of a giant can inflict no blow because it is itself a
shadow. The object of assault receives the unsubstantial thrust
without a shock, only exposing the want of solidity in the
implement of war. The battle against the supernatural has been
going on long, and strong men have conducted it, and are
conducting it--but what they want is a weapon. The logic of
unbelief wants a universal. But no real universal is forthcoming,
and it only wastes its strength in wielding a fictitious one.

It is not in reason, which refuses to pronounce upon the possible
merely from experience of the actual, that the antecedent objection to
miracles is rooted. Yet that the objection is a powerful one the
consciousness of every reflecting mind testifies. What, then, is the
secret of its force? In a lecture of singular power Mr. Mozley gives
his answer. What tells beforehand against miracles is not reason, but
imagination. Imagination is often thought to favour especially the
supernatural and miraculous. It does do so, no doubt. But the truth is,
that imagination tells both ways--as much against the miraculous as for
it. The imagination, that faculty by which we give life and body and
reality to our intellectual conceptions, takes its character from the
intellectual conceptions with which it is habitually associated. It
accepts the miraculous or shrinks from it and throws it off, according
to the leaning of the mind of which it is the more vivid and, so to
speak, passionate expression. And as it may easily exaggerate on one
side, so it may just as easily do the same on the other. Every one is
familiar with that imaginative exaggeration which fills the world with
miracles. But there is another form of imagination, not so distinctly
recognised, which is oppressed by the presence of unchanging succession
and visible uniformity, which cannot shake off the yoke of custom or
allow anything different to seem to it real. The sensitiveness and
impressibility of the imagination are affected, and unhealthily
affected, not merely by strangeness, but by sameness; to one as to the
other it may "passively submit and surrender itself, give way to the
mere form of attraction, and, instead of grasping something else, be
itself grasped and mastered by some dominant idea." And it is then, in
one case as much as in the other, "not a power, but a failing and
weakness of nature."

The passive imagination, then, in the present case exaggerates a
practical expectation of the uniformity of nature, implanted in us
for practical ends, into a scientific or universal proposition;
and it does this by surrendering itself to the impression produced
by the constant spectacle of the regularity of visible nature. By
such a course a person allows the weight and pressure of this idea
to grow upon him till it reaches the point of actually restricting
his sense of possibility to the mould of physical order.... The
order of nature thus stamps upon some minds the idea of its
immutability simply by its repetition. The imagination we usually
indeed associate with the acceptance of the supernatural rather
than with the denial of it; but the passive imagination is in
truth neutral; it only increases the force and tightens the hold
of any impression upon us, to whatever class the impression may
belong, and surrenders itself to a superstitious or a physical
idea, as it may be. Materialism itself is the result of
imagination, which is so impressed by matter that it cannot
realise the existence of spirit.

The great opponent, then, of miracles, considered as possible
occurrences, is not reason, but something which on other great subjects
is continually found on the opposite side to reason, resisting and
counteracting it; that powerful overbearing sense of the actual and the
real, which when it is opposed by reason is apt to make reason seem
like the creator of mere ideal theories; which gives to arguments
implying a different condition of things from one which is familiar to
present experience the disadvantage of appearing like artificial and
unsubstantial refinements of thought, such as, to the uncultivated
mind, appear not merely metaphysical discussions, but what are known to
be the most certain reasonings of physical and mathematical science. It
is that measure of the probable, impressed upon us by the spectacle; to
which we are accustomed all our lives long, of things as we find them,
and which repels the possibility of a break or variation; that sense of
probability which the keenest of philosophers declares to be incapable
of rational analysis, and pronounces allied to irrational portions of
our constitution, like custom, and the effect of time, and which is
just as much an enemy to invention, to improvement, to a different
state of things in the future, as it is to the belief and realising of
a different state of things in the past. The antecedent objection to
the miraculous is not reason, but an argument which limits and narrows
the domain of reason; which excludes dry, abstract, passionless
reason--with its appeals to considerations remote from common
experience, its demands for severe reflection, its balancing and long
chains of thought--from pronouncing on what seems to belong to the
flesh and blood realities of life as we know it. Against this
tyrannical influence, which may be in a vulgar and popular as in a
scientific form, which may be the dull result of habit or the more
specious effect of a sensitive and receptive imagination, but which in
all cases is at bottom the same, Mr. Mozley claims to appeal to

To conclude, then, let us suppose an intelligent Christian of the
present day asked, not what evidence he has of miracles, but how
he can antecedently to all evidence think such amazing occurrences
_possible_, he would reply, "You refer me to a certain sense of
impossibility which you suppose me to possess, applying not to
mathematics but to facts. Now, on this head, I am conscious of a
certain natural resistance in my mind to events unlike the order
of nature. But I resist many things which I know to be certain:
infinity of space, infinity of time, eternity past, eternity
future, the very idea of a God and another world. If I take mere
resistance, therefore, for denial, I am confined in every quarter
of my mind; I cannot carry out the very laws of reason, I am
placed under conditions which are obviously false. I conclude,
therefore, that I may resist and believe at the same time. If
Providence has implanted in me a certain expectation of uniformity
or likeness in nature, there is implied in that very expectations
resistance to an _un_like event, which resistance does not cease
even when upon evidence I _believe_ the event, but goes on as a
mechanical impression, though the reason counterbalances it.
Resistance, therefore, is not disbelief, unless by an act of my
own reason I _give_ it an absolute veto, which I do _not_ do. My
reason is clear upon the point, that there is no disagreement
between itself and a miracle as such." ... Nor is it dealing
artificially with ourselves to exert a force upon our minds
against the false certainty of the resisting imagination--such a
force as is necessary to enable reason to stand its ground, and
bend back again that spring of impression against the miraculous
which has illegally tightened itself into a law to the
understanding. Reason does not always prevail spontaneously and
without effort even in questions of belief; so far from it, that
the question of faith against reason may often be more properly
termed the question of reason against imagination. It does not
seldom require faith to believe reason, isolated as she may be
amid vast irrational influences, the weight of custom, the power
of association, the strength of passion, the _vis inertiae_ of
sense, the mere force of the uniformity of nature as a
spectacle--those influences which make up that power of the world
which Scripture always speaks of as the antagonist of faith.

