PATRISTIC AND MEDIEVAL MARVELS
As over against the effort made more especially by Anglican writers to confine genuine ecclesiastical miracles to the first, and in their view the purest and most authoritative, centuries of Christianity, the Romish theologians boldly declare that God has been pleased in every age to work a multitude of evident miracles in His church. Before this assertion, as we have seen, the Anglican theory is helpless, on the ground whether of fact or of principle. Of fact, because the evidence for the later miracles, which it denies, is very much greater in volume and cogency than that for the earlier miracles, which it accepts. Of principle, because the reason which it gives for the continuance of miracles during the first three centuries, if valid at all, is equally valid for their continuance to the twentieth century. What we shall look upon as the period of the planting of the church is determined by our point of view. If the usefulness of miracles in planting the church were sufficient reason for their occurrence in the Roman Empire in the third century, it is hard to deny that it may be sufficient reason for the repetition of them in, say, the Chinese Empire in the twentieth century. And why go to China? Is not the church still essentially in the position of a missionary church everywhere in this world of unbelief? When we take a really "long view" of things, is it not at least a debatable question whether the paltry two thousand years which have passed since Christianity came into the world are not a negligible quantity, and the age in which we live is not still the age of the primitive church? We must adjudge, therefore, that the Romish theory is the more consistent and reasonable of the two. If we are to admit that the miracles of the first three centuries happened, slightly and only generally witnessed as they are, we should in all reason go on and admit that the much more numerous and much better attested miracles of the fourth century happened too—and those of the fifth, and of the sixth, and of every subsequent century down to our day.
The force of this reasoning is interestingly illustrated by the conversion by it of Edward Gibbon, in his youth, to Roman Catholicism. Sir James Fitzjames Stephen gives a somewhat caustic account of the circumstances. "At Oxford," he says,1 "' the blind activity of idleness' impelled him to read Middleton's Free Inquiry. Yet he could not bring himself to follow Middleton in his attack on the early Fathers, or to give up the notion that miracles were worked in the early church for at least four or five centuries. 'But I was unable to resist the weight of historical evidence that within the same period most of the leading doctrines of Popery were already introduced in theory and practice; nor was the conclusion absurd that miracles are the test of truth, and that the church must be orthodox and pure which was so often approved by the visible interposition of the Deity.'
"From the miracles affirmed by Basil, Chrysostom, Augustine, and Jerome, he inferred that celibacy was superior to marriage, that saints were to be invoked, prayers for the dead said, and the real presence believed in; and whilst in this frame of mind he fell in with Bossuet's Exposition and his History of the Variations. 'I read,' he says in his affected way, 'I applauded, I believed'; and he adds with truth in reference to Bossuet, 'I surely fell by a noble hand.' 'In my present feelings it seems incredible that I ever should have believed in transubstantiation; but my conqueror oppressed me with the sacramental words, and dashed against each other the figurative haff-meanings of the Protestant sects. . . .'
"No one, we will venture to say, has been converted in the nineteenth century by a belief that, as a fact, miracles were worked in the early church, and that, as a consequence, the doctrines professed at the time must be true. As a rule the doctrines have carried the miracles. . . . The fact that the process began at the other end with Gibbon is characteristic both of the man and of the age; but it is put in a still stronger light by the account which he gives of his reconversion. . . . The process from first to last was emphatically an intellectual one. . . . Gibbon himself observes: 'I still remember my solitary transport at the discovery of a philosophical argument against the doctrine of transubstantiation: that the text of Scripture which seems to inculcate the real presence is attested only by a single sense—our sight; while the real presence itself is disproved by three of our senses—the sight, the touch, and the taste.'"
Only a brief account will be necessary of the state of the case for the fourth and later centuries. When we pass from the literature of the first three into that of the fourth and succeeding centuries, we leave at once the region of indefinite and undetailed references to miraculous works said to have occurred somewhere or other—no doubt the references increase in number and definiteness as the years pass—and come into contact with a body of writings simply saturated with marvels. And whereas few writers were to be found in the earlier period who professed to be eyewitnesses of miracles, and none who wrought them were named to us, in the later period everybody appears to have witnessed any number of them, and the workers of them are not only named but prove to be the most famous missionaries and saints of the church. Nor must we imagine that these marvels are recounted only by obscure and otherwise unknown hero-worshippers, whose only claim to be remembered by posterity is that they were the overenthusiastic a<imirers of the great ascetics of their time. They are rather the outstanding scholars, theologians, preachers, organizers of the age. It is Jerome, the leading biblical scholar of his day, who wrote the distressing lives of Paul, Hilarion, and Malchus; Gregory of Nyssa, one of "the three great Cappadocians," who narrates the fantastic doings of his thaumaturgic namesake;2 the incomparable Athanasius himself, who is responsible for the life of Antony. And not to be left behind, the greatest preacher of the day, Chrysostom; the greatest ecclesiastic, Ambrose; the greatest thinker, Augustine,—all describe for us miraculous occurrences of the most incredible kind as having taken place within their own knowledge. It will be not only interesting but useful for our purpose, as well, if a specimen instance be brought before us of how these great men dealt with miracles.
