REV. JOHN WESLEY, A.M.
SOMETIME FELLOW OF LINCOLN COLLEGE, OXFORD.
WITH THE LAST CORRECTIONS OF THE AUTHOR.
2, CASTLE STREET, CITY ROAD, E.C.;
SOLD AT 66, PATERNOSTER ROW, E.C.
[Entetub at tatilarnetzo' 3aT.]
IIATJrkl, CAIRTST YR L2TD IIt, MD.D, 11ITTON WORICS, FLRRINGIOo itolb, tC!
A Letter to the Reverend Doctor Conyers Middleton
Occasioned by his late "Free Inquiry." .......... .
A Letter to a Roman Catholic ................... 80
A Roman Catechism, faithfully drawn out of the allowed
writings of the Church of Rome: With a Reply
thereto ................ ............... 86
OF THE CHURCH, AND RULE OF FAITH ....... 87
SECTION II. ,
OF REPENTANCE AND OBEDIENCE ........... 94
OF DIVINE WORSHIP ................... 102
OF THE SACRAMENTS ................
Of Baptism .......................
The Exorcism of the Salt.............
Of Confirmation ...................
Of the Eucharist ..................
Of Penance ......................
The Sacrament of Extreme Unction .....
Of the Sacrament of Orders ...........
Of the Sacrament of Marriage ........ .
. .. 127
A Short Method of converting all the Roman Catholics
in the kingdom of Ireland: Humbly proposed to the
Bishops and Clergy of that kingdom ........... 129
The Advantage of the Members of the Church of Eng-
land over those of the Church of Rome .......... 133
Popery Calmly Considered ................. ... 14C
OF THE CHURCH, AND THE RULE OF FAITH .... 14
OF REPENTANCE AND OBEDIENCE ........... 14%
OF DIVINE WORSHIP ...................... 145
OP THE SACRAMENTS ...................... 149
A Letter to the Printer of The Public Advertiser:"
Occasioned by the late Act passed in favour of
Popery. To which is added, A Defence of it, in
Two Letters to the Editors of The Freeman's
Journal," Dublin .... .................... ..159
FIRST LETTER TO THE EDITORS OF "THIE FREE-
MAN'S JOURNAL," DUBLIN ...... .......... 162
SECOND LETTER TO DITTO. ................. 166
A Disavowal of persecuting Papists. ................ 173
The Origin of Image-Worship among Christians ....... 175
A Letter to a Person lately joined with the people called
Quakers: In answer to a Letter wrote by him ..... 177
A Treatise on Baptism ........................ 188
An Extract from "A Short View of the Difference be-
tween the 1Moravian Brethren, (so called,) and the
Rev. Mr. John and Charles Wesley.". ........... 201
Predestination Calmly Considered ................ 204
A Dialogue between a Predestinarian and his Friend... 259
A Dialogue between an Antinomian and his Friend ..... 266
A Second Dialogue between an Antinomian and his Friend 276
Serious Thoughts upon the Perseverance of the Saints 284
A sufficient Answer to Letters to the Author of Theron
and Aspasio:'" In a Letter to the Author ....... 298
A Letter to a Gentleman at Bristol ............... 306
Thoughts on the Imputed Righteousness of Christ ...... 312
Preface to a Treatise on Justification, extracted from
Mr. John Goodwin. Wherein all that is personal
in Letters just published under the name of the
Rev. Mr. Hervey is answered ................ 316
Some Remarks on "A Defence of the Preface to the
Edinburgh edition of Aspasio Vindicated.". ..... 346
The question, What is an Arminian?" answered. By
a Lover of Free Grace ..................... 358
Thoughts upon God's Sovereignty ................. 361
A Blow at the Root; or, Christ stabbed in the House of
his Friends.............................. 364
The Consequence proved ....................... 370
-Some Remarks on Mr. Hill's "Review of all the Doc-
trines taught by Mr. John Wesley"............ 374
Some Remarks on Mr. Hill's "Farrago Double Dis-
tilled." ...................\ ........... 415
An Answer to Mr. Rowland Iill's Tract, entitled Im-
posture Detected."......................... 446
Thoughts concerning Gospel Ministers ............. 455
Thoughts upon Necessity ........................ 457
A Thought on Necessity ....................... 474
An Address to the Clergy ...................... 480
A Letter to the Rev. Mr. Toogood, of Exeter : Occasioned
by his "Dissent from the Church of England fully
Justified." ...... : ...................... 501
Serious Thoughts concerning Godfathers and Godmothers. 506
Thoughts on the Consecration of Churches and Burial-
Grounds ...................... ........ 509
THE REVEREND DR. CONYERS MIDDLETON.
OCCASIONED BY HIS LATE FREE INQUIRY."
January 4, 1748-9.
1. IN your late "Inquiry," you endeavour to prove,
First, that there were no miracles wrought in the primitive
Church: Secondly, that all the primitive Fathers were fools
or knaves, and most of them both one and the other. And it is
easy to observe, the whole tenor of your argument tends to
prove, Thirdly, that no miracles were wrought by Christ or
his Apostles; and, Fourthly, that these too were fools or
knaves, or both.
2. I am not agreed with you on any of these heads. My
reasons I shall lay before you, in as free a manner, though not
in so smooth or laboured language, as you have laid yours
before the world.
3. But I have neither inclination nor leisure to follow you,
step by step, through three hundred and seventy-three quarto
pages. I shall therefore set aside all I find in your work which
does not touch the merits of the cause; and likewise contract
the question itself to the three first centuries. For I have no
more to do with the writers or miracles of the fourth, than
with those of the fourteenth, century.
4. You will naturally ask, "Why do you stop there?
What reason can you give for this? If you allow miracles
before the empire became Christian, why not afterwards too?"
I answer, Because, "after the empire became Christian,"
(they are your own words,) "a general corruption both of faith
and morals infected the Christian Church; which, by that
revolution, as St. Jerome says, 'lost as much of her virtue, as
it had gained of wealth and power.'" (Page 123.) And this
VOL. X. B
very reason St. Chrysostom himself gave in the words you
have afterwards cited: "There are some who ask, Why dre
not miracles performed still? Why are there no persons who
raise the dead and cure diseases?" To which he replies, that
it was owing to the want of faith, and virtue, and piety in
1. You begin your preface by observing, that the "Inquiry"
was intended to have been published some time ago; but, upon
reflection, you resolved to give out, first, some sketch of what
you was projecting;" (page 1;) and accordingly "published
the 'Introductory Discourse,'" by itself, though "foreseeing
it would encounter all the opposition that prejudice, bigotry,
and superstition are ever prepared to give to all inquiries" of
this nature. (Page 2.) But it was your "comfort, that this
would excite candid inquirers to weigh the merit and conse-
quences of it." (Page 3.)
2. The consequences of it are tolerably plain, even to free
the good people of England from all that prejudice, bigotry,
and superstition, vulgarly called Christianity. But it is not so
plain, that "this is the sole expedient which can secure the
Protestant religion against the efforts of Rome." (Ibid.) It
maybe doubted, whether Deism is the sole expedient to secure
us against Popery. For some are of opinion, there are persons
in the world who are neither Deists nor Papists.
3. You open the cause artfully enough, by a quotation from
Mr. Locke. (Page 4.) But we are agreed to build our faith
on no man's authority. His reasons will be considered in
"Those who have written against his and your opinion,"
you say, "have shown great eagerness, but little knowledge
of the question: Urged by the hopes of honours, and prepared
to fight for every establishment that offers such pay to its
defenders." (Page 5.) I have not read one of these; yet I
would fain believe, that neither the hope of honour, nor the
desire of pay, was the sole, or indeed the main, motive that
urged either them or you to engage in writing.
But I grant they are overseen, if they argue against you by
citing "the testimonies of the ancient Fathers;" (page 6;)
seeing they might easily perceive you pay no more regard to
these than to the Evangelists or Apostles. Neither do I
commend them if they "insinuate jealousies of consequences
dangerous to Christianity." (Ibid.) Why they should
THE REV. DR. MIDDLETON.
insinuate these, I cannot conceive: I need not insinuate that
the sun shines at noon-day. You have "opened too great a glare
to the public," (page 7,) to leave them any room for such insinu-
ation. Though, to save appearances, you gravely declare still,
"Were my argument allowed to be true, the credit of the gospel
miracles could not, in any degree, be shaken by it." (Page 6.)
4. So far is flourish. Now we come to the point: "The
present question," you say, "depends on the joint credibility
of the facts, and of the witnesses who attest them, especially"
on the former. For, "if the facts be incredible, no testimony
can alter the nature of things." (Page 9.) All this is most
true. You go on: "The credibility of facts lies open to the
trial of our reason and senses. But the credibility of witnesses
depends on a variety of principles wholly concealed from us.
And though in many cases it may reasonably be presumed,
yet in none can it be certainly known." (Page 10.) Sir, will
you retract this, or defend it? If you defend, and can prove,
as well as assert it, then farewell the credit of all history, not
only sacred but profane. If the credibility of witnesses," of
all witnesses, (for you make no distinction,) depends, as you
peremptorily affirm, "on a variety of principles wholly concealed
from us;" and, consequently, "though it may be presumed in
many cases, yet can be certainly known in none;" then it is
plain, all the history of the Bible is utterly precarious and
uncertain; then I may indeed presume, but cannot certainly
know, that Jesus of Nazareth ever was born; much less that
he healed the sick, and raised either Lazarus or himself from
the dead. Now, Sir, go and declare again how careful you
are for the credit of the gospel miracles!"
5. But for fear any (considering how "frank and open" your
nature is, and how warmly disposed to speak what you take
to be true") (page 7) should fancy you meant what you said in
this declaration, you take care to inform them soon after:
"The whole which the wit of man can possibly discover, either
of the ways or will of the Creator, must be acquired by
attending seriously" (to what? to the Jewish or Christian
Revelation ? No; but) "to that revelation which he made
of himself from the beginning, in the beautiful fabric of this
visible world." (Page 22.)
6. I believe your opponents will not hereafter urge you,
either with that passage from St. Mark, or any other from
Scripture. At least, I will not, unless I forget myself; as I
observe you have done just now. For you said but now,
"Before we proceed to examine testimonies for the decision of
this dispute, our first care should be, to inform ourselves of the
nature of those miraculous powers which are the subject of it,
as they are represented to us in the history of the gospel."
(Page 10.) Very true; "this should be our first care." I was
therefore all attention to hear your account of "the nature of
those powers, as they are represented to us in the gospel."
But, alas! you say not a word more about it; but slip away to
those "zealous champions who have attempted" (bold men as
they are) "to refute the 'Introductory Discourse.'" (Page 11.)
