MIRACLES IN RELATION TO THE ORDER OF NATURE
WITHOUT at present touching the question as to their reality, it may be well to ascertain what miracles are considered to be, and how far, and in what sense, it is asserted that they are supernatural. We have, hitherto, almost entirely confined our attention to the arguments of English divines, and, and we must for the present continue chiefly to deal with them, for it may broadly be said that they alone, at the present day, maintain the reality and supernatural character of such phenomena. No thoughtful mind can fail to see that, considering the function of miracles, this is the only logical and consistent course. [18:1] The insuperable difficulties in the way of admitting the reality of miracles, however, have driven the great majority of continental, as well as very many English, theologians who still pretend to a certain orthodoxy, either to explain the miracles of the Gospel naturally, or to suppress them altogether. Since Schleiermacher denounced the idea of Divine interruptions of the order of nature, and explained away the supernatural character of miracles, by defining them as merely relative -- miracles to us, but in reality mere anticipations of human knowledge and power -- his example has been more or less followed throughout Germany, and almost every expedient has been adopted by would-be orthodox writers to reduce, or altogether eliminate, the miraculous elements. The attempts which have been made to do this, and yet to maintain the semblance of unshaken belief in the main points of ecclesiastical Christianity, have lamentably failed, from the hopeless nature of the task and the fundamental error of the conception. The endeavour of Paulus and his school to get rid of the supernatural by a bold naturalistic interpretation of the language of the Gospel narratives, whilst the credibility of the record was represented as intact, was too glaring an outrage upon common sense to be successful; but it was scarcely more illogical than subsequent efforts to suppress the miraculous, yet retain the creed.
The great majority of modern German critics, however, reject the miraculous altogether, and consider the question as no longer worthy of discussion; and most of those who have not distinctly expressed this view either resort to every linguistic device to evade the difficulty, or betray by their hesitation the feebleness of their belief. [19:1] In dealing with the question of miracles, therefore, it is not to Germany we must turn, but to England, where their reality is still maintained.
Analysis of Miracles
Archbishop Trench rejects with disdain the attempts of Schleiermacher and others to get rid of the miraculous elements of miracles, by making them relative, which he rightly considers to be merely "a decently veiled denial of the miracle altogether"; [19:2] and he will not accept any reconciliation which sacrifices the. miracle, "which," he logically affirms, "is, in fact, no miracle, if it lay in nature already, if it was only the evoking of forces latent therein, not a new thing, not the bringing in of the novel powers of a higher world; if the mysterious processes and powers by which those works were brought about had been only undiscovered hitherto, and not undiscoverable, by the efforts of human inquiry." [19:3] When Dr. Trench tries to define what he considers the real character of miracles, however, he becomes, as might be expected, voluminous and obscure. He says: "An extraordinary Divine casualty, and not that ordinary which we acknowledge everywhere, and in everything, belongs, then, to the essence of the miracle; powers of God other than those which have always been working; such, indeed, as most seldom or never have been working before. The unresting activity of God, which at other times hides and conceals itself behind the veil of what we term natural laws, does in the miracle unveil itself; it steps out from its concealment, and the hand which works is laid bare. Beside and beyond the ordinary operation of nature, higher powers (higher, not as coming from a higher source, but as bearing upon higher ends) intrude and make themselves felt even at the very springs and sources of her power." [20:1] "Not, as we shall see the greatest theologians have always earnestly contended, contra naturam, but praeter naturam, and supra naturam." [20:2] Further on he adds: "Beyond nature, beyond and above the nature which we know, they are, but not contrary to it." [20:3] Newman, in a similar strain, though with greater directness, says: "The miracles of Scripture are undeniably beyond nature"; and he explains them as "wrought by persons consciously exercising, under Divine guidance, a power committed to them for definite ends, professing to be immediate messengers from heaven, and to evidencing their mission by their miracles." [20:4]
