Page images
PDF
EPUB

gistrates to favour the deceit. None of these miracles were performed in places where they must have been the most wanted, viz. in the presence of unbelievers; and besides, they were of such a nature, as could answer no good end whatever, many of them a bad one, and the rest were whimsical and ridiculous, such as, we cannot but think, must have been altogether unworthy of the character of the supreme being. And yet, with respce even to the popish miracles, which are only pre tended to have been wrought in countries in which it is highly dangerous not only to make any inquiry into them, but even to hint the least fufpicion of their truth; Mr. Chubb fcruples not to say, that they are better attested than

any

that are said to have been wrought in the first century, that is, by Christ and the aposties; and the philosophical Mr. Hume expresses himself in a still stronger manner to the same purpose.

The pretended miracles of Apollonius Tyanæus have been set upon a level with those of Christ by Hierocles and Philostratus among the antients, and by Mr. Blount among the moderns. I fhall therefore give a more particular account of thein:

This Apollonius was a Pythagorean philosopher, cotemporary with Christ, and remarkable, as it is said, for his temperance and many other virtues. , It is affirmed, tha: he performed many miracles, particularly, transporting himself in the air from

B 2

one

one place to another, and even raising the dead. He is also said to have ascended into heaven, and to have appeared to the emperor Alexander.

But it certainly tends to descredit the story, that Apollonius had been dead, or translated, above a hundred years before Philostratus wrote, and that his history was compiled partly from the commentaries of one Damis, which were never published, but given to this writer by the empress Julia, as secret memoirs, without any evidence of their being genuine; and partly from the writings of Maximus Æginensis, and Meragenes, the former of whom only wrote a few particulars; and, according to the character given of him by Philostratus himself, was a very fabulous and romantic writer.

It is, indeed, said, that there were public monuments of some of the Miracles of Apollonius, but they are also said to have been in diftant cities of India and Ethiopia, where no writer pretends to have found them. Some letters of Apollonius are mentioned, but Philostratus owns that they did not relate to any of his miracles, but only to the curiosities of the countries through which he 'travelled.

The manner in which Philostratus writes, gives us but a very indifferent opinion of his own character, and his style is affected and extravagant, full of an oftentation of learning, and hewing a

disposition disposition to exaggerate every thing that could tend to the reputation of his hero.

Many of the miracles ascribed to Apollonius were said to have been done in secret, or before very few witnesses; some were self-contradictory, and others were evidently vain and foolish; and not a few of them appear to have been borrowed from the history of the Evangelists.

The occasion of Philostratus's writing seems to have been his desire to ingratiate himself with Julia, the wife of Severus, and with Caracalla the fucceeding emperor, by detracting from chriftia. nity, to which they both had a very great aversion.

Lastly, the story of these miracles presently died away, and the disciples of Apollonius were so few, that there is little reason to believe that he was, in any respect, fo extraordinary a person as Philostratus pretended.

As to the magical rites of the heathens, nothing could be more wicked or absurd. Nero shewed the moft extravagant fondness for this odious and contemptible art, and sent for the most eminent professors of it from all parts of the world; but the issue of it was his own, and a general conviction of the folly of their pretences.

The emperor Vespasian is said to have cured a blind and a lame man at Alexandria; and this, Mr. Hume says, is one of the best attested miracles in all profane history. But it may be easily

B 3

col

collected from the accounts of the two historians, who mention these miracles neithus of whom it is, probable believ.d in them, and one of them evidently did not, that these extraordinary narrations were very convenient, in order to give weight to. the authority of Vespasian, who was newly made emperor.

Mohammed himself did not pretend to any miracle, except the Koran itself; and that this was a divine composition, he does not pretend to give any positive proof; but contents himself with ap. pealing to its own excellence; and it was probably superior to the poetical compofitions of other Ara. bians of his time; and this it might very well be, though written by himself, or his confidents. In the translation of Mr. Sale, who is allowed to have been a great master of the Arabic language, and who certainly meant to give it all poilible ada vantage, it is, upon the whole, a very mean performance. The style of the Koran cannot be said to be comparable to that of many parts of the Old Testament, which, however, was never alledged as any proof of its divinity.

It does not appear that this only pretended miracle of Mohammed gained him any followers ; the propagation of his religion having been owing chiefly to the sword. Moreover, though the Mohammedan religion be very absurd, and unnaturally harsh in some respects, especially in the abso

lute

lute prohibition of wine, it Aatters men with the greatest indulgence in others; every inan being allowed four wives, and as many concubines as he can keep ; and the future rewards of good Muselmen are represented as being of a funsual nature. The great advantage which Mohanim danism had over the corrupt christianity of the times in which it was published, was, that it afferted the great doctrine of the unity of God, against the Trinitarians; but, in other respect, all who profess this religion are slaves to the most abject superstition. And yet Mr. Chubb fays, that whether Mohammedanism be a divine revelation, or not, there seems to be a plausible pretence, arising from the circumstance of things, to stamp a divina character upon it.

Of all the Popish miracles, those which have been ascribed to the Abbé Paris are generally allowed to be the most credible. Mr. Hume boafts exceedingly of them, afferting that no where else can there be found such a number of circumstances, agreeing to the corroboration of one fact; and that nothing can be opposed to such a cloud of witnesses, but the abfolute impoflibility, or mira. culous nature of the events. He even says, that those miracles may be said, with some appearance of reason, to surpass those of Chritt in evidence and authority, Philosophical Elays, p. 198, &c. Let us now consider a few circumstances which

« PreviousContinue »