Imágenes de páginas
[ocr errors]

fulfilling. Sometimes the work itself might be a manifest miracle of power, as in the coming of the supernatural manna, or in the death of the first-born. At other times the event might not in itself be manifestly extraordinary so as to be miraculous. The quails, for instance, might, in the order of second causes, have been a “windfall.' And pious men, believing in ordinary providence, might in the windfall see a "god-send” (hermeion). But, just because it was naturally a "windfall," contingent event, incalculable to reason, therefore the prediction of it was a miracle, a wonder of wisdom ; since in the circumstances it could not be merely a fortunate guess—one could guess what a Pharaoh might do; butquails ?

The impossibility of fortunate guessing in this case was shown especially by the number of the predictions, and their connexion with the whole work of Moses and Aaron on behalf of Jehovah's people. Such things as the plagues of frogs, and flies, and locusts, and hail, and darkness, might individually have happened in the course of nature. The plagues were mainly on the lines of nature, though they apparently went further on these lines than nature goes. But there were always circumstances that showed the presence here of something extraordinary. And a leading circumstance was the prediction (frequently). There was not only the prediction of this or that plague, like the cannon's flash before the impact of the ball. That was only an occasional outflashing of a whole declaration (cp. 2 Pe. i. 16, “declare"), which all was one great prediction, of Israel's deliverance and Egypt's overthrow : like the artillery advancing to clear the way on an army's front of battle. No weather wisdom, nor skill in natural magic, could have forecast even one of the things, happening as they did, in manner so unwonted, and just " in the nick of time." But the prediction of so many things, one after another, all combining to the one predicted result, is overwhelming as a demonstration, that the mind which here is uttered is the mind of the one true living God, whom the winds and waves obey, who filleth all in all, and worketh all in all. Prophecy thus God visibly in history.

2. In Exodus (iv.), where prophecy is being sent out into the world for the first time in our sight, there is set before us a pictorial definition of the making of a prophet. That is to say, with reference to the utterance on the part of man. It is about the utterance that Moses in Sinai has a difficulty. It is about the utterance that he obtains assurance from God in this picture of the making of a prophet. That concerns us, because we are “built on the foundation" of the prophets as well as of the Apostles, while Jesus Christ Himself is the chief corner-stone (Eph. ii. 20). We need to know (cp. I Co. xi. 23 and Jn. XV. 26, 27), not only that they have received a revelation or communication from God, but as to the utterance that they are delivering to us what they have received of the Lord. And in the picture of the making of a prophet, we perceive, that (2 Pe. i. 19) the “prophetic word” is “ sure.” For what we see in the picture is, that the word, which comes to us in the prophet's mouth, is the word of God.

It is a deep question, how God can employ a man, so as to convey to us through the man a word which is God's. The history shows us some ways which we can understand. Some, for example, have an objection to dictation on God's part to a prophet. So had Balaam. But he had to speak what God chose to say through him. There may be cases in which there is no dictation. For instance, the case of the ten commandments, which were uttered with God's own voice to the people, and written with His own finger for a perpetual testimony-where Moses was not the author, but only the secretary or reporter. Again, the whole work of the Tabernacle, in the original specification by God (Ex. xxv. 9; He. viii. 5), was not dictation in the sense now intended ; it was only the dictation of an architect whose words of specification are written down by a clerk. And again, the whole completed Tabernacle, as also that whole constitution of which it was a part, was a silent teaching, a visible word of God, reaching Israel ; and in the production of which there was only the dictation which is folded in the nature of a plan of works, and which, perhaps without their thinking of the plan as a whole, exercises through all details a commanding influence upon every stroke of the work of every one of the operatives. Moses, again, was here not the designer but only copying clerk. Further, there may have been a good deal of dictation in the ordinary sense of the term, about which there is no difficulty. The ordinances, for example, for observance of the Passover, were spoken to Moses by God; as also were messages to Pharaoh. And there is no difficulty in understanding that to some extent Moses, like other messengers, simply repeated the words which he had received from his King. If we try to understand how God spoke to Moses, then we find, not only difficulty, but impossibility. We simply do not know, and cannot comprehend, how God spoke to Moses. But that is not the present question. That He did speak to Moses somehow is made known to us as a fact of the history. And, having learned as a fact, that God spoke certain words to Moses, we can have no difficulty whatever, except of our own making, in understanding that Moses delivered to men the words which he had received from the Lord.

