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Lecture 9. Miracle: What is a Miracle?

The idea of miracle and its connection with theistic faith.

THE idea of miracle, however vaguely it may he conceived, is particularly associated with the manifestation of God to man, and also with tile enigma of moral evil. A revelation of God incarnate in tale ideal man Christ Jesus is regarded as a miraculous entrance of God into a man, for reconciling with God persons who have made themselves bad, but who might be induced to become good in response to this miraculous revelation of divine goodness or mercy, and appeal to their languid theistic faith. It is in proof of this appeal being really divine revelation that physical miracles are reported to have occurred; and Christianity is the one religion which has its claim on theistic faith vindicated in this particular way. Physical wonders are more or less associated traditionally with other religions; but the one that has a series of physical miracles, in justification of its authority, associated with it, and that is regarded as in itself a miracle, is the Christian, including its early development in Judaism. The Jews craved miracles; the Greeks preferred speculation, and were repelled by a religion that was represented as a miracle, and that seemed to ask men to see God signally in what was miraculous.

Questions suggested by the supposition of miracle.

Now what is meant by a miracle? If it is conceived either as an external event or as a spiritual experience which cannot be explained by power latent in outward nature or in human nature, and which must therefore be referred extra-naturally to God, this raises a question about the sort of events and of inward experiences that can, and the sort that cannot, be scientifically explained by natural causes—explained, that is to say, according to discoverable laws of the natural evolution, and in the way of development by education of the divinely constituted spirit that is latent in man? Is man able to determine between what is and what is not done by God according to natural law? Is he fit to determine what tile, innate potentialities of his own divinely constituted mind may be, or what the limits of their outcome, in the form of an increased enlightenment of the moral or filial faith in the final principle of the universe, which I have regarded as tacitly presupposed in all man's dealings with experience? Then what is to be thought about the relation in reason of miraculous outward events, and of miraculous mental experiences that are supposed to be humanly inexplicable, to the naturally progressive evolution which scientific man somehow assumes to be within the horizon of his intellectual vision? Is a miracle an event that can assimilate with the physically progressive evolution in outward nature, or with the original “inspiration” which “gives understanding,” in the form of Common Reason? Can it, be involved in either, or is it in antagonism to both? Is a miracle something that Universities, Royal Societies, and persons who devote themselves to scientific interpretation of nature, have in a pre-eminent degree to do with; or is it something so outside physical nature, and even outside the moral or supernatural in human agency, that it must be kept apart, as foreign to reason, or something on which reason must not exercise itself? Is miraculous revelation to be received and assimilated through some mystical process of dependence on authority presupposed to be infallible; or may it be tested, in the ordinary critical way, by those accustomed to weigh evidence? Again, is a miracle absolutely such, or only relatively to human intelligence? What is the criterion of miraculous, as distinguished from non-miraculous, outward events; or of miraculous as distinguished from non-miraculous spiritual experiences? Individual men, and successive generations, differ widely in their ideas of what is and is not naturally possible. An event which in the opinion of one man, or one age, is considered miraculously divine, is afterwards discovered to be a divinely natural issue, evolved according to physical law. What was regarded as a miracle by an ignorant man is found by a scientific expert not to be a miracle;—at least if that only is miraculous which is wholly abnormal,—not referable to physical causation, nor to the education of the incarnate spiritual Reason in the persons supposed to be miraculously inspired. In the progress of science, may not all supposed miraculously divine events of the past be reduced to intelligible places in the cosmical order? if they can be so explained they do not cease in consequence to be divinely caused. Would the discovery of the natural cause of a miracle,—the discovery, for instance, that the introduction of life into an organism, or the restoration of the dead to life, is after all under comical law—would this divorce the supposed miracle from God? If all that is called miraculous can be thus wholly assimilated by the natural system, must theistic faith disappear, in all persons who accept the discovery? Can a miracle, if thus relative to the degree of intelligence in the individual spectator, mean anything really abnormal, at the divine point of view? Or are we to suppose two distinct sorts of divine power—the one exerted cosmically, conditioned by what arc called natural causes; the other exerted supernaturally, unconditioned by any natural cause;—and must we suppose that the second of these is a more difficult divine exertion than the other? If so, what is the ground in reason for this supposition or inference?

