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For the ordinary ends of the supernatural, nature must indeed be constant, but for its extraordinary ends, her constancy must give way to a superior power. We say "if these ends require it.” It will not settle the question to say, “if nature were to be violated and tossed about by capricious overturnings of her laws, there would be an end of all confidence and exact intelligence.” This is true. Where confidence and exact intelligence would be infringed, there are no overturnings, but when higher ends than these come in, the "overturnings,” if it be right to call them such, are at least not “capricious.”
But all that we would say is fully expanded and forcibly presented by Dr. Bushnell himself, under his second head, in which he shows that the supernatural agency of God is itself subject to law and system. Indeed his exposition of this position, quite supersedes and refutes those to which we have excepted, and gives the true ground of defending the supernatural against objections of every kind. It is here that he plants his foot strongly on the principles furnished by the grand truth of his book, that nature does not constitute the whole of the system of God—nor is she even coördinate in rank and authority with the supernatural, but that the ends of the last give law to the first. These only furnish the true principles by which the order of each part, and of both together, can be and is regulated, and by which alone it ought to be interpreted. In unfolding this view for the object before him, he brings out the fact that neither natural nor moral law exhaust our conception of the laws that are possible, but that there is a third law which is higher than both, and that is the law of one's end, or the law which one's reason imposes in the way of attaining his end.” Whenever the ends of God impose the necessity that supernatural agency should step in, it is according to system and rational order that it should—that system and rational order by which the supernatural subjects nature to its purposes. Inasmuch as God is a rational being, he acts in all such cases acccording to system. Inasmuch as his forecast is perfect, he has framed his plan of working so as to include such interpositions. Now we contend, that even if such intervention amounts to a suspension of the laws of nature, (meaning thereby lower or physical nature,) there is no real disorder,
but in this very suspension a more striking example of order itself-the order which requires that appropriate means should be used to accomplish the highest of all ends. To assume that in doing this, it may not be necessary that these laws should be suspended, or that “Nature is seen to be subjected to his constant agency by its laws themselves, which laws he has never to suspend but only to employ, having the great realm of nature flexible as a hand,” is to assert more than we know, and to fall back into those ways of thinking and speaking which should have been exorcised once and forever. But it will be still urged, that we must believe that even in these supernatural workings, God only avails himself of one or more of an unsearched variety of hidden laws which he only can command. We reply, that whether he does or not, will depend entirely upon the ends which he proposes to accomplish. If he desires to break in upon the view of an atheistic universe, by creating a new world, it may be needful to do it in other methods than by subjecting one set of laws to another, in the way that the vital forces overcome and manipulate the chemical, and the chemical the mechanical, because his very object—“the rule of universal application in all such cases”-may require something more.
So too, if he brings a dead man to life by the word “Lazarus come forth,” the end which “in this case is the law to God's working," may require that the work of nature in decomposition should be arrested, i. e., suspended, and a force unknown to nature come in and recompose those disintegrated particles under the workings of a new vital energy. Any other interference than this, may fail to attain the end-which is to startle and surprise, as well as to demonstrate the power of the Almighty to those who cry out, " This is the finger of God.”
We have lingered so long upon this point, and have expressed our views so fully, that we scarcely need notice the chapter formally devoted to the miracles wrought by Christ. We assent to the definition of a miracle given by the author, except that it is not theologically complete. So far as it goes it involves no error. Upon some of the negatives affirmed, we will make a passing remark. He says truly, (1,) that a miracle
is not a wonderful event developed under the laws of nature, and, (2,) that a miracle is no event that transpires singly or apart from system. He asserts, (3,) that “a miracle is no contradiction of our experience, and is only an event that exceeds the reach of our experience.” This seems to be a verbal criticism. In the sense intended by Hume, it is a contradiction of our experience, i. e., our experience of merely natural phe
This makes it a miracle. Our error is, that we exalt our uncontradicted experience in this inferior realm, into a law for the realm which is higher, and refuse thus to make our belief of what is possible in the future, hold in check our uncontradicted experience of the past. As a rule of judgment, Hume's criterion was correct, and applies to all those cases in which supernatural interference is not justified to our reason, by an occasion or end that accounts for its occurrence. But Dr. B. observes, (4,) that “a miracle is no suspension, or violation of the laws of nature.” Upon this point we need add little to what
” has been said. We have contended that there is properly a suspension of these laws, and not a mere subordination of them to the flexible hand of the All-powerful, and the more sagacious mind of the All-knowing. That this suspension of these laws involves no disturbance of the harmonious workings of nature, nor any violation of her peace, we need not argue. It is not a suspension of the law, as a law, but a suspension of the application of it to a single case, in which very case the maxim holds good, exceptio probat regulam. The law itself is not abrogated, nor is a general license granted to awaken our distrust, but the supernatural power that holds the law in its hand stays it in its operation. We do not say that this is true of all the miracles recorded in the scriptures, for the conception and the word are not philosophically and precisely applied, but we do assert, that on the grounds furnished by Dr. Bushnell himself, there is no philosophical objection against their possibility.*
* Thus writes Dr. Rothe, one of the most distinguished of living theologians : “ Here must I face the question, how I dispose of the grave difficulties which seem to be involved in the very conception of a miracle. In respect to this question I find myself somewhat embarrassed. Not however, by the solution of
We do not, because we cannot, give the forcible and eloquent argument that is presented on the question of fact, “ did Christ work miracles ?" It is an argument which cannot be described. To be appreciated, it must be read, and being read,
. especially in the connection in which it occurs, it must leave a strong impression, if not a firm conviction, on every truthloving mind.
