Conclusion

{388} 238. MUCH stress has been laid throughout this Essay on the differences existing between the Miracles recorded in Scripture, and those which are found in Ecclesiastical history; but from what has come before us in the course of it, it would seem that those differences are for the most part merely such as necessarily attend the introduction of a religion to the world compared with its subsequent course, the miraculous agency itself being for the most part the same throughout. For instance, the miracles of Scripture are wrought by persons conscious of their power and of their exercise of it; for these persons are the very heralds of Almighty God, whom He has commissioned, whom He has instructed, and whom He has gifted for their work. The Scripture miracles are wrought as evidence of revealed truth, because they are wrought before that truth had as yet been received. They are grave and simple in their circumstances, because they are wrought by persons who know their gift, and who, as being under immediate Divine direction, use it without alloy of human infirmity or personal peculiarity. They {389} are definite and certain, drawn out in an orderly form, and finished in their parts, because they are found in that authoritative Document which was intended by God’s Providence to be the pattern of His dealings and the rule of our thoughts and actions. They are undeniably of a supernatural character, not only because it is natural that the most cogent miracles should be wrought in the beginning of the Dispensation, but because the sacred writers have been guided to put into the foreground those works of power which are the clearest tokens of a Divine Presence, and to throw the rest into the distance. They have no marks of exaggeration about them, and are none of them false or suspicious, because Inspiration had dispersed the mists of popular error, and the colouring of individual feeling, and has enabled the writers to set down what took place, and nothing else. But when once Inspiration was withdrawn, whether as regards those who wrought or those who recorded, then a Power which henceforth was mysterious and inscrutable in operation, became doubly obscure in report; and fiction in the testimony was made to compensate for incompleteness in the manifestation.

239. In conclusion I will but observe what, indeed, is very obvious, but still may require a distinct acknowledgment; that the view here taken of the primitive miracles is applicable in defence of those of the medieval period also. If the occurrence of {390} miraculous interpositions depends upon the presence of the Catholic Church, and if that Church is to remain on earth until the end of the world, it follows, of course, that what will be vouchsafed to Christians at all times, was vouchsafed to them in the middle ages inclusively. Whether this or that alleged miracle be in fact what it professes to be, must be determined, as in the instances already taken, by the particular case; but it stands to reason, that, where the views and representations drawn out in the foregoing pages are admitted, no prejudice will attend the medieval miracles at first hearing, though no distinct opinion can be formed about them before examination.

240. On the other hand, I am quite prepared to find those views themselves condemned by many readers as subtle and sophistical. This is ever the language men use concerning the arguments of others, when they dissent from their first principles,—which take them by surprise, and which they have not mastered.

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Newman Reader — Works of John Henry Newman
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