Augustine no doubt will serve our purpose here as well as another. In the twenty-second book3 of the City of God, he has circumstantially related to us a score or more of miracles which had come under his own observation, and which he represents as only a tithe of those he could relate. A considerable number of these were wrought by the relics of "the most glorious martyr, Stephen." The bones of Stephen had come to light in Jerusalem in 415. Certain portions of them were brought into Africa and everywhere they were taken miracles were wrought. Somewhere about 424 Hippo obtained its fragments and enshrined them in a small chapel opening into the cathedral church, on the archway of which Augustine caused four verses to be cut, exhorting worshippers to ascribe to God all miracles wrought upon Stephen's intercession. Almost seventy miracles wrought at this shrine had been officially recorded in less than two years, while incomparably more, Augustine tells us, had been wrought at the neighboring town of Calama, which had received its relics earlier. "Think, beloved," he cries, in the sermon which he preached on the reception of the relics, "what the Lord must have in store for us in the land of the living, when He bestows so much in the ashes of the dead." Even the dead were raised at these shrines, with great promptness and facility. Here are some of the instances recorded by Augustine with complete confidence.4
"Eucharius, a Spanish priest residing at Calama, was for a long time a sufferer from stone. By the relics of the same martyr (Stephen) which the bishop Possidius brought him, he was cured. Afterward the same priest sinking under another disease, was lying dead, and already they were binding his hands. By the succor of the same martyr he was raised to life, the priest's cloak having been brought from the oratory and laid upon the corpse. . . . Audurus is the name of an estate where there is a church that contains a memorial shrine of the martyr Stephen. It happened that, as a little boy was playing in the court, the oxen drawing a wagon went out of the track and crushed him with the wheel, so that immediately he seemed at his last gasp. His mother snatched him up and laid him at the shrine, and not only did he revive but also appeared uninjured. A religious female who lived at Caspalium, a neighboring estate, when she was so ill as to be despaired of, had her dress brought to this shrine, but before it was brought back she was gone. However, her parents wrapped her corpse in the dress, and, her breath returning, she became quite well. At Hippo, a Syrian called Bassus was praying at the relics of the same martyr for his daughter, who was dangerously ill. He too had brought her dress with him to the shrine. But as he prayed, behold, his servants ran from the house to tell him she was dead. His friends, however, intercepted them and forbade them to tell him, lest he should bewail her in public. And when he returned to his house which was already ringing with the lamentations of his family, and had thrown on his daughter's body the dress he was carrying, she was restored to life. There, too, the son of a man, Irenaeus, one of the taxgatherers, took ill and died. And while his body was lying lifeless, and the last rites were being prepared, amidst the weeping and mourning of all, one of the friends who were consoling the father suggested that the body should be anointed with the oil of the same martyr. It was done and he was revived. Likewise, Eleusinus, a man of tribunitian rank among us, laid his infant son, who had died, on the shrine of the martyr, which is in the suburb where he lived, and, after prayer, which he poured out there with many tears, he took up his child alive."5
Not all the miracles which Augustine includes in this anthology were wrought, however, by the bones of Stephen. Even before these bones had been discovered, miracles of the most astonishing character had occurred within his own personal knowledge. He tells us, for example, of the restoration of a blind man to sight at Milan—"when I was there," he says—by the remains of the martyrs Protasius and Gervasius, discovered to Ambrose in a dream. And he tells us with great circumstantiality of a miraculous cure of fistula wrought in Carthage—"in my presence and under my own eyes," he says—when he and Alypius had just returned from Italy. A special interest attaches to these early instances, because Augustine, although an eyewitness of them, and although he insists on his having been an eye-witness of them as their attestation, does not seem to have recognized their miraculous character until long afterward. For Augustine's hearty belief in contemporary miracles, illustrated by the teeming list now before us, was of slow growth. It was not until some years after his return to Africa that it became easy to him to acknowledge their occurrence. He arrived in Africa in 388, but still in his treatises, On the True Religion, which was written about 390, and On the UsefuUness of Believing, written in 391 or 392, we find him speaking on the hypothesis that miracles no longer happened. "We perceive," he writes in the former of these treatises,6 "that our ancestors, by that measure of faith by which the ascent is made from temporal things to eternal, obtained visible miracles (for thus only could they do it); and through them it has been brought about that these should no longer be necessary for their descendants. For when the Catholic Church had been diffused and established through the whole world, these miracles were no longer permitted to continue in our time, lest the mind should always seek visible things, and the human race should be chilled by the customariness of the very things whose novelty had inflamed them." Similarly, in the latter treatise, after enumerating the miracles of our Lord, he asks,7 "Why do not these things take place now?" and answers, "Because they would not move unless they were wonderful, and if they were customary they would not be wonderful." "Even the marvels of nature, great and wonderful as they are," he continues, " have ceased to surprise and so to move; and God has dealt wisely with us, therefore, in sending his miracles once for all to convince the world, depending afterward on the authority of the multitudes thus convinced."
Subsequently at the close of his life, reviewing these passages in his Retractations, he supposes it enough to say that what he meant was not that no miracles were still wrought in his own day, but only that none were wrought which were as great as those our Lord wrought, and that not all the kinds our Lord wrought continued to be wrought.8 "For," says he,9 "those that are baptized do not now receive the Spirit on the imposition of hands, so as to speak in the tongues of all the peoples; neither are the sick healed by the shadow of the preachers of Christ falling on them as they pass; and other such things as were then done, are now manifestly ceased." What he said, he insists,10 is not to be taken as meaning that no miracles at all were to be believed to be performed still in Christ's name. "For I myself, when I wrote that book "—the book On the True Religion—"already knew that a blind man had been given his sight at Milan, by the bodies of the martyrs in that city; and certain other things which were done at that time in numbers sufficient to prevent our knowing them all or our enumerating all we knew." This explanation seems scarcely adequate; but it suggests that the starting-point of Augustine's belief in contemporary miracles is to be sought in Milan—although it appears that some time was required after he had left Milan for the belief to ripen in his mind.
A sufficiently odd passage in one of his letters—written in 404—seems to illustrate at once the Milanese origin of his miracle-faith and the process of its growth to maturity.11 There had been a scandal in the household; one member of it had accused another of a crime, and Augustine was in doubt which of the two was really at fault. "I fixed upon the following as a means of discovering the truth," he writes. "Both pledged themselves in a solemn compact to go to a holy place, where the awe-inspiring works of God might much more readily make manifest the evil of which either of them was conscious, and compel the guilty to confess, either by judgment or through fear of judgment." God is everywhere, it is true; and able to punish or reward in secret as He will. "But," continues Augustine, "in regard to the answers of prayer which are visible to men, who can search out the reasons for appointing some places rather than others to be the scenes of miraculous interpositions?" The grave of a certain Felix suggested itself to him as a suitable place to send his culprits. True, no supernatural events had ever occurred there. But, he writes, "I myself knew how, at Milan, at the tomb of the saints, where demons are brought in a most marvellous and awful manner to confess their deeds, a thief, who had come thither intending to deceive by perjuring himself, was compelled to own his thefts and restore what he had taken away." "And is not Africa also," he asks, "full of the bodies of holy martyrs?" "Yet we do not know of such things being done here," he confesses. "Even as the gift of healing and the gift of discerning of spirits," he explains, "are not given to all saints, as the Apostle declares; so it is not at all the tombs of the saints that it hath pleased Him who divideth to each severally as He will, to cause such miracles to be wrought." As late as 404, then, there were as yet no miracle-working shrines in Africa. Augustine, however, is busily at work producing them. And twenty years later we see them in full activity.
