Miracles In every age there are certain great movements of human thought, which more or less influence the convictions of men in the mass, and carry them on to conclusions which, but a few years before, would have seemed altogether improbable. Sometimes it is very difficult to account for these movements. There has often been no master-mind leading the way whatever works have been written have rather been the result of the wave of thought passing over that small portion of the world which thinks than the cause of the wave. As far as cause can be traced, the new movement is a reaction, a recoil of the mind, from that which has gone before, whether in the way of dissatisfaction at the sloth and inactivity of the previous age, and at its being ignobly content to have no high aspiration, no high sense of the nobleness of man's mission, or a rebound from overstrained dogmatism and principles urged on to an extent which made them practically a burden and wearisomeness too great for men to endure.
The latter is perhaps the more common origin of new developments of thought, and is a power larger and more constantly at work than men are apt to imagine. But the explanation of the movements of the mind in our own time is rather to be sought in the meanness of the last century. Upon the whole, it was not a time of high purposes, though the War of Independence on the one side of the Atlantic, and the resistance to the despotism of Napoleon on the other, show that it was not wanting in great practical results. But as the present century advanced, the old lethargy which had enwrapped the minds of the English-speaking race gave way. Some men became intensely active in working for practical reforms; others set new modes of thought in motion, and everywhere there was On eager desire for thoroughness, and for probing: the principles of things to the very bottom. The old argument of "continuance" — that a thing should still exist because it had existed — gave way to an intense realism, which would let nothing exist unless it could prove its right to existence. Utilitarianism became the order of the day, and that poetry which often gilds a sleepy age, and makes it dwell at peace in a dreamland of repose, vanished before the energy of men keenly alive to the necessities and imperfections of the present.
It is this intense realism that has made men restless and ill at ease athaving to believe in miracles. A miracle stands on entirely different grounds from the whole present order of things, and is out of harmony with the main current of our thoughts. There have been ages when men lived for the future, when the present was neglected, and things unseen were the realities which engrossed their thoughts. When we read the accounts of the trials for witchcraft in New England a century or two ago, we find not the accusers only, but the accused full of ideas of the preternatural. What they saw had but slight influence upon them; what they imagined had alone power over their minds. We, on the contrary, live in the present. The turn of our minds is to verify everything. We call for proof, and whatever cannot be proved we reject. It is not merely miracles which we treat thus, but most of what the last century regarded as historical realities. The intense historical activity of the present day, which has rewritten for us the annals of Greece and Rome, of the Church and of England, of the great eras of Spain and the Netherlands, besides special studies of great value, has its origin in that same spirit for searching and proving which leads so many to reject miracles.
It is altogether unfair to lay the rejection of miracles to the charge of physical science. The leaders of science are as thoroughly realistic as our historians and men of letters, but not more so. They are themselves phenomena of an age which perpetually asks What is? They inquire into the conformation of the earth and its constituents; into the motions of the heavenly bodies, and the laws which govern them, with the same eagerness to find out present facts, and the explanation of them, as animates the historian and the practical reformer. Old beliefs in our day can no more stand their ground than old laws and old customs, unless they can prove their right to stand by an appeal to present usefulness. It is of no use to appeal to anything else. In the present state of men's minds, if a thing does not fit in to the present, it seems to have no right to exist at all.
But if the progress of physical science has little to do with the dislike to miracles and the supernatural, the rapid increase of material wealth, and the advance made in everything which tends to present comfort and enjoyment, have much to do with it. We are living in an age when the present is full of enjoyment. By our large ascendency over the powers of nature, the earth yields us its treasures with a bountifulness never known before. Our homes are replete with comforts and luxuries little dreamed of by those who went before; and the secret forces of nature are pressed into our service, and do our bidding. Side by side with this subjection of nature there has grown up a greatness of material enterprise unknown before. Vast projects are undertaken and persevered in, before which the greatest merchant princes of antiquity would have quailed. There is a grandeur of conception, a nobleness of purpose, an unflinching courage in many of the commercial undertakings of the present day, which, though gain may be their final object, yet give them a dignity and a poetry that make them for the time enough to conceal the deep cravings which are man's peculiar endowment, and which mark him out as a being destined for no common purposes.
Yet this present greatness of material things dwarfs many of man's higher gifts. Its influence begins early. Even in education it makes men aim chiefly at utilitarian objects, and at too early results. Parents do not care for anything which does not lead directly and at once to profit and pay. Whatever develops man's thinking powers, and aims simply at making him better and nobler in himself, is thrust aside. It would take too much time; defer too long the quick harvest of gains; might make men even indifferent to worldly prosperity, and unwilling to sacrifice everything to material wealth. Or, at all events it lies out of the circle of men's every day thoughts. Life is an eager race, with boundless prizes for all who press onwards and upwards. In so active a contest, with every energy on the stretch, and every exertion richly rewarded, it is no wonder if the present is enough; and in its enjoyment men thrust from them indignantly everything that would interfere with and render them less fit for the keen struggle after earthly success.
It is this spirit which makes it so difficult for men to believe in miracles. The purpose of miracles, and their whole use and intention hold so entirely distinct a place from that which is now the main purpose of the mass of men, that they will hear no evidence for them, nor stop calmly to consider whether they may not after all hold a necessary place in the order of things, and be as indispensable for man's perfectness as is this present activity. What too many do is to put aside the consideration of them entirely. They have a sort of notion that miracles contradict the laws of nature, and are therefore impossible. Without perhaps denying the historical accuracy of the Gospels in the main, they yet suppose that they were written by credulous men in a credulous age, and that if cool observers had been present, they could have explained on natural grounds all that took place. Probably they do not think much about the supernatural at all. They have plenty to occupy them; have no spare time; find their lives full of interest; they rise early to their labor and late take rest; and so are content with a general feeling that, whatever may be the explanation of man being what he is, and of the world being what it is, time will reveal it, and that no obligation lies upon a busy man to inquire into abstruse questions, with no present profit. When business is over and old age has come, then it will be his duty to make his peace with God. And he will do so in the ordinary way. as other men do. Religion is a thing relegated to the background for the present; in due time he will attend to it as a practical matter, in the same way in which he will attend to the making of his will.
This thorough realism of the 19th century, intensified by the vast facilities of combined action and, mutual intercourse, which make us live constantly in one another's company, would banish all care and thought of the future from our minds, if it were not that the belief in the existence of a God and of a future life is an undying conviction of our nature. It is a necessary part of ourselves to look forward. No present gains or successes can content us. We turn always to the future, and that with an eagerness which would make life unendurable if we were forced to believe that life were all. The doctrine of annihilation may be professed, but call never really be believed; for it violates the deepest instincts of our hearts. And thus compelled by the very constitution of our natures to believe that there is a God, and that we exist after death, religion itself becomes a very real thing, and supplies a real need. The existence of a God and the immortality of man are not doctrines which need proving. They are intuitions, innate ideas, which may and do gain form and shape from advancing knowledge, but which grew out of the soul itself. Over the savage they have little influence, but civilized and thinking man can never be complete and entire unless these deep instincts of his inner being have their needs fully met and satisfied. In a mail who stands perfect and complete, the necessities of the future must be as fully and entirely recognised and supplied as the requirements of the present. He must have a religion.
Now religion is either natural or revealed. Not that these two are opposed. The revealed religion which we Christians profess contains and gives new authority to all the truths of natural religion, while extending itself far beyond them. Natural religion is a dim feeling and groping after God as manifested in his works, and a distinguishing of right from wrong, as far as the indications of a righteous government existing now, and the laws of our own nature, and the marvellous gift of conscience, enable us to do so. In revealed religion we have fuller knowledge: knowledge of God's attributes, not merely as far as we can trace them in his works, but still more as they are manifested in his dealings with man as made known to us in revelation itself; knowledge of man, both as regards his present state and his future hopes; more exact knowledge, too, of right and wrong, the appeal now lying not to the varying codes of human morality, nor even to the inner conscience, which, as a faculty capable of education and development, is no rigid rule, but one which bends to every state of things, and adapts itself to every stage and degree of human progress and decay. Under a revealed religion the appeal is to an unchanging law of God. Morality has at last a settled basis, and man a fixed standard by which to judge his actions.
Now it seems almost supererogatory to show that natural religion was not suffice for man's wants. We know of no one who has definitely asserted that it does. Even Kant, though he appears to think that Christianity might now be dispensed with, yet distinctly holds that natural religion, without the teaching of Christianity, would not even now have been enlightened enough, or pure enough, or certain enough, to guide man's life.* But the whole state of the heathen world before Christ came, and now wherever Christianity is unknown, is proof sufficient of the utter powerlessness of natural religion. The Greek world, with its marvellous taste in art and appreciation of the beautiful, was yet intensely wicked. The state of things at Rome under the empire was so foul that modern pens would blush to describe it. What natural religion is where civilization does not exist, the condition now of savage tribes proves clearly enough. We will touch therefore only upon one point, that of progress. Apart from Christianity, there are at most in the world the very faintest indications of progress; usually none at all. In no form of natural religion, in no heathen religion, was there anything to lead man onward, or to make him better. At best, as under Mohammedanism, or the religion of Confucius, there was stagnation. And when, as in the case of so many of the older civilizations of the world, decay set in, there was no recuperative force. Man sank steadily and hopelessly. In the Old Testament alone do we find the thought of progress. A nation is there formed for a high and unique purpose; and to shape it for its end it is placed in a special and immediate relation to God, and is taught by messengers sent directly by him. Under this special dispensation, its one business was to grow fit for the work prepared for it; its one motto, progress. In the New Testament, progress is the central thought everywhere present; but no longer now for one nation — it is progress for all mankind. It is a new kingdom that is proclaimed, and all who enter it are required to put away old things, and become new. It belongs to men who have left their previous condition far behind, and who, forgetting what is past, "reach forth unto those things which are before." And special stress is laid everywhere upon the duty of bringing all men into this new kingdom, and of Christians being the purifying salt which is to preserve the whole world.
The means by which Christianity thus renovates mankind, and becomes the moving force of all modern and real progress, is partly that it alone proposes to us principles so perfect that at the utmost our approach to their realization is a very distant one. The complete abnegation of self, the treatment of others with that justice, liberality, and love with which we would wish ourselves to be treated, and a holiness as absolute and entire as that of God himself such principles, while practically aiding us in our upward course, yet set us a standard which as a matter of fact, is unattainable. How often this is misunderstood! Men contrast our Christianity with what is set before us in the Gospels, and, either in mockery or in grief at the disparity, assert that our state is practically a mere heathenism. But while there is ample room for lamentation that we Christians are content to remain so very much below the standard set us, yet, so far as there is progress towards it — so far as it can be truly said that this generation is in a higher stage than the last was, and is training the youth to attain in the next to a still nearer approximation to Christian perfectness, so far Christianity is doing its work; not merely its work on individuals these constantly, even where the general state of things is bad and low, it raises to a high degree of virtue and holiness — but its work on the mass. If nationally we are making no progress, then our Christianity is not having its proper work, and, in an age which judges by results, is not proving its right still to exist. But even at the worst no Christian nation is hopeless: heathen nations sank without hope. Christian nations have again and again risen from the lowest degradation.
