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tery of the power of God; yet to human eyes it
seemed but the result of weakness, and was cal-
culated to undermine the faith of the Apostles, and
to be what St. Paul calls "the scandal of the cross."
The mystery of His glorious resurrection was pre-
eminently and before the whole world that of His
irresistible power and Divinity, and thus calculated
to resettle the disciples' faith, silence every doubt.
and win the acceptance and homage of all men. For



THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST 233

in it they cannot fail to see the most unmistakable
evidences of Christ's Divine character and mission.
For "He liveth by the power of God." For the
Resurrection is the most transcendent exercise of
Divine omnipotence; to restore life to one dead has
always been accounted among men as the very type
and expression of the impossible, the sign manual
of Divinity. Hence the Apostle says: "If Christ be
not risen from the dead, then is our preaching vain,
and our faith is vain; and we are yet in our sins."
For if Christ did not rise at once, and if His body
saw corruption, He would announce salvation to no
one and would gain nothing. He would say with
the Psalmist: "What profit is there in My Blood,
whilst I go down to corruption?"

Christ had declared that He would rise again.
He had given this as the decisive proof of His
Divinity. Hence it was absolutely necessary that
He should thus prove His Divinity and verify His
word. Otherwise, He were not God. "No man
taketh away My life from Me, but I lay it down of
Myself, and I have power to take it up again," said
He to the Jews. — John x, 18. "Destroy this temple
and in three days I will raise it up." He spoke of
the temple of His body. The Pharisees would wish to
see a sign from Him : He made answer : "A wicked
and adulterous generation seeketh a sign, and a
sign shall not be given it, but the sign of Jonas the
prophet. For as Jonas was three days and three
nights in the belly of the fish, so shall the Son of
Man be three days and three nights in the bosom
of the earth." "The Son of Man must go up to
Jerusalem, suffer many things, die, and the third



234 THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST

day rise again." By the Resurrection, Christ is
clearly God; it is the seal and voucher of all His
miracles and claims ; it is the attestation of God
Almighty to the Divine character of Him "in Whom
He was well pleased."

When we behold Christ the Redeemer and Re-
storer of our fallen race, the second Adam and the
moral head of humanity restored, upon Wliom we
are grafted as branches upon the vine, upon W^hom
we depend as members upon their head, from \\'hose
spiritual loins we are reborn, as truly as we have
drawn our nature from Adam, we are instinctively
led to look for our own resurrection. And thus
despair and ruined prospects give way to revived
hopes and restored inheritances. "For if Christ is
preached that He rose from the dead, how do some
among you say," asks the Apostle, "that there is no
resurrection of the dead?" The same had been de-
clared by holy Job: "For I know that my Redeemer
liveth, and on the last day I shall rise out of the
earth : and I shall be clothed again with my skin, and
in my flesh I shall see my God ; Whom I myself shall
see, and my eyes shall behold, and not another : this,
my hope, is laid up in my bosom."

Christ's resurrection is the manifest proof of our
future resurrection. For as the philosopher teaches,
"that which is first in whatever genus or kind, is the
cause of all that follows from it." Now the resur-
rection of Christ is the first and original in the genus
of a true and perfect resurrection. Whence it neces-
sarily follows that Christ's Resurrection is the cause
of ours. It is this the Apostle says to the Corin-
thians : "Christ rose from the dead the first fruits



THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST 235

of those that sleep : for indeed by a man death, and
by a man the resurrection of the dead." For the
principle of all human life-giving" is the Word of
God. "\Vith Thee is the fount of life," says the
Psalmist. "For as the Father raises up the dead, and
giveth life: so the Son also giveth life to whom He
willeth." — John v, 21. According to the order of
nature established by God, any cause acts upon that
which is nearest to itself, and by this upon objects
more remote. See why the Word of God first be-
stows immortal life upon the body naturally united
to itself; and by this effects the resurrection in all
others. 'Tor if the dead rise not, neither is Christ
risen." ''And as in Adam all die, so also in Christ
all shall be made alive : but every one in his own
order, the first fruits Christ : then they who are of
Christ who have believed at His coming." He has
merited resurrection for all men ; all who shall en-
joy it, accord it to His merits.

