The kingdom being a manifestation of the supernatural, miracles are connected with it.
PROPOSITION 7. The kingdom being a manifestation of the supernatural, miracles are connected with it.
Miracles are not to be regarded simply as evidences of the truth—this it indeed subserves—but as necessary parts of revelation itself, evincing with a fulness, stronger than language can impress, that the supernatural is indispensable for the establishment of the kingdom, and that it will be exerted in miraculous power whenever required. It is plainly declared in numerous passages, that before this kingdom is set up, events of an astounding miraculous nature, far exceeding the ordinary power of nature, directly occurring through Divine agency, shall be witnessed. In a book recording such anticipated occurrences, there would be an evident lack, a sad deficiency—which infidelity would eagerly seize if it existed—if it contained no statements of miracles. Especially would this be the case, when He who is the King of the promised kingdom appears. The grave question then, if no miracles were given, would inevitably arise: What assurance have you that those miraculous events predicted to take place in the future—so intimately connected with the highest welfare and happiness of man—shall ever be realized, when we have none heretofore displayed and described, and none combined with the previous personal coming of the King? The cry would be triumphantly raised: Your King once came, and as He performed no miracles, although they are so intimately blended with His kingdom, none can be reasonably expected.[*]
Note. The correct position in reference to miracles is that taken by some recent writers. Thus e.g.Fuchs (Bremen Lectures, L. 3) says that “the world’s course requires miracles” owing to the introduction of sin and evil, and to indicate and enforce the Plan devised for the removal of the same; and that hence “into the world’s history of sin and death the golden threads of Salvation have been interwoven, a continued chain of divine acts of revelation for the saving of the world, which form a living organism of miracles.” Christ Himself, in this connected series, is the greatest miracle. Such an attitude, sustained by a personal experience of the preciousness of the greatest miracle, Christ, is impregnable. Our line of argument is designed to uphold the miraculous as a necessity in the world’s Redemption through the Theocratic Kingdom; and therefore only presses the relationship that the one sustains to the other. When Prof. Powell (Essays and Reviews) tells us that “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,” the reply is, that they still remain chief supports, and that the latter arises from overlooking the indispensable connection that they sustain to the whole Divine Plan. Considering miracles isolated from the intent they subserve, is but a narrow view; and if they did not exist in a Book relating to the Supernatural, this would be speedily claimed as a main difficulty to its acceptance. It will not answer to simply contend, as Röhr (so Castellar), that we need not give the miraculous to Christ, it being sufficient to follow Him, for this utterly destroys the distinctive Biblical Christ. It is the miraculous, miracle-working Christ, or none; there is no half-way reception possible with consistency. Hence the position of some Christian writers is fatal to the integrity of Scripture. Thus e.g. The Ch. Union (July 11th, 1877) regards miracles as unessential; so that Jonah’s account (referred to and indorsed by Jesus) may be rejected without detriment, and so Elisha’s miracle of the axe-head, etc. Such laxity invalidates Scripture, engendering grave doubt, etc. (Comp. Art. Recent Rationalism in the Church of England, in the North Brit. Review, 1860); and the antagonism resulting is not lessened when it is said that “the miracles are historic fact, but they are not proofs of Christianity” (so J. Freeman Clarke in The Ch. Union, Sept. 12th, 1877). Unbelief and doubt is, as predicted (see Prop. 180), extending itself. Leathes (The Religion of Christ, Pref. p. 49, etc.), in reply to the author of Supern. Religion, who declares “the Revelation rests upon miracles, which have nothing to rest upon but the Revelation,” shows how the establishment of Christianity, before and since the New Test. literature was given, in and through Jesus Christ, is corroborative of the miraculous, and that the miraculous must, as an antecedent, have preceded in order to account for the literature and the results. Various writers (e.g. Row, Ev. Chris, p. 137) have remarked that those unbelievers who attribute, owing to the introduction of miracles, so much credulity, superstition, and ignorance to the Jews and primitive Christians, only “increase the difficulty of accounting for the moral teaching of the New Test. as the natural product of the soil.” The greater the abuse heaped upon the inspired writers, the greater the embarrassments of unbelief to explain how such could possibly give us the doctrines produced. This obstacle to consistency is evidently felt by unbelievers, and, therefore, some of them (as Renan and others) highly eulogize before condemning, praise in eloquent terms while undermining the miraculous.Dr. Sprecher (Groundw. Theol. Div. 2) points out the contradictions, concessions, etc., in which unbelieving Theists involve themselves in trying to invalidate the historical evidence of miracles, and to explain Evangelical history without their admission. In this able Apology in behalf of Divine Revelation and the Supernatural, he contrasts the vast revolution produced by the same in human life and society with the teachings and results of the great philosophers, and asks how we are to account for the great difference, whether through Naturalism or through Christian ideas given by special revelation and supported by the miraculous.
