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ebb of the sea, would be excluded counselled any departure from the from the category of the miracu- Law of Moses. As at a later date lous; while such a very likely a teacher familiar with the entire occurrence as the blinding of King code of Jewish law insisted that Zedekiah by Nebuchadnezzar, the spirits of the prophets were being a direct attestation of the subject to the prophets, so, from truth of the prophet who had the time of the close of the Book of warned the King of Judah not Deuteronomy, miracle, as a token to submit, would properly come of Divine truth, was subject to the within the definition.
primary condition of the accordIt is, however, perfectly simple
with Divine law of the to point out, from the words of the message of him who appealed to Pentateuch, and from the careful its sanction. provisions of the Synhedral law of We are thus bound to define the Jews, the limit and the essence miracle, as a theological term, as the of the miraculous according to the occurrence of an event of a nature ancient law. No other definition antecedently so improbable as to be can be held as binding on theology; considered impossible, apparently and it is as to the theological use of at the will, command, or prayer of a the word that the inquiry arises. human being who claims a Divine Whatever be the original date of mission, for proof of which he the Book of Deuteronomy, there appeals to the miracle. And is no doubt of its existence, sub- further, in order to be accepted stantially in its present condition, such message must be in acat least 270 years before the cordance with the Law of Moses. Christian era, at the date of the That wonders of nature LXX. translation. The law re
similar that they could garding prophets is laid down in only be discriminated by the use the 13th and 18th chapters of that of this test, might occur at the book. A sign, or a wonder, which will or invocation of false prophets is the primary meaning of the and teachers, is the doctrine word miracle, is there mentioned alike of the Jewish Scriptures, of as given by a prophet in attesta- the Synhedral law, and of the tion of the truth of his message.
Catholic Church. The truth or The highest kind of sign, it is falsehood of these miracles, thereimplicitly indicated by the pas- fore, was not to be ascertained by sage, and is fully declared by the the nature of the miracle itself, Synhedral legislation, is the pre- so much as by the orthodoxy of dicting a future event, which the doctrine of the worker of the. subsequently comes to pass as miracle. Miracles, then, are called predicted. Wonders of another true or false, not so much in virtue nature, such as the healing of the of the phenomena they exhibit as sick, were attributed to holy men; in virtue of their accordance with, but they had not the accepted or derogation from, the Law of worth or weight of this one won
Moses. And these wonders or der of true prediction, which has signs, in either case, have the come, in time, to monopolise the intent-the only intent which we sense which we attach to the far are authorised by the literature more general word, prophecy of the subject to attribute to them,Even that chief miracle, however, of avouching the truth of the meswas to be rejected, as a “lying sage which the worker of the wonder," if the prophet who pro- miracle declares that he has been duced it as the seal of his mission commissioned to give.
Accurately speaking, therefore, will issue from a certain chrysalis. no great or wonderful event, how- Sometimes, in the latter case, from ever unprecedented, can be called one of the rarest and largest of miraculous in the theological sense the English pupæ, issues not a of the word, unless it be apparently moth, but a fly. In former times produced, or foretold, by a human this would have been regarded as agent, who refers to it as a proof a marvel, and a departure from of his own authority. That events natural law. We now know that occur, and have occurred, in his- it only arises from the selfish pretory, which may not improperly be vision of the ichnoumon fly, which regarded with awe, as appearing pierces the living caterpillar to lay to be the immediate result of an egg beneath the skin. But the supernatural action, is not hereby interruption of ordinary sequence questioned. But such events, if is one thing, and the fact of our unconnected with the announce- ability or otherwise to account for ment of a prophet, are not theo- it, another. logical miracles.
Again, if, 1,400 years ago, a
man had asserted that he could III.
cause a block of iron weighing a It is evident from the examina- quarter of a ton to fly for five miles tion of the ancient literature through the air, and to alight bearing on the subject, that within a given perch of land, the nothing can be more wide of the reply would probably have been mark than the definition of a that of course this might be done miracle as a suspension of the laws by miracle, by magic, or by the of Nature.
definition aid of the devil, but in no other bristles with fallacies. In the way. If at the same time it had first place, it confounds, under the been stated that the priest who term laws of Nature, rules and was conducting the service of a sequences of the most varied kind. church had been raised, while in In the second place, it assumes on prayer, three feet from the ground the part of the definer an exhaus- on which he knelt, by invisible tive acquaintance with natural power, this would have been aclaw, of which ever category it may cepted as a not unlikely occurrence, be a question, which no human greatly testifying to the sanctity being possesses. In the third of the priest, but far less surprisplace, it confounds what is per- ing than the more rapid and disfectly well known to Mechanics as tant movement of the heavier the resolution of forces, with the material. The former wonder, impossible predication of the sus- unattainable in the fifth century, pension of a law.