Christ rose from the dead, as the crown and com-
plement of the Redemption by which He had atoned
for our sins, and broken the bondage of Satan, re-
stored us to our lost inheritance, asserted unto us
the liberty of the children of God, entitling us to call
God our Father and making us His sons, and open-
ing to us the Kingdom of God. "He was," says the
Apostle, "delivered up to death for our sins, He
rose again for our justification." That is, to free
us from the evils which we had deserved by sin, He
endured sufifering and bore evils, and was humiliated
by His death on the cross : thus, He is exalted and
glorified by rising from the dead for our pardon and
to elevate us to our true and eternal good. Of what



'22i^ THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST

avail would His sufiferings and death have been to
us, if we were left ignorant of the mercy and for-
giveness which they had purchased for us? If He
descended into Limbo to make known to the souls
there detained the joyful tidings of their ransom,
how much more necessary such tidings for us, still
groping in the darkness of this world? If He had
not risen we should indeed exclaim in the words of
the disciples, not yet knowing that He had risen :
''We had hoped that He was about to redeem Israel."
If He did not rise for our justification and consola-
tion, how wretched would be our condition, when
we considered His promise of a resurrection the
third day, which he had so often made; and when
we looked upon His body never risen but fast cor-
rupting as that of any other of the children of men ;
how our hearts would ache and break with such a
discomfiture, such a non-fulfillment ; at such an
imposture committed by one Who claimed to be the
Son of God ! And all this, if the Redemption though
true, was not announced to men by a glorious Resur-
rection, and we were left in simple ignorance ! But
God could not allow His holy one to see corruption ;
it would be to belie the promise of Christ ; it would
be the subversion and destruction of God's own
work. Christ, therefore, rose for our justification
from sin; for our enlightenment, that we should not
be in the dark: for the manifestation to all men of
His Divinity, "that all that should believe in Him
should not perish, but have life everlasting."

The Resurrection of Christ, glorious and immor-
tal, teaches us in what consists true spiritual life;
and should elevate and animate all to attain it and



THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST 2.};]

forever preserve it. While Christ's glorified Resur-
rection is the type and model of our own, it is at the
same time the pattern of our moral resurrection from
sin, which must precede that glorious rising. For
unless risen morally with Christ here below, we shall
never rise with Him physically hereafter. Christ's
spiritual endowments shall be ours, yet so that our
life here be modeled upon His while yet in the flesh.
If predestined by God to eternal life, we are pre-
destined "to be made conformable to the image of
His Son." "As then Christ rose from the dead by
the glory of the Father; so also are w^e to walk in
newness of life." "And as Christ rising from the
dead, dies now no more : so you are to reckon your-
selves dead indeed to sin ; but alive to God, in Christ
Jesus our Lord."

I trust that St. Thomas will be pleased with our
discourse. As to the matter, I know that he cannot
object, for it is all his own. As to my imperfect
manner of expression, he may have good reason to
find fault. How^ever, because of my good intention
in using his theology, I hope he will get me the
grace of an improved expressive utterance.



THE NATURE OF PROPHECY

Prophecy in the main is knowledge and a knowl-
edge which surpasses in excellence and is far re-
moved from all human knowledge. But as every
gift of the Spirit is given for the utility of men and
the edification of the Church, it is necessary that
what is divinely taught by prophecy must be ex-
pressed and brought home to human minds by
human speech. And as those things which are dis-
closed by prophecy far exceed all human knowledge
and cannot be confirmed by human reason, they must
be testified to by divine power working or showing
itself in miracles. This is the sense of St. Thomas.

Prophecy is the clear vision and distinct fore-
knowledge of some future event, free and contingent
in its nature and that cannot be perceived or antici-
pated from any possible knowledge of its causes.
For knowledge of some future event which may
derive from its causes is not prophec}^ The physi-
cian predicts that his patient will recover. But this
belief is the result of his experience and scientific
capacity. Surmises of the future based upon pres-
ent appearances or obvious causes or rare endow-
ments are not prophecy.

