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made the brute creation sensible of the extraordinary power and presence of the Almighty.”—Brook's Examin., p. 302, &c.
XIII. If this were divested of its declamatory style, and reduced to a proper form of argument, it would be difficult to show any connection between its premises and the consequences drawn from them; but permitting that to pass, I observe on this passage: First, That it proceeds upon the same false supposition as the former argument, " That the propagation of the Christian religion is the only end worthy of God for which to work miracles ;” for though the increase and power of the Christians made miracles less necessary in one respect, yet if, besides the propagation of religion, there be many other exigencies which require the help of miracles, then the above argument falls to the ground.
Secondly, Whether all the miracles related by the writers of these ages be true or false, is not to the point, and quite beside the question. Nobody pretends to maintain all and every one of them. Many of them may have been perfectly true, although full and unexceptionable testimony of their being so has not been handed down to us. All these, then, however numerous, are given up at once. We have to deal only with those for the truth and reality of which full and unexceptionable testimony can be produced. Now, how ridiculous is it to say, “There are great numbers of miracles related to have been performed in the fourth, fifth, and following ages, for the truth of which we have not at present full and proper evidence; therefore all those in these ages for which we have the most undoubted testimony of the gravest authors, and of eyewitnesses, are to be rejected as false and counterfeit !” and this is the full force of the argument, if it has any force at all.
Thirdly, It is false to assert that, according to the writers of these ages, “ miracles became more extensive and more numerous after the days of Chrysostom than in the days of the apostles.” In the days of the apostles, and during the first three ages, the chrismatic gifts of the Holy Ghost were poured out on all the faithful, and the visible effects of His divine presence and assistance were accomplished in speaking with tongues and prophesying, and in other miraculous operations in almost every Christian. This Mr Brook himself has proved at large in his chapter on the persons endowed with miraculous powers; and, to confirm what he says, he cities Mr Dodwell as follows: "Were we to run through all the testimonies above cited, from Justin Martyr, Irenæus, &c., we should find that they speak of the whole body of Christians, great and small, as endowed with these gifts on any signal occasion ; but they insist particularly on the performance of them by those who had the least natural endowments, as the mighty hand of God was most visible when it displayed itself by the meanest instruments," &c.
Now it is certain that this universal communication of these gifts was withdrawn long before the days of Chrysostom, and that they were bestowed in a less conspicuous manner chiefly upon those holy persons who, secluding themselves from the corruptions of the world, studied only to render their souls acceptable to their Creator, and were thereby disposed for receiving these supernatural powers and graces. The real case is this, that after the conversion of the Roman emperors, learned Christian writers became more numerous than in the former ages, and greater portions of their writings have been transmitted to our days. In these writings many more miracles have been recorded than
in those of the first three centuries; because both the number of authors, the quantity of their works, and the variety of their subjects, were much greater ; but had all the several miracles of the first three centuries been committed to writing, there would certainly be no comparison as to their number; so our author here departs from truth in his representation of the case, and consequently his witticisms only serve to condemn himself.
Fourthly, The same mode of arguing, in the mouth of a deist and heathen, would equally serve to prove that the numerous miracles wrought by Elijah and Elisha, some of which were performed in the desert, were all fictitious. Put Jews instead of Christians, the exigencies of the synagogue for those of the Church, the times of Elijah and Elisha for the days of Chrysostom,--and the above-cited argument of Mr Brooks against the miracles of the fourth and fifth ages will equally serve the purpose of a heathen and a deist against those performed by these two great prophets. It will have exactly the same force, if displayed by the pen of a Middleton, against those of the three first centuries, for which Mr Brook so strenuously contends; and consequently, in proving too much it proves in fact nothing at all.
XIV. His third argument against the credibility of miracles related in the fourth and fifth ages, is singular, and composed of misrepresentation and sophistry. In the fourth century arose the Arian heresy,-one of the most dangerous that ever attacked the Christian religion. It consisted in denying the divinity of Jesus Christ, and in proclaiming Him to be a mere creature. The abettors of this doctrine were numerous, and many of them were persons of the highest authority and power, both in
Church and State. They spared no pains, shrunk from no crime to promote the interest of their party, and used every ungenerous and base art to calumniate and persecute the Catholics. The Catholics, on the other hand, opposed to the utmost of their power this torrent of impiety then pouring in upon the Church. Their zealous pastors, by word, writing, and their apostolic labours, endeavoured to confirm the faithful, to refute impiety, and to defend the honour of their Lord and Master. Many of the pastors, as well as of the people, suffered persecution, imprisonment, banishment, and even martyrdom itself, in testimony of the divinity of Jesus.
Certainly, if ever the exigencies of the Church required the protection of miracles for the attestation of the truth, the comfort of her children, and the confirmation of the faithful, it was at this time, when all the power of the Roman emperors was employed to undermine the very foundation of her faith, by an attack more dangerous perhaps than had ever been made against it by the heathens. Accordingly we find many remarkable miracles performed by orthodox pastors in defence of the Catholic faith. These are attested by men of the highest character for their integrity and sanctity, who were themselves eyewitnesses. They were performed not in secret, and after wards related to the world, but in public, before multitudes, in the face of the world, in presence of the very Arians themselves, who lacked neither will nor ability to detect fraud or imposture, had there been any. Their effects were to confound the Arians, to stop their fury, and often even to convert them. More ample proof, both of presumptive evidence and positive testimony, cannot certainly be produced for miracles in any preceding age than for those performed upon this occasion ; and yet, according to Mr Brook's logic, they were all frauds and impostures. To prove this, he represents the zeal and fervour of the orthodox pastors in defence of the divinity of Jesus Christ as merely the effect of pride and ambition, at least as much so as was the conduct of the Arians.
“During this long contest,” says he, “ which was managed with all the animosity and fury that the most bigoted and inflamed zeal could produce; when each party seemed more solicitous about their own power and authority than about the doctrines they espoused; when the whole struggle between them was more for conquest and dignity than for the sake of truth itself,—it is highly probable that, in many cases where private arguments and public decrees had not the desired success, appeals were made to a pretended divine power as openly exerted in confirmation of them.”
In support of this assertion in regard of the Arians, he relates that Philostorgius the Arian has recorded numerous miracles as performed by the chiefs of that heresy ; "all which” he tells us, in the judgment of that learned and accurate critic Photius, who has preserved a compendium of Philostorgius' history, “were mere forgeries, and inserted in his history only with the design to countenance and support the party in which he was engaged.” Then to show that the Catholics were guilty of the like appeals to pretended miracles, he cites three or four miracles related in their favour, and, without finding the least flaw in the testimony regarding them, or even pointing out a single circumstance or reason to prove them forgeries, he only says in general that“ their circumstances give us the strongest reason to suspect they were forged by the Homöousians in favour of their particular tenets,”—that is, by the orthodox Christians in favour of