* "We may well concede that if the Gospel had not previously taught the universal moral laws, reason would not yet have attained so perfect an insight into them. Letter of Kant to Jacobi, in Jacobi's Werke, 3:523.
But Christianity tends to progress not merely by the high ideal it sets before us, but by its power over men's sympathies. This power resides mainly in the human nature of Christ, but only when viewed in its relation to his Godhead. As the great proof of the Father's love to man, it does arrest our feelings, dwell upon our imagination, and inspire our conduct with motives such as no other supposed manifestation of the Deity to man has ever produced. Christ incarnate in the flesh is not merely the realization of the high standard of Christianity, and the model for our imitation, but acts also as a motive power, by which men are aroused and encouraged to the attempt to put into practice the principles of the religion which Christ taught.
If there be a God — and the man who denies it contradicts the intuitions of his own nature — it is religion, and revealed religion only, that gives us adequate knowledge of his nature and attributes, If there be a future — and the very instincts of our nature testify that there is — again it is revealed religion only that tells us what the future life is, and how we may attain to it. Yet necessary parts as both these beliefs are of oar nature, men may bring themselves to deny them. For a time they can put away from them both the future and a God. But if there be a present — and this is just the one thing in which the 19th century does thoroughly believe — even then, granting only this, if this present is to have any progress, and is to move onwards to anything better; if there is to be in it anything of healthful and vigorous life, this, too, is bound up with the one religion, which has satisfactory proof to give that it is revealed; proof that it did come really from God; and proof that it is the one motive power of human progress. If the light of nature hitherto has been insufficient to secure virtue or raise men towards it, that light will not suffice now, even though it has been fed and strengthened by centuries of Christian teaching. In asserting this, Kant asserted too much. Neither Christians nor Christian communities have as yet risen to anything like a high general standard of morality, to say nothing about holiness; remove the high ideal and the strong motives supplied by the religion of Christ, and there would result, first stagnation, and then decay. An "enlightened self-love" never yet successfully resisted any carnal or earthly passion. Christianity has effected much; the contrast between heathen and Christian communities is immense: but it has tot raised men yet to its own standard, nor even to a reasonably fair standard of moral excellence.
Now, grant but the possibility of there being a God; grant but the possibility of there being a future, as there must necessarily be a connection between man's future and his present, and as our idea of God forbids our excluding any existent thing from connection with him, then at least a revelation would be useful, and as God must be good, there is no antecedent improbability in his bestowing upon man what would be of use and benefit to him. You must get rid of God — must resolve him into a sort of nebulous all-pervading ether, with no attributes or personal force or knowledge (the Pantheists do this beautifully, and call God cosmic force) — you must get rid of a future life, and account yourselves simple phenomena, like the monkey, and ascidian jellybags, from which you are supposed to be descended, with no connection with the past, no reason for your present existence, mere shooting-stars in the realms of space, coming from nowhere, and going nowhither, and so only, by the extirpation of these two ideas from your nature, can you make a revelation improbable. Even then your position is open to grave doubt. We can understand the law of evolution; and if the law be proved, though as yet it is unproved, it would involve me in .no religious difficulties, provided that evolution really worked towards a solid end. Accustomed everywhere else in nature to see things fitted to their place, and all things so ordered that there is a use for everything, I could understand the meanest thing in creation rising upwards in the scale through multitudinous forms and infinite periods of time, if finally there were some purpose for all this rising. The plan is vast and marvellous. It can be justified only by some useful end. And such an end there would be if, after vast ages of development, the tiny atom ended in becoming a reasonable and responsible creature, with some purpose for all this vast preparation, because capable of still rising upwards, and of "becoming partaker of the divine nature." But if the law of evolution stops at man without a future, then its product is not worthy of it, and so purposeless a law, ending in so mean a result — for what is there meaner than man without Christ? — falls to the ground as too grand in its design for so bare and worthless a result.
Yet even this is but part of the argument; the evidences in favor of Christianity have a collective force, and it is upon them as to whole that one fain rests secure. But we may well contend that if Christianity is necessary for our present well-being; if the advance of society; if the removal of the bad, the vile, and the sorrowful in our existing arrangements; if the maintenance and strengthening of the noble, the earnest, the generous, and the pure, is bound up with Christianity, as being the only sure basis and motive towards progress, then, at all events, religion can show cause enough for existence to make it the duty of men to examine the evidence which it offers in its proof. Nineteenth century men may decline to listen to arguments which concern only things so remote as God and the future. Have they not built railways, laid the Atlantic telegraph, found out the constituent elements of the sun through the spectrum, and gained fortunes by gambling on the stock exchange? What can men want more?' Well, they want something to bind society together: even the worst want something to control in others those passions to which they give free play in themselves. No man wants society to grow worse, however much he may do himself to corrupt it. But the one salt of society, the one thing that does purify and hold it together, is religion.
Now antecedently there is no reason why God might not have made natural religion much more mighty and availing. As it is, nothing is more powerless in itself, though useful as an ally to revelation. Religion or no religion means revelation or no revelation. Reject revelation, and the only reason for not rejecting natural religion is that it is not worth the trouble. If religion, then, is a necessity of our present state, this means that revelation is a necessity. We are quite aware that even revealed religion does not explain all the difficulties of our present state. There is very much of doubt suggested by our philosophy to which Christianity gives only this answer, Believe and wait. It is, in fact, rigidly careful in refusing to give any and every explanation of things present except a practical one: in the most marked way it is silent as to the cause of our being what we are, and as to the nature of the world to come. It tells us that we do not now see the realities themselves, but only reflections of them in a mirror, and even that only in a riddling way (1Co 13:12). Hereafter it promises that we shall see the things themselves, and understand the true nature and exposition of the enigmas of life. Meanwhile it gives us every practical help and necessary guidance for the present. Judged thus by practical results and by its working powers, it is a thing indispensable. Without it man is imperfect, and society has nothing to arrest its dissolution, or arouse it to a struggle after amendment. Reformation is essentially a Christian idea. That a state should throw off its ignoble past and start on a new quest after excellence and right is possible only where there is a religion strong enough to move men, and noble enough to offer them a high ideal. Reform movements have therefore been confined to Christian states; and for the individual, his one road to perfection has been a moving forwards towards God.
Upon this, then, we base our argument for miracles. The universal instincts of men prove the necessity of the existence of religion. Without it the promptings of our hearts, compelling us to believe in a God and to hope for a future, would be empty and meaningless; and this no human instincts are. There is no instinct whatsoever which has not in external nature that which exactly corresponds to it, and is its proper field of exercise. And, in the next place, natural religion, though in entire agreement with revealed, is, as we have shown, insufficient for the purposes for which religion is required. And, finally, there is the phenomenon that the revealed religion which we profess does act as a motive to progress. Christian nations — in morals, in freedom in literature, in science, in the arts, and in all that adorns or beautifies society and human life — hold undoubtedly the foremost place, and are still moving forward. And in proportion as a Christian nation holds its faith purely and firmly, so surely does it advance onwards. It is content with nothing to which it has attained, but sees before it the ideal of a higher perfection (Php 3:13-14).
Now a revealed religion can be proved only by that which involves the supernatural. What our Lord says to the Jews, that "they would not have sinned in rejecting him but for his works" (John 25:24), commends itself at once to our reason. No proof can rise higher than the order of things to which it belongs. And thus all that can be proved by the elaborate examination of all created things, and the diligent inquiry into their conformation and uses and instincts, and the purposes for which each organ or faculty was given them; yea, even the search into man's own mind, and all the psychologic problems which suggest so very much to us as to the purposes of our existence — all this can rise no higher than natural religion. They are at best but guesses and vague conjectures, and a feeling and groping after truth. Nothing of this sort could prove to us a revealed religion. For how are we to know that it is revealed? In order to its being revealed, God must be the giver of it. And how are we to know that it is he who speaks? Its strength, its value, its authority, all depend upon its being the voice of God. No subjective authority can prove this. The nature of the truths revealed, their adaptability to our wants, their usefulness, their probability nothing of this would prove that they had not been thought out by some highly-gifted man. We must have direct evidence something pledging God himself before we can accept a religion as revealed.
We shall see this more clearly if we reflect upon the nature of the obedience which we are required to render to a revealed religion. Its authority is summary, and knows no appeal. It is God who speaks, and there is no higher tribunal than his throne. Take, for instance, the Ten Commandments. Essentially they are a republication of the laws of natural religion, excepting perhaps the fourth commandment. But upon how different a footing do they stand! The duty of not killing is in natural religion counteracted by the law of selfpreservation, and in heathen communities has been generally very powerless, and human life but little valued. Even in fairly-civilized communities murder was not a crime to be punished by the state, but to be avenged by the relatives of the murdered man. This even was the state of things among the Jews when the Ten Commandments were promulgated, and Moses, by special enactments, modified and softened the customs which he found prevalent, and which did not distinguish between wilful murder and accidental homicide. Natural religion, therefore, gave no special sanctity to human life, but regarded only the injury done to the family of the sufferer. The divine commandment has gone home straight to the conscience. It has made the shedding of blood a sin, and not merely all injury. Accordingly, Christian states have recognised the divine nature of the law by punishing murder as a public offence, instead of leaving it to be dealt with as a private wrong. A revealed religion therefore claims absolute power over the conscience as being the direct will of God. No question of utility or public or private expediency may stand in its way. It must be obeyed, and disobedience is sin. But plainly we ought not to yield such absolute obedience to anything that we do not know to be the law of God. Man stands too high in the scale of existence for this to be right. Were it only that he is endowed with a conscience, and thereby made responsible for his actions, it is impossible for him to give up the control over his own actions to any being of less authority than that One to whom he is responsible. But a revelation claims to be the express will of that very Being, and therefore a sufficient justification of our actions before his tribunal. Surely, before we trust ourselves to it, we may fairly claim adequate proof that it is his will. The issues are too serious for less than this to suffice.
But, besides this, when we look at Christianity, the nature of its doctrines brings the necessity of supernatural proof before us with intense force. It teaches us that God took our nature upon him, and in our nature died in our stead; and, as we have pointed out before, the strength of Christianity, and that which makes it a religion of progress, is this union of the divine and human natures in Christ. He is not merely the "man of sorrows," the ideal of suffering humanity — and a religion that glorifies a sinless sufferer may do much to alleviate sorrow and sweeten the bitter cup of woe — but he is much more than this. It is only when that sinless sufferer is worshipped as our Lord and our God that we reach the mainspring which has given Christianity its power to regenerate the world.
