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the morality of the gospel? Whether any purer lessons of morality can be cited? and whether the institutions in which it was taught, and without which it might not have been taught, were not, with all the imperfections justly or unjustly imputed to them, eminently useful to the community?
Miracles performed by the Anglo-Saxon Missionaries.
In this, and in many other parts of your work, you treat the miracles, performed by members of the roman-catholic church, with contempt and ridicule. The present is not a place for a full discussion of this important topic: I shall, therefore, only present you,-1. With a short exposition of the roman-catholic doctrine upon it:-2. With some observations suggested by the conflicting arguments of doctor Middleton, and his adversaries, in the controversy upon miracles, which took place between them towards the middle of the last century :-3. And with some general observations on the credibility of the miracles, which are related to have been wrought in the roman-catholic church during the middle ages.
1. It is known, that roman-catholics, relying with entire confidence on the promises of Christ, believe, that the power of working miracles was given by Christ to his church, and that it never has been, and never will be, withdrawn from her.
Through the prophet Joel*, God announced to the Jews, that, "in the last days he would pour "out his spirit on all flesh;" that "their sons "and their daughters should prophecy;" that "their young men should see visions, and their "old men dream dreams." When St. Peter cited this prophecy to the Jews, assembled at the feast of Pentecost, he declared to them, that the promise contained in it" was made to them, to "their children, and to all that were afar off, "whom the Lord God should call t." Christ, in his last sermon, after exhorting St. Philip to believe in him as God, equal to his Father; and after appealing to his works, as the testimony given by his Father to this truth, expressed himself in the following solemn terms: " Verily! verily! "I say unto you, he that believeth in me, the works "that I do, these shall he do, and greater works "than these he shall also do ‡." When, just before his ascension into heaven, Christ took his last leave of his apostles, and gave them his last blessing, he mentioned to them the signs which should follow those who believed: "In my name," he said, "they shall cast out devils; they shall speak "with new tongues; they shall take up serpents;
and, if they drink any thing deadly, it shall not "hurt them; they shall lay their hands on the sick, and they shall be cured."
Here roman-catholics confidently ask:-Did not Christ promise by these words, that miracles should
* Chap. ii. 29, 30. John, xiv. 12, 13.
+ Acts, ii. 39.
|| Mark, xvi. 17, 18.
be wrought in his church? That they should be wrought without limitation of time? That some should be greater than his own?
To say that the promise failed would be impiety. Somewhere, therefore, miracles must have been uninterruptedly wrought. Now, the romancatholic is the only church, which, from the first propagation of christianity until the present time, has had a visible and uninterrupted existence } uninterrupted miracles, therefore, could only have existed in the roman-catholic church. They could not possibly have existed in any church, which separated from the see of Rome at the time of the Reformation; for, to use an expression of Bossuet, in his controversy with M. Claude," when the "church of the reformers first separated from the
one, the holy, the roman-catholic church, their "church could not by their own confession enter "into communion with a single church in the "whole world."
2. The general position, that a constant succession of miracles in a church is a proof of the truth of its religious creed, seems to be universally admitted. "It is," says doctor Middleton in his Free Enquiry*, "a maxim, which must be "allowed by all christians, that whenever any "sacred rite or religious institution becomes the "instrument of miracles, we ought to consider that "rite as confirmed by divine approbation."
It necessarily follows, that if roman-catholics
* 3d edition, p. 1. XVI.
PROVE a constant succession of miracles in their church, they consequently establish the truth of her doctrine.
Aware of this inference, the protestant divines found it incumbent on them to contend, that at some period in the christian æra, anterior to the Reformation, there was a cessation of miracles in the christian church. Being required to specify this æra, they answered that it was when the corruption of christianity became general. Being required to specify the period when this general corruption took place, a considerable disagreement was found among them. Some assigned it to the fourth, some to the fifth, some even to the sixth century; but the generality assigned it to the conversion of the emperor Constantine. Then, according to their system, christianity became the religion of the state; and, being supported by the secular arm, the christians no longer put their trust in God, and a general corruption of christianity ensued. From this time, therefore, the Almighty, (according to their hypothesis,) ceased to recognize their church, and withdrew from her the supernatural powers, with which, till then, He had invested her.
Such is the account which protestant writers give of the supposed æra of the corruption of christianity. It is evident, that whatever may be the period which they assign for it, there must be error in the assignment, if miracles were subsequently wrought in the catholic church, as it never can be supposed that the Almighty would work miracles in the support of a corrupted church. Now, the roman
catholics produce a regular chain of miracles wrought in every subsequent age of christianity. Then, as the protestants admit the existence of miracles, in the ages which preceded the æra assigned by them for the corruption of christianity, it became incumbent upon them to disprove the miracles alleged by the roman-catholics to have been wrought in the subsequent ages; and this they could only do, by showing that the evidence for them was not so strong as the evidence adduced in support of the miracles wrought in the preceding ages, and allowed and credited by themselves.
Here doctor Middleton intervened. It is, by his account, impossible for protestants to show, that miracles ceased at any of the æras assigned by them, as the catholics, in his judgment, can incontrovertibly demonstrate, that the sanctity, the talents, and the discernment of those, on whose testimony the miracles in the subsequent ages depended, were not inferior to the sanctity, the talents, and discernment of those whose testimony for the miracles of the preceding ages the protestants themselves accepted, and pronounced to be sufficient. "As far as the church historians "can illustrate or throw light upon any thing, "there is not," says doctor Middleton*, "a single point in history, so constantly, explicitly, and unanimously affirmed by them all, as the con"tinual succession of these powers, through all 66 ages, from the earliest father who mentions them,
*Inti. xv. xvi.