Obs. 1. God in kindness accommodates Himself to human weakness; for telling us that the supernatural is closely allied with the natural in the kingdom; that the kingdom itself shall be pervaded with a power above nature in order to control, recreate, and make nature subserve the Divine purpose; He, knowing that if direct testimony is not given a serious flaw will remain, bestows us evidences, through miracles, of the all-pervading supernatural. These are so related to the kingdom that they cannot be separated from it without mutual defacement. Thus it is represented by Jesus Himself (Matt. 12:28), “But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto (or as some, upon) you.” Here we have, 1. The relationship existing between the kingdom and miracles; that without the latter the former cannot be revealed. 2. That miracles are a manifestation of possessed power, which Jesus will exert when He establishes His kingdom. 3. That the miraculous casting out of devils, or Satan, is an event connected with the kingdom, and its accomplishment through Jesus is thus verified as predicted, e.g., Rev. 20:1–6. 4. That the miraculous casting out of devils by Jesus is a premonition, anticipating, foreshowing, or foreshadowing (Greek, Lange, Com. vol. 1, p. 223, conveys idea of anticipating, etc.), like the transfiguration, of the kingdom itself. The miracles then are assurances vouchsafed that the kingdom will come as it is predicted. The miracles of Jesus are so varied and significant in the light of the kingdom that it can be readily perceived how they give us the needed confidence in its several requirements and aspects. The resurrection of dead ones is connected with the kingdom; that the keys of death hang at Christ’s girdle is shown in the miracles of the raising of the daughter of Jairus, the widow’s son, and of Lazarus, when just dead, carried out to burial, and already in the corrupting embrace of the tomb. Sickness and death are banished from the inheritors of the kingdom; the numerous miracles of healing various sicknesses and of restoring the dying, establish the power existing that can perform it. The utmost perfection of body is to be enjoyed in the kingdom; this is foreshadowed by the removal of blindness, lameness, deafness, and dumbness. Hunger, thirst, famine, etc., give place to plenty in the kingdom; the miracles of feeding thousands attest to the predicted power that will accomplish it. The natural world is to be completely under the Messiah’s control in that kingdom; the miracles of the draught of fishes, the tempest stilled, the ship at its destination, the walking on the sea, the fish bringing the tribute money, the barren fig-tree destroyed, and the much-ridiculed one of water changed into wine, indicate that He who sets up this kingdom has indeed power over nature. The spiritual, unseen, invisible world is to be, as foretold, in contact and communication with this kingdom; and this Jesus verifies by the miracles of the transfiguration, the demoniac cured, the legion of devils cast out, passing unseen through the multitude, and by those of His own death, resurrection and ascension. Indeed there is scarcely a feature of this kingdom foretold which is to be formed by the special work of the Divine, that is not also confirmed to us by some glimpses of the Power that shall bring them forth. The kingdom—the end—is designed to remove the curse from man and nature, and to impart the most extraordinary blessings to renewed man and nature, but all this is to be done through One who, it is said, shall exert supernatural power to perform it. It is therefore reasonable to expect that as part of the developing of the plan itself, that when He first comes, through whom man and nature are to be regenerated, a manifestation of power—more abundant and superior to everything preceding—over man and nature should be exhibited, to confirm our faith in Him and in His kingdom. This is done, and an appeal is made to it. We are confident that the best, most logical defence of the miracles of Christ and of the Bible is in the line here stated, viz., regarding them as indicative and corroborative of God’s promises relating to the future destiny of the Church and world. The miracles are thus found to be essential, to answer a divine purpose, to supply a requisite evidence; and hence in the Scriptures they are called “signs” (s?µe?a) of something else intended; signs that the Word shall be fulfilled in the exertion of power.[*]
Note. We do not hold with Paley and others that the miracles were only indispensable as the credentials of the divine mission of Jesus. At the same time we have no sympathy with those who assert (Essays and Reviews) that miracles cannot prove that men are divinely sent as messengers or teachers. As to the former, they subserve much more; and as to the latter, it is sufficient to oppose Christ’s sayings, Matt. 11:5, 20; John 5:36; Matt. 10:1–8; John 20:30, 31, and 10:25, 37, 38; Acts 2:22, etc. They possess this tendency to a certain extent (for, after all, He was rejected as unbelievers have remarked, Duke of Somerset’s Ch. Theol. p. 48), but they retain a higher significancy which includes that of His coming from the Father and the Father being in Him, viz., that He truly possessed the power to establish the kingdom as foretold; and therefore these credentials are operative, for believers, to the time when this same power will again in large measure be manifested. Wardlaw (On Miracles) takes the position that the miracle proves the doctrine, while French (On Miracles) makes the doctrine prove the miracle. Our view combines the two, seeing that they are inseparably related (Comp. Art. Miracles and their Counterfeits, Princeton Review, 1856). Doctrine, as contained in prophecy and promise, brought forth the miracle, and the latter confirms the truthfulness of the former. The doctrine developed the “signs,” and the “signs” are a testimony of the verification of the doctrine. The miracle-working power of Jesus was the more necessarily exerted in view, as we shall show hereafter, of the postponement of the kingdom. For, the Power not being exerted in erecting the kingdom as predicted by the prophets,—a kingdom free from all suffering and evil—a sufficiency (John 14:11) is shown to convince the thoughtful and reflecting that it will yet be accomplished; that the teaching of the Bible leads us to expect miracles, and that their occurrence shows that we do not misapprehend the things taught. They consequently have force only with those who are willing to receive the Bible in its connected teaching. They are not, in themselves, primary truths, but are given to attest to and enlarge truth previously given, and which still remains to be fulfilled. Such is their position in Revelation itself, that they attest to its truthfulness, not only to the past (e.g. that creation is a miracle, that prophecy is a miracle, etc.), but to the future (e.g. the kingdom), and become part of the truth itself, revealing and manifesting the agency through which the promises of God are to be realized. Fred. Den. Maurice, in his works, has well observed that the signs of the kingdom are identical with the miracles of the kingdom, but he misapprehends the nature of the kingdom and makes the signs emblematical of the coming of a spiritual power. They, of course, include a spiritual power through which they are exerted, but the work itself, as all prophecy and promise insists, will be externally manifested. The miracles, therefore, are not types of something else, but signs, real earnests, inchoate foretastes, of something in the same line, greater, in the future. Thus, e.g., the much sneered at miracle of Cana, which some writers, in the West. Review, assert cannot have any moral teaching, most strikingly shows Christ’s power over nature, its subjection to His control, and one too which is necessary to be wielded if the Millennial predictions are ever to be realized (Comp. Farrar, Life of Christ, vol. 1, ch. 11). Therefore the attack against miracles is also one of primary importance; if those attacks are successful and miracles are to be discarded, then the truths which lead to the miracles, and to which the miracles attest, suffer; Christ’s power is lessened and no assurance is given of His ability to fulfil the prophets. The miraculous, however some semi-believers may close their eyes to the fact, is a vital one. But to make the attack complete and the defence perfect, the real point for both is too much overlooked, viz., Does the kingdom which the Bible predicts as the Divine Purpose, really require miraculous intervention, and is such a kingdom, in its Plan and adaptation to the wants of humanity, worthy of credence? If it can be shown that the kingdom does not demand them, that they are not desirable to be pressed into the service for man and nature, that there is some other way to secure the blessings contemplated by them instead of a resort, to the Supernatural, then the miraculous may be discarded as a superfluity, an excrescence; otherwise, until this can be alleged, prudence and wisdom dictate that they be regarded as an indispensable portion of a connected Divine Plan, an integral part of Revelation, the main purpose of which is to instruct us concerning the kingdom, giving us confidence in its ultimate establishment. If man and nature can form such a kingdom, free from existing evils, without miraculous power, or if such a kingdom manifested by miraculous power is not desirable, not what man craves, not worthy of man and God, let this be established by adducing proof, and it will at once destroy, what other arguments fail to do, the credibility of miracles. Until this is done it would be folly to yield up that which is founded on the very nature and manifestation of the kingdom of God. The deliverance and entrance of the Jews into the promised land, Canaan, was preceded by miraculous events of the most astounding nature; these are only “signs” of those of a still more extraordinary character, under the One greater than Moses, at the future deliverance and entrance of the people of God into the promised inheritance of the kingdom. The Head of a Theocracy is a Supernatural Being, and when such a Theocracy is established, the Supernatural will, more or less, exhibit itself in behalf of the same, and as indicative of the existing Rulership. But however much we may advance this reasoning in favor of the miraculous, it must ever be remembered that an appeal to reason can never overcome prejudice excited against the supernatural, through aversion to moral and religious truth, so intimately blended with it. Jesus, who knew man, teaches us, in the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, the impotency of miracles to benefit those who wilfully turn away from the truth already given. The fact is, that to appreciate miracles properly, there must first be some knowledge of other and preceding truths.
