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phænomena are to a great extent coincident with the course of nature. It
It may be added, that the biographer not only is frequent in the phrases, “it is said,” “it is still reported,” but he assigns as a reason for not relating more of St. Gregory's miracles, that he may be taxing the belief of his readers more than is fitting, and he throughout writes in a tone of apology as well as of panegyric.
Next, let us turn to St. Athanasius's Life of St. Antony, who began the solitary life A.D. 270. Athanasius knew him personally, and writes whatever he was able to learn from himself; for “ I followed him," he says, “no small time, and “poured water upon his hands ;” and he adds, that “ every “ where he has had an anxious regard to truth." The following are some of the supernatural or extraordinary portions of his narrative. He relates that the enemy of souls appeared to Antony, first like a woman, then like a black child, when he confessed himself to be the spirit of lewdness, and to have been vanquished by the young hermit. Afterwards, when he was passing the night in the tombs, he was attacked by evil spirits, and so severely stricken that he lay speechless till a friend found him next day k. When he was on his first journey into the desert, a large plate of silver lay in his way; he soliloquised thus, “Whence this in the desert ? This is “ no beaten path, no track of travellers; it is too large to be
dropped without being missed; or if dropped, it would have “ been sought after and found, for there is no one else to take it. “ This is a snare of the devil; thou shalt not, O devil, hinder “ thus my earnest purpose; unto perdition be it with thee!” As he spoke, the plate vanished. He exhorted his friends not to fear the evil spirits ; “ They conjure up phantoms to “ terrify cowards, but sign yourselves with the cross, and go « forth in confidence." “ Once there appeared to me,” he says on another occasion, "a spirit very tall, with a great
k Eusebius relates of one Natalis, On neglecting these, he was severely a Confessor of the end of the second scourged by Angels all through the century, that he fell into the heresy of night. Hist. v. 28. Vid. Hieron. adv. Theodotus, a sort of Unitarianism, and Rufin. p. 414. was warned by our Lord in visions.
show, and presumed to say, 'I am the Power of God, and “I am Providence; what favour shall I do thee?' But “I the rather spit upon him, naming the Christ, and essayed “ to strike him, and I think I did; and straightway this
great person vanished with all his spirits at Christ's Name. “ Once he came, the crafty one, when I was fasting, and as
a Monk, with the appearance of loaves, and bade me eat; “ 'Eat, and have over thy many pains; thou too art a man, “ and art like to be sick ;' I, perceiving his craft, rose up to
pray. He could not bear it, but vanished through the “ door, like smoke. Listen to another thing, and that “ securely and fearlessly; and trust me, for I lie not. One “ time some one knocked at my door in the monastery; I “ went out, and saw a person tall and high. "Who art thou?'
say I; he answers, 'I am Satan.' Then I asked, 'Why art “ 'thou here ?' He says, “Why do the Monks, and all other “Christians, so unjustly blame me? Why do they curse “'me hourly?' 'Why troublest thou them?' I rejoin. He, “'I trouble them not; they harass themselves; I have be" "come weak. I have no place left, no weapon, no city. “Christians are now every where; at last even the desert is "filled with Monks. Let them attend to themselves, and “'not curse me, when they should not.' Then I said to
him, admiring the grace of the Lord, 'A true word against “thy will, who art ever a liar and never speakest truth; for “Christ hath come and made thee weak, and overthrown “thee and stripped thee.' At the Saviour's Name he “ vanished; it burned him, and he could not bear it.” Once when travelling to some brethren across the desert, water failed them; they sat down in despair, and let the camel wander. Antony knelt down, and spread out his hands in prayer ;
when a spring of water burst from the place where he was praying. A person came to him who was afflicted with madness or epilepsy, and begged his prayers; he prayed for him, and then said, “Go, and be healed." The man refusing to go, Antony said, “If thou remainest here, thou canst not “ be healed; but go to Egypt, and thy cure shall be wrought “ in thee.” He believed, went, and was cured as soon as he got sight of Egypt. At another time, he was made aware that two brothers were overtaken in the desert by want of water; that one was dead, and the other dying; he sent two Monks, who buried the one and restored the other. Once, on entering a vessel, he complained of a most loathsome stench; the boatmen said that there was fish in it, but without satisfying Antony, when suddenly a cry was heard from a youth on board, who was possessed by a spirit. Antony used the Name of our Lord, and the sick person was restored. St. Athanasius relates a similar instance of Antony's power, which took place in his presence.