Is “miraculous” religion really natural?

These questions about miracle, apt to arise at this point in our course of thought, bring memorable reports of miracles into prominence, and the abstract idea of miraculousness seems to demand fuller consideration. We have to look at their relation to the whole philosophical rationale of theistic faith in the revelation of God that is presented universally, and which we have already found latent in all our experience. Is faith in so-called miraculous revelation of God different in kind from this theistic trust and hope, or only this further unfolded, and so more intelligible?

Can either philosophy or natural science be concerned with miracles?

It may seem at first that a miracle hears on its face that it is something wholly foreign to “natural” theology, even in the widest meaning of “nature.” To refer miracle at all may be regarded as out of place, in a philosophical inquiry into the reasonableness of moral faith and filial hope in the final meaning of the universe; out of place, too, in any scientific inquiry into the natural causes according to which events are concatenated, and by their recognised relations in which concatenation changing things become scientifically intelligible. For what is called a “miracle” is commonly supposed to be all event that has emerged in the history of tine planet without a natural cause, perhaps as a consequence of arbitrary magical will on the part of the miracle-worker: the miraculous visible consequence is moreover supposed to afford some sort of guarantee for reposing faith in the divine infallibility of the persons who appear as miracle-workers: their acts or words, so far as these are associated with the wonderful event, are supposed to become invested with divine infallibility. It might be argued that if a claim to miraculous inspiration, which has been verified, for example, by fulfilment of the claimant's prediction of his own resurrection after his death, could turn out after all to be undivine, then this permitted coincidence in the temporal sequence of those events would imply that the Power that finally determines all outward events was morally untrustworthy—because in this instance, and therefore possibly in others, participating in a fraud. But no mere physical miracle can thus destroy theistic, and therefore cosmic, faith: no physical miracle can contradict the active moral Reason that a reliable experience presupposes at the divine centre, or verify an immoral revelation as divine. And the widely received report of the resurrection of Jesus has been followed by scientifically incalculable momentous consequences in the history of mankind,—above all other reported resurrections of men. If it now touches human imagination more languidly, through the lapse of time, it has already awakened the most efficacious religious faith experienced by man, evoking in Christendom the latent hope of eternal life.

The physical marvels of natural science, and the physical miracles of religion.

Again. Whether or not events of this kind have long ago occurred on our planet may seem to be to us now only isolated matter of past history, and of this sort too even if those “wonders,” which are regarded as signal signs of God, are still of possible occurrence. For their very definition isolates them from natural science: if they are events that have no natural causes, physical science, which is the issue of the search for natural causes, can have nothing to say to phenomena for which it is assumed there is no place in the cosmical system. Scientific inquiry indeed is bringing into light innumerable natural causes hitherto unknown, and in its light men are enabled to adapt to human convenience in unexpected ways the cosmic web in which we all find ourselves involved. Discoveries, and applied discoveries, of causal connections among phenomena are called “miracles of science,” butt they are miraculous only because they surprise men—not because they are events divorced in their origin from all natural causes, although they are believed to occur within the cosmical system.

Physical miracles, as isolated, are said to be out of place in the philosophical rationale of theistic faith.

Thus excluded from natural science, physical miracles may also seem—if they do occasionally occur—to be not less remote from metaphysical philosophy than from scientific physics. In philosophy what is sought for and satisfies must involve something fixed, permanent eternal absolute final—whether found at last in the form of perfect comprehension, out of which all mystery is eliminated, or of final faith, in which we are moved to unconditional trust, notwithstanding; its necessary remainder of incomplete knowledge, which men call “mystery.” But philosophy turns away from what is only transitory, what belongs only to particular times and places, what has happened only in a certain year, and locally only on some part of the globe,—especially something reported as long past, and so less and less connected with the present as the years roll on, leaving past “miraculous” events at an ever increasing distance. The wonderful phenomena reported as having made their appearance in the ancient world, which form the stock of what are regarded as physical miracles, possess this character. If they are neither outward events that are persistently, because naturally, bound up with the cosmical system, nor experiences of the spirit in man that are necessarily involved in the active Reason that is immanent at once in man and in the universe, they seem unfit for recognition in philosophy, and to be unconnected philosophically with the moral and filial faith which I have put before you, as the reasonable attitude of maim towards the changing universe.