It was naturally a source of embarrassment to Augustine that the heretics had miracles to appeal to just like his own; and that the heathen had had something very like them from time immemorial. The miracles of the heretics he was inclined to reject out of hand. They never happened, he said. On the other hand, he did not dream of denying the actual occurrence of the heathen miracles. He only strained every nerve to put them in a different class from his own. They stood related to his, he said, as the marvels wrought by Pharaoh's magicians did to Moses' miracles. Meanwhile, there the three sets of miracles stood, side by side, apparently just alike, and to be distinguished only by the doctrines with which they were severally connected. A passage in the thirteenth tractate on John on Donatist miracles (he calls them "miracle-ettes"), is very instructive. This tractate seems to have been delivered subsequently to 416, and therefore represents Augustine's later views. "Let no one tell you fables, then," he cries,12 "saying, 'Pontius wrought a miracle, and Donatus prayed and God answered him from heaven.' In the first place, either they are deceived or they deceive. In the last place, grant that he removes mountains: 'And have not charity,' says the Apostle, 'I am nothing.' Let us see whether he has charity. I would believe that he had, if he had not divided unity. For against those whom I may call marvelworkers, my God has put me on my guard, saying, 'In the last times there shall arise false prophets doing signs and wonders, to lead into error, if it were possible, even the elect. Lo, I have foretold it to you.' Therefore the Bridegroom has cautioned us, that we ought not to be deceived even by miracles." Similarly the heathen and Christian miracles are pitted against one another, and decision between them sought on grounds lying outside the miracles themselves. "Which, then, can more readily be believed to work miracles? They who wish themselves to be reckoned gods by those on whom they work miracles, or those whose sole object in working any miracles is to induce faith in God, or in Christ also as God? . . . Let us therefore believe those who both speak the truth and work miracles." 13 It is not the empirical fact which counts—there were all too many empirical facts to count—but the truth lying behind the empirical fact.14
What now are we to think of these miracles which Augustine and his fellows narrate to us in such superabundance?
We should perhaps note at the outset that the marvellous stories do not seem to have met with universal credence when first published. They seem indeed to have attracted very little attention. Augustine bitterly complains that so little was made of them.15 Each was known only in the spot where it was wrought, and even then only to a few persons. If some report of it happened to be carried to other places no sufficient authority existed to give it prompt and unwavering acceptance. He records how he himself had sharply rebuked a woman who had been miraculously cured of a cancer for not publishing abroad the blessing she had received. Her physician had laughed at her, she said; and moreover she had not really concealed it. Outraged, however, on finding that not even her closest acquaintances had ever heard of it, he dragged her from her seclusion and gave the utmost publicity to her story. In odd parallelism to the complaint of his somewhat older contemporary, the heathen historian Ammianus Marcellinus, who in wistful regret for the portents which were gone, declared stoutly that they nevertheless still occurred, only "nobody heeds them now,"16 Augustine asserted that innumerable Christian miracles were constantly taking place, only no notice was taken of them.17
It was not merely indifference, however, which they encountered, but definite disbelief. Many (plurimi) shook their heads at what Sulpitius Severus told in the second book of his Dialogues of the deeds of Martin of Tours—so many that he felt constrained carefully to give his authorities in the next book for each miracle that he recorded. "Let them accept," he says in announcing his purpose to do so,18" the evidence of people still living, and believe them, seeing that they doubt my good faith." In the first book of his Dialogues,13 indeed, he represents his collocutor—his Gallic friend Postumianus—as saying to him frankly: "I shudder to tell what I have lately heard—that a miserable man (I do not know him) has said that you have told many lies in that book of yours"—that is, in his Life of Martin. The reason Postumianus gives for his shuddering, however, is what most interests us. It is that doubt of the actual occurrence of these miracles is a constructive assault upon the credibility of the Gospels. "For," Postumianus argues, "since the Lord Himself testified that such works as Martin's were to be done by all the faithful, he who does not believe that Martin did them simply does not believe that Christ uttered such words." In point of fact, of course, Christ did not utter these words; the appeal is to the spurious "last twelve verses of Mark." We see, however, that the belief that Christ uttered these words was a powerful co-operating cause inducing belief in the actual occurrence of the alleged marvels. It seemed an arraignment of Christ to say that His most distinguished followers did not do the works which Christ had promised that all His followers should do. The actual occurrence of the miracles was proved quite as much by the fancied promise of the Gospel as by ocular evidence.20
It is a very disturbing fact further that the very Fathers who record long lists of miracles contemporary with themselves, yet betray a consciousness that miracles had nevertheless, in some sense or other, ceased with the Apostolic age. When Ambrose, for example, comes to speak of the famous discovery of the bodies of the two martyrs, Protasius and Gervasius, at Milan, and the marvels which accompanied and followed their discovery, he cannot avoid expressing surprise and betraying the fact that this was to him a new thing. "The miracles of old time," he cries,21 "are come again, when by the advent of the Lord Jesus a fuller grace was shed upon the earth." Augustine, in like manner, in introducing his account of contemporaneous miracles which we have already quoted, begins by adducing the question: "Why do not those miracles take place now, which, as you preach, took place once?" "I might answer," he replies, "that they were necessary before the world believed, that it might believe," and then he goes on to say, as we have seen, that "miracles were wrought in his time, but they were not so public and well attested as the miracles of the Gospel." Nor were the contemporary miracles, he testifies, so great as those of the Gospels, nor did they embrace all the kinds which occur there. So Chrysostom says:22 "Argue not because miracles do not happen now, that they did not happen then. ... In those times they were profitable, and now they are not." Again:23 "Why are there not those now who raise the dead and perform cures? . . . When 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." Again: "Where is the Holy Spirit now? a man may ask; for then it was appropriate to speak of Him when miracles took place, and the dead were raised and all lepers were cleansed, but now. . . ." Again: "The Apostles indeed enjoyed the grace of God in abundance; but if we were bidden to raise the dead, or open the eyes of the blind, or cleanse lepers, or straighten the lame, or cast out devils and heal the like disorders. . . ." Chrysostom fairly teems with expressions implying that miracle-working of every kind had ceased ;24 he declares in the crispest way, "Of miraculous powers, not even a vestige is left" ;25 and yet he records instances from his day! Isodore of Pelusium similarly looks upon miracles as confined to the Apostolic times, adding:28 "Perhaps miracles would take place now, too, if the lives of the teachers rivalled the bearing of the Apostles; though even if they did not, such a life would suffice for the enlightenment of those who beheld it." The same significant distinguishing of times follows us down the years. Thus Gregory the Great at the end of the sixth century, though the very type of a miracle-lover, nevertheless, writing on Mark 16 : 17, says:27 "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 until we see them to thrive in the ground, and as soon as they are well rooted we cease our irrigation." He proceeds to say that the wonders of grace are greater than miracles. Isodore of Seville at the opening of the next century writes in precisely the same spirit.28 "The reason why the church does not now do the miracles it did under the Apostles," he explains, "is, because miracles were necessary then to convince the world of the truth of Christianity; but now it becomes it, being so convinced, to shine forth in good works. . . . Whoever seeks to perform miracles now as a believer, seeks after vainglory and human applause. For it is written: 'Tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not.' Observe, a sign is not necessary for believers, who have already received the faith, but for unbelievers that they may be converted. For Paul miraculously cured the father of Publius of a fever for the benefit of unbelievers; but he restores believing Timothy when ill, not by prayer, but by medicine; so that you may clearly perceive that miracles were wrought for unbelievers and not for believers." Even in the thirteenth century, Bernard, commenting on Mark 16 : 17, asks:29 "For who is there that seems to have these signs of the faith, without which no one, according to this Scripture, shall be saved?" and answers just as Gregory did, by saying that the greatest miracles are those of the renewed life. The common solution of this inconsistent attitude toward miracles, that the ecclesiastical miracles were only recognized as differing in kind from those of the Scripture, while going a certain way, will hardly suffice for the purpose. Ecclesiastical miracles of every conceivable kind were alleged. Every variety of miracle properly so-called Chrysostom declares to have ceased. It is the contrast between miracles as such and wonders of grace that Gregory draws. No doubt we must recognize that these Fathers realized that the ecclesiastical miracles were of a lower order than those of Scripture. It looks very much as if, when they were not inflamed by enthusiasm, they did not really think them to be miracles at all.30 It is observable further that, throughout the whole patristic and mediaeval periods at least, it is difficult to discover any one who claims to have himself wrought miracles. "It may seem somewhat remarkable," says Gibbon,31 "that Bernard of Clairvaux, who records so many miracles of his friend, St. Malachi, never takes any notice of his own, which in their turn, however, are carefully related by his companions and disciples. In the long series of ecclesiastical history, does there exist a single instance of a saint asserting that he himself possessed the gift of miracles?" There is certainly a notable phenomenon here which may be brought to its sharpest point by recalling along with it two facts. First, Christ and His Apostles present a strong contrast with it. Our Lord appeals to His own works, and Paul to his own, in proof of their mission. Secondly, Bernard, for example, not only does not claim to have worked miracles himself, but, as we have seen, seems to speak at times as if he looked upon miracles as having ceased with the Apostles.