Obs. 2. The number and variety of definitions given to miracles indicate the limited nature of human knowledge; we are not greatly concerned in the adoption of any one specially, seeing that from our standpoint we could accept of nearly all, even of some of those given by infidels. Strauss’s might be received, viz., that a miracle is “an event which, inexplicable from the operation of finite causalities, appears to be an immediate interference of the Supreme, Infinite Cause, or of God Himself.” Renan’s might be adopted, saving the word “deranging” (which unbelief suggests), viz., that it is “the special interposition of Deity in the physical and psychological order of the world, deranging the course of events.” To oppose the attacks of unbelieving scientists, some writers (as e.g. Birks in The Bible and Modern Thought) oppose the old idea that miracles are a reversal or suspension of nature, contending for a higher law operating in union and harmony with nature, and that it is not requisite to insist in any case upon “a direct act of God in contrast to all agency of second causes, and by an exercise of power strictly and exclusively divine,” on the ground that it would otherwise require too great knowledge both of nature and God to tell when a miracle is performed. Hence miracles are divided into immediate, mediate, and improper, and a definition, sufficiently comprehensive, to include them is given: that they are “unusual events not within the ordinary power of man, nor capable of being foreseen by man’s actual knowledge of second causes, and wrought or announced by professed messengers of God to confirm the reality of the message.” The explanations of the older theologians (excepting Augustine’s and a few others) are discarded as not covering objections. The interesting and valuable writings of the Duke of Argyle (The Reign of Law), Dr. McCosh (The Supernatural in Relation to the Natural), Thompson (Ch. Theism), etc., take the position, undoubtedly correct, that laws exist outside of those known, and that the Divine Will can employ such laws whenever it is desirable. Others (e.g. Proctor, Other Worlds than Ours) make miracles a resultant of physical law, being included in the predetermined scheme. The miraculous is therefore made a resultant of the exercise of other unknown laws superior to those known in nature. Whatever truth there is in such a position, and however admirably adapted to meet the objections of unbelieving philosophy, the biblical statement (e.g. Acts 2:22; Jno. 3:2; Rom. 15:19, etc.) does not require it. The following reasons urge us to discard the commendable and suggestive efforts in this direction: 1. It too much limits the power of God, exalting law in place of God. For the Bible, on its face, assumes (Ex. 10:2; Eph. 3:20) that God is able both to work with existing, seen and unseen, means, agencies, and laws, and to create and perform through His will alone (Heb. 2:4; 1 Cor. 12:11; Dan. 4:35) all things, even, if necessary, to introduce new laws (Matt. 19:26; Mark 10:25; Luke 1:37, and 18:27), etc. We are expressly told not to limit the ability of God and not to place the Creator in an attitude which binds Him subserviently to His own creation, even if the latter be law. 2. It in a great measure destroys the personality (e.g. Deut. 4:32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 39; Ex. 15:11; Deut. 3:24) of Divine interference, attributing that to law which the Bible represents as the result of personal Divine attributes (e.g. Dan. 2:19–23; Ex. 7:5, and 15:1). 3. It diminishes the force of scripture language that expressly asserts the immediate agency of God (e.g. Ex. 3:20 and 6:6, 7; Phil. 3:21; Gen. 18:19). 4. It is to some extent contradictory, since it in some cases allows immediate miracles. 5. It lowers the validity of miracles by making them the results of causes now beyond our knowledge, but which as knowledge increases may, after all, be found natural. 6. With all the concessions that it makes, it is unable to point out the laws through which the miracles are performed, and asks us to take them for granted. 7. But the main reason which leads us to a rejection of prevailing theories is the following: miracles are designed to throw light upon, and confirm the predictions of God relating to the final result, the glorious, miraculous establishment of the kingdom. Now in the prophecies pertaining to this kingdom we have the most explicit declarations that Jesus Christ Himself will change, renew, re-create all things; that laws of nature now existing shall be reversed, or modified, or suspended; that new laws and new forces shall be introduced; that the present order of things shall give place to a renewed order; and that the power which produces all this is not found in nature or in laws outside of nature, but only in God. Jesus is represented as personally coming (just as God personally came at the establishment of the theocracy at Mt. Sinai), and directly intervening in the performance of this mighty work of restoring forfeited blessings and adding new ones, and this is claimed as a peculiar, distinctive personal prerogative. Looking thus at the contemplated end, and seeing how the miraculous power then exerted is so far removed from such definitions, it is impossible to receive entirely explanations which attribute to law what the Word applies to Christ personally—thus introducing a defect, which, if logically carried onward, forbids our receiving the predictions relating to the future as presented. The final manifestation of the miraculous, which includes a re-creation, a removal of law under which a sin-cursed earth groans, determines for us that the miraculous proofs given to show that it will be realized are precisely in the same category, and thus confirmatory of it. The unity of Scripture is thus preserved. By this attitude it is not denied that God may and does also work through higher laws already established and beyond our present domain of knowledge (which Birks, Dr. McCosh, etc., have eloquently portrayed), but with this it is insisted that He may and does, independently of established law, exercise His power in the suspension, reversal, or removal of existing law, or, in other words, that His power as Creator, in the domain of the miraculous, is not limited by what He has done or has established, but is exercised according to His own pleasure. It seems to us, according to the biblical idea, a low estimate of God, which would make, either in nature or in that beyond it, all things under fixed, invariable, unchangeable laws, through which alone the Divine Institutor of them can work.[*]
