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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

Of Miracles

By John Davenport (1597–1670)

[Born in Coventry, England, 1597. Died in Boston, Mass., 1670. The Knowledge of Christ. 1653.]

THAT the Signs and Wonders wrought by Jesus Christ were true miracles will appear if we consider the nature of a true miracle. A miracle is an operation above and beyond the constituted order of Nature. I say, “of constituted order of Nature,” to distinguish it from Creation; I say, “beyond and above” that order, to distinguish mirabilia from miracula. For there are certain secret virtues or powers of Nature unknown to human reason, whence arise works which we are apt to judge to be miracles, when they are not. Some of these seeming miracles deceive only the simple, not those that are learned and skilful in the natures of things. Others may deceive all men, and may be done by the Devil, who hath a further insight into the natures of things than any man hath. Yet they are not miracles; they amount not unto the making of something out of nothing, which is the proper work of the Divine power.

Again, I say beyond, not contrary to the constituted order of Nature, as to make a thing both to be and not to be at the same instant and in the same respect; which is simply impossible. A miracle properly so called is above the constituted order, either in respect of the work done, or of the manner of doing.

1. In respect of the work done: As when the Dead is raised, the Soul neither having an active power to unite itself to the body, nor the Carkasse (especially being resolved into its principles) a passive power of receiving the Soul; so when the blind are made to see, wanting either visive spirits or an optic nerve to transmit the spirits to the eyes; in these something is made of nothing, and so the work itself is a miracle.

2. In respect of the manner of doing: As when diseases, which might be cured in time by Art, and by degrees, are cured without the help of second causes perfectly in an instant, without pain or alteration in the body, save that which appears in the event. Here again something is made of nothing. To apply these rules to the Wonders wrought by Christ: the four Evangelists record at least forty-five miracles wrought by Christ in the three years and a half of his Ministry, besides those at his Death, when the veil of the Temple rent, the earth quaked, the rocks rent, the graves opened, and many bodies of the Saints which slept, arose and came out of the graves, and went into the holy City and appeared unto many. From observation of some of these, the Centurion and they that were with him watching Jesus, feared greatly and said: “Truly this was the Son of God.” And after his Resurrection he wrought another miracle at the sea of Tiberias, which caused John to say unto Peter: “It is the Lord.” In all which Miracles of Christ something was made of nothing, either in the thing done, or in the manner of doing….

The ends for which Christ wrought miracles is the next thing to be considered. The general end was, to manifest his glory. The particular ends were:

1. To declare his Godhead and to prove himself to be the Son of God. His miracles clearly showed that all creatures were in his power. For he wrought them almost upon all kinds of creatures: upon Angels, in casting out Devils; upon men, in their eyes, ears, tongues, hands, feet, whole bodies, yea, in their wills and affections; as making the owner of the ass willing to let it go upon the demand of strangers; upon beasts, in the herds of swine; upon fishes, in bringing them into the Apostles’ nets in great abundance; upon the sun, in the supernatural eclipse; upon the air, in stilling the wind; upon the waters, in calming the sea; on the earth, in its quaking; on the stones, in their rending; on trees, in withering the fig-tree; on bread, in multiplying the loaves; on water in vessels, in turning it into wine.

2. To declare his office and to prove himself to be the Messiah, promised of God by the prophets, whence the Messiah was called the mighty God, and wonderful. Now, the miracles wrought by this Jesus were such as Isaiah foretold, as he told John, and He challenged to be acknowledged for him that should come, the Messiah, the Son of God, by his miracles. For first the Messiah was to bruise the head of the Serpent, Gen. iii. 15, and this Jesus the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the Devil, I. John iii. 8. Therefore by his casting out Devils, He proved to the Pharisees that the Kingdom of God was come unto them, meaning that Kingdom of the Messiah, whereof Daniel prophesied in Dan. ii. 44. And it is evident that when this Jesus came to preach the Gospel and work miracles, “Satan fell down from Heaven like lightning,” as Dagon fell before the Ark. Satan’s power to delude men by magic ceased, not only in Judea, but also in Samaria afterwards, and at Philippi, and in Ephesus; and Eusebius testifieth that Porphyry, that bitter enemy against Christian religion, complained that it was no marvel that for many years the pestilence had wasted the city, seeing Æsculapius and the other gods were gone far away. “For,” said he, “ever since Jesus was worshipped, we can have no more benefit from the gods;” which showeth the power of this Jesus over all the gods of the heathen, which yet were no gods, but Devils. And we know that in places where, whilst Popery was received, they were molested with fairies, hobgoblins, etc., after the Gospel was there embraced those delusions vanished. So would it be with these poor Indians, among whom we live in this Wilderness. If they would receive the Gospel, their “Hobbomacchoes” would have no more power to delude and terrify them.