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the divinity of Jesus Christ. From the above pretended probability, and the supposed reasons of suspicion, he draws this final conclusion: “Now it is not to be supposed but the same principles of zeal which induced either the Arians or Athanasians to commit the above-mentioned forgeries to propagate these and such-like fictitious stories, would extend itself to their other relations of the extraordinary kind that were made to serve the same purposes; and accordingly must render them all justly suspected.”—Brook's Exam., chap. vi.
XV. It is certainly astonishing to see how industrious the mind of man is to blind and deceive itself when engaged in a bad cause. Of this the reasoning of Mr Brook is a striking instance; for charity will not allow me to suppose that he sawits disengenuousness and malice. He lays the foundation of his argument by strangely misrepresenting the conduct of the Catholic and orthodox party; and from this misrepresentation he supposes as highly probable that appeals would be made by both sides to miracles, to a pretended divine power exerted in favour of their respective tenets. The weakest judgment cannot fail to see the folly of such a supposition, and how contrary it is to common sense ; for if the “contest was carried on with all the animosity and fury that the most bigoted and inflamed zeal could produce," how is it possible that either party should appeal to “pretended miracles” as openly exerted in their favour, without exposing themselves to inevitable detection and confusion ? For would not the other party have immediately exposed such pretended miracles ? Would they not have discovered the fraud, detected the forgery, and made a most powerful use of such pretences to confound their adversaries? Nay, is not this the very argument that Mr Brook himself employs to prove the reality of the miracles of the preceding centuries, that they were performed in the presence of enemies who lacked neither will nor power to detect them, had they not been real ? And is not this one of the very corroborating circumstances required by him to give human testimony its highest authority and value? But he proceeds to prove that this was actually the case, and tells us that Philostorgius, the Arian historian, has recorded many miracles said to have been performed by that party, which, according to the testimony of the great and learned Photius, were all forged and recorded by him only to serve a purpose. Then he mentions several said to have been done on the other hand, in favour of the Catholic doctrine, which, in his opinion, are no less fictitious than the former. Here is another gross misrepresentation. The Catholics did indeed appeal to miracles, real, not pretended ones; miracles performed in the presence of multitudes, and for the reality of which the fullest evidence of human testimony has been handed down to our days, and which were never contradicted nor called in question, even by the Arians themselves. Of these Mr Brook takes no notice.
The Arians seeing the advantage which the Catholics drew from these undeniable interpositions of Almighty God in their favour, had recourse to the same arms, and pretended that miracles had been wrought also by some of their party. But what was the consequence? Whilst the splendour of the miracles wrought in favour of the truth made the Catholic doctrine triumph over all its enemies, the pretensions of the Arians served only to confound them, and to bring disgrace and contempt upon their party ; just as in our own days the same pretences to miracles in the Jansenists served more than
anything else to open men's eyes, and to show to the world the folly and perfidy of that faction.
It was with reason, then, that Photius passed so severe a censure upon the miracles related by Philostorgius; but does he pass the same censure upon those related by St Ambrose, St Athanasius, St Augustine, and the other great lights of those times? By no means; he knew that these had all the evidence that could be desired to convince mankind of their reality, and that the Arians themselves had never dared to call them in question. As to those miracles which Mr Brook relates, as said to have been performed in favour of the Catholic doctrine, either there is full and sufficient testimony for them, or there is not. If not, then they are out of the question, it is not for them that we contend. If there be, then I defy Mr Brook, notwithstanding his bold and unproved assertions, to point out one single circumstance to render them incredible, one circumstance the parallel of which is not to be found in many of the miracles of the first three centuries, and even in those of the Scriptures themselves. It is clear, then, how ungenerous and unphilosophical it is in Mr Brook, from the above misrepresentations, and pretended improbability and suspicion, to conclude at once that all Catholic miracles were forgeries and fictions. For even allowing that the instances of Catholic miracles which he cites be not sufficiently attested to us, that does not prove them to be forgeries, because the proper testimony for them may have been lost. Much less does it follow that others are forgeries also, for which the most ample testimony, even with all corroborating circumstances, is preserved to this day. Yet this is the conclusion which he draws from his premises !
XVI. I cannot leave this argument without observing that the same mode of reasoning, especially if the misrepresenting freedom also be allowed, will serve admirably for a heathen or deist to deny the miracles of Moses, because he and the Egyptian magicians both adduced miracles in defence of their respective tenets; or for Dr Middleton to deny all the miracles of the first three ages, because St Irenæus attests that the followers of Simon and Carprocrates pretended to work miracles as well as the true Christians. This shows how well calculated this mode of reasoning is to disprove the continuation of miracles in the Church after the first three centuries.
XVII. A fourth argument, though mentioned later by Mr Brook, must be noticed here, because it plainly contradicts the groundwork of the foregoing objection. Pointing out some of the differences between the miracles of the first ages and those after Constantine, he says : “ Another circumstance is that public appeal which was made, that confident attestation which was given to the truth of them in both these periods, which may indeed be probably accounted for in the one case, but is utterly accountable in the other," page 325. He then explains this by observing, that “after the conversion of the Roman empire, the Christians must have been sensible that their forged relations could not easily be discovered ; they were encompassed with persons well affected to their party, whose manner of education had infused into their hearts strong prepossessions in favour of such stories; that even a detection of false facts or false testimonies could be attended by no bad consequences; that the emperors themselves would connive at such proceedings; that the civil power would interfere and prevent insults,” &c. What a shocking picture of the morality of those times! If this be true, what opinion must we have of all those great and holy men who flourished in them. Could Mr Brook say more to confirm the character given by Dr Middleton, that they were all extremely credulous and superstitious—scrupling at no arts nor means by which they might propagate their prin. ciples ; and of a character from which nothing candid or impartial could be expected ?
Now, if this be the case, how will Mr Brook defend the authenticity of the Bible which came to us through such hands? How will he support the credit of any history, or defend himself from those very arguments which he uses against Dr Middleton for the scandalous character which he gives of the ancient fathers ? Above all, how will he reconcile what he here says with that which he laid down as the groundwork of his preceding argument? There he assured us that the fourth age after the conversion of the Roman empire was an age “in which a spirit of pride and ambition, a spirit of faction and contention, had spread itself through the world, and entirely possessed the hearts of by far the greatest part of Christians—that the contest between the Arians and Catholics was carried on with all the animosity and fury that the most bigoted and inflamed zeal could produce ;” which made each party appeal to pretended miracles as openly performed in their favour.
From this one would naturally conclude that those appealing to false miracles could not fail to be detected by the vigilance of the other party ; that it is most untrue to say they were encompassed with persons well affected towards them; that the detection of such false facts and false testimonies could not fail to injure those who alleged them, as their adversaries would certainly have exposed them to shame and infamy; that the emperors themselves, however they might connive at the doings of their own