Miracles are here described as "beside," and "beyond," and "above" nature; but a moment's consideration must show that, in so far as these terms have any meaning at all, they are simply evasions, not solutions, of a difficulty. Dr. Trench is quite sensible of the danger in which the definition of miracles places them, and how fatal to his argument it would be to admit that they are contrary to the order of nature. "The miracle," he protests, "is not thus unnatural; nor could it be such, since the unnatural, the contrary to order, is of itself the ungodly, and can in no way, therefore, be affirmed of a Divine work, such as that with which we have to do." [20:5] The Archbishop, in this, however, is clearly arguing from nature to miracles, and not from miracles to nature. He does not, of course, know what miracles really are; but, as he recognises that the order of nature must be maintained, he is forced to assert that miracles are not contrary to nature. He repudiates the idea of their being natural phenomena, and yet attempts to deny that they are unnatural. They must either be the one or the other. Indeed, that his distinction is purely imaginary, and inconsistent with the alleged facts of Scriptural miracles, is apparent from Dr. Trench's own illustrations. The whole argument is a mere quibble of words to evade a palpable dilemma. Newman does not fall into this error, and more boldly faces the difficulty. He admits that the Scripture miracles "innovate upon the impressions which are made upon us by the order and the laws of the natural world"; [21:1] and that "walking on the sea, or the resurrection of the dead, is a plain reversal of its laws." [21:2]
Take, for instance, the multiplication of loaves and fishes. Five thousand people are fed upon five barley loaves and two small fishes; "and they took up of the fragments which remained twelve baskets full." [21:3] Dr. Trench is forced to renounce all help in explaining this miracle from natural analogies, and he admits: "We must simply behold in the multiplying of the bread" (and fishes?) "an act of Divine omnipotence on His part who was the Word of God -- not, indeed, now as at the first, of absolute creation out of nothing, since there was a substratum to work on in the original loaves and fishes, but an act of creative accretion." [21:4] It will scarcely be argued by anyone that such an "act of Divine omnipotence" and "creative accretion" as this multiplication of five baked loaves and two small fishes is not contrary to the order of nature. [21:5] For Dr. Trench has himself pointed out that there must be interposition of man's art here, and that "a grain of wheat could never by itself, and according to the laws of natural development, issue in a loaf of bread." [21:6]
Undaunted by, or rather unconscious of, such contradictions, the Archbishop proceeds with his argument, and with new definitions of the miraculous. So far from being disorder of nature, he continues, with audacious precision: "The true miracle is a higher and a purer nature, coming down out of the world of untroubled harmonies into this world of ours, which so many discords have jarred and disturbed, and bringing this back again, though it be but for one mysterious prophetic moment, into harmony with that higher." [21:7] In that "higher and purer nature" can a grain of wheat issue in a loaf of bread? We have only to apply this theory to the miraculous multiplication of loaves and fishes to perceive how completely it is the creation of Dr. Trench's poetical fancy.
These passages fairly illustrate the purely imaginary and arbitrary nature of the definitions which those who maintain the reality and supernatural character of miracles give of them. The favourite hypothesis is that which ascribes miracles to the action of unknown law. Archbishop Trench naturally adopts it. "We should see in the miracle," he says, "not the infraction of a law, but the neutralising of a lower law, the suspension of it for a time by a higher"; and he asks with indignation whence we dare conclude that, because we know of no powers sufficient to produce miracles, none exist. "They exceed the laws of our nature; but it does not therefore follow that they exceed the laws of all nature." [22:1] It is not easy to follow the distinction here between "our nature" and "all nature," since the order of nature, by which miracles are judged, is, so far as knowledge goes, universal, and we have no grounds for assuming that there is any other.
The same hypothesis is elaborated by Dr. Mozley. Assuming the facts of miracles, he proceeds to discuss the question of their "referribleness to unknown law," in which expression he includes both "unknown law, or unknown connection with known law." [22:2]
Taking first the supposition of unknown connection with known law, he argues that, as a law of nature, in the scientific sense, cannot possibly produce single or isolated facts, it follows that no isolated or exceptional event can come under a law of nature by direct observation; but, if it comes under it at all, it can only do so by some explanation, which takes it out of its isolation and joins it to a class of facts, whose recurrence indeed constitutes the law. Now Dr. Mozley admits that no explanation can be given by which miracles can have an unknown connection with known law.
