Jesus Christ – Who was he?

Jesus ChristHere are some different views about who Jesus Christ was. Which one(s) do you think are correct?

1. Jesus Christ was only a mythical figure

Although part of the Bible story, virtually all modern scholars studying antiquity say that Jesus did exist historically. Most of them agree that Jesus was a Galilean, Jewish rabbi who preached his message orally, and was crucified by the order of the Roman Prefect Pontius Pilate.

2. Jesus Christ was founder of a world religious tradition

Most people think of him as an eminent religious leader pointing to the importance of spiritual rather than material things.

For example in relation to what Buddhism calls attachment, and what the Jewish tradition refers to as coveting, Jesus said:

“For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world but lose his soul?”

This is similar to the teachings of the leaders of other religions:

“You use all your vital energy on external things and wear out your spirit” (Chuang Tzu, a Taoist sage)

“It is difficult for a person laden with riches to climb the steep path that leads to bliss.” (The Prophet Muhammad, founder of Islam)

Actually, Jesus Christ was a founder of a restoration movement within Judaism. Only after his death, did the community his followers formed eventually became the Christian church.

3. Jesus Christ was a very good man

He has been seen as a religious ascetic holy man and thus a symbol of perfect goodness and virtue. A role model we can aspire to copy. In washing the feet of others he revealed his humility, he showed care for the sick, and he asked for the forgiveness of those who were crucifying him.

“Jesus Christ. I mean, not only was He the greatest human being to ever walk the earth, He’s everything that I want to strive for. He’s everything that anyone should ever want to strive for.” (Sam Bradford, American football player)

4. Jesus Christ was a great moral teacher

The sayings attributed to Jesus, e.g. those known as Sermon on the Mount, are to do with forgiveness and compassion. They have been seen to have a healing quality directed not merely to some particular disease or misfortune but to the vital core of the individual, focusing as they on love and humility rather than demand and penalty.

“We should live our lives as though Christ was coming this afternoon.” (Jimmy Carter, ex-President USA)

5. Jesus Christ was God’s messenger and prophet

This is the idea that Jesus was Divinely inspired, differing from the wisdom of other men, not in kind, but only in degree. For example Muslims considered Jesus to be one of God’s important prophets chosen to spread God’s message.

If he indeed was a prophet some of his parables of judgment make uncomfortable reading about our destiny. The wheat was to be stored but the weeds were to be burned, the foolish virgins were to be excluded from the wedding banquet, the worthless servant who buried his talent was to be thrown outside into the darkness.

“Those who meet Jesus always experience either joy or its opposites, either foretastes of Heaven or foretastes of Hell. Not everyone who meets Jesus is pleased, and not everyone is happy, but everyone is shocked.” (Peter Kreeft, author of Jesus-Shock)

6. Jesus Christ was a miracle maker

The possibility of supernatural events is accepted by those who believe Jesus, like some other Bible figures such as Elisha and Peter, was able to use what they see as God’s omnipotent power. For example he is said to cause a huge number of fish to be caught, make a storm cease, and turn water into wine at a wedding. Whether seeing these stories as literally true or merely symbolic, Christian authors view them as works of love and mercy, performed to show compassion for sinful and suffering humanity.

7. Jesus Christ was a manifestation of God

Those following the Bahá’i faith see Jesus as serving as one of several manifestations of God reflecting God’s qualities and attributes and possessing simultaneous qualities of humanity and divinity.

Some Hindus consider Jesus to be an appearance or manifestation of the Supreme Being and point out similarities between Krishna and Jesus’ teachings. Some Buddhists, including Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, regard Jesus as a bodhisattva (i.e. a being with enlightenment motivated by great compassion) who dedicated his life to the welfare of people.

8. Jesus Christ is the Son of God

In his time the religious authorities in Judea asked for his death because they didn’t believe in his claim to be the Son of God which they saw as a great blasphemy.

Likewise today Muslims do not believe Jesus was the son of God. Islamic texts emphasise a strict notion of monotheism forbidding the association of partners with God which would be idolatry.

However the cornerstone of the Christian faith has been a belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ. At the same time Christians ask how could a divine Jesus have been an ignorant baby who had to learn slowly by way of experience and instruction, as all children do? How could Jesus have prayed to his Father as if to another?

