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stigiatores etiam Gentiles eodem illo seculo sane frequentissimos, Apuleium in Africa, in Asiâ Alexandrum Pseudomantim, multosque alios quorum meminit Aristides. Tertio seculoorto, hæretici Hermogenes, Praxeas, Noetus, Theodotus, Sabellius, Novatianus, Artemas, Samosatenus, nulla, ut videtur, miracula ipsi vendita. bant, nullis propterea miraculis oppugnandi. Inde vi
. dimus, apud ipsos etiam catholicos, sensim defecisse miracula. Et quidem, hæreticis nulla in contrarium miracula ostentantibus, quæ tandem fingi potest miraculorum necessitas traditam ab initio fidem, miraculisque adeo jamdudum confirmatam prædicantibus ? Nulla certe prorsus pro primævo miraculorum exemplo. Nulla denique consciis vere primævam esse fidem quam novis miraculis suscipiunt confirmandam.” Dodwell, Dissertat. in Iræn. Diss. II. Sect. 65.
The history therefore you have from him, of miracles, serves for his hypothesis, but not at all for yours. For if they were continued to supply the want of force, which was to deal with the corruption of depraved human nature; that being, without any great variation in the world, constantly the same, there could be no reason why they should abate and fail, and then return and revive again. So that there being then, as you suppose, no necessity of miracles for any other end, but to supply the want of the magistrate's assistance ; they must, to suit that end, be constant and regularly the same as you would have force to be, which is steadily and uninterruptedly to be applied, as a constantly necessary remedy, to the corrupt nature of mankind. If you
allow the learned Dodwell's reasons for the continuation of miracles, till the fourth century, your hypothesis, that they were continued to supply the magistrate's assistance, will be only precarious. For if there was need of miracles till that time to other
purposes, the continuation of them in the church, though you could prove them to be as frequent and certain as those of our Saviour and the apostles, it would not advantage your cause; since it would be no evidence, that they were used for that end, which as long as there were other visible uses of them, you could not,
without revelation, assure us were made use of by Di. vine Providence “ to supply the want of the magistrate's assistance.” You must therefore confute his
" hypothesis, before you can make any advantage of what he says, concerning the continuation of miracles, for the establishing of yours. For till you can show, that that which he assigns was not the end, for which they were continued in the church; the utmost you
l can say is, that it may be imagined, that one reason of their continuation was to supply the want of the magistrate's assistance: but what you can without proof imagine possible, I hope you do not expect should be received as an unquestionable proof that it was so. I can imagine it possible they were not continued for that end, and one imagination will be as good a proof as another.
To do your modesty right therefore, I must allow, that you do faintly offer at some kind of reason, to prove that miracles were continued to supply the want of the magistrate's assistance : and since God has nowhere declared that it was for that end, you would persuade us, in, this paragraph, that it was so, by two reasons. One is, that the truth of the Christian religion being sufficiently evinced by the miracles done by our Saviour and his apostles, and perhaps their immediate successors; there was no other need of miracles to be continued till the fourth century; and therefore they were used by God to supply the want of the magistrate's assistance. This I take to be the meaning of these words of yours, “ I cannot but think it highly probable that God was pleased to continue them till then; not so much for any necessity there was of them all that while for the evincing the truth of the Christian religion, as to supply the want of the magistrate's assistance.” Whereby, I suppose, you do not barely intend to tell the world what is your opinion in the case; but use this as an argument, to make it probable to others, that this was the end for which miracles were continued; which at the best will be but a very doubtful probability to build such a bold assertion on, as this of yours is, viz.
That “ the Christian religion is not able to subsist and prevail in the world, by its own light and strength, without the assistance either of force or actual miracles.” And therefore you must either produce a declaration from Heaven that authorizes you to say, that miracles were used to supply the want of force, or show that there was no other use of them but this. For if any other use can be assigned of them, as long as they continued in the church, one may safely deny, that they were to supply the want of force: and it will lie upon you to prove it by some other way than by saying you think it highly probable. For I suppose you do not expect that your thinking any thing highly probable, should be a sufficient reason for others to acquiesce in, when perhaps, the history of miracles considered, nobody could bring himself to say he thought it probable, but one whose hypothesis stood in need of such a poor support.