It is very instructive to observe how J. H. Newman endeavors to turn the edge of Gibbon's inquiry. "Iobserve then, first," he says,32 "that it is not often that the gift of miracles is even ascribed to a saint. In many cases miracles are only ascribed to their tombs or relics; or where miracles are ascribed to them when living, these are but singular or occasional, not parts of a series." "Moreover," he adds as his second answer, "they are commonly what Paley calls tentative miracles, or some out of many which have been attempted, and have been done accordingly without any previous confidence in their power to effect them. Moses and Elijah could predict the result; but the miracles in question were scarcely more than experiments and trials, even though success had been granted to them many times before. Under these circumstances, how could the individual men who wrought them appeal to them themselves? It was not till afterward, when their friends and disciples could calmly look back upon their life, and review the various actions and providences which occurred in the course of it, that they would be able to put together the scattered tokens of divine favor, none or few of which might in themselves be a certain evidence of a miraculous power. As well might we expect men in their lifetime to be called saints as workers of miracles." There still remains in reserve a third argument, which amounts to saying that the workers of ecclesiastical miracles were modest men, "as little inclined to proclaim them aloud as to make a boast of their graces."
The whole tenor of this representation of the relation of the miracle-workers of the patristic and mediaeval church to their miracles is artificial. It is nothing less than ludicrous to speak of the miracles ascribed to a Martin of Tours or a Gregory Thaumaturgus as "tentative," or as attempted with incomplete confidence. It is equally ludicrous to represent incomplete assurance on the part of a saint with respect to his miracles before they were wrought as prolonging itself throughout his life, after they were wrought. Meanwhile the fact remains that throughout the history of the church miracles have rather been thrust upon than laid claim to by their workers.33 Nor did there ever lack those who openly repudiated the notion that any necessary connection existed between saintliness and miracle-working. Richard Rolle of Hampole, who also became posthumously a miracle-worker, was in his lifetime pronounced no saint because he wrought no miracles. His reply was to the effect that the inference was inconsequent. "Not all saints," he said,34 "do or have done miracles, neither in life nor after death; nor do all reprobates either in life or after death lack miracles; frequently the mediocre good and less perfect do miracles, and many who are seated highest in the heavens before the face of God remain quiet within." 35 "Many bodies," he says, "have been translated on earth whose souls perchance have not yet attained heaven." "Saints are not carried to the supernatural seats for the reason that they have showed wonders, for some wicked men, too, have done this; but truth has desired that the more ardently one loves, the more highly shall he be elevated, the more honorably shall he be seated among the angels." 36 "It is not necessary now," he continues quite in the vein of Augustine, "that miracles should be shown, since throughout the whole world many abide in memory; but there is need that before the eyes of all should be shown the example of that work. . . ."
In remarks like these there is manifested a certain depreciation of the value of miracles, assuredly not strange in the circumstances. And we are bound to carry this a step further and to recognize that a great mass of these miracles are alleged to have been wrought in the interest of what we must pronounce grave errors. J. H. Newman, in a passage just quoted, remarks that many miracles are ascribed to the tombs or relics of the saints, rather than to the saints themselves; and this is only an example of the uses to which they have been put. So many were wrought in connection with superstitions which grew up about the Eucharist, for instance, that "wonders wrought by the Eucharist" is made one of the main divisions of the article, "Wonders," in Smith and Cheatham's Dictionary of Christian Antiquities.3,1 Thus, for example, "Cyprian speaks of a person who had lapsed in persecution attempting to communicate; when on opening the area or receptacle in which the consecrated bread was reserved, fire burst out from it and prevented her. Another, on attending church with the same purpose, found that he had received from the priest nothing but a cinder." 38 Ambrose relates that one of his friends called Satyrus was piously inclined but not yet admitted to the sacrament. "In this state he happened to suffer shipwreck in his passage from Africa." "Says Ambrose: 'Satyrus, not being afraid of death, but to die only before he had taken of these mysteries, begged of some of the company, who had been initiated, that they would lend him the divine sacrament'" (which they carried about with them—according to the superstitious habit of the day—as an amulet or charm), "'not to feed his curiosity by peeping inside the bag, but to obtain the benefit of his faith, for he wrapped up the mysteries in his handkerchief, and then tying it about his neck threw himself into the sea; never troubling himself to look out for a plank, which might help him to swim, since he wanted nothing more than the arms of his faith; nor did his hopes fail him, for he was the first of the company who got safe to the shore.'"39 Optatus relates that certain members of the Donatist sect once cast the Eucharistic bread of the Catholics to the dogs —which promptly went mad and bit their masters.40 Sozomen tells that a woman who had received some Eucharistic bread of the Macedonians, found it turned to a stone.40 Gregory the Great narrates that a young monk who had gone to visit his parents without permission, died on the day of his return, but could not rest quiet in his grave until Benedict, his superior, had the host laid on it.40 In the time of Justinian, we are told, when it was the custom to distribute the Eucharistic bread left over after the communion to the children, it happened once that a Jewish child received and ate a fragment of it. The enraged father cast the child into a furnace, but it was miraculously preserved from harm.40 Gregory of Tours tells of a deacon of unholy life, who, carrying one day the Eucharist into a church, had the bread fly of itself out of his hand and place itself on the altar.40 According to the same writer the host on one occasion shed blood when broken.40 A bishop named Marsius is related to have let his portion of the Eucharistic bread, received from the hands of the administrator, fall into the folds of his robe because he did not wish to break his fast. It at once turned into a serpent, and wrapped itself about his waist whence it could be dislodged only by a night of prayer for him on the part of the administrator.40 This is matched by the miracle of Bolsena, which Raphael has rendered famous. A priest saying the mass—it is dated 1264—let a drop of wine fall on his corporal, and doubled up the garment upon it. It was found to have left the impression of the wafer in blood on every fold which touched it.41