Today mainstream Christians respond by believing that Jesus was the Son of God. They point out that this was his own claim about himself. They think of him as a separate person of the divine trinity alongside God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. Their idea of atonement by the sacrifice of the cross would be impossible apart from the concept of the Son as a person distinct from the Father.

9. Jesus Christ is God himself

This is the view that, although as to his body Jesus Christ was a person like other people, nevertheless his inner character was infinite and divine. According to this view, he was the one God himself, in human form, who came at a point in history as the infant child of Mary to grow and learn on earth, experience the natural side of life, overcome its allurements, and thus cause all evil influences in the world to be curtailed.

In other words he wasn’t the Son of God in the sense of a separate Divine person. He saw himself in this way because unless he felt apart from his own self as God, he couldn’t have experienced temptation. And so he wasn’t conscious of his full identity even when praying in the Garden of Gethsemane before his arrest and trial, and when dying in agony nailed to the cross when he cried out to ask why God had forsaken him. For a fuller explanation

Copyright 2015 Stephen Russell-Lacy

Author Heart, Head & Hands

16th September 2015CategoriesLatest post, Meaning of life, ReligionTags, , , , , ,  Leave a comment

Miraculous cure – Is this possible?

miraculousA 74-year-old woman’s lower right leg was covered in waxy lumps, eruptions of angry red and livid purple. Tests confirmed the worst suspicions: it was carcinoma, a form of skin cancer. Despite receiving no treatment over a period of a few months the tumours miraculously disappeared. There was nothing in the biopsies, or the scans. The patient believed it was the hand of God; she had kissed a religious relic just before what she saw as miraculous healing set in. However, medics call this a rare case of spontaneous remission although they cannot account for it scientifically.

Like the patient, believers in faith healing assert that the miraculous curing of disease and disability can be brought about through prayer and/or other religious rituals that, they say stimulate a divine presence and power. The term miracle means an event that is contrary to natural law. There have been claims that faith can cure blindness, deafness, cancer, AIDS, and many other disorders and injuries.

Attitude of religious people to miraculous healing

Miraculous healing was said to happen in biblical times like Christ’s healing of the blind, deaf, lame and other diseased people. If it really happened then, why not also now?

One might wonder about the many millions of Catholics who have made their pilgrimage to Lourdes over the years where the waters are alleged to have miraculous healing powers. Some amazing recoveries have been claimed as miraculous cures but little is said about the vast majority who make no dramatic improvement.

When most don’t get miraculous healing does this make them doubt their religion? Or do they assume they are not good enough for God to want to heal them?

The lack of cure didn’t put off the 72 percent of Americans in 2004 who said, according to a Newsweek poll, they believed that praying to God can cure someone, even if science says the person doesn’t stand a chance.

Can this be true or is it just wishful thinking? Is this attitude just a historical remnant of a pre-scientific age when the Christian church depended on the belief in miracles and superstition? Aren’t people today in secular society more likely to be more rational about such things?

Miraculous events in biblical times

According to Emanuel Swedenborg, spiritual philosopher, in biblical times, there was less capability than now of perceiving the deeper side of life without myths to engage and illuminate the mind. These narratives were usually believed as literally true and people were more naturally-minded. Many needed to believe in miraculous events as a way of thinking about a higher power.

The followers of Christ believed in their leader’s bodily resurrection only because they said that he came to eat with them after his death. According to the Gospel account, one of them, Thomas, was not even convinced until he was allowed to personally examine the wounds in Christ’s hands and side that had been inflicted during the crucifixion.

If miracles were to take place today, such events would soon dominate the mass media and be regularly seen on television news, and nearly everyone would be compelled to believe in supernatural power even against their inclinations. Swedenborg argues that such compulsion would take away our freedom to think clearly about the pros and cons of a spiritual orientation to life.

Belief compelled by miraculous events

I would suggest that in the 21st century we live in new times when we are able to explore rational ideas and have the freedom to hold reasonable doubts. Swedenborg’s point is that it is only in this free way can we really sense and willingly take on board the idea of a higher degree of reality that transcends the material world. Belief freely adopted endures in the heart. It lasts because it is not based on what is sensational, or what others say but comes from an inner acceptance and commitment to a different way of life.

