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Protestant; and, while yet a Churchman, made it his business to
parade, with infinite skill, the utter hollowness of the arguments of
those of his brother Churchmen who dreamed that they could be both
Anglicans and Protestants. The argument of the " Essay on the
Miracles recorded in the Ecclesiastical History of the Early Ages,"*
by the present Koman cardinal, but then Anglican doctor, John
Henry Newman, is compendiously stated by himself in the following
passage :

If the miracles of church history can not be defended by the arguments of Leslie, Lyttleton,
Paley, or Douglas, how many of the Scripture miracles satisfy their conditions f (p. cvii).

And, although the answer is not given in so many words, little doubt
is left on the mind of the reader that in the mind of the writer it is :
None. In fact, this conclusion is one which can not be resisted, if
the argument in favor of the Scripture miracles is based upon that
which laymen, whether lawyers, or men of science, or historians, or
ordinary men of affairs call evidence. But there is something really
impressive in the magnificent contempt with which, at times, Dr.
Newman sweeps aside alike those who offer and those who demand
snch evidence.

Some infidel authors advise us to accept no miracles which would not have a verdict in their
favor in a court of justice ; that is, they employ against Scripture a weapon which Protestants
would confine to attacks upon the Church, as if moral and religious questions required legal
proofs, and evidence were the test of truth t (p. cvii).

" As if evidence were the test of truth " ! although the truth in ques-
tion is the occurrence or non-occurrence of certain phenomena at a
certain time and in a certain place. This sudden revelation of the
great gulf fixed between the eccleisastical and the scientific mind is
enough to take away the breath of any one unfamiliar with the cleri-
cal organon. As if, one may retort, the assumption that miracles may,
or have, served a moral or a religious end in any way alters the fact
that they profess to be historical events, things that actually hap-
pened; and, as such, must needs be exactly those subjects about
which evidence is appropriate and legal proofs (which are such merely
because they afford adequate evidence) may be justly demanded. The
Gadarene miracle either happened, or it did not. Whether the Gada-
rene "question" is moral or religious, or not, has nothing to do with
the fact that it is a purely historical question whether the demons
said what they are declared to have said, and the devil-possessed pigs
did or did not rush over the cliffs of the Lake of Gennesareth on a
certain day of a certain year, after A. D. 26 and before A. D. 36; for,
vague and uncertain as New Testament chronology is, I suppose it

t Yet, when it suits his purpose, as in the introduction to the "Essay on Development," Dr.
Newman can demand strict evidence in religious questions as sharply as any "infidel author";
a*d he can even profess to yield to its force (" Essays on Miracles," 1870, note, p . 881).



may be assumed that the event in question, if it happened at all, took
place during the procuratorship of Pilate. If that is not the matter
about which evidence ought to be required, and not only legal but
strict scientific proof demanded by sane men who are asked to believe
the story what is ? Is a reasonable being to be seriously asked to
credit statements which, to put the case gently, are not exactly proba-
ble, and on the acceptance or rejection of which his whole view of
life may depend, without asking for as much " legal " proof as would
send an alleged pickpocket to jail, or as would suffice to prove the
validity of a disputed will?

" Infidel authors " (if, as I am assured, I may answer for them) will
decline to waste time on mere darkenings of counsel of this sort ; but
to those Anglicans who accept his premises, Dr. Newman is a truly for-
midable antagonist. What, indeed, are they to reply when he puts
the very pertinent question :

" whether persons who, not merely question, but prejudge the ecclesiastical miracles on the
ground of their want of resemblance, whatever that be, to those contained in Scripture as if the
Almighty conld not do in the Christian church what he had not already done at the time of its
foundation, or under the Mosaic covenant whether such reasoners are not siding with the
skeptic,' 1


" whether it is not a happy Inconsistency by which they continue to believe the Scriptures while
they reject the Church " * (p. liii).

Again, I invite Anglican orthodoxy to consider this passage :

the narrative of the combats of St. Antony with evil spirits is a development rather than a con-
tradiction of revelation, viz., of such texts as speak of Satan being cast ont by prayer and fasting.
To be shocked, then, at th miracles of ecclesiastical history, or to ridicule them for their strange-
ness, is no part of a scriptural philosophy (p. liii-liv).

