Imagini ale paginilor
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

• inhabitant of the country, who was friendly to the Romans,

caine to Hosidius, and advised hiin to make use of magical • incantations; assuring him that, by that means, he had * often obtained rain. The Roman general having followed • that advice, there fell on a sudden great quantities of rain, " which refreshed the Romans and terrified their enemies. . For they concluded that the gods favoured them. They • therefore submitted, and accepted of the terms of peace proposed to them.' So w writes Dion Cassius.

There was another like shower in the contention between Niger and Septimius Severus, particularly in the last and decisive action, as related also by Dion Cassius. • For* a . while,' he says, ' the battle was fought with doubtful and • almost equal success. Afterwards the army of Niger, by the

superiority of their numbers and the advantage of their • situation, prevailed very considerably, and y the victory had • been complete, were it not that on a sudden, when the sky • was clear, nor a puff of wind blowing, there appeared clouds, • and a violent shower of rain followed, with terrible thunder . and lightning, which beat upon the faces of Niger's men. * At the same time the army of Severus was not at all annoyed,

as the storm was at their backs. This circumstance ani. * mated the arıny of Severus, esteeming themselves favoured .by the Deity. But the army of Niger was dispirited, and gave way, thinking that heaven fought against them. In

a short time the victory became complete: and not less • than twenty thousand men were slain on the side of Niger.' So writes Dion? again. But I do not here see any notice taken of magical incantations. The storm therefore happened in the usual course of nature; though it was sudden and unexpected, (as such things frequently are,) and it was favourable to the army of Severus. This is supposed to have happened in the year of Rome 947, of Christ 194.

I add no more observations.

IV. It may be reasonably expected that this long argiment should be now summed up, and reduced to some propositions. This summary shall be now made according to the sentiments, and almost in the very words, of the late a Mr. Mosheim.

6

[ocr errors]

w Loco citato. Vid. et Basnag. Ann. 42. num. i. * Dion. lib. 74. p. 843. al. p. 1248, 1249.

9 Και παντελως εκρατησαν, ει μη νεφη εξ αιθριας, και ανεμος εκ νηνεμίας, βρονται τα σκληραι και ατραπαι οξειαι μεθ' υετ8 λαβρ8 κατα προσωπον προσεπεσον, κ. λ. p. 1249.

2 L. cit. et conf. Basnag. ann. Ch. 194. num. iii.

a Mosh. de Rebus Christianor. ante Constant. M. sec. 2. sect. xvii. p. 248-253.

VOL. VII.

0

[ocr errors]

1. ' In the first place, It is certain that, in the war with • the Quadians and Marcomanni in Germany, Marcus, with ' his army, was in great danger. Marcus was a better phi'losopher than emperor: nor could he learn the art of war * from the writings of the stoics. And bis imminent danger from the enemy inay be imputed to his own imprudence.'

2. • It is also certain that he was unexpectedly delivered * out of that great danger by a shower of rain, accompanied * with thunder and lightning, and obtained a victory.

3. • Farther, It is certain that not only the christians, but • also the emperor and the Romans, ascribed that shower, * the great cause of their deliverance and victory, not to the

ordinary course of nature, but to an extraordinary inter. position of the divine power: they to the true God, and • their own prayers ; these to Jove or Mercury. This we • learn from the Roman authors, Dion Cassius, Capitolinus,

Claudian, and Themistius, and especially from the pillar ' at Rome, set up by Marcus, and still remaining, in wbich • Jupiter, the giver of rain, is represented refreshing the ' almost expiring Ronian soldiers by a plentiful shower of 6 rain,'

4. There may bave been many christian soldiers in Mar* cus's army. If there were, it may be taken for granted that, • in the time of the danger, they offered up prayers to God for • deliverance: and that afterwards they also gave thanks to • God for it; and when they sent an account of it to their

christian brethren, they let them know how great advanitages God had vouchsafed to their prayers. Hence it is easy to suppose that a rumour prevailed, and was also • firmly believed, that the Romans had been miraculously • saved by the prayers of the christians.'

