THE PERMANENT STREAM OF MIRACULOUS PRETENSION
WE have given a most imperfect sketch of some of the opinions and superstitions prevalent at the time of Jesus, and when the books of the New Testament were written. These, as we have seen, continued with little or no modification throughout the first centuries of our era. It must, however, be remembered that the few details we have given, omitting most of the grosser particulars, are the views deliberately expressed by the most educated and intelligent part of the community, and that it would have required infinitely darker colours adequately to have portrayed the dense ignorance and superstition of the mass of the Jews. It is impossible to receive the report of supposed marvellous occurrences from an age and people like this without the gravest suspicion. Even so thorough a defender of miracles as Newman admits that "Witnesses must be not only honest, but competent also; that is, such as have ascertained the facts which they attest, or who report after examination"; [83:1] and although the necessities of his case oblige him to assert that "the testimony of men of science and general knowledge" must not be required, he admits, under the head of "deficiency of examination," that "Enthusiasm, ignorance, and habitual credulity are defects which no number of witnesses removes." [83:2] We have shown how rank were these "defects" at the commencement of the Christian era, and among the chief witnesses for Christianity. Miracles which spring from such a hot-bed of superstition are too natural in such a soil to be objects of surprise and, in losing their exceptional character, their claims upon attention are proportionately weakened, if not altogether destroyed. Preternatural interference with the affairs of life and the phenomena of nature was the rule in those days, not the exception, and miracles, in fact, had lost all novelty and, through familiarity, had become degraded into mere commonplace. The Gospel miracles were not original in their character, but were substantially mere repetitions of similar wonders well known among the Jews, or commonly supposed to be of daily occurrence even at that time. In fact, the idea of such miracles, in such in age and performed among such a people, as the attestation of a supernatural Revelation, may with singular propriety be ascribed to the mind of that period, but can scarcely be said to bear any traces of the divine. Indeed, anticipating for a moment a part of our subject regarding which we shall have more to say hereafter, we may remark that, so far from being original either in its evidence or form, almost every religion which has been taught in the world has claimed the same divine character as Christianity, and has surrounded the person and origin of its central figure with the same supernatural mystery. Even the great heroes of history, long before our era, had their immaculate conception and miraculous birth.
There can be no doubt that the writers of the New Testament shared the popular superstitions of the Jews. We have already given more than one instance of this, and now we have only to refer for a moment to one class of these superstitions, the belief in demoniacal possession and origin of disease, involving clearly both the existence of demons and their power over the human race. It would be an insult to the understanding of those who are considering this question to pause here to prove that the historical books of the New Testament speak in the clearest and most unmistakable terms of actual demoniacal possession. Now, what has become of this theory of disease? The Archbishop of Dublin is probably the only one who asserts the reality of demoniacal possession formerly and at the present day, [84:1] and in this we must say that he is consistent. Milman, on the other hand, who spoke with the enlightenment of the nineteenth century, "has no scruple in avowing his opinion on the subject of demoniacs to be that of Joseph Mede, Lardner, Dr. Mead, Paley, and all the learned modern writers. It was a kind of insanity … and nothing was more probable than that lunacy should take the turn and speak the language of the prevailing superstition of the times." [84:2] The Dean, as well as "all the learned modern writers" to whom he refers, felt the difficulty; but, in seeking to evade it, they sacrifice the Gospels. They overlook the fact that the writers of these narratives not only themselves adopt "the prevailing superstition of the times," but represent Jesus as doing so with equal completeness. There is no possibility, for instance, of evading such statements as those in the miracle of the country of the Gadarenes, where the objectivity of the demons is so fully recognised that, on being cast out of the man, they are represented as requesting to be allowed to go into the herd of swine; and, being permitted by Jesus to do so, the entry of the demons into the swine is at once signalised by the herd running violently down the cliff into the lake, and being drowned. [85:1] Archbishop Trench adopts no such ineffectual evasion, but rightly objects: "Our Lord Himself uses language which is not reconcilable with any such explanation. He everywhere speaks of demoniacs not as persons of disordered intellects, but as subjects and thralls of an alien spiritual might; He addresses the evil spirit as distinct from the man: 'Hold thy peace, and come out of him'"; and he concludes that "our idea of Christ's absolute veracity, apart from the value of the truth which He communicated, forbids us to suppose that He could have spoken as He did, being perfectly aware all the while that there was no corresponding reality to justify the language which He used." [85:2] Milman, on the other hand, finds "a very strong reason," which he does not remember to have seen urged with sufficient force, "which may have contributed to induce our Lord to adopt the current language on the point. The disbelief in these spiritual influences was one of the characteristics of the unpopular sect of the Sadducees. A departure from the common language, or the endeavour to correct this inveterate error, would have raised an immediate outcry against Him from His watchful and malignant adversaries as an unbelieving Sadducee." [85:3] Such ascription of politic deception for the sake of popularity might be intelligible in an ordinary case, but when referred to the central personage of a Divine revelation, who is said to be God incarnate, it is perfectly astounding. The Archbishop, however, rightly deems that if Jesus knew that the Jewish belief in demoniacal possession was baseless, and that Satan did not exercise such power over the bodies or spirits of men, there would be in such language "that absence of agreement between thoughts and words in which the essence of a lie consists." [85:4] It is difficult to say whether the dilemma of the Dean or of the Archbishop is the greater -- the one obliged to sacrifice the moral character of Jesus in order to escape the admission for Christianity of untenable superstition, the other obliged to adopt the superstition in order to support the veracity of the language. At least, the course of the Archbishop is consistent, and worthy of respect. The attempt to eliminate the superstitious diagnosis of the disease, and yet to preserve intact the miraculous cure, is quite ineffectual.
Dr. Trench anticipates the natural question, why there are no demoniacs now, if there were so many in those days, [85:5] and he is logically compelled to maintain that there may still be persons possessed. "It may well be a question, moreover," he says, "if an apostle, or one with apostolic discernment of spirits, were to enter into a madhouse now, how many of the sufferers there he might not recognise as possessed?" [86:1] There can scarcely be a question upon the point at all, for such a person issuing direct from that period, without subsequent scientific enlightenment, would most certainly pronounce them all "possessed." It did not, however, require an apostle, nor even one with apostolic discernment of spirits, to recognise the possessed at that time. All those who are represented as being brought to Jesus to be healed are described by their friends as having a devil or being possessed, and there was no form of disease more general or more commonly recognised by the Jews. For what reason has the recognition of, and belief in, demoniacal possession passed away with the ignorance and superstition which were then prevalent?
