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“I know,” says Augustine, “that there are many worshippers of tombs and pictures.”ı At the same time, he intimates that such persons were to be found only among the ignorant, superstitious, and noninal Christians. Augustine's judgment on this subject was largely prevalent in the Latin Church for a considerable interval after his time. « In the Church of the West," says Neander, “ this moderate policy, holding to the mean between unconditional repudiation of images and their worship, maintained itself into the next period, as we see from the example of the Roman bishop, Gregory the Great."2 In the East, on the other hand, even the better class imbibed the superstition of the more ignorant; and in the course of the sixth century it became the dominant custom to honor those who were objects of special veneration by doing obeisance before their images. The theory which lay back of the practice may be seen in the following statement from the apology of Leontius, a bishop of Cyprus, in this century: "The images are not our gods, but they are images of Christ and His saints, for the commemoration and honor of whom, and for the adornment of the churches, they are employed and are venerated. For he who honors the martyr honors God, and he who worships His mother pays homage to Him, and he who honors an apostle honors Him who sent him.” Much after the manner of the Emperor Julian's defence of idol-worship, Leontius commends the veneration of images, by reference to the tokens of endearment which affectionate children might bestow on the memorials of an absent parent. He claims, also, gracious effects from images in healing the possessed and in converting the ungodly.1
1 De Moribus Eccl. Cath., $ 75. 2 Kirchengeschichte, iii. 412.
III.- MIRACLES OF SAINTS AND RELICS.
A notable characteristic of the whole period was the ready assent accorded to reputed miracles of relics and of living saints. Distinguished monks, in particular, were credited with the wonder-working faculty. It was not merely the unthinking populace which reposed faith in the multitude of prodigies that were reported: eminent Fathers of the Church added the weight of their testimony in favor of the supernatural power exercised through relics and pious ascetics. This may be thought to establish a certain presumption on the side of the reality of the so-called miracles. But off-setting considerations of no little weight may be enumerated: (1) In so far as heathen tendencies had come into the Church with the masses formerly devoted to heathenism, the heathen predilection for the magical and the marvellous, as contrasted with the moral, was rife. There was a certain inordinate greed for the miraculous, and demand tends to create supply. (2) Catholics had a motive to make the most of reputed miracles, in order to outshine schismatics and heretics, who also laid claim to miracles. 2 That the more thoughtless would be influenced by such a motive, may properly be taken for granted. Especially would such be incited by personal affection and interest to exalt the deeds of an associate or leader whose glory was in a manner their own. (3) There is clear evidence that pious frauds were practised with relics for the sake of gain. The same temper which devised fraudulent relics could easily be incited to devise fraudulent miracles with relics. The age, even in its theories, was none too well braced against such an artifice. The casuistry of several of the Fathers, which openly justified a certain employment of falsehood, though far from being carried out by themselves into a habit of mendacity, was not helpful to the scruples of those having less of moral ballast. (4) To challenge reputed miracles, was to stem the current of the age. The doubter was quite certain to bring opprobrium upon himself. A ready assent to every indication of the supernatural within the hallowed precincts of the Catholic Church was reckoned a great virtue. Even men of the strongest mind were powerfully influenced by the spirit of the times, and in the main were more ready to believe than to make a searching exam. ination of the grounds of belief. Criticism being thus held in abeyance, there was a great chance of deceiving even the intelligent and the sincere. (5) Many of the miracles reported bear evident traces of being products of a crude and superstitious fancy, instead of resulting from divine discretion and power. Taken in a mass, the miracles of this age lack the profound occasion and
1 Mansi, xiii. 43-54.
2 The language of Augustine, Tract. in Joan., xiii. 17, indicates that the Donatists appealed to miracles with an apologetic design.
1 Jerome, Comm. in Epist. ad Gal., chap. ii.; Epist., cxii.; Chrysostom, De Sacerdotio, i.; Cassianus, Coll., xvii. 17. Augustine, on the other hand, entered a strong protest against the mendacium officiosum, and worthily accented the claims of truthfulness (Epist., xxviii., xl., lxxxii.). “To me," he says, “it seems certain that every lie is a sin, though it makes a great difference with what intention and on what subject one lies" (Enchirid., xviii.).
the lofty moral accompaniments which attest the genuineness of the gospel miracles and harmonize them with the noblest conceptions of the divine government. (6) There is much power in an ardent faith, viewed simply as an exercise of mind, and apart from any objective agency. Certain mental disorders, or even certain bodily disorders, coming specially within the range of the mind's reaction, may have been actually cured by circumstances that were peculiarly stimulating to the faith of the afflicted.
The historian, in the exercise of a sound discretion, is compelled to adopt a critical attitude upon this subject. To accept the mass of reputed miracles, would be credulity rather than faith, a surrender of reason rather than its consecration, a disparagement of the Christian system rather than a tribute to its spirituality. At the same time, to affirm absolutely that there were no miracles in these centuries, is to indulge in sheer dogmatism.
IV.-GENERAL TONE OF CHRISTIAN LIFE.
The preceding pages have given more than one unfavorable suggestion as to the moral and religious state of the people; and additions might be made to the adverse record, such as a notice of the excesses occurring at the feasts of martyrs, as deplored by Augustine, or a reference to the senseless fervors of the populace over the races of the circus, which divided Constantinople and other cities into warring factions. The evidences of a sad declension from the moral standard of the martyr age are plain and decisive.
Nevertheless, there are features of relief in the outlook. An exaggerated impression may easily be formed by dwelling upon the crudities and corruptions of the times. It was a mixed age. If the popular superstitions infected in a measure even those who stood highest, these in their turn gave back much, both in the way of teaching and example, that was lofty and ennobling. What a healthy tone, for example, in Chrysostom's repeated exhortations to the devout study of the Scriptures! Commenting on the language of Paul (Col. iii. 16, 17), he says, “Hearken ye, as many as are engaged in the affairs of the world, and have the charge of wife and children: how to you, too, he commits especially the reading of the Scriptures; and that not to be done lightly, nor in any sort of way, but with much earnestness.” 1 “ We ought not,” he says in another place, “as soon as we retire from the communion, to plunge into business unsuited to the communion; but, as soon as ever we get home, to take our Bible into our hands, and call our wife and children to join us in putting together what we have heard, and then, not before, engage in the business of life.” 2 Again, how aptly he warns against the mercenary and ostentatious style of piety! “The secure storehouse of good works,” he urges, “is to forget our good works. And as with regard to raiment and gold, when we expose them in a market-place, we attract many ill-meaning persons; but if we put them by at home, and hide them, we shall deposit them all in security: even so with respect to our good deeds; if we are continually keeping them in memory, we provoke the Lord, we arm the enemy, we invite him to steal them away; but, if no one 1 Hom. in Colos., ix.