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The Empress in consequence relinquished the contest; and the subject of the miracle dedicated himself to religious service in the Church of the Martyrs, where he seems to have remained till his death. These facts are attested by St. Ambrose himself, several times by St. Ambrose, in his Life of the Saint addressed to St. This miracle, it is to be presumed, will satisfy the tests which Douglas provides for verifying events of that nature.
That author lays down, as we have already seen, that miracles are to be suspected, when the accounts of them were first published long after the time or far from the place of their alleged occurrence; or, if not, yet at least were not then and there subjected to examination. Now in the instance before us we have the direct testimony of three contemporaries, St.
Ambrose, St. Augustine, and Paulinus; two of whom at the least were present at the very time and place, while one of those two wrote his account immediately upon or during the events, as they proceeded. These three witnesses agree together in all substantial matters; and the third, who writes twenty-six years after the miracle, when St.
Ambrose was dead, unlike many reporters of miracles, adds nothing to the narrative, as St. Ambrose and St. Augustine left it. Ambrose, yet the whole city had had an Arian clergy for nearly twenty years, and could not but be in a measure under Arian influence. But however this might be, at least Ambrose had to cope with Arian princes armed with despotic power, an Arian court, an Arian communion lately dominant and still organised, with a bishop at its head. His enemies had already made attempts to assassinate him; and again, to seize his person, and to carry him off from the city.
They had hitherto been the assailants, and he had remained passive. Now, however, he had at last ventured on what in its effects was an aggressive act. As I have said, he has to dedicate a Church, and he searches for relics of Martyrs. He is said to find them; miracles follow; the sick and possessed are cured; at length in the public street, in broad day, while the relics are passing, a blind man, well known in the place by name, by trade, by person, and by his calamity, professes to recover his sight by means of them.
Ambrose supplies them with materials, nor do they want the good-will to detect a fraud, if fraud there be.
Yet they are utterly unable to cope with him. They denied the miracle indeed, and they could not do otherwise, if they were to remain Arians; as Protestant writers deny it now, that they may not be forced to be Catholics. They denied the miracle, and St. Ambrose, in a sermon preached at the time, plainly tells us that they did; but they did not hazard any counter statement or distinct explanation of the facts of the case.
They did not so much as the Jews, who, on the Resurrection, at least said that our Lord's Body was stolen away by night. They did nothing but deny,—except indeed we let their actions speak for them. One thing then they did; they gave over the contest. The Miracle was successful. This miracle answers to Leslie's criteria also. It was sensible; it was public; and the subject of it became a monument of it, and that with a profession that he was so.
He remained on the spot, and dedicated himself to God's service in the Church of the Martyrs who had been the means of his cure; thus by his mode of life proclaiming the mercy which had been displayed in his behalf, and by his presence challenging examination.
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This anticipation is confirmed by an inspection of the inferences or conjectures of which he makes the historical facts the subject. The blood, he says, was furnished by the blind Severus, who had been a butcher, and might still have relations in the trade. And since St. Ambrose translated the relics at once, instead of waiting for the next Sunday, this is supposed to argue that he was afraid, had the ceremony been postponed, of the fraud being detected by the natural consequence of the delay. But all facts admit of two interpretations; there is not the transaction or occurrence, consisting of many parts, but some of them may be fixed upon as means of forcing upon it a meaning contrary to the true one, as is shewn by the ingenuity exercised in defence of clients in the courts of law.
What has been attempted by the writer to whom I allude, as regards St. Ambrose, has been done better, though more wickedly, by the infidel author of the New Trial of the Witnesses as regards the History of the Resurrection. There are circumstances, however, in this miracle, which may be felt as difficulties by those who neither deny the continuance of a Divine Presence in the Church, nor accuse her Pastors and Teachers of impious imposture.