It is important to remember that the theory of demoniacal possession, and its supposed cure by means of exorcism and invocations, was most common among the Jews long before the commencement of the Christian era. As casting out devils was the most common type of Christian miracles, so it was the commonest belief and practice of the Jewish nation. Christianity merely shared the national superstition, and changed nothing but the form of exorcism. Christianity did not, through a "clearer perception of spirits," therefore, originate the belief in demoniacal possession, or first recognise its victims; nor did such superior enlightenment accompany the superior morality of Christianity as to detect the ignorant fallacy. In the Old Testament we find the most serious evidence of the belief in demonology and witchcraft. The laws against them set the example of that unrelenting severity with which sorcery was treated for so many centuries. We read in Exodus 22:18: "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." Levit. 19:31: "Regard not them which have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards to be defiled by them." Levit. 20:6: "And the soul that turneth after such as have familiar spirits, and after wizards, to go a-whoring after them, I will even set my face against that soul, and cut him off from among his people" and verse 27: "A man also, or a woman, that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death; they shall stone them with stones; their blood shall be upon them." Deut. 18:10: "There shall not be found among you anyone that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or an enchanter, or a witch; 11. Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer; 12. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord," etc. The passages which assert the reality of demonology and witchcraft, however, are much too numerous to permit their citation here. But not only did Christianity thus inherit the long-prevalent superstition, but it transmitted it intact to succeeding ages; and there can be no doubt that this demonology, with its consequent and inevitable belief in witchcraft, sorcery, and magic, continued so long to prevail throughout Christendom, as much through the authority of the sacred writings and the teaching of the Church as through the superstitious ignorance of Europe.
Witchcraft Proscribed by Church and
It would be impossible to select for illustration any type of the Gospel miracles whose fundamental principle -- belief in the reality, malignant action, and power of demons, and in the power of man to control them -- has received fuller or more permanent living acceptance from posterity, down to very, recent times, than the cure of disease ascribed to demoniacal influence. The writings of the Fathers are full of the belief; the social history of Europe teems with it. The more pious the people, the more firm was their conviction of its reality. From times antecedent to Christianity, until medical science slowly came into existence, every form of disease was ascribed to demons. Madness, idiotcy, epilepsy, and every shape of hysteria were the commonest forms of their malignity; and the blind, the dumb, and the deformed were regarded as unquestionable victims of their malice. Every domestic calamity, from the convulsions of a child to the death of a cow, was unhesitatingly attributed to their agency. The more ignorant the community, the greater the number of its possessed. Belief in the power of sorcery, witchcraft, and magic was inherent in the superstition, and the universal prevalence shows how catholic was the belief in demoniacal influence. The practice of these arts is solemnly denounced as sin in the New Testament and throughout Patristic literature, and the Church has in all ages fulminated against it. No accusation was more common than that of practising sorcery, and no class escaped from the fatal suspicion. Popes were charged with the crime, and bishops were found guilty of it. St. Cyprian was said to have been a magician before he became a Christian and a Father of the Church. [87:1] Athanasius was accused of sorcery before the Synod of Tyre. [87:2] Not only the illiterate, but even the learned, in the estimation of their age, believed in it. No heresy was ever persecuted with more unrelenting hatred. Popes have issued bulls vehemently anathematising witches and sorcerers, councils have proscribed them, ecclesiastical courts have consigned tens of thousands of persons suspected of being such to the stake, monarchs have written treatises against them and invented tortures for their conviction, and every nation in Europe, and almost every generation, have passed the most stringent laws against them. Upon no point has there ever been greater unanimity of belief. Church and State have vied with each other for the suppression of the abominable crime. Every phenomenon of nature, every unwelcome occurrence of social life, as well as every natural disease, has been ascribed to magic and demons. The historical records of Europe are filled with the deliberate trial and conviction, upon what was deemed evidence, of thousands of sorcerers and witches. Hundreds have been found guilty of exercising demoniacal influence over the elements, from Sopater the philosopher, executed under Constantine for preventing, by adverse winds, the arrival of corn ships at Constantinople, to Dr. Fian and other witches horribly tortured and burnt for causing a stormy passage on the return of James I from Denmark. [88:1] Thousands of men and tens of thousands of women have been done to death by every conceivable torment for causing sickness or calamity by sorcery, or for flying through the air to attend the witches' sabbath. When scepticism as to the reality of the demoniacal powers of sorcery tardily began to arise, it was fiercely reprobated by the Church as infidelity. Even so late as the seventeenth century, a man like Sir Thomas Browne not only did not include the belief among the vulgar errors which he endeavoured to expose, but, on the contrary, wrote: "For my part, I have ever believed, and do now know, that there are witches. They that doubt of them do not only deny them, but spirits; and are obliquely, and upon consequence, a sort not of infidels, but Atheists." [88:2] In 1664 Sir Thomas Hale, in passing sentence of death against two women convicted of being witches, declared that the reality of witchcraft was undeniable, because "first, the Scriptures had affirmed so much; and secondly, the wisdom of all nations had provided laws against such persons, which is an argument of their confidence in such a crime." [88:3] Even the eighteenth century was stained with the blood of persons tortured and executed for sorcery.
Belief in Witchcraft
Notwithstanding all this persistent and unanimous confirmation, we ask again: What has now become of the belief in demoniacal possession and sorcery? It has utterly disappeared. "Joseph Mede, Lardner, Dr. Mead, Paley, and all the learned modern writers" with Dean Milman, as we have seen, explain it away, and such a theory of disease and elemental disturbance is universally recognised to have been a groundless superstition. The countless number of persons tormented and put to death for the supposed crime of witchcraft and sorcery were mere innocent victims to ignorance and credulity. At the commencement of our era every disease was ascribed to the agency of demons simply because the nature of disease was not understood, and the writers of the Gospels were not, in this respect, one whit more enlightened than the Jews. The progress of science, however, has not only dispelled the superstitious theory as regards disease in our time; its effects are retrospective. Science not only declares the ascription of disease to demoniacal possession or malignity to be an idle superstition now, but it equally repudiates the assumption of such a cause at any time. The diseases referred by the Gospels, and by the Jews of that time, to the action of devils, exist now, but they are known to proceed from purely physical causes. The same superstition and medical ignorance would enunciate the same diagnosis at the present day. The superstition and ignorance, however, have passed away, and with them the demoniacal theory. In that day the theory was as baseless as in this. This is the logical conclusion of every educated man.
