Even now, after eighteen centuries of Christianity, we may be involved in some enormous error, of which the Christianity of the future with make us ashamed. - Vinet.
The Necessity of Signs and Wonders. - Christ's Work was for all Time. - His Consummate Wisdom. - Signs and Wonders as Evidence. - His Perception of Spiritual Laws. - The Perceptive Powers of the Soul. - Propositions. - Presumptive Evidence of his Knowledge of Spiritual Laws. - Condition precedent to Immortality. - Faith the Essential Condition. - The Declarations of Christ. - He meant just what He said. - The Doctrines of the Church. - Literal Extinction of the Soul through Unbelief - Belief essential to Salvation. - Belief will not avert the Consequences of Sin. - Inherent Probabilities. - The Conscious Existence of the Soul. - The Law of Suggestion applied - Scepticism constitutes a Fatal Suggestion. - Phenomena of Hypnotism illustrative. - Souls of Animals have no Conscious Existence; hence not Immortal. - Christ as a Saviour of Souls. - His Doctrine new to the World, but scientifically correct.
WHEN Jesus said to the nobleman of Capernaum, "Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe," he not only correctly summarized the then existing attitude of the public mind in reference to the doctrines which he proclaimed, but he declared with prophetic exactitude that which is as true to-day as it was when he uttered it in Galilee. He said it, not reproachfully, but as a statement of a condition inevitable from the nature of things, which must be recognized and dealt with in a practical manner. The wisdom shown in yielding to the demand for "signs and wonders" in that day is obvious. Without it the people could not believe; with it they could not doubt. To them it was the power of God, working through miracle. It was to them a sign and symbol of puissance and authority. To doubt the word of one who was able to work such wonders was to doubt the evidence of their senses. Without that evidence the spiritual doctrines of Jesus would have been to them without sanction of authority. Logic and reason would have been wasted on the people of that age. Their belief that the signs and wonders were wrought in defiance of natural law was the only circumstance that could command their respect.
Their idea was that the only way in which God could manifest his power was by some signal violation of his own laws. To attempt to show them that Christ healed the sick by a strict observance of natural law would have been as futile as to attempt to teach a new-born babe the principles of the differential calculus. To convince them of the fact would be to destroy their faith in the power of God. Jesus taught them all that they could understand, - all that it would benefit the world to know in that era of civilization. He was working, not only for the people of his own time, but for all future generations. He laid his foundations broad and deep, and with the most consummate wisdom. He not only conferred the benefits of his power upon the people of his own race and country, but he left indubitable evidences of the truth of his history and of his doctrines for all future generations.
Conceding, for the sake of the argument, that Jesus possessed the power to work a miracle, - that is, to work" out-side of the domain of natural law and in defiance of it. - his consummate wisdom in refraining from the exercise of that power is now manifest. If he had wrought his wonders by miracle, only the eye-witnesses of his works would have been benefited; for there would have been no means provided by which future generations could verify his history. But if he performed his works by and through the operations of natural law, it only remains for science to rediscover that law, in order to demonstrate the truth of his history. His consummate wisdom is, therefore, manifest in that he did leave a record, told with such accuracy of detail, that the science of this generation can verify its truth.
The immediate necessity for showing signs and wonders to his people was what he declared it to be, - namely, "that they might believe" in him; that they might be convinced of his power, and have faith in his declaration.
But he had a grander and a nobler object still than the conversion of the few people of his own race and country. He foresaw the time when mankind would not be content to rest its faith upon the dictum of a history written by obscure and unknown men; when the world would refuse to believe in the possibility of miracles, and demand a reason for faith in him, in his works, and in his spiritual doctrines. We have already seen how amply the truth of the history of his physical manifestations has been vindicated by the discoveries of modern science.
But he had a more far-reaching wisdom still. It would avail the world little, simply to know the truth of his physical history, if by that means he could not demonstrate the truth of his spiritual doctrines and philosophy. And it is just here that his utterance to the nobleman of Capernaum applies with equal force to the people of the present day, "Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe." It is now apparent that those signs and wonders were as necessary for the confirmation of the faith of the scientific investigator of to-day as they were to convince the people of his day that he was invested with power and authority. Without them there would have been no means by which we could prove even his probable existence. With them we are put into possession of data which, by comparison with the known facts of contemporary science, enable us to predicate with moral certainty his existence and the essential truth of his history.
They do more. They enable us to know with scientific certainty that he was in possession of an accurate knowledge of the laws which pertain to his physical manifestations; and they logically justify us in the conclusion that by the same means he obtained possession of a knowledge of the laws which pertain to the conditions of immortal life. The subject-matter is the same. His physical manifestations were exhibitions of the powers of the soul. The philosophy of his psychic power is the philosophy of the soul in its relations to the physical man. The philosophy of immortality is the philosophy of the soul in its relations to God. A change in its environment does not change the nature or attributes of the soul; and hence we may infer with irresistible logic that Jesus was as correct in his inferences or knowledge concerning the life beyond as he was scientifically accurate in his knowledge of the laws of the soul in its relation to its physical environment.