The antecedent questions about miracles, before coming to the question
of the actual evidence of any, are questions about which reason--reason
disengaged and disembarrassed from the arbitrary veto of
experience--has a right to give its verdict. Miracles presuppose the
existence of God, and it is from reason alone that we get the idea of
God; and the antecedent question then is, whether they are really
compatible with the idea of God which reason gives us. Mr. Mozley
remarks that the question of miracles is really "shut up in the
enclosure of one assumption, that of the existence of God"; and that if
we believe in a personal Deity with all power over nature, that belief
brings along with it the possibility of His interrupting natural order
for His own purposes. He also bids us observe that the idea of God
which reason gives us is exposed to resistance of the same kind, and
from precisely the same forces, in our mental constitution, as the idea
of miracles. When reason has finished its overwhelming proof, still
there is a step to be taken before the mind embraces the equally
overwhelming conclusion--a step which calls for a distinct effort,
which obliges the mind, satisfied as it may be, to beat back the
counteracting pressure of what is visible and customary. After
reason--not opposed to it or independent of it, but growing out of it,
yet a distinct and further movement--comes faith. This is the case, not
specially in religion, but in all subjects, where the conclusions of
reason cannot be subjected to immediate verification. How often, as he
observes, do we see persons "who, when they are in possession of the
best arguments, and what is more, understand those arguments, are still
shaken by almost any opposition, because they want the faculty to
_trust_ an argument when they have got one."

Not, however, that the existence of a God is so clearly seen by
reason as to dispense with faith; not from any want of cogency in
the reasons, but from the amazing nature of the conclusion--that
it is so unparalleled, transcendent, and inconceivable a truth to
believe. It requires trust to commit oneself to the conclusion of
any reasoning, however strong, when such as this is the
conclusion: to put enough dependence and reliance upon any
premisses, to accept upon the strength of them so immense a
result. The issue of the argument is so astonishing that if we do
not tremble for its safety, it must be on account of a practical
principle in our minds which enables us to _confide_ and trust in
reasons, when they are really strong and good ones.... Faith, when
for convenience' sake we do distinguish it from reason, is not
distinguished from reason by the want of premisses, but by the
nature of the conclusions. Are our conclusions of the customary
type? Then custom imparts the full sense of security. Are they not
of the customary, but of a strange and unknown type? Then the
mechanical sense of security is wanting, and a certain trust is
required for reposing in them, which we call faith. But that which
draws these conclusions is in either case reason. We infer, we go
upon reasons, we use premisses in either case. The premisses of
faith are not so palpable as those of ordinary reason, but they
are as real and solid premisses all the same. Our faith in the
existence of a God and a future state is founded upon reasons as
much so as the belief in the commonest kind of facts. The reasons
are in themselves as strong, but, because the conclusions are
marvellous and are not seconded and backed by known parallels or
by experience, we do not so passively acquiesce in them; there is
an exertion of confidence in depending upon them and assuring
ourselves of their force. The inward energy of the reason has to
be evoked, when she can no longer lean upon the outward prop of
custom, but is thrown back upon herself and the intrinsic force of
her premisses. Which reason, not leaning upon custom, is faith;
she obtains the latter name when she depends entirely upon her own
insight into certain grounds, premisses, and evidences, and
follows it though it leads to transcendent, unparalleled, and
supernatural conclusions....

Indeed, does not our heart bear witness to the fact that to
believe in a God is an exercise of faith? That the universe was
produced by the will of a personal Being, that its infinite forces
are all the power of that one Being, its infinite relations the
perceptions of one Mind--would not this, if any truth could,
demand the application of the maxim, _Credo quia impossibile_?
Look at it only as a conception, and does the wildest fiction of
the imagination equal it? No premisses, no arguments therefore,
can so accommodate this truth to us as not to leave the belief in
it an act of mental ascent and trust, of faith as distinguished
from sight. _Divest_ reason of its trust, and the universe stops
at the impersonal stage--there is no God; and yet, if the first
step in religion is the greatest, how is it that the freest and
boldest speculator rarely declines it? How is it that the most
mysterious of all truths is a universally accepted one? What is it
which guards this truth? What is it which makes men shrink from
denying it? Why is atheism a crime? Is it that authority still
reigns upon one question, and that the voice of all ages is too
potent to be withstood?

But the progress of civilisation and thought has impressed this amazing
idea on the general mind. It is no matter-of-course conception. The
difficulties attending it were long insuperable to the deepest thought
as well as to popular belief; and the triumph of the modern and
Christian idea of God is the result not merely of the eager forwardness
of faith, but of the patient and inquiring waiting of reason. And the
question, whether we shall pronounce the miraculous to be impossible as
such, is really the question whether we shall once more let this belief

The conception of a limited Deity then, i.e. a Being really
circumscribed in power, and not verbally only by a confinement to
necessary truth, is at variance with our fundamental idea of a
God; to depart from which is to retrograde from modern thought to
ancient, and to go from Christianity back again to Paganism. The
God of ancient religion was either not a personal Being or not an
omnipotent Being; the God of modern religion is both. For, indeed,
civilisation is not opposed to faith. The idea of the Supreme
Being in the mind of European society now is more primitive, more
childlike, more imaginative than the idea of the ancient Brahman
or Alexandrian philosopher; it is an idea which both of these
would have derided as the notion of a child--a _negotiosus Deus_,
who interposes in human affairs and answers prayers. So far from
the philosophical conception of the Deity having advanced with
civilisation, and the poetical receded, the philosophical has
receded and the poetical advanced. The God of whom it is said,
"Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them
is forgotten before God; but even the very hairs of your head are
numbered," is the object of modern worship. Nor, again, has
civilisation shown any signs of rejecting doctrine. Certain ages
are, indeed, called the ages of faith; but the bulk of society in
_this_ age believes that it lives under a supernatural
dispensation, and accepts truths which are not less supernatural,
though they have more proof, than some doctrines of the Middle
Ages; and, if so, _this_ is an age of faith. It is true that most
people do not live up to their faith now; neither did they in the
Middle Ages.

Has not modern philosophy, again, shown both more strength and
acuteness, and also more faith, than the ancient? I speak of the
main current. Those ancient thinkers who reduced the Supreme Being
to a negation, with all their subtlety, wanted strength, and
settled questions by an easier test than that of modern
philosophy. The merit of a modern metaphysician is, like that of a
good chemist or naturalist, accurate observation in noting the
facts of mind. Is there a contradiction in the idea of creation?
Is there a contradiction in the idea of a personal Infinite Being?
He examines his own mind, and if he does not see one, he passes
the idea. But the ancient speculators decided, without examination
of the true facts of mind, by a kind of philosophical fancy; and,
according to this loose criterion, the creation of matter and a
personal Infinite Being were impossibilities, for they mistook the
inconceivable for the impossible. And thus a stringent test has
admitted what a loose but capricious test discarded, and the true
notion of God has issued safe out of the crucible of modern
metaphysics. Reason has shown its strength, but then it has turned
that strength back upon itself; it has become its own critic; and
in becoming its own critic it has become its own check.

