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COUNTERFEIT MIRACLES



COUNTERFEIT
MIRACLES





6


BY




BENJAMIN B. WARFIELD





NEW YORK
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS



I— aa^wugj I ij 111 I i.i.iLin«

TI;L !,£W YORK
( PUBLIC LIBRARY

835164

ASTOR LENOX AND

;Tli.D£N FOUNDATIONS

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Copyright, 1918, by
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS



Published April, 1918




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THIS VOLtTME CONTAINS

THE THOMAS SMYTH LECTURES FOR 1917-I918

DELIVERED AT THE

COLUMBIA THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY

COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA
OCTOBER 4-10, I917

IT IS DEDICATED TO

THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS AND THE FACULTY
OF COLUMBIA THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY

IN APPRECIATION OF

THEIR INVITATION TO DELIVER THE LECTURES

AND IN PLEASANT RECOLLECTION OF

THEm MANY COURTESIES



CONTENTS

The Cessation of the Charismata i

Patristic and Medieval Marvels 33

Roman Catholic Miracles ........ 71

Irvingite Gifts 125

Faith-Healing 155

Mind-Cure 197

Notes. [Referred to in the text by superior nu-
merals] 231



THE CESSATION OF THE CHARISMATA



THE CESSATION OF THE CHARISMATA

When our Lord came down to earth He drew heaven
with Him. The signs which accompanied His ministry-
were but the trailing clouds of glory which He brought
from heaven, which is His home. The number of the mir-
acles which He wrought may easily be underrated. It has
been said that in effect He banished disease and death from
Palestine for the three years of His ministry. If this is
exaggeration it is pardonable exaggeration. Wherever He
went, He brought a blessing:

One hem but of the garment that He wore
Could medicine whole countries of their pain;
One touch of that pale hand could life restore.

We ordinarily greatly underestimate His beneficent ac-
tivity as He went about, as Luke says, doing good.^ *

His own divine power by which He began to found His
church He continued in the Apostles whom He had chosen
to complete this great work. They transmitted it in turn,
as part of their own miracle-working and the crowning sign
of their divine commission, to others, in the form of what
the New Testament calls spiritual gifts^ in the sense of
extraordinary capacities produced in the early Christian
communities by direct gift of the Holy Spirit.

The number and variety of these spiritual gifts were
considerable. Even Paul's enumerations, the fullest of
which occurs in the twelfth chapter of I Corinthians, can
hardly be read as exhaustive scientific catalogues. The
name which is commonly applied to them^ is broad enough
to embrace what may be called both the ordinary and the

* For all references see corresponding numbers at the end of the volume.

3



4 COUNTERFEIT MIRACLES

specifically extraordinary gifts of the Spirit; both those,
that is, which were distinctively gracious, and those which
were distinctly miraculous. In fact, in the classical pas-
sage which treats of them (I Cor. 12-14) both classes are
brought together under this name. The non-miraculous,
gracious gifts are, indeed, in this passage given the prefer-
ence and called " the greatest gifts"; and the search after
them is represented as "the more excellent way"; the
longing for the highest of them — faith, hope, and love —
being the most excellent way of all. Among the miraculous
gifts themselves, a like distinction is made in favor of
"prophecy" (that is, the gift of exhortation and teaching),
and, in general, in favor of those by which the body of
Christ is edified.

The diffusion of these miraculous gifts is, perhaps, quite
generally underestimated. One of the valuable features of
the passage, I Cor. 12-14, consists in the picture given in
it of Christian worship in the Apostolic age (14 : 26 ff.).*
"What is it, then, brethren?" the Apostle asks. "When
ye come together, each one hath a psalm, hath a teaching,
hath a revelation, hath a tongue, hath an interpretation.
Let all things be done unto edifying. If any man speaketh
in a tongue, let it be by two or at the most three, and that
in turn; and let one interpret: but if there be no inter-
preter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him
speak to himself, and to God. And let the prophets speak
by two or three, and let the others discern. But if a revela-
tion be made to another sitting by, let the first keep silence.
For ye all can prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and
all may be comforted ; and the spirits of the prophets are
subject to the prophets; for God is not a God of confusion,
but of peace." This, it is to be observed, was the ordinary
church worship at Corinth in the Apostles' day. It is
analogous in form to the freedom of our modem prayer-
meeting services. What chiefly distinguishes it from them
is tliat those who took part in it might often have a mirac-