Perhaps you will say, "Yes, I repeat that text from St.
Mark." You do; yet not describing the nature of those
powers; but only to open the way to "one of your antago-
nists;" (page 12;) of whom you yourself affirm, that "not
one of them seems to have spent a thought in considering
those powers as they are set forth in the New Testament."
(Page 11.) Consequently, the bare repeating that text does
not prove you (any more than them) to have "spent one
thought upon the subject."
7. From this antagonist you ramble away to another; after
a long citation from whom, you subjoin: "It being agreed then
that, in the original promise, there is no intimation of any par-
ticular period, to which their continuance was limited." (Pages
13,14.) Sir, you have lost your way. We have as yet nothing
to do with their continuance. For till we have learned from
those sacred records" (I use your own words) "what they
were, and in what manner exerted by the Apostles, we cannot
form a proper judgment of those evidences which are brought
either to confirm or confute their continuance in the Church;
and must consequently dispute at random, as chance or preju-
dice may prompt us, about things unknown to us." (Page 11.)
Now, Sir, if this be true, (as without doubt it is,). then it
necessarily follows, that, seeing from the beginning of your book
to the end, you spend not one page to inform either yourself
or your readers concerning the nature of these miraculous
powers, "as they are represented to us in the history of the
gospel;" you dispute throughout the whole "atrandom, as chance
or prejudice prompts you, about things unknown to you."
S8. Your reply to "the adversaries of your scheme," (pages
15-27,) I may let alone for the present; and the rather,
because the arguments used therein will occur again and again
THE REV. DR. MIDDLETON.
Only I would here take notice of one assertion, "that the
miraculous powers conferred on the Apostles themselves were
imparted just at the moment of their exertion, and withdrawn
again as soon as those particular occasions were served."
(Page 23.) You should not have asserted this, be it true or
false, without some stronger proof. "This, I say, is evident,"
(Ibid.,) is not a sufficient proof; nor, "A treatise is prepared
on that subject." (Page 24.) Neither is it proved by that
comment of Grotius on our Lord's promise,* which, literally
translated, runs thus: "To every believer there was then
given some wonderful power, which was to exert itself, not
indeed always, but when there was occasion."
9. But waving this, I grant the single point in dispute is,
whether the testimony of the Fathers be a sufficient ground
to believe, that miraculous gifts subsisted at all after the days
of the Apostles." (Page 27.) But with this you interweave
another question, whether the Fathers were not all fools or
knaves. In treating of which, you strongly intimate,-First,
that such gifts did never subsist; and, Secondly, that the
Apostles were equally wise and good with the "wonder-
workers" (your favourite term) that followed them.
When therefore you add, My opinion is this, that, after
our Lord's ascension,,the extraordinary gifts he had promised
were poured out on the Apostles, and the other primary
instruments of planting the gospel, in order to enable them
to overrule the inveterate prejudices both of the Jews and
Gentiles, and to bear up against the discouraging shocks of
popular rage and persecution;" (page 28;) I look upon all
this to be mere grimace. You believe not one word of what
you say. You cannot possibly, if you believe what you said
before. For who can believe both the sides of a contradiction?
10: However, I will suppose you do believe it, and will
argue with you from your own words. But first let us have a
few more of them: "In process of time, as miraculous powers
began to be less and less wanted, so they began gradually to
decline, till they were finally withdrawn." (Page 29.) And
this may probably be thought to have happened while some
of the Apostles were still living."
These were given, you say, to the first planters of the
Non omnibus omnia--ita tamen cuilibet credenti tune data sit admirabilis
Jacultas, quce se, non semper quidem, sed datl occasion explicaret.-GROTsus
ih Marcum xvi 17.
gospel, "in order to enable them to overrule the inveterate
prejudices both of Jews and Gentiles, and to bear up against
the shocks of persecution." Thus far we are agreed. They
were given for these ends. But if you allow this, you cannot
suppose, consistently with yourself, that they were withdrawn
till these ends were fully answered. So long, therefore, as
those prejudices subsisted, and Christians were exposed to the
shocks of persecution, you cannot deny but there was the
same occasion for those powers to be continued, as there was
for their being given at first. And this, you say, is "a
postulatum which all people will grant, that they continued
as long as they were necessary to the Church." (Page 11.)
11. Now, did those prejudices cease, or was persecution at
an end, while some of the Apostles were still living ? You
have yourself abundantly shown they did not. You know
there was as sharp persecution in the third century, as there
was in the first, while all the Apostles were living. And with
regard to prejudices, you have industriously remarked, that
"the principal writers of Rome, who make any mention of
the Christians, about the time of Trajan, speak of them as a
set of despicable, stubborn, and even wicked enthusiasts;'
(page 193;) that Suetonius calls them 'a race of men of a
new and mischievous superstition;'" (page 194;) and that
" Tacitus, describing the horrible tortures which they suffered
under Nero, says, 'They were detested for their flagitious
practices; possessed with an abominable superstition; and
condemned, not so much for their supposed crime of firing
the city, as from the hatred of all mankind.'" (Ibid.)
And "their condition," you say, "continued much the
same, till they were established by the civil power; during
all which time they were constantly insulted and calumniated
by their heathen adversaries, as a stupid, credulous, impious
sect, the very scum of mankind." (Page 195.) In a word,
both with regard to prejudice and persecution, I read in your
following page :
"The heathen magistrates would not give themselves the.
trouble to make the least inquiry into their manners or
doctrines; but condemned them for the mere name, without,
examination or trial; treating a Christian of course as guilty
of every crime, as an enemy of the gods, emperors, laws, and
of nature itself." (Page 196.)
12. If then the end of those miraculous powers was, to
TME REV, DR. MID)DLETON.
overcome inveterate prejudices, and to enable the Christians:
to bear up against the shocks of persecution," how can you
possibly conceive that those powers should cease while some
of the Apostles were living ? With what colour can you assert,:
that they were less wanted for these ends, in the second and
third, than in the Apostolic, age ? With what shadow of
reason can you maintain, that (if they ever subsisted at all)
they were finally withdrawn before Christianity was established,
by the civil power? Then indeed these ends did manifestly
cease; persecution was at an end; and the inveterate prejudices
which had so long obtained were in great measure rooted up;
another plain reason why the powers which were to balance
these should remain in the Church so long, and no longer.
13. You go on to acquaint us with the excellences of your
performance. "The reader," you say, "will find in these
sheets none of those arts which are commonly employed by
disputants to perplex a good cause, or to palliate a bad one;,
no subtile refinements, forced constructions, or evasive dis-
tinctions; but plain reasoning, grounded on plain facts, and.
published with an honest and disinterested view to free the
minds of men from an inveterate imposture. I have shown
that the ancient Fathers, by whom that delusion was imposed,
were extremely credulous and superstitious; possessed with
strong prejudices, and scrupling no art or means by which
they might propagate the same." (Page 31.) Surely, Sir,
you add the latter part of this paragraph, on purpose to
confute the former; for just here you use one of the unfairest,
arts which the most dishonest disputant can employ, in
endeavouring to forestall the judgment of the reader, and to
prejudice him against those men on whom he ought not to
pass any sentence before he has heard the evidence.
1. In the beginning of your "Introductory Discourse,"
you declare the reasons which moved you to publish it. One
of these, you say, was the late increase of Popery in this
kingdom; (page 41;) chiefly occasioned, as you suppose, by
the confident assertions of the Romish emissaries, that there
has been a succession of miracles in their Church from the
apostolic to the present age. To obviate this plea, you would
' settle some rule of discerning the true from the false; so
as to give a reason for admitting the miracles of one age, and
rejecting those of another." (Page 44.)
2. This has a pleasing sound, and is extremely well imagined
to prejudice a Protestant reader in your favour. You then
slide with great art into your subject: "This claim of a
miraculous power, now peculiar to the Church of Rome, was
asserted in all Christian countries till the Reformation."
(Ibid.) But then "the cheat was detected:" (Page 45 :)
Nay, and men began to suspect that the Church had long
been governed by the same arts." "For, it was easy to
trace them up to the primitive Church, though not to fix
the time when the cheat began; to show how long after the
days of the Apostles the miraculous gifts continued in the
Church." (Page 46.) However, it is commonly believed,
that they continued till Christianity was the established religion.
Some indeed extend them to the fourth and fifth centuries;
(page 50;) but these, you say, betray the Protestant cause.
(Page 51.) "For in the third, fourth, and fifth, the chief
corruptions of Popery were introduced, or at least the seeds
of them sown. By these I mean, monkery; the worship
of relics; invocation of saints; prayers for the dead; the
superstitious use of images, of the sacraments, of the sign
of the cross, and of the consecrated oil." (Page 52.)
3. I have nothing to do with the fourth or fifth century.
But to what you allege in support of this charge, so far as it
relates to the third century, I have a few things to reply.
And, First, you quote not one line from any Father in the
third century, in favour of monkery, the worship of relics, the
invocation of saints, or the superstitious use either of images
or consecrated oil. How is this, Sir? You brought eight
accusations at once against the Fathers of the third, as well
as the following centuries: And as to five of the eight, when
we call for the proof, you have not one word to say As to the
sixth, you say, "In the sacrament of the Eucharist, several
abuses were introduced." (Page 57.) You instance, first, in
mixing the wine with water. But how does it appear that this
was any abuse at all ? or, that Irenseus declared it to have
been taught as well as practised by our Saviour?" (Ibid.f
The words you quote to prove this, do not prove it at all,
they simply relate a matter of fact: "Taking the bread, he
confessed it to be his body; and the mixed cup, he affirmed
it was his blood." You cannot be ignorant of this fact,
that the cup used after the paschal supper was always mixed
Accipiens panem, suum corpus esse confitebalur ; et temperamentum calici4
suum sanguine confirmarit.
THE REV. DR. MIDDLETON.
with water. But "Cyprian declared this mixture to have
been enjoined to himself by a divine revelation." (Page 58.)
If he did, that will not prove it to be an abuse: So that you
are wide of the point still. You instance next in their sending
the bread to the sick; which (as well as the mixture) is
mentioned by Justin Martyr. This fact, likewise, we allow;
but you have not proved it to be an abuse. I grant, that,
near an hundred years after, some began to have a supersti-
tious regard for this bread. But that in Tertullian's days it
was carried home and locked up as a divine treasure," I call
upon you to prove; as also that infant communion was an
abuse; or the styling it "the sacrifice of the body of Christ."
