« PreviousContinue »
“cles do not happen now, that they did not happen then .. “In those times they were profitable, and now they are not.” He proceeds to say that in spite of this difference, the mode of conviction was substantially the same. “We persuade “not by philosophical reasonings, but from Divine Scripture, " and we recommend what we say by the miracles then done. “And then they persuaded not by miracles only, but by dis“cussion.” And presently he adds, “ The more evident and “ constraining are the things which happen, the less room there “ is for faith .” Again in another part of his works, “Why are “there not those now who raise the dead and perform cures ? “I will not say why not; rather, why are there not those “now who despise the present life? why serve we God for “ hire ? When however nature was weak, when faith had to “ be planted, then there were many such ; but now He wills, “not that we should hang on these miracles, but be ready “ for death u.”
In like manner St. Augustine introduces his catalogue of contemporary miracles, which has been partly given above, by stating and allowing the objection that miracles were not then as they had been. “Why, say they, do not these “ miracles take place now, which, as you preach to us, took “ place once? I might answer that they were necessary “ before the world believed, that it might believe x.” He then goes on to say that miracles were wrought in his time, only they were not so public and well-attested as the miracles of the Gospel
St. Ambrose, on the discovery of the bodies of the two Martyrs, uses language of surprise which is quite in accordance with the feelings which the miracles of Antony and Hilarion seem to have roused, in Alexandria and in Sicily. “ You know, you yourselves saw that many were cleansed
· Hom. in 1 Cor. vi. 2 and 3. u Hom. 8. in Col. & 5.
* De Civ. Dei xxii. 8. $ 1.
“ from evil spirits, very many on touching with their hands “ the garment of the saints, were delivered from the infirmi“ ties which oppressed them. The miracles of the old time “ are come again, when by the advent of the Lord Jesus a “ fuller grace was shed upon the earth.” Under a similar feeling Y he speaks of the two corpses, which happened to be of large size, as “miræ magnitudinis, ut prisca ætas ferebat 2.”
And Isidore of Pelusium, after observing that in the Apostles holiness of life and power of miracles went together, adds, “ Now, too, if the life of teachers rivalled the Apostolic “ bearing, perhaps miracles would take place; though if they “ did not, such life would suffice for the enlightening of those « who beheld it a.”
The doctrine, thus witnessed by the great writers of the end of the fourth century is declared by as clear a testimony two centuries before and two centuries after. Pope Gregory at the end of the sixth in commenting on the text, “And these “ signs shall follow those that believe," says, “Is it so, my “ brethren, that, because ye do not these signs, ye do not “ believe? On the contrary, they were necessary in the " beginning of the Church: for, that faith might grow, it “required miracles to cherish it withal; just as when we “plant shrubs, we water them till they seem to thrive in the “ ground, and as soon as they are well rooted, we cease our “ irrigation. This is what Paul teaches, “Tongues are a "sign not for those who believe, but for those who believe “inot;' and there is something yet to be said of these signs “ and powers of a more recondite nature. For Holy Church “ doth spiritually every day, what she then did through the “ Apostles, corporally. For when the Priests by the grace of “ exorcism lay hands on believers and forbid evil spirits to
Y Ep. i. 22. & 9. The same feeling of reverence for times past must be taken partly to account for the expressions ίχνη and υπολέλειπται in Origen,
Eusebius, &c. below note c. page xli.
? $ 2.
“ inhabit their minds, what do they but cast out devils ? “And any believers soever who henceforth abandon the “secular words of the old life, and utter holy mysteries, and “ rehearse, as best they can, the praise and power of their “ Maker, what do they but speak with new tongues ? More“over, while by their good exhortations they remove evil “ from the hearts of others, they are taking up serpents, &c. “... Which miracles are the greater, because they are the “ more spiritual; the greater because they are the means of “raising not bodies but souls; these signs then, dearest “ brethren, by God's aid, ye do if ye will b.” And St. Clement of Alexandria at the end of the second century: “ If it was imputed to Abraham for righteousness on his “ believing, and we are the seed of Abraham, we too must “ believe by hearing. For Israelites we are, who are obe“ dient, not through signs, but through hearing d.”
In Evang. ii. 29. . Strom. ii. 6. p. 444. So Mr. Os burn, Errors Apost. Fathers, p. 12. and I think rightly. The Bishop of Lincoln, however, observes, “I find “ only one passage in the writings of " Clement which has any bearing on " the question of the existence of mira“ culous powers in the Church ;" and proceeds to refer to the Extracts from the writings of Theodotus. Kaye's Clement, p. 468. The Bishop argues in his work upon Tertullian that miracles had then ceased, from a passage in the De Pudicitiâ, in which, after saying that the Apostles had spiritual powers peculiar to themselves, Tertullian adds, “Nam et mortuos suscitaverunt, quod “ Deus solus; et debiles redintegrave" runt, quod nemo nisi Christus; immo " et plagas inflixerunt, quod voluit * Christus." c. 21.
