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either by juggling or sleight-of-hand, had brought to the place, and secreted till the time of exhibition, as our common jugglers do in the public fairs, &c.; 2ndly, That the serpents were brought by the ministry of a familiar spirit, which, by the magic flames of their enchantments, they had evoked for the purpose. Both these opinions admit the serpents to be real, and no illusion of the sight, as some have supposed,
The first opinion appears to me,' continues Dr. Clarke, 'insufficient to account for the phenomena of the case referred to. If the magicians threw down their rods, and they became serpents after they were thrown down, as the text expressly says, juggling, or sleight-of-hand, had nothing further to do in the business, as the rods were then out of their hands. If Aaron's rod swallowed up their rods, their sleight-of-hand was no longer concerned. A man by dexterity of hand may so far impose upon his spectators as to appear to eat a rod; but for rods lying on the ground to become serpents, and one of these to devour all the rest, so that it alone remained, required something more than juggling. How much more rational at once to allow that these magicians had familiar spirits, who could assume all shapes, change the appearances of the subjects on which they operated, or suddenly convey one thing away, and substitute another in its place! Nature has no such power, and art no such influence, as to produce the effects attributed here to the Egyptian magicians.'
We coincide entirely in the last sentence of this extract, and in the whole of its negative argumentation it will be seen that Dr. Clarke coincides with us; but we think the learned commentator has quite lost his way in ascribing the supernatural works of the magicians to • familiar spirits,' which, in a preceding part of his note, he otherwise calls • departed spirits, or assistant dæmons.' We surely know too little of the powers and operation of the beings thus denominated, and what little we seem to know is far too cloudy and obscure, to feel ourselves warranted in ascribing to them any definite actions; while the actions described in the narrative before us evidently rise above the competency of any created being, except by permission of the uncreated. There is, indeed, a striking air of timidity about Dr. Clarke's definition of the powers of familiar spirits. According to him, they can do three things : first, they can assume all shapes; 'secondly, they can change the appearances of the subjects on which they operate ;' and thirdly, they can suddenly convey one thing away, and substitute another in its place.' We submit, however, that this (to use his own words), is. insufficient to account for the phenomena of the case; since neither any one, nor all together, of these operations could effect the transformation of the magicians' rods into serpents, which he admits to be expressly stated in the narrative, and to have been really done. The simplest and most rational hypothesis undoubtedly is, that God, whose power alone is able to produce the effect, permitted the magicians. to employ his power; and we cannot doubt that, but for an anticipated difficulty to which we have already referred, and with which we shall deal more fully presently, this idea would have been generally adopted.
It is not upon this solitary instance, however, that the idea of the occasional employment of supernatural power by men not friends to God, or direct instruments of his dispensations, has to depend. The intimations given us in the evangelical history of the casting out of devils by the Jewish exorcists, supply a second apparent case of it; so
that we should not get rid of the question itself, even if the doings of the Egyptian magicians were wholly thrown overboard. Let us now give to these intimations a brief consideration.
Nothing on this matter is supplied to us in the form of direct statement, but much that is important arises in the way of indirect allusion. Thus, when our Lord was accused by the Pharisees of casting out devils by Beelzebub, the prince of the devils, a portion of his reply consisted of an argumentum ad hominem, in these words :— And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? Therefore, they shall be your judges.' (Matt. xii. 24.) It seems to us clear, that this language, as used by our Lord, implies the fact, that the Jews did cast out devils; since, if the fact was not so, there was evidently no ground, either for the question he put, or for the argument he raised. Had the Jewish exorcisms been a mere pretence, Christ would merely have asked the authors of the imposture by what power they were effected, or have drawn an implied comparison between that power and that by which his own cures were wrought. In that case, it had been quite competent to his malign and sharpsighted hearers at once to reply :-Oh, we know that our exorcisms are a juggle, and now you admit yours to be so too.' There seems necessarily to lie at the basis of our Lord's question, the twofold fact, that the Jews did cast out devils, and that they believed they did it by divine power; a belief which the use Christ made of it strongly confirms.
The view we have thus given, is strengthened by the occurrence of another case, in which the Pharisees do not appear. It is thus narrated by one of the evangelists :
* And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us; and we forbade him, because he followeth not us. But Jesus said, Forbid him not : for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is on our part.'--Mark ix. 38–40.
Absolutely necessary to any tolerable understanding of this passage, is the supposition that the man whom John and his brethren had encountered had not merely attempted to cast out devils, but had really done it, and wrought a miracle. In the first place, it is not likely that the disciples would, in such a matter, have suffered themselves to be deceived, or that they would have wished to associate with themselves one whom they could have any reason for suspecting to be a mere impostor. In the second place, if the disciples had been herein deceived, it might surely have been expected that their Lord and Master would have relieved them from their delusion, a process than which, in the circumstances, nothing can be conceived more natural or more obligatory. In the third place, Christ's argument for letting him alone obviously proceeds on the admission that the man was working miracles. If, on the contrary, he had assumed Christ's name for the purpose of carrying on an imposture, as the seven sons of Sceva did afterwards, nothing could have been more likely than that he might
do great mischief, or more necessary than that Christ should arrest his course.
The same thing thus appears under the New Testament as under the Old; and unless both cases could be got rid of by a satisfactory interpretation, no relief is obtained for the general question involved in them. A general observation may be made, however, concerning the language in which the sacred writers are accustomed to speak of a pretended or simulated use of supernatural powers. The memory of our readers will readily recall the severe denunciations of the Old Testament; and for the New, it may be sufficient to cite the description given of Simon Magus in the eighth chapter of the Acts, as a certain man who used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one : to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God.' Had the doings of the Egyptian magicians or the Jewish exorcists been of the same class, would they not have been spoken of in similar terms ?
