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Men's Meetings

Rushden Echo, Friday, November 24, 1905, transcribed by Greville Watson


"Have Miracles Occurred?"

The Rev.H.J.Atkinson conducted a special meeting for men in the Park-road Wesleyan Church, Rushden, on Sunday afternoon, a good congregation assembling.

Mr.Atkinson said that Christianity stood or fell with miracles. Christ Himself based His claim for men's acceptance of His doctinres upon His miracles. A miracle was "an exception to the observed order of nature, brought about by God in order to reveal His will or purpose." Their views as to the possibility and probability of miracles would be determined by their belief as to the existence and attributes of God. To Pantheists and Atheists the idea of miracales would be out of the question, but one who believed in a personal God and a moral order of the world should have no difficulty in believing in them. Speaking frankly, however, philosophical arguments for or against miracles did not seem to him of much use. If they believed in God, the question resolved itself into one of historical evidence. The great argument of those who objected to miracles was based upon the observed uniformity in nature. He could not accept that objection, however, because, first of all, the Christian doctrine of miracles was based upon that scientific doctrine of uniformity in nature. It was just that law which gave miracles their evidential value, for if no such law existed there could be no interference that would attract attention.

Again, the logical issue of such objection was that God was subject to law, and not the law subject to God. So on scientific grounds it seemed to him that the objection could not be defended. The world is here; how did it come? Either it existed from all eternity, or it was somehow created by a power outside itself. It was incredible that it never had a beginning, but the argument for uniformity lead to the conclusion that there was no beginning. If the laws had always been invariable they never had a beginning. On the other hand, if the world was created there was a time when that much-boasted uniformity did not exist, and it must have a beginning. What had begun to be could be modified and altered. The start of nature itself was a miracle, as it was an immense deviation from the order existing before. The sceptic might say he did not believe in the creation story but as an evolutionist he believed that the universe came to be as at present through a long process of gradual change. But a follower of Darwin should be the last to argue against miracles, for one of the main points in his theory was that of accidental deviations from the rules. The main principle of evolution, as he understood it, was that in the mighty struggle for existence different accidental deviations from type were found to be of advantage, so were preserved and developed into the permanent types as they knew them to-day. Mr.Grant Allen, an evolutionist, told them that "on occasional freaks of nature the whole evolution of new varieties depends." Christianity itself could not be accounted for except on the ground of miracles. If Christ possessed no power beyond that of men, whence came the disciples' strong belief in Him? Nor could they explain the growth of the Christian Church without miracles. Miracles were necessary to justify the importance attached to a faith in Christ.

Several questions were asked and answered.

Rushden Echo, Friday, December 22, 1905, transcribed by Greville Watson


Rev.H.J.Atkinson on “Doubts and Doubters”

Addressing a well-attended men’s meeting in the Park-road Wesleyan Church, Rushden, on Sunday afternoon, the Rev.H.J.Atkinson spoke on “Doubts and Doubters.”

Unquestionably, he said, there were many honest doubters, and with such he had the greatest sympathy.  As to the causes of honest doubt, one was in the mental idiosyncrasies of different people, some being so constituted that they could not help passing through a period of questioning; some found difficulty in believing the supernatural at all, and held that the resurrection of Christ and other miracles could not be comprehended.  The objection to miracles was an old one, and had often been answered.  It was long ago pointed out that a thing was not incredible in itself just because it might seem incredible to some people.  The cause of doubt was often to be found in hasty, superficial reasoning, men assuming the incredibility of miracles and then refusing to examine the evidence which had satisfied minds more powerful than their own.  The perplexities arising from modern science were connected mainly with astronomy, geology, evolution, and comparative religion.  He did not know that there was anything contradictory between the Old Testament and the discoveries of modern science, but even if there were he did not see any reason why they should be disturbed.  The Bible was not designed to teach science, and the suggestion was that the writers were inspired as religious teachers, and were left to the notions of their own times for science.  Inspiration must be for some particular purpose, and anyone with any acquaintance with Biblical literature would not speak of the teaching of the Bible as shattered.  He had personally never been satisfied that the theory of evolution was true, and even if true it would not necessitate giving up one’s faith in Christianity, which did not stand or fall with any particular theory of the origin of man, but with the miraculous facts connected with the name of Christ.  And it was possible to hold a view of evolution which would leave the old view of the dignity of man’s origin untouched, for a Dr.Dallinger had told them that there were two great breaks in the theory, one touching the appearance of life on the earth, and the other the appearance of man.  As to comparative religions, they were told that what was supposed to be peculiar to the Christian religion was met with in more ancient faiths.  But that was no reason why their faith in Christianity should be disturbed, for all the religions of the world came from one common source, the primitive patriarchal religion.  Again, was it incredible that God should have guided some heathen philosophers to certain modern and religious truths?  And so, those truths were from the same source as Christianity itself.  But Christianity was built upon the works of Christ as explained by those who knew Him, and grew out of their faith in His miracles and resurrection.  Mr.Atkinson then spoke on the problem of pain.  He did not think that, apart from man, there was nearly so much pain and suffering as some supposed.  Further, so far as the suffering of the human race was concerned the greater part of it was not caused by God, but by man’s foolish violation of thenatural and moral laws of the world.  God could not prevent the evils they saw around them without destroying themoral government of the world.  They could not have moral government without moral freedom and if they had moral freedom some might be wrong and bring suffering into the world.  But let them never forget that Christianity was the only thing that really professed to deal with those evils.  Christianity set in motion forces which if allowed to work would destroy nearly all the evils of the world and as for the others it promised to all who accepted it that all tears should be wiped away in the rest that remained for the people of God.

At the close Mr.Atkinson answered several questions.

Rushden Echo, Friday, February 2, 1906, transcribed by Greville Watson


The Rev.H.J.Atkinson gave another address to men on Sunday afternoon in the Park-road Wesleyan Church. His subject was "Christianity and the life that now is." The question was dealt with in an able and interesting manner, and at the close several questions were answered.

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