5. It is false, though supported by the authority of * Apollinaris and Eusebius, that there was a whole legion • of christian soldiers in Marcus's army. Consequently, • there is no reason to believe that, when this imminent dan'ger appeared, these soldiers drew up in a body, and falling • down upon their knees presented prayers to God; and that * immediately, before their prayers were over, a shower, with . lightning and thunder, came down from heaven.'

6. . It is not true that Marcus ascribed the safety of bini*self and army to that legion, and thereupon lionoured it

with the name of the thundering legion. Scaliger, and • Henry Valesius, and other learned men, have shown that * the thundering legion is older than the times of Marcus, • and did not take its denomination from this event. But * some christian, little acquainted with the military affairs of

6

[ocr errors]

6

• the Romans, baving heard that there was such a legion, 6 concluded, without reason, that it had derived its name • from thunder and lightning, obtained by the prayers of · christians, and then propagated bis groundless inagination, • which was received as true by too many, without exami. nation, as is coninon in such cases.'

7. "That Marcus did not think that he owed his safety to • the favour which the christians were in with God, is mani• fest from the pillar set up at Rome, with his consent and

approbation, in which Jupiter is acknowledged to be the 6 deliverer of the Romans.'

8. ' Consequently, all that is said of Marcus's public let• ter, written at that time, in which he is supposed to have • extolled the piety of the christians, and have restrained • their enemies and accusers, is entirely without foundation.'

• The letter which we now have, and is generally placed 6 at the end of one of Justin Martyr's apologies, is allowed,

even by the defenders of the miracle of the thundering · legion, to have in it manifest tokens of spuriousness, and • to be the work of a man unskilful in Roman affairs, and · who probably lived in the seventh century.'

• But since Tertullian, in the fifth chapter of his Apology, * makes mention of such a letter of Marcus, many are of opinion that in his time it was really in being, but has been since lost, through the injury of time. Onc the other " hand,' says Tertullian,' we can allege a protector, as may “ appear, if the letter of Marcus Aurelius, a most worthy “ emperor, be sought for, in which he acknowledgeth the “ remarkable drought in Germany to have been removed “ hy a shower, obtained perhaps by the prayers of christian " soldiers." Nevertheless this testimony of Tertullian is weakened, and even overthrown, by divers considerations. I forbear, says Mr. Mosheiin, to insist here upon the word • perhaps :' whence some learned men have argued that Tertullian limself doubted of this miracle, or that he had not seen the emperor's letter. Foro to me it appears clear that it does not relate to Tertullian, but to the emperor and his letter. The meaning of what he says is

At nos, ait Tertullianus, e contrario edimus protectorem. Si literæ Marci Aurelii gravissimi Imperatoris requirantur, quibus illam Germanicam sitim christianorum forte militum precationibus impetrato imbri discussum contestatur. Ap. cap. 5.

• Manifesto nimirum pertinet, non ad Tertullianum, verum ad Imperatorem, ejusque epistolam; sensusque orationis hic est: Marcum non aperte fateri ac decernere, imbrem militum christianoruin supplicationibus impetratum esse, verum dubitanter loqui, atque significare, forte' magnum hoc beneficium christianorum precibus deberi. Moshem. ibid. p. 251.

6

this: that Marcus did not openly confess and declare that the shower was obtained by the prayers of christian soldiers, but spoke doubtfully,' that perhaps this great benefit was owing to the prayers of the christians.' This I pass by, But there are two other considerations by which this testimony is absolutely enervated and overthrown. First of all, what Tertullian says of the design of the emperor's letter, if I am not greatly mistaken, manifests that when he wrote this he had in his eye the edict of Antoninus the pious," (who is often confounded with Marcus,) which he sent to the comununity of Asia, of which we spoke formerly. For so he says: “ Who, though he did not openly abrogate the laws · against the christians, yet in another way be openly broke • their force, appointing also a penalty to their accusers, • and of the severest sort. Let us now attend. First of all, Tertullian says, that. Marcus did not openly abrogate the • laws against the christians,' that is, he did not openly forbid christians to be punished. Then he adds, but in another way

he openly broke the force of the laws,' that is, he made a wise provision that the christians should not be easily punished by the judges. Lastly he says, ' that he appointed