If the belief, then, in a personal Deity lies at the bottom of all
religious and virtuous practice, and if the removal of it would be
a descent for human nature, the withdrawal of its inspiration and
support, and a fall in its whole standard; the failure of the very
breath of moral life in the individual and in society; the decay
and degeneration of the very stock of mankind;--does a theory
which would withdraw miraculous action from the Deity interfere
with that belief? If it would, it is but prudent to count the cost
of that interference. Would a Deity deprived of miraculous action
possess action at all? And would a God who cannot act be a God? If
this would be the issue, such an issue is the very last which
religious men can desire. The question here has been all
throughout, not whether upon any ground, but whether upon a
religious ground and by religious believers, the miraculous as
such could be rejected. But to that there is but one answer--that
it is impossible in reason to separate religion from the
supernatural, and upon a religious basis to overthrow miracles....

And so we arrive again by another route at the old turning
question; for the question whether man is or is not the _vertex_
of nature, is the question whether there is or is not a God. Does
free agency stop at the human stage, or is there a sphere of
free-will above the human, in which, as in the human, not physical
law but spirit moves matter? And does that free-will penetrate the
universal frame invisibly to us, an omnipresent agent? If so,
every miracle in Scripture is as natural an event in the universe
as any chemical experiment in the physical world; if not, the seat
of the great Presiding Will is empty, and nature has no Personal
Head; man is her highest point; he finishes her ascent; though by
this very supremacy he falls, for under fate he is not free
himself; all nature either ascends to God, or descends to law. Is
there above the level of material causes a region of Providence?
If there is, nature there is moved by the Supreme Free Agent; and
of such a realm a miracle is the natural production.

Two rationales of miracles thus present themselves to our choice;
one more accommodating to the physical imagination and easy to
fall in with, on a level with custom, common conceptions, and
ordinary history, and requiring no ascent of the mind to embrace,
viz. the solution of miracles as the growth of fancy and legend;
the other requiring an ascent of the reason to embrace it, viz.
the rationale of the supremacy of a Personal Will in nature. The
one is the explanation to which we fall when we dare not trust our
reason, but mistake its inconceivable truths for sublime but
unsubstantial visions; the other is that to which we rise when we
dare trust our reason, and the evidences which it lays before us
of the existence of a Personal Supreme Being.

The belief in a personal God thus bringing with it the possibility of
miracles, what reason then has to judge is whether it can accept
miracles as such, or any set of miracles, as worthy of a reasonable
conception of the Divine Nature, and whether it can be fairly said that
such miracles have answered a purpose which approves itself to our
reason. Testimony will always speak at a disadvantage till we are
assured on these points. Into the subject of testimony Mr. Mozley
enters only in a general way, though his remarks on the relation of
testimony to facts of so exceptional a nature as miracles, and also on
the distinct peculiarities of Christian evidence as contrasted with the
evidence of all other classes of alleged miracles, are marked by a
characteristic combination of acuteness, precision, and broad practical
sobriety and moderation. He rebukes with quiet and temperate and yet
resolute plainness of statement the misplaced ingenuity which, on
different sides, to serve very different causes, has tried to confuse
and perplex the claims of the great Christian miracles by comparisons
which it is really mere wantonness to make with later ones; for, be
they what they may, it is certain that the Gospel miracles, in nature,
in evidence, and in purpose and result, are absolutely unique in the
world, and have nothing like them. And though the book mainly confines
itself to its proper subject, the antecedent question of credibility,
some of the most striking remarks in it relate to the way in which the
purpose of miracles is visible in those of Christianity, and has been
served by them. A miracle is an instrument--an instrument without which
revelation is impossible; and Mr. Mozley meets Spinoza's objection to
the unmeaning isolation of a miracle by insisting on the distinction,
which Spinoza failed to see, between a miracle simply as a wonder for
its own sake, and as a means, deriving its use and its value simply
from the end which it was to serve. He observes that all the stupendous
"marvels of nature do not speak to us in that way in which one miracle
does, because they do not tell us that we are not like themselves"; and
he remarks on the "perverse determination of Spinoza to look at
miracles in that aspect which does not belong to them, and not to look
at them in that aspect which does."

He compares miracles with nature, and then says how wise is the
order of nature, how meaningless the violation of it; how
expressive of the Almighty Mind the one, what a concealment of it
the other! But no one pretends to say that a miracle competes with
nature, in physical purpose and effectiveness. That is not its
object. But a miracle, though it does not profess to compete with
nature upon its rival's own ground, has a ghostly force and import
which nature has not. If real, it is a token, more pointed and
direct than physical order can be, of another world, and of Moral
Being and Will in that world.

Thus, regarding miracles as means to fulfil a purpose, Mr. Mozley shows
what has come of them. His lecture on "Miracles regarded in their
Practical Result" is excelled by some of the others as examples of
subtle and searching thought and well-balanced and compact argument;
but it is a fine example of the way in which a familiar view can have
fresh colour and force thrown into it by the way in which it is
treated. He shows that it is impossible in fact to separate from the
miracles in which it professed to begin, the greatest and deepest moral
change which the world has ever known. This change was made not by
miracles but by certain doctrines. The Epistle to the Romans surveyed
the moral failure of the world; St. Paul looked on the chasm between
knowledge and action, the "unbridged gulf, this incredible inability of
man to do what was right, with profound wonder"; but in the face of
this hopeless spectacle he dared to prophesy the moral elevation which
we have witnessed, and the power to which he looked to bring it about
was the Christian doctrines. St. Paul "takes what may be called the
high view of human nature--i.e. what human nature is capable of when
the proper motive and impulse is applied to it." He sees in Christian
doctrine that strong force which is to break down "the _vis inertiae_
of man, to set human nature going, to touch the spring of man's heart";
and he compares with St. Paul's doctrines and hopefulness the doctrinal
barrenness, the despair of Mohammedanism:--