This freedom is said to be vitally important. It allows us to adopt what beliefs we choose and within social boundaries conduct our private lives as we please. It permits us to observe what we get up to and form our own assessment of our conduct as we wish either from the perspective of the world or from our idea of higher values. It allows us to take responsibility for what we do and feel remorse and try to reform only if we so choose.

This is the freedom of thought we have when looking up at the night sky to stand in awe at its vast majesty. To feel wonder at the spell of the sea with its fathomless depths. To marvel about the dreams that fill every period of sleep and what might be their personal meaning. For some people the very breath they take each day of their life is amazing and life itself is a miracle. They don’t need it proved to them by supernatural events that defy any rational explanation.

Seeing the miraculous in the ordinary

The body heals itself. When a virus invades it, the body sets up a process to repel the invader and, after illness, recovery sets in. Medicine and other therapies help this process that according to religious people originates from a God of healing love and wisdom. They say if you put your faith in this miraculous Source it opens your mind to an inner world that goes beyond time and place taking you to quite a different level. This is a kind of faith healing although not what is usually meant by the term.

Your spiritual beliefs may affect your chances of recovery from disease not through a miraculous cure but rather by connecting you with what you perceive as the loving essence of life, encouraging your moderate healthy life style and providing social support and thus emotional help that can only improve your mental state and immune system. Is it this spiritual inflow rather than a supernatural event that can nurture your healing?

“Miracles occur naturally as expressions of love. The real miracle is the love that inspires them. In this sense everything that comes from love is a miracle.” (Marianne Williamson spiritual writer)

Copyright 2016 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author Heart, Head & Hands

Posted on28th February 2016CategoriesLatest post, Other aspects of spiritual healing,Spiritual healingTags, ,

The Sign of the Prophet Jonah

The Sign of the Prophet Jonah

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

(Olivet Church, Toronto – April 29, 2007)

revcooper.ca

A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. (MAT 16:4)

The scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees were often found nearby when the Lord was preaching to the crowds that followed Him everywhere He went during the last stages of His ministry. Each of these three groups of Jewish leaders had something to fear from the Lord, because His teaching threatened the established order, the order from which they themselves benefited and derived their power. Skeptics and scoffers, they tried to discredit Jesus, to turn the crowd’s adoration and attention into laughter and scorn; and so, as the Lord taught, they would call out to Him, asking for a sign, a testimony, some miracle that would prove that the things He taught about would actually come to pass. They were demanding proof of Him, and as they were sensual, natural men, they would not believe unless there was some sign that they could hold onto with their own hands, see with their own eyes. If they could not feel it with their own senses, as far as they were concerned, it did not exist. They demanded a miracle because they believed He could not give them one. In their hearts, they wanted Him to fail.

The Lord performed many miracles while He was in the world, as we all well know. He performed miracles of feeding by changing the water into wine, and feeding the 4,000 and 5,000 from a few loaves and fishes. He performed miracles of healing natural illnesses, and of spiritual illnesses. He even raised the dead. Ultimately, His greatest miracle was the Redemption of mankind by raising Himself from the dead, but we shall speak more of this later.

The Lord used miracles throughout His ministry, and yet we are taught in the Heavenly Doctrines that miracles compel belief, and as compelled belief is not free, so miracles are no longer permitted. We wonder, therefore, why the Lord used miracles at that time, but not now, and what special conditions existed that permitted Him to perform miracles and yet allow all men spiritual freedom.

Perhaps the answer lies in mankind’s incredible ability to ignore anything they see that does not agree with what they already believe, or even what they would like to believe. Remember the story of the Exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt. Here was a group of slaves, who witnessed one of the most incredible series of events that has ever taken place in the natural world: the Ten Plagues upon Egypt. They saw rivers turn to blood, darkness descend upon the land for days on end, and pestilence descend only on the Egyptian lands and flocks but not their own. They witnessed the Passover, where every Egyptian first-born died in one night, and finally they saw Pharaoh’s army drowned as the Red Sea closed over them.