a punishment for the accusers of the christians. All these three things exactly suit the edict of Antoninus the pious to the common council of Asia. There, indeed, he does not absolutely forbid the punishing of christians: nevertheless, when he appoints that no christian should be punished, unless he be convicted of some crime, he very much restrains their punishment, and contracts their sufferings in narrow Jimits. Lastly, he requires that the accusers of the christians, who could not convict them of some crime, should undergo the punishment of their own temerity. In this therefore, as I think, Tertullian was certainly mistaken, in ascribing the edict of Antoninus the pious to his successor Marcus Antoninus. And when he had been told that Marcus and his army had been saved in a time of imminent danger by the prayers of the christians, he imagined that this benefit had induced Marcus to pass that law in their favour. The other consideration, which invalidates this testimony of Tertullian, is the persecution of the christians at Lyons and Vienne, of which we spoke formerly. It happened in the year of Christ 177, three years after the victory obtained over

I also think that edict, sent to the community of Asia, to be rightly ascribed to Antoninus the pious. It may be seen at length above, at p. 126, 127.

e Sic nempe loquitur: sicut non palam ab hujusmodi hominibus pænam dimovit, ita alio modo palam dispersit ; adjectâ etiam accusatoribus damnatione, et quidem tetriore. Apol. cap. 5.

the Quadians and Marcomanni. For who can believe that the emperor, who, in a public letter to the senate, in the year 174, had extolled the christians, and appointed a heavy punishment to their accusers, should in the year 177 deliver them up into the hands of their enemies, and order them to be capitally punished, unless they renounced their religion?

9. "There still remains one point to be considered : • Whether & the shower, by which the Romans were saved • in the war with the Marcomanni, ought to be placed in « the number of miracles. But this question, in my opinion, may be solved without much difficulty. Learned men are now agreed that nothing ought to be placed among mira*cles, which may be accounted for by the ordinary powers • of nature. But in this shower, though it happened unex*pectedly, there is nothing beyond the power of nature, or • which needs a divine interposition. For it is a very common thing, according to the laws of nature, for long droughts in the summer season to be followed with plentiful showers of rain, joined with terrifying thunder and lightning. Nor ought it to be esteemned miraculous that the lightning fell upon some of the enemies, and put their army to flight; forasmuch as all the people of Germany supposed that lightnings came from God, and they would form their judgment accordingly.'

So writes Mr. Mosheim; and, as seems to me, judiciously and plausibly. I have transcribed him here, as suinming up my argument, and making also some valuable additions to it.

I shall take this opportunity to correct a mistake common among learned foreigners—that Mr. King, who bad a debate with Mr. Moyle about the thundering legion, was Sir Peter King, afterwards Baron of Ockham, and Lord High Chancellor of England. So thought Mr. Mosheiin, who trans

6

[ocr errors]

6

6

& That observation of Mr. Mosheim answers to what is the sixth observation of Mr. Moyle, p. 99, &c. • That the deliverance of the Roman army, though

undoubtedly true, was no miracle.' Whereupon the same ingenious writer proceeds: • I see nothing supernatural in this deliverance of the Romans. * Thunder and rain are no miracles; and they are nevertheless natural for hap

pening in so critical a season. There are examples enough in the Greek and • Roman story of such casual events, which, because they were a little uncommon and surprising, and fell out in seasonable junctures of time, have been styled miracles by the ignorance and superstition of the vulgar,' &c.

h Post hos Petrus Kingius, Magnæ Britanniæ Cancellarius, et Gualther. Moylius, Eques Anglus imprimis acutus et eruditus, de hac re epistolis quibusdam egerunt; quas ex Anglico Latine conversas Syntagmati Dissertationum ad disciplinas sanctiores pertinentium cum observationibus nonnullis adjeci. Moshem. de Reb, Christian, ante C. M. p. 249.

Walterus Moyle. Diss. contra Petrum Kingium, inserta tomo secundo ejus Operum, editorum Anglice. Londin. 1726. 8. Fabric. Lux Evangel. p. 139.

« ÎnapoiContinuați »