But we know that Moses did not in all cases merely repeat the messages that had thus been prescribed to him. For instance, in the edition of the Ten Commandments which he gives in Deuteronomy (v.), he has variations from the edition of them which we find in Exodus (xx.). Again, the Collection of Civil Laws, which we find (Ex. xxi. -xxiii.) in his Book of the Covenant, has every appearance of having been a collection that was made by himself, of previously existing precepts and prescriptions, which may have all grown into use among the Israelites through generations, or may have partly been found by him in Midian or in Egypt. And all through his career, while we see a good deal of simple repetition of what God has spoken to him, we also see a course of administration, a mediatorial activity, in which he is not merely repeating, as a young child messenger repeats father's or mother's own very words. He proceeds as-an Eliezer of Damascus—a full-grown man, a faithful trusted servant over Jehovah's House (He. iii. 6), exercising the best of his own judgment and ability, speaking his own words for expression of his own thoughts. We may take as a sample the noble Song of Salvation (Ex, xv.).

It is here that we are face to face with the question that is most vitally and profoundly of importance to ourselves. Both the Apostles and the prophets on whose foundation we are built exhibit in their utterances that same personal freedom which we have seen in Moses. If at any time they be in a condition of ecstasy, so as not to have personal command of their utterance, then (2 Co. xii. 1-4; where observe unspeakable" means-not to be communicated) they make no communication to us. In their ordinary office (1 Co. xiv. 32), they have command of themselves ; and they are never made to speak to men on God's behalf excepting in the free use of their own faculties ;-not, as the demoniac victims of an unclean spirit, nor as the passive organs of an oracular heathen demon. That we see in the history of their oral teachings ; and we find it in our study of their Scriptures. What, then, are we to expect, what do we receive, in their utterance, thus human ?- The word of God.

How that comes about, we are not informed. Learned men have much speculation about the matter, showing how they would have brought the thing about. But the question is, how it was brought about in reality, in historical fact, when "holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost ;" so that “no prophecy of the Scripture is of private interpretation ;” and we are not dependent on “cunningly devised fables,” but “have a more sure thing, the prophetic word, to which we shall do well to give heed, as unto a light shining in a dark place !" And to the question, how, by what process, that has been brought about, we have no means of giving a really solid answer. Just as we do not know, and cannot understand, by what process God can speak to a prophet or apostle, so we do not know, and cannot understand, by what process He can speak to us through a prophet or apostle.

What we do know is the fact: As Paul says, that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Ti. ii. 16), and (1 Co. ii. 13), that he and the like of him

speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth.” So in the exodus pictorial definition, the delineation of the constitutive essence of a prophet (Ex. iv. 13-17). What we see, as the essential fact, is that the word is God's. Moses is to Aaron as a God. Consequently, Moses shall put words into Aaron's mouth. Aaron is to be spokesman. But the essential thing is, that the word shall be the word of Moses. Now (Ex. vii. 1) in that picture, Aaron was a prophet—unto Moses; and when he goes to Pharaoh, Moses shall be as God to Pharaoh ; Pharaoh receiving His word from the mouth of Aaron. The meaning of which is, that God is to put His words into the mouth (iv. 15, cp. ver. 12) of His prophet. It is impossible to say in a stronger manner, that the prophetic word is God's. But that is what is said about the very greatest of prophets :-Jeremiah, e.g. (i. 9), and Isaiah as a greater (li. 16). It is said about the supremely great prophet, who is God, if not by Isaiah in that place, yet by Moses himself as with dying breath (De. xviii. 15-18). Christ Himself so speaks in substance: not only (Jn. vii. 16) “my doctrine is not mine, but His that sent me,” but “the words that I speak unto you I speak not from myself, but the Father dwelling in me doeth the works” (Jn. xiv. 10, Revised Version). keep our eye upon the strong form of expression, putting words into a man's mouth. And we observe in connection with it these three things. I. It is in all the places employed to describe the essential thing in prophecy, the word of God. 2. In all the places, the prophets who are spoken of are the very greatest-Moses, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Christ. And 3. In all the places, the speaker is Jehovah. It is not Moses, nor Jeremiah, nor Isaiah, that so describes the making of a prophet, God putting words into a man's mouth. It, in every one of the places of Scripture,

[ocr errors]

But we

is God Himself, the Maker of all prophets and all prophecy. He says, that He makes the prophet so, that the prophetic word is God's.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

NOTE (2).-Miracle.—The Hebrew word (ộth) which is employed for description of works of this character both (Ex. iv. 8) when God promises them to Moses in the wilderness, and (viii. 23) when Moses threatens Phara with them in Egypt, is a common word for “sign,” which (e.g. Ge, i. 14) does not necessarily mean anything extraordinary; as the sun and moon are “signs," marking day and night, though it be in ordinary course of providence. Christ, too, spoke of His own miracles simply as “works," His “works," the works which His Father had given Him to do.” This manner of speaking brought into view the moral character of the miraculous working, freely undertaken and performed, as part of that whole “work” (Jn. xvii. 4) which the worker had accepted as a task. And on the part of Christ it may indicate the effortless ease of Omnipotence doing such things (Jn. xiv. 10) in the Son of Man; as contrasted, e.g., with the toil which miracle-working may have involved for an Apostle (cp. 2 Co. xii. 12,—where "patience"-endurancemay be that of a soldier toiling in battle or campaign). But as Moses spoke in warning to Pharaoh of “ signs," so Christ, when He specially characterized His “ works,” ordinarily spoke of them as "signs." And He intimated (Jn. xv. 20), that the significance, the evidential quality, of these “works” of His, was what especially left unbelievers without excuse.

