the visible hand of god green resized


The Visible Hand
of God





By Robert Roberts



Preface To The First Edition


It has become the popular habit not only to doubt but to discard miracle as not only unnecessary to, but inconsistent with, the objects of true religion. The object of this book is to show that this habit does not rest on rational grounds, but, on the contrary, is opposed both to facts that are undeniable when thoroughly looked into, and to necessities intrinsically appertaining to the nature of the subject.

The miracles of Romish tradition, and the legends and mythical prodigies of the numerous faiths and superstitions to be found under the sun, are rightly scouted as the figments of fancy and the inventions of a designing fanaticism; but it is a hasty and enormous blunder to include in this verdict the things recorded in the writings of Moses, the prophets and the apostles. The two things are as distinct as the light of the stars and the flare of the naphtha lamps on the stalls of a street fair. Men of sense have but to compare the two things to see the difference. There have been genuine miracles (the evidence of this is positively not impugnable); and that there should be fictitious and counterfeit miracles is not only not surprising, but what is to be expected from the working of things among men; a thing that, rightly construed, is one of the many evidences of the genuine.

The nature and necessity of the genuine miracles of the past are discussed in the following pages with reference to the modern scientific temper. This temper is to be respected and valued in so far as it demands exactness and accuracy of knowledge; at the same time, it requires to have imposed on it the limitations arising out of its own maxims. Scientific inference easily rims into speculative licence and even into axiomatic dogmatism, with the disastrous result of barring the way to co-ordinate truth in other departments of really more practical importance than science’s own discoveries.

This is shown to be the case in the modern attitude on the subject of miracle. The most important of the works of God on earth is effaced for the mass of educated people by the application of scientific maxims in an unscientific way. The plan adopted in the course of this work is not on the old scholastic lines. The subject is treated historically, which, while admitting of as thorough a consideration of the abstract phases of the subject as a formal treatise, has the advantage of being more interesting, and supplying a greater diversity of materials in the illustration of the subject.

The book is companion to a previous work on The Ways of Providence. It is a necessary supplement to that work, showing that the basis of all our knowledge of the operations of God in Providential channels, lies in the evidence of His existence, and the revelation of His will furnished in the “miracles, wonders, and signs” Wrought in the midst of Israel in ages which, though past, are only past in the sense of being the preliminary part of a programme of divine wisdom and power which reaches forward to ages of glory and perfection.



25th October, 1883.


Publishers’ Note


The circumstances which prompted Bro. Robert Roberts to pen the pages which follow have changed little during the century that has almost intervened. Rationalism and pseudoscientific thinking have still further extended their sway over the minds of the multitudes; and with the waning influence of religion it is more than ever necessary to be aware of the frailty of the arguments of those who decry the miracles recorded in God’s Word, and of the strength of the foundation upon which faith in that Word rests.

This book is therefore reprinted, having been unobtainable for some years, in the earnest hope that it will help all who love and revere the Scriptures to a fuller comprehension of the grounds of their faith.


January, 1979




Chapter 1—The Place, Nature, and Need of Miracle

The invisible manifestation of divine power a necessary foundation for faith.—Definition of faith.—A complete understanding not required or implied by faith.—Nothing really understood by man—therefore miracle not incredible per se.—Educated scepticism unphilosophic.—Its basis unsound.—Miracle only a rapid performance of nature s ordinary processes.—The denial of the possibility of such rapid performance unscientific dogmatism.—Nature indicative of an intelligent operator.—The moral objection to miracles.—“Right” and “wrong” relative terms.—Duty determined alone by divine command.—Miracle necessary to the communication of the command.—How otherwise the authority thereof to be recognised?—The question is, have miracles occurred?—The evidence abundant, specific, irrefragable—Aim of the present work.


Chapter 2—The Beginning of Thinga Nexessarily Miraculous

Origin of the universe.—Evolution a scientific speculation.—Even if true, the initial act of evolution necessarily miraculous.—God, the simplest and most profound explanation of the existence of the universe.—Chronological objections to the Mosaic account of creation considered.—Geology and Scripture in unison.—The first miracle.—The creation of man.—Force no more intelligible than God.—Detects in the theory of evolution:—1, Survival of the unfit as well as the fit; 2, Development not in agreement wire environment; 3, Default of contemporary spontaneous generation; 4, Present extent of population inconsistent with age of man claimed by evolution.—The fiat of an Allpowerful God, the all-sufficient explanation of the phenomenon of life.—The creation of Adam.—The Garden of Eden.—The formation of Eve.—The cavils of naturalists.—Man and brute not necessarily of common origin.—Man charged with a special mission, hence his special Origin.


