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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]

In this article we may consider the meaning of the words used in the NT for ‘miracles,’ and the evidence for the apostolic belief in them; the evidence will then be compared with that for miracles in the succeeding ages, and the evidential value of miracles will be weighed. But the limits assigned preclude a general investigation of the a priori credibility of miracles as such. As, however, this has been done very fully by Bernard in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) iii., it is scarcely necessary here to repeat what has there been well said.

1. Meaning of the words used. -( a ) The principal NT words for what we should now call a ‘miracle’ are σημεῖον, τέρας, δύναμις, ἔργον. Of these, σημεῖον, ‘sign,’ denotes that which conveys spiritual and symbolic instruction; τέρας, ‘wonder’ or ‘prodigy,’ denotes a work above the ordinary working of nature; δύναμις denotes a work showing ‘power’; while ἔργον, ‘work,’ is in itself a neutral word, the context of which in many passages, especially in Jn. ( John 5:36 etc.), shows it to denote a ‘miracle’ (so  Matthew 11:2; but in  John 17:4 the word includes the whole of Jesus’ deeds). It is noteworthy that the mighty deeds of our Lord and His disciples are never called ‘prodigies’ (τέρατα) alone; the only apparent exception to this rule is in  Acts 2:19 (‘I will show wonders in heaven’), which, however, is a quotation from  Joel 2:30, and ‘wonders in heaven’ are coupled with ‘signs on earth,’ and both are interpreted by St. Peter as ‘powers and wonders and signs’ in  Joel 2:22. A Christian miracle is not a mere prodigy exciting astonishment, but is intended for instruction; and here we see at once the great difference between the NT miracles and most of those of the apocryphal Gospels, which are mere exhibitions without any teaching purpose, and are often repulsive to the Christian sense of reverence. It must be added, also, that herein lies the difference between the NT miracles and most of those commonly known as ‘ecclesiastical’ (see below, 4). The mighty deeds related in the NT did, indeed, excite wonder and fear ( Mark 2:12;  Mark 4:41;  Mark 6:51;  Mark 7:37,  Luke 7:16,  Acts 3:10 f.), but this was not their only or even their chief object. Hence, when τέρας is used it is always combined with σημεῖον ( John 4:48,  Acts 2:19;  Acts 2:43;  Acts 4:30;  Acts 5:12;  Acts 6:8;  Acts 7:36;  Acts 14:2;  Acts 15:12, and [of false prophets]  Matthew 24:24,  Mark 13:22, and [with δύναμις added]  Acts 2:22,  Romans 15:19,  2 Corinthians 12:12,  2 Thessalonians 2:9,  Hebrews 2:4); δύναμις and σημεῖον are joined in  Acts 8:13. It may be noticed that θαῦμα is not used in the NT of miracles, but θαυμάσια (‘wonderful things’) is used in  Matthew 21:15, παράδοξα (‘strange things’) in  Luke 5:26, ἔνδοξα (‘glorious things’) in  Luke 13:17.

( b ) Turning to the English versions, we are struck by the confusion occasioned by the indiscriminate use of the word ‘miracle.’ In Authorized Versionit often represents σημεῖον (in the singular in  Luke 23:8,  John 4:54,  Acts 4:16;  Acts 4:22, and in the plural in  John 2:11;  John 2:23;  John 3:2;  John 6:2;  John 6:26;  John 7:31;  John 9:16;  John 11:47;  John 12:37,  Acts 6:8;  Acts 8:6;  Acts 15:12,  Revelation 13:14;  Revelation 16:14;  Revelation 19:20); in these passages Revised Versionrightly substitutes ‘sign’ except in the text of  Luke 23:8,  Acts 4:16;  Acts 4:22, where ‘miracle’ is with some inconsistency retained. Again, in Authorized Version‘miracle’ represents δύναμις in  Mark 9:39,  Acts 2:22;  Acts 8:13;  Acts 19:11,  1 Corinthians 12:10;  1 Corinthians 12:28 f.,  Galatians 3:5,  Hebrews 2:4, while in these passages there is an unfortunate confusion even in the Revised Versiontext (though Revised Version margin gives ‘power’), as we find ‘mighty work’ in the first two passages, ‘miracle’ in the next five, and ‘powers’ in the last; if ‘powers’ was thought somewhat unintelligible, ‘mighty works’ or ‘mighty deeds’ might with a little ingenuity have been used in all these places. The confusion in Authorized Versionis increased by σημεῖα being translated ‘wonders’ in  Revelation 13:13 and ‘miracles’ in v. 14, and by δυνάμεις being translated ‘mighty deeds’ in  2 Corinthians 12:12; in  Mark 6:52, Authorized Versionunnecessarily inserts ‘the miracle,’ which is not in the Greek. It is a serious misfortune that ‘miracle’ should be so much used in the Authorized Versionto represent σημεῖον, for the connotation of the English word is exactly what that of the Greek word is not, and it has given the English reader an erroneous idea of the purpose of the works of our Lord and the disciples; it was not so much to produce wonder as belief.

2. Evidence for miracles in the Apostolic Age. -( a ) The Gospels are all full of the mighty deeds worked by our Lord, nor is it possible to separate the miraculous from the non-miraculous in these histories. The Synoptic Gospels do not profess to be written by eye-witnesses, but the Fourth Gospel does claim to give first-hand testimony ( John 21:24, confirmed by many internal indications), though it was written more than half a century after the events which are recorded. It narrates healings ( John 4:16 ff.,  John 5:8,  John 6:2), giving sight to the blind ( John 9:6 f.), raising the dead ( John 11:44), and several ‘miracles of nature’-water made wine ( John 2:9), feeding the five thousand ( John 6:11 f.), walking on the sea ( John 6:19), the miraculous draught of fishes ( John 21:8); also the Resurrection (20, 21) and ‘many other signs’ ( John 20:30). It is to be noted that in all the Gospels the evidence for ‘miracles’ of nature is as strong as that for miracles of healing, and that the evidence of Jn. does not differ in kind from that of the Synoptists. For the evidence of the Gospels, reference may be made to Sanday’s article‘Jesus Christ’ in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) ii. 625 f. Though the witness of the Synoptists is not in form at first hand, it still rests on very good authority, and there is excellent reason for believing that the evidence of Mk. is in effect that of St. Peter himself (see Dict. of Christ and the Gospels ii. 121 f., and, for the autoptic character of the Second Gospel, ib. 124). Also the first-hand evidence of St. Paul that he himself had the power of working miracles (see below) indirectly gives good testimony to the fact that our Lord worked them, for we can hardly imagine that St. Paul could have thought that he himself had the power from Christ unless his Master also had it. For a classification of the Gospel miracles see Dict. of Christ and the Gospels ii. 186 ff. (T. H. Wright).

Further, in the Gospels it is recorded that our Lord bade the disciples heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out devils ( Matthew 10:8); and that they would have power to do so if only they had faith is implied in 17:20. So in the appendix to Mk. (16:17f.) the signs which would follow believers are said to be casting out devils in Christ’s name, speaking with new tongues, taking up serpents, drinking poison without hurt, and healing the sick by laying on of hands.

( b ) We may proceed to consider how these predictions are borne out by the Acts and Epistles . It will be convenient to separate the evidence which is at first hand from that which is at second hand.

(i.) Under the former head will come those mighty deeds and outward charismata which are attested by those who claimed to see, or to do, or to possess them. In the ‘we’ sections of Acts (accounts of events in which the author took part) and in St. Paul’s Epistles we read of several mighty works, prophecies, and visions, attested at first hand. In  Acts 16:18 the Python is cast out of the ventriloquist girl; in  Acts 16:26 there is an earthquake, the doors of the prisons are opened, and the prisoners’ bonds are loosed; in  Acts 20:12 we read of the raising of Eutychus ( q.v. [Note: .v. quod vide, which see.]), though it is not said that he was dead (the reverse seems to be implied in  Acts 20:10); in  Acts 21:9 of the prophesying of Philip’s daughters; in  Acts 21:11 of the prophecy of Agabus; in  Acts 28:5 of St. Paul’s shaking off the viper without hurt (cf. ‘Mk’  Acts 16:18 as above); and in  Acts 28:8 f. of the healing of Publius’ father by St. Paul by the laying on of hands; and of the healing of others, in which St. Luke himself seems to have taken part (see  Acts 28:10 : ‘honoured us ’). Further, the narratives in  Acts 9:3 ff;  Acts 22:6 ff;  Acts 26:12 ff. of the appearances of our Lord to St. Paul at his conversion are brought almost to the level of first-hand evidence by the corroboration of  Galatians 1:1-16. St. Paul claimed that Christ worked miracles through him ( Romans 15:18 f.,  2 Corinthians 12:12), and testifies to the fact that some (not all) of his converts also had the power ( Galatians 3:5,  1 Corinthians 12:9 f.,  1 Corinthians 12:28-30,  1 Corinthians 14:22). These works, which are instances of πνευματικά or spiritual [gifts], include healings and other ‘powers,’ speaking with tongues and interpretation of tongues, and prophecy. We have it at first hand that the Jews expected such signs of Christian preachers ( 1 Corinthians 1:22). The visions of St. Paul are attested by himself in  2 Corinthians 12:2-4.

(ii.) Of other works and charismata in the NT, we have not, outside the Gospels, first-hand evidence; yet even what we have must be pronounced exceptionally good when we remember the opportunities which St. Luke had of converse with those who actually saw the events. At the outset we note that St. Peter in his speeches attributes to our Lord ‘power and wonders and signs’ ( Acts 2:22), and the healing of demoniacs ( Acts 10:38). Then, signs and wonders, healings of the sick and of demoniacs, are attributed to the apostles generally ( Acts 2:43,  Acts 5:12;  Acts 5:16). In  Acts 3:7,  Acts 9:34 St. Peter heals the lame man and aeneas; in  Acts 5:5;  Acts 5:10 he inflicts sudden death on Ananias and Sapphira; in  Acts 9:40 he raises Dorcas from the dead; and in  Acts 5:15 the sick are brought so that his shadow may fall on some of them, though it is not said that they were thereby cured. In  Acts 6:8 Stephen works wonders and signs; in  Acts 8:6;  Acts 8:13 Philip works signs and powers at Samaria. In  Acts 15:12 Barnabas and Paul relate to the Apostolic Council how signs and wonders had been worked by them. In  Acts 13:11 St. Paul strikes Elymas blind; in  Acts 14:10 he heals the impotent man at Lystra; in  Acts 19:11 he works ‘special’ (οὐ τὰς τυχούσας) powers at Ephesus, and even his garments taken to the sick and the demoniacs heal them. In  Hebrews 2:4 the first preachers of the gospel are said to have worked signs and wonders and powers. Divine interpositions are recorded in  Acts 5:19;  Acts 12:10, where an angel opens prison doors. We read of speaking with tongues and prophesying at Pentecost ( Acts 2:4) and at Ephesus ( Acts 19:6), and the same thing is probably implied in  Acts 8:17 f., because Simon Magus saw that the Holy Ghost was given at Samaria. Another prophecy of Agabus (this time at second hand) is quoted in  Acts 11:28. Numerous visions of our Lord are recorded: in  Acts 1:3 ff. (between the Resurrection and the Ascension),  Acts 9:3 ff. etc. (to St. Paul at his conversion),  Acts 9:10 (to Ananias),  Acts 22:18,  Acts 23:11 (to St. Paul at Jerusalem); and something of this sort is implied by the direction of the Spirit in  Acts 16:6 f. Visions of angels are recorded in  Acts 8:28 (to Philip),  Acts 10:3 (to Peter),  Acts 27:23 (to St. Paul on his voyage to Italy); in  Acts 16:9 St. Paul sees the ‘certain man of Macedonia.’

Miraculous deeds are ascribed to non-Christians and also to Satan and his ministers. The Jewish exorcists might expect to cast out demons, though as a matter of fact they were not successful in doing so ( Acts 19:13 f.). Simon Magus by his ‘magic’ did wonderful things, so that he was named ‘that power of God which is called Great’ ( Acts 8:10). The Lawless One in  2 Thessalonians 2:9 is marked by ‘power and signs and lying wonders’; in Rev. the second beast ( Acts 13:13 f.), the spirits of demons ( Acts 16:14), the false prophet ( Acts 19:20), who is apparently to be identified with the second beast (see H. B. Swete, Apoc. 2, 1907, p. 206), work signs, just as our Lord had said that false Christs and false prophets should show signs and wonders ( Matthew 24:24,  Mark 13:22).

3. Examination of the evidence. -In considering the facts enumerated above, it is quite possible, and even probable, that we must deduct several of the incidents mentioned as not being in any real sense miraculous, even though they might have seemed so to the bystanders. It is, for instance, probable that Eutychus was not really dead. Agabus’ prophecies may have been but shrewd forecasts of events. The viper in Malta may not in reality have been poisonous. It is conceivable that Dorcas was in a state of coma and not really dead. The visions, the gift of tongues and of prophesying may not belong properly to the category of the miraculous. Yet when all possible deductions have been made, there can be no doubt that the NT is saturated with miracles, and that the writers were firmly persuaded that Jesus and His disciples had worked them.

How, then, are we to interpret the ‘signs,’ ‘powers,’ and ‘wonders’ of the NT? There is an increasing disposition at the present time among those who formerly would have denied all miracles to accept as genuine many of the NT narratives, especially those of healings and of expulsions of demons; and this is due to the greater knowledge which we now have of the power of mind over matter. But much depends on what we mean by a ‘miracle.’ To the man in the street it usually conveys the idea of a contravention of nature. This, however, is not a good definition. Augustine, in an often-quoted passage, remarks that a miracle ( portentum ) is not against nature, but against known nature ( de Civ. Dei , XXI. viii. 2). What may appear to one eye to be a contravention of the laws of nature is often found in a later age to be in reality in accordance with them. As an example, wireless telegraphy would have seemed in the 1st cent. to be a miracle, whereas we now know it to be a natural phenomenon. Many, therefore, of the ‘signs’ of the NT, not only those which we are now beginning to see are no contravention of nature, such as the healings in nervous cases, but also others, may before long be found to be in accordance with law. When we ourselves shall have risen from the dead, and see ‘face to face,’ we may find that our Lord’s resurrection and our own are the necessary outcome of law. The theory of ‘relative miracles’ was propounded by Schleiermacher, and has perhaps hardly been done justice to, though it is not possible to assent to all his reasoning. The theory substitutes for a contravention of nature a miracle of knowledge. Certain persons had a greater hold on the secrets of nature than their contemporaries; but this was by a Divine interposition. Even in the case of Jewish and heathen magicians this may to some extent be true; it is not necessary to brand men like Simon and Elymas and Apollonius of Tyana (a Cappadocian of the 1st cent. of our era) as mere impostors. It follows, then, that while the stories of miracles are narrated in the way that was best suited to the comprehension of the Apostolic Age, several of them, had they been written in our day, would have been given in different language (Sanday, Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) ii. 625a).

It is answered to what has been suggested here, that this reasoning makes the miracles to be no miracles at all. But this is not a substantial objection, and is based only on the presupposition that miracles are contraventions of nature. A miracle of knowledge implies Divine intervention as much as-nay, more than-a breach of natural law. Sanday remarks: ‘The essential point is the Divine act; and that, I think, is proved. We are beginning to learn the lesson that an act is not less Divine because it is fundamentally in accordance with law’ ( Life of Christ in Recent Research , p. 218).

It may be that what has been said does not directly apply to all the ‘signs’ recorded in the NT. Yet these suggestions may at least give us pause if we are inclined to think that the excellent evidence which we possess cannot stand against the a priori improbability of a miracle happening.

4. Miracles in the sub-Apostolic and later ages. -It is important to compare NT records with those of subsequent ages in this respect.

(1) Let us first examine two actual miracles which have been thought to have happened in the 2nd century.

( a ) Miracles at Polycarp’s death (see Lightfoot, Apostolic Fathers , pt. ii.: ‘Ignatius’2, 1889, i. 614 ff., iii. 392 f.).-The Letter of the Smyrnaeans ( Martyrdom of Polycarp ), written c. [Note: . circa, about.]a.d. 156 immediately after the event, relates (§§ 9, 15 f.) that on the saint’s entering the stadium, a voice was heard from heaven, saying, ‘Be strong, Polycarp, and play the man’; no one saw the speaker, but the bystanders heard the voice. A little later, they saw a marvel-the flame enveloping the martyr like a sail, and a fragrant odour was perceived. When the executioner stabbed Polycarp to death ‘there came forth [a dove and] a quantity of blood, so that it extinguished the fire. Here the only real ‘miracle’ is the dove; but all mention of it is omitted by Eusebius, who quotes the letter at length ( Historia Ecclesiastica (Eusebius, etc.) iv. 15). It is therefore probable that περιστερὰ καί is either, as Lightfoot thinks, an insertion by a later writer, perhaps by pseudo-Pionius, a 4th cent. biographer of Polycarp, or else a corruption, perhaps of περὶ στύρακα, ‘about the sword-haft’ (Christopher Wordsworth), or of περὶ στερνά (Ruchat), or of ἐπʼ ἀριστερᾷ (Le Moyne). The life of pseudo-Pionius (for the text and translation of which see Lightfoot, ‘Ign.’2 iii.) describes several miracles, but themanuscriptbreaks off in the middle, and does not give Polycarp’s death: the Life is followed in themanuscriptimmediately by the Letter of the Smyrnaeans.

( b ) The Thundering Legion (circa, abouta.d. 174).-A letter of Marcus Aurelius details the incident of the Christian soldiers praying for rain, and of its falling in abundance. The letter, however, is ‘a manifest forgery’ (Lightfoot, ‘Ign.’2 i. 488). There may be elements of truth in the story, but it can hardly be called a miracle, unless every answer to prayer be deemed such. Thus the two descriptions of actual miracles fail us.

(2) Next, let us examine the testimony of the writers who succeeded the apostles.

( a ) Papias, a ‘hearer of John and companion of Polycarp’ (Iren. Haer. V. xxxiii. 4), in words quoted by Eusebius ( Historia Ecclesiastica (Eusebius, etc.) iii. 39), says that in the time of Philip the Apostle one rose from the dead, and that Justus Barsabbas ( Acts 1:23) drank deadly poison without hurt. This, however, was in the Apostolic Age.

( b ) The writer of the Didache (10 f.) and Hermas ( Mand. 11) speak of the existence of true and false prophets in the Christian Church in their time.

( c ) Justin testifies to the healing of demoniacs in his day (circa, abouta.d. 150; Apol. ii. 6, Dial. 30, 76: in the last passage he apparently speaks of this as the fulfilment of the promise that they should tread on scorpions, etc.,  Luke 10:19); he says that one received the gift of healing, another of foreknowledge, etc. ( Dial. 39), and that ‘prophetical gifts remain with us even to the present time’ (82).

( d ) Irenaeus (circa, abouta.d. 180; Haer. II. xxxii. 4) says that Christians ‘in Christ’s name perform [works] … some cast out devils … others have fore knowledge and see visions and prophesy, others heal the sick by laying on of hands.… Even the dead have been raised up and remained among us for many years.’ Note the change of tense here. The raising of the dead in Irenaeus’ own time is not alleged, and the reference may be to Dorcas or to such a case as is mentioned by Papias. Irenaeus ascribes the miracles of heretics to magic.

( e ) At the end of the 2nd cent. Tertullian speaks of the healing of demoniacs in his day: Apol. 23, 37 (‘without reward or hire’), 43 (heathen demoniacs healed).

( f ) In the 3rd cent. Origen says ( c. Cels. i. 2) that traces of the signs and wonders of the First Age were still possessed by those who regulated their lives by the precepts of the gospel; and ( ib. iii. 24), speaking of heathen ascriptions of healings to aesculapius, that by the invocation of Jesus’ name some Christians of his time had marvellous power of healing; he would seem to speak chiefly of mental diseases.