When we read these passages and try to imagine what these things must have been like, we think that surely, if we had seen those things, there would be no question that we would believe in the power of God with all our heart! From that moment on, we would obey His every word! And then we read that within a few days of this experience, the children of Israel were complaining that Jehovah had brought them into the wilderness to kill them, and were dancing around the golden calf.

We have an incredible ability to ignore the obvious. It comes with the gift of freedom of thought in spiritual things. If a person is to be truly free to think about and believe in things from the Word, he must also be free to think about and believe all manner of absurd and false ideas.

The Lord performed miracles in the world knowing this, and the miracles He performed did not in any way remove any one’s freedom, but instead served several important uses. First, they served as a confirmation to those who already believed. A married couple knows rationally that they are in love, but they also enjoy confirming their love with kisses and embraces. Kisses and embraces in themselves cannot cause love to occur where it does not already exist, but if love is there the outward signs and gestures confirm it with them. This in itself is a miracle! But no one has ever been forced to love someone against his will through a simple kiss. A kiss does not cause, or force, love, but confirms and enhances the love that is already there.

In the same way, there was no danger of anyone’s freedom being taken away by the Lord’s miracles. We can imagine a skeptic who’d been to see the Lord reporting to his friends that, “Yes, I saw Jesus heal a blind man, but it must have been a trick. I didn’t know the man. He was probably just pretending to be blind.” On the other hand, we can imagine one who was hungry for the Lord’s teachings saying to his friends that he had heard the Master preach words of the hope of spiritual life, “and when He gave sight to that blind man it was as if He opened my own eyes, for then for the first time I truly saw the truth in what He had been teaching.”

We can imagine that many people in those days maintained a tough, skeptical outer shell, for they were hard times, both naturally and spiritually. Many people longed for the Messiah to come, but there had been other claims that had proved false. Many claimed to be prophets in those troubled times, and few of them gave any satisfaction. The Lord performed the miracles to move these skeptics, to make sure that they heard of His deeds, to make sure that they would be curious enough to come and see just once – for once they heard Him speak, they would be moved by His words and be converted. We can see that the Lord used miracles to gather crowds to Himself, and also to help them to confirm their belief in Him.

But the scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees were a different matter. There was no question that these groups did not have any desire to listen to the Lord. They sought only to discredit Him in any way they could. When they asked Him for a sign, as recorded in both MAT 12 and MAT 16, He responded to them in apparent anger, calling them “adulterers,” and a “wicked generation” (text). He told them that the only sign they would accept would be the sign of the prophet Jonah, and this would be the sign that He would give them.

To this day, when we speak of the prophet Jonah, the first thing that springs to mind is the memory of the story of Jonah and the whale, for this is one of the most memorable stories in all of scripture. It has all the elements of a great story: it begins with a call to a Divine mission; then there is Jonah’s attempt to flee from the Lord; the drama of the storm which would sink the innocent ship unless Jonah confesses his crime and is punished by being thrown overboard; and the great fish which swallows him whole. It is all fantastic and hard to believe, but possible enough that we want to believe it.

Most of us forget the rest of the things that Jonah did after he escaped from the fish because the story is much less interesting by way of comparison. No doubt, when the Lord told His critics that He would give them the sign of the prophet Jonah, they, being students of scripture, immediately thought of Jonah in the belly of the great fish for three days and nights before being spewed up on dry land, and wondered what this had to do with proof of the Lord’s claim to be the Messiah.

When we study this story from our own perspective, knowing that the Lord was crucified, was in the grave, and rose on the third day, we can see the connection immediately. We see that the three days in the great fish is a symbol for the three days in the grave, and that being spewed out safe on dry land to go on to preach and to save Nineveh represents that the Lord’s work of Redemption was now begun in earnest.

But the Scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees did not know what was going to happen. They could only guess at what the Lord meant by this, until such time as all the events had actually unfolded. Once the Lord had in fact risen from the grave, then the Disciples, Scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, and everyone else who was interested in the Lord’s teachings for whatever reason, finally began to understand what it was all about as they remembered what He said, and what He actually did. The message was not only for them, but for the spiritual Scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees – the skeptics – who would read the New Testament in generations to come.