It is obvious that, with the necessary abandonment of the theory of "possession" and demoniacal origin of disease, the largest class of miracles recorded in the Gospels is at once exploded. The asserted cause of the diseases of this class, said to have been miraculously healed, must be recognised to be a mere vulgar superstition, and the narratives of such miracles, ascribing as they do, in perfect simplicity, distinct objectivity to the supposed "possessing" demons, and reporting their very words and actions, at once assume the character of mere imaginative and fabulous writings based upon superstitious tradition, and cannot be accepted as the sober and intelligent report of eyewitnesses. We shall presently see how far this inference is supported by the literary evidence regarding the date and composition of the Gospels.
The deduction, however, does not end here. It is clear that, this large class of Gospel miracles being due to the superstition of an ignorant and credulous age, the insufficiency of the evidence for any of the other supposed miraculous occurrences narrated in the same documents becomes at once apparent. Nothing but the most irrefragable testimony, could possibly warrant belief in statements of supernatural events which contradict all experience, and are opposed to all science. When these statements, however, are not only rendered, a priori, suspicious by their proceeding from a period of the grossest superstition and credulity, but it becomes evident that a considerable part of them are due solely to that superstition and credulity, by which, moreover, the rest may likewise be most naturally explained, they cannot stand against the opposing conviction of invariable experience. The force of the testimony is gone. We are far from using this language in an offensive sense concerning the Gospel narratives, which, by the simple faith of the writers, present the most noble aspect of the occurrences of which superstition is capable. Indeed, viewed as compositions gradually rising out of pious tradition, and representing the best spirit of their times, the Gospels, even in ascribing such miracles to Jesus, are a touching illustration of the veneration excited by his elevated character. Devout enthusiasm surrounded his memory with the tradition of the highest exhibitions of power within the range of Jewish imagination, and that these conceptions represent merely an idealised form of prevalent superstition was not only natural, but inevitable. We shall hereafter fully examine the character of the Gospels, but it will be sufficient here to point out that none of these writings lays claim to any special inspiration, or in the slightest degree pretends to be more than a human composition, [90:1] and subject to the errors of human history.
Christian and Pagan Miracles
We have seen how incompetent those who lived at the time when the Gospel miracles are supposed to have taken place were to furnish reliable testimony regarding such phenomena; and the gross mistake committed in regard to the largest class of these miracles, connected with demoniacal possession, altogether destroys the value of the evidence for the rest, and connects the whole, as might have been expected, with the general superstition and ignorance of the period. It may be well to inquire, further, whether there is any valid reason for excepting any of the miracles of Scripture from this fate, and whether there was any special "Age of Miracles" at all, round which a privileged line can be drawn on any reasonable ground.
We have already pointed out that the kind of evidence which is supposed to attest the Divine revelation of Christianity, so far from being invented for the purpose, was so hackneyed, so to speak, as scarcely to attract the notice of the nation to which the revelation was, in the first instance, addressed. Not only did the Old Testament contain accounts of miracles of every one of the types related in the New, but most of them were believed to be commonly performed both before and after the commencement of the Christian era. That demons were successfully exorcised, and diseases cured, by means of spells and incantations, was never doubted by the Jewish nation. Satanic miracles, moreover, are not only recognised throughout the Old and New Testaments, but formed a leading feature of the Patristic creed. The early Christians were as ready as the heathen to ascribe every inexplicable occurrence to supernatural agency, and the only difference between them was as to the nature of that agency. The Jews and their heathen neighbours were too accustomed to supposed preternatural occurrences to feel much surprise or incredulity at the account of Christian miracles; and it is characteristic of the universal superstition of the period that the Fathers did not dream of denying the reality of Pagan miracles, but merely attributed them to demons, whilst they asserted the Divine origin of their own. The reality of the powers of sorcery was never questioned. Every marvel and every narrative of supernatural interference with human affairs seemed matter of course to the superstitious credulity of the age. However much miracles are exceptions to the order of nature, they have always been the rule in the history of ignorance. In fact, the excess of belief in them throughout many centuries of darkness is fatal to their claims to credence now. The Christian miracles are rendered as suspicious from their place in a long sequence of similar occurrences, as they are by being exceptions to the sequence of natural phenomena. It would indeed be extraordinary if whole cycles of miracles occurring before and since those of the Gospels; and in connection with every religion, could be repudiated as fables, and those alone maintained as genuine.
No attempt is made to deny the fact that miracles are common to all times and to all religious creeds. Newman states among the conclusions of his essay on the miracles of early ecclesiastical history: "That there was no Age of Miracles, after which miracles ceased; that there have been at all times true miracles and false miracles, true accounts and false accounts; that no authoritative guide is supplied to us for drawing the line between the two." [91:1] Dr. Mozley also admits that morbid love of the marvellous in the human race "has produced a constant stream of miraculous pretension in the world, which accompanies man wherever he is found, and is a part of his mental and physical history." [91:2] Ignorance and its invariable attendant, superstition, have done more than mere love of the marvellous to produce and perpetuate belief in miracles, and there cannot be any doubt that the removal of ignorance always leads to their cessation. [92:1] The Bampton lecturer proceeds: "Heathenism had its running stream of supernatural pretensions in the shape of prophecy, exorcism, and the miraculous cures of diseases, which the temples of Esculapius recorded with pompous display." [92:2] So far from the Gospel miracles being original, and a presentation, for the first time, of phenomena until then unknown and unlikely to suggest themselves to the mind, "Jewish supernaturalism was indeed going on side by side with our Lord's miracles." [92:3] Dr. Mozley, however, rebuts the inference which has been drawn from this, "That His miracles could not, in the very, nature of the case, be evidences of His distinctive teaching and mission, inasmuch as miracles were common to Himself and His opponents," by the assertion that a very marked distinction exists between the Gospel miracles and all others. [92:4] He perfectly recognises the consequence if such a distinction cannot be clearly demonstrated. "The criticism, therefore, which evidential miracles, or miracles which serve as evidence of a revelation, must come up to, if they are to accomplish the object for which they are designed, involves at the outset this condition -- that the evidence of such miracles must be distinguishable from the evidences of this permanent stream of miraculous pretension in the world; that such miracles must be separated by an interval not only from the facts of the order of nature, but also from the common running miraculous, which is the simple offshoot of human nature. Can evidential miracles be inserted in this promiscuous mass, so as not to be confounded with it, but to assert their own truth and distinctive source? If they cannot, there is an end to the proof of a revelation by miracles; if they can, it remains to see whether the Christian miracles are thus distinguishable, and whether their nature, their object, and their evidence vindicate their claim to this distinctive truth and Divine source." [92:5]
Now, regarding this distinction between Gospel and other miracles, it must be observed that the religious feeling which influenced the composition of the Scripture narratives of miracles naturally led to the exclusion of all that was puerile or ignoble in the traditions, preserved regarding the Great Master. The elevated character of Jesus afforded no basis for what was petty, and the devotion with which he was regarded when the Gospels were written insured the noblest treatment of his history within certain limits. We must, therefore, consider the bare facts composing the miracles, rather than the narrative of the manner in which they are said to have been produced, in order rightly to judge of the comparative features of different miracles. If we take the case of a person raised from the dead, literary skill may invest the account with more or less of dramatic interest and dignity; but, whether the main fact be surrounded with pathetic and picturesque details, as in the account of the raising of Lazarus in the fourth Gospel, or the person be simply restored to life without them, it is the fact of the resurrection which constitutes the miracle, and it is in the facts alone that we must seek distinction, disregarding and distrusting the accessories. In the one case the effect may be much more impressive, but in the other the bare raising of the dead is not a whit less miraculous. We have been accustomed to read the Gospel narratives of miracles with so much special veneration that it is now difficult to recognise how much of the distinction of these miracles is due to the composition, and to their place in the history of Jesus. No other miracles, or account of miracles, ever had such collateral advantages.
