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It is with these wonders which have been, exactly as it will be with those wonders which we look for in regard of our own mortal bodies, and this physical universe. We do not speak of these changes which are in store for this and those as violations of law. We should not speak of the resurrection of the body as something contrary to nature, as unnatural; yet no power now working in the world could bring it about; it must be wrought by some power not yet displayed, which God has kept in reserve. So, too, the great change which is in store for the outward world, and out of which it shall issue as a new heaven and a new earth, far exceeds any energies now working in the world, to bring it to pass, (however there may be predispositions for it now, starting points from which it will proceed;) yet it so belongs to the true idea of the world, now so imperfectly realized, that when it does take place, it will be felt to be the truest nature, which only then at length shall have come perfectly to the birth.
The miracles, then, not being against nature, however they may be beside and beyond it, are in no respect slights cast upon its ordinary and every-day workings; but rather, when contemplated aright, are an honoring of these, in the witness which they render to the source from which these also originally proceed. For Christ, healing a sick man with his word, is in fact claiming in this to be the lord and author of all the healing powers which have ever exerted their beneficent influence on the bodies of men, and saying, “I will prove this fact, which you are ever losing sight of that in me the fontal power which goes forth in a thousand gradual cures resides, by this time only speaking a word, and bringing back a man unto perfect health;”—not thus cutting off those other and more gradual healings from his person, but truly linking them to it.” So again when he multiplies the bread, when he changes the water into wine, what does he but say, “It is I and no other who, by the sunshine and the shower, by the seed-time and the harvest, give food for the use of man; and you shall learn this, which you are always in danger of unthankfully forgetting, by witnessing for once or for twice, or if not actually witnessing, yet having it rehearsed in your ears for
ordinem rerum; quia ordini secundarum causarum ipse non est subjectus; sed talis ordo ei subjicitur, quasi ab eo procedens, non per necessitatem naturae sed per arbitrium voluntatis; potuisset enim et alium ordinem rerum instituere. * Bernard Connor's Evangelium Medici, seu Medicina Mystica, London, 1697, awakened some attention at the time of its publication, and drew down many suspicions of infidelity on its author (see the Biographie Univ. under his name.) I have not mastered the book, as it seems hardly worth while; but on a slight acquaintance, my impression is that these charges against the author are without any ground. The book bears on this present part of our subject.
ever, how the essences of things are mine, how the bread grows in my hands, how the water, not drawn up into the vine, nor slowly transmuted into the juices of the grape, nor from thence expressed in the vat, but simply at my bidding, changes into wine. You burn incense to your drag, but it is I who, giving you in a moment the draught of fishes which you had yourselves long labored for in vain, will remind you who guides them through the ocean paths, and suffers you either to toil long and to take nothing, or crowns your labors with a rich and unexpected harvest of the sea.”—Even the single miracle which wears an aspect of severity, that of the cursed fig-tree, speaks the same language, for in that the same gracious Lord is declaring, “These scourges of mine, wherewith I punish your sins, and summon you to repentance, continually miss their purpose altogether, or need to be repeated again and again, and this mainly because you see in them only the evil accidents of a blind nature; but I will show you that it is I and no other who smite the earth with a curse, who both can and do send these strokes for the punishing of the sins of men.”
And we can quite perceive how all this should have been necessary.* For if in one sense the orderly workings of nature reveal the glory of God, (Ps. xix. 1–6,) in another they hide that glory from our eyes; if they ought to make us continually to remember him, yet there is danger that they lead us to forget him, until this world around us shall prove— not a translucent medium, through which we look to him, but a thick impenetrable veil, concealing him wholly from our sight. Were there no other purpose in the miracles than this, namely to testify the liberty of God, and to affirm the will of God, which, however it habitually shows itself in nature, is yet more than and above nature, were it only to break a link in that chain of cause and effect, which else we should come to regard as itself God, as the iron chain of an inexorable necessity, binding heaven no less than earth, they would serve a great purpose, they would not have been wrought in vain. But there are other purposes than these, and purposes yet more nearly bearing on the salvation of men, to which they serve, and to the consideration of these we have now arrived.}
* Augustine (Enarr. in Ps. cx.4): [Deus] reservans opportune inusitata prodigia, quae infirmitas hominis novitati intenta meminerit, cum sint ejus miracula quotidiana majora. Tot per universam terram arbores creat et nemo miratur; arefecit verbo anam, et stupefacta sunt corda mortalium....Hoc enim miraculum maximè adtentis cordibus inhaerebit, quod assiduitas non vilefecerit.