These passages show that healings, especially in nervous cases, continued in the 2nd cent. and later; but there are indications that even they were not very frequent, and there is no good evidence of the other miraculous works of which we read in the NT being continued. In the Church Orders we read of the benediction of oil for healing and for the exorcism of candidates for baptism, and these features may probably be due to the lost original of several of the Orders, which may be dated about the beginning of the 3rd century. But here we have passed from the stage of miracle to that of ordinary liturgical usage. At the end of the 4th cent. Chrysostom implies that miracles had ceased-and this in the face of the fact that that century saw the rise of miracle-loving hagiography. He says ( de Sacerd. iv. 6 [416]) that his contemporaries, though they all came together with myriads of prayers and tears, could not do as much as the ‘aprons’ (σιμικίνθια) of St. Paul once did ( Acts 19:12).

The evidence, then, seems to show that miracles gradually died out, and that after the Apostolic Age they scarcely went beyond ‘healing by suggestion.’ The case is very different after the 4th cent., when lives of the saints and martyrs are full of miracle, and eventually the power of working miracles became a test of saintship, in direct contrast with the restraint of Holy Scripture, in which it is said that ‘John did no sign’ ( John 10:41), and no miracle is ascribed to the great majority of the heroes of the OT. Moreover, most of the ‘ecclesiastical’ miracles are mere prodigies, and can in no sense be called ‘signs.’ In many cases they are demonstrably the invention of later biographers, and contemporary writers show no knowledge of them. But we cannot a priori deny the possibility of miracles happening in any age of the Christian Church, and it is quite probable that some mighty deeds of later times, notably healings, may have a modicum of truth in them, and may be such as would have been termed σημεῖα in the NT. (For miracles in the Columban Church see J. Dowden, Celtic Church in Scotland , London, 1894, ch. viii.)

5. Evidential value of NT miracles. -The object of the miracles was to arrest attention ( John 2:23;  John 3:2); they were not, however, faith-compelling ( Matthew 11:20,  John 12:37). Since the apostles believed (see above, 3 ) that even evil men and evil spirits could work miracles, they would not have said that a miracle-worker must be a true teacher. Now a miracle, because of its anomalousness, requires more proof than an ordinary event. The latter, if properly vouched, at once becomes probable; not so the former, unless it has a certain degree of a priori likelihood. Such we find in the belief in the spiritual world. If we believe in a God who is not aloof from the world, but loves His creatures, it is not improbable that He should, for good cause, intervene. The method of intervention may be unusual, and not in accord with the ordinary course of nature as we know it (cf. Augustine, above, 3 ); but if an unusual event such as the Incarnation happens, it is not improbable that such interventions should accompany it. It follows, however, that we cannot rest our argument for the existence of God, or for the truth of Christianity, merely on the fact that miracles happened, and it was a mistake in the reasoning of the 18th cent. apologists that they to a large extent did so. If for other reasons we believe in the Godhead of our Lord, we can also believe that He worked miracles, and empowered His disciples to do so-whether for one generation or for longer we need not stop to discuss.

It was never professed that miracles were worked to make those who were without any faith believe. The Risen Christ appeared only to believers, though this does not mean that the disciples believed merely because they wished to believe; here their ‘hardness of heart’ is of great evidential value. And miracles were only worked when there was a certain amount of faith ( Mark 6:5,  Matthew 13:58; cf.  Luke 16:31). Indeed, it is seen that miracles did not make the great impression on the First Age that they would make now. Did they happen now, the impression would be so great that they would be almost faith-compelling, and this is a very good reason for their having ceased. Even the disciples were not so much impressed by the Resurrection that they believed it without any doubt. Some of those who had seen the Risen Lord at first believed, then disbelieved ( Matthew 28:17 : ‘some doubted’), and only after a time were fully confirmed in the faith. So, again, though the story of the raising of Lazarus made a stir at the time in Jerusalem, it is quite intelligible that the impression did not extend very far or last very long. To say, therefore, that St. Mark could not have known of the raising of Lazarus because he does not mention it in the account of Jesus’ ministry in another part of the country is to import 20th cent. ideas into the narrative of the Apostolic Age.

The conclusion would seem to be that miracles have never been intended to be a direct proof of the truth of the gospel, or of the holiness of those who worked them; and their absence does not imply want of authority or of saintliness. But when at great crises of the world’s history they were worked, they at once arrested attention, and so led men on to believe in doctrines which for other reasons commended themselves to the sense of humanity.

Literature.-Out of a voluminous literature may be mentioned: W. Sanday, Life of Christ in Recent Research , Oxford, 1907, ch. viii., and article‘Jesus Christ’ in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) ii. (section on the ‘Miracles of Jesus’); J. H. Bernard, Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) iii., article‘Miracle’; T. H. Wright, Dict. of Christ and the Gospels ii., article‘Miracles’; J. R. Illingworth, Divine Immanence , London, 1898; R. C. Trench, Notes on the Miracles of our Lord 9, do., 1870, which is never out of date; G. Salmon, Non-Miraculous Christianity , London, 1881. For other works see Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) and Dict. of Christ and the Gospels as above.

A. J. Maclean.

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [2]

Three distinct New Testament Greek words represent miracles: Seemeion , "a sign"; Teras , "a prodigy"; Dunamis , "a mighty work." Septuagint uses Seemeion and Teras for Hebrew 'Owt and Mopheth ( Exodus 7:9). Seemeion , "sign," views the miracle as evidence of a divine commission:  John 3:2, "no man can do these signs (Greek) which Thou doest except God be with him" ( John 9:30;  John 9:33;  John 15:24;  Luke 7:19-22); Teras , "prodigy" or "wonder," expresses the effect on the spectator; Dunamis , "mighty work," marks its performance by a superhuman power ( Acts 2:22;  2 Corinthians 12:12;  2 Thessalonians 2:9). The "sign" is God's seal, attestation, or proof of a revelation being genuine. Jesus' miracles were not merely wonders but signs; signs not merely of His power, but of the nature of His ministry and of His divine person.

A grand distinction peculiar to Christianity is, it won the world to it in an age of high civilization, through a few preachers of humble position, on the evidence of miracles. Basing its claim on miracles the creed of the slave became eventually the faith of the Caesars. Muhammed on the contrary, even in a half-enlightened age and country, pretended no miracle. Christ and His apostles still less than Mahomet among friends would have dared to allege miracles, in the midst of hostile Jews and skeptical Romans, unless they were true. This claim is the more striking, since John the Baptist, though coming "in the spirit and power of Elias," the great miracle worker of the Old Testament, never claimed miraculous power; so far is Scripture from indiscriminately gratifying men's love of the marvelous at the cost of truth.

Similarly, Abraham, David, and other Old Testament heroes never appear as miracle workers. Early Christian writers, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, and Origen, occasionally appeal to miracles in proof of Christianity; but state that their pagan opponents, admitting the facts, attributed them to magic; which accounts for the fewness of their references to miracles. The Jewish writings, as the Sepher Toldoth Jeshu, also the extant fragments of Celsus, Porphyry, and Julian, admit the fact of the miracles, though ascribing them to magic and evil spirits. In the case of the resurrection ( Matthew 28:11-15) and the cure of the blind man (John 9) the Jews made a self confuted charge of fraud. The early Christian apologists allege in support of Christianity:

(1) the greatness, number, completeness, and publicity of the miracles;

(2) the beneficial tendency of the doctrine;

(3) the connection of the miracles with prophecy and the whole scheme of redemption from Adam to Christ. The miracles must have been altogether different from the wonders of exorcists, magicians, etc.; else they would not have gained for the gospel so wide and permanent an acceptance. The effect of Philip's ministry on the Samaritans, in opposition to Simon Magus (Acts 8), proves this. The holy character of Christ and His apostles, and the tendency of Christianity to promote truth and virtue, are against the origination of the miracles from evil spirits or jugglery. In the fourth century miracles had ceased (Chrysostom on 1 Corinthians 11-13); in the third, miracles are alleged, but are suspicious, as wrought among those already believing and predisposed to accept prodigies credulously. The ecclesiastical miracles are not attested by inspired writers. The apostles alone could transmit the power of working miracles to others. Cornelius was an exception, being the firstfruit of the Gentiles.

But Philip could not impart it; Peter and John must come to confer on his Samaritan converts miraculous gifts, by laying on of hands ( Acts 8:15-20;  Acts 10:44-46;  Acts 19:6;  Mark 16:17-18). Christianity being once proved and attested to us, the analogy of God's dealings leads us to expect He would leave it to make its way by ordinary means; the edifice being erected, the scaffolding is taken down; perpetual miracle is contrary to His ways. The ecclesiastical miracles alleged are ambiguous, or tentative, or legendary, i.e. resembling known products of human credulity and imposture. Many are childish, and palpably framed for superstitious believers, rather than as evidences capable of bearing critical scrutiny. Most of them are not told until long after their presumed occurrence. Herein the New Testament miracles wholly differ from them. The Christian miracles are:

(1) Recorded by contemporaries.

(2) In the same country.

(3) Not based on transient rumor, but confirmed by subsequent investigation, and recorded in independent accounts.

(4) Not naked history, but the history combined with the institution and with the religion of our day, as also with the time and place of the miracle recorded and of Christianity's origin.

(5) With particular specification of names, places, dates, and circumstances.

(6) Not requiring merely otiose assent, as the popular superstitions on which nothing depends, but claiming to regulate the opinions and acts of people.

(7) Not like popish miracles in Roman Catholic countries, in affirmation of opinions already formed, but performed amidst enemies, converting men from their most cherished prejudices; there was no anterior persuasion to lay hold of, Jesus' miracles gave birth to the sect; frauds might mix with the progress, but could not have place in the commencement of the religion.

(8) Not an imaginary perception, as Socrates' demon; the giving sight to the blind leaves a lasting effect; in those of a mixed nature the principal miracle is momentary, but some circumstance combined with it is permanent; Peter's vision might be a dream, but the message of Cornelius could not have been; the concurrence could only be supernatural.

(9) Not tentative, where out of many trials some succeed, as the ancient oracles, cures wrought by relics, etc.

(10) Not doubtful miracles, as the liquefaction of Januarius' blood, cures of nervous ailments.

(11) Not stories which can be resolved into exaggerations.

(12) Not gradual, but instantaneous for the most part ( Luke 18:43); not incomplete; not merely temporary, but complete and lasting.

(13) Witnessed to at the cost of suffering and death. (Paley, Evidences of Christianity.)

A miracle is not a "violation of the laws of nature" (Hume), but the introduction of a new agent. Such introduction accords with human experience, for we see an intelligent agent often modifying the otherwise uniform laws of nature. "Experience" informs us of human free will counteracting the lower law of gravitation. Infinitely more can the divine will introduce a new element, counteracting, without destroying, lower physical law; the higher law for a time controls and suspends the action of the lower. Or, "law" being simply the expression of God's will, in miracles God's will intervenes, for certain moral ends, to suspend His ordinary mode of working. The wise men following the star, and then receiving further guidance from the Scripture word, illustrate the twofold revelation, God's works, and God's word, the highest guide. Both meet in the Incarnate Word (Matthew 2;  2 Peter 1:19-21). As disturbance has entered the world by sin, as nature visibly attests, God must needs miraculously interfere to nullify that disturbance.

Hume alleged against miracles their contrariety to "experience," and that experience shows testimony to be often false. But "experience" is not to be limited to our time and knowledge. The "experience" of the witnesses for Christianity attests the truth of miracles. However improbable miracles are under ordinary circumstances, they are probable, nay necessary, to attest a religious revelation and a divine commission. "In whatever degree it is probable that a revelation should be communicated to mankind at all, in the same degree is it probable that miracles should be wrought" (Paley, Evidences of Christianity). That they are out of the ordinary course of nature, so far from being an objection, is just what they need to be in order to be fit signs to attest a revelation. It is as easy to God to continue the ordinary course of the rest of nature, with the change of one part, as of all the phenomena without any change. It is objected, miracles "interrupt the course of nature."

But as that course really comprises the whole series of God's government of the universe, moral as well as physical, miracles are doubtless included in it. In this point of view Butler remarks, nothing less than another world, placed in circumstances similar to our own, can furnish an argument from analogy against the credibility of miracles. They have some known general laws, e.g. they are infrequent, they are signs attesting a revelation; and probably have other laws as yet unknown. The testimony to Christian miracles is that of concurrent and contemporaneous witnesses. The religion so attested specifically differs from the false religions which false miracles have been alleged to support. To draw from the latter a reason against the former is utterly illogical. The argument is the other way, namely, since palpably false religions were propped up by false miracles a pure religion like Christianity is not likely to rest on false miracles.

In estimating the value of the testimony to Christ's miracles it is to be remembered there is no counter testimony. The unbelieving Jews admitted them, but attributed them to Satan. Jesus replied, Satan would never help to overthrow his own kingdom. Besides the evidential value of miracles, they are intimately and internally connected with Christianity as a new creation springing from God manifest in the flesh. That the new creating powers brought into the world in Christ should manifest themselves in miraculous agencies was a necessary consequence of His own manifestation or epiphany. The redemption of mankind from sin was typified, and its earnest given, in the redemption of individuals from the ailments which are sin's consequences. Christ's "bearing our griefs and carrying our sorrows" in His own assumed manhood guaranteed His healing human sicknesses and infirmities.

The miracle of active compassion necessarily flowed from His divine power and human sympathy combined in His incarnation, of which the atonement is the crown ( Matthew 8:17;  Isaiah 53:4). The history and separate existence of the Israelite church (the sole instance of a pure theism in the ancient world) it is impossible to explain without accepting the miracles which the same Scripture records; so Christianity and Christendom can only be explained by accepting the miracles which introduced them. Both dispensations were inaugurated by miracles, and then mainly left to ordinary providence; only that the Old Testament church, at times when surrounding paganism, as in Elijah's times, threatened to swamp it, was vindicated by miracles. Its miracles are miracles of power, to impress a rude age; the New Testament miracles were miracles of love.

The Old Testament miracles were for the foe's destruction; Christ's were miracles of mercy, except the withering of the fig tree and the sending the demons into the swine to perish, both symbolical lessons of warning to man. Many miracles were typical; as the "tongues" manifested the universality of the Christian dispensation designed for every tongue, so counterworking the division of man from man through the confusion of tongues at Babel; the casting out of demons symbolizes Christ's coming "to destroy the works of the devil." Miracles thus were manifestations of the Holy Spirit's presence and operation in the church. The Old Testament miracles attested God's presence as King of the theocracy; though this involved a continual series of miracles, yet as the theocracy was temporary and local those miracles did not violate God's ordinary government of the world by the laws of nature. The Christian miracles on the contrary, as attesting a permanent and universal dispensation, were properly limited to its commencement.

Christ performed His miracles more for others' preservation than His own. Christ's mission, doctrine, and life, and Christ's miracles mutually depend on one another. Those were worthy objects for which to suspend the so-called (lower) laws of nature, and they illustrate the new spiritual and material creation which He introduces into our fallen world. Therefore that His miracles were false would be far harder to believe than that the testimony which supports them is true. Pritchard observes, Christ's miracles, as His parables, go on the principle of the law of continuity of the human with the divine. So the ten Egyptian plagues have a demonstrable connection with Egyptian phenomena, in most cases not reversing, but developing, nature's forces for a foretold particular end and at a defined time. (See Egypt ; Exodus

Thus the first plague turning the Nile to blood answers to the natural phenomenon of the water becoming, before the rise, first green, then clear yellow about the 25th of June, and gradually ochre red through microscopic cryptogams and infusoria, at times smelling offensively ( Exodus 7:17-21). The supernatural element was the sudden change at Moses' word and act, killing the fish and making the water unfit for use, results not following the ordinary discoloration. So the frogs, accordant with natural phenomena usual in September, but miraculous in extent, intensity, and connection with Moses' word and act. So the dust, or black fertile soil of the Nile basin, called " Chemi ," from whence Egypt's ancient name was derived, producing "lice" or tick.

So the dogflies or else beetles; and the murrain, an epidemic often in December succeeding the inundation; and the boils, hail, locusts, and "darkness which might be felt," arising from masses of fine sand filling the atmosphere, the S.W. wind blowing it from the desert. That miracles harmonize with nature in some degree is what we might expect, since the God of revelation is the God of nature. The style of the same author in a new book will resemble his style in former books, only with such changes as the subject requires. The book of nature and the book of redemption are from the same God, written in different characters, but mutually analogous. Leslie (Short Method with the Deists) observes four notes of truth in the Mosaic miracles:

1. They were such as men's senses can clearly judge of.

2. Publicly wrought; two nations, Israel and Egypt, were affected by them, and above two million Israelites for 40 years witnessed them.

3. Public monuments and, what is more convincing, outward observances continually were retained in commemoration of the facts.

4. These monuments and observances were set up at the time the events took place, and continued without interruption afterward. (Compare  Deuteronomy 8:4;  Exodus 20:18;  Exodus 40:38;  Exodus 8:10;  Exodus 8:23;  Exodus 8:22;  Exodus 9:5;  Exodus 9:18;  Exodus 9:25-26;  Exodus 10:4-5;  Exodus 10:14;  Exodus 10:22-23;  Exodus 12:29;  Exodus 16:17, etc.;  Exodus 19:10, etc.;  Joshua 3:16; Numbers 16;  Deuteronomy 5:22-23; Numbers 21; 2 Kings 18).

Graves (Pentat. 6) observes we have two histories of Moses and his miracles, one in his book, the other in Israel's laws and ceremonies which are a living witness, not only of the Pentateuch history in general, but also of the miracles it records ( Exodus 13:1; compare  Numbers 3:11;  Numbers 3:46); its facts are inseparably connected with the miraculous. However indifferent nations become as to religion, they never are so as to property; now miracles were the foundation of the Hebrew polity and of the tenure and regulations of property, e.g. the Jubilee restoration. And the religion and government were so closely connected as to presuppose a peculiar providence rewarding or punishing temporally obedience or disobedience. The effect of the miracles under Joshua kept all his generation faithful to Jehovah, so real and convincing were they ( Joshua 24:31;  Judges 2:7).

Messiah's miracles were foretold ( Isaiah 35:5-6;  Isaiah 42:7), and so were asked for by John Baptist ( Matthew 11:2-4), and made the ground by the people of calling Him "Son of David" ( Matthew 12:23;  John 7:31). Their aim was not merely to astonish, for many were wrought in behalf of and before obscure persons. When asked for a startling "sign from heaven" He refused ( Luke 11:16). The 40 miracles of Christ recorded are but samples out of a greater number ( John 2:23;  John 20:30-31;  Matthew 4:23;  Matthew 8:16;  Matthew 9:35;  Matthew 12:15;  Matthew 14:14;  Matthew 14:35-36;  Matthew 15:30;  Matthew 19:2;  Matthew 21:14). Three He restored to life in an ascending gradation: Jairus' daughter just dead, the Nain widow's son being carried to burial, Lazarus four days dead and decomposing ( Matthew 9:18;  Luke 7:11-12; John 11).