We have seen Augustine constrained to allow the principle that miracles alleged in the interests of false doctrines are self-condemned; that ho miracle can be accepted against the truth, but is at once to be set aside if presented in the interests of error. The principle is a scriptural one42 and has repeatedly been rationally validated. It is so validated, for example, in a solid argument by Lyman H. Atwater, speaking immediately of spiritualism.43 "A corrupt doctrine," says he suggestively, "destroys a pretended miracle just as strong counter circumstantial evidence would invalidate the testimony of a single witness." A good deal of confusion seems to be abroad on this matter. An impression appears to exist that the proper evidence of truth—or at least of religious truth—is miracle, and that therefore there can be no decisive criterion of religious truth offered for our acceptance except miracles wrought in support of it. It is at least very commonly supposed that we are bound to examine carefully into the pretensions of any alleged miracle produced in support of any propositions whatever, however intrinsically absurd; and, if these alleged miracles cannot be at once decisively invalidated, we are bound to accept as true the propositions in support of which they are alleged. No proposition clearly perceived to be false, however, can possibly be validated to us by any miracle whatever; and the perception of the proposition as clearly false relieves us at once from the duty of examining into the miraculous character of its alleged support and invalidates any claim which that support can put in to miraculous character—prior to all investigation. A matter so clear could not be missed, of course, by Augustine, and we have his support, accordingly, in pointing out that the connection of alleged miracles with erroneous doctrines invalidates their claim to be genuine works of God.
We must not imagine, however, that ecclesiastical miracles are distinguished from the biblical miracles by nothing except the nature of the doctrines in connection with which they are alleged to be wrought. They differ from them also, fundamentally, in character. This difference is not denied. J. H. Newman, for example, describes it thus:44 "Ecclesiastical miracles, that is, miracles posterior to the Apostolic age, are, on the whole, different in object, character, and evidence from those of Scripture on the whole." At a subsequent point, he enlarges on this.45 "The Scripture miracles," says he, "are for the most part evidence of a Divine Revelation, and that for the sake of those who have been instructed in it, and in order to the instruction of multitudes; but the miracles which follow have sometimes no discoverable or direct object, or but a slight object; they happen for the sake of individuals and of those who are already Christians, or for purposes already effected, as far as we can judge, by the miracles of Scripture. . . . The miracles of Scripture are, on the whole, grave, simple, majestic; those of ecclesiastical history often partake of what may be called a romantic character, and of that wildness and inequality which enters into the notion of romance. The miracles of Scripture are undeniably beyond nature; those of ecclesiastical history are often scarcely more than extraordinary accidents or coincidences, or events which seem to betray exaggerations or errors in the statement." In a word,46 "Scripture is to us a Garden of Eden, and its creations are beautiful as well as 'very good'; but when we pass from the Apostolical to the following ages, it is as if we left the choicest valleys of the earth, the quietest and most harmonious scenery, and the most cultivated soil, for the luxuriant wilderness of Africa or Asia, the natural home or kingdom of brute nature, uninfluenced by man." Newman labors to show that this is only a general contrast; that there are some miracles in Scripture which, taken by themselves, would find their place in the lower class; and some in ecclesiastical history which rise to the higher class; and in later life he would somewhat modify his statement of the contrast. But the admission that the contrast exists is unavoidable; some measure of recognition of it runs, as we have seen, through the literature of all the Christian ages, and it is big with significance.
I have frequently quoted in the course of this lecture Newman's essay on The Miracles of Ecclesiastical History compared with those of Scripture, as regards their nature, credibility and evidence. Indeed, I have purposely drawn a good deal of my material from it. Perhaps I owe you some account of this book, which is, perhaps, an even more famous book than Middleton's, formerly described to you. Newman had written in 1825-6 a paper on The Miracles of Scripture, compared with those reported elsewhere, as regards their nature, credibility, and evidence. That was in his Protestant days, and in this paper he takes sufficiently strong ground against the genuineness of ecclesiastical miracles. Then came the Oxford movement of which he was the leader; and afterward his drift Romeward. As this drift was reaching its issue in his passing into the Roman church —in 1842-3—he wrote the subtle plea for the genuineness of ecclesiastical miracles with which we are now concerned, primarily as a preface for a translation of a portion of Fleury's Ecclesiastical History.47 How well pleased he, as a Catholic, was with his performance is evidenced by his republication of the two papers together, without substantial alteration, in repeated editions after his perversion.
The essay now claiming our attention is probably the most specious plea for the credibility and reality of the whole mass of ecclesiastical miracles ever penned. I say the whole mass, although Newman, with great apparent candor, admits that there is to be found among them every variety of miracle, of every degree of intrinsic credibility or incredibility, and supported by every degree of evidence or no-evidence. For, after he has, under the cover of this candor, concentrated attention upon what seem to him the particular miracles most deserving to be true, and supported by the most direct and weighty evidence, he subtly suggests that, on their basis, many more in themselves doubtful or distasteful may be allowed, that insufficiency of proof is not the same as disproof, and that very many things must be admitted by us to be very likely true for the truth of which we have no evidence at all—inasmuch as we must distinguish sharply between the fact and the proof of the fact, and must be prepared to admit that failure of the latter does not carry with it the rejection of the former.
The disposition of matter in this famous essay is as follows. First, the antecedent probability of the ecclesiastical miracles is estimated; then, their internal character is investigated; then, the argument in their behalf in general is presented; and finally the major portion of the essay is given to a detailed attempt to demonstrate that a few selected miracles of greater intrinsic likelihood and better attestation than the mass, actually happened—such as those of the thundering legion, the changing of water into oil by Narcissus, the alteration of the course of the Lycus by Gregory Thaumaturgus, the appearance of the cross to Constantine, the discovery of the cross by Helena, the death of Arius, the fiery eruption which stopped Julian's attempt to build the temple at Jerusalem, the cure of blindness by relics, and the speech of the African confessors without tongues. Everywhere the reader is charmed by the delightful style, and everywhere he is led on by thehand of a master-reasoner bending facts and reason alike to follow the path appointed for them.