It seems by no means capable of proof, however, that there was not an element of genuine miracle combined even with the indubitable and numerous frauds which constituted the staple of Simon's wonders in Samaria (Acts viii.); those wonders by which he is in our version infelicitously said to have · bewitched-or rather, to have confounded -the people, and to have induced them to say, “This man is the great power of God.'
A similar observation may be made respecting the case of Elymas (Acts xiii.) He is called, indeed, “ a false prophet;' but this may, perhaps, be as naturally explained of his inculcating falsehood, as of his prophesying falsely: and it is remarkable that the indignation of Paul is aroused against him, not for the practice of imposture, but for seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith.'
It may be added, that, in their anticipations of the last days, the prophetic writers of the New Testament expressly include the manifestation of supernatural power. So the apostle speaks of that wicked one, whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all power, and signs, and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish' (2 Thess. ii. 9). So John• Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God; for many false prophets are gone out into the world' (1 John iv. 1). The same writer, in the Apocalypse, makes repeated mention of miracles. “And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire to come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, and deceiveth them that dwell on the earth, by means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast' (Rev. xiii. 13, 14). • They are the spirits of devils working miracles, which go forth to the kings of the earth, and to the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty' (Rev. xvi. 14). · And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image' (Rev. xix. 20). Without contending, or even supposing, that the whole of this mass of pernicious wonder-working was really supernatural, it is enough for our purpose to say that it would not seem very natural or just that the truly miraculous element should be completely excluded from it.
To these remarks may be added, in conclusion, an argument of a different kind, but, we think, of considerable weight. We refer to the circumstance that, in the evangelical narratives, the inference to the divine mission of Christ is drawn, not so much from the mere fact of his working miracles, as from the kind of miracles he wrought. Thus Nicodemus addressed to him this acknowledgment, · Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God; for no man can do these miracles which thou doest except God be with him’ (John iii. 2). This language showed that Nicodemus would not have been ready to acknowledge the pretensions of any one who had simply performed a miracle, but that before such miracles as had been wrought by Christ his incredulity entirely disappeared.
It is undoubtedly true that supernatural power is a treasure which lies wholly in the hand of God, and that no one can be conceived to employ it in any degree but by his permission; a permission which, one would think, must never be given but for good ends. Yet facts are stubborn things; and since there do appear in fact to be two series of miraculous operations, the one directed to good, and the other permitted for apparently evil purposes, it becomes a necessary and a very important question, whether there is any principle, or recognised mode of the divine government, into which such a state of things can be resolved.
Our readers-our thoughtful and considerate readers—will perhaps recollect, that, by our preceding remarks, we have done nothing more than identify miracles with prophecy, in relation to which there was found to exist a similar dispensation. And both miracles and prophecy are expressly comprehended in the passages of scripture which at once explains the principle, and provides for the practical treatment of it. Let us be permitted to quote the words again
* And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the Lord hath not spoken? When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.'— Deut. xviii. 21, 22.
• If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul.' Deut. xiii. 1-3.
The case is here precisely before us. First of all, both prophecy and miracle are to be subjected to what we have called a physical test, namely, an investigation of their reality; and having stood this well, they are then to be subjected to a moral test, or an examination of their practical tendency. Briefly thus: A sign or a wonder may be given you, and it may be verified as genuine ; but if the worker of it
say, Let us go after other gods, you shall pay no attention to him. Why? Does not his having wrought a miracle prove that God has sent him with authority to teach his will? No, not absolutely: his agreement with known and unchangeable truth is a necessary connected evidence of his mission. But why, then, does God, who surely ought to declare to me his will in an intelligible manner, permit me to be so perplexed? The answer is a weighty and solemn one. Lord
your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul.'
It has been supposed, that the passages now before us had reference only to the case of pretenders and impostors, and not to persons who could really foretel events or work miracles. The
method—and a sufficient one-of detecting imposture, however, was the investigation of the facts, or the application of the physical test; while the declared probationary character of this dispensation of collateral supernatural agency seems to be necessarily demonstrative of its reality, inasmuch as a divine system of probation could not otherwise be established. That a knave might assume the language of a prophet, or try to pass off for a miracle a clever trick, is very possible, but this is only a case in which man is putting to the test the sagacity of his fellow. It cannot be said of this case, · The Lord your
God proveth you,' the Lord having nothing to do with it. To the occurrence of such a case, it seems necessary that God should so far lend himself, as to allow, even to the evil doer, a certain measure of supernatural power. Then—and not till then—the trial is made, whether a party who has God's revealed word will abide by it, in the face of a proved and admitted miracle wrought to seduce him from it.
That God should permit a trial of this sort to occur to mankind is certainly remarkable, and it does a distinguished honour to truth. Yet, not more than is its due. Truth once known is of supreme and irrefragable obligation. Miracles may be mighty, but truth before miracles, and above them, since it is possible that miracles may be adduced in support of falsehood. It
may be observed here, that, in all circumstances in which supernatural agency can be supposed, the moral test will be found capable of application. Not only to the Jews after they were in possession of the revelation which came by Moses was it applicable, but antecedently. It might have been applied even to the mission of Moses himself, and to the miracles by which he sought to make good his credentials. Nothing can be more natural or more just than to imagine the Hebrews replying to him in such terms as these :—You assure us that the God of our fathers has sent you, and we cannot impugn the wonders you have wrought in support of your declaration ; but now, what is your message?
And let us, for the sake of argument, suppose that his answer had been this :— The Lord God of your fathers hath appeared unto me; and thus saith the Lord, Mingle ye yourselves with the seed of the Egyptians, and abide ye for ever in the land of Egypt.' What would have been—what ought to have been-the result? The people ought to have risen as one man, and stoned him.