The other reason you seem to build on is this, that when Christianity was received for the religion of the empire, miracles ceased, because there was then no longer any need of them ; which I take to be the argument insinuated in these words, “ Considering that those extraordinary means were not withdrawn till by their help Christianity had prevailed to be received for the religion of the empire.” If then you can make it ap
. pear that miracles lasted till Christianity was received for the religion of the empire, without any other reason for their continuation, but to supply the want of the magistrate's assistance; and that they ceased as soon as the magistrates became Christians ; your argument will have some kind of probability, that within the Roman empire this was the method God used for the propagating the Christian religion. But it will not serve to make good your position, “ that the Christian religion cannot subsist and prevail by its own strength and light, without the assistance of miracles or authority,” unless you can show, that God made use of miracles to introduce and support it in other parts of the world, not subject to the Roman empire, till the magistrates there also became Christians. For the corruption of nature
Third Letter for Toleration. 449 being the same without, as within the bounds of the Roman empire; miracles, upon your hypothesis, were as necessary to supply the want of the magistrate's assistance in other countries as in the Roman empire. For I do not think you will find the civil sovereigns were the first converted in all those countries, where the Christian religion was planted after Constantine's reign: and in all those it will be necessary for you to show us the assistance of miracles.
But let us see how much your hypothesis is favoured by church history. If the writings of the fathers of greatest name and credit are to be believed, miracles were not withdrawn when Christianity had prevailed to be received for the religion of the empire. Athanasius, the great defender of the catholic orthodoxy, writ the life of his contemporary St. Anthony, full of miracles ; which though some have questioned, yet the learned Dodwell allows to be writ by Athanasius : and the style evinces it to be his, which is also confirmed by other ecclesiastical writers.
Palladius tells us, “ That Ammon did many miracles: but that particularly St. Athanasius related in the life of Anthony, that Ammon going with some monks Anthony had sent to him, when they came to the river Lycus, which they were to pass, was afraid to strip for fear of seeing himself naked; and whilst he was in dispute of this matter, he was taken up, and in an ecstasy carried over by an angel, the rest of the monks swimming the river. When he came to Anthony, Anthony told him he had sent for him, because God had revealed many things to him concerning him, and particularly his translation. And when Ammon died in his retirement, Anthony saw his soul carried into heaven by angels."
Palladius in - Vita Ammonis.
Socrates tells us, “That Anthony saw the soul of Ammon taken up by angels, as Athanasius writes in the life of Anthony."
And again, says he, “ It seems superfluous for me to relate the many miracles Anthony did; how he fought VOL. VI.
openly with devils, discovering all their tricks and cheats: for Athanasius bishop of Alexandria has prevented me on that subject, having writ a book particullarly of his life.”
“ Anthony was thought worthy of the vision of God, and led a life perfectly conformable to the laws of Christ. This, whoever reads the book, wherein is contained the history of his life, will easily know; wherein he will also see prophecy shining out: for he prophesied very clearly of those who were infected with the Arian contagion, and foretold what mischief from them was threatened to the churches; God truly revealing all these things to him, which is certainly the principal evidence of the catholic faith, no such man being to be found amongst the heretics. But do not take this upon my word, but read and study the book itself.”
This account you have from St. Chrysostom *, whom Mr. Dodwell calls the contemner of fables.
St. Hierom, in his treatise De Viro Perfecto, speaks of the frequency of miracles done in his time, as a thing past question : besides those, not a few, which he has left upon record, in the lives of Hilarion and Paul, two monks, whose lives he has writ. And he that has a mind to see the plenty of miracles of this kind, need but read the collection of the lives of the fathers, made by Rosweydus.
Ruffin tells us, that Athanasius lodged the bones of St. John Baptist in the wall of the church, knowing by the spirit of prophecy the good they were to do to the next generation: and of what efficacy and use they were, may be concluded from the church with the golden roof, built to them soon after, in the place of the temple of Serapis. St. Austin tells us t, “ That he knew a blind man
, restored to sight by the bodies of the Milan martyrs, and some other such things; of which kind there were
Chrysost. Hom. 8. in Matth. ii. + Cæcum illuminatum fuisse jam noveram. Nec ea quæ cognoscimus, enumerare possumus. Aug. Retract. lib. 1. c. 13.