The opening argument runs as follows. Although there may be a certain antecedent probability against this or that particular miracle, there can be no presumption whatever against miracles generally after the Apostles, because inspiration has borne the brunt of any such antecedent prejudice, and, in establishing the certainty of the supernatural histories of the Scriptures, has disproved their impossibility in the abstract. The skilfulness of this is beyond praise. By keeping his reader's attention fixed on the possibility of miracles in the abstract, Newman quite distracts it from the decisive question in the case—whether the scriptural histories of miracles do not themselves raise a presumption against the alleged miracles succeeding them. At a later point, to be sure, this question is raised. But only in a special form, namely, whether the difference between the biblical and ecclesiastical miracles is not so great that the latter become improbable if the former be admitted. A difference is allowed; but its implications are avoided by an appeal to the analogy of nature, in professed imitation of Joseph Butler. It is argued, namely, that the case is very much like that of a man familiar only with the noblest animals, which have been subjected to human dominion, who is suddenly introduced into a zoological garden and, perceiving the great variety of animal nature, the hideousness and uselessness of much of it, is led to deny that all could have come from God. Thus, says Newman, one accustomed to only the noble miracles of Scripture may be pardoned some doubt when introduced into the jungles of ecclesiastical history. But doubt here too should pass away with increasing knowledge and a broadening outlook on the divine power and works. This is the argument of the second section, on the "internal character of ecclesiastical miracles." But the real grounds of the presumption against ecclesiastical miracles are never adverted to— namely that Scripture represents miracles to be attached to the Apostles, the vehicles of revelation, as their signs, and thus raises an antecedent presumption against any miracles having occurred after their age; that on the testimony of history miracles accordingly ceased with the Apostolic age, and only after an interval are heard of again; that, when heard of again, they are the apparent progeny of the apocryphal miracles of the Gnostic and Ebionitic romances of the second and third centuries and not of the miracles of the New Testament; that they accordingly differ not only Mo ccdo from the miracles of the Scripture in kind, but are often wrought in support of superstitions not only foreign to the religion of the Bible, but in contradiction to it. Of all this Newman says not a word, and he manages to carry the reader so along with him by an exhibition of candor when candor is harmless that there is danger of its being forgotten that of all this anything ought to be said.
The section on the state of the argument begins polemically, but soon returns to the main point, namely that the case is to be settled on the ground of antecedent probability. This is then at once resolved into the question of the doctrine of the church. Newman, it is true, expresses himself as if what he was handling was the reality of Christianity. He warns us that scepticism here may, nay, must, be at bottom "disbelief in the grace committed to the church." He suggests that those who realize that the bodies of the saints in life are the Temples of the Highest ought not to feel offense if miracles are wrought by these bodies after death. Finally, he enunciates the proposition that "it may be taken as a general truth that, where there is an admission of Catholic doctrines, there no prejudice will exist against ecclesiastical miracles; while those who disbelieve in the existence among us of the hidden Power will eagerly avail themselves of every plea for explaining away its open manifestation." 48
This again is very skilfully put. But there is no reason why the judgment expressed should not be concurred in without debate. A Catholic, believing first in the divinity of the church as the organ of the Holy Ghost, in which He is made a deposit for the whole world, and from which alone He can be obtained; and believing, next, in the truth of all the distinctive teachings of this church, as to monasticism and asceticism, relics and saints, transubstantiation, and the like, in honor of which the alleged miracles are performed—will naturally be predisposed to believe these miracles real. A Protestant, believing none of these things, but looking upon them as corruptions of the Gospel, will as naturally be predisposed to believe them spurious. In this sense, every Protestant must deny the existence of "the hidden Power among us" which Newman affirms, and hence cannot either expect or allow "open manifestations" of it. We believe in a wonder-working God; but not in a wonder-working church. Thus the effect of Newman's argument, when once it is probed, is to uncover the root of the matter, and to make clear just what the presumption against ecclesiastical miracles is. It matters not that he proceeds to cite the last twelve verses of Mark and to build an argument upon the promise included in them. The spuriousness of the passage evacuates the argument. It is a meaningless excrescence, however, upon his argument in any case. That ultimately comes merely to the historical causa finila est: ecclesia locuta est.
The examination of the evidence for selected miracles which is presented at the end of the volume is an interesting piece of work, but is unconvincing for the main matter. That the conclusion in each case lacks cogency may be shown in one way or another; but it is not necessary to do this. Newman himself allows that the general conclusion reached rests on the antecedent presumption; and that that depends on our attitude to Roman doctrine. For its inherent interest, however, we may glance for a moment at the last, and perhaps the most striking, of the instances of miracles the evidence for which Newman treats fully. It is the miracle of the continued speech of the African confessors deprived of their tongues by the cruelty of Hunneric in 484. The evidence, which is especially profuse and good, is detailed with great skill. We really cannot doubt the underlying fact. The tongues of these martyrs were cut out, cut out by the roots; and one or more of them were known at Constantinople as having still the power to speak. The miracle is inferred. The inference, however, is not stringent. It curiously emerges as a physiological fact that a man with half a tongue cannot speak, but a man with no tongue at all can. Newman knew this fact. Middleton had adduced two French cases—one of a girl born without a tongue who yet talked distinctly and easily, the other of a boy who had lost his tongue without losing his faculty of speech. Newman judged that these instances left his miracle untouched. But other evidence was soon adduced. It happens that the excision of the tongue is a form of punishment repeatedly inflicted in the East, and a body of evidence has grown up there which puts it beyond cavil that excision of the tongue, if thoroughly done, does not destroy the power of speech. In his later editions, while recording this evidence in ah appendix, Newman is still unable frankly to allow that this is what happened to the African martyrs.4'
Perhaps I ought to mention before leaving Newman's book that it has been subjected to a very thorough examination, and has been given a very complete refutation by Edwin A. Abbott, in a volume devoted wholly to it, published under the significant title of Philomythus.b0 And, having mentioned this book, perhaps I ought to say further that the same writer has also published a very extended discussion of the miracles of Thomas a Becket,51 under the impression that some sort of a parallel might be drawn between them and the miracles of the New Testament, to the disadvantage of the acknowledgment of the truly miraculous character of the latter. Nothing further need be said of this than what has been briefly said by A. G. Headlam in the course of a discussion of miracles, which he read at the Church Congress at Middlesbrough (1912).52 "Reference has been made to miracles of St. Thomas of Canterbury," he says, "and it is maintained that those miracles are supported by as good evidence as the Gospel narratives, and that they represent just the same strong ethical character that our Lord's work did. I do not think that any one who makes assertions of this sort can have looked at the evidence for a moment. We have very full accounts of the life of Thomas a Becket, and we have many letters written by him. In none whatever of the early narratives is there any reference to miracles performed in his lifetime. Neither he himself nor his contemporaries claimed that he could work miracles. The stories of miraculous happenings are entirely confined to the miracles believed to have been worked by his dead body after his death, and these narratives are exactly of the same character as those recorded at Lourdes, for example, at the present day. Many of them represent answers to prayers which were offered up in different parts of the world in the name of St. Thomas, many of them are trivial, and some repellent. Some doubtless represent real cures, which were worked among those who went on a pilgrimage, just as there can be no doubt that real cures are experienced by those who go to Lourdes. What their character may be we need not discuss at this moment, but the whole tone of the narrative represents something quite different from anything that we experience when reading the story of the Gospel."