While prophecy is generally understood to refer
to the future, it extends as much to those things

238



THE NATURE OF PROPHECY 239

present or actual which are hidden from us and of
which we know^ nothing. For the Hght imparted in
prophecy is the Divine light by which are compre-
hended and penetrated all things, spiritual and cor-
poreal, divine and human. Any revelation of the
past or present or future, near or remote, otherwise
unknowable, made by divine light is justly reputed
prophecy. As it is the light of God bestowed on
men as His instruments, it were unnecessary to add
that prophecy is no mere surmise or conjecture or
divination : it is definite and positive in its character
and in what it discloses, not vague or undetermined.
It is not as any deduction or teaching of science
whose principles may elucidate or unfold actual or
prospective knowledge.

Prophecy must come from God, whose exclusive
prerogative it is to see what no created intelligence
can see — what nothing short of omniscience can
reach or comprehend. God alone sees all things; I
say, sees, not foresees, because God foresees nothing :
all things are present and open before Him. He can
communicate to man this knowledge which to Him
is actual while to man it is future. He alone. Whose
knowledge comprehends and pervades all the works
of His hands and the secret workings and thoughts
of the souls of men, which as belonging to rational
and free agents and the result of free will, are neces-
sarily contingent, not absolute, can possess the
knowledge which, when vouchsafed to man, becomes
prophecy.

As prophecy is an endowment from God to men,
communicating to them knowledge existing in the
Divine mind, it can be subject to no error and must



240 THE NATURE OF PROPHECY

be the sovereign truth. For the Divine intellect
knows all things in the contemplation of the Divine
essence. His prescience and omniscience are con-
vertible words; His omniscience is prescience only
with reference to us. To know the future belongs alone
to His infinite nature. He alone Who sees all thingfs
in themselves, and in their causes ; who sees all things
in their archetypes in His divine essence ; to Whom
eternity, complete and simultaneous, without past
or present or future, is ever present ; Who is, beyond
all conception, the ''I am," seeing all things, fore-
seeing nothing, Who alone can know what we, in
our limited manner, call the future. He alone can
be the Author of true prophecy. Prophecy, there-
fore, is no human gift or endowment; it can only
come from God; it is altogether supernatural in its
character, scope and end. It is a light and guide
bestowed for man's eternal destiny and welfare.
God can impart this knowledge to man, as He can
the power of miracles, or any other power. Hence
a true prophecy proved by the event is an infallible
argument for the truth for which it vouches.

The prophet cannot always nor easily discriminate
what he knows from himself — his mind and soul —
and what he proclaims from the spirit of prophecy.
For as St. Thomas continues, the mind of the
prophet is instructed in a two- fold manner by God :
one way, by a certain hidden instinct which he una-
wares suffers ; another by express revelation. What
the prophet knows by the spirit of prophecy enjoys
the highest possible certainty, and is most certainly
divinely revealed. As to what the prophet knows
by Instinct, it cannot always be clearly determined



THE NATURE OF PROPHECY 24I

whether he thought these things by some divine in-
stinct or by his own mind. For not all which we
know^ by divine instinct is manifested to us with the
certainty of prophecy.

We need not say that prophecy is no human dis-
cernment or political sagacity or intuition. Through
the ever shifting maze of politics and parties and
the ebb and flow of bodies politic the statesman can
foresee with fair certainty and accuracy the issues
of given combinations. The principles and motives
that control men are familiar to him. Self-seeking,
with an occasional disinterestedness or some little
self-abnegation controls most men. What controls
the man controls society — the aggregation of men.
His nature is not changed because of the multitude,
any more than mind or character. And thus he
draws conclusions about the future that would at
the moment seem to be predictions more than human.
Not much different from this is the apparent fore-
knowledge drawn from the combined study of his-
tory and philosophy, and which has enabled many
men to prognosticate, wuth incredible precision,
future events.

History continually repeats itself : 'Tt is but
philosophy teaching by example." Hence he who
has an intimate knowledge of these can in a man-
ner augur what is yet to come. Prophecy is not
intuition nor is it the result of genius. Intuition
disdains the slow process of reasoning from prem-
ise to conclusion, dismisses the painful task of reflec-
tion, and with a bound, and as it were by inspira-
tion, lights upon the knowledge or truth sought.
Genius and intuition are kindred in their way of



242 THE NATURE OF PROPHECY

working. Both must ha^'e data for their opera-
tions; while prophecy is an ilhimination from God,
truly miraculous.