Must not all past miracles, in the course of time, disappear from view, and become gradually prehistoric myths?

As past events that are only occasional, and that are, supposed to be absolutely isolated so far as natural causation is concerned, our information about miracles may seem to be necessarily only external and empirical, dependent on a human testimony that is gradually becoming inaudible, and which in course of time must prove a weakening tie, if indeed it does not altogether disappear after time lapse of ages. David Hume argued that miracles must be impossible to prove, so far as evidence of their occurrence depends on history and tradition, inasmuch as faith in human testimony can never be so credible as the cosmic faith that every event must have a natural cause: human experience of the uniformity of the physical evolution is more credible than any historic record of its non-uniformity can possibly be: witnesses are found to be fallible, but the course of nature is not found to be fallible; and even if an infallible witness could be produced, when he was pitted against the infallible natural order, the contradiction between the two infallibles, it was argued, could only produce that sceptical paralysis of all faith, alike in nature and in supernature, into which the thinker, baffled by the absolutely contradictory, inevitably subsides. But leaving out of account this ingenious philosophical puzzle of David Hume, which exercised theological reasoners in a past generation; and granting that, within narrow limits of time, the occurrence of an event that had no natural cause may be made credible through history and tradition,—can it remain credible after the lapse of ages has left the reported miracle at an almost invisible distance. Just now, the records of mankind may make credible events that happened a few hundred, or even a few thousand years ago. But what can be their credibility after man has existed on the planet for hundreds of thousands of years? How must miracles look that are reported to have occurred a million of years before? Can events so inconceivably remote be still available for strengthening and enlightening theistic faith and hope; and can there then be any security for a faith and hope that is supposed to depend wholly upon an event attested by this unimaginably prolonged tradition, instead of upon the cosmical system, the eternal necessities of reason, or the development of the divine spirit latent in man?

Even if an event which is claimed as a miracle should appear, could the spectator have infallible certainty that it does not admit of being caused naturally, according to some undiscovered physical law?

The critical temper of the time might suggest other obstacles to the philosophical recognition of events supposed to enter into the continuous physical evolution miraculously, or unconditioned by any physical cause, Not only is history a precarious vehicle for the conveyance of information about events, and increasingly so through thousands and millions of years, but even our live senses are found to deceive us with regard to present events: at least men often mistake their own fallible interpretations of what they see for something seen. The ignorant seek for wonders; and, not responding to the divine inspiration of “the prophets,” imagine that they would be persuaded if they saw a man miraculously rise from the dead. Miracles are commonly found in the early histories of religions. But did the reporters really see what they supposed they saw? Prejudice in a human mind is apt to induce interpretations of presented phenomena that are in harmony with some sentiment that is dominant in the spectator: subjective visual perceptions produced by the dominant idea are readily mistaken for objective realities. The historic record of miracles is in this way apt to be poisoned at its source. Events that do not really occur are supposed to be perceived: the fancied perception is only a misinterpretation of what actually happened. Or if the event which is assumed to be miraculous did actually happen, is there sufficient ground in reason for the assumption that it must have been an event divorced from every natural cause? Is not this a presumptuous assumption, on the part of human beings who have discovered a small number only of the innumerable natural causes that are gradually disclosing themselves, in the course of what is perhaps unbeginning and unending natural sequence? Perhaps the supposed miracle may turn out, after further experimental inquiry, to be only one of the marvels of science, with its natural cause detected. Man, in his victorious struggle with nature, may even discover the paeans by which the “wonder” may be converted into a sign of his own mechanical, or chemical, or biological skill, when he is able to repeat the “miracle” as an experiment under his own hand. For what limits can be set to the progress of science in the discovery of natural causes? Already facts confirm this anticipation. What in early times were supposed miracles of healing are now produced by means familial to the scientific physician. The natural results of the telegraph and the telephone are miracles when tried by the standard of the physical knowledge of a former age. Are we justified then in taking for granted that the visible restoration of life after its dissolution in physical death is an event absolutely beyond the ordinary laws of natural causes in the universe; or even that men may not become able to employ natural causes so as to introduce conscious life where there was none before, or to restore it after it had ceased?

