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THE ANTI-STATE-CHURCH ASSOCIATION AND THE GENERAL ELECTION, In addition to the publication of the election placards and tracts referred to in our Monthly Retrospect, the executive committee of the Anti-state-church Association have addressed a circular to their friends, urging them to turn the approaching election to the best account for the advancement
of their object. Without wishing to lay down any rule of action which shall be universally applicable, they say that they are convinced that whether it be practicable at the present time to return Anti-statechurch candidates in few cases or many, in almost all it would be easy to put those principles prominently before the constituencies, and so to gain for them an amount of attention which cannot ordinarily be secured. Among other practical suggestions they offer the following:
1. In all cases, the opinions of candidates on politico-ecclesiastical questions should be elicited, and the results be made public.
2. Where candidates are not now prepared to vote for the separation of Church and State, they may yet be induced to vote for specific measures, such as the entire abolition of Church-rates and of the Ecclesiastical Courts, the admission of Dissenters to the Universities, &c. More especially, opposition to all further grants for religious purposes, and to the extension of the State-church system, should be strenuously insisted upon.
3. Questions, put with tact and firmness, to supporters of Church Establishments, will, in many cases, expose their entire ignorance of the merits of the controversy, or the illogical and inconsistent character of their views.
4. Candidates who, in general terms only, express their attachment to religious liberty,' should be called upon to state what they include in that phrase; and whether they are favourable to 'religious equality' also.
5. Opponents of the Maynooth Grant, in particular, who do not also object to other Parliamentary grants to religious bodies, should be pressed for reasons why Roman Catholics should be taxed to support Protestantism, if Protestants ought not to be taxed to support Romanism; and why the Irish Church Establishment should not be abolished if the Maynooth Grant is withdrawn.
The committee state, that they 'most desire to impress upon their friends throughout the kingdom, the importance of taking some decided steps to prevent the subject being kept in the background, as it has too long been, in the election of the people's representatives, and by thus making it familiar to the public mind, of preparing for a period when it will become the great testing point of electoral contests.'
MEETINGS in connexion with the Anti-state-church movement, have been held during the month, at Newport (Monmouthshire), Gloucester, Islington, &c. For the present, we believe, all such and similar demonstrations, will be suspended on account of the approaching General Election.
THE DISSEXTING DEPUTIES AND THE NEW INTERMENT BILL.
, which ignore the common law right of Dissenters to burial in the parish graveyard, was unanimously adopted.
NEW CHURCHES OPENED.
CHELTENHAM (Highbury Congregational church), on the 15th ult.
FOUNDATION STONE LAID.
CHESTERFIELD (Congregational Church). - The Rev. W. Selbie, late of the
CHORLEY (Congregational church). - The Rev. Samuel Lewin, late of Hartlepool.
The Test of Miraculous Attestation.
In an early portion of our present volume,* we devoted a paper to the argument derivable from miracles in proof of a divine interposition in the affairs of men, and endeavoured to sustain it against the various modes in which has been assaulted. It was quite a common-sense business, we concluded, and we hope our readers came to the same conclusion, when Christ said to the Jews, ' The works that I do bear witness that the Father hath sent me;' and when the people responded, * This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.'
Inasmuch, however, as not everything either wonderful or inexplicable is necessarily miraculous, the profession of having wrought an attesting miracle itself requires to be subjected to a test. you have a mission from God, and that you have wrought a miracle to prove it: but can I be sure of this ? What is it that you have done, or appear to have done? Have you used no artifice? Have you availed yourself of no fortuitous coincidences ? Are you taking no advantage of mere appearances?' It is doubtless proper, and in the last degree necessary, that every professed miracle should be thus subjected by those to whom it immediately appeals to a searching examination, and to the application of what may be called a physical test. These are mere modes of putting the question, Is it really a miracle ? and of distinguishing a pretence from a fact, an honest man from a juggler.
We need scarcely say how triumphantly the scriptural, and more especially the Christian miracles, sustain the most vigorous application of the test now described. Grant us the truth of the narrations, and the reality of the miracles is unquestionable ; and they were frankly admitted to be such at the time they were wrought, both by friends and foes (and the latter no fools) of him that wrought them. So obvious, indeed, is the really miraculous character of the facts narrated, that the main efforts of infidels to get rid of the miracles have expended themselves in assaults upon the credibility of the history.
But is this all? And is this the only test to which miraculous pretensions should be subjected ? At the first moment, perhaps, one might be tempted to answer this question in the affirmative; and to ask, What more can be necessary, than to convince you that a miracle has been really wrought? A little recollection, however, may induce us to hesitate. A reader of the Bible finds in it two series of professed and apparent miracles. The magicians wrought wonders in Egypt, as well as Moses; and the disciples of the Pharisees cast out devils, as well as Jesus. To this, we are aware,
may be rejoined promptly, “But were the doings of the Egyptian magi and the Jewish exorcists more than apparent miracles
And may they not be confidently set down as artful imitations, and clever impostures? Perhaps they may be so; but, if the reader pleases, we will not arrive at this conclusion in a moment, but will enter a little into the consideration of a subject, certainly not without both its importance and its difficulty.
Undoubtedly the shortest and the easiest way of dealing with the question now before us—and the wisest, if it be a safe and satisfactory one-is to assume that the apparent miracles we have referred to were apparent only, and not really miraculous. And this course is further recommended by the eminently clear and simple position in which it would leave the argument from miracles to a divine mission; while, if it be allowed that miracles have been wrought by those who had no divine mission, that argument may seem to be involved in great, if not in almost hopeless perplexity.