But how could such a doctrine be believed on any less evidence than that which directly pledged the divine authority on its behalf? The unique and perfect character of the Jesus of the evangelists; the pure and spotless nature of the morality he taught; the influence for good which Christian doctrines have exercised; the position attained by Christian nations, and the contrast between the ideals of heathenism and of Christianity all this and more is valuable as subsidiary evidence. Some of it is absolutely necessary to sustain our belief. Even miracles would not convince us of the truth of a revelation which taught us a morality contrary to our consciences. For nothing could make us believe that the voice of God in nature could be opposed to his voice in revelation. It is a very axiom that, however it reaches us, the voice of God must be ever the same. But these subsidiary proofs are but by-works. They are not the citadel, and can never form the main defence. A doctrine such as that of God becoming man must have evidence cognate to and in pari materie with the. doctrine itself. Thus, by a plain and self-evident necessity, revelation offers us supernatural proof of its reality. This supernatural proof is twofold, prophecy and miracle.
Now these two not merely support one another, but ,are essentially connected. They are not independent, but correlative proofs. It was the office of the prophet gradually to prepare the way for the manifestation of the Immanuel upon earth. In order to do so effectually he often came armed with supernatural authority. But a vast majority of the prophets had no other business than to impress on the consciences of the people truths already divinely vouched for and implicitly accepted; and such no more needed miracles than the preachers of Christianity do at the present day. But among the prophets were here and there men of higher powers, whose office was to advance onwards towards the ultimate goal of the preparatory dispensation. Such men offered prediction and miracle as the seals which ratified their mission. In general men could be prepared to receive so great a miracle as that set forth in the opening verses of John's Gospel only by a previous dispensation which had brought the supernatural very near to man. If the Old Testament had offered no miracles, and had not taught the constant presence of God in the disposal of all human things, the doctrines of the New Testament would have been an impossibility.
But we shall understand their connection better when we have a clearer idea of the true scriptural doctrine of miracles. The current idea of a miracle is that it is a violation of the laws of nature, and as the laws of nature are the laws of God, a miracle would thus signify the violation by God. of his own laws. This is not the teaching of the Bible itself, but an idea that has grown out of the Latin word which as supplanted the more thoughtful terms used in the Hebrew and in the Greek Scriptures. A "miracle," miraculum, is something wonderful — marvellous. Now no doubt all God's works are wonderful; but when the word is applied to his doings in the Bible, it is his works in nature that are generally so described. In the Hebrew, especially in poetry, God is often described as doing "wonders," that is, miracles. But the term is not merely applicable to works such as those wrought by him for his people in Egypt and the wilderness (Ex 15:11; Ps 78:12), but to a thunder-storm (Ps 77:14), and to his ordinary dealings with men in providence (Ps 9:1; Ps 26:7; Ps 40:5), and in the government of the world. But this term wonder is not the word in the Hebrew properly applicable to what 'we mean by miracles, and in the New Testament our Lord's works are never called "miracles" (θαύματα) at all. The people are often said to have "wondered" (Mt 9:33; Mt 15:31) at Christ's acts, but those acts themselves were not intended simply to produce wonder; they had a specific purpose, indicated by the term properly applicable to them, and that term is sign.
This is the sole Hebrew term for what we mean by miracle; but there are other words applied to our Lord's doings in the New Testament which we will previously consider. And, first, there is a term which approaches very nearly to our word miracle, namely, τέρας, portent, defined by Liddell and Scott, in their Greek Lexicon, as a "sign, wonder, marvel, used of any appearance or event in which men believed that they could see the. finger of God." But, with that marvellous accuracy which distinguishes the language of the Greek Testament, our Lord's works are never called τέρατα in the Gospels. The word is used of the false Christs and false prophets, who by great signs and portents shall almost deceive the very elect (Mt 24:24; Mr 13:22). The populace, however, expected a prophet to display these portents (Joh 4:48), and Joel had predicted that such signs of God's presence would accompany the coming of the great and notable day of Jehovah (Ac 2:19).
In the Acts of the Apostles our Lord is said to have been approved of God by portents as well as by powers and signs, the words literally being "Jesus of Nazareth, a man displayed of God unto you by powers, and portents, and signs" but the portents refer to such things as the star which appeared to the magi, and the darkness and earthquake at the crucifixion. Exactly parallel to this place are the words in Heb 2:4, where God is said to have borne witness to the truth of the apostles' testimony "by signs and portents, and manifold powers, and diversified gifts of the Holy Ghost," the description being evidently intended to include every manifestation of God's presence with the first preachers of the Gospel, ordinary and extraordinary, in providence and in grace, and not merely the one fact that from time to time they wrought miracles.
But the term portents is freely applied to the miracles wrought by the apostles, being. used of them no less than eight times in the Acts, and also in Ro 15:19, and 2Co 12:12. In every case it is used in connection with the word signs, the Greek in Ac 6:8; Ac 15:12, being exactly the same as that in Ac 2:43; Ac 4:30; Ac 5:12; Ac 14:3, though differently rendered. The two words, however, express very different sides of the apostles' working, the term sign, as we shall see hereafter, having reference to the long-previous preparation for the Messiah's advent, while portents were indications of the presence with them of the finger of God.
In the Synoptic Gospels, the most common term for our Lord's miracles is δυνάμεις, powers. Full of meaning as is the word, it nevertheless is not one easy to adapt to the idiom of our language, and thus in the Gospels it is usually translated "mighty works" (Mt 11:20-21,23, etc.), but miracles in Ac 2:22; Ac 8:13; Ac 19:11; 1Co 12:10,28, etc. Really it signifies the very opposite of miracles. A δύναμις is a faculty, or capacity for doing anything. We all have our faculties some physical, some mental and moral-and these are all strictly natural endowments. We have also spiritual faculties, and these also primarily are natural endowments of our inner being, though heightened and intensified in believers by the operation of the Holy Ghost. Yet even this is, by the ordinary operation of the Spirit, in accordance with spiritual laws, and not in violation of them. The teaching therefore of this word δυνάμεις, powers or faculties, is that our Lord's works were perfectly natural and ordinary to him. They were his capacities, just as sight and speech are ours. Now in a brute animal articulate speech would be a miracle, because it does not lie within the range of its capacities, and therefore would be a violation of the law of its nature; it does lie within the compass of our faculties, and so in us is no miracle. Similarly, the healing of the sick, the giving sight to the blind, the raising of the dead-things entirely beyond the range of our powers, yet lay entirely within the compass of our Lord's capacities, and were in accordance with the laws of his nature. It was no more a "miracle" in him to turn water into wine than it is with God, who works this change every year. Nor does John call it so, though his word is rendered miracle in our version (Joh 2:11).
His language, as becomes the most thoughtful and philosophic of the Gospels, is deeply significant. He does not use the term δύναμις, faculty, at all, but has two words, one especially his own, namely, ἔργον, a work (yet used once by Matthew, 11:2, who has so much in common with John); the other, the one proper term for miracle throughout the whole Bible, σημεῖον, a sign.
Our Lord's miracles are called ἔργα, works, by John some fifteen or more times, besides places where they are spoken of as "the works of God" (Joh 9:3; Joh 5:20,36). Now this term stands in a very close relation to the preceding word, δύναμις, a faculty. A faculty, when exerted, produces an ἔργον, or work. Whatever powers or capacities we have, whenever we use them, bring forth a corresponding result. We have capacities of thought, of speech, of action, common to the species, though varying in the individual; and what is not at all remarkable in one man may be very much so in another, simply because it is beyond his usual range. But outside the species it may be not only remarkable but miraculous, because it lies altogether beyond the range of the capacities with which the agent is endowed. And so, on the contrary, what would be miraculous in one class of agents is simply natural in another class, because: it is in accordance with their powers.
Now had our Lord been merely man, any and every work beyond the compass of man's powers would have been a miracle. It would have transcended the limits of his nature; but whether it would necessarily have violated the laws of that nature is a question of some difficulty. Supposing that man is an imperfect being, but capable of progress, the limits of his powers may be indefinitely enlarged. Those who hold theory of evolution concede this, and therefore concede that there is nothing miraculous in a remarkable individual being prematurely endowed with capacities which finally and in due time will be the heritage of the whole species. It is the doctrine of the Bible that the spiritual man has a great future before him, and the prophets of old, and the apostles and early Christians, endowed with their great charismata, or gifts, may be but an anticipation of what the spiritual man may finally become. Still, among the "works" of our Lord and his apostles, there is one which seems distinctly divine, namely, the raising of the dead. Gifts of healing, of exciting dormant powers, such as speech in the dumb, of reading the thoughts of others' hearts, may be so heightened in man as he develops under the operations of the Spirit that much may cease to be astonishing which now is highly so. But the raising of the dead travels into another sphere; nor can we imagine any human progress evolving such a power as this. We cannot imagine man possessed of any latent capacity which may in time be so developed as naturally to produce such a result. So, too, the multiplying of food seems to involve powers reserved to the Creator alone.
But the Gospel of John does not regard our. Lord as a man prematurely endowed with gifts which finally will become the heritage of the whole species; it is penetrated everywhere with the conviction that a higher nature was united in him to his human nature. It shows itself not merely in formal statements like the opening words of the Gospel, but in the language usual with him everywhere. And so here. Our Lord's miracles to him are simply and absolutely ἔργα, works only. But, as we have seen before, they are also divine works, "works of God." Still in Christ, according to John's view, they were perfectly natural. They were the necessary and direct result of that divine nature which in him was indissolubly united with his human nature. The last thing which the apostle would have thought about them was that they were miraculous, wonderful. That God should give his only- begotten Son to save the world was wonderful. That such a being should: ordinarily do works entirely beyond the limits of man's powers did not seem to John wonderful, and hence the simple yet deeply significant term by which he characterizes them.
Yet such works were not wrought without a purpose; nor did such a being come without having a definite object to justify his manifestation. If wisdom has to be justified of all her children, of all that she produces, there must be some end or purpose effected by each of them, and especially in one like Christ, confessedly the very highest manifestation of human nature, and, as we Christians believe, reaching high above its bounds. Now John points this out in calling our Lord's works σημεῖα, signs. It is devoutly to be hoped that in the revised translation of the New Testament this term will be restored to its place, instead of being mistranslated miracle, as in our present version. Really, in employing it, John was only following in the steps of the older Scriptures, and the unity of thought in the Bible is destroyed when the same word is translated differently in one book from its rendering in another. However wonderful may be God's works, they are not wrought simply to fill men with astonishment, and least of all are those so wrought which lie outside the ordinary course of God's natural laws.
The word σημεῖον, sign, tells us in the plainest language that these works were tokens calling the attention of men to what was then happening; and especially is it used in the Old Testament of some mark or signal confirming a promise or covenant. Such a sign (or mark) God gave to Cain in proof that his life was safe (Ge 4:15). Such a sign (or token) was the rainbow to Noah, certifying him and mankind throughout all time that the world should not be again destroyed by water (Ge 9:13). And here learn we incidentally that God's signs need not be miraculous. The laws of refraction probably were the same before as after the flood, and the fact of the rainbow being produced by the operation of natural laws does not make it a less fit symbol of a covenant between God and man relative to a great natural convulsion. So, again, circumcision was a sign (or token) of the covenant between God and the family of Abraham (Ge 17:11). It was to recall the minds of the Israelites to the thought not merely that they stood in a covenant relation to God, but that that covenant implied personal purity and holiness. In the same way the Sabbath was a sign (Ex 31:13; Eze 20:12) of a peculiar relation between the Jew and his God.
