History of the Rise and Influence of the Spirit of Rationalism
by W. E. H. Lecky
Footnotes to Chapter II
1:156. Paul the Hermit. See his Life by St. Jerome. The visitor of Paul was St. Anthony, the first of the hermits.
2:156. Ammon (Socrates, lib. iv. c. 23).
3:156. See some admirable remarks on this subject in Maury, Légendes Pieuses, pp. 240-244. Also Farmer, on Demoniacs. There were exorcists, both among the Christians, Pagans, and Jews; and though they were not regularly formed into an order till the middle of the third century, they seem to have practised from almost the beginning. For much curious evidence on the subject, see Middleton, Free Enquiry, pp. 85-87; Bingham, Antiquities of the Christian Church, book iii. c. 4.
1:157. There is a picture of the transaction in the cathedral of Saragossa, opposite the image. A group of extremely pretty angels are represented as fitting on a leg (ready made), while the patient is calmly sleeping. I believe, however, that the more approved story is, that the leg gradually grew. This is a miracle about which a vast amount has been written, and which the Spanish theologians are said to regard as peculiarly well established.
1:158. Hist. de Civilisation, Leçon XVII. The Bollandist Collection was begun at Antwerp by a Jesuit named Bolland, in 1643, was stopped for a time by the French Revolution, but renewed under the patronage of the Belgian Chambers. It was intended to contain a complete collection of all the original documents on the subject. The saints are placed according to the calendar. Fifty-five large folio volumes have been published, but they only extend to the end of October. See a very beautiful essay on the subject by Renan, Études Religieuses. M. Renan says: 'Il me semble que pour un vrai philosophe un prison cellulaire avec ces cinquante-cinq volumes in-folio, serait un vrai paradis.'
1:161. This has been noticed in an extremely ingenious fashion by Bishop Spratt: -- 'God never yet left himself without a witness in the world; and it is observable that He has commonly chosen the dark and ignorant ages wherein to work miracles, but seldom or never the times when natural knowledge prevailed: for He knew there was not so much need to make use of extraordinary signs when men were diligent in the works of His hands and attentive to the impressions of His footsteps in His creatures.' (Hist. of Royal Society, p. 350.)
1:165. This argument, in a modified form, has been reproduced by Muzarelli (a Roman theologian of some note) in his Treatise on the Inquisition. He cites the destruction of Ananias and Sapphira, and of Simon Magus. This class of miracles, he says, has ceased; and the Inquisition is, in consequence, required. I know this very remarkable treatise by a translation in the fifth volume of Henrion, Histoire de l'Église.
1:166. Brewster's Life of Newton, p. 275. There is another letter from Newton to Locke on the subject, in King's Life of Locke, vol. i. p. 415; but it is little more than a catalogue of authorities.
2:166. Third Letter on Toleration, p. 269.
1:168. Preface to the Free Inquiry.
1:170. Introductory Chapter.
1:172. Hume's Essay was avowedly an application (right or wrong) of Tillotson's famous argument against transubstantiation. It is not so generally known that his method of reasoning had been also anticipated by Locke, who, in a very remarkable passage in his common-place book, contends that men should not believe any proposition that is contrary to reason, on the authority either of inspiration or of miracle, for the reality of the inspiration or of the miracle can only be established by reason. 'It is harder,' he says, 'to believe that God should alter or put out of its ordinary course some phenomenon of the great world for once, and make things act contrary to their ordinary rule purposely, that the mind of men might do so always after, than that this is some fallacy or natural effect of which he knows not the cause, let it look ever so strange' (King, Life of Locke, vol. i. pp. 230, 231). See, too, the chapter on Reason and Faith, in the Essay on the Human Understanding.
1:173. Farmer, who was a dissenting minister, desired to destroy the difficulty arising from the fact that miracles were generally represented as attesting both truth and error. He attempted to show that there were no such things as diabolical miracles of any kind.
1:174. Newman's Anglican Difficulties, p. 54.
1:178. E. g., one of the questions of dispute is the veneration of relics. Now St. Augustine, the ablest and most clear-headed of all the Fathers, and a man of undoubted piety, solemnly asserts that in his own diocese of Hippo, in the space of two years, no less than seventy miracles had been wrought by the body of St. Stephen, and that in the neighbouring province of Calama, where the relic had previously been, the number was incomparably greater. He gives a catalogue of what he deems undoubted miracles, which he says he had selected from a multitude so great, that volumes would be required to relate them all. In that catalogue we find no less than five cases of restoration of life to the dead. (De Civ. Dei, lib. xxii. c. 8.) This statement is well known, to readers of Gibbon and Middleton; but, as far as I know, the only High churchman who has referred to it is Mr. Ward (Ideal of a Christian Church, pp. 138-140), who notices it merely to lament the very different tone with which we now speak of the miraculous. This aspect of the Patristio writings has been very clearly and honestly brought out in Isaac Taylor's Ancient Christianity.