The following passages will be found to testify to the same general fact, that the special miraculous powers possessed by the Apostles did not continue in the Church after them. Eusebius says that according to St, Irenæus, instances of miraculous powers, dy èKKANILAIS Tigly ÚTON ÉR EITTO, Hist. v. 7. Yxon, of the miracles still remain, Origen contra Cels. i. 2. fin. Yxun,
Kal Tuá ye uelšova. ibid. ii. 8. xun
What are the distinctions between the Apostolic and the later miracles, which allow of the Fathers saying in a true sense that miracles ceased with the first age, has in many ways appeared from what has already come before us. For instance, it has appeared that the Ecclesiastical miracles were but locally known, or were done in private; or were so like occurrences which are not miraculous as to give rise to doubt and perplexity, at the time or since, as to their real character; or they are so unlike the Scripture miracles, so strange and startling in their nature and circumstances, as to need support and sanction rather themselves than to supply it to Christianity; or they are difficult from their drift, or their instruments or agents, or the doctrine connected with them; “ take place; but now there is no need “cleanse lepers, but that we shew forth “ of that teaching, the facts themselves “the greatest miracle of all, charity," in “ proclaiining and manifesting the Rom. Hom. viii. 7. After quoting the “ Lord.” in Psalm cxlii. 5. Vid. also text, “ We are changed into the same Inscript. Act. ii. 3. Speaking of the “ image from glory to glory,” he adds, miracles in the wilderness, he says, “ This was shewn more manifestly, when “ In our case also, when we came out “ the gifts of miracles were in operation; “ of error, many wonders were dis- “ but even now it is not difficult to dis“ played ; but after that they stopped, “cern it when a man has believing eyes," “ when religion was planted every &c. in 2 Cor. Hom. vii. 5. In like “ where. And if subsequently they manner St. Augustine after mentioning “ happened to the Jews) they were the Apostolic miracles, “Sanati lan“ few and scattered, as when the sun “guidi, mundati leprosi, incessus clau“stood, &c. and this too has appeared “dis, cæcis visus, surdis auditus est “ in our case;" and then he goes on to “redditus," and the changing of water mention the fiery eruption at the temple, into wine, the multiplication of the &c. in Matth. Hom. iv. 1. And ibid. loaves, &c., continues, “ Cur, inquis, Hom. xxxii. 7, after mentioning the “ ista modd non fiunt ? quia non A postolic miracles of cleansing lepers, “ moverent, nisi mira essent: at si soexorcising spirits, and raising the dead; “lita essent, mira non essent." De he says, “ This is the greatest proof of Util. cred. 16. He adds in his Re“ your nobleness and love, to believe tractations, “ Hoc dixi, quia non tanta, “ God without pledges; for this is one “nec omnia modo, non quia nulla fiunt “ reason, among others, why God ceased “ etiam modo.” Again, “Cum Ecclesia “ miracles . . Seek not miracles then, “ Catholica per totum orbem diffusa “ but health of soul.” And then he “ atque fundata sit, nec miracula illa in contrasts with visible miracles the “ nostra tempora durare permissa sunt, * greater" ones of beneficence, self- “ne animus semper visibilia quæreret,” command, &c. to the end of the Ho &c. De Ver. Rel. 25. He adds in his mily. And in Joan. “Now too there Retractations, “Non sic accipiendum “ are those who seek and say, Why are “est quod dixi, ut nunc in Christi no“ there not miracles now? If thou art " mine fieri miracula nulla credantur. “ faithful as behoveth and love Christ “Nam ego ipse quando istum ipsum “ as thou shouldest, miracles thou “librum scripsi, ad Mediolanensium “ needest not.” Hom. xxiv. 1. Else- “corpora Martyrum in eâdem civitate where after speaking of the gift of the “cæcum illuminatum fuisse jam noSpirit dwelling in us, he adds, “not “ veram," &c. Vid. also Pope Greg. “ that we may raise the dead, nor Mor, xxvii. 18.
in a word, they are not primarily and directly evidence of revelation, though they may become so accidentally, or to certain persons, or in the way of confirmation. That they are not the direct evidence of revealed truth, is fully granted by St. Augustine in the following striking passage from one of his works against the Donatists :
“ Let him prove that we must hold to the Church in Africa “ only, to the loss of the nations, or again that we must re“ store and complete it in all nations from Africa; and prove “ it, not by saying 'It is true, because I say it,' or ' because “'my associate says it,' or 'my associates," or "these our “'Bishops,' 'Clerks,' or 'people;' or 'it is true because "'Donatus, or Pontius, or any one else, did these or those “marvellous acts,' or 'because men pray at the shrines of “our dead brethren, and are heard,' or 'because this or " that happens there,' or 'because this brother of ours,' or ««that our sister,' saw such and such a vision when he was “bawake,' or 'dreamed such and such a vision when he was « asleep.' Put away what are either the fictions of men who “ lie, or the wonders of spirits who deceive. For either what “ is reported is not true, or, if among heretics wonders “ happen, we have still greater cause for caution, inasmuch “ as our Lord, after declaring that certain deceivers were to “ be, who should work some miracles, and deceive thereby, “ were it possible, even the elect, added an earnest charge, in “ the words, 'Behold, I have told you before.' Whence also " the Apostle warns us that the Spirit speaketh expressly, “' in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, “ giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.' “ Moreover, if any one is heard who prays in the shrines of “ heretics, what he receives, whether good or bad, is con“ sequent not upon the merit of the place, but upon the “ merit of his own earnest desire. For the Spirit of the “'Lord,' as it is written, hath filled the whole world,' and