Prophecy, as the clear foresight, the luminous
vision of a future event, is impressed upon the mind
of him who is endowed with the divine gift. It
must be such that the event does not fix the sense
of the prophecy, but the sense must clearly and mani-
festly relate to the event. Yet, the event may bring
the prophecy into stronger light or bolder relief. For
the purpose of prophecy is to revive the dejected,
to remove despair, to sustain and encourage human
hopes and aspirations, to deter from sin and vice,
and to stimulate to innocence and virtue by the cer-
tain assurance of rewards and threat of punishments.
But this end is attained and secured by prophecy,
obscure when declared, but made luminous to future
peoples by the light of its fulfillment.

The true prophet is alwa3^s sure of his prediction ;
he is always endowed with fortitude to announce it,
and, if needs be, to seal it with his blood. For if
he should declare some future visitation of God, or
chastisement upon men because of their sins, it will
excite their indignation or exasperate them to lay
hands upon him. ''Which of the prophets have not
your fathers persecuted?" asked the martyr Stephen
of the Jews. The prophet not only announces but
expounds his oracles, and frequently threatens or
promises punishments or rewards in the Divine
name.

The prophet, to be believed, must have the power
of miracles. For the truth of prophecy is not al-
w^ays, even rarely, verified during the lives of those



THE NATURE OF PROPHECY 243

to whom it is made. Hence its truth cannot be
ascertained or known unless its author proves his
authority by miracles. These are the seal and divine
vouchers of the true prophet, that impress a divine
character upon prophecy.

Prophecy is a true and standing miracle with this
great superiority over other miracles, that it supplies
its own proof which everyone can discern : for he
knows the prophecy and can see for himself its
fulfillment or failure. It is in the power of anyone
to determine, provided he knew the prediction before
the event happened and see the prediction in the
event. Prophecy is a true miracle because it is a
real suspension of nature's laws. Every intelligence,
human, angelic, divine, receives its intelligence
through some medium proportioned or suitable to
its nature : man, through his senses and by
reflection upon what is thus received; an-
gelic, in a way proper to itself; God, in
a way all His own, by His divine intellect contem-
plating His divine essence. But knowledge of
future events, free in their character, cannot be
derived from the sensible world, through the
medium of the senses or by reason reflecting upon
what comes by the senses. It must come through
some higher medium, a medium belonging to some
higher being: a medium proper to God Himself or
at least to the angels. Hence prophecy must come
from either. But from either it is of divine origin.
The angels will disclose nothing but what God per-
mits.

Angels can be endowed with and become the
bearers from God to man of the illumination and



244 THE NATURE OF PROPHECY

revelation which constitutes prophecy. For as man
himself, a being of far less endowment and incom-
parably inferior in scale of being to Angelic nature,
can withal be invested with the gift of prophecy,
much more so these exalted beings, spiritual in
nature and admitted to the closest union with the
Creator. And this all the more as Angels have been
frequently employed as a medium between God and
man, and in their gifts partake more largely of the
Divine goodness than men. Hence the Holy Ghost,
as the first bestower of all graces gratuitously given,
can confer or operate the spirit of prophecy among
men by the ministry of the Angels, as St. Thomas
in these words teaches. Prophecies made by the
Angels are, therefore, the inspiration of the Holy
Ghost.

From what has been already said it is manifest
that all true prophecy is a Divine revelation disclosed
to man by the light of the Holy Ghost ; yet it remains
true that the evil spirits or fallen angels may in some
sense be said to prophesy, or betray a kind of knowl-
edge of the future both from themselves or their
native powers, and also from Divine inspiration.
While prophecy is far beyond the reach and capacity
of the human mind, yet it may not be beyond
Angelic intelligence, which, l>ecause of its
loftier nature, may attain to knowledge un-
attainable or incomprehensible for an inferior or
less endowed nature. The intellect of Angels, good
or bad, in itself is far superior to that of man.
Accordingly demons can reveal to men their own
natural knowledge or the objects which it embraces ;
which otherwise would be unknown to men. Such



THE NATURE OF PROPHECY 245

is not prophecy truly called, and its teachers are
designated in Holy Scripture as false prophets.

