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so many done in that time, that many escaped his knowledge; and those which he knew were more than he could number.” More of this you may see Epist. 137.
He further assures us, that by the single relics of St. Stephen“ a blind woman received her
sight. Lucullus was cured of an old fistula ; Eucharius of the stone, three gouty men recovered; a lad killed with a cart-wheel going over him, restored to life safe and sound, as if he had received no hurt: a nun lying at the point of death, they sent her coat to the shrine, but she dying before it was brought back, was restored to life by its being laid on her dead body. The like happened at Hippo to the daughter of Bassus; and two others,” wbose names he sets down, were by the same relics raised from the dead.
After these and other particulars there set down, of miracles done in his time by those relics of St. Stephen, the holy father goes on thus: “What shall I do? pressed by my promise of despatching this work, I cannot here set down all: and without doubt many, when they shall read this, will be troubled that I have oinitted so many particles, which they truly know as well as I*. For if I should, passing by the rest, write only the miraculous cures which have been wrought by this most glorious martyr, Stephen, in the colony of Calama, and this of ours, I should fill many books, and yet should not take in all of them ; but only those of which there are collections published t, which are read to the people: for this I took care should be done, when I saw that signs of divine power, like those of old, were frequent also in our times. It is not now two years since that shrine has been at Hippo : and many of the books, which I certainly knew to be so, not being published, those which are published concerning those miraculous operations amounted to near fifty when I writ this. But at Calama, where this shrine was before, there are more published, and their number is incomparably greater. At Uzal also a colony, and near Utica, we know many famous things to have been done by the same martyr."
* Quæ utique mecum sciunt. + Libelli dati sunt.
Cum viderimus antiquis similia divinarum signa virtutum etiam nostris temporibus frequentari
. Aug. de Civ. Dei, lib. xxii. c. 8.
Two of those books he mentions are printed in the appendix of the tenth tome of St. Austin's works of Plantin's edit. One of them contains two miracles; the other, as I remember, about seventeen. So that at Hippo alone, in two years' time, we may count, besides those omitted, there were published above 600 miracles, and, as he says, incomparably more at Calama: besides what were done by other relics of the same St. Stephen, in other parts of the world, which cannot be supposed to have had less virtue than those sent to this part of Africa. For the relics of St. Stephen, discovered by the dream of a monk, were divided and sent into distant countries, and there distributed to several churches.
These may suffice to show, that if the fathers of the church of greatest name and authority are to be believed, miracles were not withdrawn, but continued down to the latter end of the fourth century, long after “Christianity had prevailed to be received for the religion of the empire.”
But if these testimonies of Athanasius, Chrysostom, Palladius, Ruffin, St. Hierom, and St. Austin, will not serve your turn, you may find much more to this purpose in the same authors; and, if you please, you may consult also St. Basil, Gregory Nazianzen, Gregory Nyssen, St. Ambrose, St. Hilary, Theodoret, and others.
This being so, you must either deny the authority of these fathers, or grant that miracles continued in the church after “Christianity was received for the religion of the empire: and then they could not be to supply the want of the magistrate's assistance," unless they were to supply the want of what was not wanting; and therefore they were continued for some other end. Which end of the continuation of miracles, when you are so far instructed in as to be able to assure us, that it was different from that for which God made use of them in the second and third centuries ; when you are so far admitted into the secrets of Divine Providence as to be able to convince the world that the miracles between the apostles' and Constantine's time, or any other period you shall pitch on, were to supply the want of the magistrate's assistance, and those after, for some other purpose, what you say may deserve to be considered. Until you do this, you will only show the liberty you take to assert with great confidence, though without any ground, whatever will suit your system; and that you do not stick to make bold with the counsels of infinite wisdom, to make them subservient to your hypothesis.