We return now to the main question: What are we to think of these miracles? There is but one historical answer which can be given. They represent an infusion of heathen modes of thought intb the church. If we wish to trace this heathen infusion along the line of literary development, we must take our start from those Apocryphal Acts of Encratite tendency which, in a former lecture, we had occasion to point to as naturalizing the heathen wondertales—then a fashionable literary form—in the church. Once naturalized in the church, these Christian wondertales developed along the line of the church's own development. As time went on, E. von Dobschutz explains, the church drew ever closer to the Encratite ideals which were glorified in the Apocryphal Acts, and it was this which gave their tendency to the new Christian romances which began to multiply in the later fourth century, and are represented to us especially by Athanasius' Life of Antony, and Jerome's Lives of Paul, Hilarion, and Malchus. "Whether there is any historical kernel in them or not," remarks Von Dobschutz,53 "they are exactly like the older Christian romances, described already, in their fundamental traits— loose structure, miraculousness and asceticism." The state of the case is fairly brought before us by R. Reitzenstein, when, after expounding at length the relevant details, he states his conclusion thus:54 "I think I may now venture to say that the prophet and philosopher aretalogies supplied the literary model for the Christian Acts of the Apostles. . . . But in order properly to feel the extent and influence of this literature, we must follow the Christian aretalogy a step further. . . . This new literature arose, as is well known, when, after the victory of Christianity, the interest of the community shifted from the portrait of the ideal missionary to the strange figures of the hermits and monks. For us there come especially into consideration Athanasius' Life of Antony, and the two great collections of the Historia Monacltorum and the Historia Lausiaca; only in the second rank, the Lives of Paul and Hilarion by Jerome."
It has been much disputed of late, whether the work which stands at the head of this literature, Athanasius' Life of Antony, is really Athanasius' or is a work of fiction. Perhaps we do not need to treat the alternative as absolute. The book can scarcely be denied to Athanasius, and if we conceive it as a work of fiction, it ceases to be wholly unworthy of him. "In spite of its bad Greek—Athanasius was anything but a master of form "—writes Reitzenstein,55 "the book belongs distinctly to the category of'great literature,' and its appearance may be spoken of as an event of world-historical importance." T. R. Glover, who considers that it has been demonstrated that the book is a ''work of fiction," points out56 that "it was fiction as Uncle Tom's Cabin was fiction," and wrought even more powerfully; "of all the books of the fourth century it had the most immediate and wide-spread influence, which, though outgrown by us, lasted on to the Renaissance." How great the misfortune was that the ascetic ideal should be commended to the world-weary people of God in this age of dying heathenism through the medium of a romance of such undeniable power, the event only too sadly showed. The elevation of the work above its successive imitators— Jerome's Paul and Hilarion and Malchus, Sulpitius Severus's Martin and beyond—is immense. Reitzenstein suggests it to us57 in the contrast he draws between it and Jerome's Life of Hilarion. It is Jerome's obvious purpose to outvie Athanasius, and he does it with vigor. "The difference between the two works," says Reitzenstein, "is certainly very great. Athanasius handled the miraculous narrative as a concession to his public, laid all the stress on the discipline of the monk, and precisely thus raised the work to a value which must be felt even by one who is filled with horror by this pedagogically presented union of the fervor of Christian faith and Egyptian superstition. Jerome has retrenched even the preaching and the exhortation which form the religious kernel of the heathen as well as the Christian aretalogy; the miracle narrative is its own end; it is 'great history' which he is giving, and he presents it by this means." 58
Thus a new literature sprang up synchronously with monasticism—a monkish belletristic, as A. Harnack calls it.59 "Feuilletonists in monks' clothing made romances and novels out of the real and invented experiences of the penitents, and the ancient world delighted itself with this preciosity of renunciation." The miraculous was in this literature a matter of course; and the ever-swelling accounts of miracles in that age of excited superstition transferred themselves with immense facility to life. "The martyrlegend," says H. Giinter strikingly, at the opening of his Legend-Studies,60 "is older than the Christian martyrs— of course with a grain of salt—in its presuppositions"; and the same is true of the monk-legends. Giinter illustrates what the martyr-legend did with Bible passages by bidding us observe what is done in the Acts of Peter and Andrew with Christ's saying about the camel passing through the eye of a needle. This aretalogist is so zealous for the saving of rich men that he makes a camel actually pass repeatedly through the eye of the smallest needle that can be found, before our very eyes.61 There is nothing too hard for the monkish legend. A veil of miracle settles down over everything, covering up all historical and individual traits.