We must be excused, however, from allowing any force to the latter of these considerations; not because we do not wish to see the arguments in favour of Christianity placed in the clearest and strongest light, but because we have an insuperable aversion to see them placed in a false and fictitious light. We wish to see them placed exactly where God has placed them; and if, in this position, there be found attendant difficulty, we would rather inquire after the mode in which God himself has provided for its relief, than by a plausible, but fallacious assumption, appear cleverly to evade the difficulty itself.
Thus setting aside the latter of the considerations which have been adduced, we can as little allow ourselves to be concluded by the former. We have already admitted that short and easy methods are much to be preferred, if they be safe ones; but safety is an indispensable requisite, however long and difficult the process by which it may be arrived at. And we confess at once our doubts whether the assumption
that the wonders wrought by the Egyptian magicians and the Jewish exorcists were mere artifice and jugglery is safe—that is to say, whether it is consistent with a due and honest regard to the sacred narrative.
It is, of course, from the sacred narrative alone that we derive any information
upon these matters, and our only course is to take with implicit confidence the facts as they are there stated.
First, then, with respect to the wonders wrought by the magicians in Egypt. Thus reads the narrative :
And the Lord spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, When Pharaoh shall speak unto you, saying, Show a miracle for you: then thou shalt say unto Aaron, Take thy rod, and cast it before Pharaoh, and it shall become a serpent. And Moses and Aaron went in unto Pharaoh, and they did so as the Lord had commanded : and Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh, and before his servants, and it became a serpent. Then Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers : now the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments. For they cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents : but Aaron's rod swallowed up their rods.'—Exod. vii. 8–12:
Nothing can be plainer, we think, upon the face of this statement, than that Aaron and the magicians did the same thing. These are the words: “Aaron cast down his rod, and it became a serpent ;' and the magicians cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents.' The only apparent reason for supposing that there was any difference between the two cases is that we are told the magicians did so with their enchantments. This statement, however, affects merely the circumstances of the process, and the assertion remains, that they did so.' With what justice to the sacred narrative can this be understood to mean, “they appeared to do so?' As to the assertion that they did so with their enchantments, this amounts to nothing more than a statement of the well-known fact that the magicians used enchantments, and it by no means carries the idea that they did so by their enchantments. But even if we were not to make this distinction, but, on the contrary, were to allow that the magicians turned their rods into serpents by their enchantments, the case would not be altered ; for the effect is one which their enchantments could have no natural adaptation to produce; and if they really did produce it, it must have been by the infusion of a supernatural power into this instrumentality.
In addition to this, it may be observed, that Aaron did not proceed
though he thought the magicians had performed a mere trick. On such a supposition, his natural course would have been to have exposed the jugglery, and to have shown that the rods of the magicians were not, in fact, turned into serpents. Instead of this, he treated the affair as a reality, the superiority of his procedure being shown by his rod swallowing up their rods. The force of this conclusion evidently lay in the serpent into which Aaron's rod had been turned swallowing up the serpents into which the magicians' rods had been turned ; if the case had been that Aaron's rod-serpent had merely caused the disappearance of several deceptive shadows, or unchanged rods, a very different account ought, in fair truth, to have been given of the matter.
It is, further, strongly inconsistent with the idea that the turning of their rods into serpents by the magicians was a mere artifice, that God should have chosen this as one—the first and most prominent-of the really miraculous proofs by which Moses was to demonstrate to Pharaoh his divine mission. When Pharaoh shall say unto you, Show à miracle for you, then thou shalt say unto Aaron, Take thy rod and cast it before Pharaoh, and it shall become a serpent.' Why this, if it could be so perfectly simulated by enchantments as to be wholly inconclusive ? The magicians, indeed, could also turn their rods into serpents; but then, the superiority of Aaron's act could be shown by the swallowing up of their rods in his.
Following the course of the narrative, we find, that when Aaron had turned the water of the river into blood, the magicians of Egypt did so with their enchantments' (Exod. vii. 22); and, also, that when Aaron had covered the land with frogs, the magicians did so with their enchantments, and brought up frogs upon the land of Egypt' (chap. viii. 7). In both these cases the assertion is repeated, that they * did so;' and in the latter case, the superiority of Moses was shown by his causing the withdrawment of the frogs, which the magicians could not do. In the fourth plague the magicians were quite at fault. When Aaron .smote the dust of the earth, and it became lice, we are informed that the magicians did so with their enchantments to bring forth lice, but they could not;' on which they said unto Pharaoh, This is the finger of God' (chap. viii. 18, 19). What we are here told, is, not that the magicians endeavoured to produce lice by their enchantments, but that, employing their usual enchantments, they smote the dust of the earth,' as Aaron had done, for this purpose. On failing in this attempt, their acknowledgment—this is the finger of God'-is certainly remarkable. But what is its real import? There are two possible interpretations of it, between which we must make our choice. Either, on the one hand, we may take it as meaning, that the magicians were now, for the first time, convinced, that there was an interposition of divine power, they being conscious that they had been acting the part of jugglers throughout, and having believed until now that Moses and Aaron were equally jugglers with themselves; or, on the other hand, we may take it as meaning, that they, having been conscious that a certain measure of supernatural power had been employed by them, were now convinced, that it had found its limit, and that the finger of God' restrained them from any further competition with Moses and Aaron, or resistance to the object of their mission. In the way of the first of these interpretations, we must be frank enough to say, the earlier part of the narrative places, in our judgment, insuperable objections.
We ought, perhaps, to notice here, the hypothesis held by some writers, that the magicians wrought their wonders by dæmoniacal aid. This idea is set forth by Dr. Adam Clarke, in his commentary on Exodus vii. 10, in the following terms :
• There can be no doubt that real serpents were produced by the magicians. On this subject there are two opinions-Ist, that the serpents were such as they,