(Page 59.) 'I believe the offering it up for the Martyrs was an
abuse; and that this, with the superstitious use of the sign
of the cross, were, if not the earliest of all, yet as early as
any which crept into the Christian Church.
4. It is certain, "praying for the dead was common in the
second century." (Page 60.) You might have said, "And in
the first also;" seeing that petition, "Thy kingdom come,"
manifestly concerns the saints in paradise, as well as those upon
earth. But it is far from certain, that "the purpose of this
was to procure relief and refreshment to the departed souls in
some intermediate, state of expiatory pains;" or that this was
the general opinion of those times."
5. As to the "consecrated oil," (page 63,) you seem entirely
to forget that it was neither St. Jerome, nor St. Chrysostom,
but St. James, who said, "Is any sick among you? Let him
send for the Elders of the Church; and let them pray over
him, anointing him with oil, in the name of the Lord: And
the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise
him up." (Chap. v. 14, 15.)
The sum is: You have charged the Fathers of the third
century with eight of the chief corruptions of Popery:
(1.) Monkery; (2.) The worship of relics; (3.) Invocation
of saints; (4.) The superstitious use of images; (5.) Of the
consecrated oil; (6.) Of the sacraments; (7.) Of the sign
of the cross; (8.) Praying for the dead.
And what is all this heavy charge come to at last? Why,
just thus much: Some of them, in the beginning of the third
century, did superstitiously use the sign of the cross; and
others, in the middle of that century, offered up the Eucharist
for the Martyrs on their annual festivals; though how you make
this" the superstitious use of the sacraments," I know not, or
how these come to be the chief corruptions of Popery."
SPraying thus far for the dead, "that God would shortly
accomplish the number of his elect and hasten his kingdom,"
and anointing the sick with oil, you will not easily prove to be
any corruptions at all.
As to monkery, the worship of relics, invocation of saints,
and the superstitious use of images, you have not even
attempted to prove that these Fathers were guilty: So that, for
aught appears, you might as well have charged them on the
Apostles. "Yet it is no more," you solemnly assure us, "than
what fact and truth oblige you to say!" (Page 65.) When I
meet with any of these assurances for the time to come, I
shall remember to stand upon my guard.
6. In the following pages you are arguing against the
miracles of the fourth and fifth century. After which you add:
"But if these must be rejected, where then are we to stop?
And to what period must we confine ourselves? This, indeed,
is the grand difficulty, and what has puzzled all the other
Doctors who have considered the same question before me."
(Page 71.) Sir, your memory is short. In this very Discourse
you yourself said just the contrary. You told us awhile ago,
that, not only Dr. Marshall, Dr. Dodwell, and Archbishop Tillot-
son, but the generality of the Protestant Doctors, were agreed
to what period they should confine themselves; believing that
miracles subsisted through the three first centuries, and ceased
in the beginning of the fourth. (Page 46, et seq.)
7. However, that none of them may ever be puzzled any
more, you will "lay down some general principles, which may
lead us to a more rational solution of the matter than any that
has hitherto been offered." (Ibid.) Here again I was all
attention. And what did the mountain bring forth? What
are these general principles, preceded by so solemn a declara.
tion, and laid down for thirteen pages together? (Pages 71
-84.) Why, they are dwindled down into one, "that the
forged miracles of the fourth century taint the credit of all the
later miracles!" I should desire you to prove, that the
miracles of the fourth century were all forged, but that it is
not material to our question.
8. But you endeavour to show it is: "For that surprising
confidence," you say, "with which the Fathers of the fourth
age have affirmed as true what they themselves had forged,
THE REV. DR. MIDDLETON.
or, at least, knew to be forged," (a little more proof of that,)
"makes us suspect, that so bold a defiance of truth could not
become general at once, but must have been carried gradually
to that height by custom and the example of former times."
(Page 84.) It does not appear that it did become general till
long after the fourth century. And as this supposition is
not sufficiently proved, the inference from it is nothing worth.
9. You say, Secondly, "This age, in which Christianity.
was established, had no occasion for any miracles. They
would not, therefore, begin to forge miracles at a time when
there was no particular temptation to it." (Ibid.) Yes, the
greatest temptation in the world, if they were such men as you
suppose. If they were men that would scruple no art or
means to enlarge their own credit and authority, they would
naturally begin to forge miracles" at that time when real
miracles were no more.
10. You say, Thirdly, "The later Fathers had equal
piety with the earlier, but more learning and less credulity.
If these, then, be found either to have forged miracles them-
selves, or propagated what they knew to be forged, or to have
been deluded by the forgeries of others, it must excite the same
suspicion of their predecessors." (Page 85.) I answer, (1.) It
is not plain that the later Fathers had equal piety with the
earlier: Nor, (2.) That they had less credulity. It seems,
some of them had much more: Witness Hilarion's camel, and
smelling a devil or a sinner; though even he was not so quick-;
scented as St. Pachomius, who (as many believe to this day)
could "smell a heretic at a mile's distance." (Free Inquiry,
pages 89, 90.) But if, (3.) The earlier Fathers were holier
than the later, they were not only less likely to delude others,
but (even on Plato's supposition) to be deluded themselves:
For they would have more assistance from God.
S11. But you say, Fourthly, "The earlier ages of the Church
were not purer than the later. Nay, in some respects they
were worse. For there never was any age in which so many
rank heresies were professed, or so many spurious books forged
and published, under the names of Christ and his Apostles;
several of which are cited by the most eminent Fathers of
those ages, as of equal authority with the Scriptures. And
none can doubt but those who would forge, or make use of
forged books, would make use of forged miracles." (Introd.
Disc., pages 86, 87.)
I answer, (1.) It is allowed that before the end of the
third century the Church was greatly degenerated from its first
purity. Yet I doubt not, (2.) But abundantly more rank
heresies have been publicly professed in many later ages; but
they were not publicly protested against, and therefore
historians did not record them. (3.) You cannot but know it
has always been the judgment of learned men, (which you are
at liberty to refute if you are able,) that the far greater part of
those spurious books have been forged by heretics; and that
many more were compiled by weak, well-meaning men, from
what had been orally delivered down from the Apostles.
But, (4.) There have been in the Church from the beginning
men who had only the name of Christians. And these,
doubtless, were capable of pious frauds, so called. But this
ought not to be charged upon the whole body. Add to this,
(5.) What is observed by Mr. Daill : "I impute a great part
of this mischief to those men who, before the invention of
printing, were the transcribers and copiers out of manuscripts.
We may well presume that these men took the same liberty in
forging as St. Jerome complains they did in corrupting
books; especially since this course was beneficial to them,
which the other was not." Much more to the same effect we
have in his treatise Of the Right Use of the Fathers," Part
I., chap. iii. N.B. These transcribers were not all Christians;
no, not in name; perhaps few, if any of them, in the first
century. (6.) By what evidences do -you prove, that these
spurious books "are frequently cited by the most eminent
Fathers, as not only genuine, but of equal authority with the
Scriptures themselves?" or, Lastly, that they either forged
these books themselves, or made use of what they knew to be
forged ? These things also you are not to take for granted,
but to prove, before your argument can be of force.
12. We are come at last to your general conclusion: "There
is no sufficient reason to believe, that any miraculous powers
subsisted in any age of the Church after the times of the
Apostles." (Page 91.)
But pretended miracles, you say, arose thus: "As the high
authority of the apostolic writings excited some of the most
learned Christians" (prove that !) "to forge books under their
names; so the great fame of the apostolic miracles would
naturally excite some of the most crafty, when the Apostles
were dead, to attempt somejuggling tricks in imitation of them.
THE REV. DR. MIDDLETON.
And when these artful pretenders had maintained their ground
through the first three centuries, the leading Clergy of the
fourth understood their interest too well to part with the old
-plea of miraculous gifts." (Page 92.)
Round assertions indeed! But surely, Sir, you do not
think that reasonable men will take these for proofs! You
are here advancing a charge of the blackest nature. But
where are your vouchers ? Where are the witnesses to support
it? Hitherto you have not been able to produce one, through
a course of three hundred years; unless you bring in those
Heathen, of whose senseless, shameless prejudices you have
yourself given so clear an account.
But you designed to produce your witnesses in the "Free
Inquiry," a year or two after the "Introductory Discourse"
was published. So you condemn them first, and try them
afterwards: You will pass sentence now, and hear the evidence
by and by! A genuine specimen of that "impartial regard
to truth," which you profess upon all occasions.
13. Another instance of this is in your marginal note:
"The primitive Christians were perpetually reproached for
their gross credulity." They were; but by whom? Why,
by Jews and Heathens. Accordingly, the two witnesses you
produce here are Celsus the Jew, and Julian the apostate.
But lest this should not suffice, you make them confess the
charge: "The Fathers," your words are, "defend them-
selves by saying, that they did no more than the philosophers
had always done: That Pythagoras's precepts were incul-
cated with an ipse dixit, and they found the same method
useful with the vulgar." (Page 93.) And is this their whole
defence? Do the very men to whom you refer, Origen and
Arnobius, in the very tracts to which you refer, give no other
answer than this argument ad hominem? Stand this as
another genuine proof of Dr. Middleton's candour and
14. A further proof of your "frank and open nature," and
of your contenting yourself with the discharge of your own
conscience, by a free declaration of your real sentiments,"
(page 40,) I find in the very next page. Here you solemnly
declare: "Christianity is confirmed by the evidence of such
miracles as, of all others on record, are the least liable to excep.
tion, and carry the clearest marks of their sincerity; being
wrought by Christ and his Apostles for an end so great, so
important, as to be highly worthy the interposition of the
Deity; wrought by mean and simple men, and delivered by
eye-witnesses, whose characters exclude the suspicion of
fraud." (Page 94.) Sir, do you believe one word of what
you so solemnly declare? You have yourself declared the
contrary. But if you do not, where shall we have you? Or
how can we believe you another time? How shall we know,
I will not say, when you speak truth, but when you would
have us think you do? By what criterion shall we distinguish
between what is spoken in your real, and what in your
personated, character? how discern when you speak as Dr.
Middleton, and when as the public librarian?
15. You go on: "By granting the Romanists but a single
age of miracles after the Apostles, we shall be entangled in
difficulties, whence we can never extricate ourselves till we
allow the same powers to the present age." (Page 96.) I will
allow them, however, three ages of miracles, and let them
make what advantage of it they can.
You proceed: "If the Scriptures are a complete rule,"
(I reject the word sufficient, because it is ambiguous,) "we do
not want the Fathers as guides, or, if clear, as interpreters. An
esteem for them has carried many into dangerous errors; the
neglect of them can have no ill consequences." (Page 97.)