The Continuance of Miraculous
The Archbishop of Dublin says: "Few points present greater difficulties than the attempt to fix accurately the moment when these miraculous powers were withdrawn from the Church" and he argues that they were withdrawn when it entered into what he calls its permanent state, and no longer required "these props and strengthenings of the infant plant." [93:1] That their retrocession was gradual he considers natural, and he imagines the fulness of Divine power as gradually waning as it was subdivided, first among the Apostles and then among the ever-multiplying members of the Church, until by sub-division it became virtually extinct, leaving as a substitute "the standing wonder of a Church." [93:2] This, of course, is not argument, but merely the Archbishop's fanciful explanation of a serious difficulty. The fact is, however, that the Gospel miracles were preceded and accompanied by others of the same type, and were also followed by a long succession of others, quite as well authenticated, whose occurrence only became less frequent in proportion as the diffusion of knowledge dispelled popular credulity. Even at the present day a stray miracle is from time to time reported in outlying districts, where the ignorance and superstition which formerly produced so abundant a growth of them are not yet entirely dispelled.
Papias of Hierapolis narrates a wonderful story, according to Eusebius, which he had heard from the daughters of the Apostle Philip, who lived at the same time in Hierapolis "For he relates that a dead man was restored to life in his day." [93:3] Justin Martyr, speaking of his own time, frequently asserts that Christians still receive the gift of healing, of foreknowledge, and of prophecy, [94:1] and he points out to the Roman Senate, as a fact happening under their own observation, that many demoniacs throughout all the world and in their own city have been healed, and are healed, many of the Christian men among us exorcising them in the name of Jesus Christ, subduing and expelling the possessing demons out of the man, although all the other exorcists, with incantations and spells, had failed to do so. [94:2] Theophilus of Antioch likewise states that to his day demons are exorcised. [94:3] Irenaeus, in the clearest manner, claims for the Church of his time the continued possession of the Divine charismata. He contrasts the miracles of the followers of Simon and Carpocrates, which he ascribes to magical illusions, with those of Christians. "For they can neither give sight to the blind," he continues, "nor to the deaf hearing, nor cast out all demons, but only those introduced by themselves -- if they can even do that -- nor heal the sick, the lame, the paralytic, nor those afflicted in other parts of the body, as has been often done in regard to bodily infirmity. But so far are they from raising the dead, as the Lord raised them and the Apostles by prayer, and as frequently in the brotherhood, when the whole Church in a place made supplication with much fasting and prayer, the spirit of the dead was constrained to return, and the man was freely restored in answer to the prayers of the saints -- that they do not believe this can possibly be done." [94:4] Dr. Mozley, who desires, for the purpose of his argument, to weaken the evidence of patristic belief in the continuance of miracles, says, regarding this last passage on raising the dead: "But the reference is so vague that it possesses but little weight as testimony." [94:5] The language of Irenaeus is vague only in so far as specific detailed instances are not given of the miracles referred to; but no language could be more definite or explicit to express his meaning -- namely, the assertion that the prayers of Christian communities had frequently restored the dead to life. Eusebius, who quotes the passage and who has preserved to us the original Greek, clearly recognised this. He says, when making the quotations: "In the second book of the same work he [Irenaeus] testifies that up to his time tokens of Divine and miraculous power remained in some Churches." [94:6] In the next chapter, Irenaeus further says: "On which account also his true disciples, receiving grace from him, work (miracles) in his name for the benefit of the rest of mankind, according to the gift received from him by each of them. For some do certainly and truly (bebaiôs kai alêthos) cast out demons, so that frequently those very men who have thus been cleansed from the evil spirits both believe and are now in the Church. And some have foreknowledge of future occurrences and visions and prophetic utterances. Others heal the sick by the imposition of hands, and make them whole. Indeed, as we have already stated, even the dead have been raised up, and have remained with us for many years. And what more shall I say? It is not possible to state the number of the gifts which the Church throughout the world has received from God in the name of Jesus Christ, crucified under Pontius Pilate, and which she each day employs for the benefit of the heathen," etc. [95:1]
Tertullian speaks with the most perfect assurance of miracles occurring in his day, and of the power of healing and of casting out devils still possessed by Christians. In one place, for instance, after asserting the power which they have generally over demons, so that, if a person possessed by a devil be brought before one of the Roman tribunals, a follower of Christ can at once compel the wicked spirit within him to confess that he is a demon, even if he had before asserted himself to be a god, he proceeds to say: "So, at our touch and breathing, violently affected by the contemplation and representation of those fires [of hell], they [demons] also depart at our command out of bodies, reluctant and complaining, and put to shame in your presence." [95:2] He declares that, although dreams are chiefly inflicted upon us by demons, yet they are also sent by God, and, indeed, "almost the greater part of mankind derive their knowledge concerning God from visions." [95:3] He, elsewhere, states that he himself knows that a brother was severely castigated by a vision the same night on which his slaves had, without his knowledge, done something reprehensible. [95:4] He narrates, as an instance of the continued possession of spiritual charismata by Christians: "There is at this day amongst us a sister who has the gift of revelations, which she receives in church amidst the solemnities of the Lord's Day by ecstasy in the spirit; she converses with angels, and sometimes also with the Lord, and she both hears and sees mysteries (sacramenta), and she reads the hearts of some men, and prescribes medicines to