THE PRIMITIVE CHARISMATA 5

ulous gift to exercise, "a revelation, a tongue, an inter-
pretation," as well as "a psalm or a teaching." There is
no reason to believe that the infant congregation at Cor-
inth was singular in this. The Apostle does not write as
if he were describing a marvellous state of affairs peculiar
to that church. He even makes the transition to the next
item of his advice in the significant words, "as in all the
churches of the saints." And the hints in the rest of his
letters and in the Book of Acts require us, accordingly, to
look upon this beautiful picture of Christian worship as
one which would be true to life for any of the numerous
congregations planted by the Apostles in the length and
breadth of the world visited and preached to by them.

The argument may be extended to those items of the
fuller list, given in I Cor. 12, which found less occasion for
their exhibition in the formal meetings for worship, but
belonged more to life outside the meeting-room. That
enumeration includes among the extraordinary items, you
will remember, gifts of healings, workings of miracles,
prophecy, discernings of spirits, kinds of tongues, the inter-
pretation of tongues — all of which, appropriate to the wor-
shipping assembly, are repeated in I Cor. 14 : 26 ff. We
are justified in considering it characteristic of the Apostolic
churches that such miraculous gifts should be displayed in
them. The exception would be, not a church with, but a
church without, such gifts. Everywhere, the Apostolic
Church was marked out as itself a gift from God, by show-
ing forth the possession of the Spirit in appropriate works
of the Spirit— miracles of healing and miracles of power,
miracles of knowledge, whether in the form of prophecy
or of the discerning of spirits, miracles of speech, whether
of the gift of tongues or of their interpretation. The
Apostolic Church was characteristically a miracle-working
church.^

How long did this state of things continue? It was
the characterizing peculiarity of specifically the Apostolic



6 COUNTERFEIT MIRACLES

Church, and it belonged therefore exclusively to the Apos-
tolic age — although no doubt this designation may be
taken with some latitude. These gifts were not the pos-
session of the primitive Christian as such;^ nor for that
matter of the Apostolic Church or the Apostolic age for
themselves; they were distinctively the authentication of
the Apostles. They were part of the credentials of the
Apostles as the authoritative agents of God in founding
the church. Their function thus confined them to distinc-
tively the Apostolic Church, and they necessarily passed
away with it.^ Of this we may make sure on the ground
both of principle and of fact ; that is to say both under the
guidance of the New Testament teaching as to their origin
and nature, and on the credit of the testimony of later ages
as to their cessation. But I shall not stop at this point
to adduce the proof of this. It will be sufficiently intimated
in the criticism which I purpose to make of certain opposing
opinions which have been current among students of the
subject. My design is to state and examine the chief views
which have been held favorable to the continuance of the
charismata beyond the Apostolic age. In the process of
this examination occasion will ofi"er for noting whatever
is needful to convince us that the possession of the charis-
mata was confined to the Apostolic age.

The theologians of the post-Reformation era, a very
clear-headed body of men, taught with great distinctness
that the charismata ceased with the Apostolic age. But this
teaching gradually gave way, pretty generally throughout
the Protestant churches, but especially in England, to the
view that they continued for a while in the post-Apostolic
period, and only slowly died out like a light fading by in-
creasing distance from its source.* The period most com-
monly set for their continuance is three centuries ; the date
of their cessation is ordinarily said to have been about the
time of Constantine. This, as early as the opening of the
eighteenth century, had become the leading opinion, at



THEIR DISAPPEARANCE 7

least among theologians of the Anglican school, as Conyers
Middleton, writing in the middle of that century, advises
us. "The most prevailing opinion," he says in his Intro-
ductory Discourse to a famous book to be more fully de-
scribed by and by, "is that they subsisted through the first
three centuries, and then ceased in the beginning of the
fourth, or as soon as Christianity came to be estabhshed
by the civil power. This, I say, seems to be the most pre-
vailing notion at this day among the generality of the
Protestants, who think it reasonable to imagine that mir-
acles should then cease, when the end of them was obtained
and the church no longer in want of them ; being now de-
livered from all danger, and secure of success, under the
protection of the greatest power on earth." *

