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complished, it was high time for miracles themselves to cease; for God Almighty never wastes them in vain. This notion I take to be very agreeable to the general sense of the protestant divines, and for this reason I give little credit to any miracles since the days of the apostles. I am loth, I confess, to reject all, without reserve, for the sake of a very remarkable one, which happened at the rebuilding of the temple of Jerusalem, under Julian, which is so extraordinary in all its circumstances, and so fully attested, that I don't see with what forehead any man can question the truth of it, &c. Though the primitive Christians in general lived up to the full rules of their religion with the utmost probity and innocence of manners, yet it is too certain that there were some persons amongst them, who, through a mistaken zeal, made no scruple of lying for the honour of their religion. Their fictions found an easy reception in a credulous age, and were conveyed down to posterity as certain truths. I am not so uncharitable as to charge the faults and follies of particular men on the whole body of the Christian writers. On the contrary, I think them the per . sons chiefly imposed on, and that the far greater part of the fictions which appear in the authors of the three first centuries, were not wilful lies of their own invention, but mistakes, flowing from an easy credulity, and warm sallies of zeal that would not suffer them over-nicely to examine the authority of some facts which they thought would serve for the advancement of their cause.' Vol. ii. p. 100. 289.
Le Clerc was inclined to the same opinion, as appears from many passages in his writings. See Bibl. Anc. et Mod. xxvii. p. 175.
In his Bibl. Chois. xiii. p. 179. there are · Remarks on Fontenelle, &c. Le Clerc gave this as a foundling; but it looks very much like his own child, and in all probability it must be laid to him, as well as the Letters on Inspiration,' which, as he never owned, so he never denied. He there endeavours to prove that the ejecting of devils by the Christians after the apostolical age, and the wonders of that kind done by the sign of the cross, deserve no credit. In his Ecclesiastical History, speaking of the miracles
related by Irenæus, he concludes, quibus quidem nemo fidem prorsus negare sustineat; sed tamen quæcumque boni viri, ab aliis audita et facile credita, iis temporibus quibus credulitas virtus habebatur, narrabant, vera propterea esse consequens non est.
In honorem Dei salutemque hominum hyperbolica oratione uti nemo tunc temporis religioni ducebat.
Le Clerc gives some account in his Bibliotheques, of the life and writings of Van Dale, and of the works of Moyle. Of the former he says, “ His conversation was lively and entertaining, and he delivered his sentiments without re
Sworn enemy to superstition and hypocrisy, he ridiculed them openly; which hurt him, as I have been told, on some occasions. He died physician to the poor, and to the hospital of Harlem, which office he exercised with great application and assiduity, though he was extremely attached to his studies.'
After speaking favourably of Moyle's works, particularly of his Dissertation against the Thundering Legion,' and recommending them to all lovers of truth, he adds, ' I have heard this learned and worthy man censured, as one who was inclined to free-thinking and unbelief : but in his writings I can discern nothing that tends that way; and therefore, till I see evident proofs of it, I shall always think that great injustice is done to the character of a person of his penetration and abilities.'
Le Clerc himself fared no better than Moyle, and « Heretic' and Free-thinker' were compliments often paid to him, and to which he was accustomed; which made him the more disposed to defend his fellow-suf. ferers.
The Christian miracles may be referred to four periods.
The first period contains those which are recorded in the New Testament, and reaches to about A. D. 70. Of these there can be no doubt among Christians.
The next period may be of thirty-seven years, and ends about A.D. 107. There is reason to think it probable that some miracles were then performed by those who preached and planted the gospel in Pagan countries.
The third reaches from thence to Constantine. For some of the miracles in these ages, in the second and third
centuries, so much may be alleged as should restrain us from determining too positively against them, and denying them all.
The last period is from Constantine to where you please, and abounds with miracles, the defence of which shall be left to those who are inclined to undertake it, at the hazard of misapplying their pains. One sort of miracle seems to have been much wanted, and that was to cast the Romantic Devil out of the Christians of those times; but this kind goeth not out so easily, and stands in awe of no exorcisms.
Some few miracles, indeed, are said to have been wrought in the days of Constantine, and in remote regions, where the gospel was then first propagated, which, though for certain reasons one cannot rely upon them, yet may require a suspense of judgment.
If it be asked, when miraculous powers ceased in the church, the proper answer seems to be, that these miracles cease to us, when we cease to find satisfactory evidence for them.
