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Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 10.djvu/392

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MIRACLE


342


MIRACLE


the question of the miracle is simply a question o( fact.

IV. rL.\cE AND Value of Mikacles in the Ciiiiis- TiAN View of the World. — .-^s the great ohjeet ion to miracles really re.st« on narrow ami false philoso[)hical views of the universe, so the true world-view is neces- sary to grasp their place ami value. Christianity teaches th:it tiixl crcateil aiul governs the world. This govemiaeiit is His I'roviilence. It is shown in the delicate adjvistment and suliordination of the tenden- cies proper to material things, resulting in the marvel- lous stability and harmony which prevail throughout the physical creation, and in tlie moral order, which through conscience, is to guide and control the ten- ilencies of man's nature to a complete liarmony in human life. Man is a personal being, with intelligence and free-will, capable of knowing and serving God, and created for that purpose. To him nature is the book of (iotrs.work revealing the Creator through the design visiljle in the material order and through con- science, the voice of the moral order l>ased in the very constitution of his own being. Hence the relation of man to C!od is a personal one. God's Providence is not confinetl to the rex'elation of Himself through His works. He has manifested Himself in a supernatural manner throwing a flood of light on the relations which should exist between man and Himself. The Bible contains this revelation, and is called the Book of God's Word. It gives the record of Ciod's supernat- ural Providence leading up to the Redemption and the founding of the Christian Church. Here we are told that beyond the sphere of nature there is another realm of existence, the supernatural, peopled by spiritual beings and departed souls. Both spheres, the natural and the supernatural, are under the over- ruling Providence of God. Thus God and man are two great facts. The relation of the soul to its Maker is religion.

Religion is the knowledge, love, and ser\'ice of God; its expression is called worship, and the essence of worship is prayer. Thus between man and God there is constant intercourse, and in God's Providence the appointed means of this intercourse is prayer. By prayer man speaks to God in acts of faith, hope, love, and contrition, and implores His aid. In answer to prayer God acts on the soul by His grace and, in special circumstances, by working miracles. Hence the great fact of prayer, as the connecting link of man to God, implies a constant interference of God in the life of man. Therefore, in the Christian view of the world, miracles have a place and a meaning. They arise out of the personal relation between God and man. The conviction that the pure of heart are pleasing to God, in some myste- rious way, is world-wide; even among the heathens pure offerings only are prepared for the sacrifiee. This intimate sense of God's presence may account for the universal tendency to refer all striking phenomena to supernatural causes. Error and exaggeration do not change the nature of the belief founded in the abiding conviction of the Providence of God, To this belief St. Paul appealed in his discourse to the Athenians (.\cts, xvii). In the miracle, therefore, God sub- ordinates physical nature to a higher purpose, and this higher purpose is identical with the highest moral aims of existence. The mechanical view of the world is in harmony with the teleological, and when pur- pose exists, no event is isolated or unmeaning. Man is created for God, anil a miracle is the proof and pledge of His supernatural Providence. Hence we can imder- stanfl how, in devout minds, there is even a presump- tion for an<l an expectat ion of miracles. They .show the subordination of the lower world to the higher; they are the breaking in of the higher world on the lower ("C. Gent.", HI, xcviii, xcix; Benedict XIV, l,c;l, IV, p. l,c. I).

Some writers — e. g., Paley, Mansel, Mozley, Dr.


George Fisher push the Clirislian view to the ex- treme, and say that minicles are necessary to attest revelation. Catholic Ihcologians, however, lake a broader view. They hold (1) that the great primary ends of miracles are the manifestation of (iod's glory and the gooil of men ; that the particular or secondary ends, subordinate to the former, are to confirm the truth of a mi.ssion or a doctrine of faith or morals, to attest tlie sanctity of God's .servants, to confer bene- fits and vindicate Divine justice. (2) Hence they teach that the attestation of Revelation is not the primary end of the miracle, but its main secondary enil, though not the only one. (3) They say tiiat the miracles of ( 'hrist were not neces.sary but " most fitting and altogether in accord with His mission" (deceiiti.i- simum et mnximopere conveniens" — Bened. XIV, IV, p. 1, c. 2, n. 3; Summa, III, Q. xliii) as a means to at- test its truth. At the same time they place miracles among the strongest and most certain evidences of Divine revelation. (4) Yet they teach that, as evi- dences, miracles have not a physical force, i. e., absolutely compelling assent, but only a moral force, i. e., they do no violence to free will, though their appeal to the assent is of the strongest kind. (5) That, as evidences, they are not wrought to show the internal truth of the doctrines, but only to give mani- fest reasons why we should accept the doctrines. Hence the distinction: not evidcnter vera, but evidenter credihilia. For the Revelation, which miracles attest, contains supernatural doctrines above the compre- hension of the mind and positive institutions in (iod's supernatural Providence over men. Thus the opinion of Ijocke, Trench, Mill, Mozley, and Cox, that the doctrine proves the miracle, not the miracle the doc- trine, is not true. (6) Finally, they maintain that the miracles of Scripture and the power in the Church of working miracles are of Divine faith, not, however, the miracles of church history themselves. Hence they teach that the former are both evidences of faith and objects of faith; that the latter are evidences of the purpose for which they are w'rought, not, however, objects of Divine faith. Hence this teaching guards against the other exaggerated \-iew recently proposed by non-Catholic writers, who hold that miracles are now considered not as evidences, but as objects of faith.

V, Testi.mony. — \ miracle, like any natural event, is known either from personal oljservation or from the testimony of others. In the miracle we have the fact itself as an external occurrence and its miraculous character. The miraculous character of the fact consists in this: that its nature and the surrounding circumstances are of such a kind that we are forced to admit natural forces alone could not have produced it, and the only rational explanation is to be had in the interference of Divine agency. The perception of its miraculous character is a rational act of the mind, and is simply the application of the principle of causality with the methods of induction. The general rules governing the acceptance of testimony apply to miracles as to other facts of history. If we have cer- tain evidence for the fact, we are bound to accept it. The evidence for miracles, as for historical facts in general, depends on the knowledge and veracity of the narrators, i.e., they who testify to tiie occurrence of the events must know what they tell and tell the truth. The extraordinary nature of the miracle requires more complete and accurate investigation. Such testi- mony we are not free to reject: otherwise we must deny all history whatsoever. We have no more ra- tional warrant for rejecting miracles than for rejecting accounts of stellar eclipses. Hence, they who deny miracles have concentrateil their efforts with the pur- pose of destroying the historical evidence for all mir- acles whatsoever and especially the evidence for the miracles of the Gospel.

Himie held that no testimony could prove miracles.