Chapter 3—The Miracle of Revelation

Divine Revelation necessarily miraculous.—God’s command to Adam.—Object of the command.—God’s authority established.—God speaks to man in various ways.—By causing His voice to be physically audible—examples—through His servants—examples.—Inspiration.—Prophecy.—The Spirit the medium of inspiration.—Operation of the Spirit illustrated by some natural phenomena.—He speaks through His angels—examples.—The relation of the angels to the person of God.—The grammatical idiom in the Hebrew language expressing this relation.—God spoke to Adam through angels.—Prominence of angelic agency in the divine work.—The existence of the angels a corporeal reality—a fact out of the range of natural science—nevertheless established by indubitable testimony—and therefore inexpungeable from our mental cognition.—Angelic nature, a thing possible in the abstract upon scientific grounds—upon Biblical grounds a fact.


Chapter 4—The Reign of Death

Death, a phenomenon existent upon the earth prior to Adam’s appearance, but special in relation to Adam.—Geological considerations.—In fact, a miracle.— Bible account the only reliable one.—State of Adam prior to his disobedience, and the state of immortality compared.—Adam’s fall.—Changes in the earth consequent thereupon.—The sentence of death.—Human power unequal to its removal.—True philosophy.—The work of Christ.—Victory over death only possible in him.—The speaking of the serpent and its object.—Test of obedience under trial.—Temptation.—The trees of knowledge and life.—Special properties imparted for special objects.—Erroneous ideas relating to the tree of life.—Precautions to prevent Adam partaking of its fruit.—Previous relation to it.—The life-giving qualities of the tree—one of the varied manifestations of divine power.—The flaming sword.


Chapter 5—Enoch and the Flood

The language of Eden.—Acquired without experience.—Enoch.—His miraculous translation.—The reason.—His walk with God.—No natural obstacle insurmountable to divine power.—The Spirit.—Other cases of translation.—Elijah.—Christ.—Newspaper discussion of “levitation.”—Powers peculiar to the Spirit-nature.—Volitional locomotion.—The miracle of the flood—a tradition in all countries.—Its case.—Man’s insubordination to God—the need of emphasizing the duty of implicit submission.—The miraculous feature in the flood minimized.—Superfluity not a characteristic of God’s operations.—The extent of the flood limited—considerations compelling this conclusion.—Distribution of races of animals.—This view harmonized with apparent difficulties in the Mosaic narrative.—Restricted sense of the word all.—Examples of similar usuage.—Probable way God caused the flood.


Chapter 6—The Miracle of Language and its Diversification

Diversity of language among men.—Theories attempting to account for it.—Their unstable and untrustworthy character.—The Mosaic account, the only rational explanation.—State of language before the confusion of tongues.—The Hebrew tongue always employed in divine communications.—The preservation of the Hebrew language providential.—Primitive unity of language.—The confusion of tongues—its miraculous character—examples of a similar kind.—The apostolic gifts of tongues—the purpose of their bestowal.—The object of diversity of language—to be removed in the age of perfection.—All nations to be one.—Human improbability of such a thing.—Predominance of particular languages only transient.—Final predominance of Hebrew.


Chapter 7—Miracle Necessary as the Foundation of Faith (Abram, Isaac, and Jacob

God’s communications to Abram—angelic agency employed.—Abram’s emigration from his own country—God’s command—a suitable test.—Guarantee of divinity necessary.—Religion, without miracle, an impossibility.—Divine communications necessitated by the nature of faith.—Abram’s faith.—Faith impossible where no miracles.—Evidence available in our day allsatisfactory.—Offering of Isaac.—Difficulty suggested to modern thought really not reasonable.—Abraham’s position apparently more privileged than ours—wherein the two may be regarded as equal.