Taking the largest class of miracles, bodily cures, the correspondence between a simple command or prophetic notification and the cure is the chief characteristic of miracles, and distinguishes them from mere marvels. No violation of any law of nature takes place in either the cure or the prophetic announcement taken separately, but the two taken together are the proof of superhuman agency. He concludes that no physical hypothesis can be framed accounting for the superhuman knowledge and power involved in this class of miracles, supposing the miracles to stand as they are recorded in Scripture. [23:1]
The inquiry is then shifted to the other and different question: whether miracles may not be instances of laws which are as yet wholly unknown. [23:2] This is generally called a question of "higher law" - that is to say, a law which comprehends under itself two or more lower or less wide laws. And the principle would be applicable to miracles by supposing the existence of an unknown law, hereafter to be discovered, under which miracles would come, and then considering whether this new law of miracles and the old law of common facts might not both be reducible to a still more general law, which comprehended them both, but Dr. Mozley, of course, recognises that the discovery of such a law of miracles would necessarily involve the discovery of fresh miracles, for to talk of a law of miracles without miracles would be an absurdity. [23:3] The supposition of the discovery of such a law of miracles, however, would be tantamount to the supposition of a future new order of nature, from which it immediately follows that the whole supposition is irrelevant and futile as regards the present question. [23:4] For no new order of things could make the present order different, and a miracle, could we suppose it becoming the ordinary fact of another different order of nature, would not be less a violation of the laws of nature in the present one. [23:5] This explanation is also rejected.
We pause here to remark that throughout the whole inquiry into the question of miracles we meet with nothing from theologians but mere assumptions. The facts of the narrative of the miracle are first assumed, and so are the theories by which it is, explained. Now, with regard to every theory which seeks to explain miracles by assumption, we may quote words applied by one of the ablest defenders of miracles to some conclusion of straw which he placed in the mouth of an imaginary antagonist in order that he might refute it. "But the question is," said Dr. Mansel, "not whether such a conclusion has been asserted, as many other absurdities have been asserted, by the advocates of a theory, but whether it has been established on such scientific grounds as to be entitled to the assent of all duly-cultivated minds, whatever their own consciences may say to the contrary." [24:1]
Immediately after his indignant demand for scientific accuracy of demonstration, Dr. Mansel proceeds to argue as follows: In the will of man we have. the solitary instance of an efficient cause, in the highest sense of the term, acting among the physical causes of the material world, and producing results which could not have been brought about by any mere sequence of physical causes. If a man of his own will throw a stone into the air, its motion, as soon as it has left his hand, is determined by a combination of purely material laws; but by what law came it to be thrown at all? The law of gravitation, no doubt, remains constant and unbroken, whether the stone is lying on the ground or moving through the air; but all the laws of matter could not have brought about the particular result, without the interposition of the free will of the man who throws the stone. Substitute the will of God for the will of man, and the argument becomes applicable to the whole extent of creation and to all the phenomena which it embraces. [24:2]
It is evident that this argument merely tends to
prove that every effect must have a cause -- a proposition too
obvious to require any argument at all. If a man had not thrown the
stone, the stone would have remained lying on the ground. No one
doubts this. We have here, however, this "solitary instance of an
efficient cause acting among the physical causes of the material
world," producing results which are wholly determined by natural
laws, [24:3] and incapable of producing
any opposed to them. If, therefore, we substitute, as Dr. Mansel
desires, "the will of God" for "the will of man," we arrive at no
results which are not in harmony with the order of nature. We have
no ground whatever for assuming any efficient cause acting in any
other way than in accordance with the laws of nature. It is,
however, one of the gross fallacies of this argument, as applied to
miracles, to pass from the efficient cause producing results which
are strictly in accordance with natural laws, and determined by
them, to an assumed efficient cause producing effects which are
opposed to natural law. The restoration to life of a decomposed
human body, and the miraculous multiplication of loaves and fishes,
are opposed to natural laws, and no assumed efficient cause
conceivable to which they may be referred, can harmonise them.
