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§ 87. Relation of Miracles to the Course of Nature.

Omnipotence is always as directly operative in nature as it was at the creation; but we can only detect its workings by means of the law of cause and effect in the material world. Under this veil of natural laws, religious faith always discovers the Divine causality, and the religious mind, although it may, indeed, contemplate natural phenomena from different points of view, and may distinguish between free and necessary causalities in nature, will always trace them back to the immediate agency of Almighty love. Just so in miracles, we do not see the Divine agency immediately, but in a veil, as it were; the Divine causality does not appear in them as coefficient with natural causes, and therefore cannot be an object of external perception, but reveals itself only to Faith. But the miracle, by displaying phenomena out of the ordinary connexion of cause and effect, manifests the interference of a higher power, and points out a higher connexion, in which even the chain of phenomena in the visible world must be taken up.

Miracles, then, present themselves to us as links in that great chain of manifestations whose object is to restore man to his lost communion with God, and to impart to him a life, not derived from any created causality, but immediately from God. As here new and higher powers enter into the sphere of humanity, there must be novel effects re suiting from them, which cannot be explained apart from the accompanying revelation, but point out to the religious consciousness their 131self-revealing cause. Such effects are the miracles, which, from the considerations we have mentioned, lay claim, even as inexplicable phenomena simply, to a religious interest. And although, from their very nature, they transcend the ordinary law of cause and effect, they do not contradict it, inasmuch as nature has been so ordered by Divine wisdom as to admit higher and creative agencies into her sphere; and it is perfectly natural that such powers, once admitted, should produce effects beyond the scope of ordinary causes.199199   The Schoolmen of the 13th century rightly distinguished the potentia activa from the potentia passiva, in regard to the relation of the supernatural to the natural. In the Divine plan of the universe (of whose fulfilment the connexion of causes in the visible world manifests only one side), miracles stand in relations of reciprocal harmony to events occurring in accordance with natural laws. From the chain of causes involved in that great plan, indeed, no events, natural or supernatural, are excluded; both circles of phenomena belong to the realization of the Divine idea.


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