those who are in need." [95:5] Tertullian goes on to say that, after the people were dismissed from the church, this sister was in the regular habit of reporting what she had seen, and that most diligent inquiries were made in order to test the truth of her communications; [96:1] and, after narrating a vision of a disembodied soul vouchsafed to her, he states: "This is the vision, God being witness, and the Apostle [96:2] having foretold that such spiritual gifts should be in the Church." [96:3] Further on Tertullian relates a story within his own knowledge: "I know the case of a woman, born within the fold of the Church, who was in the prime of life and beauty. After being but once, and only a short time, married, having fallen asleep in peace, in the interval before interment, when the presbyter began to pray, as she was being made ready for burial, at the first breath of prayer she removed her hands from her sides, folded them in the attitude of supplication, and again, when the last rites were over, restored them to their former position." [96:4] He then mentions another story known amongst them -- that a dead body in a cemetery moved itself in order to make room beside it for another body; [96:5] and then he remarks: "If similar cases are also reported amongst the heathen, we conclude that God displays signs of his power for the consolation of his own people, and as a testimony to others." [96:6] Again, he mentions cases where Christians had cured persons of demoniacal possession, and adds: "And how many men of position (for we do not speak of the vulgar) have been delivered either from devils or from diseases?" [96:7] Tertullian, in the same place, refers to the miracle of the "Thundering Legion," [96:8] and he exclaims: "When, indeed, have not droughts been removed by our prayers and fastings?" [96:9] Minucius Felix speaks of the casting out of devils from sick persons by Christians in his own day as a matter of public notoriety even among Pagans. [96:10] St. Cyprian echoes the same assertions. [96:11] He likewise mentions cases of miraculous punishment inflicted upon persons who had lapsed from the Christian faith. One of these, who ascended the Capitol to make denial of Christ, suddenly became dumb after he had spoken the words. [96:12] Another -- a woman -- was seized by an unclean Spirit even at the baths, and bit with her own teeth the impious tongue which had eaten the idolatrous food, or spoken the words, and she shortly expired in great agony. [96:13] He likewise maintains that Christians are admonished by God in dreams and by visions, of which he mentions instances. [96:14] Origen claims for Christians the power still to expel demons and to heal diseases in the name of Jesus, [97:1] and he states that he had seen many persons so cured of madness and countless other evils, which could not be otherwise cured by men or devils. [97:2] Lactantius repeatedly asserts the power of Christians over demons; they make them flee from bodies when they adjure them in the name of God. [97:3]
Passing over the numerous apocryphal writings of the early centuries of our era, in which many miracles are recorded, we find in the pages of Eusebius narratives of many miraculous occurrences. Many miracles are ascribed to Narcissus, Bishop of Jerusalem, of which Eusebius relates several. While the vigils of the great watch of the Passover were being kept, the oil failed; whereupon Narcissus commanded that water from the neighbouring well should be poured into the lamps. Having prayed over the water, it was changed into oil, of which a specimen had been preserved until that time. [97:4] On another occasion, three men having spread some vile slanders against Narcissus, which they confirmed by an oath, and with imprecations upon themselves of death by a miserable disease, of death by fire, and of blindness, respectively, if their statements were not true, omnipotent justice in each case inflicted upon the wretches the curse which each had invoked. [97:5] The election of Fabianus to the episcopal chair of Rome was marked by the descent of a dove from on high, which rested upon his head, as the Holy Ghost had descended upon our Saviour. [97:6] At Caesarea Philippi there is a statue of Jesus Christ, which Eusebius states that he himself had seen, said to have been erected by the woman healed of the bloody issue, and on the pedestal grows a strange plant as high as the hem of the brazen garment, which is an antidote to all diseases. [97:7] Great miracles are recorded as taking place during the persecutions in Caesarea. [97:8]
Gregory of Nyssa gives an account of many wonderful works performed by his namesake Gregory of Neo-Caesarea, who was called Thaumaturgus from the miraculous power which he possessed and very freely exercised. The Virgin Mary and the Apostle John appeared to him, on one occasion, when he was in doubt as to the doctrine which he ought to preach, and, at the request of Mary, the Apostle gave him all needful instructions. [97:9] If his faith did not move mountains, it moved a huge rock to convert a pagan priest. [97:10] He drove a demon out of a heathen temple in which he had taken refuge, and the evil spirit could not re-enter until he gave permission. [98:1] Nyssen relates how St. Gregory averted an armed contest of two brothers who quarrelled about the possession of a lake on their father's property. The saint passed the night in prayer beside the lake, and in the morning it was found dried up. [98:2] On another occasion he rescued the country from the devastation of a mountain stream, which periodically burst the dykes by which it was restrained and inundated the plain. He went on foot to the place and, invoking the name of Christ, fixed his staff in the earth at the place where the torrent had broken through. The staff took root and became a tree, and the stream never again burst its bounds. The inhabitants of the district were converted to Christianity by this miracle. The tree was still living in Nyssen's time, and he had seen the bed of the lake covered with trees, pastures, and cottages. [98:3] Two vagabond Jews once attempted to deceive him. One of them lay down and pretended to be dead, while the other begged money from the saint wherewith to buy him a shroud. St. Gregory quietly took off his cloak and laid it on the man, and walked away. His companion found that he was really dead. [98:4] St. Gregory expelled demons from persons possessed, healed the sick, and performed many other miracles; [98:5] and his signs and wonders are not only attested by Gregory of Nyssa, but by St. Basil, [98:6] whose grandmother, St. Macrina, was brought up at Neo-Caesarea by the immediate followers of the saint.
