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be in it so remarkable a convergence of many unconnected causes to a single end, it may so meet a crisis in the lives of men, or in the onward march of the kingdom of God, may stand in such noticeable relation with God's great work of redemption, that even while it is plainly explicable by natural causes, while there were such, perfectly adequate to produce the effects, we yet may be entirely justified in terming it a miracle, a providential, although not an absolute, miracle. Absolute it cannot be called, since there were known causes perfectly capable of bringing it about, and, these existing, it would be superstition to betake ourselves to others, or to seek to disconnect it from these. Yet the natural
in ner lift itself up into the miraculous, by the moment at which it falls out, by the purposes which it is made to fulfil. It is a subjective wonder, a wonder for us, though not an objective, not a wonder in itself.
Thus many of the plagues of Egypt were the natural plagues of the land, these, it is true, raised and quickened into far direr than their usual activity. In itself it was nothing miraculous that grievous swarms of Aies should infest the houses of the Egyptians, or that flights of locusts should spoil their fields, or that a murrain should destroy their cattle. None of these visitations were, or are, unknown in that land; but the intensity of all these plagues, the dread succession in which they followed on one another, their connexion with the word of Moses which went before, with Pharaoh's trial which was proceeding, with Israel's deliverance which they helped onward, the order of their coming and going, all these entirely justify us in calling them the signs and wonders of Egypt,' even as such is the scriptural language about them (Ps. lxxvii. 43 ; Acts vii. 36). It is no absolute miracle that a coin should be found in a fish's mouth (Matt. xvii. 27), or that a lion should meet a man and slay him (1 Kin. xiii. 24), or that a thunderstorm should happen at an
See Hengstenberg, Die Bücher Mose's und Ägypten, pp. 93-129.
unusual period of the year (1 Sam. xii. 16-19); and yet these circumstances may be so timed for strengthening faith, for punishing disobedience, for awakening repentance, they may serve such high purposes in God's moral government, that we at once range them in the catalogue of miracles, without seeking to make an anxious discrimination between the miracle absolute and providential. Especially have they a right to their place among these, when (as in each of the instances alluded to above the final event is a sealing of a foregoing word from the Lord; for so, as prophecy, as miracles of his foreknowledge, they claim that place, even if not as miracles of his power. It is true, of course, of these even more than of any other, that they exist only for the religious mind, for the man who believes that God rules, and not merely in power, but in wisdom, in righteousness, and in love; for him they will be eminently signs, signs of a present working God. In the case of the more absolute miracle it will be sometimes possible to extort from the ungodly, as of old from the magicians of Egypt, the unwilling confession, • This is the finger of God' (Exod. viii. 19); but in the case of these this will be well nigh impossible; since there is always the natural solution in which they may take refuge, beyond which they will refuse, and beyond which it will be impossible to compel them, to proceed.
But while the miracle is not thus nature, so neither is it against nature. That language, however common, is wholly unsatisfactory, which speaks of these wonderful works of God as violations of a natural law. Beyond nature, beyond and above the nature which we know, they are, but not contrary
1 The attempt to exhaust the history of our Lord's life of miracles by the assumption of wonderful fortuitous coincidences is singularly selfdefeating. These might do for once or twice; but that such happy chances should on every occasion recur, what is this for one who knows even but a little of the theory of probabilities ? not the delivering the history of its marvellous element, but the exchanging one set of marvels for another. If it be said that this was not mere hazard, what manner of person then must we conclude Him to be, whom nature was always thus at such pains to serve and to seal ?
to it. Nor let it be said that this distinction is an idle one; 80 far from being idle, Spinoza's whole assault upon the miracles (not his real objections, for they lie much deeper, but his assault?) turns, as we shall see, upon the advantage which he has known how to take of this faulty statement of the truth; and, when that has been rightly stated, becomes at once beside the mark. The miracle is not thus unnatural; nor could it be such ; since the unnatural, the contrary to order, is of itself the ungodly, and can in no way therefore be affirmed of a divine work, such as that with which we have to do. The very idea of the world, as more than one name wbich it bears testifies, is that of an order; that, therefore, which comes in to enable it to realize this idea which it has lost, will scarcely itself be a disorder. So far from this, the true miracle is a higher and a purer nature, coming down out of the world of untroubled harmonies into this world of ours, which so many discords have jarred and disturbed, and bringing this back again, though it be but for one mysterious prophetic moment, into harmony with that higher. The healing of the sick can in no way be termed
1 It is impossible to accept the assistance which Perrone, the most influential dogmatic writer in the modern Roman Catholic Church, offers us here. He, in a nominalism pushed to a most extravagant excess, denies that the miracle is or can be either against or above the laws of nature, seeing that in fact there are no such laws for it to violate or to transcend, no working of God in the external world according to any fixed and established rules (Prælect. Theol. vol. i. p. 47): Deus non regit genera vel species, quæ non sunt nisi ideæ abstractæ, sed regit individua, quæ sola realia sunt, neque regit legibus universalibus, quæ pariter non sunt nisi in conceptu nostro, sed regit voluntate peculiari individua singula. Extremes meet: he too, denying any law, has made the miracle as impossible as those who affirm the law to be absolutely immutable. 2 Tract. Theol. Pol. vi. De Miraculis.