+ J. Müller (De Mirac. J. C. Nat. et Necess, par. 1, p. 43): Etiamsi nullus alius miraculorum esset usus, nisi ut absolutam illam divinae voluntatis libertatem demon. strent, humanamgue arrogantiam, immodica legis naturalis admirationi junctam, com pescant, miracula haud temere essent edita.
THE AUTHORITY OF THE MIRACLE.
Is the miracle to command absolutely and without further question the obedience of those in whose sight it is done, or to whom it comes as an adequately attested fact, so that the doer and the doctrine, without any more debate, shall be accepted as from God? It cannot be so, for side by side with the miracles which serve for the furthering of the kingdom of God, runs another line of wonders, counterworks of him, who is ever the ape of the Most High, who has still his caricatures of the holiest; and who knows that in no way can he so realize his character of Satan, or the Hinderer, as by offering that which shall either be accepted instead of the true, or, being discovered false, shall bring the true into like discredit with itself. For that it is meant in Scripture to attribute real wonders to him there is to me no manner of doubt. They are “lying wonders,” (2 Thes, ii. 9,) not because in themselves frauds and illusions, but because they are wrought to support the kingdom of lies.”
Thus I cannot doubt that, according to the intention of Scripture we are meant to understand of the Egyptian magicians, that they stood in relation with a spiritual kingdom as truly as did Moses and Aaron. In
* Gerhard (Loc. Theoll, loc. 23, c. 11, § 274): Antichristi miracula dicuntur mendacia,.... non tam ratione formae, quasi omnia futura sint falsa et adparentia duntaxat, quâm ratione finis, quia scilicet ad confirmationem mendacii erunt directa. Chrysostom, who at first explains the passage in the other way, that they are “lying" quoad formam, (olov dàmbéc,d22d Tpoc drárqv rá ràvra,) yet afterwards suggests the correcter explanation, , 6televauévouc, ) el; beiðoc dyovat. Augustine (De Civ. Dei, L 20, c. 19,) does not absolutely determine for either, observing that the event must decide. According to Aquinas they will only be relative wonders (Summ. Theol, p. 1", qu. 114, art. 4): Daemones possunt facere miracula, quae scilicet homines mirantur, in quantum eorum facultatem et cognitionem excedunt, Nam et unus homo in quantùm facit aliquid quod est supra facultatem et cognitionem alterius, di.cit
alium in admirationem sui operis, et quodammodo miraculum videatur operari.
deed only so does the conflict between those and these come out in its true significance. It loses the chiefest part of this significance if we think of their wonders as mere conjurers' tricks, dexterous sleights of hand, with which they imposed upon Pharaoh and his servants; making believe, and no more, that their rods turned into serpents, that they also changed water into blood. Rather was this a conflict not merely between the might of Egypt's king and the power of God; but the gods of Egypt, the spiritual powers of wickedness which underlay, and were the soul of that dark and evil kingdom, were in conflict with the God of Israel. In this conflict, it is true, their nothingness very soon was apparent; but yet most truly the two unseen kingdoms of light and darkness did then in presence of Pharaoh do open battle, each seeking to win the king for itself, and to draw him into its own element.* Else, unless it had been such a conflict as this, what meaning would such passages have as that in Moses' Song, “Who is like unto thee, O Lord, among the gods?” (Exod. xv. 11;) or that earlier, “Against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment; I am the Lord.” (Exod. xii. 12; cf. Numb. xxxiii. 4.) As it was then, so probably was it again at the Incarnation, for Satan's open encounter of our Lord in the wilderness was but one form of his manifold opposition; and we seem to have a hint of a resistance similar to that of the Egyptian magicians in the withstanding of Paul which is attributed to Elymas. (Acts xiii. 8; cf. 2 Tim. iii. 8.4) But whether then it was so, or not, so will it be cer. tainly at the end of the world. (Matt. xxiv. 24; 2 Thess. ii. 9; Rev. xiii. 13.) Thus it seems that at each great crisis and epoch of the kingdom, the struggle between the light and the darkness, which has ever been going forward comes out into visible manifestation.