Suspension of Law
Dr. Mozley continues his argument in a similar way. He inquires: "Is the suspension of physical and material laws by a spiritual being inconceivable? We reply that, however inconceivable this kind of suspension of physical law is, it is a fact. Physical laws are suspended any time an animate being moves any part of its body; the laws of matter are suspended by the laws of life." [25:1] He goes on to maintain that, although it is true that his spirit is united with the matter in which it moves in a way in which the Great Spirit who acts on matter in the miracle is not, yet the action of God's Spirit in the miracle of walking on the water is no more inconceivable than the action of his own spirit in holding up his own hand. "Antecedently, one step on the ground and an ascent to heaven are alike incredible. But this appearance of incredibility is answered in one case literally ambulando. How can I place any reliance upon it in the other?" [25:2] From this illustration, with a haste very unlike his previous careful procedure, he jumps to the following conclusions: "The constitution of nature, then, disproves the incredibility of the Divine suspension of physical law; but, more than this, it creates a presumption for it." [25:3] The laws of life of which we have experience, he argues, are themselves in an ascending scale. First come the laws which regulate unorganised matter; next the laws of vegetation; then the laws of animal life, with its voluntary motion; and, above these, again, the laws of moral being. A supposed intelligent being whose experience was limited to one or more classes in this ascending scale of laws would be totally incapable of conceiving the action of the higher classes. The progressive succession of laws is perfectly conceivable backward, but an absolute mystery forward. "Analogy," therefore, he contends, when in this ascending series we arrive at man, leads us to expect that there is a higher sphere of law as much above him as he is above the lower natures in the scale, and "supplies a presumption in favour of such a belief." [25:4] And so we arrive at the question whether there is or is not a God, a Personal Head in Nature, whose free will penetrates the universal frame invisibly to us, and is an omnipresent agent. If there be, Dr. Mozley concludes, then every miracle in Scripture is as natural an event in the universe as any chemical experiment in the physical world. [25:5]
This is precisely the argument of Dr. Mansel regarding the "Efficient Cause," somewhat elaborated; but, however ingeniously devised, it is equally based upon assumption and defective in analogy. The "classes of law" to which the Bampton lecturer refers are really in no ascending scale. Unorganised matter, vegetation, and animal life may each have special conditions modifying phenomena, but they are all equally subject to natural laws. Man is as much under the influence of gravitation as a stone is. The special operation of physical laws is not a modification of law, but law acting under different conditions. The law of gravitation suffers no alteration, whether it cause the fall of an apple or shape the orbit of a planet. The reproduction of the plant and of the animal is regulated by the same fundamental principle, acting through different organisms. The mere superiority of man over lower forms of organic and inorganic matter does not lift him above physical laws, and the analogy of every grade in nature forbids the presumption that higher forms may exist which are exempt from their control.
If in animated beings, as is affirmed, we have the solitary instance of an "efficient cause" acting among the forces of nature, and possessing the power of initiation, this "efficient cause" produces no disturbance of physical law. Its action is a recognised part of the infinite variety of form within the order of nature; and although the character of the force exercised by it may not be clearly understood, its effects are regulated by the same laws as govern all other forces in nature. If "the laws of matter are suspended by the laws of life" each time an animated being moves any part of its body, one physical law is counteracted in precisely the same manner, and to an equivalent degree, each time another physical law is called into action. The law of gravitation, for instance, is equally neutralised by the law of magnetism each time a magnet suspends a weight in the air. In each case a law is successfully resisted precisely to the extent of the force employed. The arm that is raised by the animated being falls again, in obedience to law, as soon as the force which raised it is exhausted, quite as certainly as the weight descends when the magnetic current fails. This, however, is not the suspension of law in the sense of a miracle, but, on the contrary, is simply the natural operation upon each other of co-existent laws. It is a recognised part of the order of nature, [26:1] and instead of rendering credible any supernatural suspension of laws, the analogy of animated beings distinctly excludes it. The introduction of life in no way changes the relation between cause and effect, which constitutes the order of nature. Life favours no presumption for the suspension of law, but, on the contrary, whilst acting in nature, universally exhibits the prevalence and invariability of law.
The Efficient Cause Subject to
The supposed "Efficient Cause" is wholly circumscribed by law. It is brought into existence by the operation of physical laws, and from the cradle to the grave it is subject to those laws. The whole process of life is dependent on obedience to natural laws, and so powerless is this efficient cause to resist their jurisdiction that, in spite of its highest efforts, it pines or ceases to exist in consequence of the mere natural operation of law upon the matter with which it is united, and without which it is impotent. It cannot receive an impression from without that is not conveyed in accordance with law, and perceived by an exquisitely ordered organism, in every part of which law reigns supreme nor can it communicate from within except through channels equally ordered by law. The "laws of life" act amongst the laws of matter, but are not independent of them, and the action of both classes of law is regulated by precisely the same principles.
Dr. Mozley's affirmation, that antecedently one step on the ground and an ascent to heaven are alike incredible, does not help him. In that sense it follows that there is nothing that is not antecedently incredible, nothing credible until it has happened, This argument, however, while it limits us to actual experience, prohibits presumptions with regard to that which is beyond experience. To argue that, because a step on the ground and an ascent to heaven are antecedently alike incredible, yet, as we subsequently make that step, therefore the ascent to heaven, which we cannot make, from incredible becomes credible, is a contradiction in terms. If the ascent be antecedently incredible, it cannot at the same time be antecedently credible. That which is incredible cannot become credible because something else quite different becomes credible. Experience comes with its sober wisdom to check such reasoning. We believe in our power to walk because we habitually exercise it; we disbelieve in bodily ascensions because ill experience excludes them, and if we leap into the air on the brink of a precipice, belief in an ascent to heaven is shattered to pieces at the bottom, to which the law of gravitation infallibly drags us.