is wrought in our own times by Thus, under the term laws of magicians called Whitworth and Nature we may imply either the Armstrong The occurrence of highest ultimate facts at which the latter is matter of dispute. In the human intelligence has yet the case of the flight of the iron, arrived, such as the unvarying we know how the phenomenon is force of gravity, or the relation produced. In the case of the leviof the diagonal to the side of a tation of St. Francis, or of Mr. square, or of the periphery to the Home (if either of these events radius of a circle ; or the inference occurred, as the Earl of Dunraven we draw from a certain series of says that he saw the latter do), the observations, such as the proba- cause is not yet understood. In bility that a certain form of moth the language of a man of such calibre as to be able to talk of expectation, occurring at human a "suspension of the law of instance, or in accordance with Nature," the law of gravitation is human prediction, as an attestation suspended in either case. But the of a supernatural message. Under mechanist knows that the power this generic description rank the of gravitation is as unsleeping in opposite species of miracles conthe flying bolt as it is in the Great templated by the author of the Pyramid itself, or in the movement Pentateuch. In the absence of of any celestial body in its orbit. either of the elements specified, From the moment when the pro- we may admit the occurrence of a jectile leaves the mouth of the gun marvel, or the display of superto that in which it strikes the natural power. But the express earth, the course of its trajectory character of a sign given in attestais limited by the regular action of tion of a prophetic message or the law of gravitation. A known injunction is the central idea of motive impulse has been given by the miracle as contemplated by a chemical agent. The path of the Jewish Law. the bolt is then a matter of calcula- The most characteristic instance tion. It results from the combined, of a miracle, on this view, will be and to some extent opposed, action found in the account of the Sacriof ascertainable forces. But in fice of Elijah, the memorial of order to believe the latter marvel, which yet lingers in the name of the physicist would insist on very the Maharaka on the heights of definite proof. He might still be Carmel. Apart from any quesin ignorance, if such proof were tion of literary or historic authengiven, as to the source of the tication, there were present on that elevating power. But he would occasion all the essential elements be the last man to stultify himself of the miraculous. There was the by assuming the movement to be message of the prophet; the apimpossible, or to attribute it to a peal to heaven for a sign; and the suspension of the laws of Nature. public occurrence of an event conTo convince himself that it actually trary to all probable expectation, occurred, he would require an in accordance with the instance of amount, and an accuracy of evi- the prophet. And as the appeal dence which would be unnecessary made by Elijah obeyed the conin order to lead him to accept any trolling rule which was to decide more probable statement. But he on the
species of miracle, and was would be aware that the assertion in accordance with the provisions was one to be proved or disproved of the law, all the conditions preby direct testimony, not by an scribed by the Book of Deutea priori statement of its possibility ronomy for the proof of the truth or impossibility.
of the prophetic mission were
If we contrast the account of It will appear from the fore- this event with that given by going considerations that the idea Josephus of the passage of Alexof a miracle is thus to be dis- ander the Great into Asia, we tinguished from that of a marvel. shall see at once the difference A miracle, according to the between a prophetic sign and a rules laid down by the authority mere marvel, according to the to which the earliest defini- Jewish definition. The retirement tion of the subject is due, is of the sea may be regarded as an an event contrary to probable event as appropriate at the mo
ment, and as contrary to probable acknowledged by a solemn cereexpectation, as the fall of a bolt monial even subsequently to the of fire on the altar. Those who accession of the House of Hanover believe in the guidance of God's in England. Nor are those absent providence by extraordinary as who attribute the abandonment of well as by ordinary means, may the ceremony of touching for the with equal propriety refer each King's Evil to the fact that the occurrence to the former category. healing virtue accompanies hereBut the voice of the prophet was ditary representation and is unabsent in the latter case. All that affected by Acts of Parliacan be said, if we accept the ac- ment. Tales of curative power count of Josephus as literal, is not unknown in our own that Alexander was counselled in day. But even if they can be a dream to invade Asia, and that verified, the phenomenon is quite the way was unexpectedly opened distinct from theologic miracle, for his army.