Chapter 8—Miracle, Sublime, Striking and Awful—Sodom and Gomorrah

The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, a historic event.—Abram’s interview with the angels.—Their characteristics.—Their interview with Lot.—Incidents at Lot’s house.—The angels command Lot to depart, with all his goods and household.—Lot takes refuge in Zoar.—Divine anger restrained until his arrival there.—The fire consumes Sodom—the modus operandi.—A day of reckoning at hand.—The fate of Sodom a warning.


Chapter 9—The Work of Moses, Historical—Not Legendary; Divine—Not Human: Miraculous—Otherwise Impossible

Historic reality of Moses, and the facts recorded of him.—Their connection with subsequent history.—Their character not the outcome of patriotism, and only to be accounted for on the principle of their truth.—Necessity for the Egyptian wonders.—Nature of the facts.—Every Jewish Institution influenced by them.—Position of the Jews in Egypt.—Release impossible, except through miracle.—The preparatory career of Moses.—Difficulties of his mission.—The necessity for demonstrating the existence of Yahweh.—Character of Moses—his meekness. A man naturally unsuited for the task.—His modesty and patience.—The burning bush.—The first step in the scheme of deliverance.—The greater than Moses.


Chapter 10—Nature and Object of the Mosaic Miracles

The miracle of the burning bush.—Its object.—The angel speaks to Moses.—His communication.—Moses, the appointed instrument of Israel’s release.—His reluctance.—Difficulties of the case.—Necessity for Moses having divine credentials.—Power to work signs conferred upon him.—Well-attested facts though inscrutable.—Moses goes to Egypt.—The logic of the miracles.—The effect on the people.


Chapter 11—Negotiations at the Court of Pharaoh—A Stupendous Issue—Commencement of the Struggle

Moses and Aaron visit Pharaoh.—The struggle opened mildly.—The issue.—The authority of Yahweh.—The memorial name incorrectly rendered in the authorized version.—Pharaoh refuses to obey.—He lays greater burdens on Israel.—Their deep affliction.—Their resentment towards Moses and Aaron.—Moses appeals to God.—The answer.—Moses again visits Pharaoh.—He performs miracles, as evidence of his authority. The magicians do the same.—Lying wonders.—The skill of the Egyptians in the secrets of nature.—Possible modus operandi of their pretended miracles.—Difference between these and manifestations of divine power.—Pharaoh’s heart is hardened.—His obduracy of divine origin. Quasi difficulty—Solution.—Moses withdraws from Pharaoh.—The plague of blood.—Frogs are produced in myriads.—The Magicians produce frogs by their method.—Pharaoh relents and implores relief.


Chapter 12—The Egyptian Plagues Necessarily Miraculous—and what they are Intended to Effect

The frogs depart.—The effect upon Pharaoh.—Egyptian polytheism, and its probable influence.—The plague of lice.—The magicians fail to produce them artificially.—The divine hand recognized.—Pharaoh again summoned to yield, and refuses.—Flies are sent.—Pharaoh proposes a compromise.—His proposal refused.—Pharaoh promising agreement, Moses prays, and the flies are removed.—Pharaoh repents his promise.—Another plague—the murrain.—The cattle of Israel exempted.—The plague of boils follows without notice.—Pharaoh is still unyielding.—The explanation.—The object of the plagues.—Effectual in the object aimed at.—Plague of hail.—Preservation of some of the Egyptian cattle.—Israelitish cattle also preserved.—Extract from the Bradlaugh debate.—Pharaoh entreats Moses for a respite.


Chapter 13—The Last Three Plagues, and Israel’s Departure

Insincerity of Pharaoh’s penitence.—The hail ceases.—Pharaoh again changes his mind.—Its effect on Moses.—He receives assurances direct from God.—The object of Pharaoh’s divinely-produced obduracy.—An objection answered.—The divine element, the key to the divine explanation.—Swarms of locusts threatened.—Pharaoh offers a compromise, which Moses rejects.—The locusts are produced at Moses’ word.—Pharaoh again forced to yield.—The locusts are removed at his urgent entreaty, whereupon he again refuses to let the people go.—The land is smitten with darkness.—Pharaoh penitent again.—His offer refused.—He drives Moses from his presence with threats.— The limits of divine patience reached.—The Israelites instructed to prepare for departure.—Institutions of the Feast of the Passover.—The Jews borrow of the Egyptians.—A difficulty solved.—Death of firstborn.—The Jews depart.