But there are places where it distinctively means what we call a miracle. Thus Ahaz is told to ask a sign, and a choice is given him either of some meteor in the heavens, or of some appearance in the nether world: "Make it deep unto Hades, or high in the vault of heaven above" (Isa 7:11). And when the unbelieving king will ask, no sign, the prophet gives him that of the Immanuel, the virgin's son. So the sign unto Hezekiah of his recovery was the supernatural retrogression of the shadow upon the sundial of Ahaz, however significant it might also be of the hand of time having gone back as regards Hezekiah's own life (Isa 38:7). Elsewhere the divine foreknowledge is the sign (Ex 3:12; Isa 37:30), and generally signs of God's more immediate presence with his people would either be prophecy (Ps 74:9) or miracle (Ps 105:27; Jer 32:20; Da 4:2).
Very much more might be learned by a filler consideration of the manner in which the word sign is used in the Old Testament, but what is said above is enough to explain the reason why John so constantly used the term to express our Lord's miracles. The water changed into wine at Cana he calls "the beginning of signs" (Joh 2:11), and the healing of the centurion's son is "the second sign" (Joh 4:54), as being the first and second indications of Christ's wielding those powers which belong to God as the Creator and Author of nature, and which therefore pledged the God of nature, as the sole possessor of these powers, to the truth of any one's teaching who came armed with them (Joh 3:2, where again the Greek is signs). So he tells us that the people assembled at Jerusalem for the Passover believed Jesus "when they. saw the signs which he did" (Joh 2:23). It was, in fact, the very thing they had asked (Mt 12:38; Mt 16:1; Joh 2:18; Joh 6:30), and candid minds confessed that they were a sufficient ground for belief (Joh 6:14; Joh 7:31; Joh 9:16; Joh 12:18); in fact, they were wrought for that purpose (Joh 20:30-31), though men might and did refuse to accept them as proof conclusive of the Saviour's mission (Joh 11:47; Joh 12:37), and vulgar minds, saw in them nothing more than reason for astonishment (Joh 6:2,26). To them they were simply miracles-wonders.
A sign is more and means more than a miracle, for it does not stand alone, but is a token and indication of something else. Thus John's word shows that our Lord's works had a definite purpose. They were not wrought at random, but were intended for a special object. What this was is easy to tell. The Old Testament had always represented the Jews as holding a peculiar position towards the Godhead. They were a chosen people endowed with high privileges and blessings, but so endowed because they were also intended for a unique purpose. They were the depositaries of revelation, and in due time their Torah, their revealed law, was to go forth out of Zion (Isa 2:3) to lighten the whole Gentile world (Isa 42:6). This promise of a revelation extending to the whole world was further connected with the coming of a special descendant of Abraham (Ge 22:18; De 18:15), and prophecy had gradually so filled up the outline that a complete sketch had been given of the person, the offices, the work, and the preaching of the great Son of David, to whose line the promise had subsequently been confined (Isa 11:1; Jer 23:5; Ho 3:5; Mic 5:2, etc.).
But how were people to know when he had come? The prophets had indeed given some indications of the time, especially Daniel (Da 9:24-27), and so clear were their words that all the world was expecting the arrival of some mighty being, in whom magnus ab integro sceclorrum nascitur ordo, and an entire transformation of the world should take place. But how, among many claimants, was he to be known? He might come, perhaps, as a conqueror, and by force of arms compel men to submit to his authority. But no! Prophecy had described him as the Prince of Peace; nor was his kingdom to be of this world, but a spiritual empire. Now, if we reflect for a little, we shall see that there is no obligation incumbent upon men to accept, or even examine, the claims of any and every one professing to be the bearer of a revelation from God. Before this duty arises, there must at least be something to call our attention to his claims. Mere self- assertion imposes no obligation upon others, unless it have something substantial to back it up. Life is a practical thing, with very onerous duties, and few, like the Athenians of old, have the taste or the leisure to listen to and examine everything new. The herald of a divine dispensation must have proof to offer that he does come from God, and such proof as pledges the divine attributes to the truth of his teaching. This is the reason why the Old-Testament dispensation was one of signs. On special occasions justifying the divine interference, and in the persons of its great teachers, the prophets, supernatural proof was given in two ways of God's presence with his messengers in a manner superior to and beyond his ordinary and providential presence in the affairs of life. The divine omniscience was pledged to the truth of their words by the prediction of future events and his omnipotence by their working things beyond the ordinary range of nature. The two Old Testament proofs of a revelation were prophecy and miracle. We can think of no others, and nothing less would suffice.
As we have said, the whole of the Old Testament looked forward to the manifestation of a divine person, in whom revelation would become, in the first place, perfect; in the second, universal; and, thirdly, final. As being a final revelation, prophecy, which was the distinctive element of the preparatory dispensation, holds in it no longer an essential place, though it is present in the New Testament in a subordinate degree. But miracle must, in the bearer of such a revelation, rise to its highest level; first because of the superiority of his office to that of the prophets. For he was himself the end of prophecy, the person for whose coming prophecy had prepared, and in whom all God's purposes of love towards mankind were to be fulfilled. The office of Christ as the bearer to mankind of God's final and complete message involves too much for us lightly to ascribe it to him. And no merely natural proof would suffice. We could not possibly believe what we believe of him had he wrought no miracles. We could not believe that he was the appointed Savior, to whom "all honor was given in heaven and earth" (Mt 28:18), for man's redemption, if he had given no proof during the period of his manifestation on earth of being invested with extraordinary powers. But we go further than this. Perhaps no one would deny that the sole sufficient proof of such a religion as Christianity must be supernatural. We assert that no revealed religion whatsoever can be content with a less decided proof. The sole basis upon which a revelation can rest is the possession by the bearer of it of prophetic and miraculous powers.
For a revealed religion claims authority over us. If it be God's voice speaking to us, we have no choice but to obey. Our reason might not approve; our hearts and wills might detest what we were told; yet if we knew that it was God's voice, we must sadly and reluctantly submit to it. But it would be wrong in the highest degree to yield up ourselves to anything requiring such complete obedience unless we had satisfactory. proof that God really was its author. And no subjective proof could be satisfactory. The purity of the doctrines of Christianity, their agreement with the truths of natural religion, their ennobling effects upon our characters, and the way in which they enlighten the conscience — all this and more shows that there is no impossibility in Christianity being a divine revelation: the perfectness of our Lord's character, the thoroughness with which. Christ's atonement answers to the deepest needs of the soul, the way in which Christianity rises above all religions of man's devising — all this and more makes it probable that it is God's gift. But at most these considerations only prepare the mind to listen without prejudice to the direct and external proofs that Christianity is a revelation from God. The final proof must pledge God himself to its truth. But what are the divineῥ attributes which would bear the most decisive witness? Surely those which most entirely transcend all human counterfeits — omniscience and omnipotence. Now these are pledged to Christianity by prophecy and miracle.
The first had performed its office when Christ came. All men were musing in their hearts upon the expected coming of some Great One. His miracles, his works, the products of his powers, were the signs that prophecy was in course of fulfilment, The two must not be separated. Our Lord expressly declares that but for his works the Jews would have been right in rejecting him (Joh 15:24), His claims were too high for any less proof to have sufficed. But the nature of his works did put men under a moral obligation to inquire into his claims; and then he sent them to the Scriptures (Joh 5:39). The miracles were thus not the final proof of Christ's mission. Had they been such, we might have expected that they would still be from time to time vouchsafed, as occasion required, even to the end of the world. The agreement of Christ's life and death and teaching with what had been foretold of the Messiah is the leading proof of his mission, and, having this, we need miracles no more. Christ's works called men's attention to this proof, and made it a duty to examine it. They also exalt his person, and give him the authority of a messenger accredited from heaven; but the Old Testament remains for all ages the proper proof of the truth of the New. Miracles were signs for the times; prophecy is for all time, and as Christianity no longer requires anything especially to call men's attention to its claims, prophecy is proof enough that it is a message from God.
The more clearly to set this before our readers, we repeat that prediction was the distinctive sign of God's presence under the Old-Testament dispensation, and miracles subordinate. Revelation was then a growing light, and was ever advancing onward; and thus the prophets were ever preparing for the future. It was only on special occasions that miracle was needed. 'But when revelation became perfect and final in the person of One who, according to the terms of prophecy, transcended the bounds of human nature, it was necessary that miracle should rise in him to its highest level, both because of the dignity of his person, as one invested with all power, human and divine, and also as the proper proof at the time of his being the Son, the last and greatest therefore whom the Father could send; and, finally, to call the attention of men to his claims, and compel them to examine them. For this reason they were called signs. But as soon as the dispensation thus given could force. its claims on men's attention by other means, and its divine bounder had with drawn, miracles necessarily ceased, as being inconsistent with man's probation. Look over the. list of Scripture names for miracles, and ask what one would be appropriate now? Of what would they now be signs? Of what person would they be the proper faculties? For whom now would they be suitable works? The whole scriptural theory of miracles is contravened by the supposition of miracles being continued after Christianity had once been established. What history teaches us, namely, that they were rapidly withdrawn, is alone consistent with what we gather from Scripture concerning them.
They were an essential part of the proof at the time, and have an essential use now. For we could not believe what is taught us of Christ if he had not been accredited by miracles. But the proper evidence for the truth of Christianity now is that of prophecy, not as existing any longer in living force, but as manifested in the agreement of the long list of books forming the Old Testament with one another; and still more in the fulfilment of the Old Testament in the New. It is a proof in everybody's hands, and open to every one to examine. The proof of miracles requires, of course, large historical evidence, and not every one possesses bishop Stillingfleet's Origines Cause, or even Paley; but every Christian has his Bible, and in it will find the proper proof now of its truth.
Agreeably with this, dean Lyall, in his Propaedia Prophetica, has well remarked that the apostles "scarcely allude to Christ's miracles at all, and never in the way of proof (page 4). Miracles, he shows, now hold a disproportionate place in the argument from that assigned to them in the New Testament; and, in fact, it is very remarkable that Peter but twice refers in his speeches to Christ's miracles, and never but once to those wrought by himself. Paul, in his thirteen epistles, only thrice appeals to his own miraculous powers, and never mentions Christ's miracles, or even directly alludes to them. The key of this we have in the names applied to them by the apostles, and especially by John. They were the natural works of one such as was Christ, but also signs that in him the long preparation of the Old-Testament dispensation had reached its final purpose, and that the new and lasting dispensation had begun.
In their proper place and degree, however, they were and still remain essential to the proof of a divine revelation. We could not accept a revelation, or give it the authority over our conscience due to the direct voice of God, unless we had indubitable proof that it was God's voice. The supernatural can only be proved by the Supernatural. If, then, a revelation was necessary as well for the present progress of mankind as for their future perfectness, miracle was also necessary, and the believer in revelation cannot possibly discard it from its place among the evidences.