Middleton supports this statement with instances which
bring out so clearly the essential elements of the opinion
that they may profitably be quoted here. Archbishop John
Tillotson represents "that on the first planting of the Chris-
tian religion in the world, God was pleased to accompany
it with a miraculous power; but after it was planted, that
power ceased, and God left it to be maintained by ordi-
nary ways." So, Nathaniel Marshall wrote, "that there
are successive evidences of them, which speak full and
home to this point, from the beginning down to the age of
Constantine, in whose time, when Christianity had ac-
quired the support of human powers, those extraordinary
assistances were discontinued." Others, sharing the same
general point of view, would postpone a little the date of
entire cessation. Thus the elder Henry Dodwell supposes
true miracles to have generally ceased with the conversion
of the Roman Empire, yet admits some special miracles,
which seem to him to be exceptionally well attested, up
to the close of the fourth century. Daniel Waterland, in
the body of his treatise on the Trinity, speaks of miracles
as continuing through the first three centuries at least, and
in the Addenda extends this through the fourth. John



8 COUNTERFEIT MIRACLES

Chapman's mode of statement is "that though the estab-
Hshment of Christianity by the civil power abated the ne-
cessity of miracles, and occasioned a visible decrease of
them, yet, after that revolution, there were instances of
them still, as pubHc, as clear, as well-attested as any in the
earher ages." He extends these instances not only through
the fourth century but also through the fifth — which, he
says, "had also its portion, though smaller than the fourth."
William Whiston, looking upon the charismata less as the
divine means of extending the church than as the signs of
the divine favor on the church in its pure beginnings, sets
the date of their cessation at A. D. 381, which marks the
triumph of Athanasianism ; that being to him, as an Arian,
the final victory of error in the church — which naturally
put a stop to such manifestations of God's favor. It is a
similar idea from his own point of view which is given ex-
pression by John Wesley in one of his not always consistent
declarations on the subject. He supposes that miracles
stopped when the empire became Christian, because then,
"a general corruption both of faith and morals infected the
church— which by that revolution, as St. Jerome says, lost
as much of its virtue as it had gained of wealth and
power." ^^ These slight extensions of the time during
which the miracles are supposed to persist, do not essen-
tially alter the general view, though they have their sig-
nificance — a very important significance which Middleton
was not slow to perceive, and to which we shall revert
later.

The general view itself has lost none of its popularity
with the lapse of time. It became more, rather than less,
wide-spread with the passage of the eighteenth into the
nineteenth century, and it remains very usual still. I need
not occupy your time with the citation of numerous more
recent expressions of it. It may suffice to adduce so pop-
ular a historian as Gerhard Uhlhorn who, in his useful book
on The Conflict of Christianity with Heathenism ^^^ declares



THE CURRENT THEORY 9

explicitly that "witnesses who are above suspicion leave
no room for doubt that the miraculous powers of the Apos-
tolic age continued to operate at least into the third cen-
tury." A somewhat special turn is given to the same gen-
eral idea by another historian of the highest standing —
Bishop Mandel Creighton. "The Apostles," he tells us/^
"were endowed with extraordinary powers, necessary for
the establishment of the church, but not necessary for its
permanent maintenance. These powers were exercised for
healing the sick and for conveying special gifts of the Holy
Spirit; sometimes, but rarely, they were used for punish-
ment. . . . These special powers were committed to the
church as a means of teaching it the abiding presence of
God. They were withdrawn when they had served their
purpose of indicating the duties to be permanently per-
formed. To 'gifts of tongues' succeeded orderly human
teaching; to 'gifts of healing' succeeded healing by edu-
cated human skill ; to supernatural punishment succeeded
discipline by orderly human agency."

This, then, is the theory: that, miracles having been
given for the purpose of founding the church, they con-
tinued so long as they were needed for that purpose ; grow-
ing gradually fewer as they were less needed, and ceasing
altogether when the church having, so to speak, been firmly
put upon its feet, was able to stand on its own legs. There
is much that is attractive in this theory and much that is
plausible: so much that is both attractive and plausible
that it has won the suffrages of these historians and scholars
though it contradicts the whole drift of the evidence of the
facts, and the entire weight of probability as well. For it
is only simple truth to say that both the ascertained facts
and the precedent presumptions array themselves in oppo-
sition to this construction of the history of the charismata
in the church.