Note. Hume proceed on the assumption that if they can be discredited, it goes far to prove that there is no overruling Supernatural Power which can and does control all things. Miracles too are invariably represented as dependent upon God, and not as the result of a fortuitous or happy coincidence. Hence such definitions as given by the Spiritualist Convention, held at Rochester, N.Y., 1868, must be discarded, viz., that they “have been produced in harmony with Universal laws, and hence may be repeated at any time under suitable conditions.” A number of miracles are in direct opposition to the harmonious working of existing natural law, as, e.g., in the resurrection of dead ones, etc., so that to make miracles “nature transfigured by the spirit,” “nature controlled by the will,” or “nature determined by the Spirit,” is mere fancy, so long as it excludes the direct power of God. Therefore those definitions which include a reference to the Divine power are alone in accord with the Scriptures. One of the best is given by Van Oosterzee (Ch. Dog. vol. 1, p. 127): “A miracle is an entirely extraordinary phenomenon in the domain of natural or spiritual life, which cannot be explained from the course of nature as it is known to us, and must therefore have been brought about by a direct operation of God’s Almighty Will, in order to attain unto a definite object.” Oosterzee justly remarks that the definition must be to some extent defective from our inability to see one side of the miracle, viz., its operating cause. This defect, however, is supplied to the believer by the Word, viz., that it is the exertion of God’s power either directly or as communicated to others. Fuchs’ definition (Bremen Lectures, Lec. 3) opposes the defectiveness of the current view that “a miracle is an event which cannot be explained from the known laws of nature” on the ground that (1) it draws no firm line between the miraculous and the natural, leaving the way open of having, as knowledge progresses, all the former resolved into the latter; and (2) that it is only a negative definition, telling us what a miracle is not, and leaving the nature of the miracle untouched. Hence he gives the following: “A miracle is the entrance of the Supernatural into the connection of the natural, the intervention of a higher order of things into the lower, the immediate interposition of a God above the world in the course of the world and nature.” Looking at the kingdom, which is ultimately to be inaugurated by the special intervention of the Supernatural in the Person of the Theocratic King, it is easy to see that the “signs” proceed from the same Supernatural source. Christlieb’s (Mod. Doubt) definition is excellent with the exception of the last clause. He says: “Miracles are unique and extraordinary manifestations of divine power, which influence nature in a manner incomprehensible to our empirical knowledge, but always in accordance with some moral or spiritual end. Or, more exactly, they are creative acts of God, i.e., supernatural exertions of power upon certain points of Nature’s domain, through which, by virtue of His own might already working in the course of nature, God, for the furtherance of His kingdom, brings forth some new thing which natural substances or causalities could not have produced by themselves, but which—and this must not be overlooked—as soon as they have taken place, range themselves in the natural course of things, without any disturbance arising on their account.” He correctly argues them to be “the effects of God’s power,” “supernatural phenomena,” “isolated manifestations of a higher order of things,” “a pledge of His truth and faithfulness; an earnest of the future consummation of His kingdom,” etc., but the last clause, “range themselves in the natural course of things,” is liable to misinterpretation. If he means that they still retain, while thus connected with the natural, their specific miraculous character, he is correct; but if he conveys the idea that they must necessarily, when performed, thus range themselves with the natural, be This position of the author may be regarded as “ultra” or “old-fashioned” after so many recent writers making miracle no violation or suspension of the laws of Nature, but simply “the intervention of some higher law, superseding the action of some lower one.” This definition may indeed (Woollaston, Butler, Babbage, Arnold) apply to some cases, but it is too sweeping to embrace all; it is opposed to the notion of miracle as entertained by the ordinary Bible reader, and to the conception of Omnipotence as given in the Word. No one, unless urged to it by a theory, can fail to see that the power to work a miracle is ascribed to direct Divine power, for with God, it is alleged, all things are possible, nothing is too hard, and He is placed above all existing laws, able to suspend, control, etc., them at Will. The appeal only to a higher law, however true in some instances, is not sustained by the spirit of the narratives. Thus, e.g., Jesus is represented as possessing the power of working wonders in Himself, and not as using and applying some existing but hitherto unknown law. The resurrection of the dead, the miraculous conception of Jesus, etc., are not claimed as the exertion of some higher law making miracles “parts of some more comprehensive system,” but as the result of direct Divine power, introducing a new arrangement according with a previous plan. The primitive and ordinary Church view (e.g. Bacon, Boyle, Newton, Locke) of miracles, ascribing them to God’s power, making all laws subservient to His will, gives a more exalted and ennobling conception of God, superior to all law, etc., than more modernized ideas. All concessions, away from the Biblical notion, will never make a single convert of unbelievers, since such are wise enough to see the departure from the Scripture, and they feel that the laws, so much insisted upon, are to be received as an inference.* The Word, if it possesses any force whatever, does teach that miracles are the evidence or result of Divine interposition, of the direct interference of a Power which, notwithstanding the ordinary laws of nature in existence, is able to do all things. The opposition to this Biblical conception is varied, extending from gross unbelief to concessions to unbelief. Thus, e.g., we have miracles (1) denounced as imposition or Juggling tricks; (2) denied as impossible and incredible, owing to the fixed laws of nature; (3) rejected on the ground, not of impossibility but of weakness, imperfection in the Creator; (4) resulting from the intelligence of the parties performing them taking advantage of laws of Nature, etc., unknown to their fellows; (5) mythical, being introduced to exalt certain characters; (6) the product of a superior knowledge of the laws of nature and of spirit, being wrought in harmony with both; (7) the work of mesmerism, spiritualism, etc.; (8) phenomena (Proctor) that occurred in a fixed series through laws which are above our comprehension but act in unison with those of which we have cognizance; (9) a preformation (Bonnet) “according to which God has a priori included the miracles in the course of nature;” (10) a “quickening of the processes of nature”—what Olshausen