Imatges de pÓgina
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grapes still yielding wine, just as ever? The truth is, no la w is violated, none suspended; only another force is called into requisition, in addition to the usual sorces of nature; or rather, the power which usually operates in such or such a prescribed mode, now, for special reasons, and for the moment, acts in another and quite unusual mode. It is simply Deity doing, at one time, in one way, what at other times, and usually, he does in another way. The result is something which we cannot account for by the laws of nature, inasmuch as it was not produced by the operation of those laws; in other words, it is a miracle. But in thus operating by a new method to accomplish a special end, Deity no more contradicts or violates his usual mode of operation than a man's travelling by steam-car contradicts his usual and slower mode of procedure by stage coach ; or than the appearance of a comet contradicts the established order of the solar system, or suspends the laws of planetary motion. The fact that God usually works in a given way, does not prove that he never works in any other. Show any sufficient reason for a departure from the usual method, and such departure becomes not merely possible, but in the highest degree probable. There will be deviation, but not contradiction.

The view now taken of the nature of a miracle obviates an objection frequently urged against the argument from miracles in favor of Christianity, to wit, that they imply a contradiction or violation of the laws of nature. Those laws, it is said, are universal and invariable; and whatever occurrence professes to be a contradiction of those immutable laws, bears on its face the evidence of its owo absurdity and falsity. Now if it can be shown that a miracle does not of necessity imply any such contradiction or violation of natural laws; that, on the contrary, it leaves those laws in full force and play, while it comes in beside them, and

| The whole force of Spinoza's arguments against the miracles of Christianity, as also the chief strength of the assault by modern scientific rationalism, lies precisely here. The rationalist is careful to define a miracle as something contrary to the laws of nature, - a violation of fixed, established order. Set this definition aside for a truer one, and you set aside at once the main force of his attacks.

reaches beyond them, to bring about results which are not in their sphere, which lie out of their plane, it is certainly a point gained, and a difficulty met.

The case is analogous to the reasoning of the sceptic against the mysteries of the Christian faith, that they are contrary to reason, and therefore incredible. To which we reply : No, not contrary to reason, but merely above reason. So would we say of miracles; they are not contrary to nature, but above nature.

But is a miracle a lawless thing? Or may there be, on the other hand, a law of miracles? Does the divine interposition, which produces a miraculous event, occur at hap-hazard or according to fixed and uniform principles ? May there not be as close a connection between the peculiar circumstances which call for and demand the supernatural and the divine interposition to meet the exigency, as there is between any ordinary result and the law of nature which looks to its accomplishment? Doubtless there may be such a connection, such a law of miracles. We are not to suppose

that the laws of nature comprehend all laws. Could we see far enough into the nature of things, we might perhaps discover a fixed and in variable connection between the occasion for and the occurrence of a miracle; so that we could say: Given, such and such things; and given, also, divine interposition to meet the case. This we do not know enough to affirm, perhaps never shall; neither, on the other hand, does any man know enough to deny it.

Much less are we to conceive of a miracle as an event without cause.

Whether there be or be not any such thing as a law of miracles, there is and must be a cause of them. If natural events require a cause, much more, supernatural. We are not to think of natural causes as comprehending all causes. Because a thing is beyond the range of ordinary and natural causes, it does not follow that it is beyond the range of all cause. To suppose that there is no cause except natural causes, is not pantheism merely, it is downright atheism. It is to shut God out of the universe which he has himself created.

To sum up what has been said: we are not to conceive of a miracle as siinply any remarkable or extraordinary event; nor yet as, of necessity, a contradiction, or even suspension, of any law of nature; we are not to conceive of it as necessarily a lawless occurrence, much less uncaused; but rather, and simply, as a divine interposition to accomplish by supernatural agency a specific end not otherwise attainable.

With these remarks on the nature of miracles, we proceed to the second topic of investigation.

