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professes to furnish ample evidence in proof of its Divine origin. Instead of demanding from any one a blind and unreasoning assent, it invites the most free inquiry, and courts the fullest investigation, into the nature and grounds of that evidence. Its language is, “Be ready always to give an answer, to every one that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you.”
Unquestionably, one of the most important evidences in support of the Divine authority of the Bible is the working of miracles, such as no man could have wrought unless God had been with him. This, indeed, has been questioned by some professed defenders of the faith, who have assigned an inferior place to miracles among the evidences of Christianity. It is true that this is not the only kind of proof that is placed within our reach; for there are others, both internal and external, such as the prediction of future events which no human sagacity could have foreseen, and the self-evidencing power of the Bible, which, like the sun, shines by its own light, and many more; and to these no small weight is due. But still, the evidence of miracles, if found to be valid, is obviously entitled to a high place in our regard, particularly as the Bible itself attaches special importance to it. “If I had not done among them,” says Christ,“ the works which none other man did, they had not had sin.” When a king issues a proclamation to his rebellious subjects, declaring his royal will and pleasure, and offering to grant them an amnesty, he is naturally expected to take suitable means for satisfying them that the proclamation is not a forgery, but a genuine and authentic document. Accordingly, he subscribes it with his own signature, and affixes to it his official seal, to show that it has really come from him. The question then is, Have miracles, the broad seal of Heaven, been affixed to that proclamation of Divine love and grace, which the Bible professes to contain? If the alleged miracles were never performed at all, then it would follow that the Bible is “a cunningly devised fable.” But if the miracles were really performed, then it necessarily follows that the Bible is true, and that it is entitled to be received by all as an express revelation from God.
This latter position it will be our object to establish to the satisfaction of candid minds. The field is obviously so extensive that we shall only attempt to give a bare outline, or what may be termed the mere osteology, of the subject. It may be remarked, however, at the outset, that there are three different words employed in Scripture to express what in our language is termed a miracle. These are mighty works, indicating supernatural powers; also wonders, causing astonishment in the spectators; and signs, proving Divine interposition.
THE POSSIBILITY OF A MIRACLE.
T is well known that some have affirmed that
miracles are in their very nature impossible.
And if this could be proved, there would be no need for any further discussion. But this daring assertion can easily be shown to be entirely without foundation. For it is obvious that our knowledge of God's existence and providence is derived primarily from the works which He has made. From the marks of design exhibited in the structure of the world, and in the adaptations of its various parts to each other, we naturally and properly infer that there is an Almighty Designer, a great First Cause. And not only so, but from the regular and uniform operations and processes of nature, we also infer that there are certain laws according to which the government of the world is. conducted. And though our knowledge of the “ laws of nature" is even yet comparatively limited and imperfect, yet we know enough to convince us that there is an established course in nature-a fixed order and regular succession in its various evolutions. But then, while all this is true, yet it does not follow that the uniformity of the course of nature must necessarily exclude the interposition of the Author of Nature, or prevent Him from altering that course if He should
see good and wise reasons for doing so. “ The laws of nature," as we call them, are nothing more than the rule or method, according to which God usually works; but these “laws” can never fetter or restrain His Almighty hand, or prevent Him from departing, when He sees fit, from His usual course of procedure. Nay, such departures from the “laws of Nature” as are implied in a miracle may have been predetermined by God in His eternal counsels, however strange or exceptional they may appear to our limited and clouded perceptions; and their very strangeness may have been designed to serve important moral purposes which could not have been accomplished in any other way. Even from the beginning, God may have so “ordered the constitution of the world, as to leave room for the exercise of those miraculous powers which He foresaw would at a certain time be exercised, just as He has left room for the free exercise, within narrower limits, of the human will” (“ Aids to Faith," p. 21).
At all events, to assert that it is impossible for God to suspend or alter the laws of nature is manifestly unwarrantable and presumptuous. He who set the wheels of nature in motion at first, must surely have the power, at any time, to retard them or to stop them altogether. The denial of this would be equivalent to the denial of a Personal God, who governs the world which He has created ; and it would lead to dreary atheism and pantheism. But, believing that there is a God, as nature through all her works proclaims, a God of infinite intelligence and glorious perfection, by whom the heavens and the earth were created, we cannot doubt that He can, if He please, alter or modify the laws which He himself has established. As Dr Paley truly says, "Once believe that there is a God, and miracles are not incredible," or impossible.
THE PROBABILITY OF MIRACLES.
S to this, it may be asked, Can any one affirm
or prove that circumstances could never
arise, under the government of God, to render it both expedient and desirable that He should give His fallen but responsible creatures an extraordinary revelation of His will? Is there anything incredible in the supposition, that, when a great and disastrous crisis in their history has occurred, God should make a direct communication to these creatures, in order to rectify their errors, and remove their sins, and guide them to peace and happiness? Man's urgent need of a Divine revelation has been