Some of the post apostolical miracles shall be considered in the course of this work, and what may be fairly urged in their favour shall not be omitted: but it may not be amiss to declare, once for all, that I would not engage for the truth of any of them, after A. D. 107, and that I desire to be ranked, as to this point, not amongst the Denyers and Rejectors, but amongst the Doubters.
EUSEBIUS, i. 13. relates that Abgarus, prince of Edessa, in Mesopotamia, wrote to Christ, and received a letter from him, and that Thaddæus was sent to Edessa, who cured this prince, wrought other miracles, and converted his people.
Eusebius translated this account, or got it translated, from the archives of Edessa. There is no room to suspect him of forging it, but there is abundant reason to account it a forgery, and a foolish one too. Many, indeed, have received and defended it, from Ephraim Syrus down to Cave, and to writers of yesterday: but if they were twice or ten times as many, their united labours can never efface its indelible characters of puerility and improbability, See Le Clerc, Hist. Eccl. p. 332. VOL. II.
However, though this be a mere fable, and though Eusebius was to blame for not testifying a dislike or a doubt of it, yet there are some things implied in it concerning Edessa which cannot fairly be denied ; as, that the gospel was preached there long before the time of Eusebius, and that it was preached when Christianity was in a low and afflicted condition, when neither worldly hope, nor fear, nor the vanity of imitating great nations, nor any motive of that kind could induce this people to receive it. It will therefore be no easy matter to account for their conversion, anless by supposing that the preaching and the miracles of some Christians prevailed with them to leave their own religion, delivered to them by their ancestors.
This happened in all probability in early times; and those dwellers in Mesopotamia,' who were in Jerusalem at Pentecost, and heard the apostles speak with tongues, might assist in planting the gospel at Edessa, or in preparing the way
It is an antient and not an improbable tradition, that the Æthiopian eunuch preached and spread the gospel in his own country.
Ipse eunuchus credens, -missus est in regiones Æthiopiæ, prædicaturus hoc quod ipse crediderat. Irenæus, iii. 12.
· Philippus docuit Æthiopem et baptizavit, atque in Æthiopiam usque Christi præconem misit.' Cyrillus Hieros. Catech. xvii. p. 204.
6 Eunuchus -- apostolus genti Æthiopum missus est.' Ilieronymus in Esai. c. 53.
EUSEBIUs üi. 37. speaking of the successors of the apostles, at the latter end of the first and the beginning of the second century, says that several at that time went into various and remote countries, converting multitudes, and working many miracles.
The words of Eusebius intimate that he thought those extraordinary powers to be, at least, not very common afterwards. • They went about,' says he, with God's co-operating grace, for even then the divine Spirit performcd many miracles by them.' -- συν τη του Θεού χάριτι. .
και συνεργία έπει και του θείου Πνεύματος εισέτι τότε δι' αυτων πλείσται παράδοξοι δυνάμεις ενήργουν.
It were to be supposed, though Eusebius had not said it, that these evangelists and apostolical men, and founders of uncorrupted Christianity in various places, had the power of working miracles, to introduce themselves to strangers, and to conciliate their regard and respect ; and indeed without such credentials it is difficult to be conceived how disciples of the apostles could have succeeded in their attempts. It would have been very natural for the Pagans, when they had heard their story, to have said to them ; If Christ and his apostles, not long ago, wrought such wonders as you relate, to convert men, we have reason to expect some from you; for you tell us that some of these powers were communicated to the disciples of the apostles. How comes it to pass, then, that you are without them? and if you have them not, why do you address yourselves to us?
What could they do amongst strangers, without miracles, without force, without singular dexterity and subtilty, without the aid of arts and sciences? Will you suppose the people to whom they went to have been costs and wild asses ? and yet, if they were, stupidity and stubbornness often go together.
We read in the Acts of the Apostles, that many of the persons converted by the apostles, on receiving Christianity, received extraordinary gifts;' whence it is reasonable to think that they were also enabled, when they went about preaching the gospel, to confirm it by signs and wonders at some times, and on some occasions ; else they would have done better in staying at home, lest they should discredit their cause, by having no power of this kind when they wanted it
Le Clerc would have been of the same opinion, if he had considered this point more particularly; for he says, “ The Christian church not only supported itself, but increased considerably during the second century, by means of the iniracles which the last disciples of the apostles still wrought,' &c. Bibl. A. et M. vi. p. 336.
The Pagans indeed, at that juncture, wanted the testimony of miracles more than the Jews, for this reason ; that