Augustine (Con. Faust. lvi. 3): Contra naturam non incongrue dicimus aliquid Deum facere, quod facit contra id quod novimus in naturâ. Hanc enim etiam appellamus naturam, cognitum nobis cursum solitumque naturæ, contra quem cum Deus aliquid facit, magnalia vel mirabilia nominantur. Contra illam vero summam naturæ legem a notitiâ remotam sive impiorum sive adhuc infirmorum, tam Deus nullo modo facit quam contra seipsum non facit. Cf. xxvi. 3: Deus creator et conditor
against nature, seeing that the sickness which was healed was against the true nature of man, that it is sickness which is abnormal, and not health. The healing is the restoration of the primitive order. We should see in the miracle not the infraction of a law, but the neutralizing of a lower law, the suspension of it for a time by a higher. Of this abundant analogous examples are evermore going forward before our eyes. Continually we bebold in the world around us lower laws held in restraint by higher, mechanic by dynamic, chemical by vital, physical by moral; yet we do not say, when the lower thus gives place in favour of the higher, tlat there was any violation of law, or that anything contrary to nature came to pass ;' rather we acknowledge the law of a greater freedom swallowing up the law of a lesser.
When Spinoza affirmed that nothing can happen in nature which opposes its universal laws, he acutely saw that even then he had not excluded the miracle, and therefore, to clench the exclusion, added — or which does not follow from the same laws. But all which experience can teach us is, that these powers which are working in our world will not reach to these effects. Whence dare we to conclude, that because none which we know will bring them about, so none exist which will do so ? They exceed the laws of our nature, but it does not therefore follow that they exceed the laws of all nature. If the animals were capable of a reflective act, man would appear a miracle to them, as the Angels do to us, and as the animals would themselves appear to a lower circle of organic life. The comet is a miracle as regards our solar system ; that is, it does not own the laws of our system,
omnium naturarum nihil contra naturam facit, quia id est naturale cuique rei quod facit a quo est omnis modus, numerus, et ordo naturæ. Cf. xxix. 2; and De Civ. Dei, xxi.8. The speculations of the great thinkers of the thirteenth century, on the subject of miracles, and especially on this part of the subject, are well brought together by Neander (Kirch. Gesch, vol. v. pp. 910-925).
1 See a very interesting discussion upon this subject in Augustine, De Gen. ad Lit. vi. 14-18.
neither do those laws explain it. Yet is there a higher and wider law of the heavens, whether fully discovered or not, in which its motions are included as surely as those of the planets which stand in immediate relation to our sun. When I lift my arm, the law of gravitation is not, as far as my arm is concerned, denied or annihilated; it exists as much as ever, but is held in suspense by the higher law of my will. The chemical laws which would bring about decay in animal substances still subsist, even when they are restrained and hindered by the salt which keeps those substances from corruption. The law of sin in a regenerate man is held in continual check by the law of the spirit of life; yet is it in his members still, not indeed working, for a mightier law has stepped in and now holds it in abeyance, but still there, and ready to work, did that higher law cease from its more effectual operation. What in each of these cases is wrought may be against one particular law, that law being contemplated in its isolation, and rent away from the complex of laws, whereof it forms only a part. But no law does stand thus alone, and it is not against, but rather in entire harmony with, the system of laws; for the law of those laws is, that where powers come into conflict, the weaker shall give place to the stronger, the lower to the higher. In the miracle, this world of ours is drawn into and within a higher order of things; laws are then working in it, which are not the laws of its fallen condition, but laws of mightier range and higher perfection ; and as such they claim to make themselves felt; they assert the preëminence and predominance which are rightly their own.' A familiar
* In remarkable words the author of The Wisdom of Solomon (xix. 6) describes how at the passage of the Red Sea all nature was in its kind moulded and fashioned anew (ή κτίσις πάλιν άνωθεν διετυπούτο), that it might serve God's purposes for the deliverance of his people, and punishnuent of his enemies (cf. xi. 16, 17); and Sedulius (Carm. Pasch. i. 85):