Athanasius, in his memoir of St. Anthony, who began to lead the life of a recluse about A.D. 270, gives particulars of many miracles performed by the saint. Although he possessed great power over demons, and delivered many persons possessed by them, Satan tormented him sadly, and he was constantly beset by legions of devils. One night Satan with a troop of evil spirits so belaboured the saint that he lay on the ground speechless and almost dead from their blows. [98:7] We have already referred to the case of Natalius, who was scourged by angels during a whole night, till he was brought to repentance. [99:1] Upon one occasion, when St. Anthony had retired to his cell resolved to pass a time in perfect solitude, a certain soldier came to his door and remained long there knocking and supplicating the saint to come and deliver his daughter, who was tormented by a demon. At length St. Anthony addressed the man and told him to go, and if he believed in Jesus Christ and prayed to God his prayer should be fulfilled. The man believed, invoked Jesus Christ, and his daughter was delivered from the demon. [99:2] As Anthony was once travelling across the desert to visit another monastery, the water of the caravan failed them, and his companions in despair threw themselves on the ground. St. Anthony, however, retired a little apart, and in answer to his prayer a spring of water issued at the place where he was kneeling. [99:3] A man named Fronto, who was afflicted with leprosy, begged his prayers, and was ordered by the saint to go into Egypt, where be should be healed. Fronto at first refused, but, being told that he could not be healed if he remained, the sick man went believing, and as soon as he came in sight of Egypt he was made whole. [99:4] Another miracle was performed by Anthony at Alexandria in the presence of St. Athanasius. As they were leaving the city a woman cried after him, "Man of God, stay; my daughter is cruelly troubled by a demon" and she entreated him to stop lest she herself should die in running after him. At the request of Athanasius and the rest, the saint paused, and, as the woman came up, her daughter fell on the ground convulsed. St. Anthony prayed in the name of Jesus Christ, and immediately the girl rose perfectly restored to health, and delivered from the evil spirit. [99:5] He astonished a number of pagan philosophers, who had come to dispute with him, by delivering several demoniacs, making the sign of the cross over them three times, and invoking the name of Jesus Christ. [99:6] It is unnecessary, however, to multiply instances of his miraculous power to drive out demons and heal diseases, [99:7] and to perform other wonderful works. St. Athanasius, who was himself for a long time a personal follower of St. Anthony, protests in his preface to the biography his general accuracy, he having everywhere been mindful of the truth. [99:8]
Hilarion, again, a disciple of St. Anthony, performed many miracles, an account of some of which is given by St. Jerome. He restored sight to a woman who had been blind for no less than ten years; he cast out devils, and miraculously cured many diseases. Rain fell in answer to his prayers, and he further exhibited his power over the elements by calming a stormy sea. When he was buried, ten months after his death, not only was his body as perfect as though he had been alive, but it emitted a delightful perfume. He was so favoured of God that, long after, diseases were healed and demons expelled at his tomb. [100:1] St. Macarius, the Egyptian, is said to have restored a dead man to life in order to convince an unbeliever of the truth of the resurrection. [100:2] St. Martin, of Tours, restored to life a certain catechumen who had died of a fever, and Sulpicius, his disciple, states that the man, who lived for many years after, was known to himself, although not until after the miracle. He also restored to life a servant who had hung himself. [100:3] He performed a multitude of other miracles, to which we need not here more minutely refer. The relics of the two martyrs Protavius and Gervasius, whose bones, with much fresh blood, the miraculous evidence of their martyrdom and identity, were discovered by St. Ambrose, worked a number of miracles. A man suffering from demoniacal possession indicated the proximity of the relics by his convulsions. St. Augustine states that he himself was in Milan when a blind man, who merely touched the cloth which covered the two bodies as they were being moved to a neighbouring church, regained his sight. [100:4] Paulinus relates many miracles performed by his master, St. Ambrose, himself. He not only cast out many demons and healed the sick, [100:5] but he also raised the dead. Whilst the saint was staying in the house of a distinguished Christian friend, his child, who a few days before had been delivered from an unclean spirit, suddenly expired. The mother, an exceedingly religious woman, full of faith and the fear of God, carried the dead boy down and laid him on the saint's bed during his absence. When St. Ambrose returned, filled with compassion for the mother and struck by her faith, he stretched himself, like Elisha, on the body of the child, praying, and restored him living to his mother. Paulinus relates this miracle with minute particulars of name and address. [100:6]
Miracles recorded by St.
St. Augustine asserts that miracles are still performed in his day in the name of Jesus Christ, either by means of his sacraments or by the prayers or relics of his saints, although they are not so well known as those of old, and he gives an account of many miracles which had recently taken place. [100:7] After referring to the miracle performed by the relics of the two martyrs upon the blind man in Milan, which occurred when he was there, he goes on to narrate the miraculous cure of a friend of his own, named Innocent, formerly advocate of the prefecture in Carthage, where Augustine was, and beheld it with his own eyes (ubi nos interfuimus et oculis aspeximus nostris). A lady of rank in the same city was miraculously healed of an incurable cancer, and St. Augustine is indignant at the apathy of her friends which allowed so great a miracle to be so little known. [101:1] An inhabitant of the neighbouring town of Curubis was cured of paralysis and other ills by being baptised. When Augustine heard of this, although it was reported on very good authority, the man himself was brought to Carthage by order of the holy bishop Aurelius in order that the truth might be ascertained. Augustine states that on one occasion, during his absence, a tribunitian man among them named Hesperius, who had a farm close by called Zubedi, in the Fussalian district, begged one of the Christian presbyters to go and drive away some evil spirits whose malice sorely afflicted his servants and cattle. One of the presbyters accordingly went and offered the sacrifice of the body of Christ with earnest prayer, and by the mercy of God the evil was removed. Now, Hesperius happened to have received from one of his friends a piece of the sacred earth of Jerusalem, where Jesus Christ was buried and rose again the third day, and he had hung it up in his room to protect himself from the evil spirits. When his house had been freed from them, however, he begged St. Augustine and his colleague Maximinus, who happened to be in that neighbourhood, to come to him, and, after telling them all that had happened, he prayed them to bury the piece of earth in some place where Christians could assemble for the worship of God. They consented and did as he desired. A young peasant of the neighbourhood who was paralytic, hearing of this, begged that he might be carried without delay to the holy spot, where he offered up prayer, and rose up and went away on his feet perfectly cured. About thirty miles from Hippo, at a farm called Victoriana, there was a memorial to the two martyrs Protavius and Gervasius. To this, Augustine relates, was brought a young man who, having gone one summer day at noon to water his horse in the river, was possessed by a demon. The lady to whom the place belonged came, according to her custom, in the evening with her servants and some holy women to sing hymns and pray. On hearing them, the demoniac started up and seized the altar with a terrible shudder, without daring to move and as if bound to it, and the demon, praying with a loud voice for mercy, confessed where and when he had entered into the young man. At last the demon named all the members of his body, with threats to cut them off as he made his exit, and saying these words came out of him. In doing so, however, the eye of the youth fell from its socket on to his cheek, retained only by a small vein, as by a root, whilst the pupil became altogether white. Well pleased, however, that the young man had been freed from the evil spirit, they returned the eye to its place as well as they could, and bound it up with a handkerchief, praying fervently, and one of his relatives said: "God, who drove out the demon at the prayer of his saints, can also restore the sight." On removing the bandage seven days after, the eye was found perfectly whole. St. Augustine knew a girl of Hippo who was delivered from a demon by the application of oil, with which had mingled the tears of the presbyter who was praying for her. He also knew a bishop who prayed for a youth possessed by a demon, although he had not even seen him, and the young man was at once cured.
