« PreviousContinue »
purpose can result only in tearing the narrative into fragments,—mutilating the record which must be studied and interpreted as it has been put into our hands. Moral law is as unchangeable as physical law, though the character and form of its sway differ from those of physical law, and it is easier for man wilfully to violate the higher law of life than to violate the lower. Yet so closely are the higher and lower connected in human history, that the easy violation of moral law is followed by painful consequences under the reign of physical law. It lay within the purpose of Jesus to deliver from both, and it is only in recognition of this combined or complex purpose that we discover the rational basis on which supernatural deliverance from disease becomes a natural vehicle for presenting to rational beings requisite evidence of divine intervention on their behalf as they are entangled in the disastrous consequences of violating unchangeable moral law. If on other grounds it be apparent that supernatural interference for restoration of health or life does not involve interference with physical law by which the government of the universe could be in any degree affected; on the grounds now contemplated we come to recognize a harmony of higher and lower orders of fixed law bearing on the history of the human race, and for this harmony of law our Saviour manifested a supreme concern.
With these brief statements before us, we are now prepared for turning in a different direction to ascertain what is the special view of miracle which has found currency within some scientific circles, carrying the explanation of intense antipathy to its acknowledgment, and unhesitating declaration that the whole body of scientific teaching, and even the characteristics of scientific method, are adverse to the very conception of miracle. For the purpose now in view it may be well to present in close connection the successive utterances of a single author, who may be taken as representative of a class. The work of Professor Schmidt on The Doctrine of Descent and Darwinism will supply illustrations of the kind to which reference has been made, as this author states at the outset that the doctrine of descent finds its antagonists among those "who perceive, more or less distinctly, the danger with which the new doctrine threatens their standpoint of miracle." * From this allusion it appears that he regards a doctrine of descent as opposed to what he describes as an "incomprehensible act of creation." f Accordingly he celebrates the praises of this theory in these terms,—"it interprets by a single principle those great phenomena which without its aid remain a mass of unintelligible miracles." % In harmony with these utterances he speaks of gradual evolution of the organs of special sense, such as the organs of hearing and smell, as giving a negative to "the sudden and incomprehensible origination of these organs in an immediate state of completion." §
These few extracts may suffice to indicate the mental attitude of those who show aversion to the acknowledgment of miracle. With Schmidt the "miraculous" is another name for the incomprehensible; to him the suggestion of miracle is disagreeable as implying the impossibility of scientific explanation. If these things be kept in mind, it will be clear how widely apart this notion is from the Christian conception of miracle. The one
♦ p.«. t P- 11. t P. 12- § p. 151.
view is that observational science can make no account of miracle: the other is that thought concerning a supernatural Being really involves the conception of miracle. Science can assign no place to the incomprehensible, can make no account of it. Religion finds a higher sphere of comprehensibility in the action of supernatural power. The two positions are radically distinct, and do not come into actual conflict. Hence religion has no opposition to the view of miracle just stated, which amounts to little more than a negative definition of science. To say that science can take no account of the miraculous, is only in other words to say that science is explanation of natural phenomena by recognition of the action of natural causes, consequently the miraculous does not come within the boundaries of science. This is self-evident, and on this footing theology has no account to make of what is only a semblance of opposition, involving no real conflict. Creation, for example, can not come within the compass of observational science; but creation may nevertheless be a rational conception in dealing with a purely rational problem, which does not at all belong to physical science. In the same manner it appears that the whole series of our Lord's miracles are outside the area of science, which, as it has nothing of authority to advance against them, has not even a basis on which to offer any testimony concerning their possibility.
One topic more requires to be briefly considered as constituting an essential of religious thought, namely the acknowledgment of divine interposition for the answer of Prayer. Our question is, How this conception of divine answer to prayer stands related to scientific thought concerning the government of the world by fixed law? If the laws of nature are fixed, how can the government of the world allow for fulfilment of human desire as expressed in supplication? The question to be discussed has two sides, the one concerned with the conditions on which an answer to prayer is expected; the other with the exact significance of the scientific conception of the government of the world by fixed law. If there be a rational basis for prayer as encouraged by the teaching of Scripture, there can be no such dilemma as would be implied in supposing that law is fixed yet not fixed, or that law is unchange