II. What PROVES a miracle ? In other words, what kind and degree of evidence is required, in order to prove that divine power is, in any case, interposed to produce a given effect, otherwise than by natural causes? And here we are met, at the outset, by the positive denial that any amount of evidence can prove it; the denial, in a word, that a miracle is a possible thing. Thus, in the article on the Evidences of Christianity, in the “ Essays and Reviews,” Baden Powell holds the following language : “ What is alleged is a case of the supernatural; but no testimony can reach to the supernatural ; testimony can apply only to apparent sensible facts; testimony can only prove an extraordinary and perhaps inexplicable occurrence, a phenomenon. That it is due to supernatural causes, is entirely dependent on the previous belief or assurnptions of the parties.”! Again we are told, by the same author, that “ In nature, and from nature, by science and by reason, we neither have, nor can possibly have, any evidence of a Deity working miracles ; for that we must go out of nature and beyond reason. If we could have any such evidence from nature, it could only prove extraordinary natural effects, which would not be miracles in the old theological sense, as isolated, unrelated, and uncaused; whereas no physical fact can be conceived as unique, or without analogy and relation to others, and to the whole system of natural causes.'

In the same strain we are complacently informed, by the

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same authority, that in the present age of physical research, “all highly cultivated minds and duly advanced intellects have imbibed more or less the lessons of inductive philosophy, and have, at least in some measure, learned to appreciate the grand conception of universal law; to recognize the impossibility even of any two material atoms subsisting together without a determinate relation; of any action of the one on the other, whether of equilibrium or of motion, without reference to a physical cause; of any modification whatsoever in the existing conditions of material agents, unless through the invariable operation of a series of eternally impressed consequences (the italics are ours) following in some necessary chain of orderly connection, however imperfectly known to us.” 1

Any interference with the established order of nature being thus assumed as a physical impossibility, which no amount of evidence can establish, we are not surprised to be told in this connection that "if miracles were in the estimation of a former age among the chief supports of Christianity, they are at present among the main difficulties and hindrances to its acceptance." 2

As regards the utter impossibility of miracles on the ground of the absolute inviolability of nature's laws, and the invariability and universality of their operation, we fear we must confess ourselves not of that order of “highly cultivated minds and duly advanced intellects” that “have learned to appreciate the grand conception.” The real question for a mind thus far advanced, as it seems to us, is this : Is there a Deity at all? Or is all power to be resolved into this great system of universal, invariable, eternal law, - this grand machinery of “eternally impressed consequences,” that goes grinding and clanking on from eternity to eternity? If the latter, then we grant that miracles are out of the question. But if there be a God, as some of us in our simplicity have supposed; if we may crave the indulgence of this highly cultivated age so far as to be permitted to retain the

1 Recent Inquiries, p. 150.

? Ib. p. 158.

antiquated notion of a Deity at the head of affairs; and if we place this Deity where he belongs, behind all those laws, and above them all, as their source and spring, then why may not the power that usually works in and by such and such methods or laws, if occasion require, act in some other way without or above those laws ? Nay, why may he not, if necessary to the accomplishment of his purposes, even reverse, or wholly set aside for the time, those usual methods of procedure which we call laws of nature ? It would seem reasonable to suppose this. The power that created and established certain laws and operations of nature, so called, can surely, if he pleases, suspend those operations and counteract those laws, by bringing in still higher forces, on special occasions, and for special purposes. The laws are surely not so invariable and inviolable as to be beyond the reach of their maker; the sublime machinery of eternally impressed consequences is not so unvarying and irresistible in its steady revolutions, but that the hand which created and set it agoing can vary or suspend its movements at will. The question now is, not whether Deity will do this, or whether he is likely to do it, but whether he can. If he can, then miracles are not impossible.'

1 It is maintained by one of our ablest modern naturalists (Dr. Edward Hitchcock, see Bibliotheca Sacra, Oct. 1854, Article, Special Divine Interpositions in Nature), that so far from there being in nature any presumption against the miracles of revelation, there is, on the contrary, an actual and strong presumption in their favor, from the fact that, to all appearances, and according to all ordinary laws of reasoning, there have been in nature itself repeated instances of divine miraculous interposition. The first introduction of organic life upon the globe, which had previously existed as an inorganic mass, through long ages and many changes gradually preparing for the future abode of vegetable and animal life, is regarded as such an interposition. The subsequent and repeated disappearance of living species, and the production of new ones in their places, which, after flourishing for long periods, have in turn disappeared, only to give place to some new and independent system, the introduction thus of new races and systems of life adapted to the changed condition of things, until we can trace at least five of these independent economies, is claimed as another evidence of miraculous interposition in nature. The final introduction of man himself upon the globe, at a period long subsequent to the introduction of vegetable and animal life, and the changes already spoken of, his appearance of a sudden, after these vast periods of time, and these successive independent groups of organic

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