Necessarily, therefore, from first to last, the Bible is a book of miracle. Miracle is present not as an accident, separable from the main thread, but is itself the very essence of the narrative. The facts of the Old Testament were the basis of the faith of the Jew. They were so as being miracles, and because, as such, they involved certain dogmatic propositions concerning the divine Being and his relations to themselves. So as regards ourselves. When we repeat the Apostles' Creed, we acknowledge our belief first in the existence of a God — an instinct, as we have shown, of our nature — but upon this follow certain historical facts recorded in the New Testament, which are either directly miraculous, or become dogmatic because of being based upon miracle. Without miracle Christianity is absolutely nothing. All that distinguishes it from simple Theism is miraculous.
Miracles in the present day are at a discount. Our men of science have so well studied the laws of the material universe, and shown us so clearly the existence there of a calm, unbroken, unvarying order, that our minds, enamored of so grand a truth, are impatient of any truth or theory rising above these material laws. Thus the controversy whether Christianity is true or not really turns upon miracle. The close and exact examination of all the facts of holy Scripture which has marked our days has served only to confirm men's belief in the authenticity of the sacred writings. Our increased knowledge, especially that obtained from the cuneiform inscriptions corroborative of the Old-Testament history, and from similar unquestionable authorities contemporaneous with the New-Testament records has well-nigh swept away every so-called historical difficulty; while subjective criticism has not merely failed in substantiating any case against the several books of the Bible, but has done very much: to place them upon a surer basis. At no time was the external evidence in favor of Christianity, or the argument drawn from prophecy, so clear and so little liable to objection as at the present day. And this is no slight matter. A host of eager and competent critics have examined with unfavorable intentions the whole line of our defences, and the result of their operations has been to show how thoroughly tenable it is in every part.
Thus the whole attack is now thrown upon miracle. Miracle is roundly asserted to be contrary to the whole course of nature, and to be a violation of that grand law of invariable order which we find everywhere else throughout the universe. In this way a sort of induction is drawn against miracle. Wherever we can examine into the causes of phenomena, we always find them the products of forces acting according to unchanging laws. Whole regions of phenomena,: which were once supposed to be under the sway of chance, have now been reduced to order, and the causes of them made manifest. Men of science have entered one field after another, and have added it to their domains, by showing what laws govern it, and how those laws work. With some show of reason therefore they affirm that law prevails everywhere, and that where at present it cannot be shown to prevail, we may yet be sure of its presence, and convinced that the patient investigations of science will in due time demonstrate its sway. And therefore miracle as being a violation of these universal laws, is not merely, they say, contrary to that experience of men of which Mr. Hume spoke, and upon which he founded an .argument repeatedly shown to be untenable, but of an induction drawn from a vast field of observation and scientific inquiry. In miracle, and miracle alone, science finds something which contradicts its experience. The examination of this most important objection will complete our inquiry.
The proposition contained in this objection, when we consider it, seems a most true conclusion as regards the material universe. All material things apparently are governed by general laws, and it is probable that scientific men are quite right in endeavoring to show that even in creation all things were produced by law. For our own part, we cannot imagine a perfect Being like the Deity working except by law, and therefore we read all theories about evolution and selection, and the formation of the solar system by slow degrees out of a vast nebula, and the like, with no prejudice regarding them, however intended, simply as attempted answers to the question, In what way — by what secondary processes — did God create and shape the world? If, — after reading the arguments, we conclude by thinking them often ingenious rather than true, and put the book down with the Scotch verdict, "Not proven," we do not therefore think that science is on the wrong track, nor doubt that all these inquiries do in the main give us juster views of God's method of working. But miracle seems to us to belong to another field, of thought, and to be outside the domains of science. For we venture to ask, Is the material universe everything? Is there nothing but matter? nothing but dull, inert particles, acted upon by material forces — attraction, repulsion, affinity, and the like. What is force? What is law? If there be a God — a perfect, omnipotent, omnipresent Being — then law has to us a meaning. It is his will, working permanently and unchangeably because he is a perfect and omnipotent worker. We can understand force. It is his presence, acting upon and controlling all things, but always in the same way, because he changes not. To believe in universal order without a universal will to order all things, to believe in universal laws without a universal lawgiver, is to us an absurdity. Ex nihilo nihil fit. In a world where every effect has a cause, who and what is the cause of all? Who but God? And who sustains the world now but he who first made it?
But it is not the office of science to inquire into the being and attributes and nature of this First Great Cause. Science is solely occupied with the secondary processes. When it has reached the law, it has done its work. It is not the business of science to examine into the law as such, but only into the mode of its operations. Whose is the law, what power sustains it, how it came into being — all this lies outside the domain of science. Thus science never rises above material things; and by remembering this by remembering that, after all, the field of science (of course we mean physical science) is limited — we see that an induction made in its proper field does not justify any conclusions in fields outside its limits.
Let us take the case of man. Science, looking at him in his physical aspect, tells us that he consists of several pounds of salts and earths, combined with a larger number of gallons of water. It tells us by what chemical affinities these commonplace materials are held together, how they operate upon one another, by what processes the waste is renewed, and by what a mass of curious mechanical contrivances man's body, considered as a machine, performs its operations. If we ask how it comes to think, science tells us much about the brain; how like it is to a galvanic trough, and by what an elaborate, threefold apparatus of nerves it sends its commands to every part of the body. But when we ask how it is that the brain does consciously what the voltaic battery does unconsciously; how it is that these earths and salts, when combined into a man, know that they are a man, we get only the unmeaning answer that it is the result of organization. But give science all the bottles in a chemist's shop, and it cannot organize a sentient being out of them. In fact, it owns itself that life is a mystery. It can tell how life works, but not what life is. Life is as much beyond the reach of science as is God. It knows the laws of life, but no more.
Man therefore, when considered only physically, contains more than science can master. But is life the only mystery in man? Why does man think? Why does he speculate upon his own actions? Why muse upon the purpose of all things here below? Of all beings upon this earth, man alone is self-conscious. He alone knows that he exists; he alone feels that he exists for a purpose, and can and does consciously interfere with other things in order to shape them to his own ends. He alone has not the mere rudiments, but the full gift of a conscience, which is always interfering with him, and giving him endless annoyance, because it will pass judgment upon his actions, and condemn much that he does.
Now it is in connection with this higher world that miracle has its proper place. It distinctly has reference to man as a being in whom there is more than mere material. forces at work. Prove that there is nothing more in man than salts and earths and water, and there would be no place for miracle. Now physical science stops at proving this. The most skilful analyst could get nothing more out of man than salts, earths, and water; but then, confessedly, he labors under this disadvantage, that he cannot begin his analysis until life, and with it the sentient soul, has withdrawn from the machine. All he can examine is the residuum only.
We want some science therefore which can examine man while he is alive, and report upon him. For physical science is not the sole science. There are other sciences, and each. is authoritative only upon its own domain. The psychologist, who examines into the workings of man's inner nature, is quite as worthy of a hearing as the physicist, who examines into the materials out of which he is composed. Ne sutor ultra crepidam — a homely but wise motto, which a rising and progressive study, such as is physical science, in the hours of its first triumphs, is in danger of neglecting. After all, a man of only one science tries to see with only one eye, and to walk with only one leg. Before we can form a true estimate of the question that so deeply concerns us. What is man's place and work and purpose in the world? — we must include a far wider induction than that offered by physical science.
If, as the instincts of our nature teach us, there be a God; if man be more than a very highly-organized machine; if within him there be an immortal soul, and before him a future life, then miracle is essential to his well-being. It is the sole possible proof of conscious relation between man and God. Man could not be sure that God had spoken to him, had revealed to him any knowledge requisite for his use, had entered into covenant relation with him, without miracles. We know nothing in physical science to disprove this relation. Suppose that we find a stage elaborately constructed and adorned. No theory, however true, of the manner in which this stage was constructed, no examination of the mechanical laws by which it is still kept in being, will justify us in concluding that it was not intended for some further purpose. Nor, because the boards are all safely nailed in their place, does it follow that actors may not' enter upon it, higher in nature than the boards, and capable of spontaneous motion. Nor, because we have never seen the builder, does it follow that he did not erect the stage on purpose that these actors might play upon it their parts. Geology, chemistry, astronomy, so far from proving that the world had no purpose, and that the actors upon it have no freedom and no responsibility, rather suggest the contrary. They teach us what a vast amount of skill, patience, wisdom, and goodness has been expended in forming the stage. Quorsum ic? What was the object of all this? What the end? Oh! but some physicists answer, We reject teleology. That is, we reject something which lies beyond our province, and on which we have no authority to speak. They tell us all about the stage, and then, instead of saying frankly, We have done our part, Plaudite (and richly they deserve our applause), they tell us, Be satisfied with the stage. It is very pretty, very nicely constructed, but utterly unmeaning. An elaborate universe without a purpose, is a poor, mean thing, unworthy to exist. It would be a disgrace to a man to erect a noble structure without a purpose: there are many buildings in England called So-and-So's Folly, because erected without a sufficient purpose. Let us beware of ascribing such child's play to that Power which called the universe into being.
No. The more we consider man, and the more we learn about him, and about the world which he inhabits, the more sure we are that he is no fortuitous concurrence of atoms, but the chief and culminating point, in whom, and in whom alone, all the skill and wisdom and long patience displayed in the formation of the world find their purpose and their justification. The wonders of physical science all lead up to this. There are some among its teachers who would persuade us that the universe is a mere curiosity shop, fitted to raise our wonder, but never reasonable, because nowhere the product of mind, or controlled by mind. But the very harmony which they find in nature, and the calm reign of law, proves that mind does pervade all nature. Without mind there can be no harmony;
without a universal mind no universal law. But grant that mind may exist as well as matter, and you grant the possibility of this world having a purpose — a purpose which, as we have shown, can be realized only in man. But to realize this purpose men's finite mind may need converse with the universal, the infinite mind, and, if so, miracle is justified by this necessity.
Thus, then, miracle is not contrary to nature, but rises simply above the sphere of mere material forces. And it is untrue and unphilosophic to regard it as an interference by God with his universal laws, much: less a violation of them. Man daily interferes with the material laws and forces of nature, but we never violate them. The stone thrown into the air interferes with the law of gravitation, but does not violate it. And if God be an intelligent and moral worker like man, only in a superior and perfect degree, he, too, must be capable of bending the powers of nature to instantaneous obedience to his will, or he could not do what man can do. His own laws he could not violate, because they are his laws; but his interference with them would necessarily be what we call a miracle, something which the ordinary operations of nature could not produce; something which transcends nature, and goes utterly beyond it. If a sheep possessed the power of reasoning upon its own actions and those of man, the latter would seem to it absolutely miraculous, because they so entirely exceed its own powers. Yet to man they would be no miracles, but the ordinary exercise of his powers. And so what we call miracles are not miracles to the Deity, and therefore the evangelists call them in Christ simply δυνάμεις, his faculties; and John calls them ἔργα, works, only, the natural products of his faculties; yet not wrought without a purpose. They were also σημεῖα, signs, tokens indicating that something was done, which man was thereby required to examine and observe; and living as the Jews did under a preparatory dispensation. they were signs that the fulness of time had come, and the final dispensation being ushered in..