Another important difference between the way we see things today, and the way they were viewed at the time of the Lord pertains to the great fish, or whales. Today, many people see the whale as a gentle and intelligent creature, deserving our protection and care. In ancient times, however, perhaps because boats were smaller and sea travel dangerous, the whale was seen as a dangerous monster. In some passages in the Word “leviathan,” “crooked serpent,” “dragon,” “serpent,” and “whale” are all possible translations of the same word (See AE 714:30). To a certain extent, the way things are perceived by men, and therefore are used in their language has an effect on the things animals represent. Since both whales and dragons are large and fearsome, their names are linked linguistically, and so the gentle whale comes to have the same representation as the dragon. The whale (and the Heavenly Doctrines are quite specific that it was a whale) represents “scientifics which pervert the truths of faith,” (AC 7923:2) and the belly of the whale represents the things which are lowest, or “nearest to the earth.” (AC 247)

These representations tell us something about this state of temptation. Do we ourselves not feel that we are “swallowed up” by our own problems? Haven’t we all said about something that frustrates us that it just “kills” us? Do we not sometimes get so wrapped up in “facts” that we miss the truth of the matter?

This is the sign of the prophet Jonah that the Lord gave to all “wicked and adulterous generations.” When we are in temptation and feel spiritually dead, we can know that the Lord has the power to save us, to lift us up out of our states, because He has gone before – He has given us the hope of salvation by doing it for Himself first! He has show us this most important fact about Himself, He has given us the sign that no other prophet could have given, the sign of the prophet Jonah.

There have been other prophets who could perform miracles. There have been others who could heal the sick, and even some who have raised the dead. But there is only one who has been dead and then raised Himself from the grave. He did this to show us the way, to show us that death can lead to eternal life, to show us that we have nothing to fear, to help us believe with our hearts what we hold in our thoughts, to lead us up out of the depths of the various hells that we create for ourselves into the heavenly kingdom that has been prepared for us. When we are in temptation we should remember Jonah’s prayer: The waters encompassed me, even to my soul; the deep closed around me; weeds were wrapped around my head. I went down to the moorings of the mountains; the earth with its bars closed behind me forever; yet You have brought up my life from the pit, O LORD, my God. (JON 2:5,6) AMEN.

Hear now the Word of the Lord as it is written in …

First Lesson: JON 2:1-10

(Jonah 2) Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the fish’s belly. {2} And he said: “I cried out to the LORD because of my affliction, And He answered me. “Out of the belly of Sheol I cried, And You heard my voice. {3} For You cast me into the deep, Into the heart of the seas, And the floods surrounded me; All Your billows and Your waves passed over me. {4} Then I said, ‘I have been cast out of Your sight; Yet I will look again toward Your holy temple.’ {5} The waters surrounded me, even to my soul; The deep closed around me; Weeds were wrapped around my head. {6} I went down to the moorings of the mountains; The earth with its bars closed behind me forever; Yet You have brought up my life from the pit, O LORD, my God. {7} “When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the LORD; And my prayer went up to You, Into Your holy temple. {8} “Those who regard worthless idols Forsake their own Mercy. {9} But I will sacrifice to You With the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD.” {10} So the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land. Amen.

Second Lesson: MAT 12:38-42, 16:1-4

(Mat 12:38-42) Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” {39} But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. {40} “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. {41} “The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here. {42} “The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here.

(Mat 16:1-4) Then the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and testing Him asked that He would show them a sign from heaven. {2} He answered and said to them, “When it is evening you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red’; {3} “and in the morning, ‘It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times. {4} “A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” And He left them and departed. Amen

Third Lesson: AE 706:6

The Scribes and Pharisees said, Master, we would see a sign from Thee. But He answering, said, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign, but no sign shall be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the belly1 of the earth (Matt. 12:38-40; Luke 11:16, 29, 30).

A “sign” plainly means attestation that they may be persuaded and believe that the Lord was the Messiah and the Son of God who was to come, for the miracles that the Lord wrought in abundance, and that they saw, were no signs to them, because miracles, as has been said above, are signs only with the good. “Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale,” and this was taken for a “sign,” because it signified the burial and resurrection of the Lord, thus the complete glorification of His Human, “three days and three nights” also signifying completeness. Amen.

Here end the lessons. Blessed are they who hear the Word of God and keep it. Amen.