Augustine further gives particulars of many miracles performed by the relics of the most glorious martyr Stephen. [102:1] By their virtue the blind receive their sight, the sick are healed, the impenitent converted, and the dead are restored to life. "Andurus is the name of an estate," Augustine says, "where there is a church, and in it is a shrine dedicated to the martyr Stephen. A certain little boy was playing in the court, when unruly bullocks drawing a waggon crushed him with the wheel, and immediately he lay in the agonies of death. Then his mother raised him up, and placed him at the shrine, and he not only came to life again, but had manifestly received no injury. A certain religious woman, who lived in a neighbouring property called Caspalianus, being dangerously ill and her life despaired of, her tunic was carried to the same shrine; but before it was brought back she had expired. Nevertheless, her relatives covered the body with this tunic, and she received back the spirit and was made whole. At Hippo a certain man named Bassus, a Syrian, was praying at the shrine of the same martyr for his daughter, who was sick and in great peril, and he had brought her dress with him; when lo! some of his household came running to announce to him that she was dead. But, as he was engaged in prayer, they were stopped by his friends, who prevented their telling him, lest he should give way to his grief in public. When he returned to his house, which already resounded with the wailing of his household, he cast over the body of his daughter her mantle, which he had with him, and immediately she was restored to life. Again, in the same city, the son of a certain man among us named Irenaeus, a collector of taxes, became sick and died. As the dead body lay, and they were preparing, with wailing and lamentation, to bury it, one of his friends, consoling him, suggested that the body should be anointed with oil from the same martyr. This was done, and the child came to life again. In the same way a man among us named Elusinus, formerly a tribune, laid the body of his child, who had died from sickness, on a memorial of the martyr which is in his villa in the suburbs, and after he had prayed, with many tears, he took up the child living." [103:1] St. Augustine further relates some remarkable cases: "Eucharius, a presbyter from Spain, resided at Calama, who had for a long time suffered from stone. By the relics of the same martyr, which the Bishop Possidius brought to him, he was made whole. The same presbyter, afterwards succumbing to another disease, lay dead, so that they were already binding his hands. Succour came from the relics of the martyr, for the tunic of the presbyter being brought back from the relics and placed upon his body, he revived." [103:2]
Two objections have been raised to the importance of the miracles reported by St. Augustine, to which we must briefly refer. [103:3] (1) That "his notices of the cases in which persons had been raised to life again are so short, bare, and summary that they evidently represent no more than mere report, and report of a very vague kind." (2) "That, with the preface which Augustine prefixes to his list, he cannot be said even to profess to guarantee the truth or accuracy of the different instances contained in it."
It is true that in several cases Augustine gives the account of miraculous cures at greater length than those of restoration to life. It seems to us that this is almost inevitable at all times, and that the reason is obvious. Where the miracle consists merely of the cure of disease, details are naturally given to show the nature and intensity of the sickness, and they are necessary not only for the comprehension of the cure, but to show its importance. In the case of restoration to life, the mere statement of the death and assertion of the subsequent resurrection exclude all need of details. The pithy reddita est vitae, or factum est et revixit, is more striking than any more prolix narrative. In fact, the greater the miracle the more natural is conciseness and simplicity; and, practically, we find that Augustine gives a more lengthy and verbose report of trifling cures, whilst he relates the more important with greater brevity and force. He narrates many of his cases of miraculous cure, however, as briefly as those in which the dead are raised. We have quoted the latter, and the reader must judge whether they are unduly curt. One thing may be affirmed, that nothing of importance is omitted, and in regard to essential details they are explicit as the mass of other cases reported. In every instance names and addresses are stated, and it will have been observed that all these miracles occurred in, or close to, Hippo, and in his own diocese. It is very certain that in every case the fact of the miracle is asserted in the most direct and positive terms. There can be no mistake either as to the meaning or intention of the narrative, and there is no symptom whatever of a thought on the part of Augustine to avoid the responsibility of his statements, or to give them as mere vague report. If we compare these accounts with those of the Gospels, we do not find them deficient in any essential detail common to the latter. There is in the Synoptic Gospels only one case in which Jesus is said to have raised the dead. The raising of Jairus' daughter [104:1] has long been abandoned, as a case of restoration to life, by all critics and theologians, except the few who still persist in ignoring the distinct and positive declaration of Jesus, "The damsel is not dead, but sleepeth." The only case, therefore, in the Synoptics is the account in the third Gospel of the raising of the widow's son, [104:2] of which, strange to say, the other Gospels know nothing. Now, although, as might have been expected, this narrative is much more highly coloured and picturesque, the difference is chiefly literary, and, indeed, there are really fewer important details given than in the account by Augustine, for instance, of the restoration to life of the daughter of Bassus the Syrian, which took place at Hippo, of which he was bishop, and where he actually resided. Augustine's object in giving his list of miracles did not require him to write picturesque narratives. He merely desired to state bare facts, whilst the authors of the Gospels composed the Life of their Master, in which interesting details were everything. For many reasons we refrain here from alluding to the artistic narrative of the raising of Lazarus, the greatest miracle ascribed to Jesus, which is nevertheless unknown to the other three Evangelists, who, so readily repeating the accounts of trifling cures, would most certainly not have omitted this wonderful event had they ever heard of it.
A complaint is made of the absence of verification and proof of actual death in these cases, or that they were more than mere suspension of the vital powers. We cordially agree in the desire for such evidence, not only in these, but in all miracles. We would ask, however, what verification of the death have we in the case of the widow's son which we have not here? If we apply such a test to the miracles of the Gospels, we must reject them as certainly as those of St. Augustine. In neither case have we more than a mere statement that the subjects of these miracles were dead or diseased. So far are we from having any competent medical evidence of the reality of the death, or of the disease, or of the permanence of the supposed cures in the Gospels, that we have little more than the barest reports of these miracles by writers who, even if their identity were established, were not, and do not pretend to have been, eye-witnesses of the occurrences which they relate. Take, for instance, this very raising of the widow's son in the third Gospel, which is unknown to the other Evangelists, and the narrative of which is given only in a Gospel which is not attributed to a personal follower of Jesus.