I answer, (1.) The Scriptures are a complete rule of faith
and practice; and they are clear in all necessary points. And
yet their clearness does not prove, that they need not be
explained; nor their completeness, that they need not be
enforced. (2.) The esteeming the writings of the first three
centuries, not equally with, but next to, the Scriptures, never
carried any man yet into dangerous errors, nor probably ever
will. But it has brought many out of dangerous errors, and
particularly out of the errors of Popery. (3.) The neglect,
in your sense, of the primitive Fathers, that is, the thinking
they were all fools and knaves, has this natural consequence,
(which I grant is no ill one, according to your principles,) to
make all who are not real Christians think Jesus of Nazareth
and his Apostles just as honest and wise as them.
16. You afterwards endeavour to show how the Church of
England came to have such an esteem for the ancient Fathers.
There are several particulars in this account which are liable to
exception. But I let them pass, as they have little connexion
with the point in question.
THE REV. DR. MIDDLETON.
17. You conclude your "Introductory Discourse" thus:
"The design of the present treatise is to fix the religion
of the Protestants on its proper basis, that is, on the sacred
Scriptures." (Page 111.) Here again you speak in your
personated character; as also when you "freely own the
primitive writers to be of use in attesting and transmitting to
us the genuine books of the holy Scriptures I" (Page 112.)
Books, for the full attestation as well as safe transmission
whereof, you have doubtless the deepest concern I
18. I cannot dismiss this Discourse without observing, that
the uncommon artfulness and disingenuity which glare through
the whole, must needs give disgust to every honest and upright
heart; nor is it any credit at all to the cause you have espoused.
Nay, I am persuaded there are many in these kingdoms, who,
though they think as you do concerning the Christian system,
yet could not endure the thought of writing against it in the
manner that you have done; of combating fraud (if it were so)
with fraud, and practising the very thing which they professed
to expose and abhor.
In your "Free Inquiry" itself, you propose,-
I. To draw out in order all the principal testimonies which
relate to miraculous gifts, as they are found in the writings
of the Fathers, from the earliest ages after the Apostles;
whence we shall see, at one view, the whole evidence by which
they have hitherto been supported.
"II. To throw together all which those Fathers have
delivered, concerning the persons said to have been endued
with those gifts." (Page 1.)
"III. To illustrate the particular characters and opinions
of the Fathers who attest, those miracles.
"IV. To review all the several kinds of miracles which are
pretended to have been wiought, and to observe from the
nature of each how far they may reasonably be suspected.
"V. To refute some of the most plausible objections which
have been hitherto made." (Page 2.)
I was in hopes you would have given, at least in entering
upon your main work, what you promised so long ago, an
account of "the proper nature and condition of those miraculous
powers which are the subject of the whole dispute, as they are
represented to us in the history of the gospel." (Preface, p. 10.)
But as you do not appear to have any thought of doing it at
all, you will give me leave at length to do it for you.
The original promise of these runs thus: "These signs shall
follow them that believe: In my name shall they cast out
devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up
serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt
them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall
recover." (Mark xvi. 17, 18.)
A further account is given of them by St. Peter, on the very
day whereon that promise was fulfilled: "This is that which
was spoken of by the Prophet Joel, And it shall come to
pass in the last days, saith God, your sons and your daughters
shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and
your old men shall dream dreams." (Acts ii. 16, 17.)
The account given by St. Paul is a little fuller than this:
"There are diversities of gifts," (Xaps-yarwi, the usual scrip-
tural term for the miraculous gifts of the Holy Ghost,) "but
the same Spirit: For to one is given the word of wisdom; to
another the gifts of healing; to another the working of" other
"miracles; to another prophecy; to another discernment of
spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the
interpretation of tongues. All these worketh that one and
the same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will."
(1 Cor. xii. 4-11.)
Hence we may observe, that the chief Uap-lryOa,
spiritual gifts, conferred on the apostolical Church, were,
1. Casting out devils: 2. Speaking with new tongues:
3. Escaping dangers, in which otherwise they must have
perished; 4. Healing the sick: 5. Prophecy, foretelling
things to come: 6. Visions: 7. Divine dreams: And,
8. Discerning of spirits.
Some of these appear to have been chiefly designed for the
conviction of Jews and Heathens,-as the casting out devils
and speaking with new tongues; some, chiefly for the benefit
of their fellow-Christians,-as healing the sick, foretelling
things to come, and the discernment of spirits; and all, in
order to enable those who either wrought or saw them, to run
with patience the race set before them," through all the storms
of persecution which the most inveterate prejudice, rage, and
malice could raise against them.
I. 1. You are, First, "to draw out in order all the principal
testimonies which relate to miraculous gifts, as they are found
in the writings of the Fathers from the earliest ages after the
THE REV. DR. MIDDLETON.
You begin with the apostolic Fathers; that is, those who
lived and conversed with the Apostles. "There are several,"
you say, of this character, whose writings still remain to us :
St. Barnabas, St. Clemens, St. Ignatius, St. Polycarp, St.
Hermas. Now, if those gifts had subsisted after the days of
the Apostles, these must have possessed a large share of them.
But if any of them had, he would have mentioned it in his
writings, which not one of them has done." (Page 3.)
The argument, fully proposed, runs thus:-
If any such gifts had subsisted in them, or in their days,
they must have mentioned them in their circular Epistles to
the Churches; (for so their predecessors, the Apostles, did;)
but they did not mention any such gifts therein.
Sir, your consequence is not of any force; as will easily
appear by a parallel argument:-
If such gifts had subsisted in St. Peter, or in his days, he
must have mentioned them in his circular Epistles to the
Churches. But he does not mention any such gifts therein.
Therefore, they did not subsist in him, or in his days.
Your argument therefore proves too much: Nor can it
conclude against an apostolic Father, without concluding
against the Apostle too.
If therefore the apostolic Fathers had not mentioned any
miraculous gifts in their circular Epistles to the Churches,
you could not have inferred that they possessed none; since
neither does he mention them in his circular Epistles, whom
you allow to have possessed them.
Of all the Apostles, you can produce but one, St. Paul, who
makes mention of these gifts: And that not in his circular Epis-
tles to the Churches; for I know not that he wrote any such.
2. All this time I have been arguing on your own suppo-
sitions, that these five apostolic Fathers all wrote circular
Epistles to the Churches, and yet never mention these gifts
therein. But neither of these suppositions is true. For, (1.)
Hermas wrote no Epistle at all. (2.) Although the rest wrote
Epistles to particular Churches, (Clemens to the Corinthians,
Ignatius to the Romans, &c.,) yet not one of them wrote any
circular Epistle to the Churches, like those of St. James and
St. Peter; unless we allow that to be a genuine Epistle, which
bears the name of St. Barnabas. (3.) You own they all
"speak of spiritual gifts, as abounding among the Christians
of that age;" but assert, "These cannot mean anything more
VOL. X. C
than faith, hope, and charity." (Ibid.) You assert: But
the proof, Sir! I want the proof. Though I am but one of
the vulgar, yet I am not half so credulous as you apprehend
the first Christians to have been. Ipse dixi will not satisfy me;
I want plain, clear, logical proof; especially when I consider
how much you build upon this; that it is the main foundation
whereon your hypothesis stands. You yourself must allow,
that in the Epistles of St. Paul, Wve mp.arnxa Xapao-cpra, spiri-
tualgifts, does always mean more than faith, hope, and charity;
that it constantly means miraculous gifts. How then do you
prove, that, in the Epistles of St. Ignatius, it means quite
another thing? not miraculous gifts, but only the ordinary
gifts and graces of the gospel? I thought "the reader" was
to "find no evasive distinctions in the following sheets."
(Preface, p. 31.) Prove then that this distinction is not
evasive; that the same words mean absolutely different things.
Till this is clearly and solidly done, reasonable men must
believe that this and the like expressions mean the same thing
in the writings of the apostolical Fathers as they do in the
writings of the Apostles; namely, not the ordinary graces of
the gospel, but the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost.
3. You aim indeed at a proof, which would be home to the
point, if you were but able to make it out. These Fathers
themselves seem to disclaim all gifts of a more extraordinary
kind. Thus Polycarp, in his Epistle to the Philippians, says,
' Neither I, nor any other such as I am, can come up to the
wisdom of the blessed Paul.' And in the same Epistle he
declares, It was not granted to him to practise that, Be ye
angry, and sin not.' St. Ignatius also, in his Epistle to the
Ephesians, says, 'These things I prescribe to you, not as if I
were somebody extraordinary. For though I am bound for
his name, I am not yet perfect in Christ Jesus.'" (Pages 7, 8.)
I think verily, these extraordinary proofs may stand without
4. Yet you courteously add : "If from the passages referred
to above, or any other, it should appear probable to any, that
they were favoured on some occasions with some extraordinary
illuminations, visions, or divine impressions, I shall not dispute
that point; but remind them only, that these gifts were
granted for their particular comfort; and do not therefore, in
any manner, affect or relate to the question now before us."
THE RLE. DR. MIDDLETON.
I ask pardon, Sir. These do so deeply affect, so nearly
relate to, the question now before us, even as stated by your-
self, (Preface, page 28,) that in allowing these you give up the
substance of the question. You yourself have declared, that
one great end of the extraordinary gifts conferred on the
Apostles was, to enable them to bear up against the shocks
of popular rage and persecution." Now were not "extra-
ordinary illuminations, visions, and impressions," if given at
all, given for this very end; "for their particular comfort,"
as you now word it? Therefore, in allowing these to the
apostolic Fathers, you allow extraordinary gifts which 'had
been formerly granted to the Apostles, to have subsisted in
the church after the days of the Apostles, and for the same
end as they did before.
5. Therefore the apostolic writers have not left us in the dark,
with regard to our present argument; and consequently your
triumph comes too soon: Here then we have an interval of
half a century, in which we have the strongest reason to pre-
sume that the extraordinary gifts of the apostolic age were
withdrawn." (Page 9.) No; not if all the apostolic Fathers
speak of spiritual gifts as abounding among the Christians of
that age; not if extraordinary illuminations, visions, and
divine impressions still subsisted among them." For as to your
now putting in, "as exerted openly in the Church for the con-
viction of unbelievers," I must desire you to put it out again;
it comes a great deal too late. The question between you
and me was stated without it, above a hundred pages back.
Although, if it be admitted, it will do you no service; seeing
your proposition is overthrown, if there were miraculous
gifts after the days of the Apostles," whether they were
"openly exerted for the conviction of unbelievers or not.