Yet it is difficult to treat of them, without entering upon doctrinal questions which are not in place in the present Essay. One or two of them, which extend to the case of other alleged miracles of the early Church, besides the one immediately before us, shall here be briefly considered, and that in the light which the analogy or the pattern of Scripture throws upon them, which is the main view I have taken of objections all along.
Now, first it may be urged that the discovery of the blood of the Martyrs is not after the precedent of anything we meet with in Scripture, which says very little of relics, and nothing of relics of such a character as this, involving as it does a miracle. What is the true doctrine about relics, how they are to be regarded, what is their use and their abuse, is no question before us.
The Myth of Asia's Miracle | Foreign Affairs
Meanwhile I will but observe, as far as the silence of Scripture is concerned, that Scripture could not afford a pattern of the alleged miracle, from the nature of the case. The resurrection of the body is only a Christian dogma; and martyrdom, that is, dying for a creed, is a peculiarity of the Gospel, and was instanced among the Jews, only in proportion as the Gospel was anticipated. The blood was the relic of those whose bodies had been the temple of the Spirit, and who were believed to be in the presence of Christ.
Miracles were not to be expected by such instruments, till Christ came; nor afterwards, till a sufficient time had elapsed for Saints to be matured and offered up, and for pious offices and assiduous attentions to be paid by others towards the tabernacles which they left behind them. Precedents then to our purpose, whether in Old or in New Testament, are as little to be expected, as precedents to guide us in determining the relations of the Church to the State, or the question of infant baptism, or the duty of having buildings for worship.
Jerome reports of Hilarion,—or whether the Levitical sacrifices, which as types were once for all fulfilled when our Lord's blood was shed, were nevertheless to furnish part of the analogy existing between the Christian and the Mosaic Dispensations. Nor is there anything that ought to shock us in the idea that blood, which had become coagulate, should miraculously be made to flow.
A very remarkable prototype of such an event seems to be granted to us in Scripture, in our Lord's own history. The last act of His humiliation was, after His death, to be pierced in His side, when blood and water issued from it. A stream of blood from a corpse can hardly be considered to be other than supernatural.
The Myth of Asia's Miracle
And it so happens that St. Ambrose is the writer to remark upon this solemn occurrence in his comment on St. Luke, assigning at the same time its typical meaning. There issued water and blood; water to wash, blood to redeem. Let us drink then what is our price, that by drinking we may be redeemed. Another objection which has been made to the miracles ascribed by St. Ambrose to the relics which he discovered, is the encouragement which they are supposed to give to a kind of creature-worship, unknown to Scripture.
This is strongly urged by the objector whom I just now had occasion to notice. But the objection, which of course demands a careful consideration, admits of being met, perhaps of being overcome, by reference to an analogy contained in the Old Testament, to which the appeal is made.
It is well known that the Divine revelations concerning Angels received a great development in the course of the Jewish Dispensation. When the people had lately come out of Egypt, with all the forms of idolatry familiar to their imaginations, and impressed upon their hearts, it did not seem safe, if we may dare to trace the Divine dealings in this matter, to do much more than to set before them the great doctrine of the Unity and Sovereignty of God. To have disclosed to them truths concerning angelic natures, except in the strictest subserviency to this fundamental Verity, might have been the occasion of their withdrawing their heart from Him who claimed it whole and undivided [ Note 6 ].
Hence, though St. Stephen tells us that they "received the Law by the disposition of Angels," and St. Paul that "it was ordained by Angels," in the Old Testament we do but read of "the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud," and its "waxing louder and louder," and "Moses speaking, and God answering him by a voice," and of "the Lord talking with them face to face in the mount. Thus it is said of the Angel who went before the Israelites, "Obey his voice, for My Name is in him ;" and it was the belief of the early Church that the Second Person of the Holy Trinity did really condescend to manifest Himself in such angelic natures.
Again, the title of "the Lord of hosts" does not occur till the times of Samuel, who uses it when he sends Saul against the Amalekites, whereas it is the ordinary designation of Almighty God in the Prophets who lived after the captivity [ Note 7 ].