Now we turn to the second statement: "That with the preface which Augustine prefixes to his list he cannot be said even to profess to guarantee the truth or accuracy of the different instances contained in it." We shall as briefly as possible state what is actually the "preface" of St. Augustine to his list of miracles, and his avowed object for giving it. In the preceding chapter Augustine has been arguing that the world believed in Christ by virtue of divine influence, and not by human persuasion. He contends that it is ridiculous to speak of the false divinity of Romulus when Christians speak of Christ. If, in the time of Romulus, some 600 years before Cicero, people were so enlightened that they refused to believe anything of which they had not experience, how much more, in the still more enlightened days of Cicero himself, and notably in the reigns of Augustus and Tiberius, would they have rejected belief in the resurrection and ascension of Christ, if divine truth and the testimony of miracles had not proved not only that such things could take place, but that they had actually done so. When the evidence of prophecy joined with that of miracles, and showed that the new doctrines were only contrary to experience and not contrary to reason, the world embraced the faith. [105:1] "Why, then, say they, do these miracles, which you declare to have taken place formerly, not occur nowadays?" Augustine, in replying, adopts a common rhetorical device. "I might, indeed, answer," he says, "that miracles were necessary before the world believed, in order that the world might believe. Anyone who now requires miracles in order that he may believe is himself a great miracle in not believing what all the world believes. But, really, they say this in order that even those miracles should not be believed either." And he reduces what he considers to be the position of the world in regard to miracles and to the supernatural dogmas of Christianity to the following dilemma: "Either things incredible which nevertheless occurred and were seen, led to belief in something else incredible which was not seen; or that thing was in itself so credible that no miracles were required to establish it, and so much more is the unbelief of those who deny confuted. This might I say to these most frivolous objectors." He then proceeds to affirm that it cannot be denied that many miracles attest the great miracle of the ascension in the flesh of the risen Christ, and he points out that the actual occurrence of all these things is not only recorded in the most truthful books, but the reasons also given why they took place. These things have become known that they might create belief; these things by the belief they have created have become much more clearly known. They are read to the people, indeed, that they may believe; yet, nevertheless, they would not be read to the people if they had not been believed. After thus stating the answer which he might give, Augustine now returns to answer the question directly. "But, furthermore," he continues, "miracles are performed now in his name, either by means of his sacraments or by the prayers or relics of his saints, but they are not brought under the same strong light as caused the former to be noised abroad with so much glory; inasmuch as the canon of sacred scriptures, which must be definite, causes those miracles to be everywhere publicly read, and become firmly fixed in the memory of all peoples; but these are scarcely known to the whole of a city itself in which they are performed, or to its neighbourhood. Indeed, for the most part, even there very few know of them, and the rest are ignorant, more especially if the city be large; and when they are related elsewhere and to others, the authority does not so commend them as to make them be believed without difficulty or doubt, albeit they are reported by faithful Christians to the faithful." He illustrates this by pointing out that the miracle in Milan by the bodies of the two martyrs, which took place when he himself was there, might reach the knowledge of many because the city is large, and the Emperor and an immense crowd of people witnessed it; but who knows of the miracle performed at Carthage upon his friend Innocent, when he was there also, and saw it with his own eyes? Who knows of the miraculous cure of cancer, he continues, in a lady of rank in the same city? at the silence regarding which he is so indignant. Who knows of the next case he mentions in his list? the cure of a medical man of the same town, to which he adds: "We, nevertheless, do know it, and a few brethren to whose knowledge it may have come." [106:1] Who, out of Curubus, besides the very few who may have heard of it, knows of the miraculous cure of the paralytic man, whose case Augustine personally investigated? And so on. Observe that there is merely a question of the comparative notoriety of the Gospel miracles and those of his own time, not a doubt as to the reality of the latter. Again, towards the end of his long list, immediately after the narrative of the restoration to life of the child of Eleusinus which we have quoted, Augustine says: "What can I do? The promise of the completion of this work is pressing, so that I cannot here recount all [the miracles] that I know; and without doubt many of our brethren, when they read this work, will be grieved that I have omitted so very much, which they know as well as I do. This, even now, I beg that they will pardon, and consider how long would be the task of doing that which, for the completion of the work, it is thought necessary not to do. For if I desired to record merely the miracles of healing, without speaking of others, which have been performed by this martyr -- that is to say, the most glorious Stephen -- in the district of Calama and in ours of Hippo, many volumes must be composed; yet will it not be possible to make a complete collection of them, but only of such as have been published for public reading. For that was our object, since we saw repeated in our time signs of divine power similar to those of old, deeming that they ought not to be lost to the knowledge of the multitude. Now, this relic has not yet been two years at Hippo-Regius, and accounts of many of the miracles performed by it have not been written, as is most certainly known to us; yet the number of those which have been published up to the time this is written amounts to about seventy. At Calama, however, where these relics have been longer, and more of the miracles were recorded, they incomparably exceed this number." [107:1] Augustine goes on to say that, to his knowledge, many very remarkable miracles were performed by the relics of the same martyr also at Uzali, a district near to Utica, and of one of these, which had recently taken place when he himself was there, he gives an account. Then, before closing his list with the narrative of a miracle which took place at Hippo, in his own church, in his own presence, and in the sight of the whole congregation, he resumes his reply to the opening question. "Many miracles, therefore," he says, "are also performed now; the same God who worked those of which we read performing these by whom he wills, and as he wills; but these miracles neither become similarly known, nor, that they may not slip out of mind, are they stamped, as it were like gravel, into memory, by frequent reading. For even in places where care is taken, as is now the case among us, that accounts of those who receive benefit should be publicly read, those who are present hear them only once, and many are not present at all, so that those who were present do not, after a few days, remember what they heard, and scarcely a single person is met with who repeats what he has heard to one whom he may have known to have been absent." [108:1]
We shall not attempt any further detailed reference
to the myriads of miracles with which the annals of the Church teem
up to very recent times. The fact is too well known to require
evidence. The saints in the calendar are legion. It has been
computed that the number of those whose lives are given in the
Bollandist Collection [108:2] amounts to
upwards of 25,000, although, the saints being arranged according to
the Calendar, the unfinished work only reaches the 24th of October.
When it is considered that all those upon whom the honour of
canonisation is conferred have worked miracles, many of them,
indeed, almost daily performing such wonders, some idea may be
formed of the number of miracles which have occurred in unbroken
succession from Apostolic days, and have been believed and
recognised by the Church. Vast numbers of these miracles are in all
respects similar to those narrated in the Gospels, and they
comprise hundreds of cases of restoration of the dead to life. If
it be necessary to point out instances in comparatively recent
times, we may mention the miracles of this kind liberally ascribed
to St. Francis of Assisi, in the thirteenth century, and to his
namesake St. Francis Xavier in the sixteenth, although we might
refer to much more recent miracles authenticated by the Church. At
the present day such phenomena have almost disappeared, and,
indeed, with the exception of an occasional winking picture,
periodical liquefaction of blood, or apparition of the Virgin,
confined to the still ignorant and benighted corners of the earth,
miracles are extinct.