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THE MIRACLES PERFORMED BY JESUS CHRIST.”
THERE are three great expressions by which miracles are known. First, “A miracle, or a wonder; second, " a sign”; third, “a power.”
The first name is that of " a wonder.” This presents the miracle in one of its aspects, but in its weakest and poorest aspect, and implies simply the impression which the performance of the miracle is to make upon the senses of him that sees it.
It merely implies that, by the act just witnessed, wonder, awe, amazement is created; all that is designed in this character to do is to break the slumber of the senses, to disturb the continuity of apathy, and to rouse man to a perception of a presence greater than himself. Hence, the very result of the performance of a miracle is to arrest the attention, to awaken thought of those that are present, and in the midst of whom the miracle is done.
The second name given to a miracle is a higher and more expressive one“ a sign." All signs are not miracles, but all miracles are signs. A sign means a substance. Wherever you say there is a sign, you imply that there is something that is signified.
When, therefore, a miracle is performed, it is, at this point, a sign of the presence of God. As a wonder it startles; as a sign, it teaches; the one strikes, the other speaks; and hence, a miracle is not only startling to the senses, but it is significant and instructive to the mind. In other words, it not only creates awe, amazement, arrest, but it conveys meaning and instruction, the chiefest point of which is, that men here trace the finger, the footprints and the marks of Deity.
The third name by which a miracle is known in Scripture is “ a power.” The word is sometimes rendered “works,” sometimes “ mighty works," and sometimes it is rendered “
powers ”; and it is so called, because a miracle is the manifestation of power; not necessarily of a greater power than is already manifested in Creation, but the manifestation of that power in a new formula, in an unexpected shape, in
a way which we have not seen it so manifested before, and which, therefore, is more pletely fitted to arrest the mind.
“ The Water Made Wine." —St. John's Gospel, second chapter and tenth verse. We read of the sense of wonder in the mind of the chief person at the feast.
“ And he saith, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse; but thou hast kept the good wine until
“ There is some mysterious change,” he says; “this is a new phenomena; I am astonished, surprised; something more than is usual is here.” The “
power” of the miracle was felt when that which was water blushed into wine, as the Lord looked upon it.
The miracle was also “a sign,” for it was so full a manifestation of the glory of Jesus, that it is said, “His disciples believed on Him." We have here the three characteristics of a miracle embodied in the account given by St. John.
Now a miracle itself is not a mere action, or a mere operation of nature, and yet it need not imply any more power than is already put forth in creation. For instance, in casting a handful of wheat into the soil, and making it grow up till it produces two or three bushels, there is as much power of God manifested as there is in making a few loaves of bread grow into a few thousand.
There is the same power exerted in making a seed cast into the soil grow up into many seeds as there is in making one loaf grow into many loaves. The difference between what we call a natural thing and what God pronounces a miraculous thing is not so much the extent of power that is manifested as the manner of the manifestation of that power. Thus we read in the Epistle to the Romans that the invisible things of God “are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and God-Head.
So that all Creation, we are told, in its action, as clearly intimates and
power of God as any miracle, strictly and properly so called, could prove it.
Then where is the difference, you ask, between a miracle and the natural laws, as they are called, or operations of nature ?
I answer, the difference arises from the new
and strange formula, shape, mode, or manner in which that power is put forth.
Another difference arises from the fact that the miracle of the seed cast into the earth growing into many bushels is a miracle occurring every year, and witnessed by every individual upon earth; but the miracle of one loaf being multiplied into ten, twelve, or twenty, was a thing that occurred only once, and was witnessed by a few; and to that few only, and by their testimony to others, is that miracle addressed.
The water coming from the clouds, and descending from springs and rocks, proves abundantly the power of God.
That the ocean should be a mighty cistern, that the sands and rocks of the earth should constitute so many filters, that the water should be constantly supplied through these for us to drink, that the steam which evaporates from the sea should shape itself into clouds, and meeting with cold currents of air, should become condensed, and fall in the shape of prolific and fertilizing showers; all this is an evidence of the power of God.
But the water turned into wine" is not