If one had to express in a short compass the character of its
remarkable founder as a teacher, it would be that that great man
had no faith in human nature. There were two things which he
thought man could do and would do for the glory of God--transact
religious forms, and fight; and upon those two points he was
severe; but within the sphere of common practical life, where
man's great trial lies, his code exhibits the disdainful laxity of
a legislator who accommodates his rule to the recipient, and shows
his estimate of the recipient by the accommodation which he
adopts. Did we search history for a contrast, we could hardly
discover a deeper one than that between St. Paul's overflowing
standard of the capabilities of human nature and the oracular
cynicism of the great false Prophet. The writer of the Koran does,
indeed, if any discerner of hearts ever did, take the measure of
mankind; and his measure is the same that Satire has taken, only
expressed with the majestic brevity of one who had once lived in
the realm of Silence. "Man is weak," says Mahomet. And upon that
maxim he legislates.... The keenness of Mahomet's insight into
human nature, a wide knowledge of its temptations, persuasives,
influences under which it acts, a vast immense capacity of
forbearance for it, half grave half genial, half sympathy half
scorn, issue in a somewhat Horatian model, the character of the
man of experience who despairs of any change in man, and lays down
the maxim that we must take him as we find him. It was indeed his
supremacy in both faculties, the largeness of the passive nature
and the splendour of action, that constituted the secret of his
success. The breadth and flexibility of mind that could negotiate
with every motive of interest, passion, and pride in man is
surprising; there is boundless sagacity; what is wanting is hope,
a belief in the capabilities of human nature. There is no upward
flight in the teacher's idea of man. Instead of which, the notion
of the power of earth, and the impossibility of resisting it,
depresses his whole aim, and the shadow of the tomb falls upon the
work of the great false Prophet.

The idea of God is akin to the idea of man. "He knows us," says
Mahomet. God's _knowledge_, the vast _experience_, so to speak, of
the Divine Being, His infinite acquaintance with man's frailties
and temptations, is appealed to as the ground of confidence. "He
is the Wise, the Knowing One," "He is the Knowing, the Wise," "He
is easy to be reconciled." Thus is raised a notion of the Supreme
Being, which is rather an extension of the character of the
large-minded and sagacious man of the world than an extension of
man's virtue and holiness. He forgives because He knows too much
to be rigid, because sin universal ceases to be sin, and must be
given way to. Take a man who has had large opportunity of studying
mankind, and has come into contact with every form of human
weakness and corruption; such a man is indulgent as a simple
consequence of his knowledge, because nothing surprises him. So
the God of Mahomet forgives by reason of His vast knowledge.

In contrast with the fruit of this he observes that "the prophecy in
the Epistle to the Romans has been fulfilled, and that doctrine has
been historically at the bottom of a great change of moral practice in
mankind." The key has been found to set man's moral nature in action,
to check and reverse that course of universal failure manifest before;
and this key is Christian doctrine. "A stimulus has been given to human
nature which has extracted an amount of action from it which no Greek
or Roman could have believed possible." It is inconceivable that but
for such doctrine such results as have been seen in Christendon would
have followed; and were it now taken away we cannot see anything else
that would have the faintest expectation of taking its place. "Could we
commit mankind to a moral Deism without trembling for the result?" Can
the enthusiasm for the divinity of human nature stand the test of
clear, unsparing observation? Would it not issue in such an estimate of
human nature as Mahomet took? "A deification of humanity upon its own
grounds, an exaltation which is all height and no depth, wants power
because it wants truth. It is not founded upon the facts of human
nature, and therefore issues in vain and vapid aspiration, and injures
the solidity of man's character." As he says, "The Gospel doctrine of
the Incarnation and its effects alone unites the sagacious view of
human nature with the enthusiastic." And now what is the historical
root and basis from which this one great moral revolution in the
world's history, so successful, so fruitful, so inexhaustible, has

But if, as the source and inspiration of practice, doctrine has
been the foundation of a new state of the world, and of that
change which distinguishes the world under Christianity from the
world before it, miracles, as the proof of that doctrine, stand
before us in a very remarkable and peculiar light. Far from being
mere idle feats of power to gratify the love of the marvellous;
far even from being mere particular and occasional rescues from
the operation of general laws,--they come before us as means for
accomplishing the largest and most important practical object that
has ever been accomplished in the history of mankind. They lie at
the bottom of the difference of the modern from the ancient world;
so far, i.e., as that difference is moral. We see as a fact a
change in the moral condition of mankind, which marks ancient and
modern society as two different states of mankind. What has
produced this change, and elicited this new power of action?
Doctrine. And what was the proof of that doctrine, or essential to
the proof of it? Miracles. The greatness of the result thus throws
light upon the propriety of the means, and shows the fitting
object which was presented for the introduction of such means--the
fitting occasion which had arisen for the use of them; for,
indeed, no more weighty, grand, or solemn occasion can be
conceived than the foundation of such a new order of things in the
world. Extraordinary action of Divine power for such an end has
the benefit of a justifying object of incalculable weight; which
though not of itself, indeed, proof of the fact, comes with
striking force upon the mind in connection with the proper proof.
It is reasonable, it is inevitable, that we should be impressed by
such a result; for it shows that the miraculous system has been a
practical one; that it has been a step in the ladder of man's
ascent, the means of introducing those powerful truths which have
set his moral nature in action.

Of this work, remarkable in so many ways, we will add but one thing
more. It is marked throughout with the most serious and earnest
conviction, but it is without a single word, from first to last, of
asperity or insinuation against opponents; and this, not from any
deficiency of feeling as to the importance of the issue, but from a
deliberate and resolutely maintained self-control, and from an
overruling ever-present sense of the duty, on themes like these, of a
more than judicial calmness.



_Ecce Homo: A Survey of the Life and Work of Jesus Christ. Guardian_,
7th February 1866.

This is a dangerous book to review. The critic of it, if he is prudent,
will feel that it is more than most books a touchstone of his own
capacity, and that in giving his judgment upon it he cannot help giving
his own measure and betraying what he is himself worth. All the
unconscious guiding which a name, even if hitherto unknown, gives to
opinion is wanting. The first aspect of the book is perplexing; closer
examination does not clear up all the questions which present
themselves; and many people, after they have read it through, will not
feel quite certain what it means. Much of what is on the surface and
much of what is inherent in the nature of the work will jar painfully
on many minds; while others who begin to read it under one set of
impressions may by the time they have got to the end complain of having
been taken in. There can be no doubt on which side the book is; but it
may be open to debate from which side it has come. The unknown champion
who comes into the lists with barred vizor and no cognisance on his
shield leaves it not long uncertain for which of the contending parties
he appears; but his weapons and his manner of fighting are not the
ordinary ones of the side which he takes; and there is a force in his
arm, and a sweep in his stroke, which is not that of common men. The
book is one which it is easy to take exception to, and perhaps still
easier to praise at random; but the subject is put before us in so
unusual a way, and one so removed from the ordinary grooves of thought,
that in trying to form an adequate estimate of the work as a whole, a
man feels as he does when he is in the presence of something utterly
unfamiliar and unique, when common rules and inferences fail him, and
in pronouncing upon which he must make something of a venture.