6. I was a little surprised that you should take your leave
of the apostolic Fathers so soon. But, upon looking forward,
my surprise was at an end: I found you was not guilty of
any design to spare them; but only delayed your remarks
till the reader should be prepared for what might have shocked
him, had it stood in its proper place.
I do not find, indeed, that you make any objection to any
part of the Epistles of Ignatius; no, nor of the Catholic Epistle,
as it is called, which is inscribed with the name of Barnabas.
This clearly convinces me, you have not read it; I am apt to
think, not one page of it; seeing, if you had, you would never
have let slip such an opportunity of exposing one that was
called an apostolic Father.
7. But it would have been strange, if you had not somewhere
brought in the famous phoenix of Clemens Romanus. And yet
you are very merciful upon that head, barely remarking con-
cerning it, that lie alleged the ridiculous story of the phoenix,
as atype and proof of the resurrection. Whether allthe heathen
writers treat it as nothing else but a mere fable, I know not."
(Page 55.) But that it is so, is certain; and consequently the
argument drawn from it is weak and inconclusive. Yet it will
not hence follow, either that Clemens was a wicked man, or
that he had none of the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit.
8. There is no real blemish to be found in the whole
character of St. Polycarp. But there is one circumstance left
upon record concerning him which has the appearance of
weakness. And with this you do not fail to acquaint your
reader at a convenient season; namely, that in the most
ancient dispute concerning the time of holding Easter, St.
Polycarp and Anicetus severally alleged apostolic tradition for
their different practice." (Page 60.) And it is not improbable,
that both alleged what was true; that in a point of so little
importance the Apostles varied themselves; some of them
observing it on the fourteenth day of the moon, and others
not. But, be this as it may, it can be no proof, either that
Polycarp was not a holy man, or that he was not favoured
with the extraordinary, as well as ordinary, gifts of the Spirit.
9. With regard to the narrative of his martyrdom, you
affirm, It is one of the most authentic pieces in all primitive
antiquity." (Page 124.) I will not vouch for its authenticity;
nor therefore for the story of the dove, the flame forming an
arch, the fragrant smell, or the revelation to Pionius. But
your attempt to account for these things is truly curious. You
say, "An arch of flame round his body is an appearance which
might easily happen, from the common effects of wind. And
the dove said to fly out of him, might be conveyed into the
wood which was prepared to consume him." (Page 229.) How
much more naturally may we account for both, by supposing
the whole to be a modern fiction, wrote on occasion of that
account mentioned by Eusebius, but lost many ages ago! But
whatever may be thought of this account of his death, neither
does this affect the question, whether during his life he was
endued with the miraculous gifts of the Holy Ghost.
THE REV. DR. MIDDLETON.
10. There is one of those whom you style apostolic Fathers
yet behind, of whom you talk full as familiarly as of the rest:
I mean, Hermas: To whom," you say, "some impute the
fraud of forging the Sibylline books." (Page 37.) It would
not have been amiss, if you had told us, which of the ancients,
whether Christian, Jew, or Heathen, ever accused him of this.
If none ever did, some will be apt to think it is giving a
person but hard measure, to bring an accusation, against him
which never was heard of till sixteen hundred years after his
But I can the more easily excuse you, because he is a person
whom you are wholly unacquainted with; though it is much,
curiosity did not lead you, when you had Archbishop Wake's
translation in your hand, to read over if it were but halfa dozen
pages of his famous Shepherd." But charity obliges me to
believe you never did. Otherwise, I cannot conceive you
would so peremptorily affirm, of him and the rest together,
There is not the least claim or pretension, in all their several
pieces, to any of those extraordinary gifts which are the subject
of this inquiry." (Page 3.) I am amazed! Sir, have you
never a friend in the world? If you was yourself ignorant
of the whole affair, would no one inform you, that all the
three books of Hermas, from the first page to the last, are
nothing else than a recital of his extraordinary gifts, his
visions, prophecies, and revelations ?
Can you expect after this, that any man in his senses
should take your word for anything under heaven ? that any
one should credit anything which you affirm ? or believe you
any farther than he can see you ? Jesus, whom you persecute,
can forgive you this; but how can you forgive yourself?-
One would think you should be crying out day and night,
"The Shepherd of Hermas will not let me sleep "
11. You proceed to the testimony of Justin Martyr, who
wrote about fifty years after the Apostles: He says, (I trans-
late his words literally,) "There are prophetic gifts among us
even until now. You may see with us both women and men
having gifts from the Spirit of God." He particularly insists
on that of casting out devils, as what every one might see
with his own eyes." (Page 10.)
Irenmus, who wrote somewhat later, affirms, "that all who
were truly disciples of Jesus, wrought miracles in his name:
'Some cast out devils; others had visions, or the knowledge
of future events; others healed the sick.' And as to raising
the dead, he declares it to have been frequently performed on
necessary occasions, by great fasting, and the joint supplica-
tion of the Church. 'And we hear many,' says he, speaking
with all kinds of tongues, and expounding the mysteries of
God.'" (Pages 11, 12.)
"Theophilus, Bishop of Antioch, who lived in the same
age, speaks of casting out devils as then common in the
12. "Tertullian, who flourished toward the end of the
second century, challenges the heathen Magistrates, to 'call
before their tribunals any person possessed with a devil. And
if the evil spirit, when commanded by any Christian, did not
confess himself to be a devil, who elsewhere called himself a
god, they should take the life of that Christian.'" (Ibid.)
Minutius Felix, supposed to have wrote in the beginning
of the third century, addressing himself to his heathen friend,
says, 'The greatest part of you know what confessions the
demons make concerning themselves when we expel them
out of the bodies of men.'" (Page 13.)
13. Origen, something younger than Minutius, declares,
that there remained still the manifest indications of the Holy
Spirit. 'For the Christians,' says he, 'cast out devils,
perform many cures, foretell things to come. And many
have been converted to Christianity by visions. I have seen
many examples of this sort.'" (Page 14.)
In another place he says, "Signs of the Holy Ghost were
shown at the beginning of the teaching of Jesus;" (not, as you
translate it, "Miracles began with the preaching of Jesus;"
that is quite a different thing;) more were shown after his
ascension, but afterwards fewer. However, even now there are
still some remains of them with a few, whose souls are cleansed
by the word, and a life conformable to it." (Page 15.) Again :
Some," says he, "heal the sick. I myself have seen many
so healed, of loss of senses, madness, and innumerable other
evils which neither men nor devils can cure." (Ibid.) "And
this is done, not by magical arts, but by prayer, and certain
plain adjurations, such as any common Christian may use;
for generally common men do things of this kind." (Page 16.)
14. "Cyprian, who wrote about the middle of the third
century, says, 'Beside the visions of the night, even in the
day-time, innocent children among us are filled with the Holy
THE REV. DR. MIDDLETON.
Spirit; and in ecstasies see, and hear, and speak those things
by which God is pleased to admonish and instruct us.'" (Ibid.)
Elsewhere he particularly mentions the casting out of devils:
"Which," says he, "either depart immediately, or by degrees,
according to the faith of the patient, or the grace of him that
works the cure." (Page 17.)
"Arnobius, who is supposed to have wrote in the year of
Christ 303, tells us, 'Christ appears even now to men unpol-
luted, and eminently holy, who love him;-whose very name
puts evil spirits to flight, strikes their prophets dumb, deprives
the soothsayers of the power of answering, and frustrates the
acts of arrogant magicians.' (Page 18.)
Lactantius, who wrote about the same time, speaking of
evil spirits, says, Being adjured by Christians, they retire out
of the bodies of men, confess themselves to be demons, and
tell their names, even the same which are adored in the
15. These," you say, are the principal testimonies which
assert miraculous gifts through the three'first centuries; which
might be supported by many more of the same kind, from the
same as well as different writers. But none will scruple to risk
the fate of the cause upon these." (Page 19.) Thus far I do
not scruple it. I do not doubt but the testimonies of these
nine witnesses, added to the evidence of the apostolic Fathers,
will satisfy every impartial man with regard to the point in
question. Yet I see no cause, if there are nine witnesses more,
to give up their evidence; seeing you may possibly raise
objections against these which the others are unconcerned in.
If then you should invalidate what I have to reply in
behalf of the witnesses now produced, you will have done but
half your work. I shall afterwards require a fair hearing for
the others also.
16. You close this head with remarking, (1.) "That the
silence of all the apostolic writers on the subject of these gifts,
must dispose us to conclude they were then withdrawn." fIbid.)
O Sir, mention this no more. I iritreat you, never name their
silence again. They speak loud enough to shame you as long
as you live. You cannot therefore talk with any grace of
"the pretended revival of them, after a cessation of forty or
fifty years;" or draw conclusions from that which never was.
Your second remark is perfectly new: I dare say, none
ever observed before yourself, that this particular circumstance.
of the primitive Christians "carried with it an air of impos.
ture," namely, their "challenging all the world to come and
see the miracles which they wrought !" (Page 21.) To
complete the argument, you should have added, And their
staking their lives upon the performance of them.
17. I doubt you have not gone one step forward yet. You
have indeed advanced many bold assertions; but you have
not fairly proved one single conclusion with regard to the
point in hand.
But a natural effect of your lively imagination is, that from
this time you argue more and more weakly; inasmuch as,
the farther you go, the more things you imagine (and only
imagine) yourself to have proved. Consequently, as you
gather up more mistakes every step you take, every page is
more precarious than the former.
II. 1. The Second thing you proposed was, "to throw
together all which those Fathers have delivered concerning
the persons said to have been endued with the extraordinary
gifts of the Spirit." (Ibid.)
"Now, whenever we think or speak with reverence," say
you, "of those primitive times, it is always with regard to
these very Fathers whose testimonies I have been collecting.
And they were indeed the chief persons and champions of the
Christian cause, the Pastors, Bishops, and Martyrs of the
primitive Church; namely, Justin Martyr, Irenaus, Theo-
philus, Tertullian, Minutius Felix, Origen, Cyprian, Arnobius,
Lactantius." Sir, you stumble at the threshold. A common
dictionary may inform you that these were not all either
Pastors, Bishops, or Martyrs.
2. You go on as you set out: "Yet none of these have any
where affirmed, that they themselves were endued with any
power of working miracles." (Page 22.) You should say,
With any of those extraordinary gifts promised by our Lord,
and conferred on his Apostles.
No I Have "none of these anywhere affirmed, that they
themselves were endued" with any extraordinary gifts?
What think you of the very first of them, Justin Martyrv
Either you are quite mistaken in the account you give of him
elsewhere, (pages 27, 30,) or he affirmed this of himself over
and over. And as to Cyprian, you will by and by spend
several pages together (page 101, &c.) on the extraordinary
gifts he affirmed himself to be endued with.
