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perhaps the grandest and most sublime of the physical laws of nature. But a much smaller amount of knowledge would suffice for the only practical applications which we have yet been able to make of these laws to our own use. Still, that knowledge has a reflex influence on our knowledge of ourselves, of our powers, and of the relations which subsist between the constitution of our own minds and the constitution of the universe. And in other spheres of inquiry, advancing knowledge of physical laws has been constantly accompanied with advancing power over the physical world. It has enabled us to do a thousand things, any one of which, a few generations ago, would have been considered supernatural. The same lecturer who told his audience that there was nothing spontaneous 'in ' nature' proceeded, by virtue of his own knowledge of natural laws, and by his selecting and combining power, to present an endless series of wonderful phenomena — such as ice frozen in contact with red-hot crucibles -- not belonging to the ordinary course of nature, and which, if exhibited a few centuries ago, would, beyond all doubt, have subjected the lecturer on Heat to painful experience of that condition of matter.

If the progress of discovery is as rapid during the next 400 years as it has been during the last 400 years, men will be able to do many things which, in like manner, would now appear to be 'supernatural.' There is no difficulty in conceiving how a complete knowledge of all natural laws would give, if not complete power, at least degrees of power immensely greater than those which we now possess. Power of this kind then, however great in degree, clearly does not answer that idea of the * supernatural' which so many reject as inconceivable. What, then, is that idea ? Have we pot traced it to its den at last ? By supernatural' power, do we not mean power independent of the use of means, as distinguished from power depending on knowledge even infinite knowledge—of the means proper to be employed ?

This is the sense — probably the only sense — in which the supernatural is, to many minds, so difficult of belief. No man can have any difficulty in believing there are natural laws of which he is ignorant; nor in conceiving that there may be Beings who do know them, and can use them, even as he himself now uses the few laws with which he is acquainted. The real difficulty lies in the idea of will exercised without the use of means - not in the exercise of will through means which are beyond our knowledge.

But have we any right to say that belief in this is essential to all religion? If we have not, then it is only putting, as so

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many other hasty sayings do put, additional difficulties in the way of religion. The relation in which God stands to those rules of His government which are called laws,' is, of course, an inscrutable mystery to us.

But those who believe that His will does govern the world, must believe that ordinarily at least, He does govern it by the choice and use of means. Nor have we any certain reason to believe that He ever acts otherwise. Extraordinary manifestations of His will — signs and wonders - may be wrought, for ought we know, by similar instrumentality — only by the selection and use of laws of which man knows and can know nothing, and which, if he did know, he could not employ.

Here, then, we come upon the question of miracles - how we understand them ? what we would define them to be? The common idea of a miracle is, a suspension or violation of the laws of nature. This is a definition which places the essence of a miracle in a particular method of operation. Dr. M'Cosh's definition passes this by altogether, and dwells only on the agency by which, and the purpose for which, a wonderful work is wrought. We would confine the word miracle,' he says, '10 those events which were wrought in our world as a sign or proof of God making a supernatural interposition, or a revelation to man.' This definition is defective in so far as it uses the word 'supernatural,' which, as we have seen, itself requires definition as much as miracle. But from the general context and many individual passages in his treatise it is sufficiently clear that the two conditions essential in Dr. M-Cosh's view of a miracle, are that they are wrought by a Divine power for a Divine purpose, and are of a nature such as could not be wrought by merely human contrivance. In this sense a miracle means a superhuman work. But we have already shown that' super• human 'must not be confounded with supernatural.' This definition of a miracle does not exclude the idea of God working by the use of means, provided they are such means as are out of human reach. Indeed in an important note (p. 149.), Dr. M'Cosh seems to admit that miracles are not to be considered ‘ as against nature' in any other sense than that in which one ó natural agent may be against another—as water may counteract • fire.' Mr. Mansel, in his able · Essay on Miracles,' adopts the word “superhuman as the most accurate expression of his meaning. He says, ' A superhuman authority needs to be substantiated by superhuman evidence; and what is superhuman is miraculous.*

Imperfect as we have seen this definition to be, * • Aids to Faith,' p. 35. In another passage (p. 21.) Mr. Mansel says that in respect to the great majority of the miracles recorded in

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it is most important to observe that it does not necessarily involve the idea of a 'violation of the laws of nature. It does not involve the idea of the exercise of will apart from the use of means. It does not involve, therefore, that idea which appears to many so difficult of conception. It simply supposes, without any attempt to fathom the relation in which God stands to His own · laws,' that out of His infinite knowledge of these laws, or of His infinite power of making them the instruments of His will, He may and He does use them for extraordinary indications of His presence.

The reluctance to admit as belonging to the domain of nature any special exertion of Divine power for special purposes, stands really in very close relationship to the converse notion, that where the operation of natural causes can be clearly traced, there the exertion of Divine power and will is rendered less certain and less convincing. This is the idea which lies at the root of Gibbon's famous chapters on the spread of Christianity. He labours to prove that it was due to natural causes. proving this he evidently thinks he is disposing of the notion that Christianity spread by Divine power; whereas he only succeeds in pointing out some of the means which were employed to effect a Divine purpose. In like manner, the preservation of the Jews as a distinct people during so many centuries of complete dispersion, is a fact standing absolutely by itself in the history of the world. It is at variance with all other experience of the laws which govern the amalgamation with each other of different families of the human race. It is the result, nevertheless, of special laws, overruling those in ordinary operation. It has been effected by the use of means.