Nothing exists so absolutely bad as to be without
some good : nothing so absolutely false as to be
without some truth. Wherefore, knowledge im-
parted by the devils to their disciples or prophets
may not always be destitute of truth. Besides, these
false prophets do not always speak from demoniac
but from Divine disclosure, God employing them
for purposes worthy of His intelligence, as with
other creatures, turning the bad and evil to the ad-
vantage of the virtuous and the cause of good. For
they did not cease to be His creatures by their re-
bellion and sin. This is shown in what is read of
Balaam, to whom God spoke. — Num. 23. To this
Cardinal Newman refers in these words : ''He speaks
amid the incantations of Balaam, raises Samuel's
spirit in the witch's cavern, prophesies of the Messias
by the tongue of the Sibyl, forces Python to recog-
nize His ministers, and baptizes by the hand of the
unbeliever." — Newman, Idea of a University, Dis-
course ni. In the Dies Irae the Jewish prophet
David is coupled with the pagan Sibyl in the predic-
tion of the Alessiah. The truth w^hich is acknowl-
edged by its enemies acquires credibility among men
who are naturally moved by such testimony; and
thus incredulity is overcome. Knowledge of the
Messiah to come was made known to pagan nations
by the Sibylline predictions. Devils may derive the
knowledge which they impart from their own natural
powers such as they were created by the Holy
Ghost; and, if what they announce is from the Holy
Ghost, they mav receive it from the good spirits.



246 THE NATURE OF PROPHECY

Nor is it necessary that prophecy must be always
made by holy men or those in His grace. "Lord,
have we not prophesied in Thy name, and cast out
devils in Thy name? To whom He will answer, I
know thee not." The essential effect of charity is
to unite the soul with God, and this grace does
working through the will which perfects charity.
But, prophecy being an act of the intellect, which
precedes the will, and concerns the soul and external
actions, and as given for the good of the Church as
other graces gratuitously given, can exist without
union of the soul with God by charity.

That there have been false prophecies and false
prophets before and since Christ in every age is of
historic record. Against them Christ while on
earth warned His followers. Yet we must not
thence conclude that all prophecy and prophets are
false. For, no Divine prophecy ever has been or
can be falsified, any more than any Divine utterance
can be untrue.

We are not to associate or confound the long
series of lying soothsayers and magicians who de-
luded many with the belief in their preternatural
power to explore the secrets of the future, which
paganism propagated and supported, with the
heaven-sent men whom God inspired among His
chosen people to preserve primeval revelation and
belief in the Redeemer to come, and to prepare man-
kind for His coming in the fullness of time — thus
affording glorious proof to all, by its fulfillment, of
the truth that had so long been predicted. As the
contortions and grotesque forms of true prophecy,
pagan predictions afford proof of prophecies really



THE NATURE OF PROPHECY 247

Divine. For where there is truth, there must be
error, the pretence of truth; where there is Hght
there must be shadow; where there is the genuine
and real there must be the counterfeit and unreal.
The most essential difference must necessarily sub-
sist between the prophets and prophecies of those
who, inspired and illumined by God, foresaw and
preannounced His future dealings with men, and
the lying impostors and pretended predictions of
those who, uninspired, have sought to explore the
future, which to mere created intelligence must for-
ever remain unknown and unknowable, unsolved and
unsolvable.

Divine prophecy being the illumination of the
Holy Ghost in the consciousness of those upon whom
it was shed, required no natural disposition or ex-
ternal circumstances for its exercise. For God Who
bestowed the gift could at the same time bestow the
disposition required if it were wanting, or could
have bestowed it from conception, while external
circumstances can form no condition to the exercise
of Divine omnipotence. This being so, pagan pre-
tence to prophecy condemns itself. For it claimed
for its exercise conditions, time, place, instruments,
which were obviously inadequate and preposterous
and with no affinity to prophecy, and pretended to
predict what was in itself worthless and even ridicu-
lous. Pagan prophets betrayed their fraudulent pro-
cedure by absurd rites upon still more absurd ob-
jects. They shammed to be worked to vision of
future things by eating of certain fruits, or by the
influence of the seasons, or from the flight of birds,
from the entrails of animals, or the motion of leaves



248 THE NATURE OF PROPHECY

agitated by the wind, or the sounds of moving



Online LibraryJohn McQuirkSermons and discourses (Volume 3) → online text (page 16 of 43)