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beings! He would then in reality be supposed to say: I have not been able to effect by my construction of the universe, by my divine decrees, by my eternal laws, a particular object; I am now going to change my eternal ideas and immutable laws, to endeavour to accomplish what I have not been able to do by means of them. This would be an avowal of his weakness, not of his power; it would appear in such a being an inconceivable contradiction. Accordingly, therefore, to dare to ascribe miracles to God is, if man can in reality insult God, actually offering him that insult. It is saying to him,-You are a weak and inconsistent being. It is therefore absurd to believe in miracles ; it is in fact dishonouring the divinity.
These philosophers however are not suffered thus to declaim without opposition. You may extol, it is replied, as much as you please, the immutability of the Supreme Being, the eternity of his laws, and the regularity of of his infinitude of worlds; but our little heap of earth has, notwithstanding all that you have advanced, been completely covered over with miracles in every part and time.
Histories relate as many prodigies as natural events. The daughters of the highpriest Anius changed whatever they pleased to corn, wine, and oil; Athalide, the daughter of Mercury, revived again several times; Esculapius resuscitated Hippolytus; Hercules rescued Alcestes from the hand of death; and Heres returned to the world after having passed fifteen days in hell. Romulus and Remus were the offspring of a God and a vestal. The Palladium descended from heaven on the city of Troy; the hair of Berenice was changed into a constellation; the cot of Baucis and Philemon was converted into a superb temple; the head of Orpheus delivered oracles after his death; the walls of Thebes spontaneously constructed themselves to the sound of a fute, in the presence of the Greeks; the cures effected in the temof Esculapius were absolutely innumerable, and we have monuments still existing containing the very names of persons who were eye-witnesses of his miracles.
Mention to me a single nation in which the most incredible prodigies have not been performed, and especially in those periods in which the people scarcely knew how to write or read.
The philosophers make no answer to these objections, but by slightly raising their shoulders and by a smile; but the christian philosophers say: We are believers in the miracles of our holy religion; we believe them by faith and not by our reason, which we are very cautious how we listen to; for when faith speaks, it is well known that reason ought to be silent. We have a firm and entire faith in the miracles of Jesus Christ and the apostles, but permit us to entertain some doubt about many others: permit us, for example, to suspend our judgment on what is related by a very simple man, although he has obtained the title of great. He assures us, that a certain monk was so much in the habit of performing miracles, that the prior at length forbade him to exercise his talent in that line. The monk obeyed; but seeing a poor tiler fall from the top of a house, he hesitated for a moment between the desire to save the unfortunate man's life and the sacred duty of obedience to his superior. He merely ordered the tiler to stay in the air till he should receive further instructions, and ran as fast as his legs would carry him to communicate the urgency of the circumstances to the prior. The prior absolved him from the sin he had committed in beginning the miracle without permission, and gave him leave to finish it, provided he stopped with the same and never again repeated his fault. The philosophers may certainly be excused for entertaining a little doubt of this legend.