Those means have been superhuman— they have been beyond human contrivance and arrangement. But they belong to the region of the natural.' They belong to it not the less, but all the more, because in their concatenation and arrangement they indicate the purpose of a

a living Will seeking and effecting the fulfilment of its designs. This is the manner after which our own living wills in their little sphere effect their little objects. Is it difficult to believe that after the same manner also the Divine Will, of which ours is the image only, works and effects its purpose ?

Our own experience shows that the universal reign of law is perfectly consistent with a power of making those laws subservient to design — even when the knowledge of them is but

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Scripture, “the supernatural element appears ... in the exercise of

a personal power transcending the limits of man's will. They are ‘not so much supermaterial, as superhuman.'

slight, and the power over them slighter still. How much more easy, how much more natural, to conceive that the same universality is compatible with the exercise of that Supreme Will before which all are known, and to which all are servants ! What difficulty in this view remains in the idea of the supernatural? Is it any other than the difficulty in believing in the existence of a Supreme Will—in a living God? If this be the belief of which M. Guizot speaks when he says that it is essential to religion, then his proposition is true enough. In this sense the difficulty of believing in the 'supernatural,' and the difficulty of believing in pure Theism, is one and the same. But if he means that it is necessary to religion to believe in even the occasional violation of law,' if he means that without such belief, signs and wonders cease to be evidences of Divine power, — then he announces a proposition which we conceive to be unsound. There is nothing in religion incompatible with the belief that all exercises of God's power, whether ordinary or extraordinary, are effected through the instrumentality of means - that is to say, by the instrumentality of natural laws brought out, as it were, and used for a Divine purpose. To believe in the existence of miracles we must indeed believe in the superbuman’ and in the "supermaterial. But both these are familiar facts in nature. We must believe also in a Supreme Will and a Supreme Intelligence; but this our own wills and our own intelligence not only enable us to conceive of, but compel to recognise in the whole laws and economy of nature. Her whole aspect, as Dr. Tulloch says, "answers intelligently to our intelli

gence-mind responding to mind as in a glass.' Once admit that there is a Being who - irrespective of any theory as to the relation in which the laws of nature stand to His own will — has at least an infinite knowledge of those laws, and an infinite power of putting them to use — then miracles lose every element of inconceivability. In respect to the greatest and highest of all - that restoration of the breath of life which is not more mysterious than its original gift – there is no answer to the question which Paul asks, ' Why should it be thought a *thing incredible by you that God should raise the dead?'

This view of miracles is well expressed in the excellent little work of Principal Tulloch, from which we have just quoted.

• The stoutest advocate of interference can mean nothing more than that the Supreme Will has so moved the hidden springs of nature that a new issue arises on given circumstances. The ordinary issue is supplanted by a higher issue. The essential facts before us are a

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certain set of phenomena, and a Higher Will moving them. How moving them ? is a question for human definition ; but the answer to which does not and cannot affect the Divine meaning of the change. Yet when we reflect that this Higher Will is everywhere reason and wisdom, it seems a juster as well as a more comprehensive view to regard it as operating by subordination and evolution rather than by “interference” or “violation.” According to this view the idea of law is so far from being contravened by the Christian miracles, that it is taken up by them and made their very basis. They are the expression of a Higher Law, working out its wise ends among the lower and ordinary sequences of life and history. These ordinary sequences represent nature-nature, however, not as an immutable fate, but a plastic medium through which a Higher Voice and Will are ever addressing us, and which, therefore, may be wrought into new issues when the Voice has a new message, and the Will a special purpose for us.' (Tulloch, Beginning Life, p. 85-6.)

Yet so deeply ingrained in the popular theology is the idea that miracles, to be miracles at all, must be performed by some violation of the laws of nature, that the opposite idea of miracles being performed by the use of means is regarded by many with jealousy and suspicion. Strange that it should be thought the safest course to separate as sharply and as widely as we can between what we are called upon to believe in religion, and what we are able to trace or understand in nature ! With what heart can those who cherish this frame of mind follow the great argument of Butler? All the steps of that argument by far the greatest in the whole range of Christian philosophy - are founded on the opposite belief, that all the truths, and not less all the difficulties of religion, have their type and likeness in the constitution and course of nature.' As we follow that reasoning, so simple and so profound, we find our eyes ever opening to some new interpretation of familiar facts, and recognising among the curious things of earth, one after another of the laws which, when told us of the spiritual world, seem so perplexing and so hard to accept or understand. To ask how much farther this argument of the Analogy is capable of illustration and development, is to ask how much more we shall know of nature.'* Like all central truths its ramifications are infinite — as infinite as the appearance of variety, and as pervading as the sense of oneness in the universe of God.

But what of Revelation ? Are its history and doctrines incompatible with the belief that God uniformly acts through the use of means? The narrative of creation is given to us in abstract only, and is told in two different forms, both having for their special object the presenting to our conception the personal agency of a living God. Yet this narrative indicates,

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