Further on, Dr. Newman declares that it has been admitted

that a distinct line can be drawn in point of character and circumstance between the miracles of
Scripture and of church history; but this is by no means the Cise (p. Iv). . . . Specimens are not
wanting in the h-story of the Church of miracles as awful in their character and a* momentous in
their effects as those which are recorded in Scripture. The fire interrupting the rebuilding of the
Jewish Temple, and the death of Ariui, are instances in ecclesiastical history of such solemn
events. On the other hand, difficult instances in the Scripture history are such as these : the ser-
pent in Eden, the ark, Jacob's vision for the multiplication of his cattle, the speaking of Balaam's
ass, theaxe swimming at Elisha's word, the miracle on the swine, and various instances of prayers
or prophecies, in which, as in that of Noah's blessing and curse, words which seem the result of
private feeling are expressly or virtually ascribed to a divine suggestion (p. Ivi).

Who is to gainsay our ecclesiastical authority here? "Infidel
authors " might be accused of a wish to ridicule the Scripture miracles
by putting them on a level with the remarkable story about the fire
which stopped the rebuilding of the Temple, or that about the death
of Arius but Dr^Newman is above suspicion. The pity is that his
list of what he delicately terms "difficult" instances is so short.
Why omit the manufacture of Eve out of Adam's rib, on the strict
historical accuracy of which the chief argument of the defenders of an
iniquitous portion of our present marriage law depends? Why leave
out the account of the" Bene Elohim" and their gallantries, on
which a large part of the worst practices of the mediaeval inquisitors
into witchcraft was based ? Why forget the angel who wrestled with
Jacob, and, as the account suggests, somewhat overstepped the bounds
of fair play at the end of the struggle? Surely we must agree with
Dr. Newman that, if all these camels have gone down, it savors of
affectation to strain at such gnats as the sudden ailment of Arius in
the midst of his deadly, if prayerfnl.f enemies; and the fiery explo-

* Compare " Tract 85," p. 110 : "I am persuaded that were men but consistent who oppose the
Church doctrines as being unscriptural, they would vindicate the Jews lor rejecting the gospel."

t According to Dr. Newman, " This prayer [that of Bishop Alexander, who begged God to
* take Arius away '] is said to have been offered about 3 P. M. on the Saturday ; that same evening
Arius was in the great equare of Constantine, when he was suddenly seized with indisposition *



sion which stopped the Julian building operations. Though the
words of the " Conclusion " of the " Essay on Miracles " may, perhaps,
be quoted against me, I may express my satisfaction at finding myself
in substantial accordance with a theologian above all suspicion of
heterodoxy. With all my heart, I can declare my belief that there is
just as good reason for believing in the miraculous slaying of the man
who fell short of the Athanasian power of affirming contradictories,
with respect to the nature of the Godhead, as there is for believing in
the stories of the serpent and the ark told in Genesis, the speaking of
Balaam's ass in Numbers, or the floating of the axe, at Elisha's order,
in the second book of Kings.

It is one of the peculiarities of a really sound argument that it is
susceptible of the fullest development; and that it sometimes leads to
conclusions unexpected by those who employ it. To my mind it is
impossible to refuse to follow Dr. Newman when he extends his rea-
soning from the miracles of the patristic and mediaeval ages backward
in time as far as miracles are recorded. But, if the rules of logic are
valid, I feel compelled to extend the argument forward to the alleged
Roman miracles of the present day, which Dr. Newman might not
have admitted, but which Cardinal Newman may hardly reject.
Beyond question, there is as good, or perhaps better, evidence for the
miracles worked by our Lady of Lourdes, as there is for the floating
of Elisha's axe or the speaking of Balaam's ass. But we must go still
further; there is a modern system of thaumaturgy and demouology
which is just as well certified as the ancient.* Veracious, excellent,
sometimes learned and acute persons, even philosophers of no mean
pretention, testify to the "levitation" of bodies much heavier than
Elisha's axe; to the existence of "spirits" who, to the mere tactile
sense, have been indistinguishable from fl 'sh and blood, and occasion-
ally have wrestled with all the vigor of Jacob's opponent; yet, further,
to the speech, in the language of raps, of spiritual beings, whose dis-
courses, in point of coherence and value, are far inferior to that of
Balaam's humble but sagacious steed. I have not the smallest doubt
that, if these were persecuting times, there is many a worthy "spirit-
ualist" who would cheerfully go to the stake in support of his pueu-
matological faith, and furnish evidence, after Paley's own heart, in
proof of the truth of his doctrines. Not a few modern divines, doubt-
less struck by the possibility of refusing the spiritual evidence, if the
ecclesiastical evidence is accepted, and deprived of any a priori objec-