And so I leave you to dispose of the credit of ecclesiastical writers as you shall think fit; and by your authority to establish or invalidate theirs as you please. But this, I think, is evident, that he who will build his faith or reasonings upon miracles delivered by churchhistorians, will find cause to go no farther than the apostles' time, or else not to stop at Constantine's: since the writers after that period, whose word we readily take as unquestionable in other things, speak of miracles in their time with no less assurance than the fathers before the fourth century; and a great part of the miracles of the second and third centuries stand upon the credit of the writers of the fourth. So that that sort of argument which takes and rejects the testimony of the ancients at pleasure, as may best suit with it, will not have much force with those who are not disposed to embrace the hypothesis, without any arguments at all.
You grant, “ That the true religion has always light and strength of its own, i. e. without the assistance of force or miracles, sufficient to prevail with all that considered it seriously, and without prejudice: that therefore, for which the assistance of force is wanting, is to make men consider seriously, and without prejudice." Now, whether the miracles that we have still, miracles done by Christ and his apostles, attested, as they are, by undeniable history, be not fitter to deal with men's prejudices than force, and than force which requires nothing but outward conformity, I leave the world to judge. All the assistance the true religion needs from authority is only a liberty for it to be truly taught; but it has seldom had that, from the powers in being, in its first entry into their dominions, since the withdrawing of miracles : and yet I desire you to tell me, into what country the Gospel, accompanied, as now it is, only with past miracles, hath been brought by the preaching of men, who have laboured in it after the example of the apostles, where it did not so prevail over men's prejudices, that “as many as were ordained to eternal life,” considered and believed it. Which, as you may see, Acts xiii. 48, was all the advance it made, even when assisted with the gift of miracles : for neither then were all, or the majority, wrought on to consider and embrace it.
But yet the Gospel “cannot prevail by its own light and strength;" and therefore miracles were to supply the place of force. How was force used ? A law being made, there was a continued application of punishment to all those whom it brought not to embrace the doctrine proposed. Were miracles so used till force took place ? For this we shall want more new church-history, and I think contrary to what we read in that part of it which is unquestionable; I mean in the Acts of the Apostles, where we shall find, that the then promulgators of the Gospel, when they had preached, and done what miracles the Spirit of God directed, if they prevailed not, they often left them; “ Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said it was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing you put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy, we turn to the Gentiles,” Acts xiii. 46. “They shook off the dust of their feet against them, and came unto Iconium,” Acts xiii. 51. “ But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples,” Acts xix. 9. Paul was pressed in spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ; and when they opposed themselves, and blas
455 phemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean : from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles," Acts xviii. 6. Did the Christian magistrates ever do so, who thought it necessary to support the Christian religion by laws ? Did they ever, when they had a while punished those whom persuasions and preaching had not prevailed on, give off, and leave them to themselves, and make trial of their punishment upon others ? Or is this your way of force and punishment? If it be not, yours is not what miracles came to supply the room of, and so is not necessary. For you tell us, they are punished to make them consider, and they can never be supposed to consider “as they ought, whilst they persist in rejecting;" and therefore they are justly punished to make them so consider: so that not so considering, being the fault for which they are punished, and the amendment of that fault the end which is designed to be attained by punishing, the punishment must continue. But men were not always beat upon with miracles. To this, perhaps, you will reply, that the seeing of a miracle or two, or half a dozen, was sufficient to procure a hearing; but that being punished once or twice, or half a dozen times, is not; for you tell us, “ the power of miracles communicated to the apostles served altogether as well as punishment, to procure them a hearing :" where, if you mean by hearing, only attention, who doubts but punishment may also procure that? If you mean by hearing, receiving and embracing what is proposed, that even miracles themselves did not effect upon all eye-witnesses. Why then, I beseech you, if one be to supply the place of the other, is one to be continued on those who do reject; when the other was never long continued, nor, as I think we may safely say, often repeated to those who persisted in their former persuasions ?
After all, therefore, may not one justly doubt, whether miracles supplied the place of punishment? nay, whether you yourself, if you be true to your own principles, can think so? You tell us, that not to join “ themselves to the true church, where sufficient evi