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Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 10.djvu/395

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MIRACLE


345


MIRACLE


of His will. (1) The miracles of the Old Testament reveal the Providence of God over His chosen people. They are convincing proof tor the commission of Moses (Exod., iii, iv), manifest to the people that Jehovah is Sovereign Lord (Exod., x, 2; Deut., v, 25), and are represented as the "finger of God" and "the hand of God." God punishes Pharaoh for refusing to obey His commands given by Moses and attested by mira- cles, and is displeased with the infidelity of the Jews for whom He worked many miracles (Num., xiv). Miracles convinced the widow of Sarephta that Elias was "a man of God" (HI Kings, xvii, 24), made the people cry out in the dispute between Elias and the prophets of Baal, "the Lord he is God" (IH Kings, xviii, 39), caused Naaman to confess that " there is no other God in all the earth, but only in Israel" (IV Kings, V, 15), led Nabuchodonosor to issue a public decree in honour of God upon the escape of the Three Children from the fiery furnace (Dan., iii), and Darius to issue a like decree on the escape of Daniel (Dan., v). The ethical element is conspicuous in the miracles and is in consonance with the exalted ethical charac- ter of Jehovah, " a king of absolute justice, whose love for his people was conditioned by a law of absolute righteousness, as foreign to Semitic as to Aryan tradition", writes Dr. Robertson Smith ("Religion of the Semites", p. 74; cf. Kuenen, Hibbert Lect., p. 124). Hence the tendency among recent writers on the history of religion to postulate the direct inter- vention of God through revelation as the only ex- planation for the exalted conception of the Deity set forth by Moses and the prophets (R. Kettel, "Geschichte der Hebraer", 1889-92).

(2) The Old Testament reveals a high ethical con- ception of God who works miracles for high ethical purposes, and unfolds a dispensation of prophecy leading up to Christ. In fulfilment of this prophecy Christ works miracles. His answer to the messengers of John the Baptist was that they should go and tell John what they had seen (Luke, vii, 22; cf. Isa., xxxv, 5). Thus the'Fathers of the Church, in proving the truth of the Christian religion from the miracles of Christ, join them with prophecy (Origen, "C.Celsvmi", I, ii; Irenieus, Adv. ha>r. L, ii, 32; St. Augustine, "C.Faustum",XII). Jesus openly professed to work miracles. He appeals repeatedly to His "works" as most authentic and decisive proof of His Divine Son- ship (John, v, 18-36; x, 24-37) and of His mission (John, xiv, 12), and for this reason condemns the obstinacy of the Jews as inexcusable (John, xv, 22, 24) . He worked miracles to establish the Kingdom of God (Matt., xii; Luke, xi), gave to the Apostles (Matt., x, 8) and disciples (Luke, x, 9, 19) the power of working miracles, thereby instructing them to follow the same method, and promised that the gift of miracles should persist in the Church (Mark, xvi, 17) . At the sight of His marvellous works, the Jews (Matt., ix, S), Nico- demus (John, iii, 2), and the man bom blind (John, ix, 33) confess that theymust be ascribed to Divine power. Pfleiderer accepts the second Gospel as the authentic work of St. Mark, and this Gospel is a compact account of miracles wrought by Christ. Ewald and Weiss speak of the miracles of Christ as a daily task. Mir- acles are not accidental or external to the Christ of the Gospels; they are inseparably bound up with His supernatural doctrine and supernatural life — a life and doctrine which is the fulfilment of prophecy and the source of Christian civilization. Miracles form the very substance of the Go.spel narratives, so that, if removed, there would remain no recognizable plan of work and no intelligent portrait of the worker. We have the same evidence for miracles th8,t we have for Christ. Dr. Holtzmann says that the very traits whose astonishing combination in one person presents the highest kind of historical evidence for His exist- ence are indissolubly connected with miracles._ Un- less we accept miracles, we have no Gospel history.


.\dmit that Christ wrought many miracles, or confess that we do not know Him at all — in fact, that He never existed. The historical Christ of the Gospels stands before us remarkable in the charm of personality, ex- traordinary in the elevation of life and beauty of doctrine, strikingly consistent in tenor of life, exercis- ing Divine power in varied ways and at every turn. He rises supreme over, and apart from, His surround- ings and cannot be regarded as the fruit of individual invention or as the product of the age. The simplest, clearest, only explanation is that the testimony is true. They who deny have yet to offer an explanation strong enough to withstand the criticism of the sceptics themselves.

(3) The testimony of the Apostles to miracles is twofold: (a) They preached the miracles of Christ, especially the Resurrection. Thus St. Peter speaks of the " miracles, and wonders, and signs " which Jesus did as a fact well-known to the Jews (Acts, ii, 22), and as published through Galilee and Judea (Acts, x, 37). The Apostles profess themselves witnesses of the Resurrection (Acts, ii, 32), they say that the char- acteristic of an Apostle is that he be a witness of the Resurrection (Acts, i, 22), and upon the Resurrec- tion base their preaching in Jerusalem (Acts, iii, 15; iv, 10; V, 30; X, 40), at Antioch (Acts, xiii, 30 sqq.), at Athens (Acts, xvii, 31), at Corinth (I Cor., xv), at Rome (Rom., vi, 4), and in Thessalonica (I Thess., i, 10). (b) They worked miracles themselves, won- ders and signs in Jerusalem (Acts, ii, 43), cure the lame (Acts, iii, xiv), heal the sick, and drive out demons (Acts, viii, 7, 8), raise the dead (Acts, xx, 10 sqq.). St. Paul calls the attention of the Christians at Rome to his own miracles (Rom., xv, 18, 19), refers to the well-known miracles performed in Galatia (Gal., iii, 5), calls the Christians of Corinth to witness the miracles he worked among them as the signs of his apostleship (II Cor., xii, 12), and gives to the working of miracles a place in the economy of the Christian Faith (I Cor., xii). Thus the Apostles worked miracles in their missionary journeys in virtue of the power given them by Christ (Mark, iii, 15) and confirmed after His Resurrection (Mark, xvi, 17).

(4) Dr. Middleton holds that all miracles ceased with the Apostles. Mozley and Milman ascribe later miracles to pious myths, fraud, and forgery. Trench admits that few points present greater difficulty than the attempt to determme the exact period when the power of working miracles was withdrawn from the Church. This position is one of polemical bias against the Catholic Church, just as presmnptions of various kinds are behind all attacks on the miracles of script- ure. Now we are not obliged to accept every miracle alleged as such. The evidence of testimony is our warrant, and for miracles of church history we have testimony of the mo.st complete kind. If it should happen that, after careful investigation, a supposed miracle should turn out to be no miracle at all, a distinct service to truth would be rendered . Through- out the course of church history there are miracles so well authenticated that their truth cannot be denied. Thus St. Clement of liome and St. Ignatius of Antioch speak of the miracles wrought in their time. Origen says he has seen examples of demons expelled, many cures effected, and prophecies fulfilled ("('. Celsum", I, II, III, VII). Irenieus taunts the magic-workers of his day that " they cannot give sight to the blind nor hearing to the deaf, nor put to flight demons; and they are so far from raising the dead, as Our Lord did, and the Apostles, by prayer, and as is most frequently done among the brethren, that they even think ii impossible" (.^clv. ha>r., II). St. Athanasius writes the life of St. Anthony from what he himself saw and heard from one who had long been in atteniiance on the saint. St. Justin in his second apology to the Roman Senate appeals to miracles wrought in Rome and well attested. Tertullian