(p. clzz). The " infidel " Gibbon seems to have dared to suggest that " an option between poison
and miracle" is presented by this case; and it must be admitted, that if the bishop had been
within reach of a modern police magistrate, things might have gone hardly with him. Modern
" infldela," possessed of a slight knowledge of chemistry, are not unlikely, with no less audacity,
to suggest an ''option between fire-damp and miracle" in seeking for the cause of the fiery out-
burst at Jerusalem.

i^uw bu me iuai.eriouiu; auu Bcieuunc mma, to me uniuiliatea in spiritual venues, ceri tiuij
this story of the Qadareue or Gergesene swine presents insurmountable difficulties ; it seems gro-

ucurjiuuiji wuiui uubiiB ever wrought in me wnoie course or nis pilgrimage or redemption ou
earth." Just so. And the first page of this same journal presents the following advertisement,
among others of the same kidney :

'' To WEALTHY SPIBITUALTSTS. A lady medium of tried power wishes to meet with an elderly
gentleman who would be willing to give her a comfortable home and maintenance in exchange for
her spiritualistic services, as her guides consider her health is too delicate for public sittings ;
London pref err ed. Address 'Mary,' office of ' Light.' "

Are we going back to the days of the Judges, when wealthy Jlicah set up hia private ephoO,



tion by their implicit belief in Christian demonology, show themselves
ready to take poor Sludge seriously, and to believe that he is possessed
by other devils than those of need, greed, and vainglory.

Under these circumstances, it was to be expected, though it is none
the less interesting to note the fact, that the arguments of the latest
school of " spiritualists" present a wonderful family likeness to those
which adorn the subtle disquisitions of the advocate of ecclesiastical
miracles of forty years ago. It is unfortunate for the " spiritualists"
that, over and over again, celebrated and trusted media, who really, in
some respects, call to mind the Montanist* and gnostic seers of the
second century, are either proved in courts of law to be fraudulent
impostors ; or, in sheer weariness, as it would seem, of the honest
dupes who swear by them, spontaneously confess their long-continued
iniquities, as the Fox women did the other day in New York, f But
whenever a catastrophe of this kind takes place, the believers are
nowise dismayed by it. They freely admit that not only the media,
but the spirits whom they summon, are sadly apt to lose sight of the
elementary principles of right and wrong; and they triumphantly
ask : How does the occurrence of occasional impostures disprove the
genuine manifestations (that is to say, all those which have not yet
been proved to be impostures or delusions) ? And, in this, they
unconsciously plagiarize from the churchman, who just as freely
admits that many ecclesiastical miracles may have been forged; and
asks, with the same calm contempt, not only of legal proofs, but of
common-sense probability, Why does it follow that none are to be
supposed genuine ? I must say, however, that the spiritualists, so far
as I know, do not venture to outrage right reason so boldly as the
ecclesiastics. They do not sneer at "evidence"; nor repudiate the
requirement of legal proofs. In fact, there can be no doubt that the
spiritualists produce better evidence for their manifestations than can
be shown either for the miraculous death of Arius, or for the inven-
tion of the cross. J

From the " levitation " of the axe at one end of a period of near
three thousand years to the " levitation " of Sludge & Co. at the other
end, there is a complete continuity of the miraculous with every gra-
dation from the childish to the stupendous, from the gratification
of a caprice to the illustration of sublime truth. There is no drawing
a line in the series that might be set out of plausibly attested cases of
spiritual intervention. If one is true, all may be true; if one is false,
all may be false.