1 The Greek has “heart,” as also found in AC 2798.

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Feeding the 5,000

Sermon: Feeding the 5,000

This is the audio from the sermon I gave yesterday, Sunday, January 30, 2011, at the Olivet New Church in Toronto.  The lessons are Exodus 16:1-5,13-15, 31; Mark 6:31-44; and Arcana Coelestia 5405.  Although if I had to do it again, I think I’d change the Heavenly Doctrine lesson to Divine Providence 133:

The effect, however, of miracles on the good and on the wicked is different. The good do not desire miracles, but they believe those recorded in the Word; and if they hear anything concerning a miracle they give it their attention only as an argument of no great weight that confirms their faith; for their thoughts are derived from the Word, consequently from the Lord, and not from the miracle. It is otherwise with the wicked. They may indeed he driven and compelled to a faith by miracle’, and even to worship and to piety, but only for a short time. For their evils are shut in, and the lusts of their evils and the delights springing from these lusts continually act upon their external of worship and piety; and in order that their evils may emerge from their confinement and break forth, they reflect upon the miracle and at length call it an amusing artifice or a natural phenomenon, and so return to their evils. Now he who after worship returns to his evils profanes the truth and good of worship; and the lot after death of those who commit profanation is the worst of all. These are they who are meant by the Lord’s words in Matt. xii. 43, 44, 45, whose last state is worse than their first. Moreover, if miracles were to be wrought with those who do not believe from the miracles in the Word, they would be performed continually, and in view of all such persons. From these considerations it may be evident why miracles are not wrought at this day.

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Introductory Remarks on Miracles.

Introductory Remarks on Miracles.

Q. What do you mean by a Miracle?

A. A Miracle is the manifestation of a supernatural Power controlling, in some degree, the Common or established laws of nature.

Q. How many kinds of Miracles are there?

A. Miracles in general may be referred to two classes, Divine Miracles, and what may be called magical or infernal Miracles.

Q. What do you mean by a Divine Miracle?

A. A Divine Miracle is the exertion and effect of a supernatural agency, exercised by the almighty himself for the benefit of Mankind.

Q. And what do you mean by a magical or infernal Miracle?

A. A magical or infernal Miracle is the exercise and effect of magical and infernal agency, separated from Divine Agency, and in opposition to it.

Q. Can you tell me any instances of this latter agency, as recorded in the word of god?

A. It is written in the book of Exodus, that when Moses lifted up the rod, and smote the waters that were in the river, in the sight of Pharaoh, and in the sight of his servants, all the waters that were in the river were turned to blood; and the fish that were in the river died, and the river stunk, etc. And it is then added, that the Magicians of Egypt did so with their enchantments, (Exod. 7:20, 21, 22). Again, it is declared by Jesus Christ, that in the latter days there shall arise false Christs and false Prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch that) if it were possible, they shall deceive even the very elect, (Matt. 24:24). The beast also in the Revelation is described as doing great wonders, so as to make fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, and deceives them that dwell on the earth by those Miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the Beast, (Matt. 13:13, 14)

Q. Can you see any reason why the almighty should permit his enemies to exercise a miraculous power in opposition to himself and to his kingdom?

A. Yes: there is every good reason to suppose that the almighty grants this permission for the sake of His own children, or with a view to the trial of their faith, and to its further confirmation in consequence of such trial. For the necessary effect of an infernal or magical Miracle on the mind of a well-disposed person must be to induce doubt respecting the truth of a Divine Miracle, and the result of that doubt would be a clearer discrimination between the two classes of Miracles, and thus finally a rejection of the infernal or magical Miracle, and an establishment of the power and validity of the Divine Miracle.

Q. And what do you conceive to be the discrimination between these two kinds of Miracles?

A. The discrimination is grounded, not so much in the external aspect or form of the two kinds of Miracles, as in their internal characters and qualities. For the internal quality and character, which distinguishes the Divine Miracle is, that it is representative and expressive of the Divine and Spiritual Principles which give it birth. Thus, when Jesus Christ raised the dead to life, this Miracle contained in its inward bosom a Divine and living Principle, and was thus expressive of the operation of that Principle, not only in imparting new life to a dead body, but also in imparting new and spiritual life to a dead soul, by raising it from the death of sin to the life of righteousness. This was the case too with all the other Miracles worked by that incarnate god, every one of which was thus figurative of a divine operation exercised, not on matter only, but on spirit also, producing in the latter an effect corresponding to that which was produced in the former. But in the case of magical or infernal Miracles, no such internal principle was operative, and of course no such principle could be expressed, and therefore the Miracle was a mere outward and dead form, without animation from any spiritual principle of life whatever.