applies to some are made by others to suit all; (11) left undecided (Kant), “it being neither possible absolutely to prove the reality of miracles, nor can their possibility be absolutely denied;” (12) deviating (so Augustine, Hagenbach’s His. of Dog. vol. 1, s. 118, and adopted by Schleiermacher) not so much from the order of nature in general as from that particular order of nature known to us; (13) the results of higher and unknown laws either in nature or in the spiritual world. These and others (Comp. e.g. Lange’s Com. vol. 1, pp. 266 and 271) are all opposed to the Biblical idea. This is seen (a) in the Scripture language; (b) in the definitions so generally and at one time universally held as the teaching of the Bible, and which were only modified to suit modern thought; and (c) in the fact that the most determined attacks upon the miracles, from the days of Spinoza andin harmony with it, he is evidently wrong, as seen, e.g. in the Sun’s standing still (a temporary miracle), in the transfiguration (a prefiguration miracle), etc. We are not concerned in attempting to show that a miracle does not disturb or violate natural law; indeed when we look at the End, and see that under the mighty power of the wonder-working Messiah natural law, which is now so conducive to disease, death, and corruption, shall be disturbed, violated, and rooted out, it is not difficult to believe that many of the miraculous “signs” were a disturbing of natural law, showing how by such a disturbance the cause could be removed, and the kingdom with its inestimable blessings be introduced. The truth seems to be, that believers themselves do not fully catch the spirit and intent of those miracles, and are too much disposed to have them shorn of some of their strength in order to conciliate unbelievers. Let such place themselves at the proper stand-point from which to view the miraculous, and this will be noticed: Briefly, this world is under a curse—evil abounds with the good—it forms one vast cemetery with its crushed hopes, blasted life, dust-returned bodies, etc., and all this goes on under natural law instituted by God. The world needs restoration, and the Bible starts with this idea, a fallen world needing Redemption, and it ends with a fallen world Redeemed. The kingdom of God is designed to secure this deliverance, but to do this it must necessarily embrace a Supernatural interference as predicted. It was God that entailed the curse, set its limits, enforced it by natural law, and it must be God again who removes the same; but when He does this we are told that He breaks down the barriers set up by Himself through natural law. Hence Supernatural interference (i.e., miracles), in the nature of the case, given as “signs” of that which is promised, and is to come, is really and truly an interference, a suspension, or controlling, for the time being, of natural law. They are “signs” of redemption from the power of natural law which now enchains us, and not, as many suppose, “signs” which are only to co-operate with natural law. Surveying the entire Redemptive Plan, and seeing that the miraculous is the assurance given to us of an ultimate freedom from laws under which the millions upon millions, including the saints, of earth’s inhabitants have groaned for ages, it is a lack of faith to say that miracles do not come in direct conflict with natural law and by the force of the Supernatural in them overcome in the blessed examples given, leaving the natural law, after these isolated checks, to run on its allotted course until the Supernatural comes in the Person of Jesus, at the Second Advent, to “make all things new.” Therefore it is that we can so cordially receive nearly all definitions, because a miracle is to be regarded as an act of Divine power (so Nast, Introd. Com. Matt.), an event which the material laws of nature, without the Divine agency, could not possibly effect, which event is a “sign” or indication what the Divine power will do hereafter when natural law shall be modified, changed, etc., in “the world to come.” Hence we can receive Dr. Schmucker’s (Pop. Theol., p. 29) definition: “A miracle is a superhuman effect, an event transcending the power of man, produced or occurring contrary to the well-known and ordinary course of nature;” or Horne’s (Introd. vol. 1, p. 93), that “A miracle is an effect or event contrary to the established constitution or course of things, or a sensible suspension, or controlment of, or deviation from, the known laws of nature, wrought either, by the immediate act, or by the assistance, or by the permission of God, and accompanied with a previous notice or declaration that it is performed according to the purpose and by the power of God, for the proof or evidence of some particular doctrine, or in attestation of the authority or divine mission of some particular person (Comp. definitions, Dr. Wardlaw On Miracles, Ency. Relig. Knowl., Smith’s Bib. Dic., Alexander’s Evidences, Glieg’s His. Bible, etc.). Those writers (as e.g. Knapp, Theol. p. 59, M‘Clintock and Strong’s Cyclop. Art. “Miracles”) who are anxious to conciliate objections, and therefore make the miracles to be accomplished “by means of nature” without altering, disturbing, or counteracting natural law, constantly overlook not only of what really the miracles are “signs,” but that many of the miracles are the direct opposite of that which would result from natural law. The continued force of natural law and the existence of a miracle are in antagonism, as seen, e.g., in natural law producing death and retaining the victim in corruption and dissolution, while a life-giving miracle for the time, breaks this law, suspends it, etc. The older definitions of theologians are consequently nearer the truth than many (e.g. Princeton Review, Oct., 1853; Row’s “Ch. Evidences”; 1877, “The Unseen Universe,”) of the modern ones. And finally may we add, that the use made (e.g. by Rob. Dale Owen and others) of this concession to natural law not now recognized, is bearing its logical fruit in the denial of any miraculous power to Christ, and in the assertion that the powers exercised by Him were all “natural, as occurring strictly under law.”* Our position closes the door against all such deductions, exalting the immediate agency and Will of God. For miracles are designated “powers” (dunameis), evidencing the potency of the Messianic King to introduce the Mill. era; they are called “works” (erga), “the works of God,” illustrating the divine ability to accomplish all the promises of God, and, therefore, instead of shrinking from the Biblical idea of a miracle, we accept of it with hope and joy, as indicative of glorious deliverance. The miracles of the Old Test., the subject of special ridicule (such as “the speaking ass,” Samson’s exploits, the destruction of the cities of the plain, etc.), are to be regarded in this light, viz., showing how God’s power will be exerted in the future.