Six demons He cast out, two of which witnessed He is "the Holy One ... the Son of the Most High God" ( Mark 1:24;  Mark 5:2;  Matthew 9:32;  Matthew 15:22;  Matthew 17:15;  Luke 11:15). Seventeen He cured of sicknesses, fever, leprosy, palsy, infirmity, withered hand, issue of blood, dropsy, blindness, deafness, muteness ( John 4:47;  John 5:5;  John 9:1;  Matthew 8:2;  Matthew 8:5;  Matthew 8:14;  Matthew 9:2;  Matthew 9:20;  Matthew 9:27;  Matthew 12:10;  Mark 8:22;  Luke 13:11;  Luke 17:12;  Luke 18:35;  Luke 22:51); this class is that of miracles bringing in love relief to suffering man. Another class shows His control over nature: creating wine out of water (John 2); feeding 5,000 and 4,000 with bread multiplied manifold ( Matthew 14:16;  Matthew 15:36); passing unseen through a crowd, setting aside natural laws ( Luke 4:30); giving draughts of fish when the fishermen had caught none ( Luke 5:4;  John 21:6); stilling the storm ( Matthew 8:26); walking on the sea ( Matthew 14:25), God's attribute,  Job 9:8; transfiguring His countenance ( Matthew 17:1); directing the fish with the tribute shekel to Peter, and Peter to the fish ( Matthew 17:27).

Another class is: His overawing men; twice turning out of the temple the sellers and moneychangers ( Matthew 21:12;  John 2:13); alone dud unarmed striking fear into the officers sent to take Him twice ( John 7:45-46;  John 18:6). He justified His healing on the Sabbath on the same ground as God is above the Sabbath law, working on it as on other days for the sustenance of all life and being ( John 5:17), "My Father worketh hereto and I work," thus as the Jews truly alleged calling "God His own (in an exclusive sense, Idion ) Father," and "making Himself equal with God." Love to man, unweariedly active, is as conspicuous in His miracles as power. The connection of His miracles with His redeeming work is the reason why faith was the needed preliminary on the part of the recipients of healing ( Mark 6:5-6;  Mark 7:29;  Matthew 9:28-29). If miracles were mere wonders anyone would have been a fit witness of their performance.

But the miracles were designed to attract the witnesses to His kingdom. They were symbolical of spiritual needs met by the Redeemer; vehicles of instruction as well as signs of His divine commission. Performed in His own name and in the first person, "I say unto thee" ( Luke 7:14); but the apostles' miracles were in His name ( Acts 3:6;  Acts 4:10-12). Faith in His power to heal the body prepared the way for faith in His power to heal the soul. Disbelief disqualified for appreciating miracles. To work miracles before hardened unbelievers would only aggravate their opposition, sin, and condemnation ( John 15:24;  John 9:39-41). They crowned their enmity by attributing His casting out of demons to Beelzebub. The "sign" of Jonah in his virtual burial and resurrection, and the sign of their destroying the temple of His body and His raising it in three days ( John 2:18-21;  Matthew 16:4), were the only sign which remained to convince them.

His resurrection is the central miracle toward which all the rest converge. He would give them no such sign as they craved, a startling phenomenon in the sky visible and indisputable to all. He would still give such signs of unobtrusive mercy as hereto; if they not only still reject them but also His resurrection, there only remains the last condemning sign, the Son of man coming with the clouds of heaven ( Revelation 1:7;  Daniel 7:9-13). His name is "Wonderful" or "miracle" ( Isaiah 9:6;  Judges 13:18-19). He is an embodied miracle, the Miracle of miracles. His incarnation and His resurrection include all between, and involve the wonders of Pentecost. Christ's charge that the eye witnesses should not report His miracles ( Matthew 9:30;  Mark 5:43;  Mark 7:36) was in order that men should not dissociate the wonder from His redeeming work.

To John the Baptist on the contrary He sent a report of His miracles, because John was not likely to dissever His miracles from His person and His work. His gestures, laying hands on the patient, anointing the blind eyes with clay, putting His finger into the deaf ear and touching the dumb tongue, creating much bread out of little not out of nothing, condescending to use means though in themselves wholly inadequate, all are tokens of His identifying Himself with us men, signs of His person at once human and divine and of His redeeming and sympathizing work for us. If the incarnation be denied, Christianity's existence is an effect without an adequate cause; grant the incarnation, and miracles are its necessary concomitant and natural consequence. To deny testimony because of the improbability of the facts attested would involve the denial of the Napoleonic history and other facts notoriously true.

The truth of the miracles is confirmed incidentally by the fact that in no nation but Israel have the knowledge and worship of the one true God, the Creator, been maintained by the mere light of nature, and Israel was far from overtopping other nations in mental power and civilization. A divine power alone could have so elevated Israel by an extraordinary call, confirmed by miracles. The prophecies, the morality, the structure of the Bible, and Christianity's conquest of the Roman world and its public establishment about 300 years after the execution of its Founder as a malefactor, similarly confirm the miracles which attest to its divinity. The improbability of the Christian religion being established WITH miracles is not nearly so great as the improbability of its being established WITHOUT miracles. Strauss' mythic theory, namely, that the story of Jesus embodies the nation's cherished idea of what the Messiah was expected to do, and therefore was believed to have done, is counter to the fact that the Jews expected a reigning Messiah, who should not die but deliver them from their Roman masters.

The gravity, simplicity, and historical consistency of the New Testament incidents with the otherwise known circumstances of the times, and the internal marks of the date of writing being soon after the occurrence of the facts, are all against the mythic theory, especially in a non-legendary but historical age. How unlike they are to the really mythic apocryphal Gospels, e.g. that of Nicodemus, the Ebionites, etc. No miracles of Jesus' youth are mentioned; there is no description of His personal appearance, nor of His doings in the world of spirits; no miracles of the Virgin Mary: omissions sure to be supplied in a legendary story. The hostility of the Jewish nation to Christianity confirms the gospel miracles. Had the Jews been generally converted by them, the septic might argue with plausibility that the facts had been invented or exaggerated to gratify the national propensity, credited without examination or proof, and all inquiry checked at the only period when inquiry could have detected imposition.

But now we are certain that the gospel miracles were wrought in the presence of enemies, and so subjected to the severest scrutiny. Joel ( Joel 2:28-29-31) apparently foretells a fuller outpouring of the Spirit accompanied with "prophesying," "dreams," and "wonders," in connection with and before "the great and terrible day of the Lord" (compare  Zechariah 12:10). Also  Matthew 24:24;  Matthew 24:29, "false Christs and prophets shall show great signs and wonders, inasmuch that if it were possible they shall deceive the very elect ... immediately after ... the sun shall be darkened." So  2 Thessalonians 2:9, "the coining of that wicked one, the man of sin, shall be after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders."

The same three terms occur for Jesus' miracles ( Acts 2:22;  Hebrews 2:4); for as the Egyptian magicians imitated Moses ( 2 Timothy 3:1-8), so antichrist imitates Christ's works as a "sign" of divinity, real but demoniac. The test of miracles is their being wrought, or not, in support of doctrine in accordance with God's known word and revelation; for God cannot by subsequent revelation contradict Himself ( Deuteronomy 13:1-5;  Galatians 1:8-9;  Revelation 13:11-15;  Revelation 19:20;  1 Kings 13:11-26).

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [3]

A miracle, in the popular sense, is a prodigy, or an extraordinary event, which surprises us by its novelty. In a more accurate and philosophic sense, a miracle is an effect which does not follow from any of the regular laws of nature, or which is inconsistent with some known law of it, or contrary to the settled constitution and course of things. Accordingly, all miracles presuppose an established system of nature, within the limits of which they operate, and with the order of which they disagree. Of a miracle in the theological sense many definitions have been given. That of Dr. Samuel Clarke is: "A miracle is a work effected in a manner unusual, or different from the common and regular method of providence, by the interposition of God himself, or of some intelligent agent superior to man, for the proof or evidence of some particular doctrine, or in attestation of the authority of some particular person." Mr. Hume has insidiously or erroneously maintained that a miracle is contrary to experience; but in reality it is only different from experience. Experience informs us that one event has happened often; testimony informs us that another event has happened once or more. That diseases should be generally cured by the application of external causes, and sometimes at the mere word of a prophet, and without the visible application of causes, are facts not inconsistent with each other in the nature of things themselves, nor irreconcilable according to our ideas. Each fact may arise from its own proper cause; each may exist independently of the other; and each is known by its own proper proof, whether of sense or testimony. As secret causes often produce events contrary to those we do expect from experience, it is equally conceivable that events should sometimes be produced which we do not expect. To pronounce, therefore, a miracle to be false, because it is different from experience, is only to conclude against its general existence from the very circumstance which constitutes its particular nature; for if it were not different from experience, where would be its singularity? or what particular proof could be drawn from it, if it happened according to the ordinary train of human events, or was included in the operation of the general laws of nature? We grant that it does differ from experience; but we do not presume to make our experience the standard of the divine conduct. He that acknowledges a God must, at least, admit the possibility of a miracle. The atheist, that makes him inseparable from what is called nature, and binds him to its laws by an insurmountable necessity; that deprives him of will, and wisdom, and power, as a distinct and independent Being; may deny even the very possibility of a miraculous interposition, which can in any instance suspend or counteract those general laws by which the world is governed. But he who allows of a First Cause in itself perfect and intelligent, abstractedly from those effects which his wisdom and power have produced, must at the same time allow that this cause can be under no such restraints as to be debarred the liberty of controlling its laws as often as it sees fit. Surely, the Being that made the world can govern it, or any part of it, in such a manner as he pleases; and he that constituted the very laws by which it is in general conducted, may suspend the operation of those laws in any given instance, or impress new powers on matter, in order to produce new and extraordinary effects.

In judging of miracles there are certain criteria, peculiar to the subject, sufficient to conduct our inquiries, and warrant our determination. Assuredly they do not appeal to our ignorance, for they presuppose not only the existence of a general order of things, but our actual knowledge of the appearance which that order exhibits, and of the secondary material causes from which it, in most cases, proceeds. If a miraculous event were effected by the immediate hand of God, and yet bore no mark of distinction from the ordinary effects of his agency, it would impress no conviction, and probably awaken no attention. Our knowledge of the ordinary course of things, though limited, is real; and therefore it is essential to a miracle, both that it differ from that course, and be accompanied with peculiar and unequivocal signs of such difference. We have been told that the course of nature is fixed and unalterable, and therefore it is not consistent with the immutability of God to perform miracles. But, surely, they who reason in this manner beg the point in question. We have no right to assume that the Deity has ordained such general laws as will exclude his interposition; and we cannot suppose that he would forbear to interfere where any important end could be answered. This interposition, though it controls, in particular cases, the energy, does not diminish the utility, of those laws. It leaves them to fulfil their own proper purposes, and affects only a distinct purpose, for which they were not calculated. If the course of nature implies the general laws of matter and motion, into which the most opposite phenomena may be resolved, it is certain that we do not yet know them in their full extent; and, therefore, that events, which are related by judicious and disinterested persons, and at the same time imply no gross contradiction, are possible in themselves, and capable of a certain degree of proof. If the course of nature implies the whole order of events which God has ordained for the government of the world, it includes both his ordinary and extraordinary dispensations, and among them miracles may have their place, as a part of the universal plan. It is, indeed, consistent with sound philosophy, and not inconsistent with pure religion, to acknowledge that they might be disposed by the supreme Being at the same time with the more ordinary effects of his power; that their causes and occasions might be arranged with the same regularity; and that, in reference chiefly to their concomitant circumstances of persons and times, to the specific ends for which they were employed, and to our idea of the immediate necessity there is for a divine agent, miracles would differ from common events, in which the hand of God acts as efficaciously, though less visibly. On this consideration of the subject, miracles, instead of contradicting nature, might form a part of it. But what our limited reason and scanty experience may comprehend should never be represented as a full and exact view of the possible or actual varieties which exist in the works of God.

2. If we be asked whether miracles are credible, we reply, that, abstractedly considered, they are not incredible; that they are capable of indirect proof from analogy, and of direct, from testimony; that in the common and daily course of worldly affairs, events, the improbability of which, antecedently to all testimony, was very great, are proved to have happened, by the authority of competent and honest witnesses; that the Christian miracles were objects of real and proper experience to those who saw them; and that whatsoever the senses of mankind can perceive, their report may substantiate. Should it be asked whether miracles were necessary, and whether the end proposed to be effected by them could warrant so immediate and extraordinary an interference of the Almighty, as such extraordinary operations suppose; to this we might answer, that, if the fact be established, all reasonings a priori concerning their necessity must be frivolous, and may be false. We are not capable of deciding on a question which, however simple in appearance, is yet too complex in its parts, and too extensive in its object, to be fully comprehended by the human understanding. Whether God could or could not have effected all the ends designed to be promoted by the Gospel, without deviating from the common course of his providence, and interfering with its general laws, is a speculation that a modest inquirer would carefully avoid; for it carries on the very face of it a degree of presumption totally unbecoming the state of a mortal being. Infinitely safer is it for us to acquiesce in what the Almighty has done, than to embarrass our minds with speculations about what he might have done. Inquiries of this kind are generally inconclusive, and always useless. They rest on no solid principles, are conducted by no fixed rules, and lead to no clear conviction. They begin from curiosity or vanity, they are prosecuted amidst ignorance and error, and they frequently terminate in impious presumption or universal skepticism. God is the best and indeed the only judge how far miracles are proper to promote any particular design of his providence, and how far that design would have been left unaccomplished, if common and ordinary methods only had been pursued. So, from the absence of miracles, we may conclude, in any supposed case, that they were not necessary; from their existence, supported by fair testimony, in any given case, we may refer with confidence that they are proper. A view of the state of the world in general, and of the Jewish nation in particular, and an examination of the nature and tendency of the Christian religion, will point out very clearly the great expediency of a miraculous interposition; and when we reflect on the gracious and important ends that were to be effected by it, we shall be convinced that it was not an idle and useless display of divine power; but that while the means effected and confirmed the end, the end fully justified and illustrated the means. If we reflect on the almost irresistible force of prejudice, and the strong opposition it universally made to the establishment of a new religion on the demolition of rites and ceremonies, which authority had made sacred, and custom had familiarized; if we reflect on the extent and importance, as well as the singularity, of the Christian plan; what was its avowed purpose to effect, and what difficulties it was necessarily called to struggle with before that purpose could be effected; how much it was opposed by the opinions and the practice of the generality of mankind, by philosophy, by superstition, by corrupt passions and inveterate habits, by pride and sensuality, in short, by every engine of human influence, whether formed by craft, or aided by power;—if we seriously reflect on these things, and give them their due force, (and experience shows us that we can scarcely give them too much,) we shall be induced to admit even the necessity of a miraculous interposition, at a time when common means must inevitably, in our apprehensions, have failed of success.

The revelation of the divine will by inspired persons is, as such, miraculous; and therefore, before the adversaries of the Gospel can employ with propriety their objections to the particular miracles on which its credibility is based, they should show the impossibility of any revelation. In whatever age the revelation is given, succeeding ages can know it only from testimony; and, if they admit, on the report of their fellow creatures, that God had inspired any being with the preternatural knowledge of his will, why should they deny that he had enabled the same being to heal the sick, or to cleanse the leprous? How, may it be asked, should the divine Teacher give a more direct and consistent proof of his preternatural commission, than by displaying those signs and wonders which mark the finger of God? That the Apostles could not be deceived, and that they had no temptation to deceive, has been repeatedly demonstrated. So powerful, indeed, is the proof adduced in support of their testimony, that the infidels of these later days have been obliged to abandon the ground on which their predecessors stood; to disclaim all moral evidences arising from the character and relation of eye-witnesses; and to maintain, upon metaphysical, rather than historical, principles, that miracles are utterly incapable, in their own nature, of existing in any circumstances, or of being supported by any evidence.

Miracles may be classed under two heads: those which consist in a train or combination of events, which distinguish themselves from the ordinary arrangements of Providence; and those particular operations which are performed by instruments and agents incompetent to effect them without a preternatural power. In the conduct of Providence respecting the Jewish people, from the earliest periods of their existence, as a distinct class of society, to the present time, we behold a singularity of circumstance and procedure which we cannot account for on common principles. Comparing their condition and situation with that of other nations, we can meet with nothing similar to it in the history of mankind. So remarkable a difference, conspicuous in every revolution of their history, could not have subsisted through mere accident. There must have been a cause adequate to so extraordinary an effect. Now, what should this cause be, but an interposition of Providence in a manner different from the course of its general government? For the phenomenon cannot be explained by an application of those general causes and effects that operate in other cases. The original propagation of Christianity was likewise an event which clearly discovered a miraculous interposition. The circumstances which attended it were such as cannot rationally be accounted for on any other postulatum. ( See Christianity . ) It may now be observed, that the institutions of the law and the Gospel may not only appeal for their confirmation to a train of events which, taken in a general and combined view, point out an extraordinary designation, and vindicate their claim to a divine authority; but also to a number of particular operations which, considered distinctly, or in a separate and detached light, evidently display a supernatural power, immediately exerted on the occasion.

Since Christ himself constantly appealed to these works as the evidences of his divine mission and character, we may briefly examine how far they justified and confirmed his pretensions. That our Lord laid the greatest stress on the evidence they afforded, nay, that he considered that evidence as sufficient to authenticate his claims to the office of the Messiah with all reasonable and well disposed inquirers, is manifest not only from his own words,  John 10:25 , but also from a great variety of other passages in the evangelists. Thus, when the disciples of John were sent to Christ, to receive from his own lips the most satisfactory proofs of his divine mission, he referred them to his miracles. "Go," said he, "and show to John again those things which ye hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up,"

 Matthew 11:4-5 . Again: "If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not: but if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works,"  John 10:37 . This appeal to miracles was founded on the following just and obvious grounds:—

First: That they are visible proofs of divine approbation, as well as of divine power; for it would have been quite inconclusive to rest an appeal on the testimony of the latter, if it had not at the same time included an evidence of the former; and it was, indeed, a natural inference, that working of miracles, in defence of a particular cause, was the seal of Heaven to the truth of that cause. To suppose the contrary, would be to suppose that God not only permitted his creatures to be deceived, but that he deviated from the ordinary course of his providence, purposely with a view to deceive them. The conclusion which the man whom our Saviour restored to sight drew from this miracle was exceedingly just, and founded on the common sentiments and impressions of the human heart. "We know," says he, "that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth. Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. If this man were not of God, he could do nothing,"  John 9:31-33 . If the cause which our Saviour was engaged in had not been approved of by God, it would not have been honoured with the seal of miracles: for the divine power can never be supposed to counteract the divine will. This would be to set his nature at variance with itself; and, by destroying his simplicity, would destroy his happiness, and terminate in confusion and misery. Hence we may justly reject, as incredible, those miracles which have been ascribed to the interposition of wicked spirits. The possibility of their interference is a mere hypothesis, depending upon gratuitous assumption, and leading to very dangerous consequences; and the particular instances in which credulous superstition, or perverted philosophy, has supposed them to interfere, are, as facts, destitute of any clear and solid evidence; or, as effects, often resolvable into natural causes.

Secondly: When our Lord appealed to his miracles, as proofs of his divine mission, it presupposed that those miracles were of such a nature as would bear the strictest examination; that they had all those criteria which could possibly distinguish them from the delusions of enthusiasm, and the artifices of imposture; else the appeal would have been fallacious and equivocal. He appealed to them with all the confidence of an upright mind totally possessed with a consciousness of their truth and reality. This appeal was not drawn out into any laboured argument, nor adorned by any of the embellishments of language. It was short, simple, and decisive. He neither reasoned nor declaimed on their nature or their design: he barely pointed to them as plain and indubitable facts, such as spoke their own meaning, and carried with them their own authority. The miracles which our Lord performed were too public to be suspected of imposture; and, being objects of sense, they were secured against the charge of enthusiasm. An impostor would not have acted so absurdly as to have risked his credit on the performance of what, he must have known, it was not in his power to effect; and though an enthusiast, from the warmth of imagination, might have flattered himself with a full persuasion of his being able to perform some miraculous work; yet, when the trial was referred to an object of sense, the event must soon have exposed the delusion. The impostor would not have dared to say to the blind, Receive thy sight; to the deaf, Hear; to the dumb, Speak; to the dead, Arise; to the raging of the sea, Be still; lest he should injure the credit of his cause, by undertaking more than he could perform; and though the enthusiast, under the delusion of his passions, might have confidently commanded disease to fly, and the powers of nature to be subject to his control; yet their obedience would not have followed his command.

