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4. Eminently significant is another term by which St. John very frequently names the miracles. They are constantly for him simply' works'' (v. 36; vii. 21; X. 25, 32, 38; xiv. 11, 12; xv. 24; cf. Matt. xi. 2); as though the wonderful were only the natural form of working for Him who is dwelt in by all the fulness of God; He must, out of the necessity of his higher being, bring forth these works greater than man's. They are the periphery of that circle whereof He is the centre. The great miracle is the Incarnation; all else, so to speak, follows naturally and of course. It is no wonder that He whose name is “Wonderful' (Isai. ix. 6) does works of wonder; the only wonder would be if He did them not. The sun in the heavens is itself a wonder; but it is not a wonder that, being what it is, it rays forth its effluences of light and heat. These miracles are the fruit after its kind which the divine tree brings forth; and may, with a deep truth, be styled the works ' 3 of Christ, with no further addition or explanation.
continually (ii. 11; iii. 2; iv. 54; &c.), which is altogether wanting in the earlier Evangelists; but occurs in Acts (vii. 36 ; xv. 12) and in the Revelation (xiii. 13; xix. 20). Once St. John has onucia DEL VUELV (ii. 18).
"The miracles of the Old Testament are called épya, Heb. iii. 9; Ps. xciv, 9, LXX.
Augustine (In Ev. Joh. tract. xvii.): Mirum non esse debet a Deo factum miraculum. Mngis gaudere et admirari debemus quia Dominus noster et Salvator Jesus Christus homo factus est, quam quod divina inter homines Deus fecit.
3 This interpretation of ipya, as used by St. John, has sometimes been called in question, and by this word has been understood the sum total of his acts and his teachings, his words and his works, as they came under the eyes of men; not indeed excluding the miracles, but including very much besides. The one passage urged in proof with any apparent force (John xvii. 4) is beside the question ; for that inyov in the singular may, and here does, signify his whole work and task, is beyond all doubt; but that his žpya are his miracles, the following passages, v. 39; X. 25, 32, 38 ; xiv. 11; XV. 24; to which others might be added, decisively prove.
THE MIRACLES AND NATURE.
HEREIN, it may be asked, does the miracle differ from
any event in the ordinary course of nature? For that too is wonderful; the fact that it is a marvel of continual recurrence may rob it, subjectively, of our admiration ; we may be content to look at it with a dull incurious eye, and to think we find in its constant repetition the explanation of its law, even as we often find in this a reason for excusing ourselves altogether from wonder and reverent admiration; yet it does not remain the less a marvel still.
To this question some have answered, that since all is thus marvellous, since the grass growing, the seed sprouting, the sun rising, are as much the result of powers which we cannot trace or measure, as the water turned into wine, or the sick healed by a word, or the blind restored to vision by a touch, there is therefore no such thing as a miracle, eminently so called. We have no right, they say, in the mighty and complex miracle of nature which encircles us on every side, to separate off in an arbitrary manner some certain facts, and to affirm of this and that that they are wonders, and all the rest ordinary processes of nature; but rather we must confine ourselves to one language or the other, and count all miracle, or nothing.
* See Augustine, De Gen. ad Lit. xii. 18; De Civ. Dei, xxi. 8, 3 ; and Gregory the Great (Hom. xxvi. in Evang.): Quotidiana Dei miracula ex assiduitate viluerunt. Cf. Cicero, De Nat. Deor. ii. 38.
But this, however at first sight it may seem very deep and true, is indeed most shallow and fallacious. There is quite enough in itself and in its purposes to distinguish that which we call by this name, from all with which it is thus sought to be confounded, and in which to be lost. The distinction indeed which is sometimes drawn, that in the miracle God is immediately working, and in other events is leaving it to the laws which He has established to work, cannot at all be allowed : for it rests on a dead mechanical view of the universe, altogether remote from the truth. The clockmaker makes his clock, and leaves it; the ship-builder builds and launches his ship, which others navigate ; but the world is no curious piece of mechanism which its Maker constructs, and then dismisses from his hands, only from time to time reviewing and repairing it; but, as our Lord says, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work ’ (John v. 17); He “ upholdeth all things by the word of his power'' (Heb. i. 3). And to speak of laws of God,' • laws of nature,' may become to us a language altogether deceptive, and hiding the deeper reality from our eyes. Laws of God exist only for us. It is a will of God for Himself. That will indeed, being the will of highest wisdom and love, excludes all wilfulness; it is a will upon which we can securely count; from the past expressions of it we can presume its future, and so we rightfully call it a law. But still from moment to moment it is a will ; each law, as we term it, of nature is only that which we have
Augustine: Sunt qui arbitrantur tantummodo mundum ipsum factum a Deo ; cetera jam fieri ab ipso mundo, sicut ille ordinavit et jussit, Deum autem ipsum nihil operari. Contra quos profertur illa sententia Domini, Pater meus usque adhuc operatur, et ego operor. . . . . Neque enim, sicut a structurâ ædium, cum fabricaverit quis, abscedit; atque illo cessante et absente stat opus ejus; ita mundus vel ictu oculi stare poterit, si ei Deus regimen suum subtraxerit. So Melanchthon (In loc. de Creatione): Infirmitas humana etiamsi cogitat Deum esse conditorem, tamen postea imaginatur, ut faber discedit a navi exstructâ et relinquit eam nautis ; ita Deum discedere a suo opere, et relinqui creaturas tantum propriæ gubernationi ; hæc imaginatio magnam caliginem offundit animis et parit dubitationes.