Obs. 3. Miracles are necessary to a revelation pertaining to the kingdom, a kingdom which is to be set up by an astounding miraculous display. They become parts, essential parts of the revelation, exhibiting the earnests of power that is ultimately to accomplish it. If they were missing, an important link would be gone. God engages to establish a kingdom and one too in which the supernatural shall introduce mighty changes; He promises a Messiah who is to perform this work, and who, consequently, must possess miraculous power; the forces now at work in nature, instead of tending toward it, cannot possibly accomplish what is foretold of the future, and so long as they remain unchanged the promises of God continue unrealized; when Jesus comes in accordance with Divine purpose He must necessarily, not only in person, life, etc., but in actual exerted power exhibit His ability to be the fulfiller of prophecy; His attestations of the possession of such power are sustained by their connection with the Divine plan, past and future prediction, moral aim, lack of self-contradiction, public performance, etc.; the power displayed is of a character corresponding with that required by the predictions, power over nature, over evil, over all things; the unity of the Word, promising restoration from evil now suffered under natural law, makes these miraculous representations essential, so that we can have faith and hope in the promised kingdom, in His being the promised Messiah, who shall set it up, and in the certainty of a future miraculous demonstration in our behalf in that kingdom—all which is again corroborated by the fallen condition of man requiring Divine interposition, by the necessity of its possession to constitute a perfect Redeemer, by the personal experience of believers in receiving a moral and providential “earnest” (comp. remarks by Eaton, Perm. of Christianity, “On General and Special Providence”), and by reason conceding that a Divine purpose, extending from creation into the eternal ages and embracing restitution as its glorious end, cannot possibly do without them. The general sentiment of mankind has always expressed itself as favorable to the idea of the miraculous, because deliverance from evil, now entailed by natural law, has ever been felt as the special work of the supernatural. Hence the miraculous incorporated, more or less, with all religions.[*]
Note. Designing simply to direct attention to the relation that the miraculous sustains to the kingdom, several features of the subject are left for other Propositions, as, e.g. the Patristic miracles (Prop. 168), the miracles of the Old Test. (Prop. 182). Some additional reflections may be presented respecting the methods employed to depreciate miracles. We are told by Renan and others that the miraculous occurred to persons who believed in the same, whose faith and credulity made them incapable of a proper judgment. Such, however, overlook (1) that “ignorant” men should be able to incorporate them as essentials in a developed plan of Redemption; (2) that they do this without eulogy, only stating the simple facts without enlarging; (3) that they do this against their strongest Jewish and national prejudices, as, e.g., in ascribing these to a dead, crucified Jesus, in the miraculous conversion of Paul, in showing how little effect they had upon the nation, etc.; (4) that this was done when it had the tendency to crush the fond expectations of a present kingdom as anticipated, to turn them from the prejudiced nation to the Gentiles, to yield up all and proclaim ruin, etc., to the chosen nation; (5) that only after the crowning miracle of the resurrection of Jesus showed them that the Divine Procedure as covenanted made these miracles indispensable links to a comprehension of the Redemptive Plan in the Messiah, did they unhesitatingly receive and indorse them as the highest proofs of the Christship of Jesus. Froude (Short Studies, p. 187) informs us that the question about miracles is simply “one of evidence,” and demands more evidence because “antecedently improbable.” By this evidence he means, as his Essay indicates, “human testimony,” which he proceeds to undermine and render worthless by saying: “Human testimony, we repeat, under the most favorable circumstances imaginable knows nothing of absolute certainty.” Hence no testimony, no number of witnesses can have any weight with this class, for they tell us, as Renan, that the crucial test of “conditions which science can accept” (i.e., a repeated scientific examination or investigation by unbelievers) has not been complied with, and therefore they cannot be accepted. (It is a wonder that such do not propose to subject the Plan of Redemption to a scientific investigation.) The old argument of Hume’s is revived and steadily urged without considering the arguments of Butler, Campbell, Vince, Adam, Douglass, Alexander, Horne, and others, while Froude, Renan, etc., in their published works contradict themselves in the acceptance of testimony on all subjects outside of the miraculous. It is true that the main reason alleged for such a rejection of testimony arises from its supposed disagreement to the uniform, unchangeable laws of nature.* But are those laws so unalterably fixed as these men tell us? If so, then “the unchangeable laws of nature” that produced the naturalistic origin of man, beasts, etc. (now such a favorite with this class) ought to have remained “unchangeable,” and they ought to-day under our own observation to originate such men, beasts, etc. At least we ought to behold some of the radical transformations, new modifications, etc., going on; for (Comp. Martensen, Ch. Dog. S. 77) eternal laws ought certainly to work as favorably and effectively now as in ages past. Here then at the very outset something is taken for granted as a false premise. Again, it certainly requires great assurance in any man who is utterly unable to explain the nature, extent, source of power, etc., of natural laws to arrogate to himself the ability of deciding that those in part known to himself by experience are the only source of power; that nothing higher, able to modify, shape, or suspend these laws, is in existence. It is arguing in a small circle: the testimony of a limited, personal experience is employed to upset the testimony of others’ experience; for it is Hume’s, Froude’s, Renan’s experience over against Paul’s, Peter’s, and John’s. The circle of the former, like the Asiatic who refused to believe that water is changed to ice, refuse all that is opposed to their experience or notion of experience, and in the act deliberately shut out avenues of knowledge, seeing how largely man is dependent upon testimony. If general experience is appealed to, that is simply a begging of the question, seeing that the question at issue is that the experience of some has made them conversant with miracles. Leaving this question of testimony and experience for Treatises specially devoted to its discussion, let the reader observe two things: (1) That the uniformity of nature’s operations through established law is one of the essentials to enable us to discriminate a miracle, i.e., the latter is based on and confirmed by the former. A uniformity