Imatges de pÓgina
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it did occur it was miraculous. On the other hand, the less extraordinary and improbable the event in question, so much the less evidence is required to establish the fact of its occurrence; while, at the same time, so much the more difficult is it to show that the thing was a miracle.

The case hitherto supposed — the raising of the dead is clearly of the former class. Let us now suppose an instance of the latter, - an event not in itself wholly improbable, and to which the testimony is conclusive, but with respect to which the real question is: Was the thing a miracle, or was it the effect of natural causes ? The restoration of sight to the blind by a word ; the healing of the sick, without the use of natural remedies, by the mere touch of the hand, or even of the hem of a garment, or of the shadow of a person passing by; the walking on the water, without special mechanical appliances of any sort; the calming a tempest by simple word of command; — these, and the like, may fall, perhaps, under that category. There may be cases, doubtless, of this sort, where it will be difficult to decide whether the event in question is really miraculous. Still if, as in the cases supposed, the effect produced be such as is not produced by any known physical law, such as lies not within the sphere of nature's ordinary operations, or even, so far as we know, of her operations at all; if, in addition to this, there be a direct claim of supernatural agency in the case; and, further, if the occasion, the object, or end to be attained, be such as appears to require some supernatural agency, the probability would seem, in view of all the circumstances, to be very strong, that the event in question was brought about by some power above nature. Testimony, it will be observed, is not brought into the case to establish the miraculous character of the event, but only to establish the fact of its occurrence ; to that it is perfectly competent; that once settled, it is for us to decide, by the exercise of our own reason and judgment, whether the occurrence be the result of natural causes, or not.

But here we are met by the objection of Rousseau, that it

is impossible to prove a miracle, because miracles are exceptions to the laws of nature, and we do not know enough of nature to decide, in all cases, what her laws are.

It is true, we reply, that we do not know all the laws of nature. But we know what is the ordinary course and order of her operations; and when an event so far transcends these as to be altogether inexplicable by any natural cause known to us; when it is a thing the like of which was never known to occur, under the like circumstances; when, moreover, the immediate producing cause claims to be supernatural, and the object is one that might well demand such agency, we are warranted in presuming the exertion of a power above and beyond nature. We grant that the mere fact of our inability to account for a phenomenon, does not prove it to be a miracle, for there may be laws of nature of which we are ignorant, and of which this may be the result. But when the unusual and inexplicable event occurs in connection with circumstances that are themselves peculiar, and that would render the exertion of special divine agency not, in itself, an improbable thing, in such cases the conclusion is certainly a just and reasonable one, that the event in question is the result of such interposition, in other words, a miracle.

And here we cannot but remark that the very uniformity of nature, on which so much stress is laid by those who deny the possibility of miracles, itself leads rather to the opposite conclusion in certain cases. Nature's operations are uniform and unvarying. We can calculate upon their occurrence with reasonable certainty. But here comes an effect quite at variance with all our previous notions and experience of those operations. May it not be the result of some power working above and beyond nature ?

Either this, or else nature is not, as we thought, uniform. Which of the two is the more probable ?

It is time to pass to other topics; but we cannot dismiss the question now before us, without adverting to a point which deserves the consideration of writers on miracles. It is this: How far is the character of the doctrine, in confir

mation of which miracles profess to be wrought, to be admitted as evidence of the miracles themselves? Can we appeal to the character of the doctrine in proof of the miracle? This is not unfrequently done. But if the divinity of the system prove the miracle, we cannot, of course, afterward appeal to the miracle to prove, in its turn, the divinity of the system, since this would be to reason in a circle. On the other hand, we cannot, perhaps, satisfactorily establish the reality of a miracle entirely irrespective of the character of the system in favor of which that miracle professes to be wrought. If the system is manifestly false nd pernicious, if the doctrine is at variance with the plainest principles of morality and true religion, this, of itself, is sufficient to discredit the reality of the supposed miracle. Reason assures us that God would not work miracles in favor of such a system. On the whole, the argument from the character of the doctrine seems to be negative rather than positive. If the system be such as to make a divine origin not improbable, this removes an objection that would otherwise lie against the supposition of a miracle in its behalf. It does not, of itself, prove that a miracle was wrought.