In making our own venture we will begin with what seems to us
incontestable. In the first place, but that it has been questioned, we
should say that there could be no question of the surpassing ability
which the book displays. It is far beyond the power of the average
clever and practised writer of our days. It is the work of a man in
whom thought, sympathy, and imagination are equally powerful and
wealthy, and who exercises a perfect and easy command over his own
conceptions, and over the apt and vivid language which is their
expression. Few men have entered so deeply into the ideas and feelings
of the time, or have looked at the world, its history and its
conditions, with so large and piercing an insight. But it is idle to
dwell on what must strike, at first sight, any one who but opens the
book. We go on to observe, what is equally beyond dispute, the deep
tone of religious seriousness which pervades the work. The writer's way
of speaking is very different from that of the ascetic or the devotee;
but no ascetic or devotee could be more profoundly penetrated with the
great contrast between holiness and evil, and show more clearly in his
whole manner of thinking the ineffaceable impression of the powers of
the world to come. Whatever else the book may be, this much is plain on
the face of it--it is the work of a mind of extreme originality, depth,
refinement, and power; and it is also the work of a very religious man:
Thomas a Kempis had not a more solemn sense of things unseen and of
what is meant by the Imitation of Christ.

What the writer wishes his book to be understood to be we must gather
from his Preface:--

Those who feel dissatisfied with the current conceptions of
Christ, if they cannot rest content without a definite opinion,
may find it necessary to do what to persons not so dissatisfied it
seems audacious and perilous to do. They may be obliged to
reconsider the whole subject from the beginning, and placing
themselves in imagination at the time when he whom we call Christ
bore no such name, but was simply, as St. Luke describes him, a
young man of promise, popular with those who knew him, and
appearing to enjoy the Divine favour, to trace his biography from
point to point, and accept those conclusions about him, not which
church doctors or even apostles have sealed with their authority,
but which the facts themselves, critically weighed, appear to

This is what the present writer undertook to do for the
satisfaction of his own mind, and because, after reading a good
many books on Christ, he felt still constrained to confess that
there was no historical character whose motives, objects, and
feelings remained so incomprehensible to him. The inquiry which
proved serviceable to himself may chance to be useful to others.

What is now published is a fragment. No theological questions
whatever are here discussed. Christ, as the creator of modern
theology and religion, will make the subject of another volume,
which, however, the author does not hope to publish for some time
to come. In the meanwhile he has endeavoured to furnish an answer
to the question, What was Christ's object in founding the Society
which is called by his name, and how is it adapted to attain that

Thus the book comes before us as a serious facing of difficulties. And
that the writer lays stress on its being so viewed appears further from
a letter which he wrote to the _Spectator_, repeating emphatically that
the book is not one "written after the investigation was completed, but
the _investigation_ itself." The letter may be taken to complete the
statement of the Preface:--

I endeavoured in my Preface to describe the state of mind in which
I undertook my book. I said that the character and objects of
Christ were at that time altogether incomprehensible to me, and
that I wished to try whether an independent investigation would
relieve my perplexity. Perhaps I did not distinctly enough state
that _Ecce Homo_ is not a book written after the investigation was
completed, but the _investigation_ itself.

The Life of Christ is partly easy to understand and partly
difficult. This being so, what would a man do who wished to study
it methodically? Naturally he would take the easy part first. He
would collect, arrange, and carefully consider all the facts which
are simple, and until he has done this, he would carefully avoid
all those parts of his subject which are obscure, and which cannot
be explained without making bold hypotheses. By this course he
would limit the problem, and in the meanwhile arrive at a probable
opinion concerning the veracity of the documents, and concerning
the characteristics, both intellectual and moral, of the person
whose high pretensions he wished to investigate.

This is what I have done. I have postponed altogether the hardest
questions connected with Christ, as questions which cannot
properly be discussed until a considerable quantity of evidence
has been gathered about his character and views. If this evidence,
when collected, had appeared to be altogether conflicting and
inconsistent, I should have been saved the trouble of proceeding
any further; I should have said that Christ is a myth. If it had
been consistent, and had disclosed to me a person of mean and
ambitious aims, I should have said, Christ is a deceiver. Again,
if it had exhibited a person of weak understanding and strong
impulsive sensibility, I should have said Christ is a bewildered

In all these cases you perceive my method would have saved me a
good deal of trouble. As it is, I certainly feel bound to go on,
though, as I say in my Preface, my progress will necessarily be
slow. But I am much engaged and have little time for theological
study. But pray do not suppose that postponing questions is only
another name for evading them. I think I have gained much by this
postponement. I have now a very definite notion of Christ's
character and that of his followers. I shall be able to judge how
far he was likely to deceive himself or them. It is possible I may
have put others, who can command more time than I, in a condition
to take up the subject where for the present I leave it.

You say my picture suffers by my method. But _Ecce Homo_ is not a
picture: it is the very opposite of a picture; it is an analysis.
It may be, you will answer, that the title suggests a picture.
This may perhaps be true, and if so, it is no doubt a fault, but a
fault in the title, not in the book. For titles are put to books,
not books to titles.