The miracles of Christ then were such as an impostor would not have attempted, and such as an enthusiast could not have effected. They had no disguise; and were in a variety of instances of such a nature as to preclude the very possibility of collusion. They were performed in the midst of his bitterest enemies; and were so palpable and certain, as to extort the following acknowledgment even from persons who were most eager to oppose his doctrines, and to discredit his pretensions: "This man doeth many miracles. If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him,"

 John 11:47-48 . The miracles Christ performed were indeed sufficient to alarm the fears of those whose downfall was involved in his success.

And it was impossible for them to deny the facts, which so many thousands were ready to attest on evidence too certain to admit even the possibility of mistake, delusion, or imposture. But his enemies, who admitted their reality and yet resisted their design, by not acknowledging the person who wrought them to be the Messiah, had recourse to the most impious and most absurd suppositions, in order to evade their evidence. The Heathen imputed them to some occult power of magic: and thus applied what has no existence in nature, in order to account for a phenomenon that existed out of its common course. The stories of the Jews, who confessed the miracles, but denied what they were intended to establish, are too ridiculous to be mentioned. We must not, however, omit to take notice of the wicked and blasphemous cavil of the Pharisees, and the noble reply which our Lord made to it. They could not deny the fact, but they imputed it to the agency of an infernal spirit: "This fellow," said they, "doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub, the prince of the devils. And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand: and if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand?"  Matthew 12:24-26 . The purity of the doctrine which was taught by our blessed Lord was totally adverse to the kingdom of darkness. It tended to overthrow it, by the introduction of principles far different from those which Satan would inspire, and by prosecuting objects totally opposite to those which that wicked and malignant spirit would tempt us to pursue: so that in proportion to the prevalence of the kingdom of Christ, the kingdom of Satan would of course be diminished. Now, supposing miracles to be in the power of an infernal spirit, can it be imagined that he would communicate an ability of performing them to persons who were counteracting his designs? Would he by them give credit to a cause that tended to bring his own into disgrace? Thus, as our Saviour appealed to miracles as proofs of his power; so he appealed to the inherent worth and purity of the doctrines they were intended to bear witness to, as a proof that the power was of God. In this manner do the external and internal evidences give and receive mutual confirmation and mutual lustre.

The truth of the Christian religion does not, however, depend wholly on the miracles wrought by its divine Founder, though sufficient in themselves to establish his claims: but, in order to give the evidence of miracles the strongest force they could possibly acquire, that evidence was extended still farther; and the same power that our Lord possessed was communicated to his disciples, and their more immediate successors. While yet on earth he imparted to them this extraordinary gift, as the seal of their commission, when he sent them to preach the Gospel: and after his glorious resurrection and ascension into heaven, they were endowed with powers yet more stupendous. Sensible of the validity of this kind of evidence, the Apostles of our Lord, with the same artless simplicity, and the same boldness of conscious integrity, which distinguished their great Master, constantly insisted upon the miracles they wrought, as strong and undeniable proofs of the truth of their doctrines. Thus the miracles of our blessed Lord may be justly considered as the evidence of his divine mission and character. If we consider their nature, their greatness, and their number; and if to this consideration we add that which respects their end and design, we must acknowledge that no one could have performed them, unless God was with him. They were too public to be the artifices of imposture; too substantial and too numerous to afford the slightest suspicion of undesigned and fortuitous coincidence. In a word, supposing that the Most High should in any instance so far counteract the common laws of nature, as to produce a miracle; and should design that miracle as a monument to future times of the truth of any peculiar doctrine, we cannot conceive any mode of communicating it more effectual than that which he has chosen. Stronger proofs could not be afforded, consistently with the design of the Gospel, which is not to overpower our understandings by an irresistible and compulsory light, but to afford us such rational evidence as is sufficient to satisfy moral inquirers, who are endowed with faculties to perceive the truth; but at the same time who also have power totally to resist it, and finally to forfeit all its blessings. These miracles were of a nature too palpable to be mistaken. They were the objects of sense, and not the precarious speculations of reason concerning what God might do; or the chimerical suggestions of fancy concerning what he did. The facts were recorded by those who must have known whether they were true or false. The persons who recorded them were under no possible temptations to deceive the world. We can only account for their conduct on the supposition of their most perfect conviction and disinterested zeal. That they should assert what they knew to be false; that they should publish it with so much ardour; that they should risk every thing dear to humanity, in order to maintain it; and at last submit to death, in order to attest their persuasion of its truth in those moments when imposture usually drops its mask, and enthusiasm loses its confidence; that they should act thus in opposition to every dictate of common sense, and every principle of common honesty, every restraint of shame, and every impulse of selfishness, is a phenomenon not less irreconcilable to the moral state of things than miracles are to the natural constitution of the world. Falsehood naturally entangles men in contradiction, and confounds them with dismay: but the love of truth invigorates the mind; the consciousness of integrity anticipates the approbation of God; and conscience creates a fortitude, to which mere unsupported nature is often a stranger.

3. How long miracles were continued in the church, has been a matter of keen dispute, and has been investigated with as much anxiety as if the truth of the Gospel depended upon the manner in which it was decided. Assuming, as we are here warranted to do, that real miraculous power was conveyed in the way detailed by the inspired writers, it is plain, that it may have been exercised in different countries, and may have remained, without any new communication of it, throughout the first, and a considerable part of the second century. The Apostles, wherever they went to execute their commission, would avail themselves of the stupendous gift which had been imparted to them; and it is clear, not only that they were permitted and enabled to convey it to others, but that spiritual gifts, including the power of working miracles, were actually conferred on many of the primitive disciples. Allusions to this we find in the epistles of St. Paul; such allusions, too, as it is utterly inconceivable that any man of a sound judgment could have made, had he not known that he was referring to an obvious fact, about which there could be no hesitation. Of the time at which several of the Apostles died, we have no certain knowledge. St. Peter and St. Paul suffered at Rome about A.D. 66, or 67; and it is fully established, that the life of John was much longer protracted, he having died a natural death, A.D. 100, or 101. Supposing that the two former of these Apostles imparted spiritual gifts till the time of their suffering martyrdom, the persons to whom they were imparted might, in the course of nature, have lived through the earlier part of the second century; and if John did the same till the end of his life, such gifts as were derived from him might have remained till more than the half of that century had elapsed. That such was the fact, is asserted by ancient ecclesiastical writers. Whether, after the generation immediately succeeding the Apostles had passed away, the power of working miracles was anew communicated, is a question, the solution of which cannot be nearly so satisfactory. The probability is, that there was no such renewal; and this opinion rests upon the ground that natural causes were now sufficient to accomplish the end for which miracles were originally designed; and it does not appear to have been any part of the scheme of the blessed Author of our religion, that, solely for the purpose of hastening that conversion of the nations which might gradually be accomplished, miracles should be wrought, when these could be of no use in establishing after ages in the faith.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [4]


1. The narratives a ) In the Gospels Jesus is recorded to have cast out devils (  Matthew 8:28;   Matthew 15:28;   Matthew 17:18 ,   Mark 1:25 ), restored paralytics (  Matthew 8:13;   Matthew 9:6 ,   John 5:8 ), revived the withered hand (  Matthew 12:13 ), released from the spirit of infirmity (  Luke 13:12 ), stanched an issue of blood (  Matthew 9:22 ), cured dropsy (  Luke 14:2 ), allayed fever with a touch (  Matthew 8:15 ), given speech to the dumb, hearing to the deaf, and sight to the blind (  Matthew 9:33;   Matthew 12:22 ,   Mark 7:35 ,   Matthew 9:29;   Matthew 20:34 ,   Mark 8:25 ,   John 9:7 ), cleansed leprosy (  Matthew 8:3 ,   Luke 17:18 ), and even raised from the dead (  Matthew 9:25 ,   Luke 7:15 ,   John 11:44 ). Besides these miracles of healing there are ascribed to Him other extraordinary acts, such as the Stilling of the Storm (  Matthew 8:26 ), the Feeding of Five Thousand (  Matthew 14:19 ) and Four Thousand (  Matthew 15:35 ), the Walking on the Sea (  Matthew 14:28 ), the Change of Water into Wine (  John 2:9 ). The blasting of the Fig Tree (  Matthew 21:19 ), and the finding of the Coin in the Fish’s Mouth (  Matthew 17:27 ), may possibly be figurative sayings misunderstood. The Two Draughts of Fishes (  Luke 5:6 and   John 21:6 ) may be variant traditions of one occurrence, and, like the recovery of the Nohleman’s Son of Capernaum (  John 4:50 ), may be regarded as proof of superhuman wisdom, and not of supernatural power. These miracles are presented to us as the acts of a Person supernatural both in the moral character as sinless and perfect, and in the religious consciousness as alone knowing and revealing the Father. It was the universal conviction of the early Christian Church that after three days He rose from the dead (  1 Corinthians 15:4 ), and was universally present in supreme power (  Matthew 28:18;   Matthew 28:20 ).

Regarding the miracles of Jesus the following general considerations should be kept in view. ( a ) It is impossible to remove the records of miracles from the Gospels without tearing them to pieces, as these works of Jesus are so wrought into the very texture of His ministry. ( b ) The character of the miracles is absolutely harmonious with the power of Jesus; with only two apparent exceptions they are beneficent. The blasting of the fig tree (  Matthew 21:19 ), even if the record is taken literally, may be explained as a symbolic prophetic act, a solemn warning to His disciples of the doom of impenitent Israel. The finding of the coin in the fish’s mouth (  Matthew 17:27 ) would be an exception to the rule of Jesus never to use His supernatural power on His own behalf, and the narrative itself allows us to explain it as a misunderstanding of figurative language. ( c ) The miracles were not wrought for display, or to prove His claims. Jesus rejected such use as a temptation (  Matthew 4:6-7 ), and always refused to work a sign to meet the demands of unbelief (  Matthew 16:4 ). He did not highly esteem the faith that was produced by His miracles (  John 4:48 ). The cure of the paralytic, which He wrought to confirm His claim to forgive sins, was necessary to assure the sufferer of the reality of His forgiveness (  Matthew 9:6 ). The miracles are not evidential accessories, but essential constituents of Jesus’ ministry of grace. ( d ) While faith in the petitioner for, or recipient of, the act of healing was a condition Jesus seemingly required in all cases, while He was prevented doing His mighty works, as at Nazareth, by unbelief (  Matthew 13:58 ), while the exercise of His power was accompanied by prayer to God (  John 11:41-42 ), His healing acts were never tentative; there is in the records no trace of a failure. ( e ) In view of one of the explanations offered, attention must be called to the variety of the diseases cured; nervous disorders and their consequences did not limit the range of His activity.

( b ) In the Acts the record of miracles is continued. The promise of Jesus to His Apostles (  Matthew 10:8 , cf.   Mark 16:17-18 ) is represented as abundantly fulfilled. In addition to the charisms of tongues and prophecy (wh. see), there were signs and wonders wrought by the Apostles and others (  Acts 2:43;   Acts 5:12;   Acts 5:18;   Acts 6:8;   Acts 8:13 ). Miracles of which further details are given are the restoration of the lame man at the gate Beautiful (  Acts 3:7 ), and of the cripple at Lystra (  Acts 14:9 ), the cure of the palsied Æneas (  Acts 9:34 ), the expulsion of the spirit of divination at Philippi (  Acts 16:18 ), the healing of the father of Publius in Melita (  Acts 28:8 ), the restoration to life of Dorcas (  Acts 9:40 ) and Eutychus (  Acts 20:10 , the narrative does not distinctly affirm death). This supernatural power is exercised in judgment on Ananias and Sapphira (  Acts 5:5;   Acts 5:10 ), and on Elymas (  Acts 13:11 ) acts the moral justification of which must be sought in the estimate formed of the danger threatening the Church and the gospel, but which do present an undoubted difficulty. One may hesitate about accepting the statement about the miracles wrought by Peter’s shadow (  Acts 5:15 ) or Paul’s aprons (  Acts 19:12 ). What are represented as miraculous deliverances from imprisonment are reported both of Peter (  Acts 12:8 ) and of Paul (  Acts 16:26 ). Paul’s escape from the viper (  Acts 28:3 ) does not necessarily involve a miracle. These miracles, which, taken by themselves as reported in Acts, there might be some hesitation in believing, become more credible when viewed as the continuation of the supernatural power of Christ in His Church for the confirmation of the faith of those to whom the gospel was entrusted, and also those to whom its appeal was first addressed. In this matter the Epistles of Paul confirm the record of Acts (  1 Corinthians 12:10;   1 Corinthians 12:28 ,   2 Corinthians 12:12 ). Paul claims this supernatural power for himself, and recognizes its presence in the Church.

( c ) We cannot claim to have contemporary evidence of the miracles of the OT, as we have of those of the NT. The miracles are almost entirely connected either with the Exodus from Egypt, or with the ministry of Elijah and of Elisha. The majority of the miracles of the first group are not outside of the order of nature; what is extraordinary in them is their coincidence with the prophetic declaration, this constituting the events signs of the Divine revelation. While the miracles ascribed to Elijah and Elisha might be considered as their credentials, yet they cannot be regarded as essential to their prophetic ministry; and the variations with which they are recorded represent popular traditions which the compiler of the Books of Kings has incorporated without any substantial alteration. The record of the standing still of the sun in Gibeon is obviously a prosaic misinterpretation of a poetic phrase (  Joshua 10:12-14 ); behind the record of the bringing back of the shadow on the dial of Ahaz (  2 Kings 20:11 ) we may assume some unusual atmospheric phenomenon, refracting the rays of the sun; the speech of Balaam’s ass (  Numbers 22:27 ) may be regarded as an objectifying by the seer of his own scruples, doubts, and fears; the Book of Jonah is now interpreted not literally, but figuratively; the Book of Daniel is not now generally taken as history, but rather as the embellishment of history for the purposes of edification. The revelation of Jehovah to Israel is seen in the providential guidance and guardianship of His people by God, and in the authoritative interpretation of God’s works and ways by the prophets, and in it miracle, in the strict sense of the word, has a small place. While the moral and religious worth of the OT, as the literature of the Divine revelation completed in Christ, demands a respectful treatment of the narratives of miracles, we are bound to apply two tests: the sufficiency of the evidence, and the congruity of the miracle in character with the Divine revelation.

2. The evidence . In dealing with the evidence for the miracles the starting-point should be the Resurrection . It is admitted that the belief that Jesus had risen prevailed in the Christian Church from the very beginning of its history; that without this belief the Church would never have come into existence. Harnack seeks to distinguish the Easter message about the empty grave and the appearances of Jesus from the Easter faith that Jesus lives: but he is not successful in showing how the former could have come to be, apart from the latter. No attempt to explain the conversion of Paul without admitting the objective manifestation of Christ as risen can be regarded as satisfactory. It may not be possible absolutely to harmonize in every detail the records of the appearances, but before these narratives were written it was the common belief of the Christian Church, as Paul testifies, ‘that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he hath been raised on the third day according to the Scriptures’ (  1 Corinthians 15:3-4 ). If the Resurrection of Christ is proved, this fact, conjoined with His absolutely unique moral character and religious consciousness, in vests the Person of Jesus with a supernaturalness which forbids our limiting the actions possible to Him by the normal human tests. His miracles are not wonders , for it is no wonder that He should so act, but signs , proofs of what He is, and works , congrnous with His character as ‘ever doing good,’ and His purpose to reveal the grace of the Father. Harnack will not ‘reject peremptorily as illusion that lame walked, blind saw, and deaf heard,’ but he will not believe that ‘a stormy sea was stilled by a word.’ The miracles of healing are not all explicable, as he supposes, by what Matthew Arnold called moral therapeutics the influence of a strong personality over those suffering from nerve disorders, as they embrace diseases of which the cure by any such means is quite incredible; and the evidence for the cosmic miracles, as the miracles showing power over nature apart from man have been called, is quite as good as for the healing miracles. If the Synoptic Gospels can be dated between a.d. 60 and 90, as is coming to be admitted by scholars generally, the evidence for the miracles of Jesus is thoroughly satisfactory; the mythical theory of Strauss must assume a much longer interval. Harnack regards as ‘a demonstrated fact’ that ‘Luke, companion in travel and associate in evangelistic work of Paul,’ is the author of the Third Gospel and the Acts; nevertheless he does not consider Luke’s history as true; but Ramsay argues that the Lukan authorship carries with it substantial accuracy. In his various writings he has endeavoured to show how careful a historian Luke is, and if Luke’s excellence in this respect is established, then we can place greater reliance on the evidence for miracles in the early Church, as well as in the ministry of Jesus. Harnack lays great stress on the credulity of the age in which the Gospels were written; but this credulity was not universal. The educated classes were sceptical; and, to judge Luke from the preface to his Gospel, he appears as one who recognized the duty of careful inquiry, and of testing evidence. The miracles of the Gospels and the Acts are closely connected with the Person of Jesus, as the Word Incarnate and the risen Lord, and the credulity of the age does not come into consideration unless it can be shown that among either the Jews or the Gentiles there was a prejudice favourable to belief in the Incarnation and the Resurrection. The character of the miracles, so harmonious with the Person, forbids our ascribing them to the wonder-loving, and therefore wonder-making, tendency of the times.

Some indications have already been given in regard to the evidence for the miracles of the OT. The frequent references to the deliverance from Egypt made in the subsequent literature attest the historical reality of that series of events; and it cannot be said to be improbable that signs should have accompanied such a Divine intervention in human history. Some of the miracles ascribed to Elisha are not of a character congruous with the function of prophecy; but it may be that we should very cautiously apply our sense of fitness as a test of truth to these ancient narratives. In the OT history, Prophecy (wh. see) was the supernatural feature of deepest significance and highest value.

3. Explanations . Admitting that the evidence is satisfactory, and the miracles are real, what explanations can be offered of them? ( a ) One suggestion has already been considered; it is favoured by Harnack and Matthew Arnold: it is that one person may exercise over another so strong an influence as to cure nervous disorders. The inadequacy of this explanation has been shown; but even were it admissible, a reason would need to be given why Jesus used a means not known in His age, and thus anticipated modern developments of medical skill. It is certain that Jesus worked His miracles relying on the Divine powers in Himself; whether in any cases this obscure psychic force was an unknown condition of His miracles is a matter of secondary importance.

( b ) A second suggestion, made by the late Duke of Argyll ( Reign of Law , p. 16), is that God chooses and uses laws unknown to man, or laws which, even if he knew, he could not use. He thinks that this would meet the prejudice of scientific thought against effects without causes. This explanation recognizes that miracles are not explicable by the laws of nature as known to man, and that it is of God’s free choice that for certain ends He uses means otherwise unknown. As these laws are quite hypothetical, and as this use of them only occasionally is not at all probable, this explanation does not appear to make miracles any more credible.

