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nothing that is not miraculous. The existence of the merest atom, when we duly consider it, is an unspeakable miracle. The universe-all being-is miraculous. There is no presumption therefore against the truth of any fact upon this ground. The presumption would seem to be in the opposite direction, for all things are wonders, all are miracles.
But there is another idea that enters into the common understanding of a miracle, and hence arises the difficulty. Miracles are usually conceived of, and represented as, departures from the natural order of things,-interruptions, violations of the laws of Nature. They are so understood and designated by Dr. Channing in his Dudleian Lecture.
And so regarded, they are defended in the following
“We are never to forget,” says this eminent writer, “ that God's adherence to the order of the universe is not necessary and mechanical, but intelligent and voluntary. He adheres to it, not for its own sake, or because it has a sacredness which compels him to respect it, but simply because it is most suited to accomplish purposes in which he is engaged. It is a means, and not an end; and, like all other means, must give way when the end can best be promoted without it. It is the mark of a weak mind to make an idol of order and method,—to cling to established forms of business when they clog instead of advancing it. If, then, the great purposes of the universe can best be accomplished by departing from its established laws, these laws will undoubtedly be suspended; and, though broken in the letter, they will be observed in
their spirit, for the ends for which they were first instituted will be advanced by their violation. Now the question arises, for what purposes were nature and its order appointed; and there is no presumption in saying that the highest of these is the improvement of intelligent beings. Mind (by which we mean both moral and intellectual powers) is God's first end. The great purpose for which an order of nature is fixed, is plainly the formation of mind. In a creation without order, where events would follow without any regular succession, it is obvious that mind must be kept in perpetual infancy; for in such a universe, there could be no reasoning from effects to causes, no induction to establish general truths, no adaptation of means to ends; that is, no science relating to God, no matter, no mind; no action, no virtue. The great purpose of God, then, I repeat it, in establishing the order of nature, is to form and advance the mind; and if the case should occur in which the interests of the mind could best be advanced by departing from this order or by miraculous agency, then the great purpose of the creation, the great end of its laws and regularity, would demand such departure; and miracles, instead of warring against, would concur with, nature.
“ Now we Christians maintain that such a case has existed. We affirm that, when Jesus Christ came into the world, nature had failed to communicate instructions to men, in which, as intelligent beings, they had the deepest concern, and on which the full development of their highest faculties essentially depended; and we affirm, that there was no prospect of relief
from nature; so that an exigence had occurred in which additional communications, supernatural lights, might rationally be expected from the Father of spirits."
Nothing can be stated with more clearness and simplicity than the views here given. But I am bold to confess that, in my humble opinion, they savour too much of false analogies.
1. I cannot unhesitatingly assent to the sentiment, that order is beautiful, in the sight of God and man, only as a means to an end. If it have not a certain intrinsic worth, can it have any vitality as a means? And again, is not our perception of the orderly structure of the human frame, for instance, antecedent to any knowledge of the fitness of its organization for the purposes of life? When we contemplate the regularity of the natural world, can we help feeling that the Creator delights in order and beauty, and that when, as the account of the creation says, he pronounced all things good, it was not merely for the uses they would serve as means, but also for a certain intrinsic goodness ?
2. That the divine methods might clog the divine purposes, and require to be varied and changed,—that exigencies might occur in the divine works and ways,seem to me impossible and offensive suppositions. But much more offensive is it to hear it affirmed, in so many words, that nature has failed to accomplish aught.
3. I shrink, too, from the familiarity with the ways and purposes of the Infinite Mind implied in the foregoing statement. It may be admitted that there
is no presumption in regarding the improvement of moral and intelligent beings as the chief care of the Deity: but then, can we limit the existence of intelligent beings to this little corner of creation? Can we suppose that there are not multitudes of minds, of a higher order, and at every different degree of advancement, in other of the many mansions of the universe, and that the order of nature has reference to their education as well as to ours? At least, is it not presumptuous to decide that nature has failed, because within a period—which, though embracing some thousands of years, is still a limited period—a small portion of God's moral and intelligent family, a part of the race of man, has been wrapped in ignorance and error? By precisely the same mode of reasoning by which nature is affirmed to have failed, might we not maintain the insufficiency of the Christian revelation? Christianity has been in the world hundreds of years, and thousands have come and gone unblessed by a single ray of its light. We see plainly enough that it would be unfair to draw any inference from this fact unfavourable to the completeness of Christianity; for this dispensation, we perceive, is expansive and progressive, and is destined in the course of time to be spread over the whole world. In the meanwhile, those who live and die without enjoying its light are still, we believe, the subjects of a wise discipline and an infinite Providence, and in another state they may indirectly enjoy the benefits of Christianity, through the ministration of minds which Christianity has enlightened and sanctified. And why may we not suppose that it is exactly the same with the great order of nature? How can
we deny--I had almost said, how can we doubt-that the grand system of creation, even though it have exerted no direct influence upon the interests of mind in this our sphere, “ in a few computed centuries and measured square miles,” has been dispensing the most beneficent influences in other parts of the moral and intelligent household of Heaven,-influences destined to act, in one way or another, in the progress of time, upon this world, and of which, for aught we know, the Christian dispensation itself may be, in the infinite interchanges of the universe, the fruit and the embodiment? Is it explicitly affirmed that a case has occurred in which the order of nature has shown itself incapable of furnishing needed guidance? I am aware that a vast deal of erudition has been employed in support of this assertion. To establish it, the world before Christianity has been explored with immense labour. Still, I say, it is a mere matter of opinion. It has not been unquestionably proved that such is the fact. What if it were asserted, in direct contradiction to this opinion, that the order of nature had done wonders for the human mind before the appearance of Christianity; that it had prepared mankind for Christianity; that, considering its probable uses, ends, issues, in other, higher, and grander spheres and relations, it had at the same time had no slight influence in elevating the human race, and in disposing the human mind for the introduction of the Christian religion? I grant these are mere assertions; but, putting out of view all evidence of one kind or another, may we not contend that they are fully as agreeable to our best conceptions of God and his providence as