THE REV. DR. MIDDLETON.
But suppose they had not anywhere affirmed this of them-
selves, what would you infer therefrom? that they were not
endued with any extraordinary gifts? Then, by the very same
method of arguing, you might prove that neither St. Peter, nor
James, nor John, were endued with any such. For neither
do they anywhere affirm this of themselves in any of the
writings which they have left behind them.
3. Your argument concerning the apostolic Fathers is just
as conclusive as this. For if you say, "The writers following
the apostolic Fathers do not affirm them to have had any
miraculous gifts; therefore they had none;" by a parity of
reason you must say, "The writers following the Apostles do
not affirm them to have had any miraculous gifts; therefore
the Apostles had none."
4. Your next argument against the existence of those gifts
is, "that the Fathers do not tell us the names of them which
had them." This is not altogether true. The names of
Justin Martyr and Cyprian are pretty well known; as is,
among the learned, that of Dionysius, Bishop of Alexandria.
(Pages 106, 212.) But what, if they did not? Supposing
miraculous powers were openly exerted in the Church, and
that not only they themselves, but every one else, might see
this whenever they pleased; if any Heathen might come and
see whenever he pleased, what could a reasonable man desire
more? What did it signify to him to know the names of
those whom he heard prophesying, or saw working miracles?
Though, without doubt, whoever saw the miracles wrought,
might easily learn the names of those that wrought them -
which, nevertheless, the Christians had no need to publish
abroad, to expose them so much the more to the rage and
malice of their persecutors.
6. Your third argument is, The Christian workers of mira-
cles were always charged with imposture by their adversaries.
Lucian tells us, 'Whenever any crafty juggler went to the
Christians, he grew rich immediately.' And Celsus represents
the Christian wonder-workers as mere vagabonds and common
cheats, who rambled about to fairs and markets." (Page 23.)
And is it any wonder, that either a Jew or a Heathen should
represent them thus ? Sir, I do not blame you for not believing
the Christian system, but for betraying so gross a partiality;
for gleaning up every scrap of heathen scandal, and palming it
upon us as unquestionable evidence; and for not translating
e'en these miserable fragments with any accuracy or faithful-
ness. Instead of giving us the text, bad as it is, you commonly
substitute a paraphrase yet worse. And this the unlearned
reader naturally supposes to be a faithful translation. It is
no credit to your cause, if it needs such supports. And this
is no credit to you, if it does not.
To that of Lucian and Celsus, you add the evidence
of Cecilius too, who calls, say you, these workers of miracles,
"a lurking nation, shunning the light." Then they were
strangely altered all on a sudden; for you told us that, just
before, they were proving themselves cheats by a widely
different method,-by "calling out both upon Magistrates
and people, and challenging all the world to come and see
what they did!" (Page 20.)
I was not aware that you had begun "to tlirow together all
which the Fathers have delivered, concerning ErL persons said
to have been endued with those extraordinary gifts,' And it
seems you have made an end of it And accordingly you
proceed to sum up the evidence; to "observe, upon the whole,
from these characters of the primitive wonder-workers, as given
both by friends and enemies, we may fairly conclude that the
gifts of those ages were generally engrossed by private Chris-
tians, who travelled about from city to city to assist the ordinary
preachers, in the conversion of Pagans, by the extraordinary
miracles they pretended to perform." (Page 24.)
Characters given both by friends and enemies! Pray, Sir,
what friends have you cited for this character? or what ene-
mies, except only Celsus the Jew ? (And you are a miserable
interpreter for him.) So, from the single testimony of such a
witness, you lay it down as an oracular truth, that all the
miracle-workers of the first three ages were "mere vagabonds
and common cheats," rambling about from city to city, to
assist in converting Heathens, by tricks and imposture! And
this you ingeniously call, "throwing together all which the
Fathers have delivered concerning them !"
9. But, to complete all, "Here again," you say, we see a
dispensation of things ascribed to God, quite different from
that which we meet with in the New Testament." (Page 24.)
We see a dispensation! Where? Not in the primitive
Church; not in the writings of one single Christian; not of
one Heathen; and only of one Jew; for poor Celsus had not
a second; though he multiplies, under your forming hand, into
TIE REV. DR. MIDDLETON.
a cloud of witnesses. He alone ascribes this to the ancient
Christians, which you in their name ascribe to God. With the
same regard to truth you go on: "In those days the power of
working miracles" (you should say, the extraordinary gifts)
was committed to none but those who presided in the Church
of Christ." Ipse dixit for that. But I cannot take your word;
especially when the Apostles and Evangelists say otherwise.
"But, upon the pretended revival of those powers,"-Sir, we
do not pretend the revival of them; seeing we shall believe
they never were intermitted, till you can prove the contrary,-
we find the administration of them committed, not to those
who had the government of the Church, not to the Bishops,
the Martyrs, or the principal champions of the Christian
cause, but to boys, to women, and, above all, to private and
obscure laymen; not only of an inferior; but sometimes also
of a bad, character."
Surely, Sir, you talk in your sleep: You could never talk
thus, if you had your eyes open, and your understanding about
von. We find the administration of them committed, not to
those who had the government of the Church." No! I
thought Cyprian had had the government of the Church at
Carthage, and 'Dionysius at Alexandria! "Not to the
Bishops." Who were these then that were mentioned last?
Bishops, or no Bishops? "Not to the Martyrs." Well, if
Cyprian was neither Bishop nor Martyr, I hope you will allow
Justin's claim. "Not to the principal champions of the
Christian cause." And yet you told us, not three pages since,
that "these very Fathers were the chief champions of the
Christian cause in those days!"-"But to boys, and to
women." I answer: This is that which was spoken of by the
Prophet Joel, It shall come to pass, that I will pour out my
Spirit, saith the Lord, and your sons and your daughters shall
prophesy !"-a circumstance which turns this argument full
against you, till you openly avow you do not believe, those
prophecies. "And, above all, to private and obscure laymen,
not only of an inferior, but sometimes of a bad, character."
I answer, (1.) You cite only one Ante-Nic, ne writer, to prove
them committed to "private and obscure laymen."' And he
says this and no more: "Generally private men do things of
this kind."* By what rule of grammar you construe iwri,
private and obscure laymen, I know not. (2.) To prove these
h etrtTrau itwrat To oroi s rPpa Tsr.-Origen. Cont. Cels. 1. vii.
were sometimes men of a bad character, you quote also but
one Ante-Nicene Father; (for I presume you will not assert
the genuineness of the, so called, "Apostolical Constitu-
tions;") and that one is, in effect, none at all: It is Tertullian,
who, in his "Prescription against Heretics," says, "They will
add many things of the authority" (or power) "of every
heretical teacher; that they raised the dead, healed the sick,
foretold things to come."* They will add! But did Ter-
tullian believe them ? There is no shadow of reason to think
he did. And if not, what is all this to the purpose? No
more than the tales of later ages which you add, concerning
the miracles wrought by bones and relics.
10. "These things," you add, "are so strange, as to give
just reason to suspect that there was some original fraud in
the case, and that those strolling wonder-workers, by a dexterity
of juggling, imposed upon the pious Fathers, whose strong
prejudices, and ardent zeal for the interest of Christianity,
would dispose them to embrace, without examination, what-
ever seemed to promote so good a cause." (Page 25.) You
now speak tolerably plain, and would be much disappointed
if those who have no "strong prejudices for Christianity" did
not apply what you say of these "strolling wonder-workers"
to the Apostles, as well as their successors.
11. A very short answer will suffice: "These things are so
strange." They are more strange than true. You have not
proved one jot or tittle of them yet. Therefore, the conse-
quences you draw must fall to the ground till you find them
some better support.
12. Nay, but "it is certain and notorious," you say, "that
tl.is was really the case in some instances;" that is, that
"strolling, juggling wonder-workers imposed upon the pious
Fathers." (Page 26.) Sir, I must come in again with my
cuckoo's note,-The proof! Where is the proof! Till this is
produced I cannot allow that "this is certain and notorious,"
even in one individual instance.
13. Let us now stand still, and observe what it is you have
made out, under this Second head. What you proposed
was, "to'throw together all which the primitive Fathers had
delivered concerning the persons said to be then endued
with the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit." And how have
Adjicient multa de autoritale cujusque doc:oris haretici, ilos mrluos susci.
taste, debiles reformasse, Jo,
THE REV. DR. MIDDLETON.
you executed what you proposed ? You have thrown together
a quotation from a Jew, two from Heathens, three quarters of
a line from Origen, and three lines from Tertullian Nothing
at all, it is true, to the point in question. But that you could
14. And this, it seems, is all you have been able to draw
from any of the primitive writers, concerning the persons
who were endued with the extraordinary gifts of the Holy
Ghost!" (Page 21.)
Permit me, Sir, to apply to you what was spoken on another
occasion: Sir, the well is deep, and thou hast nothing to
draw with ;" neither sufficient skill, nor industry and appli-
cation. Besides, you are resolved to draw out of the well
what was never in it, and must, of course, lose all your labour.
III. 1. You are, Thirdly, to show the particular characters
and opinions of those Fathers who attest these gifts."
Suffer me to remind you that you mentioned nine of these,
Justin, Irenmus, Theophilus, Tertullian, Minutius Felix,
Origen, Cyprian, Arnobius, and Lactantius. You are there-
fore now to show what were "the particular characters and
opinions of these Fathers."
Indeed, I should think their opinions had small relation to
the question. But, since you think otherwise, I am prepared
to hear you.
You premise, that an unexceptionable witness must have"
(page 26) both judgment and honesty; and then, passing
over the apostolic Fathers, as supposing them on your side,
endeavour to show that these other Fathers had neither.
2. You begin with Justin Martyr, who, you say, "frequently
affirms, that the miraculous gift of expounding the Holy
Scriptures, or the mysteries of God, was granted to himself, by
the special grace of God." (Page 27.) Upon which I observe,
(1.) It has not yet been agreed among learned men, that
declaring "the mysteries of God" is the same thing with
"expounding the Holy Scriptures." (2.) It is not clear that
Justin does affirm his being endued either with one or the
other; at least, not from the passages which you cite. The first,
literally translated, runs thus: He hath revealed to us what-
soever things we have understood by his grace from the Scrip-
tures also." The other: "I have not any such power; but
AreKa4v~Ev ev 3tI LYv avia oofa KO a ako 7r0v ypaqwV ala T7l Xap tlO avra
verorica.ev.-Dial. par. 2.