( c ) We may now attempt to define more closely what we mean by a miracle. It does seem, on the whole, desirable to restrict the term ‘miracle’ to an external event of which there is sensible evidence. Inward changes, such as in the prophetic inspiration, or the religious conversion of an individual, however manifest the Divine presence and action may be for the person having the experience, should not be described as miracles, unless with some qualification such as spiritual or moral . The negative feature of the external event which justifies our describing it as a miracle is that it is inexplicable by the natural forces and laws as known to us. The will of man is a force in nature with which we are familiar, and therefore the movements of the body under the control of the will are not to be described as miraculous. We say more than we are justified in saying if we describe a miracle as an interference with the laws and forces of nature, or a breach in the order of nature; for just as the physical forces and laws allow the exercise of human will in the movements of the body, so the power that produces the miracle may, nay must, be conceived as so closely related to nature that its exercise results in no disturbance or disorder in nature. The miracle need not interfere with the continuity of nature at all. The modem theory of Evolution is not less, but more, favourable to the belief in miracle. It is not a finished machine, but a growing organism, that the world appears. Life transcends, and yet combines and controls physical forces (Lodge’s Life and Matter , p. 198). Mind is not explicable by the brain, and yet the will directs the movements of the body. There is a creative action of God in the stages of the evolution, which attaches itself to the conserving activity. Applying the argument from analogy, we may regard the Person of Christ and the miracles that cluster round His Person as such a creative action of God. If we adequately estimate the significance of the Exodus in the history of mankind, the providential events connected with it will assume greater credibility. But there is a final consideration. The purpose of God in Christ is not only perfective the completion of the world’s evolution; it is also redemptive the correction of the evil sin had brought on the human race. It was fitting that the redemption of man from sin should be accompanied by outward remedial signs, the relief of his need and removal of his sufferings. God is without variation and shadow that is cast by turning in His purpose, but His action is conditioned, and must necessarily be conditioned, by the results of man’s use of the freedom which for His wise and holy ends He bestowed. He may in His action transcend His normal activity by a more direct manifestation of Himself than the natural processes of the world afford. The consistency of character of a human personality is not disproved by an exceptional act when a crisis arises; and so, to deal effectively with sin for man’s salvation, God may use miracles as means to His ends without any break in the continuity of His wisdom, righteousness, and grace.

4. Objections . It seemed desirable to state the facts, the proofs for them, and the reasonableness of them, before taking up the objections that are made. These objections refer to two points, the possibility of miracle at all, and the sufficiency of the evidence for the miracles of the Bible. Each of these may be very briefly dealt with. ( a ) For materialism , which recognizes only physical forces; and pantheism , which so identifies God and man that the order of nature is fixed by the necessity of the nature of God; and even for deism , which confines the direct Divine activity to the beginning, and excludes it from the course of the world, miracles are impossible. Agnosticism , which regards the ultimate reality as an inscrutable mystery, is under no logical compulsion to deny the possibility of miracles; Huxley, for instance, pronounces such denial unjustifiable. Two reasons against the possibility of miracles may be advanced from a theistic standpoint. In the interests of science it may be maintained that the uniformity of nature excludes miracle  ; but, as has just been shown, the theory of Evolution has so modified the conception of uniformity that this argument has lost its force. Life and mind, when first appearing in the process of evolution, were breaches in the uniformity. The uniformity of nature is consistent with fresh stages of development, inexplicable by their antecedents; and only when science has resolved life and mind into matter will the argument regain any validity. In the interests of philosophy, it may be argued that miracles interrupt the continuity of thought  : the world as it is is so reasonable (idealism) or so good (optimism) that any change is unthinkable. But the affirmation ignores many of the problems the world as it is presents: sin, sorrow, death are real; would not the solution of these problems give both a more reasonable and a better world? and if miracles should be necessary to such a solution, they are thinkable. Again, is it not somewhat arrogant to make man’s estimate of what is reasonable and good the measure of God’s wisdom and grace?

( b ) The more usual objection is the insufficiency of the evidence . Hume laid down this criterion: ‘No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle unless the testimony be of such a kind that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavours to establish. Or briefly, it is contrary to experience that a miracle should be true, but not contrary to experience that testimony should be false.’ But to this statement it may properly be objected, that it assumes what is to be proved; for, while it may be contrary to ordinary experience that miracles happen, what the defenders of miracles maintain is that there have been exceptional experiences of miracles. If miracles were common, they would cease to be so described; their uncommonness does not prove their incredibility. Although the test is one that has no warrant, yet it may be argued that Christ’s character and resurrection would stand it. It is less credible that the portrait of Jesus given in the Gospels was invented, than that Jesus lived as there depicted. It is less credible that the Apostolic faith in the risen Lord, and all it accomplished, should have its origin in illusion, than that He rose from the dead. The improbability of miracle is usually the tacit assumption when the sufficiency of the evidence is denied. If the relation of God to the world is conceived as a constant, immanent, progressive, perfective, redemptive activity, the probability of miracles will be so great that the evidence sufficient to prove an ordinary event will be regarded as satisfactory, provided always that this test is met, that the miracle is connected with the fulfilment of the Divine purpose, and is congruous in its character with the wisdom, righteousness, and grace of God.

5. Value . A few words may in conclusion be added regarding the value of the miracles. The old apologetic view of miracles as the credentials of the doctrines of Christianity is altogether discredited. It is the truth of the doctrines that makes the fact of the miracles credible. It is Christ’s moral character and religious consciousness that help us to believe that He wrought wonderful works. The NT recognizes that a miracle proves only superhuman power (  2 Thessalonians 2:9 ); only if its character is good, is it proved Divine. In the OT prophecy is declared false, not only when unfulfilled (  Deuteronomy 18:22 ), but also when it leads to idolatry (  Deuteronomy 13:3 ). The moral test, which can be applied to the miracles of the Gospels, shows the irrelevancy, not to say the flippancy, of Matthew Arnold’s sneer about the turning of a pen into a pen-wiper as the proof of a doctrine. The miracles of the Gospels are constituent elements of Christ’s moral perfection, His grace towards men. While the miracles are represented in the Gospels as not in themselves sufficient to generate faith (  John 11:46;   John 12:37 ), yet it is affirmed that they arrested attention and strengthened faith (  Matthew 8:27 ,   Luke 5:8;   Luke 7:18 ,   John 2:11;   John 6:14 ). Christ Himself is reported as appealing to them as witness (  John 5:36 ), but the appeal seems deprecatory, as elsewhere He rates low the faith that rests on seeing miracles (  John 4:48;   John 14:11 ), while condemning the unbelief that resists even this evidence (  Matthew 11:20 ). At the beginning of the Christian Church the miracles had some value as evidence. Today the change Christ has wrought in human history is the most convincing proof of His claim; but we must not ignore the value the miracles had when they occurred, and their value to us still as works of Christ, showing as signs His grace.

Alfred E. Garvie.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [5]

No sincere believer in the inspiration of scripture can have a doubt as to real miracles having been wrought by the power of God both in O.T. and N.T. times. It is philosophy so-called, or scepticism, that mystifies the subject. Much is said about 'the laws of nature;' and it is confidently affirmed that these are irrevocable and cannot be departed from. To which is added that laws of nature previously unknown are frequently being discovered, and if our forefathers could witness the application of some of the more recent discoveries, as the computer, mobile telephone, etc., they would judge that miracles were being performed. So, it is argued, the actions recorded in scripture as miracles, were merely the bringing into use some law of nature which had been hidden up to that time.

All this is based upon a fallacy. There are no laws of nature, as if nature made its own laws: there are laws in nature, which God in His wisdom as Creator was pleased to make; but He who made those laws has surely the same power to suspend them when He pleases. Though laws in nature hitherto unknown are being discovered from time to time, they in no way account for such things as dead persons being raised to life, the blind seeing, the deaf hearing, the lame walking, and demons being cast out of those who were possessed by them. Neither has natural philosophy discovered any law that will account for such a thing as an iron axe-head swimming in water. The simple truth is that God, for wise purposes, allowed some of the natural laws to be suspended, and at times He put forth His almighty power, as in supplying the Israelites with manna from heaven, and in feeding thousands from a few loaves and fishes, or by recalling life that had left the body.

The words translated 'miracle' in the O.T. are

1. oth , 'a sign,' as it is often translated, and in some places 'token.'  Numbers 14:22;  Deuteronomy 11:3 .

2. mopheth, 'a wonder,' as it is mostly translated: it is something out of the ordinary course of events.  Exodus 7:9;  Deuteronomy 29:3 .

3. pala , 'wonderful, marvellous.'  Judges 6:13 .

Moses was enabled to work miracles for two distinct objects. One was in order to convince the children of Israel that God had sent him. God gave him three signs to perform before them: his rod became a serpent, and was again a rod; his hand became leprous, and was then restored; and he could turn the water of the Nile into blood.  Exodus 4:1-9 .

The other miracles, wrought by him in Egypt, were to show to Pharaoh the mighty power of God, who said, I will "multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt . . . . and the Egyptians shall know that I am Jehovah, when I stretch forth mine hand upon Egypt."  Exodus 7:3-5 . The ten plagues followed, which were miracles or signs of the power of God — signs not only to the Egyptians, but also to the Israelites, as is shown by the reference to them afterwards.  Numbers 14:22;  Judges 6:13 .

By the following list it will be seen that there were many other miracles wrought in O.T. times — by Moses in the wilderness; by the prophets in the land; and some through the direct agency of God from heaven, as the deliverance of the three from the fiery furnace, Daniel from the lions, etc. All the miracles were indeed the acts of God, His servants being merely the means through which they were carried out.

Principal Miracles In The Old Testament

In Egypt.

Aaron's rod becomes a serpent  Exodus 7:10-12

The Ten Plagues.

Water made blood  Exodus 7:20-25

Frogs  Exodus 8:5-14

Lice  Exodus 8:16-18

Flies  Exodus 8:20-24

Murrain  Exodus 9:3 -  6

Boils and blains  Exodus 9:8-11

Thunder and hail  Exodus 9:22-26

Locusts  Exodus 10:12-19

Darkness  Exodus 10:21-23

Death of the Firstborn  Exodus 12:29-30

Parting of the Red Sea  Exodus 14:21-31

In the Wilderness.

Curing the waters of Marah  Exodus 15:23-25

Manna from heaven  Exodus 16:14-35

Water from the rock at Rephidim  Exodus 17:5-7

Death of Nadab and Abihu  Leviticus 10:1 -  2

The earth swallows the murmurers, and

the death of Korah, Dathan and Abiram  Numbers 16:31-40

Budding of Aaron's rod at Kadesh  Numbers 17:8

Water from the rock at Meribah  Numbers 20:7-11

The brazen serpent: Israel healed  Numbers 21:8 -  9

Balaam's ass speaking  Numbers 22:21-35

Parting the Jordan  Joshua 3:14-17

In the Land.

Fall of Jericho's walls  Joshua 6:6-25

Staying of the sun and moon  Joshua 10:12-14

Withering and cure of Jeroboam's hand  1 Kings 13:4 -  6

Multiplying the widow's oil  1 Kings 17:14-16

Raising the widow's son  1 Kings 17:17-24

Burning of the captains and their companies  2 Kings 1 .  10-12

Dividing of Jordan by Elijah  2 Kings 2:7-8

Elijah carried to heaven  2 Kings 2:11

Dividing of Jordan by Elisha  2 Kings 2:14

Cure of the waters of Jericho  2 Kings 2:19-22

Supply of water to the army  2 Kings 3:16-20

Increase of the widow's oil  2 Kings 4:2-7

Raising the Shunammite's son  2 Kings 4:32-37

Healing of the deadly pottage  2 Kings 4:38-41

Feeding the 100 with 20 loaves  2 Kings 4:42-44

Cure of Naaman's leprosy  2 Kings 5:10-14

Swimming of the iron axe-head  2 Kings 6:5-7

Resurrection of the dead man on touching Elisha's bones  2 Kings 13:21

Return of the shadow on the dial  2 Kings 20:9-11

Among the Gentiles

Deliverance of the three in the fiery furnace  Daniel 3:19-27

Deliverance of Daniel from the lions  Daniel 6:16-23

Jonah saved by the great fish  Jonah 2:1-10

In the N.T. three Greek words are used, similar to those in the O.T.

1. τέρας, 'a wonder,' which in the A.V. is always thus translated and often associated with the word 'signs:' 'signs and wonders.' People were generally amazed at the miracles performed.

2. σημεῖον, 'a sign.' This word is translated 'signs,' 'miracles,' 'wonder,' and in   2 Thessalonians 3:17 'token': it is the word invariably used in John's gospel.

3. δύναμις, 'power:' translated 'miracles,' 'mighty works,' 'powers.' These three divinely selected words explain the nature of miracles. They were 'wonders' that arrested the attention of the people; they were 'signs' that God had visited His people, and that the acts of the Lord Jesus identified Him with the promised Messiah; and they were 'powers,' for they were superhuman. These three words are applied to the miracles of the Lord Jesus in   Acts 2:22; to those wrought by Paul,  2 Corinthians 12:12; and to the work of Antichrist, the man of sin, in a future day.  2 Thessalonians 2:9 .

The miracles by the Lord and His apostles were nearly all wrought for the welfare of men, curing them from the diseases of mind and body, and dispossessing them of demons, thus spoiling the kingdom of Satan. The cursing of the fig-tree differs from the others: it was a sign of God's judgement on the Jews. From the wording of several passages it is conclusive that not nearly all the miracles of the Lord are recorded.  Mark 6:55,56;  John 21:25 .

It is stated in  Mark 16:16-18 that those who should believe on the Lord Jesus, by the testimony of the apostles, would be able to work miracles; and there is ample testimony in early church history that this was the case, especially in casting out demons. Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Tertullian testified to the heathen persecutors that there was power in the name of Jesus to effect this, and the persecuting emperors were invited to witness it. While the Christians were being persecuted, such signs would be a visible evidence of the power of God and the value of the name of the Lord Jesus. By the time the emperors professed Christianity, followed by the masses (the 4th century), Christ had been well accredited on the earth: hence there was no further need of such signs. Satan in the days of the apostles had his counterfeits (cf.   Acts 8:9;  Acts 13:6-8;  Acts 19:19 ), as he certainly has had since, and will have in the future, when he will be allowed to bring in his strong delusion: cf.  Matthew 24:24;  2 Thessalonians 2:9,10;  Revelation 13:13,14 .

Though not called a miracle, isnot the conversion of a sinner a miracle? It seems impossible for one who has been turned from darkness to light, and has been created in Christ Jesus, with the fruits and effects following, to doubt the reality of other miracles recorded by God in His sacred writings.

In the accompanying list of miracles in the N.T. it will be noticed that some are found in one gospel only — each of the gospels having miracles peculiar to itself — a few are in two gospels; many in three; and only one that is recorded in all four. None but God could have made these selections. Indeed the scriptures are themselves as clear a manifestation of the power and wisdom of God as are any of the miracles.

Principal Miracles In The New Testament


Two blind men cured -  Matthew 9:27-31 .

Dumb spirit cast out -  Matthew 9:32,33 .

Tribute money in mouth of fish -  Matthew 17:24-27 .

Deaf and dumb man cured -  Mark 7:31-37 .

Blind man cured -  Mark 8:22-26 .

Draught of fishes -  Luke 5:1-11 .

Widow's son raised -  Luke 7:11-17 .

Woman loosed from a spirit of infirmity -  Luke 13:11-17 .

The dropsy cured -  Luke 14 : l- 6.

Ten lepers cleansed -  Luke 17:11-19 .

Malchus' ear healed -  Luke 22:50,51 .

Water made wine -  John 2:1-11

Nobleman's son cured -  John 4:46-54 .

Impotent man cured -  John 5 : l- 9

Man born blind cured -  John 9 : l- 7.

Lazarus raised from the dead -  John 11:38-44 .

Draught of 153 fishes -  John 21:1-14 .

Syro-Phoenician's daughter cured -  Matthew 15:21-28;  Mark 7:24-30 .

Four thousand fed -  Matthew 15:32-38;  Mark 8 : l- 9.

Fig tree withered -  Matthew 21:18-22;  Mark 11:12-24 .

Centurion's servant cured -  Matthew 8:5-13;  Luke 7:1-10 .

Blind and dumb demoniac cured -  Matthew 12:22;  Luke 11:14 .

Demoniac in the synagogue cured -  Mark 1:23-28;  Luke 4:33-37 .

Peter's wife's mother cured -  Matthew 8:14-15;  Mark 1:30-31;  Luke 4:38,39 .

Leper cured -  Matthew 8:2 -  4;  Mark 1:40-45;  Luke 5:12-15 .

Paralytic cured -  Matthew 9:2 -  7;  Mark 2:3-12;  Luke 5:18-26 .

Tempest stilled -  Matthew 8:23-27;  Mark 4:36-41;  Luke 8:22-25 .

Demoniacs cured at Gadara -  Matthew 8:28-34;  Mark 5:1-20;  Luke 8:26-39 .

Jairus' daughter raised -  Matthew 9:18-26;  Mark 5:22-43;  Luke 8:41-56 .

Woman's issue of blood cured -  Matthew 9:20-22;  Mark 5:25-34;  Luke 8:43-48

Man's withered hand cured -  Matthew 12:10-13;  Mark 3 : l- 5;  Luke 6:6-11 .

Demon cast out of boy -  Matthew 17:14-18;  Mark 9:14-27;  Luke 9:37-42 .

Blind men cured -  Matthew 20:30-34;  Mark 10:46-52;  Luke 18:35-43 .

Jesus walks on the sea -  Matthew 14:24-33;  Mark 6:47-51;  John 6:16-21 .

Five thousand fed -  Matthew 14:15-21;  Mark 6:35-44;  Luke 9:12-17;  John 6:5-14 .

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [6]

God is shown in the Bible to be a God of miracles. But miracles do not feature consistently throughout the biblical record. Rather they are grouped largely around three main periods.

The first of these periods was the time of the Israelites’ bondage in Egypt, which challenged God’s purposes to establish his people as an independent nation. By mighty acts God saved his people and brought them into the land he had promised them ( Deuteronomy 4:34-35;  Joshua 4:23-24). The second period was that of Elijah and Elisha, when Israel’s religion was threatened with destruction. By some unusual miracles God preserved the minority who remained faithful to him, and acted in judgment against those who tried to wipe out the worship of Yahweh from Israel ( 1 Kings 19:15-18). The third period was that of the coming of the kingdom of God through Jesus Christ and the establishment of his church through those to whom he had given his special power ( Acts 2:22;  Acts 3:6;  Acts 4:10;  1 Corinthians 12:10;  1 Corinthians 12:28-29;  2 Corinthians 12:12).

Of all the miracles, the greatest are those that concern the birth and resurrection of Jesus. God’s act in becoming a human being is itself a miracle so great that it overshadows the means by which it happened, namely, the miraculous conception in the womb of a virgin ( Matthew 1:18-23;  John 1:14; see Virgin ). The resurrection is a miracle so basic to the Christian faith that without it there can be no Christian faith ( 1 Corinthians 15:12-14; see Resurrection ).

Miracles and nature

If we believe in a personal God who created and controls the world ( Genesis 1:1;  Colossians 1:16-17), we should have no trouble in believing the biblical record of the miracles he performed. The physical creation is not something self-sufficient or mechanical, as if it were like a huge clock that, once wound up, runs on automatically till finally God stops it. The God of creation is a living God who is active in his creation ( John 5:17).

God deals with people as responsible beings whom he has placed in a world where everything is in a state of constant change. Being sensitive to the needs of his creatures, he may work in his creation in an extraordinary, even miraculous, way for their benefit ( Exodus 17:6;  Joshua 10:11-14;  2 Kings 4:42-44;  Mark 6:47-51).

On the other hand, God does not work miracles every time someone wants him to. If he did there would be chaos. God’s control of the universe is designed to produce order ( Job 38:4-41; Job 39;  Psalms 147:8-9;  Psalms 147:16-18;  Matthew 5:45).

Since God is the controller of nature, he may have performed many of his miraculous works not by doing something ‘contrary to nature’, but by using the normal workings of nature in a special way. The miracle was in the timing, extent or intensity of the event.

