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SECT. VIII An answer to the objection of the heathens taken from the miracles done amongst them.

THE heathens used to recommend their religion by miracles; but they were such as were liable to many exceptions. For the wisest men amongst the heathens themselves rejected many of them, as not supported by the testimony of sufficient witnesses.493493   So Livy, in the beginning: “I do not design either to affirm or deny those things related before, or upon, the building of the city, as fitter for poetic fables, than the sincere memorials of affairs that were transacted: thus much must be allowed antiquity, that by mixing human things with divine, the original of cities was rendered the more venerable.” but plainly counterfeit:494494   It were much better to acquiesce in this answer, than to allow of their miracles, or that such things were done, as men could not commonly distinguish from miracles, such as oracles, wonders, curing of diseases, which, if they were done, could scarce be distinguished from true miracles, at least by the common people. See what I have said upon this matter in the prolegomena to my ecclesiastical history, sect. ii. chap. 1. Le Clerc. and those that seem to have been done, came to pass in some secret 166place, in the night, before one or two persons, whose eyes might easily be deceived with a false appearance of things, by the cunning of the priests. There were some, which only caused the people, who did not understand the nature of things, especially their occult qualities, to wonder at them; much in the same manner as if any one should draw iron with a loadstone, before people who knew nothing of it; and it is related by many, that these were the arts 495495   Tatian: “There are certain diseases and contrarieties of the matter of which we are compounded; when these happen, the dæmons ascribe the causes of them to themselves.” in which Simon and Apollonius Tyanæus were so skilful. I do not deny but that some greater than these were seen, which could not be the effect of natural causes, by human power alone; but they were such as did not require a power truly divine, that is, omnipotent; for these spirits, who were inferior to God, and superior to man, were sufficient for these things; because, by their swiftness, strength, and cunning, they could easily remove distant things, and so compound different sorts of things, as to produce effects which should be very surprising to men. But the spirits by whom this was effected were not good, and consequently neither was their religion good; as is evident from what was said before, and from this consideration also, because they said that they were compelled, by certain enchantments, against their will:496496   Thus the oracle of Hecate in Porphyry:—
   “I come, invoked by well-consulted prayers,
Such as the gods have to mankind reveal’d.”

   And again,

   “Why have you call’d the goddess Hecate
From heaven, and forc’d her by a charm divine?”

   And that of Apollo in the same writer,

   “Hear me, for I am forc’d to speak against my will.”

   These are the rites of their secret arts by which they address themselves to I know not what powers, as Arnobius expresses it, as if they compelled them by charms to be their servants; so Clemens (explains it. There is a form of their threats in Jamblichus, book vi. chap. 5, 6, 7. of his Egyptian mysteries. The same we meet with in Lucan, book ix. in the words of Pompey the less; and in Eusebius out of Porphyry, book v. chap. 10. of his gospel preparation. Other forms of threatenings you have in Lucan, where he speaks of Erichthon, and in Papinius about Tiresias.
and yet the wisest heathens agree, that there 167could not possibly be any such force in words; but that they could only persuade, and this according to the manner of their interpretation. And a further sign of their wickedness is, that they would undertake many times to entice some to the love of others, notwithstanding their own endeavours against it, either by false promises, or by doing them some hurt;497497   See the Pharmaceutria of Theocritus and Virgil, and the confession of Porphyry in Eusebius, book v. chap. 7. of his Preparat. and Augustin, book x. chap. 11. of his city of God. And the same Porphyry against eating living creatures, book ii. and Origen against Celsus, book vii. which things were forbidden by human laws, as witchcraft.498498   L. ejusdem. Sect. Adjectio. D. ad Legem Corneliam de Sicariis et Veneficis. L. si quis aliquid ex metallo. Sect. qui abortionis. D. de Pœnis. Paulus Sententiarum, lib. v. tit. xxiii. Neither ought any one to wonder that the Supreme God should suffer some miracles to be done by evil spirits; because they who were already fallen from the worship of the true God, deserved to be deluded by such deceits.499499   Deut. xiii. 3. 2 Thess. ii. 9. 10. Ephes. ii. 2, 3. But this is an argument of their weakness, that their works were not attended with any remarkable good; for if any seemed to be called to life again, they did not continue long in it, nor exercise the functions of living persons. If at any time any thing proceeding from a divine power appeared in the sight of the heathen; yet it was not foretold that it would come to pass, in order to prove the truth of their religion; so that nothing hinders but the Divine Power might propose to itself some other end widely different from this. For instance; suppose it true, that a blind man was restored to his sight by Vespasian; it might he done, to render him more venerable upon this account; and that he might thereby the more easily obtain the Roman empire; and was therefore chosen by God, to be the 168executioner of his judgments upon the Jews:500500   Tacitus, Hist. iv. “Many miracles were done, whereby the favour of heaven, and the good disposition of the gods towards Vespasian, appeared.” He had said before, in hist. i. “We believe, that, after previous good luck, the empire was decreed to Vespasian and his children, by the secret law of fate, and by wonders and oracles.” Suetonius ushers in his relation of the same miracles thus, chap. 7. “There was a certain authority and majesty wanting, viz. in a new and unthought-of prince; to which this was added.” See the same Suetonius a little before, chap. 5. Josephus says of the same Vespasian, book iii. chap. 27. of the wars of the Jews, “That God raised him up to the government, and foretold him of the sceptre by other signs.” and other like reasons there might be for other wonders, which had no relation at all to religion.501501   But see the examination of miracles feigned to be done in favour of Vespasian and Adrian, in my ecclesiastical history, century ii. 138th year. Le Clerc.


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