God has given me the grace to understand his Scriptures."*
Now, Sir, by which of these does it appear that Justin affirms
he had the miraculous gift of expounding the Scriptures?
3. However, you will affirm it, were it only to have the
pleasure of confuting it. In order to which, you recite three
passages from his writings, wherein he interprets Scripture
weakly enough; and then add, after a strained compliment to
Dr. Grabe, and a mangled translation of one of his remarks:
"His Works are but little else than a wretched collection of
interpretations of the same kind. Yet this pious Father insists
that they were all suggested to him from heaven." (Page 30.)
No; neither the one nor the other. Neither do interpretations
of Scripture (good or bad) make the tenth part of his writings;
nor does he insist that all those which are found therein were
suggested to him from heaven. This does not follow from any
passage you have cited yet; nor from his saying, in a particular
case, Do you think I could have understood these things in
the Scriptures, if I had not, by the will of God, received the
grace to understand them?"
4. However, now you clap your wings. "What credit,"
say you, can be due to this Father, in the report of other
people's gifts, who was so grossly deceived, or willing, at least,
to deceive others, in this confident attestation of his own ?"
(Ibid.) The answer is plain and obvious. It is not clear
that he attests his own at all. Consequently, as yet his credit
"But he did not understand Hebrew, and gave a wrong
derivation of the Hebrew word, Satan." Allowing this, that
he was no good etymologist, his credit as a witness may be
as good as ever.
5. But, to blast his credit for ever, you will now reckon up
all the heresies which he held. And, First: He believed the
doctrine of the Millennium; or, 'that all the saints should be
raised in the flesh, and reign with Christ, in the enjoyment of
all sensual pleasures, for a thousand years before the general
resurrection.'" (Page 31.) These you mark as though they
were Justin's words. I take knowledge you hold, no faith is
to be kept with heretics; and that all means are fair which
conduce to so good an end as driving the Christian heresy
out of the world.
Ovue yap uva/Lts fo TroavTl lrts esw ahha xapis rapa Oss eo807pot els eTo
ruevvvats as ypaqas avr.--Dial. par. 2.
THE REV. DR. MIDDLETON.
It is by this principle only that I can account for your
adding: "Which doctrine" (that of their enjoying all sensual
pleasures) "he deduces from the testimony of the Prophets,
and of St. John the Apostle; and was followed in it by the
Fathers of the second and third centuries."
The doctrine (as you very well know) which Justin deduced
from the Prophets and the Apostles, and in which he was
undoubtedly followed by the Fathers of the second and third
centuries, is this:-
The souls of them who have been martyred for the witness
of Jesus, and for the word of God, and who have not
worshipped the beast, neither received his mark, shall live
and reign with Christ a thousand years.
But the rest of the dead shall not live again, until the
thousand years are finished.
Now, to say they believed this, is neither more nor less
than to say, they believed the Bible.
6. The second heresy you charge him with is the believing,
"that those 'sons of God' mentioned Gen. vi. 4, of whom it
is there said, 'They came in unto the daughters of men, and
they bare children to them,' were evil angels." (Page 32.)
And I" allow, he too lightly received this on the testimony
of the Jewish Commentators. But this only proves that he
was a fallible man; not that he was a knave, or that he had
not eyes and ears.
7. You charge him, Thirdly, with treating the spurious
books, published under the names of the Sibyl and Hystaspes,
with the same reverence as the prophetic Scriptures." (Page
33.) His words are: "By the power of evil spirits, it was
made death to read the books of Hystaspes, or of the Sibyl,
or of the Prophets." Well; how does this prove that he
treated those books with the same reverence as the prophetic
"But it is certain," you say, "that, from this example and
authority of Justin, they were held in the highest veneration
by the Fathers and Rulers of the Church, through all
succeeding ages." (Ibid.)
I do not conceive it is certain. I wait your proof, first,
of the fact; next, of the reason you assign for it. The fact
itself, that "these books were held in the highest veneration
by the Fathers and Rulers through all succeeding ages," is
in nowise proved by that single quotation from Clemens Alex-
andrinus, wherein he urges the Heathens with the testimonies
of their own authors, of the Sibyl, and of Hystaspes. (Page 34.)
We cannot infer from hence that he himself held them "in
the highest veneration; much less that all the Fathers did.
And as to the reason you assign for that veneration,-the
example and authority of Justin,-you cite no writer of any
kind, good or bad. So he that will believe it, may.
But some, you tell us, "impute the forging these books to
Justin." Be pleased to tell us, likewise, who those are; and
what grounds they allege for that imputation. Till then, it
can be of no signification.
8. You charge him, Fourthly, with believing that silly
story concerning the Septuagint version of the Old Testa-
ment; with saying, that he himself, when at Alexandria, saw
the remains of the cells in which the translators were shut
up; and with making a considerable mistake in the chronology
relating thereto." (Page 37.) And if all this be allowed, and,
over and above, that he "frequently cites apocryphal books,
and cites the Scriptures by memory;" what have you gained
toward the proof of your grand conclusion, that "he was
either too great a fool, or too great a knave, to be believed
touching a plain matter of fact ?"
9. You seem sensible of this, and therefore add, Fifthly :
It will be said, perhaps, that these instances show a weak-
ness of judgment, but do not touch the credit of Justin as a
witness of fact." (Page 29.) But can you scrape up nothing
from all the dunghills of antiquity that does? I dare say,
you will do your utmost. And, first, you reply, "The want
of judgment alone may, in some cases, disqualify a man from
being a good witness. Thus, Justin himself was imposed
upon by those of Alexandria, who showed him some old ruins
under the name of cells. And so he was by those who told
him, there was a statue at Rome, inscribed, Simoni Deo
Sancto; whereas it was really inscribed, Semoni Sanco Deo;
to an old deity of the Sabines. Now," say you, "if he was
deceived in such obvious facts, how much more easily would
he be deceived by subtle and crafty impostors !" (Pages 40,
41.) Far less easily. A man of good judgment may be
deceived in the inscriptions of statues, and points of ancient
history. But, if he has only eyes and ears, and a small degree
of common sense, he cannot be deceived in facts where he is
both an eye and ear witness.
THE REV. DR. MIDDLETON,
10. For a parting blow, you endeavour to prove, Sixthly,
that Justin was a knave, as well as a fool. To this end you
remark, that "he charges the Jews with erasing three
passages out of the Greek Bible; one whereof stands there
still, and the other two were not expunged by some Jew, but
added by some Christian. Nay, that able critic and Divine,
John Croius," (you know when to bestow honourable appel-
lations,) says Justin forged and published this passage for
the confirmation of the Christian doctrine, as well as the
greatest part of the Sibylline oracles, and the sentences of
Mercurius." (Page 42.)
With far greater probability than John Croius asserts that
Justin forged these passages, a man of candour would hope
that he read them in his copy (though incorrect) of the Greek
Bible. And till you disprove this, or prove the assertion of
Croius, you are got not a jot farther still. But, notwith-
standing you have taken true pains to blacken him, both
with regard to his morals and understanding, he may still be
an honest man, and an unexceptionable witness, as to plain
facts done before his face.
11. You fall upon Ireneus next, and carefully enumerate
all the mistakes in his writings. As, First, that he held the
doctrine of the millennium, and related a weak fancy of
Papias concerning it. Secondly: That he believed our
Saviour to have lived fifty years. Thirdly: That he believed
Enoch and Elias were translated, and St. Paul caught up to
that very paradise from which Adam was expelled. (So he
might, and all the later Fathers with him, without being either
the better or the worse.) Fourthly : That he believed the
story concerning the Septuagint Version; nay, and that the
Scriptures were destroyed in the Babylonish captivity, but
restored again after seventy years by Esdras, inspired for that
purpose. "In this also" (you say, but do not prove) "he
was followed by all the principal Fathers that succeeded him;
although there is no better foundation for it, than that
fabulous relation in the Second Book of Esdras." You add,
Fifthly, that "he believed the sons of God who came in to
the daughters of men were evil angels." And all the early
Fathers, you are very ready to believe, "were drawn into the
same error, by the authority of the apocryphal Book of
Enoch, cited by St. Jude." (Page 44.)
12. It is not only out of your good-will to St. Jude, or
VOL. X. D
Irenmeus, you gather up these fragments of error, that nothing
be lost, but also to the whole body of the ancient Christians.
For "all those absurdities," you say, "were taught by the
Fathers of those ages," (naturally implying, by all the
Fathers,) "as doctrines of the universal Church, derived
immediately from the Apostles; and thought so necessary,
that those who held the contrary were hardly considered as
real Christians." Here I must beg you to prove as well as
assert, (1.) That all these absurdities of the millennium in the
grossest sense of it, of the age of Christ, of paradise, of the
destruction of the Scriptures, of the Septuagint Version, and
of evil angels mixing with women, were taught by all the
Fathers of those ages: (2.) That all those Fathers taught
these as doctrines of the universal Church, derived immedi-
ately from the Apostles: And, (3.) That they all denied those
to be real Christians who held the contrary.
13. You next cite two far-fetched interpretations of Scrip-
ture, and a weak saying out of the writings of Ireneus. But
all three prove no more, than that in these instances he did
not speak with strictness of judgment; not, that he was
incapable of knowing what he saw with his own eyes, or of
truly relating it to others.
Before we proceed to what with equal good humour and
impartiality you remark concerning the rest of these Fathers,
it will be proper to consider what more is interspersed
concerning these in the sequel of this argument.
14. And, First, you say, Justin used an inconclusive
argument for the existence of the souls of men after death."
(Page 67.) It is possible he might; but whether it was
conclusive or no, this does not affect his moral character.
You say, Secondly, "It was the common opinion of all the
Fathers, taken from the authority of Justin Martyr, that the
demons wanted the fumes of the sacrifices to strengthen them
for the enjoyment of their lustful pleasures." (Page 69.)
Sir, no man of reason will believe this, concerning one of
the Fathers, upon your bare assertion. I must therefore
desire you to prove by more than a scrap of a sentence,
(1.) That Justin himself held this opinion: (2.) That he
invented it: (3.) That it was the common opinion of all the
Fathers: And, (4.) That they all took it on his authority.
15. You affirm, Thirdly: "He says, that all devils yield
and submit to the name of Jesus; as also to the name of the
THE REV. DR. MIDDLETON.
God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." (Page 85.) Very likely
Lastly. You cite a passage from him, concerning the Spirit
of God influencing the minds of holy men. But neither does
this in any measure affect his credit as a witness of fact.
Consequently, after all that you have been able to draw,
either from himself, or any of the primitive writers, here is
one witness of unquestionable credit, touching the miracles
wrought in the primitive Church, touching the subsistence of
the extraordinary gifts after-the days of the Apostles.