The supposed absurdity of any event being destitute of a natural cause.

I have suggested some considerations which may make men who have been educated in modern ideas of historical criticism, and of the physical interpretation of nature by experiment, disposed dogmatically to assume the absurdity of all past and present miracle, as if this were an axiom of reason; and to treat all reports and observations of events said to be destitute of natural causes, as concerned with something foreign to philosophy and science, and unworthy of attention according to common-sense. That whatever can be reported with truth as having happened must be capable of some sort of physical explanation is the implied postulate. Does life actually appear where there was none before? This appearance, it would be dogmatically taken for granted, must be an illusion, unworthy of investigation; or, if it cannot be thus overlooked, let it be referred for its natural explanation to experts of the Royal Society; or let the report of its occurrence be tested by legal experts accustomed to test documentary evidence. That it is absolutely inexplicable physically is the one hypothesis which would be dismissed without being tested: though of course many events that are physically explicable are allowed to be, as yet if not always, inexplicable by man, it is taken for granted that they might all be referred to their respective natural causes, in a true and full interpretation of nature—if not by men, yet by beings of larger intelligence and more varied experience than man.

But is not nature, as orderly, itself essentially miraculous.

The prevailing disposition to see miracles only in this light recalls the theistic interpretation of causation already explained. What is meant by “nature” and what by the natural causation which a physical miracle is supposed necessarily to supersede? If nature means only what is coextensive with the finally mysterious sphere of wholly impotent physical causes, and if all physical events must be supernaturally caused—moral causation by persons being the only sort of power of which man has rational assurance—if this be so, then the evolving universe itself is throughout a constant miracle: we are all living, and moving, and having our being in a possibly unbeginning and unending order of cosmical changes that is absolutely and finally trusted in, as alone the really miraculous manifestation of the ever-active moral Reason that is perfect. Is there any way of finally conceiving the universe of natural change that is so reasonable, and so satisfying to man as he ought to be, as this is? It carries all natural causation, or physical interpretability of nature, back to the eternal moral or spiritual Agent, the eternally active moral Power; all other known causes in existence—except individual persons, who can make themselves bad—being only metaphorically causes, really the passive subjects of special methods of evolutional metamorphosis? Can any particular physical miracle be so miraculous, one is ready to say, as the miracle of the natural universe that is continually present to our senses? It loses its sense of novelty, and ceases to inspire consciousness of its miraculousness, only on account of its commonness, and because of the unreflecting prejudice that the discovery of the physical cause of an event is the discovery that God is not the agent in its visible outcome;—so that each newly discovered physical cause seems to put God further away from the world. A metaphorical “power” within the natural cause is in this way made to narrow the sphere of divine operation, so that, in the event of a universal victory of natural science, divine power would be superseded, and the universe regarded at last under a wholly natural or non-theistic conception, with our conception of the finally mysterious physical past and future emptied of all moral or filial trust.

And is not the universal miracle, involved in all natural causation, more marvelous than any special physical miracle could be?

But the physical universe may be called a constant miracle, producing uniform change, under a physical order and adaptations which are the persistent expression of active moral Reason. Man at least can recognise no other originative power than moral or spiritual power. And as an illustration of omnipotent goodness, is not active moral Reason, it may be asked, more impressively manifested in the universal physical evolution, on which theistic faith and hope puts the moral interpretation, than in any imaginable occasional instances of special events, which are referred to the immediate agency of the same Divine Reason, in some inexplicably abnormal exercise of power? Is not the gradual evolution of the solar system a greater miracle, if one may speak of degrees of the miraculous, than the reported arrest of the sun in the sight of Israel upon Gibeon, or of the moon in the valley of Ajalon? Does not the gradual evolution of living organisms (man included) which the planets within the solar system now contain, seem a miracle of greater power than the return to human life, on one of those planets, of an organism that was dead?