The facts are not in accordance with it. The view re-
quires us to beheve that the rich manifestations of spiritual



10 COUNTERFEIT MIRACLES

gifts present in the Apostolic Church, gradually grew less
through the succeeding centuries until they finally dwin-
dled away by the end of the third century or a little later.
Whereas the direct evidence for miracle-working in the
church is actually of precisely the contrary tenor. There
is little or no evidence at all for miracle-working during the
first fifty years of the post-ApostoHc church ; it is slight and
unimportant for the next fifty years ; it grows more abun-
dant during the next century (the third) ; and it becomes
abundant and precise only in the fourth century, to in-
crease still further in the fifth and beyond. Thus, if the
evidence is worth anything at all, instead of a regularly
progressing decrease, there was a steadily growing increase
of miracle-working from the beginning on. This is doubt-
less the meaning of the inability of certain of the scholars
whom we have quoted, after having allowed that the Apos-
tolic miracles continued through the first three centuries,
to stop there; there is a much greater abundance and pre-
cision of evidence, such as it is, for miracles in the fourth
and the succeeding centuries, than for the preceding ones.
The matter is of sufiicient interest to warrant the state-
ment of the facts as to the evidence somewhat more in
detail. The writings of the so-called Apostolic Fathers
contain no clear and certain allusions to miracle-working
or to the exercise of the charismatic gifts, contemporane-
ously with themselves.^^ These writers inculcate the ele-
ments of Christian living in a spirit so simple and sober as
to be worthy of their place as the immediate followers of
the Apostles. Their anxiety with reference to themselves
seems to be lest they should be esteemed overmuch and
confounded in their pretensions with the Apostles, rather
than to press claims to station, dignity, or powers similar
to theirs. ^^ So characteristic is this sobriety of attitude of
their age, that the occurrence of accounts of miracles in the
letter of the church of Smyrna narrating the story of the
martyrdom of Polycarp is a recognized difficulty in the way



INDEFINITE TESTIMONY 11

of admitting the genuineness of that letter. ^^ Polycarp
was martyred in 155 A. D. Already by that date, we meet
with the beginnings of general assertions of the presence of
miraculous powers in the church. These occur in some
passages of the writings of Justin Martyr. The exact na-
ture of Justin's testimony is summed up by Bishop John
Kaye as follows :^^ "Living so nearly as Justin did to the
Apostolic age, it will naturally be asked whether, among
other causes of the diffusion of Christianity, he specifies
the exercise of miraculous powers by the Christians. He
says in general terms that such powers subsisted in the
church {Dial., pp. 2541?,) — that Christians were endowed
with the gift of prophecy {Dial., p. 308 B, see also p. 315 B)
— and in an enumeration of supernatural gifts conferred
on Christians, he mentions that of healing {Dial., p. 258 A).
We have seen also, in a former chapter, that he ascribes
to Christians the power of exorcising demons (chap. vin).
But he produces no particular instance of an exercise of
miraculous power, and therefore affords us no opportunity
of applying those tests by which the credibility of miracles
must be tried." And then the bishop adds, by way of
quickening our sense of the meaning of these facts: "Had
it only been generally stated by the Evangelists that Christ
performed miracles, and had no particular miracle been re-
corded, how much less satisfactory would the Gospel nar-
ratives have appeared! how greatly their evidence in sup-
port of our Saviour's divine mission been diminished!"

This beginning of testimony is followed up to precisely
the same effect by Irenaeus, except that Irenasus speaks
somewhat more explicitly, and adds a mention of two new
classes of miracles — those of speaking with tongues and of
raising the dead, to both of which varieties he is the sole
v/itness during these centuries, and of the latter of which
at least he manages so to speak as to suggest that he is
not testif3dng to anything he had himself witnessed. ^'^
Irenasus's contemporary, indeed, Theophilus of Antioch,