Such divine activity may help to explain events such as the plagues of Egypt, the crossing of the Red Sea, the crossing of the Jordan River, the collapse of Jericho’s walls and some of the healings performed by Jesus. But even if these can be explained as having natural causes, they were still miracles to those who saw them. They happened as predicted, even though the chances of their so happening appeared to be almost nil ( Exodus 7:17;  Exodus 8:2;  Joshua 3:8-13).

This still leaves unexplained the large number of miracles for which there seem to be no natural causes. Such supernatural interventions by God are not attacks on the so-called laws of nature. What we call the laws of nature are not forces that make things happen, but statements of what people have discovered concerning how nature works. It is God who makes things happens; the ‘laws of nature’ merely summarize the processes by which such things happen. When God acts supernaturally, his actions may be contrary to the way people has usually seen nature work, but his actions do not break any laws of nature. They merely provide new circumstances through which nature works.

God is always the creator of life, the healer of diseases, the calmer of storms and the provider of food, whether he does so through the normal processes of nature or through some miraculous intervention. Through the ages God has sent the rain to water the grapes to produce the wine, but he may choose to hasten the process by turning water into wine immediately ( John 2:1-11). God has also at times withheld the rain and so caused trees gradually to dry up, but again he may choose to intervene and hasten the process ( Matthew 21:18-19).

The purpose of miracles

Miracles were usually ‘signs’, that is, works of God that revealed his power and purposes ( Exodus 7:3;  Deuteronomy 4:34;  Isaiah 7:11;  Matthew 16:1;  John 2:11;  John 6:14;  John 20:30;  Acts 2:43; see Signs ). However, messengers of God never used miracles just to impress people or to persuade people to believe them ( Matthew 12:38-39;  Luke 23:8). It was the false prophet who used apparent miracles to gain a following ( Deuteronomy 13:1-3;  Matthew 24:24;  2 Thessalonians 2:9-11;  Revelation 13:13-14). God’s miracles were usually linked with faith ( 2 Kings 3:1-7;  Daniel 3:16-18;  Daniel 6:22;  Hebrews 11:29-30).

This was clearly seen in the miracles of Jesus Christ. Jesus used miracles not to try to force people to believe in him, but to help those who already believed. He performed miracles in response to faith, not to try to create faith ( Matthew 9:27-29;  Mark 2:3-5;  Mark 5:34;  Mark 5:36;  Mark 6:5-6). Frequently, Jesus told those whom he had healed not to spread the news of his miraculous work. He did not want to be bothered by people who wanted to see a wonder-worker but who felt no spiritual need themselves ( Matthew 9:30;  Mark 5:43;  Mark 8:26).

Nevertheless, it is clear that many of those who saw Jesus’ miracles were filled with awe and glorified God ( Matthew 9:8;  Luke 5:26;  Luke 7:16;  Luke 9:43). To those who believed in Jesus as the Son of God and the Messiah, the miracles confirmed the truth of their beliefs and revealed to them something of God’s glory ( John 2:11;  John 11:40;  Acts 14:3;  Hebrews 2:3-4; see Messiah ). There was a connection between the miracles of Jesus and the era of the Messiah. This may explain why miracles were common in the early church but almost died out once the original order of apostles died out ( Matthew 10:5-8;  Luke 9:1;  Luke 10:9;  Acts 4:16;  Acts 4:29-30;  Acts 5:12;  Romans 15:19;  1 Corinthians 12:9-10;  2 Corinthians 12:12).

In the record of some of Jesus’ miracles, faith is not mentioned. On those occasions Jesus acted, it seems, purely out of compassion ( Matthew 8:14-15;  Matthew 14:13-14;  Matthew 15:32;  Luke 4:40;  Luke 7:11-17;  John 6:1-13); though, as always, he refused to satisfy people who wanted him to perform miracles for their own selfish purposes ( John 6:14-15).

Jesus’ miracles demonstrated clearly that he was the Messiah, the Son of God ( John 20:30-31), and that the power of the Spirit of God worked through him in a special way ( Matthew 12:28;  Luke 4:18). Being both divine and human, he had on the one hand authority and power to work miracles, but on the other he always acted in dependence upon his Father ( John 5:19;  John 14:10-11). His miracles were always in keeping with his mission as the Saviour of the world. They were never of the senseless or unbelievable kind such as we find in fairy stories. Jesus did not perform miracles as if they were acts of magic, and he never performed them for his own benefit (cf.  Matthew 4:2-10).

Jesus’ miracles and the kingdom of God

In Jesus the kingdom of God had come into the world. The rule of God was seen in the miracles by which Jesus the Messiah delivered from the power of Satan people who were diseased and oppressed by evil spirits ( Matthew 4:23-24;  Matthew 11:2-6;  Matthew 12:28; see Kingdom Of God ). This victory over Satan was a guarantee of the final conquest of Satan when the kingdom of God will reach its triumphant climax at the end of the world’s history ( Revelation 20:10).

To Christians, Jesus’ miracles foreshadow the age to come. His raising of the dead prefigures the final conquest of death ( Matthew 11:5;  John 11:24-27;  John 11:44;  1 Corinthians 15:24-26;  Revelation 21:4). His healing miracles give hope for a day when there will be no more suffering ( Matthew 9:27-29;  Mark 1:40-42;  Revelation 21:4). His calming of the storm foreshadows the final perfection of the natural creation ( Matthew 8:24-27;  Romans 8:19-21). His provisions of food and wine give a foretaste of the great banquet of God in the day of the kingdom’s triumph ( John 2:1-11;  Matthew 14:15-21;  Matthew 15:32-38;  Matthew 26:29;  Revelation 19:9).

Smith's Bible Dictionary [7]

Miracles. A miracle may be defined to be a plain and manifest exercise by a man, or by God at the call of a man, of those powers which belong only to the Creator and Lord of nature; and this for the declared object of attesting that a divine mission is given to that man. It is not, therefore, the Wonder , the exception to common experience, that constitutes the Miracle , as is assumed both in the popular use of the word and by most objectors against miracles.

No phenomenon in nature, however unusual, no event in the course of God's providence, however unexpected, is a miracle unless it can be traced to the agency of man, (including prayer, under the term agency), and unless it be put forth as a proof of divine mission. Prodigies and special providences are not miracles.

(A miracle is not a violation of the laws of nature. It is God's acting upon nature in a degree far beyond our powers, but the same kind of act as our wills are continually exerting upon nature. We do not, in lifting a stone, interfere with any law of nature, but exert a higher force among the laws. Prof. Tyndall says that "science does assert that, without a disturbance of natural law quite as serious as the stoppage of an eclipse, or the rolling of the St. Lawrence up the falls of Niagara, no act of humiliation, individual or nation, could call one shower from heaven."

And yet men, by firing a cannon during a battle, can cause a shower: does that cause such a commotion among the laws of nature? The exertion of a will upon the laws does not make a disturbance of natural law; and a miracle is simply the exertion of God's will upon nature. - Editor).

Again, the term "nature" suggests, to many persons, the idea of a great system of things, endowed with powers and forces of its own - a sort of machine, set a-going originally by a first cause, but continuing its motions of itself. Hence, we are apt to imagine that a change in the motion or operation of any part of it, by God, would produce the same disturbance of the other parts as such a change would be likely to produce in them, if made by us or by any other natural agent.

But if the motions and operations of material things be produced really by the divine will, then his choosing to change, for a special purpose, the ordinary motion of one part does not necessarily, or probably, imply his choosing to change the ordinary motions of other parts in a way, not at all requisite, for the accomplishment of that special purpose.

It is as easy for him to continue the ordinary course of the rest, with the change of one part, as of all the phenomena without any change at all. Thus, though the stoppage of the motion of the earth, in the ordinary course of nature, would be attended with terrible convulsions, the stoppage of the earth miraculously, for a special purpose to be served by that only, would not, of itself , be followed by any such consequences. (Indeed, by the action of gravitation, it could be stopped, as a stone thrown up is stopped, in less than two minutes, and yet, so gently as not to stir the smallest feather or mote on its surface. - Editor).

From the same conception of nature as a machine, we are apt to think of interferences, with the ordinary course of nature, as implying some imperfection in it. But it is manifest that this is a false analogy; for the reason why machines are made is to save us trouble; and, therefore, they are more perfect in proportion as they answer this purpose.

But no one can seriously imagine that the universe is a machine, for the purpose of saving trouble to the Almighty. Again, when miracles are described as "interferences with the law of nature," this description makes them appear improbable to many minds, from their not sufficiently considering that the laws of nature interfere with one another, and that we cannot get rid of "interferences" upon any hypothesis consistent with experience.

The circumstances of the Christian miracles are utterly unlike those of any pretended instances of magical wonders. This difference consists in -

(1) The greatness, number, completeness and publicity of the miracles.

(2) In the character of the miracles. They were all beneficial, helpful, instructive, and worthy of God as their author.

(3) The natural beneficial tendency of the doctrine they attested.

(4) The connection of them, with a whole scheme of revelation, extending from the origin of the human race to the time of Christ .

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [8]

In every age there are certain great movements of human thought, which more or less influence the convictions of men in the mass, and carry them on to conclusions which, but a few years before, would have seemed altogether improbable. Sometimes it is very difficult to account for these movements. There has often been no master-mind leading the way whatever works have been written have rather been the result of the wave of thought passing over that small portion of the world which thinks than the cause of the wave. As far as cause can be traced, the new movement is a reaction, a recoil of the mind, from that which has gone before, whether in the way of dissatisfaction at the sloth and inactivity of the previous age, and at its being ignobly content to have no high aspiration, no high sense of the nobleness of man's mission, or a rebound from overstrained dogmatism and principles urged on to an extent which made them practically a burden and wearisomeness too great for men to endure.

The latter is perhaps the more common origin of new developments of thought, and is a power larger and more constantly at work than men are apt to imagine. But the explanation of the movements of the mind in our own time is rather to be sought in the meanness of the last century. Upon the whole, it was not a time of high purposes, though the War of Independence on the one side of the Atlantic, and the resistance to the despotism of Napoleon on the other, show that it was not wanting in great practical results. But as the present century advanced, the old lethargy which had enwrapped the minds of the English-speaking race gave way. Some men became intensely active in working for practical reforms; others set new modes of thought in motion, and everywhere there was On eager desire for thoroughness, and for probing: the principles of things to the very bottom. The old argument of "continuance" that a thing should still exist because it had existed gave way to an intense realism, which would let nothing exist unless it could prove its right to existence. Utilitarianism became the order of the day, and that poetry which often gilds a sleepy age, and makes it dwell at peace in a dreamland of repose, vanished before the energy of men keenly alive to the necessities and imperfections of the present.

It is this intense realism that has made men restless and ill at ease athaving to believe in miracles. A miracle stands on entirely different grounds from the whole present order of things, and is out of harmony with the main current of our thoughts. There have been ages when men lived for the future, when the present was neglected, and things unseen were the realities which engrossed their thoughts. When we read the accounts of the trials for witchcraft in New England a century or two ago, we find not the accusers only, but the accused full of ideas of the preternatural. What they saw had but slight influence upon them; what they imagined had alone power over their minds. We, on the contrary, live in the present. The turn of our minds is to verify everything. We call for proof, and whatever cannot be proved we reject. It is not merely miracles which we treat thus, but most of what the last century regarded as historical realities. The intense historical activity of the present day, which has rewritten for us the annals of Greece and Rome, of the Church and of England, of the great eras of Spain and the Netherlands, besides special studies of great value, has its origin in that same spirit for searching and proving which leads so many to reject miracles.

It is altogether unfair to lay the rejection of miracles to the charge of physical science. The leaders of science are as thoroughly realistic as our historians and men of letters, but not more so. They are themselves phenomena of an age which perpetually asks What is? They inquire into the conformation of the earth and its constituents; into the motions of the heavenly bodies, and the laws which govern them, with the same eagerness to find out present facts, and the explanation of them, as animates the historian and the practical reformer. Old beliefs in our day can no more stand their ground than old laws and old customs, unless they can prove their right to stand by an appeal to present usefulness. It is of no use to appeal to anything else. In the present state of men's minds, if a thing does not fit in to the present, it seems to have no right to exist at all.

But if the progress of physical science has little to do with the dislike to miracles and the supernatural, the rapid increase of material wealth, and the advance made in everything which tends to present comfort and enjoyment, have much to do with it. We are living in an age when the present is full of enjoyment. By our large ascendency over the powers of nature, the earth yields us its treasures with a bountifulness never known before. Our homes are replete with comforts and luxuries little dreamed of by those who went before; and the secret forces of nature are pressed into our service, and do our bidding. Side by side with this subjection of nature there has grown up a greatness of material enterprise unknown before. Vast projects are undertaken and persevered in, before which the greatest merchant princes of antiquity would have quailed. There is a grandeur of conception, a nobleness of purpose, an unflinching courage in many of the commercial undertakings of the present day, which, though gain may be their final object, yet give them a dignity and a poetry that make them for the time enough to conceal the deep cravings which are man's peculiar endowment, and which mark him out as a being destined for no common purposes.

Yet this present greatness of material things dwarfs many of man's higher gifts. Its influence begins early. Even in education it makes men aim chiefly at utilitarian objects, and at too early results. Parents do not care for anything which does not lead directly and at once to profit and pay. Whatever develops man's thinking powers, and aims simply at making him better and nobler in himself, is thrust aside. It would take too much time; defer too long the quick harvest of gains; might make men even indifferent to worldly prosperity, and unwilling to sacrifice everything to material wealth. Or, at all events it lies out of the circle of men's every day thoughts. Life is an eager race, with boundless prizes for all who press onwards and upwards. In so active a contest, with every energy on the stretch, and every exertion richly rewarded, it is no wonder if the present is enough; and in its enjoyment men thrust from them indignantly everything that would interfere with and render them less fit for the keen struggle after earthly success.

It is this spirit which makes it so difficult for men to believe in miracles. The purpose of miracles, and their whole use and intention hold so entirely distinct a place from that which is now the main purpose of the mass of men, that they will hear no evidence for them, nor stop calmly to consider whether they may not after all hold a necessary place in the order of things, and be as indispensable for man's perfectness as is this present activity. What too many do is to put aside the consideration of them entirely. They have a sort of notion that miracles contradict the laws of nature, and are therefore impossible. Without perhaps denying the historical accuracy of the Gospels in the main, they yet suppose that they were written by credulous men in a credulous age, and that if cool observers had been present, they could have explained on natural grounds all that took place. Probably they do not think much about the supernatural at all. They have plenty to occupy them; have no spare time; find their lives full of interest; they rise early to their labor and late take rest; and so are content with a general feeling that, whatever may be the explanation of man being what he is, and of the world being what it is, time will reveal it, and that no obligation lies upon a busy man to inquire into abstruse questions, with no present profit. When business is over and old age has come, then it will be his duty to make his peace with God. And he will do so in the ordinary way. as other men do. Religion is a thing relegated to the background for the present; in due time he will attend to it as a practical matter, in the same way in which he will attend to the making of his will.

This thorough realism of the 19th century, intensified by the vast facilities of combined action and, mutual intercourse, which make us live constantly in one another's company, would banish all care and thought of the future from our minds, if it were not that the belief in the existence of a God and of a future life is an undying conviction of our nature. It is a necessary part of ourselves to look forward. No present gains or successes can content us. We turn always to the future, and that with an eagerness which would make life unendurable if we were forced to believe that life were all. The doctrine of annihilation may be professed, but call never really be believed; for it violates the deepest instincts of our hearts. And thus compelled by the very constitution of our natures to believe that there is a God, and that we exist after death, religion itself becomes a very real thing, and supplies a real need. The existence of a God and the immortality of man are not doctrines which need proving. They are intuitions, innate ideas, which may and do gain form and shape from advancing knowledge, but which grew out of the soul itself. Over the savage they have little influence, but civilized and thinking man can never be complete and entire unless these deep instincts of his inner being have their needs fully met and satisfied. In a mail who stands perfect and complete, the necessities of the future must be as fully and entirely recognised and supplied as the requirements of the present. He must have a religion.

Now religion is either natural or revealed. Not that these two are opposed. The revealed religion which we Christians profess contains and gives new authority to all the truths of natural religion, while extending itself far beyond them. Natural religion is a dim feeling and groping after God as manifested in his works, and a distinguishing of right from wrong, as far as the indications of a righteous government existing now, and the laws of our own nature, and the marvellous gift of conscience, enable us to do so. In revealed religion we have fuller knowledge: knowledge of God's attributes, not merely as far as we can trace them in his works, but still more as they are manifested in his dealings with man as made known to us in revelation itself; knowledge of man, both as regards his present state and his future hopes; more exact knowledge, too, of right and wrong, the appeal now lying not to the varying codes of human morality, nor even to the inner conscience, which, as a faculty capable of education and development, is no rigid rule, but one which bends to every state of things, and adapts itself to every stage and degree of human progress and decay. Under a revealed religion the appeal is to an unchanging law of God. Morality has at last a settled basis, and man a fixed standard by which to judge his actions.

Now it seems almost supererogatory to show that natural religion was not suffice for man's wants. We know of no one who has definitely asserted that it does. Even Kant, though he appears to think that Christianity might now be dispensed with, yet distinctly holds that natural religion, without the teaching of Christianity, would not even now have been enlightened enough, or pure enough, or certain enough, to guide man's life.* But the whole state of the heathen world before Christ came, and now wherever Christianity is unknown, is proof sufficient of the utter powerlessness of natural religion. The Greek world, with its marvellous taste in art and appreciation of the beautiful, was yet intensely wicked. The state of things at Rome under the empire was so foul that modern pens would blush to describe it. What natural religion is where civilization does not exist, the condition now of savage tribes proves clearly enough. We will touch therefore only upon one point, that of progress. Apart from Christianity, there are at most in the world the very faintest indications of progress; usually none at all. In no form of natural religion, in no heathen religion, was there anything to lead man onward, or to make him better. At best, as under Mohammedanism, or the religion of Confucius, there was stagnation. And when, as in the case of so many of the older civilizations of the world, decay set in, there was no recuperative force. Man sank steadily and hopelessly. In the Old Testament alone do we find the thought of progress. A nation is there formed for a high and unique purpose; and to shape it for its end it is placed in a special and immediate relation to God, and is taught by messengers sent directly by him. Under this special dispensation, its one business was to grow fit for the work prepared for it; its one motto, progress. In the New Testament, progress is the central thought everywhere present; but no longer now for one nation it is progress for all mankind. It is a new kingdom that is proclaimed, and all who enter it are required to put away old things, and become new. It belongs to men who have left their previous condition far behind, and who, forgetting what is past, "reach forth unto those things which are before." And special stress is laid everywhere upon the duty of bringing all men into this new kingdom, and of Christians being the purifying salt which is to preserve the whole world.

The means by which Christianity thus renovates mankind, and becomes the moving force of all modern and real progress, is partly that it alone proposes to us principles so perfect that at the utmost our approach to their realization is a very distant one. The complete abnegation of self, the treatment of others with that justice, liberality, and love with which we would wish ourselves to be treated, and a holiness as absolute and entire as that of God himself such principles, while practically aiding us in our upward course, yet set us a standard which as a matter of fact, is unattainable. How often this is misunderstood! Men contrast our Christianity with what is set before us in the Gospels, and, either in mockery or in grief at the disparity, assert that our state is practically a mere heathenism. But while there is ample room for lamentation that we Christians are content to remain so very much below the standard set us, yet, so far as there is progress towards it so far as it can be truly said that this generation is in a higher stage than the last was, and is training the youth to attain in the next to a still nearer approximation to Christian perfectness, so far Christianity is doing its work; not merely its work on individuals these constantly, even where the general state of things is bad and low, it raises to a high degree of virtue and holiness but its work on the mass. If nationally we are making no progress, then our Christianity is not having its proper work, and, in an age which judges by results, is not proving its right still to exist. But even at the worst no Christian nation is hopeless: heathen nations sank without hope. Christian nations have again and again risen from the lowest degradation.