To sum up what has been said: In reply to the question What proves a miracle? we take the following positions :

A miracle is possible.
Not under all circumstances improbable even.

On the contrary, under certain circumstances, may be highly probable.

The testimony of witnesses to the occurrence of a miracle, under such circumstances, is valid and reliable proof.

In other words, miracles are neither impossible to occur, nor impossible to be proved. The reality of the event is capable of proof by testimony; the miraculous character of the event is a matter which reason and the common sense of men, in view of all the circumstances of the case, is competent to decide.

We proceed to the consideration of the remaining question.

III. What does a miracle PROVE? What the value and significance of it? What place shall we assign it in the scale of evidence, and what weight allow it? Does it, in fact, prove anything; if so, what? If it were once of value, at the time of its occurrence, has it not lost its evidential force in the lapse of time, so as to be no longer of service, but rather even to hang, a mere dead weight, on the system that is compelled to carry it? These are questions of much moment, and the present age is called to meet them fully and fearlessly.

There can be no question that there has been, of late, a marked and increasing tendency, on the part of the cultivated, and especially the scientific, mind of the age, to look with less favor than formerly upon the external evidences of Christianity, and particularly to disparage the evidence from miracles. It is contended by many that Christianity carries its own evidence with it, in the simplicity and purity of its doctrine, and in its power to elevate the character and reform the life. This intrinsic and internal is the real evidence, we are told, -all that it needs. Thus Coleridge, who even goes so far as emphatically to protest against bringing miracles to prove a religious truth, the belief of which should be voluntary and not compulsory with the understanding. In the same strain, Mr. Newman, in his Phases of Faith, maintains that external testimony should not be allowed to overrule the internal convictions of the mind, and that no moral truth ought to be received in mere obedience to a miracle of sense. Of those who would thus discard almost entirely the external evidences of Christianity, and the evidential force of miracles, some are among the zealous supporters of the Christian doctrine, in its purest form, while others belong to an entirely different class. The rationalistic theologians of Germany, as represented by Weg. scheider, De Wette, and others of that school, take the same view; while, of the Lutheran school, Döderlein hesitates not to affirm that the truth of the doctrine does not depend on the miracles, but we must be convinced of it on its internal

evidence. Others again, as Paulus and Rosenmüller, while they would allow a certain degree of evidential force to miracles on their first occurrence, deny that they are of any value at the present day.

Of those, on the other hand, who would still assign to the argument from miracles an important place among the evidences of Christianity, there are many who, instead of making this the sole criterion of a divine revelation, would receive it as of force only in connection with the internal evidence derived from the moral character of the doctrine, and of the general system, in confirmation of which the miracles were wrought. This is, in fact, the view now, perhaps, more generally held by orthodox divines. It is the position maintained by Dr. Samuel Clarke, in his Evidences of Natu. ral and Revealed Religion; and also by Trench, in his Notes on Miracles. Similar is the view of Neander, who holds that miracles are not to be considered by themselves, as isolated facts, but only as a part of, and in close connection with, the whole self-revelation of God to man."

As regards the general value and use of miracles, it is difficult to see how, in any other way, a revelation of divine truth could, in the first instance, be substantiated. In no other way, so far as we can see, can the divine authority of the teachers who proclaim such a revelation, be established.

He who comes with a claim to divine commission and authority, is bound to make good that claim, — to show good and sufficient reason for it, - else we shall not believe him. We have a right to demand such evidence. How, then, shall he show this? What shall be his token or sign, that God speaks in and through him, and that the doctrine which he sets forth is not only truth, but truth divinely uttered? If now miracles are wrought in attestation of that authority; if there is manifestly some divine interposition in the case, and not merely a pretence of such interposition;

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So Gerhard (as cited by Trench), who even goes so far as to say: miracula sunt doctrinae tessarae, ac sigilla ; quemadmodum igitur sigillum a literis avulsum nihil probat, ita quoque miracula sine doctrinâ nihil valent.” — Loc. Theol., loc. 23. c. 11.

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