Thus it appears that the writer found it his duty to investigate those
awful questions which every thinking man feels to be full of the
"incomprehensible" and unfathomable, but which many thinking men, for
various reasons both good and bad, shrink from attempting to
investigate, accepting on practical and very sufficient grounds the
religious conclusions which are recommended and sanctioned by the
agreement of Christendom. And finding it his duty to investigate them
at all, he saw that he was bound to investigate in earnest. But under
what circumstances this happened, from what particular pressure of
need, and after what previous belief or state of opinion, we are not
told. Whether from being originally on the doubting side--on the
irreligious side we cannot suppose he ever could have been--he has
risen through his investigation into belief; or whether, originally on
the believing side, he found the aspect so formidable, to himself or to
the world, of the difficulties and perplexities which beset belief,
that he turned to bay upon the foes that dogged him--must be left to
conjecture. It is impossible to question that he has been deeply
impressed with the difficulties of believing; it is impossible to
question that doubt has been overborne and trampled under foot. But
here we have the record, it would not be accurate to say of the
struggle, but of that resolute and unflinching contemplation of the
realities of the case which decided it. Such plunging into such a
question must seem, as he says, to those who do not need it, "audacious
and perilous"; for if you plunge into a question in earnest, and do not
under a thin disguise take a side, you must, whatever your bias and
expectation, take your chance of the alternative answers which may come
out. It is a simple fact that there are many people who feel
"dissatisfied with the current conceptions" of our Lord--whether
reasonably and justly dissatisfied is another question; but whatever we
think of it they remain dissatisfied. In such emergencies it is
conceivable that a man who believes, yet keenly realises and feels what
disturbs or destroys the belief of others, should dare to put himself
in their place; should enter the hospital and suffer the disease which
makes such ravages; should descend into the shades and face the
spectres. No one can deny the risk of dwelling on such thoughts as he
must dwell on; but if he feels warmly with his kind, he may think it
even a duty to face the risk. To any one accustomed to live on his
belief it cannot but be a hard necessity, full of pain and difficulty,
first to think and then to speak of what he believes, as if it _might
not_ be, or _could be_ otherwise; but the changes of time bring up ever
new hard necessities; and one thing is plain, that if ever such an
investigation is undertaken, it ought to be a real one, in good earnest
and not in play. If a man investigates at all, both for his own sake
and for the sake of the effect of his investigation on others, he must
accept the fair conditions of investigation. We may not ourselves be
able to conceive the possibility of taking, even provisionally, a
neutral position; but looking at what is going on all round us, we
ought to be able to enlarge our thoughts sufficiently to take in the
idea that a believing mind may feel it a duty to surrender itself
boldly to the intellectual chances and issues of the inquiry, and to
"let its thoughts take their course in the confidence that they will
come home at last." It may be we ourselves who "have not faith enough
to be patient of doubt"; there may be others who feel that if what they
believe is real, they need not be afraid of the severest revisal and
testing of the convictions on which they rest; who feel that, in the
circumstances of the time, it is not left to their choice whether these
convictions shall be sifted unsparingly and to the uttermost; and who
think it a venture not unworthy of a Christian, to descend even to the
depths to go through the thoughts of doubters, if so be that he may
find the spell that shall calm them. We do not say that this book is
the production of such a state of mind; we only think that it may be.
One thing is clear, wherever the writer's present lot is cast, he has
that in him which not only enables him, but forces him, to sympathise
with what he sees in the opposite camp. If he is what is called a
Liberal, his whole heart is yet pouring itself forth towards the great
truths of Christianity. If he is what is called orthodox, his whole
intellect is alive to the right and duty of freedom of thought. He will
therefore attract and repel on both sides. And he appears to feel that
the position of double sympathy gives him a special advantage, to
attract to each side what is true in its opposite, and to correct in
each what is false or inadequate.

What, then, is this investigation, and what course does it follow? At
the first aspect, we might take it for one of those numerous attempts
on the Liberal side, partly impatient, partly careless of Christianity,
to put a fresh look on the Christian history, and to see it with new
eyes. The writer's language is at starting neutral; he speaks of our
Lord in the language indeed of the New Testament, but not in the usual
language of later Christian writers. All through, the colour and tone
is absolutely modern; and what would naturally be expressed in familiar
theological terms is for the most part studiously put in other words.
Persons acquainted with the writings of the late Mr. Robertson might be
often reminded of his favourite modes of teaching; of his maxim that
truth is made up of two opposites which seem contradictories; of the
distinction which he was so fond of insisting upon between principles
and rules; above all, of his doctrine that the true way to rise to the
faith in our Lord's Divine Nature was by first realising His Human
Life. But the resemblance is partial, if not superficial, and gives way
on closer examination before broad and characteristic features of an
entirely different significance. That one which at first arrests
attention, and distinguishes this writer's line of thought from the
common Liberal way of dealing with the subject, is that from the first
page of the book to its last line the work of Christ is viewed, not
simply as the foundation of a religious system, the introduction of
certain great principles, the elevation of religious ideas, the
delivery of Divine truths, the exhibition of a life and example, but as
the call and creation of a definite, concrete, organised society of
men. The subject, of investigation is not merely the character and
history of the Person, but the Person as connected with His work.
Christ is regarded not simply in Himself or in His teaching, as the
Founder of a philosophy, a morality, a theology in the abstract, but as
the Author of a Divine Society, the Body which is called by His Name,
the Christian Church Universal, a real and visible company of men,
which, however we may understand it, exists at this moment as it has
existed since His time, marked by His badges, governed by His laws, and
working out His purpose. The writer finds the two joined in fact, and
he finds them also joined in the recorded history of Christ's plan. The
book might almost be described as the beginning of a new _De Civitate
Dei_, written with the further experience of fourteen centuries and
from the point of view of our own generation. This is one remarkable
peculiarity of this investigation; another is the prominence given to
the severe side of the Person and character of whom he writes, and what
is even more observable, the way in which both the severity and the
gentleness are apprehended and harmonised.

We are familiar with the attempts to resolve the Christianity of the
New Testament into philanthropy; and, on the other hand, writers like
Mr. Carlyle will not let us forget that the world is as dark and evil
as the Bible draws it. This writer feels both in one. No one can show
more sympathy with enlarged and varied ideas of human happiness, no one
has connected them more fearlessly with Christian principles, or
claimed from those principles more unlimited developments, even for the
physical well-being of men. No one has extended wider the limits of
Christian generosity, forbearance, and tolerance. But, on the other
hand, what is striking is, that all this is compatible, and is made to
appear so, with the most profound and terrible sense of evil, with
indignation and scorn which is scathing where it kindles and strikes,
with a capacity and energy of deliberate religious hatred against what
is impure and false and ungodly, which mark one who has dared to
realise and to sympathise with the wrath of Jesus Christ.