Chapter 14—The Egyptian Pursuit and the Red Sea Catastrophe

The day of the exodus to be observed, and the reason.—Israel, after their departure. are led into a trap.—Pharaoh pursues.—Perilous position of the Israelitish host.—The host led by a pillar of fire.—Identity of Yahweh and “the angel of the Lord.”—The sea opens.—The people march through.—The Egyptians follow.—They are destroyed by the returning waters.—The children of Israel’s song.—The prominence given to the Red Sea incident in subsequent Jewish history.—Modern scepticism.—True insignificance of man.—God’s perfect right to deal with him at His own pleasure.


Chapter 15—Supplies in the Wilderness

Continuation of miracle necessary.—Discontent among the people. Moses unassisted, powerless.—How failure was prevented.—The question of supply.—Difficulties of the case.—Famine threatened.—The people murmur.—The situation of Moses very trying.—God speaks to Moses in the presence of the congregation.—A supply of food promised.—Quails sent at evening.—Food found on the ground in the morning.—They call it “manna.”— The nature of this miraculous production of food.—Miracle, an intelligent use of nature’s processes.—Folly of unbelief and of attempting to explain these miracles upon natural principles.—Christ’s testimony to the truth of the manna incident.—The people tire of it.—The necessity of humbling Israel.—Present application.—The Israelites lack water.—They murmur.—Moses reproves them.—He cries to God, who produces a supply of water from the rock at the word of Moses.


Chapter 16—At Mount Sinai

The Sinaitic incident the most wonderful occurrence in all human history.—The children of Israel arrive and encamp.—Moses ascends, and has an interview with Yahweh.—He is instructed to enjoin implicit obedience upon Israel.—He delivers the message to the people, who accept allegiance.—He reascends the mount.—Yahweh announces His purpose of speaking audibly to the people.—A day appointed.—The people prepare.—The thunderings, etc.—Moses is summoned to the mount.—The voice of the Lord is made terribly audible.—The Ten Commandments are uttered.—The people afraid, stand afar off.—Moses as a mediator.—The personality of the Divine Presence on Sinai.—The seventy elders.—Moses remains forty days and forty nights in the mount.—Moses’ illuminated countenance.—He uses a veil.—He requests and obtains a special interview with God.—Necessity for God’s personal manifestation.—The present, a time of silence, soon to be terminated.


Chapter 17—The Law of Moses, The Tabernacle, and the Mutiny of the Congregation

The giving of the Law.—Its manifestly divine character.—Its unique completeness compared with that of other nations.—Its unaltered and unalterable character.—The needs of man entirely met by it, when adequately administered.—The Law is written by God after its oral deliverance.—Its preservation in present form an evidence of divinity.—The Tabernacle.—The mercy-seat as a medium of intercourse with God.—The cloudy pillar.—The important part played by this visible intercourse.—The spies.—Rebellion prevented.—The destruction of Israel threatened.—They are sentenced to forty years’ wandering in the wilderness.—Impotence of Moses and Aaron without the support of miracle.—The whole congregation above twenty die in the wilderness.—The result of divine interposition.—Miriam’s mutiny.—Disinterestedness of Moses.—Moses divinely vindicated.—Miriam punished.—Moses, and the irksomeness of his position.—Seventy elders are ordained to assist.


Chapter 18—Striking Dead of Aaron’s Sons—Rebellion of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram

Further exhibitions of the “Visible Hand” in the wilderness.—The presumption of Nadab and Abihu, and their summary punishment.—Aaron’s grief and its expression.—The principle of Yahweh’s sanctity emphasized.—Rebellion of Korah, Dathan and Abiram.—A wholesale destruction of the congregation threatened, but averted by Moses’ intercession.—The people are commanded to separate themselves from the rebels, who at His word are then engulfed in the earth.—The budding of Aaron’s rod.—The object of it.—Its conclusivehess.—The rod is kept for a memorial.—Concluding reflections.


Chapter 19—Manna in the Desert—Murmuring and Balaam

The people tire of manna.—They murmur and are punished by a plague of serpents.—They repent—and are relieved by looking on a brazen serpent, made by Moses.—Its operation; result of faith—and a type of Christ’s work.—The miraculous provision of water the second time—Moses exceeds the divine commission.—The probable reason.—Serious nature of the offence.—The punishment—Aaron dies.—Moses condemned to die before entering the land of Canaan.—Moses beseeches the Lord for remission of his sentence, but is unsuccessful.—The lesson.—The fearful authority of God’s commands.—Balaam.—The narrative of the speaking ass.—The principles involved.—Balaam used by God for a special occasion.—Wherein the “meeting with God” consisted.—Ordinary conditions divinely used.