*The principal argument against this, is the fact that extraordinary feats of exactly like kinds are done by the modern Egyptian charmers; some, which are perfectly inexplicable, are recounted in the great French work upon Egypt, and attested by keen and sharp-sighted observers. But taking into consideration all which we know about these magicians, that they do, and apparently have always, constituted an hereditary guild, that the charmer throws himself into an ecstatic state; the question remains, how far there may not be here a wreck and surviving fragment of a mightier system, how far the charmers do not even now, consciously or unconsciously, bring themselves into relation with those evil powers, which more or less remotely do at the last underlie every form of heathen superstition. On this matter Hengstenberg (Die Bücher Mose's und AEgypten, pp. 97–103) has much of interesting matter.
+ Gregory the Great (Moral, l. 34, c. 3) has a curious and interesting passage on the miracles of Antichrist. According to him, one of the great trials of the elect will be, the far more glorious miracles which he shall show, than any which in those last days the Church shall be allowed to accomplish. From the Church signs and wonders will be well nigh or altogether withdrawn, while the greatest and most startling of these will be at his beck.
Yet while the works of Antichrist and his organs are not mere tricks and juggleries, neither are they miracles in the very highest sense of the word; they only partake, in part, of the essential elements of the miracle. This they have, indeed, in common with it, that they are real works of a power which is suffered to extend thus far, and not merely dexterous sleights of hand; but this, also, which is most different, that they are abrupt, isolated, parts of no organic whole; not the highest harmonies, but the deepest discords, of the universe;” not the omnipotence of God wielding his own world to ends of grace, and wisdom, and love, but evil permitted to intrude into the hidden springs of things just so far as may suffice for its own deeper confusion in the end, and, in the mean while, for the needful trial and perfecting of God's saints and servants.}
This fact, however, that the kingdom of lies has its wonders no less than the kingdom of truth, would be alone sufficient to convince us that miracles cannot be appealed to absolutely and simply, in proof of the doctrine which the worker of them proclaims; and God's word expressly declares the same. (Deut. xiii. 1–5.) A miracle does not prove the truth of a doctrine, or the divine mission of him that brings it to pass. That which alone it claims for him at the first is a right to be listened to; it puts him in the alternative of being from heaven or from hell. The doctrine must first commend itself to the conscience as being good, and only then can the miracle seal it as divine. But the first appeal is from the doctrine to the conscience, to the moral nature in man. For all revelation presupposes in man a power of recognizing the truth when it is shown him, that it will find an answer in him, that he will trace in it the lineaments of a friend, though of a friend from whom he has been long estranged, and whom he has well nigh forgotten. It is the finding of a treasure, but of a treasure which he himself and no other had lost. The denial of this, that there is in man any organ by which truth may be recognized, opens the door to the most boundless skepticism, is indeed the denial of all that is godlike in man. But “he that is of God, heareth God's word,” and knows it for that which it proclaims itself to be.
It may be objected, indeed, If this be so, if there be this inward witness of the truth, what need then of the miracle 7 to what does it serve, when the truth has accredited itself already? It has, indeed, accredited itself as good, as from God in the sense that all which is good and true is from him, as whatever was precious in the teaching even of heathen sage or poet was from him;-but not as yet as a new word directly from
* They have the veritas format, but not the veritas finis.