Can Physical miracles, be really more divine than all ordinary events under natural causation are?

In theistic faith and hope, the physically conditioned universe called outward nature throughout presupposes pervading moral power, or morally responsible personality, as the ground ill reason for trust in the regularity of its evolutions, and even for trust in our individual self-consciousness. In other words, it presupposes a constant miracle—if miraculous power means power that is morally free from physical nature, and that does not itself admit of a natural antecedent as the condition of its exercise. This Power is accordingly the divine object of an absolute trust which excludes the universal agnosticism that makes all interpretation of nature baseless, with its mixture of despair. That theistic faith must be weak which fails to see the immediate action of God in all change that occurs under the conditions of natural uniformity or physical law; or which looks for direct divine action only in “interferences” with physical law, or in the occurrence of events that are not naturally caused. Whence then the supposition that divine power must be more at the root of “special creation” and “miracle” than at the root of ordinary moral providence; more really present in particular providences than in the universal providence which comprehends all particulars; or that there is absolutely something more divine in preserving the three men in the furnace than there is in fire when three naturally burning, or in rain when it is naturally falling;—in the incarnation of God in the perfect Man than in the incarnation of God in universal Nature?

But even if they are not more divine, it does not follow that the moral Power at the heart of all physical order must be manifested always under the conditions of physical causation.

But a further question rises here. Must all events that happen be naturally conditioned? Do events in all cases need to have physical causes? Is the original and constant miracle of the universe in its natural uniformities the only possible miracle? Is it the only miracle that is consistent with a theistic faith and hope that is consistent with a theistic faith and hope that is perfectly reasonable? Whether the original and constant miracle, by which the world is kept in its providential natural order, when measured only by the physical effect, is or is not a greater miracle than the arrest of the sun or moon in their apparent courses, or than the resurrection to bodily life of a person who was dead—still may there not be room, under a more comprehensive purpose than that which is expressed in merely physical causation, for an occasional occurrence of events that are not the outcome of the divine action as conducted under condition of visible causes, but in which the divine power is unconditionally, or extra-naturally, operative? The divine maintenance of the whole visibly conditioned evolution may be imagined a greater miracle than any one of the alleged extra-natural or miraculous manifestations. Notwithstanding, in a universe charged throughout with relations of means and ends, or in which every event is not only connected under natural law with every other, but in which every event is a means to what man may regard as a “designed” end, and in which, at least when looked at from the human point of view, the Whole seems to be supremely related to the moral good of persons, including persons who have made themselves bad—in reasoning about a universe so constituted, must we assume, or are we at liberty, with our weak intelligence and narrow experience, to assume, as an axiom, that the physically conditioned activity of the Supreme Power or Divine Spirit is the only sort of Divine activity that is reasonable? May there not be reasonable purpose in what is technically called “miraculous” divine activity,—an activity that is either absolutely independent of physical conditions, or at least that must appear to man, with his limited knowledge of natural causes, to be independent of such conditions?

No a priori proof of the absolute impossibility of physical miracles is possible, under the limits of man's knowledge of the Power continually at work in Nature.