This is to my mind, the inevitable result of that method of reason
ing which is applied to the confutation of Protestantism, with so
much success, by one of the acutest and subtlest disputants who have

* Consider Tertullian's "sister" (" hodie apnd DOS"), who conversed with angels, saw ni
heard mysteries, knew men's thoughts, and prescribed medicine for their bodies ("De Anima,"
cap. 9). Ttrtullian tells us that this woman saw the soul as corporeal, and described its color and
shape. The ' infidel " will probably be unable to refrain from insulting the memory of the
ecstatic saint by the remark that Tertullian's known views about the corporeality of the soul may
have had something to do with the remarkable perceptive powers of the Montanist medium, in
whose revelations of the spiritual world he took such profound interest.

t See the New York " World " for Sunday, October 81, 1888; and the " Report of the Seybert
Commission," Philadelphia, 1887.

t Dr. Newman's observation that the miraculous multiplication of the pieces of the true cross
(with which "the whole world is fi ! li-d." according to Cyril of Jerusalem ; and of which some say
there are enough extant to build a man-of-war) is no more wonderful than that of the loaves and
fishes, is one that I do not see my way to contradict. See " Essay on Miracles," second edition,

P ' 163 ' 109


ever championed ecclesiasticism and one can not put his claims to
acuteness and subtlety higher.

, . . the Christianity of history is not Protestantism. If ever there were a safe truth it is
thifl. ..." To be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant." *

I have not a shadow of doubt that these anti-Protestant epigrams
are profoundly true. But I have as little that, in the same sense, the
" Christianity of history is not " Romanism; and that to be deeper in
history is to cease to be a Romanist. The reasons which compel my
doubts about the compatibility of the Roman doctrine, or any other
form of Catholicism, with history, arise out of exactly the same line
of argument as that adopted by Dr. Newman iu the famous essay
which I have just cited. If, with one hand, Dr. Newman has
destroyed Protestantism, he has annihilated Romanism with the
other; and the total result of his ambidextral efforts is to shake
Christianity to its foundations. Nor was any one better aware that
this must be the inevitable result of his arguments if the world
should refuse to accept Roman doctrines and Roman miracles than
the writer of " Tract 85."

Dr. Newman made his choice and passed over to the Roman
Church half a century ago. Some of those who were essentially in
harmony with his views preceded, and many followed him. But
many remained; and, as the quondam Puseyite and present Ritual-
istic party, they are continuing that work of sapping and mining the
Protestantism of the Anglican Church which he and his friends so
ably commenced. At the present time they have no little claim to be
considered victorious all along the line. I am old enough to recollect
the small beginnings of the Tractariau party; and I am amazed when
I consider the present position of their heirs. Their little leaven has
leavened, if not the whole, yet a very large, lump of the Anglican
Church; which is now pretty much of a preparatory school for
Papistry. So that it really behooves Englishmen (who, as I have
been informed by high authority, are all, legally, members of the state
Church, if they profess to belong to no other sect) to wake up to what
that powerful organization is about, and whither it is tending. On
this point, the writings of Dr. Newman, while he still remained
within the Anglican fold, are a vast store of the best and the most
authoritative information. His doctrines on ecclesiastical miracles
and on development are the corner-stones of the Tractarian fabric.
He believed that his arguments led either Romeward, or to what
ecclesiastics call "infidelity," and I call agnosticism. I believe that
he was quite right in this conviction; but while he chooses the one
alternative, I choose the other ; as he rejects Protestantism on the
ground of its incompatibility with history, so, a fortiori, I conceive that
Romanism ought to be rejected, and that an impartial consideration
of the evidence must refuse the authority of Jesus to anything more
than the Nazarenism of James and Peter and John. And let it not
be supposed that this is a mere " infidel " perversion of the facts. No
one has more openly and clearly admitted the possibility that they
may be fairly interpreted in this way than Dr. Newman. If, he says,
these are texts which seem to show that Jesus contemplated the evan-
gelization of the heathen :

* " An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine," by J. H. Newman, D. D., pp. 7 and ,



. . . Did not the apostles hear onr Lord? and what was their Impression from what they heard T
Is It not certain that the apostles did not gather this tiuth from his teaching? (" Tract 85 " p 63 )

He said, " Preach the gospel to every creature." These words need have only meant " Bring
all men to Christianity through Judaism." Make them Jews, that they may enjoy Christ's priv-
ileges which are lodged in Judaism ; teach them those rites and ceremonies, circumcision and th*
like, which hitherto have been dead ordinances, and now are living : and to the apostles Beem to
have understood them (Ibid., p. 65).