There is absolutely nothing in the constitution of nature, we may say, reversing Dr. Mozley's assertion, which does not prove the incredibility of a Divine suspension of physical laws, and does not create a presumption against it. A distinction between the laws of nature and the "laws of the universe," [28:1] by which he endeavours to make a miracle credible, is one which is purely imaginary. We know of no laws of the universe differing from the laws of nature. So far as human observation can range, these laws alone prevail. The occasional intervention of an unknown "efficient cause," producing the effects called "miracles" -- effects which are not referrible to any known law -- is totally opposed to experience, and such a hypothesis to explain alleged occurrences of a miraculous character cannot find a legitimate place within the order of nature.
The Divine Design of
The proposition with which Dr. Mozley commences these Bampton Lectures, and for which he contends to their close, is this: "That miracles, or visible suspensions of the order of nature for a providential purpose, are not in contradiction to reason." [28:2] He shows that the purpose of miracles is to attest a supernatural revelation, which, without them, we could not be justified in believing. "Christianity," he distinctly states, "cannot be maintained as a revelation undiscoverable by human reason -- a revelation of a supernatural scheme for man's salvation without the evidence of miracles." [28:3] Out of this very admission he attempts to construct an argument in support of miracles. "Hence it follows," he continues, "that, upon the supposition of the Divine design of a revelation, a miracle is not an anomaly or irregularity, but part of the system of the universe; because, though an irregularity and an anomaly in relation to either part, it has a complete adaptation to the whole. There being two worlds, a visible and invisible, and a communication between the two being wanted, a miracle is the instrument of that communication." [29:1]
This argument is based upon mere assumption. The supposition of the Divine design of a revelation, by which a miracle is said to become "part of the system of the universe" and, therefore, neither an "anomaly" nor "irregularity," is the result of a foregone conclusion in its favour, and is not suggested by antecedent probability. It is, in fact, derived solely from the contents of the revelation itself. Divines assume that a communication of this nature is in accordance with reason, and was necessary for the salvation of the human race, simply because they believe that it took place. No attempt is seriously made, independently, to prove the reality of the supposed "Divine design of a revelation." A revelation having, it is supposed, been made, that revelation is consequently supposed to have been contemplated, and to have necessitated and justified suspensions of the order of nature to effect it, The proposition for which the evidence of miracles is demanded is viciously employed as evidence for miracles.
The circumstances upon which the assumption of the necessity and reasonableness of a revelation is based, however, are incredible, and contrary to reason. We are asked to believe that God made man in his own image, pure and sinless, and intended him to continue so, but that scarcely had this, his noblest work, left the hands of the Creator than man was tempted into sin by Satan, an all-powerful and persistent enemy of God, whose existence and antagonism to a Being in whose eyes sin is abomination are not accounted for, and are incredible. [29:2] Adam's fall brought a curse upon the earth, and incurred the penalty of death for himself and for the whole of his posterity. The human race, although created perfect and without sin, thus disappointed the expectations of the Creator, and became daily more wicked, the Evil Spirit having succeeded in frustrating the designs of the Almighty, so that God repented that he had made man, and at length destroyed by a deluge all the inhabitants of the earth, with the exception of eight persons who feared him. This sweeping purification, however, was as futile as the original design, and the race of men soon became more wicked than ever. The final and only adequate remedy devised by God for the salvation of his creatures, become so desperately and hopelessly evil, was the incarnation of himself in the person of "the Son", the second person in a mysterious Trinity, of which the Godhead is said to be composed (who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, and born of the Virgin Mary), and his death upon the cross as a vicarious expiation of the sins of the world, without which supposed satisfaction of the justice of God his mercy could not possibly have been extended to the frail and sinful work of his own hands. The crucifixion of the incarnate God was the crowning guilt of a nation whom God himself had selected as his own peculiar people, and whom he had condescended to guide by constant direct revelations of his will, but who, from the first, had displayed the most persistent and remarkable proclivity to sin against him, and, in spite of the wonderful miracles wrought on their behalf, to forsake his service for the worship of other gods. We are asked to believe, therefore, in the frustration of the Divine design of creation, and in the fall of man into a state of wickedness hateful to God, requiring and justifying the Divine design of a revelation, and such a revelation as this, as a preliminary to the further proposition that, on the supposition of such a design, miracles would not be contrary to reason.