Probably man's experience and teleological conception of the Power finally at work in the universe is of not adequate to determine whether physical events ever make their appearance thus independently of physical laws, through the physically unconditioned agency of the moral Power assumed in theistic faith to be constantly operative in nature according to physical methods. If this be so, it seems to follow that the abstract impossibility of an occasional miraculous suspension of the physically conditioned form of divine activity cannot be proved, and that any alleged instance of what looks like miracle is open to the tests of experience. It is true that if miraculous events must be destitute of physical causes, their miraculousness cannot be tested by those inductive methods which lead up to the discovery of physical causes: for in that case there is no physical cause of a miracle to be discovered. But, what obliges us to assume that even perfect knowledge of all the physical causes in existence, and of all the physical aspects or relations of events, must contain the only possible, or the highest, revelation of the Universal Power? May a physical miracle not be an event in nature that finds its rational significance in its moral relation to the persons in the universe, rather than in its physical relation to the things in the universe? Especially if experience presents a world of human persons, existing in the strange state of bringing into existence what ought not to exist, and what there is no a priori necessity for the existence of, may not experience, in connection with this, present extra-natural or miraculous events, evolving themselves in really rational correlation with the abnormal activities of persons who have made themselves bad? Is it intellectually necessary to suppose that moral reason makes the omnipotent Will less free from the pressure of physical causation than men are, when they produce acts of will for which they are morally responsible? May the infinite moral Power that is presupposed in theistic faith and hope, not rise above the physically conditioned form of divine activity as well as man does, who is found to do so, in a measure, in all acts for which the man is morally responsible? Is the supreme Power more obliged in reason to act only in ways that must admit of being expressed in terms of natural causes,—than men themselves are? Moral and immoral acts of men are in manner human miracles: the moral agency of man is incompletely interpretable physically. May there not be agency occasionally manifested in nature, for a moral purpose, that is in like manner uninterpretable in physical terms?

Spinoza's argument for the absolute impossibility of miracles takes for granted that they must be due to caprice, and so manifestations of unreason.

Spinoza's argument for the absolute impossibility of physical miracles may be taken as expressing in a philosophical way the common scientific difficulty. The infinite system of God or Nature, it is by implication argued, if it is divine, must be perfect. Its occasional miraculous modification would imply its imperfection; for what is in perfect harmony with reason already does not admit of being mended, as it were by an after-thought. Miraculous suspension of the perfect reason, perfectly expressed in whatever is by nature, must mean irrationality in natural law thus dispensed with: it implies inconstancy or caprice, not the absolute perfection in which there can be no room for second or amended thoughts. What is already perfect does not leave a place for repair by occasional miracle. For God to act in nature extranaturally is for God to put a slur upon nature and natural causation; and as Nature is really divine, occasional miraculous action would be God or Nature becoming imperfect or irrational. On Spinoza's premisses, it would involve a contradiction or discredit of Nature; and no doubt discredit of the reason that is in nature leads to universal scepticism. In other words, to interpose occasional physical miracles in the physical system would be to make it other than the perfectly rational system which natural science presupposes that it must be. And so we are asked, on these premisses, to conclude that the miraculous entrance into existence of any visible event, or of any invisible inspired experience, of which no natural account can be given, is absolutely impossible, and not merely a physically uninterpretable fact.

Does not this argument proceed upon too narrow a conception of what is ultimately reasonable, in a universe that consists of persons as well as things?

This might perhaps be a sufficient argument, if the universe were a wholly natural or non-moral universe—if it consisted of non-moral things only, and not also, and this too in its highest known aspect, of good and bad persons. Then the only sort of science possible would be found in the sciences commonly called “natural,” which search for the caused causes, or natural signs, of events. It might be an argument, if men at their highest, according to the true ideal of man, were only conscious automata, who could have no more than a physically scientific interest in themselves or in anything else—if this were a world in the experience of which man could have no final moral trust, and in which he could not be responsible for what he was or did, because he could not, in any degree, make or unmake his own character. But is this the sort of universe in which man actually finds himself? Is this not a world in which men, can and do act immorally, and in which, accordingly, without unreason, omnipotent goodness may be revealed in a larger reason than that measured in terms of the causal connections visible in nature, yet not inconsistent with this natural evolution? The existence of individual persons,—moral forces—may make reasonable an unfolding of divine Purpose larger than that which appears in physical causation measured by sensuous intelligence. It seems not inconsistent with reason that physical order and method of procedure should not be the only, or the highest, form which omnipotence reveals, and that, in the final rationale of the universe, the customary order of events should have a subordinate place, in an incompletely understood yet intellectually possible harmony.