12 COUNTERFEIT MIRACLES

while, like Irenaeus, speaking of the exorcism of demons as
a standing Christian miracle, when challenged by Autolycus
to produce but one dead man who had been raised to life,
discovers by his reply that there was none to produce;
and " no instance of this miracle was ever produced in the
first three centuries." ^* For the rest, we say, Irensus's
witness is wholly similar to Justin's. He speaks altogether
generally, adducing no specific cases, but ascribing miracle-
working to ''all who were truly disciples of Jesus," each
according to the gift he had received, and enumerating
especially gifts of exorcism, prediction, healing, raising the
dead, speaking with tongues, insight into secrets, and ex-
pounding the Scriptures {Cont. Hcer., II, Ivi, Ivii; V, vi).^^
Tertullian in like manner speaks of exorcisms, and adduces
one case of a prophetically gifted woman {Apol., xxviii;
De Anima, ix) ; and Minucius Felix speaks of exorcism
(Oct., xxvi)}^ Origen professes to have been an eye-wit-
ness of many instances of exorcism, healing, and prophecy,
although he refuses to record the details lest he should
rouse the laughter of the unbeliever {Co7it. Cels., I, ii; III,
xxiv; VII, iv, Ixvii). Cyprian speaks of gifts of visions and
exorcisms. And so we pass on to the fourth century in an
ever-increasing stream, but without a single writer having
claimed himself to have wrought a miracle of any kind or
having ascribed miracle-working to any known name in the
church, and without a single instance having been recorded
in detail. The contrast of this with the testimony of the
fourth century is very great. There we have the greatest
writers recording instances witnessed by themselves with
the greatest circumstantiality. The miracles of the first
three centuries, however, if accepted at all, must be ac-
cepted on the general assertion that such things occurred —
a general assertion which itself is wholly lacking until the
middle of the second century and which, when it does
appear, concerns chiefly prophecy and healings, including
especially exorcisms,^^ which we can scarcely be wrong in



RESUSCITATIONS OF THE DEAD 13

supposing precisely the classes of marvels with respect to
which excitement most easily blinds the judgment and in-
sufficiently grounded rumors most readily grow up."^

We are no doubt startled to find Irenaeus, in the midst of
delivering what is apparently merely a conventional testi-
mony to the occurrence of these minor things, suddenly
adding his witness to the occurrence also of the tremendous
miracle of raising the dead. The importance of this phe-
nomenon may be thought to require that we should give
a little closer scrutiny to it, and this the more because of
the mocking comment which Gibbon has founded on it.
"But the miraculous cure of diseases of the most inveterate
or even preternatural kind," says he,^^ "can no longer occa-
sion any surprise when we recollect that in the days of
Irenaeus, about the end of the second century, the resur-
rection of the dead was very far from being esteemed an
uncommon event; that the miracle was frequently per-
formed on necessary occasions, by great fasting and the
joint supplication of the church of the place ; and that the
persons thus restored by their prayers had lived afterward
among them many years. At such a period, when faith
could boast of so many wonderful victories over death, it
seems d/fficult to account for the scepticism of those phi-
losophers who still rejected and derided the doctrine of the
resurrection. A noble Grecian had rested on this important
ground the whole controversy, and promised Theophilus,
bishop of Antioch, that, if he could be gratified by the
sight of a single person who had been actually raised from
the dead, he would immediately embrace the Christian
religion. It is somewhat remarkable that the prelate of
the first Eastern church, however anxious for the conver-
sion of his friend, thought proper to decline this fair and
reasonable challenge."

The true character of Gibbon's satirical remarks is al-
ready apparent from the circumstances to which we have
already alluded, that Irenaeus alone of all the writers of this



14 COUNTERFEIT MIRACLES

period speaks of raisings of the dead at all, and that he
speaks of them after a fashion which suggests that he has
in mind not contemporary but past instances— doubtless
those recorded in the narratives of the New Testament.^^
Eusebius does no doubt narrate what he calls "a wonder-
ful story," told by Papias on the authority of the daugh-
ters of Philip, whom Papias knew. "For," says Eusebius,
"he relates that in his time," that is to say in Philip's time,
"one rose from the dead." ^^ This resuscitation, however,
it will be observed, belongs to the Apostolic, not the post-
Apostolic times, and it is so spoken of as to suggest that it
was thought very wonderful both by Eusebius and by Pa-
pias. It is very clear that Eusebius was not familiar with
raisings from the dead in his own day, and also that Papias
was not famihar with them in his day;^*" and it is equally
clear that Eusebius did not know of numerous instances
of such a transaction having been recorded as occurring in



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