When the old man left Alexandria, whither he had gone to assist the Church against the Arians, Athanasius accompanied him as far as the gate. A woman cried after him, “ Stop, thou man of God, my “ daughter is miserably troubled by a spirit.” Athanasius besought him too, and he turned round; the girl, in a fit, lay on the ground; but on Antony praying, and naming the Name of Christ, she rose restored. It should be observed, that Alexandria was at this time still in a great measure a heathen city; Athanasius says, that, while Antony was there, as many became Christians in a few days as were commonly converted in the course of the year. This fact is important, not only as shewing us the purpose which his miracles answered, but as informing us by implication that pretensions such as Antony's were not of every day's occurrence then, but arrested attention and curiosity at the time.
We have a similar proof of the comparative rareness of such miraculous claims in St. Jerome's Life of Hilarion. When the latter visited Sicily, one of his disciples, who was seeking him, heard in Greece, of a Jew, that “a Prophet of the “ Christians had appeared in Sicily, and was doing so many “ miracles and signs that men thought him one of the old “ Saints." Hilarion was the first solitary in Palestine, and a disciple of St. Antony; St Jerome enumerates various miracles which were wrought by him, such as his giving sight to a woman who had been ten years blind, restoring a paralytic, procuring rain by his prayers, healing the bites of serpents with consecrated oil, curing a dropsy, curbing the violence of the sea upon a shore, exorcising the possessed, and among these a camel which had killed many persons in its fury. When he was solemnly buried ten months after his death, his Monk's dress was quite whole upon him, and his body was entire as if he had been alive, and sent forth a most exquisite fragrance.
Sulpicius gives us the account of his master St. Martin's miracles, which encountered much incredulity when he first published it. “I am shocked to say what I lately heard,” says his friend to him in his Dialogues; "but an unhappy man has asserted that
book.” As St. Martin was the Apostle of Gaul, the purpose effected by his miracles is equally clear and sufficient as in the instance of Thaumaturgus; yet they are even more extraordinary and startling than his. Sulpicius in his Dialogues solemnly appeals to our Lord that he has stated nothing but what he saw himself, or knew, if not on St. Martin's own word, at least on sure testimony. He also appeals to living witnesses. The following are instances taken from the first of his two works.
Before Martin was a Bishop, while he was near St. Hilary at Poictiers, a certain Catechumen, who lived in his monastery, died of a fever in Martin's absence without baptism. On his
return the Saint went by himself into the cell where the body lay, threw himself upon it, prayed, and then raising himself with his eyes fixed on it, patiently waited his restoration, which took place before the end of two hours. The man, thus miraculously brought to life, lived many years, and was known to Sulpicius, though not till after the miracle. At the same period of his life he also restored a servant in a family who had hung himself, and in the same way. Near Tours, which was his See, a certain spot was commonly considered to be the tomb of Martyrs, and former Bishops had placed an altar there. No name or time was known, and Martin found reason to suspect that the tradition was unfounded. For a while he remained undecided, being afraid either of encouraging superstition or of irreverence; at length he went to the tomb, and prayed to Christ to be told who was buried there and what his character. On this a dismal shade appeared, who, on being commanded to speak, confessed that he was a robber who had been executed for his crimes, and was in punishment. Martin's attendants heard the voice, but saw nothing. Once when he was on a journey, he saw at a distance a heathen funeral procession, and mistook it for some idolatrous ceremonial, the country people of Gaul being in the practice of carrying their gods about their fields. He made the sign of the cross, and bade them stop and set down the body; this they were constrained to do. When he discovered their real business, he suffered them to proceed. At another time, on his giving orders for cutting down a pine to which idolatrous honour was paid, a heathen said, “If thou hast confidence in thy God, let us “ hew the tree and do thou receive it as it falls; if thy Lord “ is with thee, thou wilt escape harm." Martin accepted the condition, and when the tree was falling upon him, made the sign of the cross; the tree reeled round and fell on the other side. This miracle converted the vast multitude who