The two other New Testament names for such works are "mighty works” and “wonders.” The word which our Version renders “wonder" (těras) means, "a terrific thing." It represents a salutary feeling of awe, conducive to belief (so in the Gospel history, we find that “fear” came upon the people when the miracles were performed). But Christ never applies it to His own works ; He employs it only twice ;—for description (Mat. xxiv. 24) of the wonder-works of false prophets and false Christs; and (Jn. iv. 48) reproachfully, with reference to the hard carnality which has to be “blasted” with terrorism of the supernatural. Even the description, "mighty works,” He applies to His own miracles only (Mat. xi. 20-23), again in reproach, of the cities " which repented not

at the view of such wonders. In Exodus, on the other hand, Jehovah employs two words (in our Version, “wonders ") which have in them the meaning of, terrific things” (niph lộth in iii. 20, and see especially xxxi. 10; mophtim in vii. 3 and xi. 9). So (Ex. xxxiv. 10) with reference to the heathenism of Canaan, God gives prominence to the terribleness of the unprecedented wonders (niph' lóth) He is to work there. Which is suggestive of a caution in our fixing upon testing “marks" of miracle (cp. Act. i. 4)-principia cognoscendi. Thus, some have made it a testing mark of true miracle, that it shall be beneficent in its immediate physical results.

That would exclude the Mosaic works from the position of true miracles. For in the plain relevant sense of the term, they were the opposite of beneficent in their immediate physical results ; conforming to the type of the flood, and of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrha. On the other hand, it would include miracle of Beelzebub, in casting out devils ; which unquestionably is a physically beneficent work. The works of Jesus Himself (cp. Act. x. 38) were uniformly

[ocr errors]

beneficent (cursing the fig-tree does not count, any more than cutting it down for firewood). That was in keeping with the specific character of His personal ministry (Jn. i. 17), as compared with that of Moses. The works of Moses were terrific in severity, correspondingly to the general character of his mission. But to make them on this account to be not of the one true living God, would be to disregard the teaching of Christ. What He (Mat. xii. 22–30) represented as the test of true miracle or false is, the effect of the work relatively to the kingdoms of Satan and of God. An evil spirit may work a beneficent miracle for an evil end; —as a bribe or lure, to lead men into Satan's kingdom, or keep them there. Thus the "signs and wonders” of the future false prophets and false Christs, which are to deceive all but the elect, whom it is impossible to deceive, are not likely to be mischievous on the face of them.

The regulative idea (of the “ kingdom ") proposed by Christ, for judging whether a miracle is true or false, is that of truth and righteousness, as opposed to falsehood and wrong. The test may not always be easy to apply ; as also is the case with other tests, of other things. But in truth it is the only test that can be relied upon. And practically it is not difficult to apply it in relation to the case as it really stands.

Of the miracles of Bible history it can be said with truth, that those which were performed on behalf of the Bible religion had for the manifest scope of them, for their obviously intended effect, to establish the reign of truth and righteousness, and to destroy the tyranny of falsehood and wrong. And this is not less obviously true in relation to the Egyptian miracles of Moses than in relation to the Palestinian miracles of Jesus. The miracles of Jesus Himself are not truly seen when they are regarded only as the outflowings of benevolence. They are truly seen only as His “works,” going to completion of His “work,"—as part of that whole ministry which was a campaign for the redemptionthe deliverance of enslaved men from a tyranny of evil (He. ii. 14, 15). That precisely was the destination of the Egyptian campaign. It is impossible for us to know what highest good may have resulted to individual Egyptians from that visitation of the real God—the living God. The terrible works of Moses may have been the greatest blessing ever sent to the Egyptians before the coming of Christ. We do know that for mankind the results of it have been incalculably vast in beneficence, even relatively to this world ; while it has led on to the eternal salvation of countless myriads of men (Re. vii.).

In Egypt (from which remotely are “Gypsies") there were multitudinous assertions of supernaturalism in speech and action. Prophecy and miracle were alleged on behalf of the Egyptian gods. And there was necromancy and magic, which to a large extent may have been, like our present-day Spiritualism, a supernaturalism without God, which perhaps is the most fatal of all the aberrations of human reason — wrecking the very mind. And what Moses did was, not to question the reality of these things, but to prove their falsehood. Though they should be real, their falsehood was proved by the demonstrated truth of the religion and the God of Israel. That method relieves us of the necessity of ascertaining, whether there can be supernatural work that is not done by God on behalf of the truth. How do we know? How can we know? Spirits in the body

« AnteriorContinuar »