In conclusion. Without miracles there can be only natural religion; revealed religion is impossible. Revelation is itself a miracle; and its very object is to tell us things which we could not otherwise know. Such things cannot be verified as we verify the facts of science. No man hath or can see God. No man can tell us by experience what is the state of the soul after death, for from that bourne no traveller returns. Yet some knowledge of the relations of the soul with God may be absolutely necessary for our moral and spiritual well-being. Now the utter failure of natural religion convinces us that it is necessary. And therefore we feel no difficulty in the belief that God, in creating the world such as it is, and placing man upon it such as he is, and under such circumstances as those in which we find ourselves, did from the first purpose this reasonable interference with the material laws of his own framing, by which, he grants man the only sufficient proof that he is willing to enter into covenant relations with him. If the physicist reply that such action on God's part is inconceivable, we answer that he also must conceive of some such action. Students of physical science deal in long numbers, but these numbers are as nothing compared with the eternity past. Work back with the geologist, and you come at last to a first beginning of matter. Looked at by the light of mental science, the eternal existence of matter is impossible. To the metaphysician, matter is but a phenomenon of mind. Confining ourselves, then, to our universe, what a momentous change was that in God when he passed from the passive state of not willing it to the active state of willing the existence of our system! Grant that by his fiat he only called into existence an atom, out of which bye evolution all things here below have sprung, what a stupendous act it was, and how entirely it placed the Deity in relations, and, to speak with all reverence, under obligations from which he was free before! For the Creator is under, the obligations of justice and love to his creatures. He made us, and not we ourselves. But he neither was nor is under any moral obligations to his material laws. They abide in power and might because he abideth continually. And' miracle simply means that he, the Creator, has from time to time, under the operation of a higher law, given us the necessary proof that he does love us, and that certain messengers, chosen from among men, had authority to teach us truths which concerned our peace; and that, finally, by "powers and portents and signs, he has manifested and displayed Jesus of Nazareth in the midst of us" as "a leader and Saviour; to give repentance unto his people and the remission of sins." Miracles, then, were no after-thought, no remedial process to set right what had gone wrong before. They form an essential and necessary part and condition of the intercourse between the universal mind of God and the finite mind of man, and that intercourse was necessary for man's good. Why man is just what he is, and why the state of things in which he-finds. himself is what it is, we cannot tell. We call only reason from facts as we find them. But man being such as he is, we assert that the world would be a failure without miracles; for either man would exist without a purpose, or, 'having been placed here for some purpose, he would not know with sufficient certainty or clearness what that purpose was, and therefore would neither have the means of effecting it, nor even any obligation laid upon him of trying to accomplish what his Maker had willed in his creation. (R.P.S.)
For the relations of miracles to prayer, SEE PRAYER. We have thus far considered simply the positive evidences on which the belief in miracles properly rests, and it remains to notice the objections that have from time to time been urged against it, and the different views as to the: character and office of miracles.
The Christians even of apostolic days were in the habit of appealing to the miracles and prophecies in support of the truth of their religion, and hence it became important to define exactly the idea of a miracle; and in consequence of a desire for such preciseness division arose among the interpreters of Scripture, provoking heresy in the Church, while from without attacks were constantly made against the credibility of the Gospel history, the divine authenticity of the prophetic announcements, and the wonderful works claimed to have been wrought under the old dispensation. Dean Trench, in his Notes on Miracles, has furnished an excellent and interesting account of the various assaults made on the argument for miracles, and to it we must refer for detailed information. Suffice it to say here that the controversy respecting the possibility of miracles is as old as philosophic literature. Indeed, from the writings of Jewish savans, it would appear that the controversy respecting the possibility of miracles commenced even in the days of the O.T. dispensation, and that near the appointed time for the coming of the Saviour the world was greatly animated by a controversy on the subject. There is a very clear view of it, as it stood in the pagan world, given by Cicero in his books De Divinatione. In the works of Josephus there are occasionally suggestions of naturalistic explanations of O.T. miracles; but these seem rather thrown out for the purpose of gratifying sceptical pagan readers than as expressions of his own belief. The other chief authorities for Jewish opinion are Maimonides's Moreh Nebochim, lib. 2, c. 35, and the Pirke Aboth, in Surenhusius's Mishna, 4:469, and Abrabanel, Miphaloth Eloim, page 93.
Dean Trench, in his classification of the objectors, places the Jewish first, then follows with the heathen (Celsus, etc.), and puts as third in the list the pantheistic objectors led by Spinoza. He evidently regards Cardan (De Contradictione Medicorum, 2, tract. 2), and those other Italian atheists who referred the Christian miracles to the influence of the stars, as unworthy of notice. If these be omitted, as Trench has done, the controversy in the modern Christian world regarding miracles may be said to date back to the 17th century, and to have been ushered in by Spinoza's Tractatus Theologici Politici, "which contained the germ of almost all the infidel theories that have since appeared." Rationalists since the days of Spinoza have opposed the reality and credibility of miracles, while the adherents of the modern (formal) supernaturalism rested belief in revelation especially on that branch of evidence. One of these objections, urged by Spinoza, and repeated in various forms by subsequent writers, is thus stated by dean Mansel: "The laws of nature are the decrees of God, and follow necessarily from the perfection of the divine nature; they must therefore be eternal and immutable, and must extend to all possible events. Therefore, to admit an exception to these laws is to suppose that God's order is broken, and that the divine work is but an imperfect expression of the divine will. This objection is perfectly intelligible in the mouth of a pantheist, with whom God and nature are convertible terms, and a divine supernatural act is a self-contradiction but it is untenable in any system which admits a personal God distinct from nature, and only partially manifested in it. In such a system nature is not infinite, as Spinoza makes it, but finite. There is a distinction between the actual and the possible; between the visible world as a limited system, with limited laws, and the whole mind of God, embracing all possible systems as well as the present. From this point of view, nature, as actually existing, does express a portion, and a portion only, of the divine purpose; the miracle expresses another portion belonging to a different and more comprehensive system. But in addition to this consideration, even the actual world furnishes us with an answer to the objection. God's order, we have too much reason to know, actually is broken. His will is not carried out. Unless we make God the author of evil, we must admit that sin is a violation of his will, a breach made in his natural order, however impossible it may be to give an account of its origin. The pantheist evades the difficulty by denying that evil has any real existence; but to the theist, who admits its existence, it is conclusive evidence that, as a fact, however little we may understand how it can be, the world, as it exists, is not a perfect expression of God's law and will. The miracle, as thus viewed, belongs to a spiritual system appointed to remedy the disorders of the natural system; and against the self-complacent theory which tells us that disorders in the natural system are impossible, we have the witness of a melancholy experience which tells us that they are actually there. Thus viewed, the miracle is in one sense natural, in another supernatural. It is natural as forming a part of the higher or spiritual system; it is supernatural as not forming a part of the lower or material system. The same considerations may serve to obviate another form of the same objection — a form in which it is likewise suggested by Spinoza, though developed by other writers in a form more adapted to the language of theism. We are told that it is more worthy of God to arrange a plan which shall provide by its original laws for all possible contingencies than one which requires a special interposition to meet a special emergency. We know so little about the process of creating and governing a world, that it is difficult for us to judge what method of doing so is most worthy of God but this whole objection proceeds on the gratuitous assumption that the plan of the world, as it exists in the counsels of God, must be identical with the plan of the world as it is contemplated by man in relation to physical laws. Doubtless the miracle, like any other event, was foreseen by God from the beginning, and formed part of his eternal purpose; but it does not therefore follow that it is included within that very limited portion of his purpose which is apprehended by man as a system of physical laws. To Omnipotence no one event is more difficult than another; to Omniscience no one event is more wonderful than another. The distinction between miracles and ordinary events, as has already been observed, is a distinction, not in relation to God, but in relation to man. Moreover, even from the human point of view, the miracle is not wrought for a physical, but for a moral purpose; it is not an interposition to adjust the machinery of the material world, but one to promote the spiritual welfare of mankind. The very conception of a revealed, as distinguished from a natural religion, implies a manifestation of God different in kind from that which is exhibited by the ordinary course of nature; and the question of the probability of a miraculous interposition is simply that of the probability of a revelation being given at all." A list of the principal replies to the pantheistic objectors may be seen in Fabricius, Delectus Argumentorum, etc., c. 43, page 697 (Hamburg, 1726). A full account of the controversy in England with the deists during the last century will be found in Leland's View of the Deistical Writers (reprinted at London, 1836). The debate was renewed about the middle of that century by the publication of Hume's celebrated essay, which teaches that "a miracle is a violation of the laws of nature; and as a firm and unalterable experience has established these laws, the proof against a miracle, from the very nature of the fact, is as entire as any argument from experience can possibly be imagined." According to the position taken in the preceding remarks by the dean of Canterbury, it cannot with any accuracy be said that a miracle is "a violation of the laws of nature." It is the effect of a supernatural cause, acting along with and in addition to the natural causes constituting the system of the world. It is produced therefore, by a different combination of causes from that which is at work in the production of natural phenomena. The laws of nature are only general expressions of that uniform arrangement according to which the same causes invariably produce the same effect. They would be violated by the production, at different times, of different effects from the same cause; but they are not violated when different effects are produced from different causes. The experience which testifies to their uniformity tells us only what effects may be expected to follow from a repetition of the same cause; it cannot tell us what effects will follow from the introduction of a different cause. This, which is in substance the answer given to Hume by Brown, appears the most satisfactory among the various arguments by which the sceptical philosopher's position has been assailed. It is questioned by some of the critics of Hume (notably Sir William Hamilton; comp. Hamilton's Reid, pages 129, 444, 457, 489), whether his sceptical arguments are offered in a spirit of hostility to the processes of common-sense and the truths of religion, and not rather in a spirit of hostility to philosophy itself, by representing the results of its analysis as equally probable in favor of and against two opposite directions of thought. The form of dialogue which is adopted by Hume in this discussion favors somewhat this construction; but it cannot be reconciled with the impression left upon the unbiased mind that Hume had no confidence in speculation of any kind when applied to supersensual or spiritual beings and relations (comp. Ueberweg, Hist. Philos. 2:379). The ablest replies to Hume's arguments were sent forth by Principal Campbell in his Dissertation on Miracles; Hey, Norrisian Lectures, 1:127 sq.; Elrington, Donellan Lectures (Dublin, 1796); Dr. Thomas Brown, On Cause and Effect; Paley,. Evidences of Christianity (Introduction); Archbp. Whately, Logic (Appendix); and Historic Doubts respecting Napoleon Bonaparte; Dean Ryall, Propaedia Prophetica (reprinted, 1854); Bp. Douglas, Criterion, or Miracles Examined, etc. (Lond. 1754); Farrar, Critical Hist. of Free Thought, page 150 sq. SEE HOME. Within the last few years the controversy has been reopened by the late professor Baden Powell in the Unity of Worlds, and some remarks on the study of evidences published in the now-celebrated volume of Essays and Reviews. See Goodwin, in Am. Theol. Rev. July 1861; Christian Renzembrance; July 1861.