An admirable summary of what took place in the church itself, parallel with this literary development, is drawn up by Robert Rainy in the course of his general description of the effects of the introduction of monasticism into the church. "The stimulus which was applied to the fancy and to nervous tendencies," says he,62 "is revealed also by the extraordinary harvest of visions, demoniacal assaults, and miracles which followed in its wake. The occurrence of some marvels had been associated all along with Christian history, in times of persecutidh especially, and in other cases of great trial. But both in type and in number these had hitherto occupied a comparatively modest place, and the Christian feeling had been that miracles comparable to the Gospel miracles had for good reasons passed away. But from Antony onward the miraculous element increases, and by the end of the fourth century it had overflowed the world. Asceticism was one cause; another, which operated in the same way, was the mood of mind now prevailing in regard to the relics of the saints. Illustrations of the first may be found abundantly in Sulpitius Severus. For the effect of relics, note how Augustine, who in earlier days recognized the comparative absence of the miraculous from Christian experience, in later life qualified and virtually retracts the statement. For in the meantime not only had asceticism begun to bear fruits, but the relics of St. Stephen had come into Africa, and miracles everywhere followed in their train; and such miracles 1"
When we say that this great harvest of miracles thus produced in Christian soil, from the late fourth century on, in connection with the rise of the monastic movement, was a transplantation from heathendom, we do not mean to imply that the particular miracles thus produced owed nothing to the Christian soil in which they grew. As they were the products of human hopes and fears, and humanity is fundamentally the same in all ages and under all skies, miracle-stories of this kind present a general family likeness in all times and in all religious environments. But they are, of course, colored also by the special modes of thinking and feeling of the peoples among whom they severally rise, and Christian miracle-stories will, therefore, inevitably be Christian in their ground tone. C. F. Arnold describes very strikingly the difference in character and underlying postulates between the miraculous stories which grew up among the Christian population of southern Gaul and those of the heathen which they supplanted. He is speaking of the time of Caesarius of Aries, in the first half of the sixth century. "Besides marvels of healing," he says,63 "many other marvels are also related. It is easy to say that mediaeval barbarism reveals itself in such records. But we must not forget that not only are the books of Apuleius filled with the wildest superstitions, but even such a highly educated heathen as the younger Pliny believed in the silliest ghost-stories. We not only perceive in this a reflection of folk-belief among the educated, but we are especially struck with the naturalism, the passive character of heathen religiousness. Christian superstition as it meets us in the environment of Cassarius, always differs from the heathen by its double ideal background. First, we are met in it with a childlike form of vital faith in Providence, which, in these days of practical pessimism and materialism, we might almost envy that time. Secondly, there speaks to us in it, not fear in the presence of the blind forces of nature, as in heathen superstition, but a certain confidence in the victory of the spirit over nature. From a practical point of view this superstition wrought great evil, because it hindered fighting against physical ills with the weapon with which they should have been fought—that is, by God-trusting labor. Sickness was fought as if it had been sin, with prayer; while, on the other hand, sin was fought as if it had been sickness, with diligence in ascetic practices." Even a man so great and wise as Caesarius was not able to escape this deeply rooted superstition. He shared, as Arnold phrases it, the fundamental error which, from a theological standpoint, underlay this whole miracle thirst: the error of failing to distinguish between the epoch of the creation of salvation and that of its appropriation. But Caesarius was wise enough, while not denying that miracles still happened, to minimize their importance, and to point rather to spiritual wonders as the things to be sought.64 "What is the example of Christ that we are to follow?" he asks. "Is it that we should raise the dead? Is it that we should walk on the surface of the sea? Not at all; but that we should be meek and humble of heart, and should love not only our friends but also our enemies."
As the miraculous stories of the populace thus took on a Christian complexion when the people who produced them became Christian, and became now the vehicles of Christian faith in Providence and of hope in the God who is the maker and ruler of the whole earth; so they reflect also the other currents of popular belief and feeling of the day. A long series might be gleaned from the mediaeval records, for example, which reflect the ingrained belief in magic which tinged the thought of an age so little instructed in the true character of the forces of nature, and especially its deeply seated conception of the essentially magical nature of religion and its modes of working. Paul Saba tier, in his Life of Francis of Assisi, cites a number of instances of the kind,65 from which we may cull the following. "In one case a parrot being carried away by a kite uttered the invocation dear to his master, 'sancte Thoma, adjuva me' and was immediately rescued. In another a merchant of Groningen, having purloined an arm of St. John the Baptist, grew rich as if by enchantment, so long as he kept it concealed in his house, but was reduced to beggary so soon as, his secret being discovered, the relic was taken away from him and placed in a church." "A chronicler relates that the body of St. Martin of Tours had, in 887, been secretly transported to some remote hidingplace for fear of the Danish invasion. When the time came for bringing it home again, there were in Touraine two impostors, men who, thanks to their infirmity, gained large sums by begging. They were thrown into great terror by the tidings that the relics were being brought back; St. Martin would certainly heal them and take away their means of livelihood! Their fears were only too well founded. They had taken to flight; but being too lame to walk fast, they had not yet crossed the frontier of Touraine when the saint arrived and healed them." The mediaeval chronicles are full of such stories in which the crass popular thought of the age expresses itself. Folk-tales are, after all, folk-tales, and must embody the people's ideas and sentiments.
One result is that the production of miraculous stories cannot be confined to authorized modes of thinking. If the dominant ecclesiastical powers avail themselves of the universal tendency to the manufacture of folk-stories in order to commend their system, they must expect to reckon with entirely similar stories supporting what they look upon as heresy. It accordingly happens that the heretics of all ages are at least as well provided with supporting miracles as the church itself. If Catholics took advantage of the tendency to superstition abroad in the world to conquer the unbeliever, it was but natural that "heretics often took advantage of this thirst for the marvellous to dupe the Catholics. The Cathari of Monceval made a portrait of the Virgin, representing her as one-eyed and toothless, saying that, in His humility, Christ had chosen a very ugly woman for mother. They had no difficulty in healing several cases of disease by its means; the image became famous, was venerated almost everywhere, and accomplished many miracles, until the day when the heretics divulged the deception, to the great scandal of the faithful." 66
A more entertaining incident of the same kind occurred in France in the first half of the eighteenth century. The Jansenists had their miracles, you will understand, as well as the Jesuits. A young Jansenist cleric, Francois de Paris, was a particularly warm opponent of Clement XIV's bull Unigenitus. This did not prevent his acquiring a great reputation for sanctity. He died in 1727. Scarcely was this admirable man dead, says Mosheim,67 than an immense crowd flocked around his body, kissing his feet, securing locks of his hair, books, and clothing he had used, and the like; and immediately the wonder-working power that was expected, appeared. Neither the excitement nor the miraculous phenomena showed any sign of ceasing after the burial of the good abbe. His tomb in the churchyard of St. Medard became the resort of the Jansenist convulsionnaires, and the constant scene of at once the most marvellous and the most fantastic miracles. In a few years his grave had grown into a famous shrine to which men came in crowds from all over France to be cured of their diseases, and at which prophecies, speaking with tongues, and ecstatic phenomena of all sorts daily took place. This could not be other than gravely displeasing to the Jesuits, and as the Jesuits were the power behind the throne, it could not be permitted to continue. To check it seemed, however, difficult if not impossible. At last the expedient was adopted of enclosing the tomb so that none might approach it. This, no doubt, brought miracles at the grave itself to an end, though it could not calm the general excitement. And some wag turned the tables on the Jesuits by chalking in great letters on the enclosure, after the manner of a royal proclamation, these words:68
De par le Roy, défence à Dieu
De faire miracle en ce lieu.
The whole incident of the miracles of St. Médard is full of instruction for us as to the origin and character of the miracle-working69 which fills the annals of the patristic and mediasval church.70