But how can you deny, they are asked, that St. Gervais and St. Protais appeared in a dream to St. Ambrose, and informed him of the spot in which were deposited their relics ? that St. Ambrose had them disinterred? and that they restored sight to a man that was blind ? St. Augustin was at Milan at the very time, and it is he who relates the miracle, using the expression, in the twenty-second book of his work
called the City of God; immenso populo teste,” in the presence of an immenselt number of people. Here is one of the very best attested and established miracleseze The philosophers however say, that they do not believe one word about Gervais and Protais appearing to any person whatever; that it is a matter
of very little consequencel to mankind where the ! remains of their carcases lie; that they have no more
faith in this blind man than in Vespasian's; that it is a useless miracle, and that God does nothing that is used less; and they adhere to the principles they began with. My respect for St. Gervais and St. Protais prevents me from being of the same opinion as these phr losophers: I merely state their incredulity. They lay very great stress on the well-known passage of Laician, to be found in the death of Peregrinusse When an expert juggler turns christian, he is sure to make his fortune." But as Lucian is a profane'' author, we ought surely to set him aside asof no authority. bit
These philosophers cannot even make up their minds to believe the miracles performed in the second century. Even eye-witnesses to the facts hiay write and attest to the day of doom, that after the bishop of Smyrna, St. Polycarp, was condemned to be burnt, and actually in the midst of the flames, they heard á voiee from heaven exclaifningdek Courage, Polycarp, be strong, and show yourself a man that at the very instant, the flames quitted his body, and formed a pavilion of fire above this head, and from the midst of the
flew out a enemiesbended this lifeduga cutting off his head. All these facts and battestations are in vain. For what good, way these unimpressible and interedulous men, for what good was this miracle? Why did the flames lose their nature, and the axe of the executioners retain Saliditsipower of destruction? Wilence comes it that so mang martyrs escaped Panhartoqt of boiling
oil, but were unable to resist the edge of the sword It is an Swerea, gucih Was theiwit of Goa. Bat the philosopkers Woula wish to see and hear all this themselves, before they believe it.ei aids lo tedalsgs vlogi Bilgtert'
Those who strengthen their reasonings by learning, will tell you, that the fathers of the church have frequently declared, that miracles were in their days performed no longer. St. Chrysostom says expressly-“ The extraordinary gifts of the spirit were bestowed even on the unworthy, because the church at that time had need of miracles; but now they are not bestowed even on the worthy, because the church has need of them no longer.” He afterwards declares, that there is no one now who raises the dead, or even who heals the sick.
St. Augustin himself, notwithstanding the miracles of Gervais and Protais, says, in his City of God, “Why are not such miracles as were wrought formerly wrought now?" and he assigns the same reason as St. Chrysostom for it.
“Cur, inquiunt, nunc illa miracula quæ prædicatis facta esse non fiunt? Possem quidem dicere necessaria prius fuisse, quàm crederet mundus, ad hoc ut crederet mundus."
It is objected to the philosophers, that St. Augustin, notwithstanding this avowal, mentions nevertheless an old cobler of Hippo, who, having lost his garment, went to pray in the chapel of the twenty martyrs, and on his return found a fish, in the body of which was a gold ring; and that the cook who dressed the fish, said to the cobler,—“See what a present the twenty martyrs have made
To this the philosophers reply, that there is nothing in the event here related in opposition to the laws of nature; that natural philosophy is not contradicted or shocked by a fish's swallowing a gold ring, or a cook's delivering such ring to a cobler; that in short there is no miracle at all in the case.
If these philosophers are reminded that, according to St. Jerome, in his Life of Paul the Hermit, that hermit had many conversations with satyrs and fauns ;
raven carried to him every day, for thirty years together; half of a loaf for his dinner, and a whole one on the day that St. Anthony went to visit him, they might reply again, that all this is not absolutely incon
sitent with natural philosophy; that satyrs and fauns may have existed ; and that, at all events, whether the narrative be a recital of facts, or only a story fit for children, it has nothing at all to do with the miracles of our Lord and his apostles. Many good christians have contested the history of St. Simeon Stylites, written by Theodoret; many miracles considered authentic by the Greek church have heen called in question by many Latins, just as the Latin miracles have been suspected by the Greek church. Afterwards, the protestants appeared on the stage, and treated the miracles of both churches certainly with very little respect or ceremony:
A learned jesuit,* who was long a preacher in the Indies, deplores that neither his colleagues nor himself could ever perform a miracle. Xavier laments, in many of his letters, that he has not the gift of languages. He says, that among the Japanese he is merely like a dumb statue : yet the jesuits have written, that he resuscitated eight persons. That was certainly no trifling matter; but it must be recollected that he resuscitated them six thousand leagues distant. Persons have been since found, who have pretended that the abolition of the jesuits in France is a much greater miracle than any performed by Xavier and Ignatius.
However that may be, all christians agree that the miracles of Jesus Christ and the apostles are incontestably true; but that we may certainly be permitted to doubt some stated to have been performed in our own times, and which have not been completely authenticated,
It would certainly, for example, be very desirable, in order to the firm and clear establishment of a miracle, that it should be performed in the
presence of the Academy of Sciences of Paris, or the Royal Society of London, and the Faculty of Medicine, assisted by a detachment of guards to keep in due order and distance the populace, who might by their rudeness or indiscretion prevent the operation of the miracle.
* Ospinian, p. 230.