In answering the objections against miracles, Dr. Bushnell encounters the following: “If miracles are credible in the age of the New Testament, they inust be now and always credible.” He thus rejoins : “ To this we answer, that they are now always credible. But it does not follow that they now and always are fact. That must depend upon historic evidence." This answer he follows by several considerations which on the whole are wise and just.
We are surprised that he did not leave the subject here, but that as by an after-thought he added Chapter XIV, entitled “Miracles and Spiritual Gifts not discontinued.” In this, with confessed misgivings and with some very pungent remarks against the perversion to which the fact and the faith in it would expose the church, he contends that miracles lave occurred in all ages, and recites not a few ancient and modern in.
tances. We contend as earnestly as Dr. Bushnell that iniracles in these days are credible, i. e., possible; rather, the fact that they can occur is credible. There is no hindrance to the divine power in this matter. Neither the theories of science, nor the associations of the unbelieving, nor the contempt of the profane, have straitened the divine resources, nor interposed any medium between God and nature, so that he cannot at any
the difficulties, but because I do not see that any difficulties exist. I will in all simplicity out with my honest confession, that to this hour I have never been able to make it clear to myself how my rational nature could possibly take offense at the conception of a miracle. It may arise from this, that I am so thoroughly a theist in my nature, that I never could find in myself the least trace of deistic or pantheistic feelings. In part it may arise from the fact, that as a matter of prin. ciple I have ever held these two questions distinctly apart, the simply abstract inquiry, whether a miracle in itself is rationally conceivable, and the concrete, whether, in a given case, a reported miracle, even if it be in the Bible, is to be received as having occurred in fact.” Studien und Kritiken. 1858. pp. 24, 25.
moment manifest his presence by flashing along her circuits, or by breaking her connections. But the fact that a miracle does occur is only credible when it is proved by decisive or sufficient evidence. Miracles are shown to be possible for another reason; God may as truly bend or break the course of nature in spiritualor invisible acts as by miracles proper. He may answer prayer by healing the sick, or by reclaiming the soul, or in other ways interpose in extra-natural acts of divine agency; for in human inspiration, support, or sympathy, there may be as real a departure from the strictly natural, as though a miracle were indisputably manifest to the mind through the senses. But when it is asserted that miracles proper do occur, meaning thereby “a sign to the senses” of superhuman power, we question the fact, because we distrust the evidence. In those acts of which we speak as of answers to prayer, of comfort, &c., there may be an exertion of supernatural power, but " there is no sign to the senses,” or to consciousness.
But why do you distrust the evidence? Because in all these cases there is no decisive proof, we may say, no proof at all, in support of the essential fact to be proved, i. e., that "there is
" a sign to the senses.” The event may be very wonderful, the individual or his friend may be satisfied that in its occurrence there is the great power of God," but there is no circumstance that decides that they may not be deceived. No man can say that the best attested facts, as the story of Mr. Yount of California, may not have been brought to pass by some extraordinary conduct of the laws of nature. The very difference between these striking occurrences and miracles proper, is stated by Dr. Bushnell himself, and this enables us to draw a broad and distinct line between these events and those wonders recorded in the scriptures, which deserve, in the highest sense of the term, to be called miracles.
Again, it is to be remembered, that in the most of these cases of recovery from bodily infirmity, the subjective force of a strong faith in God, of itself gives intensity to the vital energies that would otherwise falter and fail in the struggle between life and death-that the imagination may be excited to see a "miracle," when God only works a "wonder”-and that