The world has been called in these later days, and from opposite
directions, to revise its judgments about Jesus Christ. Christians, on
the one hand, have been called to do it by writers of whom M. Ernest
Renan is the most remarkable and the most unflinching. But the
sceptical and the unbelieving have likewise been obliged to change
their ground and their tone, and no one with any self-respect or care
for his credit even as a thinker and a man would like to repeat the
superficial and shallow flippancy and irreligion of the last century.
Two things have been specially insisted on. We have been told that if
we are to see the truth of things as it is, we must disengage our minds
from the deeply rooted associations and conceptions of a later
theology, and try to form our impressions first-hand and unprompted
from the earliest documents which we can reach. It has been further
urged on us, in a more believing spirit, that we should follow the
order by which in fact truth was unfolded, and rise from the full
appreciation of our Lord's human nature to the acknowledgment of His
Divine nature. It seems to us that the writer of this book has felt the
force of both these appeals, and that his book is his answer to them.
Here is the way in which he responds to both--to the latter indirectly,
but with a significance which no one can mistake; to the former
directly and avowedly. He undertakes, isolating himself from current
beliefs, and restricting himself to the documents from which, if from
any source at all, the original facts about Christ are to be learned,
to examine what the genuine impression is which an attempt to realise
the statements about him leaves on the mind. This has been done by
others, with results supposed to be unfavourable to Christianity. He
has been plainly moved by these results, though not a hint is given of
the existence of Renan or Strauss. But the effect on his own mind has
been to drive him back on a closer survey of the history in its first
fountains, and to bring him from it filled more than ever with wonder
at its astonishing phenomena, to protest against the poverty and
shallowness of the most ambitious and confident of these attempts. They
leave the historical Character which they pourtray still unsounded, its
motives, objects, and feelings absolutely incomprehensible. He accepts
the method to reverse the product. "Look at Christ historically,"
people say; "see Him as He really was." The answer here is, "Well, I
will look at Him with whatever aid a trained historical imagination can
look at Him. I accept your challenge; I admit your difficulties. I will
dare to do what you do. I will try and look at the very facts
themselves, with singleness and 'innocence of the eye,' trying to see
nothing more than I really see, and trying to see all that my eye falls
on. I will try to realise indeed what is recorded of Him. And _this_ is
what I see. This is the irresistible impression from the plainest and
most elementary part of the history, if we are to accept any history at
all. A miracle could not be more unlike the order of our experience
than the Character set before us is unique and unapproachable in all
known history. Further, all that makes the superiority of the modern
world to the ancient, and is most permanent and pregnant with
improvement in it, may be traced to the appearance of that Character,
and to the work which He planned and did. You ask for a true picture of
Him, drawn with freedom, drawn with courage; here, if you dare look at
it, is what those who wrote of Him showed Him to be. Renan has tried to
draw this picture. Take the Gospels as they stand; treat them simply as
biographies; look, and see, and think of what they tell, and then ask
yourself about Renan's picture, and what it looks like when placed side
by side with the truth."

This, as we have ventured to express it in our own words, seems to be
the writer's position. It is at any rate the effect of his book, to our
minds. The inquiry, it must always be remembered, is a preliminary one,
dealing, as he says, with the easiest and obvious elements of the
problem; and much that seems inadequate and unsatisfactory may be
developed hereafter. He starts from what, to those who already have the
full belief, must appear a low level. He takes, as it will be seen, the
documents as they stand. He takes little more than the first three
Gospels, and these as a whole, without asking minute questions about
them. The mythical theory he dismisses as false to nature, in dealing
with such a Character and such results. He talks in his preface of
"critically weighing" the facts; but the expression is misleading. It
is true that we may talk of criticism of character; but the words
naturally suggest that close cross-questioning of documents and details
which has produced such remarkable results in modern investigations;
and of this there is none. It is a work in no sense of criticism; it is
a work of what he calls the "trained historical imagination"; a work of
broad and deep knowledge of human nature and the world it works in and
creates about it; a work of steady and large insight into character,
and practical judgment on moral likelihoods. He answers Strauss as he
answers Renan, by producing the interpretation of a character, so
living, so in accordance with all before and after, that it overpowers
and sweeps away objections; a picture, an analysis or outline, if he
pleases, which justifies itself and is its own evidence, by its
originality and internal consistency. Criticism in detail does not
affect him. He assumes nothing of the Gospels, except that they are
records; neither their inspiration in any theological sense, nor their
authorship, nor their immunity from mistake, nor the absolute purity of
their texts. But taking them as a whole he discerns in them a Character
which, if you accept them at all and on any terms, you cannot mistake.
Even if the copy is ever so imperfect, ever so unskilful, ever so
blurred and defaced, there is no missing the features any more than a
man need miss the principle of a pattern because it is rudely or
confusedly traced. He looks at these "biographies" as a geologist might
do at a disturbed series of strata; and he feeds his eye upon them till
he gets such a view of the coherent whole as will stand independent of
the right or wrong disposition of the particular fragments. To the mind
which discerns the whole, the regulating principle, the general curves
and proportions of the strata may be just as visible after the
disturbance as before it. The Gospels bring before us the visible and
distinct outlines of a life which, after all efforts to alter the idea
of it, remains still the same; they present certain clusters of leading
ideas and facts so embedded in their substance that no criticism of
detail can possibly get rid of them, without absolutely obliterating
the whole record. It is this leading idea, or cluster of ideas, to be
gained by intent gazing, which the writer disengages from all questions
of criticism in the narrow sense of the word, and sets before us as
explaining the history of Christianity, and as proving themselves by
that explanation. That the world has been moved we know. "Give me," he
seems to say, "the Character which is set forth in the Gospels, and I
can show how He moved it":--

It is in the object of the present treatise to exhibit Christ's
career in outline. No other career ever had so much unity; no
other biography is so simple or can so well afford to dispense
with details. Men in general take up scheme after scheme, as
circumstances suggest one or another, and therefore most
biographies are compelled to pass from one subject to another, and
to enter into a multitude of minute questions, to divide the life
carefully into periods by chronological landmarks accurately
determined, to trace the gradual development of character and
ripening or change of opinions. But Christ formed one plan and
executed it; no important change took place in his mode of
thinking, speaking, or acting; at least the evidence before us
does not enable us to trace any such change. It is possible,
indeed, for students of his life to find details which they may
occupy themselves with discussing; they may map out the chronology
of it, and devise methods of harmonising the different accounts;
but such details are of little importance compared with the one
grand question, what was Christ's plan, and throw scarcely any
light upon that question. What was Christ's plan is the main
question which will be investigated in the present treatise, and
that vision of universal monarchy which we have just been
considering affords an appropriate introduction to it....

We conclude then, that Christ in describing himself as a king, and
at the same time as king of the Kingdom of God--in other words as
a king representing the Majesty of the Invisible King of a
theocracy--claimed the character first of Founder, next of
Legislator; thirdly, in a certain high and peculiar sense, of
Judge, of a new divine society.

In defining as above the position which Christ assumed, we have
not entered into controvertible matter. We have not rested upon
single passages, nor drawn upon the fourth Gospel. To deny that
Christ did undertake to found and to legislate for a new
theocratic society, and that he did claim the office of Judge of
mankind, is indeed possible, but only to those who altogether deny
the credibility of the extant biographies of Christ. If those
biographies be admitted to be generally trustworthy, then Christ
undertook to be what we have described; if not, then of course
this, but also every other account of him falls to the ground.