Augustine (De Civ. Dei, xxi. 8): Dei voluntas natura rerum est.
learned concerning this will in that particular region of its activity. To say then that there is more of the will of God in a miracle than in any other work of his, is insufficient.
Yet while we deny the conclusion, that since all is wonder, therefore the miracle, commonly so called, is only in the same way as the ordinary processes of nature a manifestation of the presence and power of God, we must not with this deny the truth which lies in this statement. All is wonder; to make a man is at least as great a marvel as to raise a man from the dead. The seed that multiplies in the furrow is as marvellous as the bread that multiplied in Christ's hands. The miracle is not a greater manifestation of God's power than those ordinary and ever-repeated processes; but it is a different manifestation. By those other God is speaking at all times and to all the world; they are a vast unbroken revelation of Him. “The invisible things of Him are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead' (Rom. i. 20). Yet from the very circumstance that nature is thus speaking evermore to all, that this speaking is diffused over all time, addressed unto all men, that its sound is gone out into all lands, from the very constancy and universality of this language, it may fail to make itself heard. It cannot be said to stand in nearer relation to one man than to another, to confirm one man's word more than that of others, to address one man's conscience more tban that of every other man.
However it may sometimes have, it must often lack, a peculiar and personal significance. But in the miracle, wrought in the sight of some certain men, and claiming their special attention, there is a speaking to them in particular. There is then a voice in nature which addresses itself directly to them, a singling of
Augustine (Serm. ccxlii. 1): In homine carnali tota regula intelligendi est consuetudo cernendi. Quod solent videre credunt: quod non solent, non credunt.
Majora quidem miracula sunt, tot quotidie homines nasci qui non erant, quam paucos resurrexisse qui erant; et tamen ista miracula non consideratione comprehensa sunt, sed assiduitate viluerunt. Cf. Gregory the Great, Mural. vi. 15.
them out from the multitude. It is plain that God has now a peculiar word which they are to give heed to, a message to which He is bidding them to listen.'
An extraordinary divine causality, and not that ordinary which we acknowledge everywhere and in everything, belongs, then, to the essence of the miracle; powers of God other than those which have always been working ; such, indeed, as most seldom or never have been working before, The unresting activity of God, which at other times hides and conceals itself behind the veil of what we term natural laws, does in the miracle unveil itself; it steps out from its concealment, and the band which works is laid bare. Beside and beyond? the ordinary operations of nature, higher powers (higher, not as coming from a higher source, but as bearing upon higher ends) intrude and make themselves felt even at the very springs and sources of her power.
While it is of the very essence of the miracle that it should be thus ' a new thing, it is not with this denied that the natural itself may become miraculous to us by the way in which it is timed, by the ends which it is made to serve. It is indeed true that aught which is perfectly explicable from the course of nature and history, is assuredly no miracle in the most proper sense of the word. At the same time the finger of God may be so plainly discernible in it, there may
1 All this is brought out in a very instructive discussion on the miracle, which finds place in Augustine's great dogmatic work, De Trinit. iii. 5, and extends to the chapters upon either side, being the largest statement of his views upon the subject which anywhere finds place in his works : Quis attrahit humorem per radicem vitis ad botrum et vinum facit, nisi Deus, qui et homine plantante et rigante incrementum dat? Sed cum ad nutum Domini aqua in vinum inusitatâu celeritate conversa est, etiam stultis fatentibus, vis divina declarata est. Quis arbusta fronde et flore vestit solemniter, nisi Deus ? Verum cum floruit virga sacerdotis Aaron, collocuta est quodam modo cum dubitante humanitate divinitas. . Cum fiunt illa continuato quasi quodam fluvio labentium manantiumque rerum, et ex occulto in promptum, atque ex prompto in occultum, usitato itinere transeuntium, naturalia dicuntur: cum vero admonendis hominibus inusitatâ mutabilitate ingeruntur, magnalia nominantur.
Not, as we shall see the greatest theologians have always earnestly contended, contra naturam, but præter naturam and supra naturam.