Miracle Defined

The Raising of Jairus' Daughter (engraving)
Matthew 9:18-26

According to the "Westminster Confession," "God, in ordinary providence making use of means, yet is free to work without, above, or against them at pleasure." In the first place, there are events therefore due to the ordinary operations of second causes, as upheld and guided by God. To this class belong the common processes of nature; the growth of plants and animals, the orderly movements of the heavenly bodies; and the more unusual occurrences, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and violent agitations and revolutions in human societies. In the second place, there are events due to the influences of the Holy Spirit upon the hearts of men, such as regeneration, sanctification, spiritual illumination, etc. Thirdly, there are events which belong to neither of these classes, and whose distinguishing characteristics are, First, that they take place in the external world, i.e., in the sphere of the observation of the senses; and Secondly, that they are produced or caused by the simple volition of God, without the intervention of any subordinate cause. To this class belongs the original act of creation, in which all coöperation of second causes was impossible. To the same class belong all events truly miraculous. A miracle, therefore, may be defined to be an event, in the external world, brought about by the immediate efficiency, or simple volition of God.

An examination of any of the great miracles recorded in Scripture will establish the correctness of this definition. The raising of Lazarus from the dead may be taken as an example. This was an event which occurred in the outward world; one which could be seen and verified by the testimony of the senses. It was not brought about either in whole or in part by the efficiency of natural causes. It was due to the simple word, or volition, or immediate agency of God. The same may be said of the restoration to life of the daughter of the ruler of the synagogue, on Christ's pronouncing the words, Talitha cumi; and of his healing the lepers by a word. So when Christ walked upon the sea, when He multiplied the loaves and fishes, when He calmed the winds and the waves by a command; any coöperation of physical causes is not only ignored, but, by clearest intimation, denied.

Hodge v 1 p 617-618

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