* "We may well concede that if the Gospel had not previously taught the universal moral laws, reason would not yet have attained so perfect an insight into them. Letter of Kant to Jacobi, in Jacobi's Werke, 3:523. But Christianity tends to progress not merely by the high ideal it sets before us, but by its power over men's sympathies. This power resides mainly in the human nature of Christ, but only when viewed in its relation to his Godhead. As the great proof of the Father's love to man, it does arrest our feelings, dwell upon our imagination, and inspire our conduct with motives such as no other supposed manifestation of the Deity to man has ever produced. Christ incarnate in the flesh is not merely the realization of the high standard of Christianity, and the model for our imitation, but acts also as a motive power, by which men are aroused and encouraged to the attempt to put into practice the principles of the religion which Christ taught.

If there be a God and the man who denies it contradicts the intuitions of his own nature it is religion, and revealed religion only, that gives us adequate knowledge of his nature and attributes, If there be a future and the very instincts of our nature testify that there is again it is revealed religion only that tells us what the future life is, and how we may attain to it. Yet necessary parts as both these beliefs are of oar nature, men may bring themselves to deny them. For a time they can put away from them both the future and a God. But if there be a present and this is just the one thing in which the 19th century does thoroughly believe even then, granting only this, if this present is to have any progress, and is to move onwards to anything better; if there is to be in it anything of healthful and vigorous life, this, too, is bound up with the one religion, which has satisfactory proof to give that it is revealed; proof that it did come really from God; and proof that it is the one motive power of human progress. If the light of nature hitherto has been insufficient to secure virtue or raise men towards it, that light will not suffice now, even though it has been fed and strengthened by centuries of Christian teaching. In asserting this, Kant asserted too much. Neither Christians nor Christian communities have as yet risen to anything like a high general standard of morality, to say nothing about holiness; remove the high ideal and the strong motives supplied by the religion of Christ, and there would result, first stagnation, and then decay. An "enlightened self-love" never yet successfully resisted any carnal or earthly passion. Christianity has effected much; the contrast between heathen and Christian communities is immense: but it has tot raised men yet to its own standard, nor even to a reasonably fair standard of moral excellence. Now, grant but the possibility of there being a God; grant but the possibility of there being a future, as there must necessarily be a connection between man's future and his present, and as our idea of God forbids our excluding any existent thing from connection with him, then at least a revelation would be useful, and as God must be good, there is no antecedent improbability in his bestowing upon man what would be of use and benefit to him. You must get rid of God must resolve him into a sort of nebulous all-pervading ether, with no attributes or personal force or knowledge (the Pantheists do this beautifully, and call God cosmic force) you must get rid of a future life, and account yourselves simple phenomena, like the monkey, and ascidian jellybags, from which you are supposed to be descended, with no connection with the past, no reason for your present existence, mere shooting-stars in the realms of space, coming from nowhere, and going nowhither, and so only, by the extirpation of these two ideas from your nature, can you make a revelation improbable. Even then your position is open to grave doubt. We can understand the law of evolution; and if the law be proved, though as yet it is unproved, it would involve me in .no religious difficulties, provided that evolution really worked towards a solid end. Accustomed everywhere else in nature to see things fitted to their place, and all things so ordered that there is a use for everything, I could understand the meanest thing in creation rising upwards in the scale through multitudinous forms and infinite periods of time, if finally there were some purpose for all this rising. The plan is vast and marvellous. It can be justified only by some useful end. And such an end there would be if, after vast ages of development, the tiny atom ended in becoming a reasonable and responsible creature, with some purpose for all this vast preparation, because capable of still rising upwards, and of "becoming partaker of the divine nature." But if the law of evolution stops at man without a future, then its product is not worthy of it, and so purposeless a law, ending in so mean a result for what is there meaner than man without Christ? falls to the ground as too grand in its design for so bare and worthless a result.

Yet even this is but part of the argument; the evidences in favor of Christianity have a collective force, and it is upon them as to whole that one fain rests secure. But we may well contend that if Christianity is necessary for our present well-being; if the advance of society; if the removal of the bad, the vile, and the sorrowful in our existing arrangements; if the maintenance and strengthening of the noble, the earnest, the generous, and the pure, is bound up with Christianity, as being the only sure basis and motive towards progress, then, at all events, religion can show cause enough for existence to make it the duty of men to examine the evidence which it offers in its proof. Nineteenth century men may decline to listen to arguments which concern only things so remote as God and the future. Have they not built railways, laid the Atlantic telegraph, found out the constituent elements of the sun through the spectrum, and gained fortunes by gambling on the stock exchange? What can men want more?' Well, they want something to bind society together: even the worst want something to control in others those passions to which they give free play in themselves. No man wants society to grow worse, however much he may do himself to corrupt it. But the one salt of society, the one thing that does purify and hold it together, is religion.

Now antecedently there is no reason why God might not have made natural religion much more mighty and availing. As it is, nothing is more powerless in itself, though useful as an ally to revelation. Religion or no religion means revelation or no revelation. Reject revelation, and the only reason for not rejecting natural religion is that it is not worth the trouble. If religion, then, is a necessity of our present state, this means that revelation is a necessity. We are quite aware that even revealed religion does not explain all the difficulties of our present state. There is very much of doubt suggested by our philosophy to which Christianity gives only this answer, Believe and wait. It is, in fact, rigidly careful in refusing to give any and every explanation of things present except a practical one: in the most marked way it is silent as to the cause of our being what we are, and as to the nature of the world to come. It tells us that we do not now see the realities themselves, but only reflections of them in a mirror, and even that only in a riddling way ( 1 Corinthians 13:12). Hereafter it promises that we shall see the things themselves, and understand the true nature and exposition of the enigmas of life. Meanwhile it gives us every practical help and necessary guidance for the present. Judged thus by practical results and by its working powers, it is a thing indispensable. Without it man is imperfect, and society has nothing to arrest its dissolution, or arouse it to a struggle after amendment. Reformation is essentially a Christian idea. That a state should throw off its ignoble past and start on a new quest after excellence and right is possible only where there is a religion strong enough to move men, and noble enough to offer them a high ideal. Reform movements have therefore been confined to Christian states; and for the individual, his one road to perfection has been a moving forwards towards God.

Upon this, then, we base our argument for miracles. The universal instincts of men prove the necessity of the existence of religion. Without it the promptings of our hearts, compelling us to believe in a God and to hope for a future, would be empty and meaningless; and this no human instincts are. There is no instinct whatsoever which has not in external nature that which exactly corresponds to it, and is its proper field of exercise. And, in the next place, natural religion, though in entire agreement with revealed, is, as we have shown, insufficient for the purposes for which religion is required. And, finally, there is the phenomenon that the revealed religion which we profess does act as a motive to progress. Christian nations in morals, in freedom in literature, in science, in the arts, and in all that adorns or beautifies society and human life hold undoubtedly the foremost place, and are still moving forward. And in proportion as a Christian nation holds its faith purely and firmly, so surely does it advance onwards. It is content with nothing to which it has attained, but sees before it the ideal of a higher perfection ( Philippians 3:13-14).

Now a revealed religion can be proved only by that which involves the supernatural. What our Lord says to the Jews, that "they would not have sinned in rejecting him but for his works" ( John 9:41), commends itself at once to our reason. No proof can rise higher than the order of things to which it belongs. And thus all that can be proved by the elaborate examination of all created things, and the diligent inquiry into their conformation and uses and instincts, and the purposes for which each organ or faculty was given them; yea, even the search into man's own mind, and all the psychologic problems which suggest so very much to us as to the purposes of our existence all this can rise no higher than natural religion. They are at best but guesses and vague conjectures, and a feeling and groping after truth. Nothing of this sort could prove to us a revealed religion. For how are we to know that it is revealed? In order to its being revealed, God must be the giver of it. And how are we to know that it is he who speaks? Its strength, its value, its authority, all depend upon its being the voice of God. No subjective authority can prove this. The nature of the truths revealed, their adaptability to our wants, their usefulness, their probability nothing of this would prove that they had not been thought out by some highly-gifted man. We must have direct evidence something pledging God himself before we can accept a religion as revealed.

We shall see this more clearly if we reflect upon the nature of the obedience which we are required to render to a revealed religion. Its authority is summary, and knows no appeal. It is God who speaks, and there is no higher tribunal than his throne. Take, for instance, the Ten Commandments. Essentially they are a republication of the laws of natural religion, excepting perhaps the fourth commandment. But upon how different a footing do they stand! The duty of not killing is in natural religion counteracted by the law of selfpreservation, and in heathen communities has been generally very powerless, and human life but little valued. Even in fairly-civilized communities murder was not a crime to be punished by the state, but to be avenged by the relatives of the murdered man. This even was the state of things among the Jews when the Ten Commandments were promulgated, and Moses, by special enactments, modified and softened the customs which he found prevalent, and which did not distinguish between wilful murder and accidental homicide. Natural religion, therefore, gave no special sanctity to human life, but regarded only the injury done to the family of the sufferer. The divine commandment has gone home straight to the conscience. It has made the shedding of blood a sin, and not merely all injury. Accordingly, Christian states have recognised the divine nature of the law by punishing murder as a public offence, instead of leaving it to be dealt with as a private wrong. A revealed religion therefore claims absolute power over the conscience as being the direct will of God. No question of utility or public or private expediency may stand in its way. It must be obeyed, and disobedience is sin. But plainly we ought not to yield such absolute obedience to anything that we do not know to be the law of God. Man stands too high in the scale of existence for this to be right. Were it only that he is endowed with a conscience, and thereby made responsible for his actions, it is impossible for him to give up the control over his own actions to any being of less authority than that One to whom he is responsible. But a revelation claims to be the express will of that very Being, and therefore a sufficient justification of our actions before his tribunal. Surely, before we trust ourselves to it, we may fairly claim adequate proof that it is his will. The issues are too serious for less than this to suffice.

But, besides this, when we look at Christianity, the nature of its doctrines brings the necessity of supernatural proof before us with intense force. It teaches us that God took our nature upon him, and in our nature died in our stead; and, as we have pointed out before, the strength of Christianity, and that which makes it a religion of progress, is this union of the divine and human natures in Christ. He is not merely the "man of sorrows," the ideal of suffering humanity and a religion that glorifies a sinless sufferer may do much to alleviate sorrow and sweeten the bitter cup of woe but he is much more than this. It is only when that sinless sufferer is worshipped as our Lord and our God that we reach the mainspring which has given Christianity its power to regenerate the world.

But how could such a doctrine be believed on any less evidence than that which directly pledged the divine authority on its behalf? The unique and perfect character of the Jesus of the evangelists; the pure and spotless nature of the morality he taught; the influence for good which Christian doctrines have exercised; the position attained by Christian nations, and the contrast between the ideals of heathenism and of Christianity all this and more is valuable as subsidiary evidence. Some of it is absolutely necessary to sustain our belief. Even miracles would not convince us of the truth of a revelation which taught us a morality contrary to our consciences. For nothing could make us believe that the voice of God in nature could be opposed to his voice in revelation. It is a very axiom that, however it reaches us, the voice of God must be ever the same. But these subsidiary proofs are but by-works. They are not the citadel, and can never form the main defence. A doctrine such as that of God becoming man must have evidence cognate to and in pari materie with the. doctrine itself. Thus, by a plain and self-evident necessity, revelation offers us supernatural proof of its reality. This supernatural proof is twofold, prophecy and miracle.

Now these two not merely support one another, but,are essentially connected. They are not independent, but correlative proofs. It was the office of the prophet gradually to prepare the way for the manifestation of the Immanuel upon earth. In order to do so effectually he often came armed with supernatural authority. But a vast majority of the prophets had no other business than to impress on the consciences of the people truths already divinely vouched for and implicitly accepted; and such no more needed miracles than the preachers of Christianity do at the present day. But among the prophets were here and there men of higher powers, whose office was to advance onwards towards the ultimate goal of the preparatory dispensation. Such men offered prediction and miracle as the seals which ratified their mission. In general men could be prepared to receive so great a miracle as that set forth in the opening verses of John's Gospel only by a previous dispensation which had brought the supernatural very near to man. If the Old Testament had offered no miracles, and had not taught the constant presence of God in the disposal of all human things, the doctrines of the New Testament would have been an impossibility.

But we shall understand their connection better when we have a clearer idea of the true scriptural doctrine of miracles. The current idea of a miracle is that it is a violation of the laws of nature, and as the laws of nature are the laws of God, a miracle would thus signify the violation by God. of his own laws. This is not the teaching of the Bible itself, but an idea that has grown out of the Latin word which as supplanted the more thoughtful terms used in the Hebrew and in the Greek Scriptures. A "miracle," miraculum, is something wonderful marvellous. Now no doubt all God's works are wonderful; but when the word is applied to his doings in the Bible, it is his works in nature that are generally so described. In the Hebrew, especially in poetry, God is often described as doing "wonders," that is, miracles. But the term is not merely applicable to works such as those wrought by him for his people in Egypt and the wilderness ( Exodus 15:11;  Psalms 78:12), but to a thunder-storm ( Psalms 77:14), and to his ordinary dealings with men in providence ( Psalms 9:1;  Psalms 26:7;  Psalms 40:5), and in the government of the world. But this term wonder is not the word in the Hebrew properly applicable to what we mean by miracles, and in the New Testament our Lord's works are never called "miracles" ( Θαύματα ) at all. The people are often said to have "wondered" ( Matthew 9:33;  Matthew 15:31) at Christ's acts, but those acts themselves were not intended simply to produce wonder; they had a specific purpose, indicated by the term properly applicable to them, and that term is Sign.

This is the sole Hebrew term for what we mean by miracle; but there are other words applied to our Lord's doings in the New Testament which we will previously consider. And, first, there is a term which approaches very nearly to our word miracle, namely, Τέρας , Portent, defined by Liddell and Scott, in their Greek Lexicon, as a "Sign, Wonder, Marvel, used of any appearance or event in which men believed that they could see the. finger of God." But, with that marvellous accuracy which distinguishes the language of the Greek Testament, our Lord's works are never called Τέρατα in the Gospels. The word is used of the false Christs and false prophets, who by great signs and Portents shall almost deceive the very elect ( Matthew 24:24;  Mark 13:22). The populace, however, expected a prophet to display these portents ( John 4:48), and Joel had predicted that such signs of God's presence would accompany the coming of the great and notable day of Jehovah ( Acts 2:19).

In the Acts of the Apostles our Lord is said to have been approved of God by portents as well as by powers and signs, the words literally being "Jesus of Nazareth, a man displayed of God unto you by powers, and portents, and signs" but the portents refer to such things as the star which appeared to the magi, and the darkness and earthquake at the crucifixion. Exactly parallel to this place are the words in  Hebrews 2:4, where God is said to have borne witness to the truth of the apostles' testimony "by signs and portents, and manifold powers, and diversified gifts of the Holy Ghost," the description being evidently intended to include every manifestation of God's presence with the first preachers of the Gospel, ordinary and extraordinary, in providence and in grace, and not merely the one fact that from time to time they wrought miracles.

But the term portents is freely applied to the miracles wrought by the apostles, being. used of them no less than eight times in the Acts, and also in  Romans 15:19, and  2 Corinthians 12:12. In every case it is used in connection with the word Signs, the Greek in  Acts 6:8;  Acts 15:12, being exactly the same as that in  Acts 2:43;  Acts 4:30;  Acts 5:12;  Acts 14:3, though differently rendered. The two words, however, express very different sides of the apostles' working, the term Sign, as we shall see hereafter, having reference to the long-previous preparation for the Messiah's advent, while Portents were indications of the presence with them of the finger of God.

In the Synoptic Gospels, the most common term for our Lord's miracles is Δυνάμεις , Powers. Full of meaning as is the word, it nevertheless is not one easy to adapt to the idiom of our language, and thus in the Gospels it is usually translated "mighty works" ( Matthew 11:20-21;  Matthew 11:23, etc.), but Miracles in  Acts 2:22;  Acts 8:13;  Acts 19:11;  1 Corinthians 12:10;  1 Corinthians 12:28, etc. Really it signifies the very opposite of miracles. A Δύναμις is a faculty, or capacity for doing anything. We all have our faculties some physical, some mental and moral-and these are all strictly natural endowments. We have also spiritual faculties, and these also primarily are natural endowments of our inner being, though heightened and intensified in believers by the operation of the Holy Ghost. Yet even this is, by the ordinary operation of the Spirit, in accordance with spiritual laws, and not in violation of them. The teaching therefore of this word Δυνάμεις , Powers or Faculties, is that our Lord's works were perfectly natural and ordinary to him. They were his capacities, just as sight and speech are ours. Now in a brute animal articulate speech would be a miracle, because it does not lie within the range of its capacities, and therefore would be a violation of the law of its nature; it does lie within the compass of our faculties, and so in us is no miracle. Similarly, the healing of the sick, the giving sight to the blind, the raising of the dead-things entirely beyond the range of our powers, yet lay entirely within the compass of our Lord's capacities, and were in accordance with the laws of his nature. It was no more a "miracle" in him to turn water into wine than it is with God, who works this change every year. Nor does John call it so, though his word is rendered miracle in our version ( John 2:11).

His language, as becomes the most thoughtful and philosophic of the Gospels, is deeply significant. He does not use the term Δύναμις , Faculty, at all, but has two words, one especially his own, namely, Ἔργον , a Work (yet used once by  Matthew 11:2, who has so much in common with John); the other, the one proper term for miracle throughout the whole Bible, Σημεῖον , a Sign.

Our Lord's miracles are called Ἔργα , Works, by John some fifteen or more times, besides places where they are spoken of as "the works of God" ( John 9:3;  John 5:20;  John 5:36). Now this term stands in a very close relation to the preceding word, Δύναμις , a faculty. A faculty, when exerted, produces an Ἔργον , or work. Whatever powers or capacities we have, whenever we use them, bring forth a corresponding result. We have capacities of thought, of speech, of action, common to the species, though varying in the individual; and what is not at all remarkable in one man may be very much so in another, simply because it is beyond his usual range. But outside the species it may be not only remarkable but miraculous, because it lies altogether beyond the range of the capacities with which the agent is endowed. And so, on the contrary, what would be miraculous in one class of agents is simply natural in another class, because: it is in accordance with their powers.

Now had our Lord been merely man, any and every work beyond the compass of man's powers would have been a miracle. It would have transcended the limits of his nature; but whether it would necessarily have violated the laws of that nature is a question of some difficulty. Supposing that man is an imperfect being, but capable of progress, the limits of his powers may be indefinitely enlarged. Those who hold theory of evolution concede this, and therefore concede that there is nothing miraculous in a remarkable individual being prematurely endowed with capacities which finally and in due time will be the heritage of the whole species. It is the doctrine of the Bible that the spiritual man has a great future before him, and the prophets of old, and the apostles and early Christians, endowed with their great charismata, or gifts, may be but an anticipation of what the spiritual man may finally become. Still, among the "works" of our Lord and his apostles, there is one which seems distinctly divine, namely, the raising of the dead. Gifts of healing, of exciting dormant powers, such as speech in the dumb, of reading the thoughts of others' hearts, may be so heightened in man as he develops under the operations of the Spirit that much may cease to be astonishing which now is highly so. But the raising of the dead travels into another sphere; nor can we imagine any human progress evolving such a power as this. We cannot imagine man possessed of any latent capacity which may in time be so developed as naturally to produce such a result. So, too, the multiplying of food seems to involve powers reserved to the Creator alone.