From England the controversy shifted again to the Continent, and finds, its ablest representatives against the supernaturalists now not only in the camp of the atheistic and pantheistic, but also among theologians, and dean Trench therefore adopts as his next or fifth class those who regard miracles, as such, only subjectively, placing as its standard-bearer the celebrated Schleiermacher, who advanced a doctrine as incompatible with any belief in a real miracle as was that taught by Hume. "A miracle," says Schleiermacher, "has a positive relation, by which it extends to all that is future, and a negative relation, which in a certain sense affects all t at is past. In so far as that does not follow which would have followed, according to the natural connection of the aggregate of finite causes, in so far an effect is hindered, not by the influence of other natural counteracting causes belonging to the same series, but notwithstanding the concurrence of all effective causes to the production of the effect. Everything, therefore, which from all past time contributed to this effect is in a certain measure annihilated; and instead of the interpolation of a single supernatural agent into the course of nature, the whole conception of nature is destroyed. On the positive side, something takes place which is conceived as incapable of following from the aggregate of finite causes. But, inasmuch as this event itself now becomes an actual link in the chain of nature, every future event must be other than it would have been had this one miracle not taken place." On this and other grounds, Schleiermacher is led to maintain that there is no real distinction between the natural and the supernatural; the miracles being only miraculous relatively to us, through our imperfect. knowledge of the hidden causes in nature, by means of which they were wrought. "This objection," says dean Mansel, "proceeds on an assumption which is not merely unwarranted, but actually contradicted by experience. It assumes that the system of material nature is a rigid, not an elastic system; that it is one which obstinately resists the introduction of new forces, not one which is capable of adapting itself to them. We know by experience that the voluntary actions of men can be interposed among the phenomena of matter, and exercise an influence over them, so that certain results may be produced or not, according to the will of a man, without affecting the stability of the universe, or the coherence of its parts as a system. What the will of man can effect to a small extent, the will of God can surely effect to a greater extent; and this is a sufficient answer to the objection which declares the miracle to be impossible; though we may not be able to say with certainty whether it is actually brought to pass in this or in some other way. There may be many means, unknown to us, by which such an events may be produced; but if it can be produced in any way it is not impossible." The rationalists, thus encouraged by the mediating theologians, endeavored to explain the miraculous as something natural, while the natural philosophers asserted that nature transfigured by spirit (the blending of the two in one) is the only true miracle. But thus the reality of the miracle (in the scriptural sense) was destroyed, and it was regarded simply as the symbolical expression of a speculative idea. See Schelling, Methode, pages 181, 203; and comp. Bockshammer and Rosenkranz, cited in Strauss, Dogmatik, page 244 sq. Bockshammer (Freiheit der Willens, transl. by Kaufman, Andov. 1840) says that what is willed in the spirit of truth and purity with a mighty will, is willed in the Spirit of God, and it is only a postulate of reason that nature cannot withstand such a will. Hence Christ is the great miracle-worker. Rosenkranz (Encykl. d. Theol. page 160) defines miracle as nature determined by spirit; spirit is the basis of nature, and hence nature cannot limit it. This power was fully concentrated in Christ.] The natural interpretation of miracles rather served the purposes of rationalism, while the. adherents of modern speculative philosophy gave the preference to the hypothesis that the miracles related in Scripture are myths, because it is more agreeable to the negative tendency of that school — that the antecedent improbability of a miracle taking place must always outweigh that of the testimony in its favor being false; and thus that the occurrence of a miracle, if not impossible, is at least incapable of satisfactory proof. Such is in the main the argument of Hume, but it came more recently to be revived and assumed as an axiomatic principle by the so-called naturalistic, or, better, rationalistic Paulus and by the historico- critical school, represented mainly by Woolston, Strauss, and Renan. "The fallacy of this objection," says dean Mansel, "consists in the circumstance that it estimates the opposed probabilities solely on empirical grounds; i.e., on the more or less frequent occurrence of miraculous events as compared with false testimony. If it is ever possible that an event of comparatively rare occurrence may, in a given case and under certain circumstances, be more credible than one of more ordinary occurrence, the entire argument falls to the ground in reference to such cases. And such a case is actually presented by the Christian miracles. The redemption of the world is an event unique in the world's history: it is therefore natural to expect that the circumstances accompanying it should be unique also. The importance of that redemption furnishes a 'distinct particular reason' for miracles, if the divine purpose can be furthered by them. Under these circumstances the antecedent probability is for the miracles, not against; them, and cannot be outweighed by empirical inductions drawn from totally different data, relating to the physical, not to the religious condition of the world. It must, however, be always remembered that abstract and general considerations like the above, though necessary to meet the unbelieving objections which are unhappily rife on this subject, do not constitute the grounds of our belief in the miracles of Scripture, especially those of Christ. The abstract argument is the stronghold of scepticism, and to deal with it at all it is necessary to meet it on its own ground. On the other hand, the strength of the Christian argument rests mainly on the special contents of the Gospel narrative, particularly as regards the character of the Saviour portrayed in it, and the distinctive nature of his miracles as connected with his character, and on the I subsequent history of the Christian Church. It is far easier to talk in general terms about the laws of nature, and the impossibility of their violation, than to go through the actual contents of the Gospels in detail, and show how it is possible that such a narrative could have been written, and how the events described in it could have influenced, as they have, the subsequent history of the world, on any other supposition than that of its being a true narrative of real events. Accordingly we find that, while the several attacks on the Gospel miracles in particular, with whatever ability they may have been conducted, and whatever temporary popularity they may have obtained, seem universally destined to a speedy extinction beyond the possibility of revival, the general a priori objection still retains its hold on men's minds, and is revived from time to time, after repeated refutations, as often as the changing aspects of scientific progress appear to offer the opportunity of a plausible disguise of an old sophism in new drapery. The minute criticisms of Woolston and Paulus on the details of the Gospel history are utterly dead and buried out of sight; and those of Strauss show plain indications of being doomed to the same fate, though supported for a while by a spurious alliance with a popular philosophy. And the failure which is manifest in such writers, even while they confine themselves to the merely negative task of criticising the Gospel narrative, becomes still more conspicuous when they proceed to account for the origin of Christianity by positive theories of their own. The naturalistic theory of Paulus breaks down under the sheer weight of its own accumulation of cumbrous and awkward explanations; while the mythical hypothesis of Strauss is found guilty of the logical absurdity of deducing the premise from the conclusion: it assumes that men invented an imaginary life of Jesus because they believed him to be the Messiah, when the very supposition that the life is imaginary leaves the belief in the Messiahship unexplained and inexplicable. On the other hand, the a priori reasonings of Spinoza and Hume exhibit a vitality which is certainly not due to their logical conclusiveness, but which has enabled them in various disguises to perplex the intellects and insettle the faith of a different generation from that for which they were first written. Hence it is that a writer who is required, by the exigencies of his own day, to consider the question of miracles from an apologetic point of view, finds himself compelled to dwell mainly on the abstract argument concerning miracles in general, rather than on the distinctive features which characterize the Christian miracles in particular. The latter are the more pleasant and the more useful theme, when the object is the edification of the believer; the former is indispensable when it is requisite to controvert the positions of the unbeliever. There is, however, one phase of the sceptical argument which may be met by considerations of the special rather than of the general kind. It has been objected that no testimony can prove a miracle as such. 'Testimony,' we are told, 'can apply only to apparent, sensible facts; testimony can only prove an extraordinary and perhaps inexplicable occurrence or phenomenon; that it is due to supernatural causes is entirely dependent on the previous belief and assumptions of the parties.' Whatever may be the value of this objection as applied to a hypothetical case, in which the objector may select such occurrences and such testimonies as suit his purpose, it is singularly inapplicable to the works actually recorded as having been done by Christ and his apostles. It may, with certain exceptions, be applicable to a case in which the assertion of a supernatural cause rests solely on the testimony of the spectator of the fact; but it is not applicable to those in which the cause is declared by the performer. Let us accept, if we please, merely as a narrative of 'apparent sensible facts,' the history of the cure 'of the blind and dumb demoniac, or of the" lame man at the Beautiful Gate; but we cannot place the same restriction upon the words of our Lord and of St. Peter, which expressly assign the supernatural cause If I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you.' 'By the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth doth this man stand here before you whole.' We have here, at least, a testimony reaching to the supernatural; and if that testimony be admitted in these cases the same cause becomes the most reasonable and probable that can be assigned to the other wonderful works performed by the same persons. For if it be admitted that our Lord exercised a supernatural power at all, there to use the words of bishop Butler, 'no more presumption worth mentioning against his having exerted this miraculous power in a certain degree greater, than in a certain degree less; in one or two more instances, than in one or two fewer.' This brings us to the consideration on which the most important part of this controversy must ultimately rest; namely, that the true evidence on behalf of the Christian miracles is to be estimated, not by the force of testimony in general, as compared with antecedent improbability, but by the force of the peculiar testimony by which the Christian miracles are supported, as compared with the antecedent probability or improbability that a religion of such a character should have been first introduced into the world of superhuman agency. The miracles of Christ, and, as the chief of them all, that great crowning miracle of his resurrection, are supported by all the testimony which they derived from his own positive declarations concerning them, taken in conjunction with the record of his life, and the subsequent history of the Christian religion The alternative lies between accepting that testimony, as it is given, or regarding the Gospels as a fiction, and the Christian faith as founded on imposture. In adopting this argument, we do not, as is sometimes said, reason ill a circle, employing the character of Christ as a testimony in favor of the miracles, and the miracles again as a testimony in favor — of the character of Christ. For the character of Christ is contemplated in two distinct aspects: first, as regards his human perfectness; and, secondly, as regards his superhuman mission, and powers. The first bears witness to the miracles, the miracles bear witness to the second. When our Lord represents himself as a human example to be imitated by his human followers, he lays stress on those facts of his life