So far as Nazarenism differentiated itself from contemporary ortho-
dox Judaism, it seems to have tended toward a revival of the ethical
and religious spirit of the prophetic age, accompanied by the belief in
Jesus as the Messiah, and by various accretions which had grown
round Judaism subsequently to the exile. To these belong the doc-
trines of the resurrection, of the last judgment of heaven and hell ; of
the hierarchy of good angels ; of Satan and the hierarchy of evil spirits.
And there is very strong ground for believing that all these doctrines,
at least in the shapes in which they were held by the post-exilic Jews,
were derived from Persian and Babylonian * sources, and are essen-
tially of heathen origin.

How far Jesus positively sanctioned all these indrainings of circum-
jacent paganism into Judaism; how far anyone has a right to say
that the refusal to accept one or other of these doctrines as ascertained
verities comes to the same thing as contradicting Jesus, it appears to
me not easy to say. But it is hardly less difficult to conceive that he
could have distinctly negatived any of them ; and, more especially,
that demonology which has been accepted by the Christian churches
in every age and under all their mutual antagonisms. But, I
repeat my conviction that, whether Jesus sanctioned the demonology
of his time and nation or not, it is doomed. The future of Chris-
tianity as a dogmatic system and apart from the old Israelitish ethics
which it has appropriated and developed, lies in the answer which
mankind will eventually give to the question whether they are pre-
pared to believe such stories as the Gadarene and the pneumatological
hypotheses which go with it, or not. My belief is they will decline to
do anything of the sort, whenever and wherever their minds have
been disciplined by science. And that discipline must and will at
once follow and lead the footsteps of advancing civilization.

The preceding pages were written before I became acquainted with
the contents of the May number of this review, wherein I discover
many things which are decidedly not to my advantage. It would
appear that "evasion" is my chief resource "incapacity for strict
argument" and " rottenness of ratiocination" my main mental char-
acteristics, and that it is " barely credible" that a statement which I
profess to make of my own knowledge is true. All which things I
notice, merely to illustrate the great truth, forced on me by long
experience, that it is only from those-who enjoy the blessing of a firm
hold of the Christian faith that such manifestations of meekness,
patience, and charity are to be expected.

I had imagined that no one who had read my preceding papers
could entertain a doubt as to my position in respect of the main issue
as it has been stated and restated by my opponent:

an agnosticism which knows nothing of the relation of man to God must not only refuse belief to
our Lord's most undoubted teaching, but must deny the reality of the spiritual convictions in
which he lived and died.t

* Dr Newman faces this question with his customary ability. " Now, I own, I urn not at all
solicitous to deny that this doctrine of an apostate angel and his hosts was gained from Babylon :
it might still be divine nevertheless. God who made the prophet's ass speak, and thereby
Instructed the prophet, might instruct his church by means of heathen Babylon " (" Tract 85," p-
83). There seems to be no end to the apologetic burden that Balaam's ass can carry.

t Page 66.


That is said to be " the simple question which is at issue between us,"
and the three testimonies to that teaching and those convictions
selected are the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord's Prayer, and the
Story of the Passion.

My answer, reduced to its briefest form, has been : In the first place,
the evidence is such that the exact nature of the teachings and the
convictions of Jesus is extremely uncertain, so that what ecclesiastics
are pleased to call a denial of them may be nothing of the kind.
And, in the second place, if Jesus taught the demonological system
involved in the Gadarene story if a belief in that system formed a

Eart of the spiritual convictions in which he lived and died then I,
>r my part, unhesitatingly refuse belief in that teaching, and deny
the reality of those spiritual convictions. And I go further and add,
that exactly in so far ag it cnn be proved that Jesus sanctioned the
essentially pagan demonologiutl theories current among the Jews of
his age, exactly in so far, for me, will his authority in any matter
touching the spiritual world l>n weakened.

With respect to the first half of my answer, I have pointed out that
the Sermon on the Mount, as given in the first Gospel, is, in the

Online LibraryIsreal Smith ClareLibrary of Universal history and popular science ... (Volume 20) → online text (page 55 of 60)