Chapter 20—Moses’ Parting Gift—Yahweh’s Prophetic Song of Witness

The Song of Moses.—Its prophetic character—its divine origin.—The evidence.—The circumstances under which the song was given.—Its leading features.—The absence of patriotism.—The prominence of God.—The corruption of Israel exposed and rebuked, and career of disobedience and trouble predicted for Israel.—The perverseness of Israel the occasion of the calling of the Gentiles.—The Gentiles too complacent of their privileges.—Paul’s warning.—Their arrogance and assumed greatness soon to pass away.—The Jewish tree to be planted again shortly.—Vengeance in Israel’s enemies foreshadowed in the song.—The song a witness of God’s truth.


Chapter 21—Israel’s Invasion of Canaan under Joshua

Moses dies and is interred by God.—Joshua receives a commission to carry on the work, and arranges, in accordance with divine directions, for the crossing of Jordan.—The river is miraculously divided, and Joshua’s authority thereby confirmed.—God’s power and authority exhibited and vindicated.—Joshua has an interview with the angelic captain of Israel’s hosts.—Jericho beseiged and captured by miraculous means.—A coalition of the Canaanites discomfited by hailstones.—The sun stands still at Joshua’s command.—The scepticism of human wisdom.—The narrative worthy of implicit confidence.—Israel, after settlement, relapses into idolatry.—The visible hand exhibited in anger at Bochim.—Punishment is followed by repentance.—An angel visits Gideon, and commissions him to deliver Israel.—God gives guarantee of victory.—An angel announces the approaching birth of Samson, and ascends in the flame of Manoah’s sacrifice.—Samson’s supernatural strength.


Chapter 22—Israel Under the Judges

Scarcity of the word of the Lord in the time of Eli.—The faults of Eli.—Samuel is called to the priesthood.—Israel at war with the Philistines.—The ark taken in battle.—It is placed by the Philistines in the temple of Dagon —Dagon is three times prostrated in its presence.—The ark is taken to Gath.—The inhabitants smitten with plagues.—The ark is finally sent away.—It arrives at Bethshemesh.—The people smitten for looking into it.—It is taken to Kirjath-jearim.—The people repent, are summoned by Samuel, and confess their sins.—The Philistines attack Israel, but are divinely routed.—The people desire a king.—Samuel is directed to comply with the people’s wishes.—Saul crowned.—Samuel convokes an assembly of Israel.—He upbraids them for their wickedness, and miraculously shows them the divine displeasure.


Chapter 23—Saul and David

Saul proves unfaithful—Disobeys the commands of God in the matter of the Amalekites.—Samuel finds fault with Saul.—Saul defends his action.—Saul rejected from being king.—The need of appointing a successor to the throne.—Samuel instructed to go to the house of Jesse.—David chosen from among his sons, and anointed.—Enmity between Saul and David.—Saul employs the witch of Endor to penetrate the future.—Saul and his sons are slain in battle on the following day.—The miraculous element in David’s career.—Uzzah is smitten for touching the ark.—David numbers the people.—God is displeased, and offers choice of three punishments.—Confirmatory considerations.


Chapter 24—David and the Reign of Solomon

David’s plans of the temple.—Drawn out under divine inspiration.—Need for God’s direction in the matter.—Solomon endowed with special wisdom.—His wise arrangements for the building.—The dedication of the temple.—The visible manifestation of the divine glory.—Solomon’s address to the people.—Solomon’s prayer.—God’s greatness.—Unique character of Jewish worship.—The fundamental distinction between it and all other forms.—Hezekiah’s prayer.—The omnipresence of the Being addressed.—The sense in which locality can be affirmed in connection with Him.—The sacrifice of Solomon is consumed by fire from the divine presence.—The object of this exhibition of power.