1:180. Dr. Newman's very able essay (prefixed to Fleury's History) is essentially an apology for the ecclesiastical miracles; and the miracles of the English saints, about which we have lately heard so much, never seem to have been regarded as evidential.
1:183. A large section of German theologians, as is well known, even regard the impossibility, or at all events the unreality, of miraculous accounts as axiomatic. Thus Strauss calmly remarks: 'We may summarily reject all miracles, prophecies, narratives of angels and demons, and the like, as simply impossible and irreconcilable with the known and universal laws which govern the course of events.' -- Introduction to the Life of Jesus.
1:186. Italy since the late political changes, and as a consequence of the direction given to the national sympathies by those changes, furnishes, perhaps, a slight exception; but even there the conquests of Protestantism are insignificant as compared with those of Freethinking, and it is said that among Protestants the Plymouth Brethren, who are among the least dogmatic, have also been among the most successful.
2:186. I need hardly remind the reader how forcibly and eloquently this point has been brought out by Macaulay, in his Essay on Ranke's History.
1:187. M. de Montalembert, in his Life of Lacordaire, has observed of Lamennais, that there is probably no instance in history of a man possessing so eminently the gifts of a great heresiarch making so little impression by his defection from the Church, and failing so completely to become the nucleus of a sect. After all, however, this was quite natural. The course which Lamennais pursued stimulated a great intellectual movement; but it was not, and was never intended to be, in the direction of a sect.
1:191. On Kant's influence on German Rationalism see Rose, On Protestantism in Germany, pp. 183-190.
2:191. See, for example, the first and second Essays in Aids to Faith.
1:192. See Mansel's 'Essay on Miracles' in the Aids to Faith.
2:192. For an exposition of this view I cannot do better than refer to an article on 'The Supernatural' in the Edinburgh Review for October, 1862, and to the works there referred to. I select a few sentences from the article which contain the substance of the argument: 'The reign of law in nature is indeed, as far as we can observe, universal. But the common idea of the supernatural is that which is at variance with natural law, above it or in violation of it.... Hence it would appear to follow that, to a man thoroughly possessed of the idea of natural law as universal, nothing ever could be admitted as supernatural.... But then we must understand nature as including every agency which we see entering, or can conceive from analogy capable of entering, into the causation of the world.... The power of men in respect of physical laws extends only, first, to their discovery and ascertainment, and then to their use.... A complete knowledge of all natural laws would give, if not complete power, at least degrees of power immensely greater than those which we now possess.... The relation in which God stands to those rules of His government which are called laws is, of course, an inscrutable mystery; but those who believe that His will does govern the world must believe that, ordinarily at least, He does govern it by the choice and use of means; nor have we any certain reason to believe that He ever acts otherwise. Signs and wonders may be wrought, for aught we know, by similar instrumentality -- by the selection and use of laws of which men knew nothing.' That miracles were performed simply by the employment of unknown natural laws was maintained long since by Malebranche, and also, I think, by Butler.
1:195. When men first grasped the truth that the tendency of the human mind was from polytheism to monotheism, there were some who at once rushed on to atheism, considering that to be a continuation of the same movement. The disbelief in ghosts led many to materialism, and the discovery that man was not the centre of all the contrivances of nature made not a few deny final causes. Just so, Science having shown that the phenomena of nature do not result (as everyone once supposed) from direct and isolated acts of intervention, multitudes have passed by the impetus of the movement to the denial of the possibility of miracles. To say that Omnipotence cannot reverse the laws of His appointment is a contradiction in terms. To say that an Infinite mind never modifies those laws for special purposes, and in a manner that exceeds both human capacities and human comprehension, is to make an assertion that is unproved and contrary to analogy. To say that the metaphysical conception of Infinity precludes the notion of miracles is useless, because (as Mansel and others have shown) the creation of the world is equally irreconcilable with that conception, and because the existence of evil throws all such reasoning into hopeless confusion. To say, in fine, that there was no use in miracles accompanying a revelation in an early stage of society, is completely to ignore the passion for the wonderful and the dim perception of the moral which are the characteristics of such a society. All these propositions flow naturally, but not legitimately, out of the reaction against the 'Government by Miracle,' in which Europe once believed. The logical consequences of the movement are, I think, twofold. 1. The difficulty of proving miracles satisfactorily is incalculably increased, because it is shown that, in a certain phase of civilisation, the belief in miracles necessarily arises, and that many thousands, which are now universally rejected, were then universally believed, supported by a vast amount of evidence, and entirely unconnected with imposition. 2. The essentially moral character which theology progressively acquires renders miraculous evidence (except for a particular class of minds) useless.