The whole theory of this abortive design of creation, with such impotent efforts to amend it, is emphatically contradicted by all that experience has taught us of the order of nature. It is difficult to say whether the details of the scheme or the circumstances which are supposed to have led to its adoption are more shocking to reason or to moral sense. The imperfection ascribed to the Divine work is scarcely more derogatory to the power and wisdom of a Creator than the supposed satisfaction of his justice in the death of himself incarnate, the innocent for the guilty, is degrading to the idea of his moral perfection. The supposed necessity for repeated interference to correct the imperfection of the original creation, the nature of the means employed, and the triumphant opposition of Satan are anthropomorphic conceptions totally incompatible with the idea of an infinitely wise and Almighty Being. The constitution of nature, so far from favouring any hypothesis of original perfection and subsequent deterioration, bears everywhere the record of systematic upward progression. Not only is the assumption that any revelation of the nature of ecclesiastical Christianity was necessary excluded upon philosophical grounds, but it is contradicted by the whole operation of natural laws, which contain in themselves inexorable penalties against retrogression, or even unprogressiveness, and furnish the only requisite stimulus to improvement. The survival only of the fittest is the stem decree of nature. The invariable action of. law of itself eliminates the unfit. Progress is necessary to existence; extinction is the doom. of retrogression. The highest effect contemplated by the supposed revelation is to bring man into perfect harmony with law; but this is ensured by law itself acting upon intelligence. Civilisation is nothing but the knowledge and observance of natural laws. The savage must learn these laws or be extinguished; the cultivated must observe them or die. The balance of moral and physical development cannot be deranged with impunity. In the spiritual as well as the physical sense, only the fittest eventually can survive in the struggle for existence. There is, in fact, an absolute upward impulse to the whole human race supplied by the invariable operation of the laws of nature, acting upon the common instinct of self-preservation. As, on the one hand, the highest human conception of infinite wisdom and power is derived from the universality and invariability of law; so that universality and invariability, on the other hand, exclude the idea of interruption or occasional suspension of law for any purpose whatever, and more especially for the correction of supposed original errors of design which cannot have existed, or for the attainment of objects already provided for in the order of nature.
An Incredible Assumption
Upon the first groundless assumption of a Divine design of such a revelation follows the hypothetical inference that, for the purpose of making the communication from the unseen world, a miracle or visible suspension of the order of nature is no irregularity, but part of the system of the universe. This, however, is a mere assertion, and no argument. An avowed assumption which is contrary to reason is followed by another which is contrary to experience. It is not permissible to speak of a visible suspension of the order of nature being part of the system of the universe. Such a statement has no meaning whatever within the range of human conception. Moreover, it must be remembered that miracles -- or "visible suspensions of the order of nature" -- ascribed indifferently to Divine and to Satanic agency. If miracles are not an anomaly or irregularity on the supposition of the Divine design of a revelation, upon what supposition do Satanic miracles cease to be irregularities? Is the order of nature, which it is asserted is under the personal control of God, at the same time at the mercy of the Devil?
Archbishop Trench has, as usual, a singular way of
overcoming the difficulty. He says: "So long as we abide in the
region of nature, miraculous and improbable, miraculous and
incredible, may be admitted as convertible terms. But once lift up
the whole discussion into a higher region, once acknowledge
something higher than nature, a kingdom of God, and men the
intended denizens of it, and the whole argument loses its strength
and the force of its conclusions … He who already counts it
likely that God will interfere for the higher welfare of men, who
believes that there is a nobler world-order than that in which we
live and move, and that it would be the blessing
of blessings for that nobler to intrude into and to make itself
felt in the region of this lower, who has found that here in this
world we are bound by heavy laws of nature, of sin, of death, which
no powers that we now possess can break, yet which must be broken
if we are truly to live -- he will not find it hard to believe the
great miracle, the coming of the Son of God in the flesh, &c
... And as he believes that greatest miracle, so will he believe
all other miracles, etc." [32:1] In other
words, if we already believe the premises we shall not find it
difficult to adopt the conclusions -- if we already believe the
greatest miracle we shall not hesitate to believe the less -- if we
already believe the dogmas we shall not find it hard to believe the
evidence by which they are supposed to be authenticated. As we
necessarily do abide in the region of nature, in which Dr. Trench
admits that miraculous and incredible are convertible terms, it
would seem rather difficult to lift the discussion into the higher
region here described without having already abandoned it