suddenly arrested, and in isolated instances broken, and then again resumed, is requisite. Uniformity then is one of the conditions required in order that a true miracle may appear. (2) That to say, as Science does through some of its representatives, that this uniformity is forever unchangeably the same, that it cannot be intermitted, is to pass from the domain of facts (as evidenced in the naturalistic theory of the origin of things when, it is asserted, law produced what it does not now) observed, into that of mere inference and deduction, which may or may not be true. It is only gross materialism that assumes this to be true, and against materialism other arguments indicative of Divine Reason, Will, etc., are requisite before that of miracles is touched. A writer in Blackwood’s Mag. (1873) on “The Issues raised” by the Prot. Synod of France, briefly, but well expresses these last features. But, after all, the miracles of the Bible are not dependent on witnesses, for there is evidence immeasurably more satisfactory in their behalf than that derived from mere human testimony. Passing by that which satisfies the believer (viz., an experimental knowledge of the truth that it has power, etc.—for that truth and the miraculous are united) it may be remarked: (1) That if the Divine Purpose is carried on for ages in accordance with the Word given, then the Supernatural element which brings forth and carries on the said Purpose amply covers the subordinate ground of the miraculous, as the greater includes the lesser. (2) That miracles in virtue of such a Divine Purpose being carried out are not “antecedently improbable,” but the most reasonable, being in full accord with the purposed Plan. (3) That the Divine Purpose being not intended for a scientific test, the adjuncts, as, e.g., miracles, were not designed for the same, but that they are to be regarded as necessary developments to insure faith and hope in the Redemptive scheme. (4) Hence, they can only, in the nature of the case, be confirmatory of the faith and hope of those who receive the Redemptive Plan. (5) And that such adjuncts are sustained (a) by a Plan that we now see progressing toward completion just as predicted, and (b) by individual features pertaining to the Divine Purpose, as, e.g., in the condition of the Jews, the city of Jerusalem, the Church, etc. It is unscholarly when dealing with miracles to refuse to look at that Divine Plan which develops them, at the intent ascribed to them, and at the events connected with them and still perpetuated. It is uncritical to overlook that miracles are addressed to an already exercised faith in the Redemptive Purpose. It is uncandid to separate the miracles from the Being and the Mission of Jesus Christ as represented in a continuous Divine Work.
The efforts to undermine miracles are suggested by the most opposite inferences. The objection that a miracle is beyond our comprehension and therefore contrary to reason (which Scientists waive when they propose a scientific test), is now in many quarters superseded in the attempt to lessen their value by approvingly quoting Augustine as saying that they are not suited to every age and mind, being designed as proof only for the ignorant and not for the wise. In the one objection reason cannot grasp them, and in the other they are only suitable for the lowest reason. And we have been pained in noticing semi-believers and believers so influenced by this leaven that they disparage the use of the miraculous. Thus even Farrar (in his excellent Life of Christ, Pref. p. 16) says that “to us such evidence is needless. To the Apostles they were the credentials of Christ’s mission; to us they are but fresh revelations of His Will. To us they are works rather than signs, revelations rather than portents.” (In the body of the work, however, Farrar makes them both, and neutralizes his concession, as, e.g., p. 170, when making “the miracles of Christ as resulting from the fact of His Being and mission no less naturally and inevitably than the rays of light stream outward from the sun.”) Regarding them as essential parts of a consistent Revelation, and as earnests of the fulfilment of God’s Word, such lowering concessions of the miraculous, and such a questioning of the adaptability of the same must be discarded. They are just as necessary for “the wise” as for the ignorant; and if they were missing certain “wise” ones would speedily detect their essential nature, and would be the first to raise a cry at their absence, and learnedly show that a revelation claiming to come from a Supernatural source and a kingdom proposed to be set up by Supernatural power must have, as necessary proof or adjuncts, some indications of the miraculous. No man is so wise or learned that he can possibly dispense with miracles. Reason, common-sense, tell us that if lacking it would prove a grave defect. Thus, e.g. what assurance could we have respecting the fulfilment of the Redemptive Plan, as given, if the miracles of Christ’s birth, person, and resurrection were wanting? How could the Scriptures be fulfilled without them? Suppose prophecy and miracle were stricken out of the Record, what would be the hope that the future could inspire? Let men bring forth all the reasons that hostile ingenuity can frame to lower and degrade the miracles from their prominent position; let them, like Strauss, Bauer, and Renan, declare that the Absolute Cause “never disturbs the chain of secondary causes by single arbitrary acts of intervention,” that God never interposes by “any particular intervention,” but that all things fall under eternal unchangeable laws; we fail to see how wisdom is justified in a course of reasoning (which coming from a creature indicates “arbitrary freedom”) that removes by one stroke the most positive knowledge that we have of an existing God (for if God never intervenes, our knowledge of Him must be solely inferential), and that if logically carried out, destroys the connection existing between the Creator and creation, God and man, crushes the fondest hopes of humanity in the giant arms of irresistible Fate. The truth is, that in a subject connected, as it must be (for no one can explain how the miracles were performed) with difficulty, no explanation, or reasoning, or argument can be so complete but objections can be urged against it if the heart desires it to be done. If this is true of the simplest propositions, how much more is this so in a subject which in some of its aspects exceeds human comprehension—the latter a feature, too, that is requisite in order to be indicative of a Supernatural element and not of mere human origin. Hence the part of wisdom is, while candidly weighing objections, not to allow a destructive process, which removes from man the most cherished hopes—sustained by moral law—unless they can be replaced by more substantial ones. To deride the faith or belief of any one, without being able to point out a better one, more solidly based, is certainly not characteristic either of wisdom or prudence. To sit as Judge over God and decide what is proper and what improper for Him to do in reference to His Creation or Purpose, is, to say the least, to arrogate to ourselves a lofty, giddy position.