The kingdoms of Nature and of Grace, or of Things and Persons.

At any rate miraculous events cannot be irregular events, if “irregular” means irrational. So far as it is really divine revelation, miracle must be the manifestation of what is reasonable, in the highest meaning of intellectual and moral reason. But it does not follow that all that happens must be finally referable to the physical system of natural causes; or that this system is itself not subordinate to, yet capable ofharmonious assimilation with, the perfect divine ideal. There may be no physically natural law of miracles, and yet there may be divine reason for and in miracles; whether that rational order is or is not fully discoverable by man, either in science or in philosophical theology. “I hold,” says Leibniz, “that when God works miracles He does it not in order to supply the wants of nature, but those of grace; and whoever thinks otherwise must have a very mean notion of the wisdom and power of God.” Miracles are in that case divine or rational acts, proper to a universe that includes persons under moral relations; while they would be out of place in a universe of things wholly under physical or mechanical relations.

Their harmonious relations possible.

If God is miraculously as well as naturally revealable, and if the natural is finally involved in, or continuous with, the supernatural revelation—so that, at the supreme point of view, perfect intelligence might pass in rational order from the lower or less comprehensive to the higher or more fully rational—from the realm of Nature to the realm of Grace, as Leibniz puts it—then the superficial antithesis of nature and supernatural would disappear. And under the limitation of human intelligence, the moral response which a deeper and more comprehensive, so-called miraculous, revelation receives from the spiritual constitution of man might be a sufficient reason for assimilating it too, in a thus deepened theistic faith;—provided that this assimilation is not hindered by its demonstrable inconsistency with perfect reasonableness. All the more if it can be shown that the fuller revelation evokes a fuller and more intelligible outcome of theistic faith, and is therefore more obviously reasonable than the attenuated revelation of God presented in the customary natural order.

That Christianity should be found to be natural, would not make it undivine.

But if, in the progressive development of the human mind, man's conceptions of what is natural could become so enlarged as that the whole Christian revelation of God should be seen to be a development of the ordinary course of nature—theistic faith, the most deeply Christian, would then be discovered to be the most natural religion of all, but surely would not on that account be undivine. It would rather be seen as the culmination of the normal self-manifestation of God to men, instead of being mysterious and abnormal, and needing to be sustained in theistic faith by something more in man than his sensuous power of interpreting the universe. In the deeper and wider meaning of “natural,” all revelation of God must be in rational harmony with what is absolutely or finally natural;—otherwise it could not be thought or reasoned about at all. For thought or reasoning, so far as applicable, implies rational connection in whatever is thought or reasoned about—if not under physical laws of dependent physical causes, yet under teleological relations of means and end, or of yet higher categories in the intellectual system of the universe. The legitimate idea of a miracle is found in its teleological reason.

A co-ordinate deepening at one of the ideas of the universal natural order, and of the ultimate and essential miraculousness of the Universe.

Ordered progress and miracle—as in last lecture and in this—are these conflicting ideas? Their conflict is said to explain the sceptical sadness regarding the final question for man which has diffused itself in this nineteenth century in Europe and over the civilised world. But may not an honestly agnostic spirit illustrate in tills instance how critical negation is really a factor in the progressive movement towards larger and deeper affirmative faith? For is not the nineteenth century, in consequence of this negative criticism, closing with a profounder sense than the world has before reached, at once of the universality of physical law, and of the miraculousness of the root of all law in nature? May we not begin to see that the final presupposition of perfect moral Power at the centre of things and persons is not subversion of physical order, but rather its construction on a deeper foundation? Visible nature then appears no longer on the hollow final foundation of a supposed wholly physical uniformity. Beneath this otherwise uncertain, ground in things, it is further interpretable as the constant revelation of perfect moral reason—providential procedure having for its chief end the intellectual and spiritual education of persons, according to an order that is in the last conception of it moral or divine—the temporal process being the school of God, for the education and trial of the spirit in man.