Chapter 25—Revolt of the Ten Tribes—Mission of Elijah

The disruption of Solomon’s kingdom.—Rehoboam prepares to enforce his authority.—He is commanded by a prophet to desist.—The bearing of the course commanded.—Jeroboam’s reign.—Exhibition of divine power in the ten-tribe kingdom continues only a short time.—Jeroboam’s idolatry.—The Bethel incident.—The man of God’s prophecy, and his subsequent disobedience and death on the road.—Jeroboam’s son sick.—His death predicted by Ahijah the prophet, who was visited by the queen in disguise.—Fulfilment of Ahijah’s prediction.—Disasters in the house of Jeroboam.—Baasha.—Elah.—Zimri.—Omri.—The wickedness and turmoil of their reigns.—Elijah.—The character and occasion of his work.


Chapter 26—The Work of Elijah

The apparently abrupt commencement of Elijah’s work.—He announces a season of drought. The means necessary to demonstrate the existence of God.—Elijah’s prophecy fulfilled.—The end reached by prayer.—Acceptability of prayer to God.—Prayer always to be in harmony with the revealed will of God.—Elijah’s miraculous supply of food while hiding by Cherith.—The brook dries up.—Elijah finds an asylum at the widow’s house.—Her supplies are miraculously prolonged.—Her son dies, and is restored to life by Elijah.—The means adopted by Elijah to recover animation.—Christ, the “Resurrection and the Life.”


Chapter 27—Elijah on Carmel and Afterwards

The rain returns—the prelude.—A general assembly of Israel on Carmel.—Elijah tests the reality of Baal.—Fire descends from heaven and consumes Elijah’s sacrifice, after the sacrifice to Baal had been unattended with response.—The people avow their submission to God.—The object of the miracle.—The prevalence of unbelief today.—Its cause and cure.—The impossibility of its removal in the present age.—Elijah’s pedestrian feat.—Jezebel’s resentment.—She threatens Elijah and he flees.—He sleeps under a juniper tree, and is visited by an angel, who supplies him with food.—On which he subsists 40 days and nights, during his journey to Sinai.—The special exhibition of the power of God.—Ahaziah falls sick.—He sends messengers to Baalzebub and then soldiers to bring Elijah.—Twice they are destroyed by fire at Elijah’s command.—The third time Elijah accompanies them to the king.—Incredulity of moderns.—The veracity of the narrative defended.


Chapter 28—Elijah’s Removal from the Earth

The close of Elijah’s work.—Elisha aware of the coming removal of Elijah.—Elijah seeks to get away from Elisha.—Elisha unwilling.—Elijah opens a way through Jordan with his mantle.—Elijah carried away by a chariot of fire—things beyond our cognition.—Elisha recrosses Jordan homewards on dry ground.—He is met by the sons of the prophets.—They seek in vain for Elijah.—A writing to king Jehoram from Elijah.—Elijah’s presence on the Mount of Transfiguration.—The part Elijah is to play in the future history of Israel.


Chapter 29—Elijah’s Mantle on Elisha

Elisha heals the waters of Jericho.—The permanence of the cure.—An account of the fountain of Jericho by Josephus.—Elisha goes to Bethel. —Children mock him, and are destroyed by bears.—Liberty only implies freedom to do right.—All wrong-doing ultimately to be summarily punished.—The king of Moab rebels against Jehoram.—Jehoram, with Jehosaphat and the king of Edom, goes to suppress the revolt.—They succeed by the miraculous influence of Elisha.—Elisha enables a widow to discharge her debt by mutliplying her oil.—The physical conditions of the miracle.—The prophet lodges with a woman of Shunem.—Her son dies.—Elisha restores the child to life.


Chapter 30—Elisha, Hezekiah, Daniel—Conclusion

Other miracles of Elisha.—Principle the same in all.—A corpse restored to life by contact with Elisha’s bones.—The intensity of Elisha’s spirit-power.—Hezekiah.—His righteous character.—Sennacherib invades the land.—Hezekiah lays the matter before God in the Temple.—The answer.—The Assyrian host is smitten.—God’s regard for those who regard Him.—Daniel.—His fidelity to his duty.—It brings him into the den of lions.—An angel preserves him.—The three companions of Daniel refuse to worship Nebuchadnezzar’s image.—They are thrown into the fiery furnace.—They are protected by an angel from the effects of the fire.—The entire utility of all Bible miracles.—A life of Christ promised.—Conclusion.