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§ 90. Miracles deemed an essential Sign of Messiahship.

It is evident from many passages in the Gospel narrative that miracles were essentially necessary, as signs of the Messianic calling. Had Christ, therefore, wrought no miracles, his contemporaries could 133not have believed in his Messiahship; nor could he himself have been thoroughly and permanently convinced of it, had he not both been conscious of power to perform them, and put that power into exercise. John the Baptist was satisfied, from his own inability to achieve such works, that he was not endowed with the Messianic fulness of the Spirit; and it is obvious, from his receiving Christ’s miracles as a proof of his Messiahship, that he expected such signs of the indwelling fulness of Divine power in the true Messiah.

Nor can it be proved (as some suppose) that it was common among the Jews to spread rumours of miracles wrought by men whose deeds had made them objects of popular veneration, as was subsequently the case in the Middle Ages, where we find miraculous powers ascribed to such men even during their lifetime. There is a great difference in the relations of the two periods. The Middle Age was the period of a new creation, developed from the new principle of life which Christianity (even alloyed as it was with Jewish elements) introduced among the uncultivated nations. It was a period of youthful freshness, enthusiasm, and poetry. The men of that time, through their lively faith in the Divine power of Christianity, as ever present and ever active, kept their connexion with the miracles that attended its first appearance unbroken, and figured and imitated them by their youthful and inventive power of imagination.201201   The miraculous tales of the excited Middle Age may be explained from the co-working of various influences, but this is not the place to enter into the subject. But while such was the relation between the Middle Age and the period of Christ’s appearance, there was no similar relation between the latter and the Old Testament age. Christ did not manifest himself at a period of new creation through influences previously wrought into the life of the people by Judaism, but at a time when Judaism itself was decaying and dying; the revelations and mighty works of Divine power lay buried in a far-distant antiquity; and there was a vast chasm, visible to all eyes, between the lofty, holy age of Prophecy, and that weak and lifeless time. After the voice of prophecy was hushed, God was said to reveal himself only by occasional utterances; such, for instance, as the Bath Col,202202   The Bath Col may be explained on the ground that a heavenly voice was supposed to be heard in a period of devotion, or that words accidentally spoken by one person had a peculiar subjective meaning for another, like the tolle lege of Augustine. a miraculous sound from heaven; or by words of men, interpreted as omens. Scarcely any tales of wonder were told but such as referred to the Exorcists,203203   Joseph., Archaeol., viii., 2, 4. who were skilled in the deceptive arts of jugglery, and were said to do many marvellous things. In short, it is sufficiently proved that miracles were deemed no ordinary occurrences among the Jews,204204   Josephus says, with reference to miracles, “τὰ παράλογα καὶ μείζω τῆς ἐλπίδος τοῖς ὁμοίοις πιστοῦται πράγμασιν.”—Archaeol., x., 2, 1. 134by the fact that they were expected to be distinctive signs of the Messiah, and that they were not ascribed even to John the Baptist, notwithstanding his great deeds and the honour in which he was held as a prophet.


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