But the Gospel of John does not regard our. Lord as a man prematurely endowed with gifts which finally will become the heritage of the whole species; it is penetrated everywhere with the conviction that a higher nature was united in him to his human nature. It shows itself not merely in formal statements like the opening words of the Gospel, but in the language usual with him everywhere. And so here. Our Lord's miracles to him are simply and absolutely Ἔργα , Works only. But, as we have seen before, they are also divine works, "works of God." Still in Christ, according to John's view, they were perfectly natural. They were the necessary and direct result of that divine nature which in him was indissolubly united with his human nature. The last thing which the apostle would have thought about them was that they were miraculous, wonderful. That God should give his only- begotten Son to save the world was wonderful. That such a being should: ordinarily do works entirely beyond the limits of man's powers did not seem to John wonderful, and hence the simple yet deeply significant term by which he characterizes them.

Yet such works were not wrought without a purpose; nor did such a being come without having a definite object to justify his manifestation. If wisdom has to be justified of all her children, of all that she produces, there must be some end or purpose effected by each of them, and especially in one like Christ, confessedly the very highest manifestation of human nature, and, as we Christians believe, reaching high above its bounds. Now John points this out in calling our Lord's works Σημεῖα , Signs. It is devoutly to be hoped that in the revised translation of the New Testament this term will be restored to its place, instead of being mistranslated Miracle, as in our present version. Really, in employing it, John was only following in the steps of the older Scriptures, and the unity of thought in the Bible is destroyed when the same word is translated differently in one book from its rendering in another. However wonderful may be God's works, they are not wrought simply to fill men with astonishment, and least of all are those so wrought which lie outside the ordinary course of God's natural laws.

The word Σημεῖον , Sign, tells us in the plainest language that these works were tokens calling the attention of men to what was then happening; and especially is it used in the Old Testament of some mark or signal confirming a promise or covenant. Such a sign (or mark) God gave to Cain in proof that his life was safe ( Genesis 4:15). Such a sign (or token) was the rainbow to Noah, certifying him and mankind throughout all time that the world should not be again destroyed by water ( Genesis 9:13). And here learn we incidentally that God's signs need not be miraculous. The laws of refraction probably were the same before as after the flood, and the fact of the rainbow being produced by the operation of natural laws does not make it a less fit symbol of a covenant between God and man relative to a great natural convulsion. So, again, circumcision was a sign (or token) of the covenant between God and the family of Abraham ( Genesis 17:11). It was to recall the minds of the Israelites to the thought not merely that they stood in a covenant relation to God, but that that covenant implied personal purity and holiness. In the same way the Sabbath was a sign ( Exodus 31:13;  Ezekiel 20:12) of a peculiar relation between the Jew and his God.

But there are places where it distinctively means what we call a miracle. Thus Ahaz is told to ask a sign, and a choice is given him either of some meteor in the heavens, or of some appearance in the nether world: "Make it deep unto Hades, or high in the vault of heaven above" ( Isaiah 7:11). And when the unbelieving king will ask, no sign, the prophet gives him that of the Immanuel, the virgin's son. So the sign unto Hezekiah of his recovery was the supernatural retrogression of the shadow upon the sundial of Ahaz, however significant it might also be of the hand of time having gone back as regards Hezekiah's own life ( Isaiah 38:7). Elsewhere the divine foreknowledge is the sign ( Exodus 3:12;  Isaiah 37:30), and generally signs of God's more immediate presence with his people would either be prophecy ( Psalms 74:9) or miracle ( Psalms 105:27;  Jeremiah 32:20;  Daniel 4:2).

Very much more might be learned by a filler consideration of the manner in which the word sign is used in the Old Testament, but what is said above is enough to explain the reason why John so constantly used the term to express our Lord's miracles. The water changed into wine at Cana he calls "the beginning of signs" ( John 2:11), and the healing of the centurion's son is "the second sign" ( John 4:54), as being the first and second indications of Christ's wielding those powers which belong to God as the Creator and Author of nature, and which therefore pledged the God of nature, as the sole possessor of these powers, to the truth of any one's teaching who came armed with them ( John 3:2, where again the Greek is signs). So he tells us that the people assembled at Jerusalem for the Passover believed Jesus "when they. saw the signs which he did" ( John 2:23). It was, in fact, the very thing they had asked ( Matthew 12:38;  Matthew 16:1;  John 2:18;  John 6:30), and candid minds confessed that they were a sufficient ground for belief ( John 6:14;  John 7:31;  John 9:16;  John 12:18); in fact, they were wrought for that purpose ( John 20:30-31), though men might and did refuse to accept them as proof conclusive of the Saviour's mission ( John 11:47;  John 12:37), and vulgar minds, saw in them nothing more than reason for astonishment ( John 6:2;  John 6:26). To them they were simply Miracles-Wonders.

A sign is more and means more than a miracle, for it does not stand alone, but is a token and indication of something else. Thus John's word shows that our Lord's works had a definite purpose. They were not wrought at random, but were intended for a special object. What this was is easy to tell. The Old Testament had always represented the Jews as holding a peculiar position towards the Godhead. They were a chosen people endowed with high privileges and blessings, but so endowed because they were also intended for a unique purpose. They were the depositaries of revelation, and in due time their Torah, their revealed law, was to go forth out of Zion ( Isaiah 2:3) to lighten the whole Gentile world ( Isaiah 42:6). This promise of a revelation extending to the whole world was further connected with the coming of a special descendant of Abraham ( Genesis 22:18;  Deuteronomy 18:15), and prophecy had gradually so filled up the outline that a complete sketch had been given of the person, the offices, the work, and the preaching of the great Son of David, to whose line the promise had subsequently been confined ( Isaiah 11:1;  Jeremiah 23:5; Hosea 3:8;  Micah 5:2, etc.).

But how were people to know when he had come? The prophets had indeed given some indications of the time, especially Daniel ( Daniel 9:24-27), and so clear were their words that all the world was expecting the arrival of some mighty being, in whom magnus ab integro sceclorrum nascitur ordo, and an entire transformation of the world should take place. But how, among many claimants, was he to be known? He might come, perhaps, as a conqueror, and by force of arms compel men to submit to his authority. But no! Prophecy had described him as the Prince of Peace; nor was his kingdom to be of this world, but a spiritual empire. Now, if we reflect for a little, we shall see that there is no obligation incumbent upon men to accept, or even examine, the claims of any and every one professing to be the bearer of a revelation from God. Before this duty arises, there must at least be something to call our attention to his claims. Mere self- assertion imposes no obligation upon others, unless it have something substantial to back it up. Life is a practical thing, with very onerous duties, and few, like the Athenians of old, have the taste or the leisure to listen to and examine everything new. The herald of a divine dispensation must have proof to offer that he does come from God, and such proof as pledges the divine attributes to the truth of his teaching. This is the reason why the Old-Testament dispensation was one of signs. On special occasions justifying the divine interference, and in the persons of its great teachers, the prophets, supernatural proof was given in two ways of God's presence with his messengers in a manner superior to and beyond his ordinary and providential presence in the affairs of life. The divine omniscience was pledged to the truth of their words by the prediction of future events and his omnipotence by their working things beyond the ordinary range of nature. The two Old Testament proofs of a revelation were prophecy and miracle. We can think of no others, and nothing less would suffice.

As we have said, the whole of the Old Testament looked forward to the manifestation of a divine person, in whom revelation would become, in the first place, perfect; in the second, universal; and, thirdly, final. As being a final revelation, prophecy, which was the distinctive element of the preparatory dispensation, holds in it no longer an essential place, though it is present in the New Testament in a subordinate degree. But miracle must, in the bearer of such a revelation, rise to its highest level; first because of the superiority of his office to that of the prophets. For he was himself the end of prophecy, the person for whose coming prophecy had prepared, and in whom all God's purposes of love towards mankind were to be fulfilled. The office of Christ as the bearer to mankind of God's final and complete message involves too much for us lightly to ascribe it to him. And no merely natural proof would suffice. We could not possibly believe what we believe of him had he wrought no miracles. We could not believe that he was the appointed Savior, to whom "all honor was given in heaven and earth" ( Matthew 28:18), for man's redemption, if he had given no proof during the period of his manifestation on earth of being invested with extraordinary powers. But we go further than this. Perhaps no one would deny that the sole sufficient proof of such a religion as Christianity must be supernatural. We assert that no revealed religion whatsoever can be content with a less decided proof. The sole basis upon which a revelation can rest is the possession by the bearer of it of prophetic and miraculous powers.

For a revealed religion claims authority over us. If it be God's voice speaking to us, we have no choice but to obey. Our reason might not approve; our hearts and wills might detest what we were told; yet if we knew that it was God's voice, we must sadly and reluctantly submit to it. But it would be wrong in the highest degree to yield up ourselves to anything requiring such complete obedience unless we had satisfactory. proof that God really was its author. And no subjective proof could be satisfactory. The purity of the doctrines of Christianity, their agreement with the truths of natural religion, their ennobling effects upon our characters, and the way in which they enlighten the conscience all this and more shows that there is no impossibility in Christianity being a divine revelation: the perfectness of our Lord's character, the thoroughness with which. Christ's atonement answers to the deepest needs of the soul, the way in which Christianity rises above all religions of man's devising all this and more makes it probable that it is God's gift. But at most these considerations only prepare the mind to listen without prejudice to the direct and external proofs that Christianity is a revelation from God. The final proof must pledge God himself to its truth. But what are the divine attributes which would bear the most decisive witness? Surely those which most entirely transcend all human counterfeits omniscience and omnipotence. Now these are pledged to Christianity by prophecy and miracle.

The first had performed its office when Christ came. All men were musing in their hearts upon the expected coming of some Great One. His miracles, his works, the products of his powers, were the signs that prophecy was in course of fulfilment, The two must not be separated. Our Lord expressly declares that but for his works the Jews would have been right in rejecting him ( John 15:24), His claims were too high for any less proof to have sufficed. But the nature of his works did put men under a moral obligation to inquire into his claims; and then he sent them to the Scriptures ( John 5:39). The miracles were thus not the final proof of Christ's mission. Had they been such, we might have expected that they would still be from time to time vouchsafed, as occasion required, even to the end of the world. The agreement of Christ's life and death and teaching with what had been foretold of the Messiah is the leading proof of his mission, and, having this, we need miracles no more. Christ's works called men's attention to this proof, and made it a duty to examine it. They also exalt his person, and give him the authority of a messenger accredited from heaven; but the Old Testament remains for all ages the proper proof of the truth of the New. Miracles were signs for the times; prophecy is for all time, and as Christianity no longer requires anything especially to call men's attention to its claims, prophecy is proof enough that it is a message from God.

The more clearly to set this before our readers, we repeat that prediction was the distinctive sign of God's presence under the Old-Testament dispensation, and miracles subordinate. Revelation was then a growing light, and was ever advancing onward; and thus the prophets were ever preparing for the future. It was only on special occasions that miracle was needed. But when revelation became perfect and final in the person of One who, according to the terms of prophecy, transcended the bounds of human nature, it was necessary that miracle should rise in him to its highest level, both because of the dignity of his person, as one invested with all power, human and divine, and also as the proper proof at the time of his being the Son, the last and greatest therefore whom the Father could send; and, finally, to call the attention of men to his claims, and compel them to examine them. For this reason they were called signs. But as soon as the dispensation thus given could force. its claims on men's attention by other means, and its divine bounder had with drawn, miracles necessarily ceased, as being inconsistent with man's probation. Look over the. list of Scripture names for miracles, and ask what one would be appropriate now? Of what would they now be signs? Of what person would they be the proper faculties? For whom now would they be suitable works? The whole scriptural theory of miracles is contravened by the supposition of miracles being continued after Christianity had once been established. What history teaches us, namely, that they were rapidly withdrawn, is alone consistent with what we gather from Scripture concerning them.

They were an essential part of the proof at the time, and have an essential use now. For we could not believe what is taught us of Christ if he had not been accredited by miracles. But the proper evidence for the truth of Christianity now is that of prophecy, not as existing any longer in living force, but as manifested in the agreement of the long list of books forming the Old Testament with one another; and still more in the fulfilment of the Old Testament in the New. It is a proof in everybody's hands, and open to every one to examine. The proof of miracles requires, of course, large historical evidence, and not every one possesses bishop Stillingfleet's Origines Cause, or even Paley; but every Christian has his Bible, and in it will find the proper proof now of its truth.

Agreeably with this, dean Lyall, in his Propaedia Prophetica, has well remarked that the apostles "scarcely allude to Christ's miracles at all, and never in the way of proof (page 4). Miracles, he shows, now hold a disproportionate place in the argument from that assigned to them in the New Testament; and, in fact, it is very remarkable that Peter but twice refers in his speeches to Christ's miracles, and never but once to those wrought by himself. Paul, in his thirteen epistles, only thrice appeals to his own miraculous powers, and never mentions Christ's miracles, or even directly alludes to them. The key of this we have

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [9]

God sees fit to carry on his common operations on established and uniform principles. These principles, whether relating to the physical or moral world, are called the laws of nature. And by the laws of nature the most enlightened philosophers and divines have understood the uniform plan according to which, or the uniform manner in which, God exercises His power throughout the created universe.

This uniform method of divine operation is evidently conducive to the most important ends. It manifests the immutable wisdom and goodness of God, and, in ways too many to be here specified, promotes the welfare of His creatures. Without the influence of this uniformity, rational beings would have no effectual motive to effort, and the affairs of the universe, intelligent and unintelligent, would be in a state of total confusion. And this general fact may be considered as a sufficient reason why God, in the common course of His providence, has adopted a uniform method of operation in preference to any other.

But if, in conducting the affairs of his great empire, God sees, in any particular case, as good a reason for a deviation from this uniform order, as there is generally for uniformity, that is, if the glory of his attributes and the good of His creatures require it—and no one can say that such a case may not occur—then, unquestionably, the unchangeable God will cause such a deviation; in other words, will work miracles.

It is admitted that no man, apart from the knowledge of facts, could ever, by, mere reasoning, have arrived at a confident belief, that the conjuncture supposed would certainly occur. But to us who know that mankind are so depraved and wretched, and that the efforts of human wisdom to obtain relief have been in vain, the importance of a special divine interposition is very apparent. And being informed what the plan is, which a merciful God has adopted for our recovery to holiness and happiness, and being satisfied that this plan, so perfectly suited to the end in view, could never have been discovered by man, and never executed, except by a divine dispensation involving miracles, we conclude, that the introduction of a new and miraculous dispensation was in the highest degree an honor to God and a blessing to the world. The mode which God has chosen to impart the knowledge of this dispensation to man, is that of making a revelation to a number of individuals, who are to write and publish it for the benefit of the world. This revelation to individuals is made in such a manner as renders it certain to their minds, that the revelation is from God. But how can that revelation be made available to others? It will not answer the purpose for those who receive it merely to declare that God has made such a revelation to them, and authorized them to proclaim it to their fellow-creatures. For how shall we know that they are not deceivers? Or, if their character is such as to repel any suspicion of this kind, how shall we know that they are not themselves deceived? Have we not a right, nay, are we not bound in duty, to ask for evidence of the divine authority of what they reveal? But what evidence will suffice? The reply is obvious. The revelation, in order to be of use to us, as it is to those who receive it directly from God, must not only be declared by them to us, but must have a divine attestation. In other words, those who declare it to us must show, by some incontestable proof, that it is from God. Such proof is found in a miracle. If an event takes place which we know to be contrary to the laws of nature, we at once recognize it as the special act of him who is the God of nature, and who alone can suspend its laws, and produce effects in another way. The evidence of a direct interposition of God given in this way is irresistible. No man, no infidel, could witness an obvious miracle, without being struck with awe, and recognizing the finger of God.

It is clear that no event, which can be accounted for on natural principles, can prove a supernatural interposition, or contain a divine attestation to the truth of a prophet's claim. But when we look at an event which cannot be traced to the laws of nature, and is clearly above them, such as the burning of the wood upon the altar in the case of Elijah's controversy with the false prophets, or the resurrection of Lazarus, we cannot avoid the conviction, that the Lord of heaven and earth does, by such a miracle, give his testimony, that Elijah is his prophet, and that Jesus is the Messiah. The evidence arising from miracles is so striking and conclusive, that there is no way for an infidel to evade it, but to deny the existence of miracles, and to hold that all the events called miraculous may be accounted for according to the laws of nature.

Hume arrays uniformsexperience against the credibility of miracles. But the shallow sophistry of his argument has been fully exposed by Campbell, Paley, and many others. We inquire what and how much he means by uniform experience. Does he mean his own experience? But because he has never witnessed a miracle, does it follow that others have not? Does he mean the uniform experience of the greater part of mankind? But how does he know that the experience of a smaller, part has not been different from that of the greater part? Does he mean, then, the uniform experience of all mankind in all ages? How then does his argument stand? He undertakes to prove that no man has ever witnessed or experienced a miracle, and his real argument is, that no one has ever witnessed or experienced it. In other words, to prove that there has never been a miracle, he asserts that there never has been a miracle. This is the nature of his argument—an example of begging the question, which a man of Hume's logical powers would never have resorted to, had it not been for his enmity to religion.

The miraculous events recorded in the Scriptures, particularly those which took place in the times of Moses and Christ, have all the marks which are necessary to prove them to have been matters of fact, and worthy of full credit, and to distinguish them from the feats of jugglers and impostors. This has been shown very satisfactorily by Leslie, Paley, Douglas, and many others. These miracles took place in the most public manner, and in the presence of many witnesses; so that there was opportunity to subject them to the most searching scrutiny. Good men and bad men were able and disposed to examine them thoroughly, and to prove them to have been impostures, if they had been so.

A large number of men, of unquestionable honesty and intelligence, constantly affirmed that the miracles took place before their eyes. And some of these original witnesses wrote and published histories of the facts, in the places where they were alleged to have occurred, and near the time of their occurrence. In these histories it was openly asserted that the miracles, as described, were publicly known and acknowledged to have taken place; and this no one took upon him to contradict, or to question. Moreover, many persons who stood forth as witnesses of these miracles passed their lives in labors, dangers, and sufferings, in attestation of the accounts they delivered, and solely in consequence of their belief of the truth of those accounts; and, from the same motive, they voluntarily submitted to new rules of conduct; while nothing like this is true respecting any other pretended miracles.

It has been a long agitated question, whether miracles have ever been wrought, or can be consistently supposed to be wrought, by apostate spirits.

It is sufficient to say here, that it would be evidently inconsistent with the character of God to empower or to suffer wicked beings to work miracles in support of falsehood. And if wicked spirits in the time of Christ had power to produce preternatural effects upon the minds or bodies of men, and if those effects are to be ranked among real miracles (which, however, we do not affirm), still the end of miracles is not contravened. For those very operations of evil spirits were under the control of divine providence, and were made in two ways to subserve the cause of Christ. First; they furnished an occasion, as doubtless they were designed to do, for Christ to show His power over evil spirits, and, by His superior miracles, to give a new proof of His Messiahship. Secondly; the evil spirits themselves were constrained to give their testimony, that Jesus was the Christ, the Holy One of Israel.

As to the time when the miraculous dispensation ceased, we can only remark, that the power of working miracles, which belonged pre-eminently to Christ and His apostles, and, in inferior degrees, to many other Christians in the apostolic age, subsided gradually. After the great object of supernatural works was accomplished in the establishment of the Christian religion, with all its sacred truths, and its divinely appointed institutions, during the life of Christ and His apostles, there appears to have been no further occasion for miracles, and no satisfactory evidence that they actually occurred.