Q. What then would  you suppose was the immediate design of the lord’s Miracles?

A. In the first place, his Miracles were incontestable proofs to all his followers of a divine supernatural agency, and not only so, but of a divine mercy and loving-kindness. Thus they produced a double effect on all his penitent disciples, convincing their understandings, in the first place, of the divinity of their lord and master; and, in the next place, operating on their wills, by making them sensible of His divine tenderness and compassion towards the children of men. It is therefore well to be understood, that it was not the intention of His Miracles, to make converts to his doctrine, since there is every reason to believe that no one cart be converted to the Truth by any miraculous testimony whatsoever, agreeable to what is intimated in the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, where it is written, If they hear not Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead. Accordingly Jesus Christ testifies in another place, If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of god ; instructing us by these words, that the qualification to admit the evidence of divine doctrine does not arise so much from miraculous testimony, as from a sincere desire to do the will of god, thus from a well-disposed heart and life. Accordingly the unbelieving Jews were not convinced by our lord’s Miracles, nor does it appear to have been his intention to promote their conviction in that way, and therefore he says in another place, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh for a sign, but there shall no sign be given. The conclusion therefore is, that the lord’s Miracles were intended for the confirmation of the faith of his pious followers; but not for the conviction and conversion of those who had no previous disposition or inclination to become his followers.

Q. But in the Scriptures of the New Testament, mention is made of Signs as well as of Miracles,—how do you distinguish between a Sign and a Miracle?

A. By a Sign is to be understood a divine supernatural agency operative on the understandings of men, and thereby producing conviction respecting religious Truth, which conviction, so far as it relates to the understanding, may at any time be worked by the almighty, and would at all times be wrought, if it was agreeable to the order of his providence, and conducive to the regeneration and consequent salvation of mankind. But inasmuch as such conviction of the understanding, separate from the conversion of the will, would be of no avail, or rather would be injurious to man, by rendering him the subject of a more severe condemnation, supposing him to be unfaithful to it, therefore such signs are not given, and to seek them is declared by Jesus Christ to be the proper mark and character of an evil and adulterous generation. Miracles, on the other hand, do not produce conviction of the understanding only, but are intended to affect the will, as was above observed, and therefore Miracles are vouchsafed of the divine mercy for the reasons above mentioned, because Divine Miracles have a representative signification, by virtue of which they become instructive and edifying to all those who are in a state of mind capable of being benefited by them, in other words, who are in a state of mind sincerely desirous both to know and to do the whole will of their heavenly father.

Q. How ought you then to be affected by a sense of the lord’s Miracles?

A. With unfeigned adoration both of His divine power and divine goodness, manifested in every Miracle which He performed. I ought also to be rightly affected with the significative sense of every Miracle, and with this view to explore attentively what their distinct signification is, that so I may gain a clearer insight into the nature of the divine operation. Lastly, I ought to consider, and to consider seriously, that Jesus Christ, in his adorable mercy, is ever disposed to work all his Miracles in my own mind and life, and since this cannot be done, only so far as I co-operate freely with him in the working of such Miracles, therefore I ought to consider further, that I am appointed, under him, to perform the same Miracles, agreeable to His own declaration, where He says concerning every one of His true followers, The works that I do shall he do also, and greater works than these shall he do, because I go to the Father, (John 14:12), I am resolved therefore now on to pay due attention to the meaning and import of every Divine Miracle, and to take heed to my own conduct and conversation, that I may always be in a fit state to be a subject of the Miraculous Operation of my god and saviour, and may thus co-operate with Him in the removal of all my natural infirmities, ignorances and disorders, until I be finally restored, through his Divine Agency, to the full and complete order of that heavenly life, which He is ever willing to re-establish in every principle and degree both of my soul and body. amen.