But no doctrine according to the definition inferred was announced. no message de- from the Pentateuch. livered, no truth attested by the The form of miracle regarded marvel. It was, as Josephus re- as the highest by the Jewish Law cords it, a marvel-supernatural, if was prediction of a favourable you will, in its origin—but not a event which subsequently occurred miracle, in the sense of being the in accordance with the prediction. seal of the mission of a prophet. The form of seal or attestation
It is essential to bear in mind most regarded_by the common the cardinal distinction between people of the Jews in Herodian the attestation of a given message times is spoken of by the Evangeland a wonderful event uncon- ists as a sign from heaven, that nected with any such mission. is to say, a predicted eclipse. Two Inquiry into occurrences of the very famous wonders in the Jewish latter nature may be highly desir- history are of this class, and the able. but the question is one prophetic books contain allusions, apart from that of miracle, in the more or less intelligible, to cerstrict sense of the term. Thus the tain famous eclipses which occurten wonders which are said in the red within historic times. The Talmud to have attended on the prediction of an eclipse, which is Temple, or the two most famous now a matter of absolute certitude examples of what are now called to the astronomer, was altogether annual miracles, the liquefaction of out of the range of the science of the blood of St. Januarius, and the a people who were forbidden to holy fire, are deficient in the regulate their year by a written essential element of furnishing calendar, and were bound to fix tests of the truth of a Divine mis- the first day of the first, and of the sion. The same may be said of the seventh, month by actual observaoccurrences which are more fully tions of the moon. Supposing, and unquestionably attested than then, the communication to a proany other series of marvels, phet of the approximate date of a ancient or modern—the recoveries coming eclipse, we have on the one effected among the visitants to the hand a communication of the uttomb of the Abbé Paris. The most simplicity (if we admit the belief in the possession of a cura- possibility of supernatural commutive power by certain royal or nication at all), and on the other holy personages, is as old as hand a sign of the most authentic hieroglyphic records; and sanction in the opinion of the peo
ple in question. But the effect In India itself, it might have and virtue of this sign depends to been possible to anticipate that a considerable degree on the igno- rainfall by telegraphic communicarance of the people. We are not tion with distant stations. Had insinuating that Isaiah or that a priest or a missionary done so Joshua had any information from (the people being unaware of Chaldean astronomers of which the existence of a telegraph), they made use in order to win the he might have been accepted confidence of their own people. a prophet. If the intelBut at the present day the Arabs ligence had been given, not by of Syria would regard a man as a the wire, but by a dream, or by prophet who announced to them any other impression on the mind with accuracy the details of a com- of the man who announced it, the ing eclipse, which he had easily circumstance would have been acquired himself from the nautical exactly the same, except that the almanack. Thus, the degree of medium of communication would the knowledge or civilisation both in one case have been physical, in of the people addressed and of the the other metaphysical, or supermessenger who appeals to a sign natural. Yet the occurrence of in sanction of his message, must the latter cannot be said to be be understood in order to enable impossible.
have thus us to form a correct view of any ourselves so far advanced in our asserted miracle. We must not command of physical elements argue back from an advanced state that we can not only simulate, of knowledge to events occurring but in great measure understand, in a remote period. The case of prophetic communications. To our present anticipation of eclipses' know what is now occurring at a is directly in point. Neither, on distance, is to some extent to know the other hand, must we infer that a the future. But the knowledge of discovery of a modus operandi in that what occurs at a distance may be which was once considered to be a very modest acquirement for a supernatural, diminishes the
disembodied intelligence. The weight of a sign which occurred whole question resolves itself into in a less enlightened time. The one of communication. cardinal point of the question is the once admit the possibility of direct, communication to the messenger. intelligible communication to man If we admit this to be supernatural, from the invisible world, and the other difficulties are trivial. Whe- rest is but matter of detail and of ther the knowledge imparted be
evidence. of a nature which now appears
V. simple, or which still seems marvellous, matters little or nothing. Under the head of communicaAll future events share in the con- tion, it must be borne in mind ditions that they are vague, sha- that both the Bible and the New dowy, uncertain in anticipation, Testament place communication but that they become historic by by dream on the same level as the fact of their occurrence. We any other kind of Divine message. are now acquainted, by telegraph, “ If there arise among you a with the bursting of a monsoon in prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, India within a few hours of its and gives you a sign or a wonder," occurrence. We are thus able to are the words of the Pentateuch in anticipate a sequence of events the passage that lays down the depending on that fall of rain. law of miracle. The accounts of