which indicate his human goodness: 'Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly of heart.' When, on the other hand, he represents himself as divinely commissioned for a special purpose, he appeals to the superhuman evidence of his miracles as authenticating that mission: 'The works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me that the Father hath sent me.' It is true that the evidence of the miracles, as addressed to us, has a different aspect, and rests on different grounds, from that which belonged to them at the time when they were first performed. But this change has not diminished their force as evidences, though it has somewhat changed its direction. If we have not the advantage of seeing and hearing and questioning those who were eye-witnesses of the miracles, the deficiency is fully supplied by the additional testimony that has accrued to us, in the history of Christianity, from their day to ours. If we have stricter conceptions of physical law, and of the uniformity of nature, we have also higher evidence of the existence of a purpose worthy of the exercise of God's sovereign power over nature. If the progress of science has made many things easy of performance at the present day which would have seemed miraculous to the men of the 1st century, it has also shown more clearly how inimitable and unapproachable are the miracles of Christ, in the maturity of science no less than in its infancy. And when it is objected that 'if miracles were, in the estimation of a former age, among the chief supports of a former Christianity, they are at present among the main difficulties and hinderances to its acceptance,' we may fairly ask, What is this Christianity which might be more easily believed if it had no miracles? Is it meant that the Gospel narrative, in general, would be more easy to believe were the miracles taken out of it? The miracles are so interwoven with the narrative that the whole texture would be destroyed by their removal. Or is it meant that the great central fact in the apostolic preaching — the resurrection of Christ — would be more natural and credible if he who thus marvellously rose from the dead had in his lifetime exhibited no signs of a power superior to that of his fellow-men? Or is it meant that the great distinctive doctrines of Christianity — such as those of the Trinity and the Incarnation — might be more readily accepted were there no miracles in the Scripture which contains them? We can scarcely imagine it to be seriously maintained that it would be easier to believe that the second person of the divine Trinity came on earth in the form of man, were it also asserted that while on earth he gave no signs of a power beyond that of ordinary men. In short, it is difficult to understand on what ground it can be maintained that the miracles are a hinderance to the belief in Christianity, except on a ground which asserts also that there is no distinctive Christianity in which to believe. It may with more truth be said that the miraculous element, which forms so large a portion of Christianity, has its peculiar worth and service at the present day as a protest and safeguard against two forms of unchristian thought to which an intellectual and cultivated age is liable — pantheism, the danger of a deeply speculative philosophy; and materialism, the danger of a too exclusive devotion to physical science. Both these, in different ways, tend to deify nature and the laws of nature, and to obscure the belief in a personal God distinct from and above nature; against both these, so long as the Christian religion lasts, the miracles of Christ are a perpetual witness; and in so witnessing they perform a service to religion different in kind, hut not less important than that which they performed at the beginning. The miracles of the O.T. may be included in the above argument, if we regard, as Scripture requires us to regard, the earlier dispensation as an anticipation of and preparation for the coming of Christ. Many of the events in the history of Israel as a people are typical of corresponding events in the life of the Saviour; and the earlier miraculous history is a supernatural system preparing the way for the later consummation of God's supernatural providence in the redemption of the world by Christ. Not only the occasional miracles of the O.T. history, but, as bishop Atterbury remarks, some of the established institutions under the law — the gift of prophecy, the Shechinah, the Urim and Thummim, the sabbatical year — are of a supernatural character, and thus manifest themselves as parts of a supernatural system, ordained for and leading to the completion of the supernatural in Christ." A question has also been raised whether it is not possible that miracles may be wrought by evil spirits in support of a false doctrine. This question affects Christian evidences simply, and in this line the only question that can practically be raised is whether the Scripture miracles — supposing them not to be pure fabrications — are real miracles wrought by divine power, or normal events occurring in the course of nature, or produced by human means. Indeed, the possibility of real miracles other than divine is a question rather of curiosity than of practical value. An able discussion of this subject will be found, in Farmer's Dissertation, though the author has weakened his argument by attempting too much. So far as he undertakes to show that there is no sufficient evidence that miracles actually have been wrought by evil spirits in behalf of a false religion, his reasoning is logical and satisfactory, and his treatment of the supposed miracles of the Egyptian magicians is in this respect highly successful. But when he proceeds from the historical to the theological argument, and maintains that it is inconsistent with God's perfections that such miracles ever should be wrought, he appears to assume more than is warranted either by reason or by Scripture, and to deduce a consequence which is not required by the former, and appears difficult to reconcile with the latter. That there may be such a thing as "the working of Satan, with all power and signs and lying wonders," and that such working will actually be manifested before the last day in support of Antichrist, is the natural interpretation of the language of Scripture. That such a manifestation has as yet taken place is, to say the least, a conclusion not established by existing evidence.
Another question has been raised as to the means of distinguishing between true and false miracles, meaning by the latter term phenomena pretended to be miraculous, but in fact either natural events or human impostures or fabrications. Various rules for distinguishing between these have been given by several authors, the best known being the four rules laid down in Leslie's Short and Easy Method with the Deists, and the three given in bishop Douglas's Criterion. and to some extent the six given by bishop Stillingfleet in Origines Sacra, book 2, chapter 10. and the very acute observations in a similar kind of work, J.H. Newman's Life of Apollonius Tyanceus,. published in the Encyclopedia Metropolitana. Yet the practical value of these rules, though considerable as compared with the inquiry previously noticed, is available rather for particular and temporary phases of controversy than for general and perpetual edification. A more permanent principle in relation to this question is suggested by Leslie in his remarks' on the pretended miracles of Apollonius, where he shows that the assumed miracles, even if admitted, have no important connection with our belief or practice. "But now," he says, "to sum up all, let us suppose to the utmost that all this said romance were true, what would it amount to? Only that Apollonius did such things. What then? What if he were so virtuous a person that God should have given him the power to work several miracles? This would noways hurt the argument that is here brought against the deists, because Apollonius set up no new religion, nor did he pretend that he was sent with any revelation from heaven to introduce any new sort of worship of God; so 'that it is of no consequence to the world whether these were true or pretended miracles; whether Apollonius were an honest man or a magician; or whether there ever were such a man or not. For he left no law or gospel behind him to be received upon the credit of those miracles which he is said to have wrought." "To this," says dean Mansel, "it may be added that there. is an enormous a priori improbability against miracles performed without any professed object, as compared with those which belong to a system that has exercised a good and permanent influence in the world. This improbability can only be overcome by a still more enormous mass of evidence in their favor; and until some actual case can be pointed out in which such evidence exists, the unimportance of a reported series of miracles is a valid reason for withholding belief in them, The Scripture miracles, in this respect, stand alone and apart from all others as regards the evidence of their reality, combined with their significance, if real." Among the most important works on Scripture miracles, and not incidentally mentioned in the article on Christian Evidences, are: Fleetwood, Essay upon Miracles (1701); Locke, Discourse of Miracles (1701-2); Pearce, The Miracles of Jesus Vindicated [in reply to Woolston] (1729); Smallbrook, Vindication of our Saviour's Miracles [in reply to Woolston] (1729, 2 volumes, 8vo); Lardner, Vindication of Three of our blessed Saviour's Miracles [in reply to Woolston] (1729); Sherlock, The Trial of the Witnesses (1729); Stevenson, Conference upon the Miracles of our Saviour (1730, 8vo); Sykes, Credibility of Miracles, etc. (1749, 8vo); Douglas, The Criterion (1754); Claparede, Miracles of the Gospel [in answer to Rousseau] (Lond. 1758, 8vo); Campbell, Dissertation on Miracles (1763); Farmer, Dissertation on Miracles (1771); Bishop Douglas, Criterion of Miracles (1774, 8vo); De Haen, De Miraculis (Francf. 1776, 8vo); Scherer, Ausf. Erklarung der Weissagungen d. N.T. (Lpz. 1803, 8vo); The Hulsean Prize Essay for 1814; Collyer, Miracles (1812); Penrose, Evidence of the Scripture Miracles (1826); Le Bas, Considerations on Miracles (1828); Newman, Life of Apollonius Tyaneus, in Encycl. Metrop. [written before his defection to Rome]; Tholuck, Glaubenswurdikeit d. evangel. Gesch. (Hamb. 1837); Muller, Disputatio de Miraculoarum Jesu Christi Natura et Necessitate (1839-1841); Nitzsch, in Studien und Kritiken of 1843 Wardlaw, On Miracles (1852; New York, 1853); Rothe, in Studien und Kritiken of 1858; Trench, Miracles of our Lord (6th ed. 1858); Koestlin, De Miraculorum, quae Christus et primi ejus discipulifecerunt, natura et ratione (1860); Evans, Christian Miracles (Lond. 1861); McCosh, The Supernatural in Relation to the Natural (1862); Mozley, Lectures on Miracles (Bampton for 1865; Lond. 1865, 8vo); Fisher, Supernat. Origin of Christianity (1865); Duke of Argyle, Reign of Law (1866); Litton, Miracles (Lond. 1817); Uhlhorn, Modern Rep. of the Life of Jesus (Bost. 1868); Fowler, Mozby and Tyndale on Miracles (Lond. 1868); Archbishop of York, Limits of Philos. Inquiry (Edinb. 1868); Mountford, Miracles, Past and Present (Boston, 1870. 12mo); Bender, Wunderbegrid. N.T. (Frankfort a.M. 1873); Upham, Star of our Lord (N.Y. 1873, 8vo); Belcher, Our Lord's Miracles of Healing Considered (London. 1873); Fowle, Religion and Science (1873, 8vo); Christlieb, Mod. Doubts (1874), chapter 5; Bushnell, Nature and the Supernatural (new ed. 1874); Cudworth, Intellectual System. (see Index in volume 3): Watson, Theol. Instit. 1:73 sq., 146 sq., 234; Hodge, Systematic Theol. volume 1, chapter 12; Hagenbach, Hist. Doctr. 1:314 sq., 414 sq.; 2:467 sq.; Haag, Histoire des Dogmas Chretiens, part 1, chapter 4, et al.; J. Pye Smith, First Lines of Christian Theol. page 62 sq., 582 sq., et al.; Pascal, Pensees, part 2, art. 19, § 9; Lyall, Prop. Proph. page 441; Kitto, Cclop. Bibl. Lit.: s.v.; Smith, Bibl. Dict. s.v.; Christian Magazine, 1797; Christian Instructor, 17:145; Christian Rev. July 1856; Theol. Rev. volume 4; For. Qu. volume 22; Bibl. Sacra, volumes 2 and 7; North Brit. Rev. February 1846, art. 8; April 1862, art. 3; North Amer. Rev. July 1860; Journ. of Sac. Lit. April-October 1854; January 1856; South. Presb. Rev. 1856; South. Qu. Rev. July 1857; Princet. Rev. April 1856; Amer. Theol. Rev. July 1861; Christian Remembrancer, July 1861; (Lond.) Qu. Rev. October 1862, page 242; Amer. Presb. Rev. April 1863, art. 1; January 1865; Brit. and For. Rev. 10:11, 55; Bulletin Theologique, September 1863, page 137; Theol. Eclectic, volume 5, No. 3; Westm. Rev. January 1818, page 106; Meth. Rev. April 1853, page 181; 1870, page 299; 1872 (January), page 154; Brit. and For. Ev. Rev. 1863 (January), pages 29-55; Blackwood's Magazine, June 1867; Bibl. Sacra, April 1863, art. 3; 1867, page 189; Jahrb. deutscher Theol. 1869, page 572; Contemp. Rev. May 1869, page 89 sq.; November 1872, art. 5; Christian Qu. October 1873, art. 3; Brit. Qu. Rev. July 1873, art. 6; Bapt. Qu. Rev. 1870; January 1874, art. 1; Qu. Rev. of Luth. Ch. July 1874, art. 5.