Arcana Coelestia (Elliott) n. 7290

Previous Number Next Number Next Translation See Latin 

7290. 'When he says, Perform a wonder' means and they therefore wish to receive proof. This is clear from the meaning of 'wonders and signs' as proofs or corroborations of truths, dealt with in 3900, 6870. With regard to the wonders and signs described in what follows from here onwards, it should be realized that they were performed among the kind of people whose worship was external and who had no wish to know about internal worship. For those whose worship was like that had to be coerced by means of external things. This explains why miracles were performed among the Israelite and Jewish people, for their worship was entirely external and not at all internal. What is more, since they had no liking for internal worship, external worship was the kind they were required to engage in, to the end that they might represent things of a holy nature within their external observances. This would establish a channel of communication with heaven as if through something of a Church. For correspondences, representatives, and meaningful signs link the natural world to the spiritual world. This then was why so many miracles were performed among that nation.

[2] But no miracles are performed among those whose worship is internal, that is, who have charity and faith residing with them, since miracles are harmful to them; for miracles compel one to believe, and what one is compelled to believe does not remain but is thrown to the winds. The internal constituents of their worship, which are faith and charity, must be implanted in freedom; for then they make them their own and what they make their own in this way remains, whereas what is implanted under compulsion remains outside the internal man, in the external man. This is because nothing passes into the internal man except by way of ideas seen in the understanding, that is, seen rationally, since the soil which receives what is implanted in the internal man is enlightened reason. This is why no miracles are performed at the present day. One may also conclude from this that they are harmful, for they compel a person to believe something and give the external man fixed ideas about the truth of it. If after that the internal man refuses to believe what the miracles have proved, the internal man and the external become opposed to and clash with each other, and when at length the ideas implanted under the influence of miracles are driven to the winds, falsity becomes joined to truth, that is, profanation occurs. This shows how harmful miracles are at the present day in a Church in which the internal qualities constituting worship have been made known. This is also what is meant by the Lord's words to Thomas,

Because you have seen Me, Thomas, you have believed; blessed are those who do not see yet believe. John 20:29.

This shows too that they are 'blessed', those whose belief is not induced by miracles.

[3] But miracles are not harmful to those whose worship is external, devoid of anything internal, for with them no opposition between the internal man and the external is possible, nor thus any clashing, nor consequently any profanation. The fact that miracles do not make any contribution towards faith becomes quite clear from the miracles performed among the Israelite people in Egypt and in the wilderness; those miracles had no effect whatever on them. Although those people had not long before seen so many miracles in Egypt, after which they had seen the Sea Suph divided, and the Egyptians drowned in it, with the pillar of cloud going before them by day and the pillar of fire by night, and with the manna raining from heaven each day; and although they had seen Mount Sinai smoking and heard Jehovah speaking from it, and other miracles besides, nevertheless, while yet in the midst of such wonders, they fell completely away from faith, and from worship of Jehovah to calf-worship, Exod 32:1-end. From this one may see what effect miracles have.

[4] They would have even less effect at the present day when nobody acknowledges that there is anything which has its origin in the spiritual world, and when anything miraculous that occurs and is not attributed to natural causes is refused recognition. For a refusal to recognize that the Divine flows in and governs on earth reigns everywhere. If at the present day therefore one who belongs to the Church were to witness utterly Divine miracles, he would first deduce that they had a natural origin and sully them with this, then dismiss them as fantasies, and finally mock whoever attributed them to the Divine and not to natural causes. The fact that miracles have no effect at all is also clear from the Lord's words in Luke,

If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone rises from the dead. Luke 16:31.

This page is part of the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg

© 2000-2001 The Academy of the New Church