We have said that he starts from a low level; and he restricts himself
so entirely at the opening to facts which do not involve dispute, that
his views of them are necessarily incomplete, and, so to say,
provisional and deliberate understatements. He begins no higher than
the beginning of the public ministry, the Baptism, and the Temptation;
and his account of these leaves much to say, though it suggests much of
what is left unsaid. But he soon gets to the proper subject of his
book--the absolute uniqueness of Him whose equally unique work has been
the Christian Church. And this uniqueness he finds in the combination
of "unbounded personal pretensions," and the possession, claimed and
believed, of boundless power, with an absolutely unearthly use of His
pretensions and His power, and with a goodness which has proved to be,
and still is, the permanent and ever-flowing source of moral elevation
and improvement in the world. He early comes across the question of
miracles, and, as he says, it is impossible to separate the claim to
them and the belief in them from the story. We find Christ, he says,
"describing himself as a king, and at the same time as king of the
Kingdom of God"; calling forth and founding a new and divine society,
and claiming to be, both now and hereafter, the Judge without appeal of
all mankind; "he considered, in short, heaven and hell to be in his
hands." And we find, on the other hand, that as such He has been
received. To such an astonishing chain of phenomena miracles naturally

When we contemplate this scheme as a whole, and glance at the
execution and results of it, three things strike us with
astonishment. First, its prodigious originality, if the expression
may be used. What other man has had the courage or elevation of
mind to say, "I will build up a state by the mere force of my
will, without help from the kings of the world, without taking
advantage of any of the secondary causes which unite men
together--unity of interest or speech, or blood-relationship. I
will make laws for my state which shall never be repealed, and I
will defy all the powers of destruction that are at work in the
world to destroy what I build"?

Secondly, we are astonished at the calm confidence with which the
scheme was carried out. The reason why statesmen can seldom work
on this vast scale is that it commonly requires a whole lifetime
to gain that ascendency over their fellow-men which such schemes
presuppose. Some of the leading organisers of the world have said,
"I will work my way to supreme power, and then I will execute
great plans." But Christ overleaped the first stage altogether. He
did not work his way to royalty, but simply said to all men, "I am
your king." He did not struggle forward to a position in which he
could found a new state, but simply founded it.

Thirdly, we are astonished at the prodigious success of the
scheme. It is not more certain that Christ presented himself to
men as the founder, legislator, and judge of a divine society than
it is certain that men have accepted him in these characters, that
the divine society has been founded, that it has lasted nearly two
thousand years, that it has extended over a large and the most
highly-civilised portion of the earth's surface, and that it
continues full of vigour at the present day.

Between the astonishing design and its astonishing success there
intervenes an astonishing instrumentality--that of miracles. It
will be thought by some that in asserting miracles to have been
actually wrought by Christ we go beyond what the evidence, perhaps
beyond what any possible evidence, is able to sustain. Waiving,
then, for the present, the question whether miracles were actually
wrought, we may state a fact which is fully capable of being
established by ordinary evidence, and which is actually
established by evidence as ample as any historical fact
whatever--the fact, namely, that Christ _professed_ to work
miracles. We may go further, and assert with confidence that
Christ was believed by his followers really to work miracles, and
that it was mainly on this account that they conceded to Him the
pre-eminent dignity and authority which he claimed. The accounts
which we have of these miracles may be exaggerated; it is possible
that in some special cases stories have been related which have no
foundation whatever; but on the whole, miracles play so important
a part in Christ's scheme, that any theory which would represent
them as due entirely to the imagination of his followers or of a
later age destroys the credibility of the documents not partially
but wholly, and leaves Christ a personage as mythical as Hercules.
Now, the present treatise aims to show that the Christ of the
Gospels is not mythical, by showing that the character those
biographies portray is in all its large features strikingly
consistent, and at the same time so peculiar as to be altogether
beyond the reach of invention both by individual genius and still
more by what is called the "consciousness of an age." Now, if the
character depicted in the Gospels is in the main real and
historical, they must be generally trustworthy, and if so, the
responsibility of miracles is fixed on Christ. In this case the
reality of the miracles themselves depends in a great degree on
the opinion we form of Christ's veracity, and this opinion must
arise gradually from the careful examination of his whole life.
For our present purpose, which is to investigate the plan which
Christ formed and the way in which he executed it, it matters
nothing whether the miracles were real or imaginary; in either
case, being believed to be real, they had the same effect.
Provisionally, therefore, we may speak of them as real.

Without the belief in miracles, as he says, it is impossible to
conceive the history of the Church:--

If we suppose that Christ really performed no miracles, and that
those which are attributed to him were the product of
self-deception mixed in some proportion or other with imposture,
then no doubt the faith of St. Paul and St. John was an empty
chimera, a mere misconception; but it is none the less true that
those apparent miracles were essential to Christ's success, and
that had he not pretended to perform them the Christian Church
would never have been founded, and the name of Jesus of Nazareth
would be known at this day only to the curious in Jewish

But he goes on to point out what was the use which Christ made of
miracles, and how it was that they did not, as they might have done,
even impede His purpose of founding His kingdom on men's consciences
and not on their terrors. In one of the most remarkable passages
perhaps ever written on the Gospel miracles as they are seen when
simply looked at as they are described, the writer says:--

He imposed upon himself a strict restraint in the dse of his
supernatural powers. He adopted the principle that he was not sent
to destroy men's lives but to save them, and rigidly abstained in
practice from inflicting any kind of damage or harm. In this course
he persevered so steadily that it became generally understood.
Every one knew that this _king_, whose royal pretensions were so
prominent, had an absolutely unlimited patience, and that he would
endure the keenest criticism, the bitterest and most malignant
personal attacks. Men's mouths were open to discuss his claims and
character with perfect freedom; so far from regarding him with that
excessive fear which might have prevented them from receiving his
doctrine intelligently, they learnt gradually to treat him, even
while they acknowledged his extraordinary power, with a reckless
animosity which they would have been afraid to show towards an
ordinary enemy. With curious inconsistency they openly charged him
with being leagued with the devil; in other words, they acknowledged
that he was capable of boundless mischief, and yet they were so
little afraid of him that they were ready to provoke him to use his
whole power against themselves. The truth was that they believed
him to be disarmed by his own deliberate resolution, and they
judged rightly. He punished their malice only by verbal reproofs,
and they gradually gathered courage to attack the life of one whose
miraculous powers they did not question.

Meantime, while this magnanimous self-restraint saved him from
false friends and mercenary or servile flatterers, and saved the
kingdom which he founded from the corruption of self-interest and
worldliness, it gave him a power over the good such as nothing
else could have given. For the noblest and most amiable thing that
can be seen is power mixed with gentleness, the reposing,
self-restraining attitude of strength. These are the "fine strains
of honour," these are "the graces of the gods"--

To tear with thunder the wide cheeks o' the air.
And yet to charge the sulphur with a bolt
That shall but rive an oak.

And while he did no mischief under any provocation, his power
flowed in acts of beneficence on every side. Men could approach
near to him, could eat and drink with him, could listen to his
talk and ask him questions, and they found him not accessible

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