Obs. 4. The solution of miracles is found then in their connection with God and His expressed Will. This Will is especially noticeable in the doctrine of the kingdom. The kingdom, as the product of the supernatural, demands miracles; so that faith and hope in the kingdom, as covenanted and predicted, requires belief in the miraculous. Faith in miracles is embraced in an intelligent utterance of the prayer, “let Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” and the assurance that the same will ultimately be realized is expressed in “Thine is the power.” The believer gratefully acknowledges his indebtedness to miracles; for proceeding from the Divine Will, they teach us in the most forcible manner that in this Will all forces, all life, all things exist; that in this Will is found an overruling, all-pervading Providence capable of general and special energy and supervision; and that in it will be found the most ample resources to meet the requirements as predicted and promised, of the blessed kingdom itself. The miracles strengthen faith, enliven hope, and, amid the pressure of natural laws which entail evil, cheer the heart of the pilgrim with joy at a coming miraculous restitution. The Scriptures can never, never be fulfilled without miracle; the earth can never, never be freed from its curse without miracle; man can never, never be delivered without miracle; and, therefore, the Redeemer in whom we trust for redemption is, as history to-day attests in the minute and wondrous fulfilment of His miraculous words, a miracle-working Saviour. Let infidelity separate God and the world from each other (and even deny that the latter had a Creator), so that the one is not directly interested in the other, it may content itself with the unreasonable, cold, cheerless, dark prospect that this view imparts, its darkness only deepened by the loudly sung deceptive praises of “cosmic force” and a death-devoted humanity; faith in preference takes the soul-inspiring Biblical conception of a creation that has its origin and continuance in a personal, intelligent, loving, all-powerful God; that this is sufficiently indicated in the Word, in miracles of knowledge and work, in history indicating a progressive plan, in the personal experience of the believer, in the person, doctrine, and works of the Messiah; and that this will ultimately be visibly manifested in the kingdom of God, when God again dwells with man, man is rescued from his ruined condition, and placed in a renewed creation where no (unalterable) natural law shall exist to burden him with evil.[*]
Note. Such is the importance of this subject that some additional remarks are in place. With the author of “Supernatural Religion,” we have no sympathy with the argument of Dr. Irons and others, that the miraculous is to be received on the authority of the Church. Nor do we rest, as shown, the miraculous upon mere human evidence; for while the latter is a necessary adjunct, yet testimony, as Hume assumed, may be false. Nor do we propose simply to exalt the credibility of the miracle by the doctrine that it sustains, however important the union between them. Miracles are placed on higher ground, viz., as reasonable, requisite features or parts of a developing and progressing Divine Plan (fully announced) which is now in actual course of unfolding and in a certain stage of advancement, so that the ultimate End intended by the Plan is insured by the progress already made. The test to be applied to the miracles, therefore, is the following: (1) Observe the nature of the Redemptive Plan, especially as revealed in its consummation as contemplated; (2) notice the fact that its completion demands the miraculous, seeing that it proposes to do what natural law in itself can never accomplish; (3) hence, the importance and necessity of sustaining faith and hope in the Divine Purpose by indications, especially in the Person of the King, of the miraculous. In this way reason appreciates their pertinency and force, for their reality is evidenced by the just relationship that they sustain to a proposed perfected Redemption—teaching us, more strongly than words that (being “signs” or appendages) the Supernatural will not be lacking in power at the culminating period or time of manifestation. Locke in the Commonplace Book (pub. by Lord King) gives this aphorism: “The doctrine proves the miracles, rather than the miracles the doctrine.” Our view is this: The doctrine of the kingdom (the contemplated Theocratic ordering) demands the miracles, and the miracles are added to enforce our faith in the doctrine. Hence the twofold appeal in the Scriptures, viz., to believe the miraculous because of the doctrine associated with it, and to believe in the doctrine because of its being justified by the miraculous connected with it. Taylor has even in the title of his work (The Miracles: Helps to Faith, not Hindrances) expressed an important truth, for it is pre-eminently true that our faith in the doctrine delivered is sustained by the miracle of knowledge evidenced in the prophecies, in the Person and Life of Jesus, in the signs or earnests given of a glorious future. These form the basis of a firm hope of ultimate deliverance, making the promises of a Sec. Advent, resurrection, renewed earth, etc., realities. To all this is added the corroborative personal experience of every one who receives and obeys the truth, which is amply conclusive evidence to everyone, even the most ignorant, unable to see how the miraculous is an essential part of a related consecutive Divine Plan in actual course of development and fulfilment. (Comp. Experimental evidence as presented, e.g., in Rogers’ Eclipse of Faith, Mozley’s Bampton Lects., Chalmers’ “Evidences,” etc.) The self-appropriation of the truth (inseparably united with the miraculous), and the resultant experience in the heart and life, amid the trials and sorrows of earth, is in itself so satisfactory that the child and the philosopher, the unlettered and the learned, alike feel and admit its force. The lapse of time instead of weakening (as some assert), really adds power to the testimony favorable to miracles, seeing that the personal experience of many has verified, century after century, the truth of revelation. Reason and Faith both confirm the miraculous. As Walker (Philos. of the Plan of Salvation, ch. 3) has well enforced by interesting considerations, “Man cannot, in the present constitution of his mind, believe that religion has a divine origin, unless it be accompanied by miracles.” Bushnell (Nature and Supernatural) has well placed, as a conclusive proof in behalf of the miraculous, faith (experimentally realized in its transforming power) in the Superhuman character and work of Christ. These two united—reason appreciating the Divine Plan and its relations, and faith realizing the earnest bestowed—are irresistible,—soul-satisfying.