16. But let us come once more to Irenaeus; for you have
not done with him yet: "Forgery," you say, "has been
actually 'charged upon Justin," (by John Croius and Dr.
Middleton,) "and may with equal reason be charged on
Irenaus. For what other account can be given of his
frequent appeals to apostolical tradition, for the support of so
many incredible doctrines?" (Page 111.) Why, this very
natural one, that in non-essential points he too easily followed
the authority of Papias, a weak man, who on slight grounds
believed many trifling things to have been said or done by
the Apostles. And allowing all this, yet it does not give us
so "lamentable an idea of those primitive ages and primitive
champions of the Christian cause." (Page 59.)
The same account may be given of his mistake concerning
the age of our Lord. (Ibid.) There is therefore, as yet,
neither reason nor any plausible pretence for laying forgery
to his charge. And consequently, thus far his credit as a
witness stands clear and unimpeached.
But you say, Secondly, He was a zealous asserter of tradi-
tion." (Page 61.) He might be so, and yet be an honest man;
and that, whether he was mistaken or no, in supposing Papias
to have been a disciple of John the Apostle. (Page 64.)
You say, Thirdly, He supposed "that the disciples of Simon
Magus, as well as Carpocrates, used magical arts;" (page 68;)
that "the dead were frequently raised in his time;" (page
72;) that "the Jews, by the name of God, cast out devils;"
(page 85 ;) and that many had even then the gift of tongues,
although he had it not himself." This is the whole of your
charge against St. Ireneus, when summed up and laid toge-
ther. And now, let any reasonable person judge, whether all
this gives us the least cause to question, either his having
sense enough to discern a plain matter of fact, or honesty
86 LETTER TO
enough to relate it. Here then is one more credible witness
of miraculous gifts after the days of the Apostles.
18. What you advance concerning the history of tradition,
I am neither concerned to defend nor to confute. Only I
must observe, you forget yourself again, where you say, The
fable of the millennium, of the old age of Christ, with many
more, were all embraced by the earliest Fathers." (Page 64.)
For modesty's sake, Sir, think a little before you speak ; and
remember you yourself informed us, that one of these was
never embraced at all, but by one single Father only.
19. "I cannot," you say, "dismiss this article, without
taking notice, that witchcraft was universally believed through
all ages of the primitive Church." (Page 66.) This you
show by citations from several of the Fathers; who likewise
believed, as you inform us, that "evil spirits had power
frequently to afflict either the bodies or minds of men;" that
they "acted the parts of the heathen gods, and assumed the
forms of those who were called from the dead. Now, this
opinion," say you, "is not only a proof of the grossest
credulity, but of that species of it which, of all others, lays a
man most open to imposture." (Page 70.)
And yet this opinion, as you know full well, has its founda-
tion,not onlyin the historiesof all ages, and all nations through-
out the habitable world, even where Christianity never obtained;
but particularly in Scripture; in abundance of passages both of
the Old and New Testament; as where the Israelites were
expressly commanded not to suffer a witch to live;" ibidd.;)
where St. Paul numbers witchcraft" with the works of the
flesh," (Gal.v.19,20,) and ranks it with adultery and idolatry;
and where St. John declares, "Without are sorcerers, and
whoremongers, and murderers." (Rev. xxii. 15.)
That the gods of the Heathens are devils, (1 Cor. x. 20,) is
declared in terms, by one of those who are styled inspired
writers. And many conceive, that another of them gives us
a plain instance of their assuming the form of those who
were called from the dead." (1 Sam. xxviii. 13, 14.)
Of the power of evil spirits to afflict the minds of men,
none can doubt, who believe there are any such beings. And
of their power to afflict the body, we have abundant proof,
both in the history of Job, and that of the gospel demoniacs.
I do not mean, Sir, to accuse you of believing these things.
You have shown that you are guiltless in this matter; and that
THE REV. DR. MIDDLETON.
you pay no more regard to that antiquated book, the Bible,
than you do to the Second Book of Esdras. But, alas! the
Fathers were not so far enlightened. And because they were
bigoted to that old book, they of consequence held for truth
what, you assure us, was mere delusion and imposture.
20. Now to apply: A mind," you say, "so totally possessed
by superstitious fancies, could not even suspect the pretensions
of those vagrant jugglers, who in those primitive ages were so
numerous, and so industriously employed in deluding their
fellow-creatures. Both Heathens, Jews, and Christians are all
allowed to have had such impostors among theni" (Page 71.)
By whom, Sir, is this allowed of the Christians? By whom,
but Celsus, was it affirmed of them? WTho informed you of
their growing so numerous, and using such industry in their
employment ? To speak the plain truth, your mind appears
to be so totally possessed by" these vagrant jugglers," that
you cannot say one word about the primitive Church, but they
immediately start up before you; though there is no more proof
of their ever existing, than of a witch's sailing in an egg-shell.
21. You conclude this head: "When pious Christians are
arrived to this pitch of credulity, as to believe that evil spirits
or evil men can work miracles, in opposition to the gospel;
their very piety will oblige them to admit as miraculous what-
ever is pretended to be wrought in defence of it." (Ibid.)
Once more you have spoken out; you have shown, without
disguise, what you think of St. Paul, and the "lying miracles"
(2 Thess. ii. 9) which he (poor man!) believed evil spirits or
evil men could work in opposition to the gospel; and of St.
John, talking so idly of him who "doeth great wonders, and
deceiveth them that dwell on the earth" (even though they
were not Christians) "by means of those miracles which he
hath power to do." (Rev. xiii. 13, 14,)
22. You have now finished the third thing you proposed;
which was, to show the particular characters of the several
Fathers, who attest" that they were eye and ear witnesses of
the extraordinary gifts in the primitive Church.
You named nine of these: Justin Martyr, Ireneus, Theo-
philus, Tertullian, Minutius Felix, Origen, Cyprian, Arnobius,
and Lactantius; at the same time observing, that many other
writers attest the same thing.
But let the others stand by. Are these good men and
true? That is the present question.
You say, "No;" and to prove that these nine are knaves,
bring several charges against two of them.
These have been answered at large: Some of them proved to
be false; some, though true, yet not invalidating their evidence.
But supposing we wave the evidence of these two, here are
seven more still to come.
O, but you say, "If there were twice seven, they only repeat
the words which these have taught them."
You say; but how often must you be reminded, that saying
and proving are two things ? I grant, in three or four opinions,
some (though not all) of these were mistaken, as well as those
two. But this by no means proves that they were all knaves
together; or that if Justin Martyr or Irenaus speaks wrong,
I am therefore to give no credit to the evidence of Theophilus
or Minutius Felix.
23. You have therefore made a more lame piece of work
on this head, if possible, than on the preceding. You have
promised great things, and performed just nothing. You have
left above three parts in four of your work entirely untouched;
as these two are not a fourth part even of the writers you
have named, as attesting the continuance of the extraordinary
gifts" after the age of the Apostles.
But you have taught that trick at least to your vagrant
jugglers," to supply the defect of all other arguments. At every
dead lift you are sure to play upon us these dear creatures of
your own imagination. They are the very strength of your
battle, your tenth legion. Yet if a man impertinently calls
for proof of their existence, if he comes close and engages
them hand to hand, they immediately vanish away.
IV. You are, in the Fourth place, to "review all the several
kinds of miraculous gifts which are pretended to have been
given; and to observe, from the nature of each, how far they
may reasonably be suspected." (Page 72.)
"These," you say, "are, 1. The power of raising the dead.
2. Of healing the sick. 3. Of casting out devils. 4. Of
prophesying. 5. Of seeing visions. 6. Of discovering the
secrets of men. 7. Of expounding the Scriptures. 8. Of
speaking with tongues."
I had rather have had an account of the miraculous powers
as they are represented to us in the history of the gospel.
But that account you are not inclined to give. So we will
make the best of what we have.
THE REV. DR. MIDDLET094
Section I. I. And, First, as to "raising the dead." Ireneus
affirms: "This was frequently performed on necessary occa-
sions; when by great fastings and the joint supplication of the
Church, the spirit of the dead person returned into him, and
the man was given back to the prayers of the saints." (Ibid.)
2. But you object: "There is not an instance of this to be
found in the three first centuries." (Ibid.) I presume you
mean, no heathen historian has mentioned it; for Christian
historians were not. I answer, (1.) It is not probable a
heathen historian would have related such a fact, had he
known it. (2.) It is equally improbable, he should know it;
seeing the Christians knew with whom they had to do; and
that, had such an instance been made public, they would
not long have enjoyed him who had been given back to
their prayers. They could not but remember what had been
before, when the Jews sought Lazarus also to kill him ; a very
obvious reason why a miracle of this particular kind ought not
to have been published abroad ; especially considering, Thirdly,
that it was not designed for the conversion of the Heathens;
but on occasions necessary" for the good of the Church, of
the Christian community. Lastly: It was a miracle proper,
above all others, to support and confirm the Christians, who
were daily tortured and slain, but sustained by the hope of
obtaining a better resurrection.
3. You object, Secondly: "The Heathens constantly
affirmed the thing itself to beimpossible." (Page 73.) They
did so. But is it "a thing incredible with you, that God
should raise the dead ?"
4. You object, Thirdly, that when "Autolycus, an eminent
Heathen, scarce forty years after this, said to Theoplilus,
Bishop of Antioch, Show me but one raised from the dead,
that I may see and believe;' ibidd.;) Theophilus could not."
Supposing he could not, I do not see that this contradicts
the testimony of Irenmus; for he does not affirm, (though you
say he does,) that this was "performed, as it were, in every
parish, or place where there was a Christian Church." (Page
72.) He does not affirm, that it was performed at Antioch;
probably, not in any Church, unless where a concurrence of
important circumstances required it. Much less does he
affirm, that the persons raised in France would be alive forty
years after. Therefore, although it be granted, (1.) That the
historians of that age are silent; (2.) That the Heathens said,
the thing was impossible; and, (3.) That Theophilus did not
answer the challenge of the Heathen, Autolycus;-all this will
not invalidate, in any degree, the express testimony of
Irenseus, or prove that none have been raised from the dead
since the days of the Apostles.
Section II. 1. "The next gift is, that of healing the sick;
often performed by anointing them with oil; in favour of
which," as you observe, "the ancient testimonies are more
full and express." (Page 75,) But "this," you say, "might
be accounted for without a miracle, by the natural efficacy of
the oil itself." (Page 76.) I doubt not. Be pleased to try
how many you can cure thus, that are blind, deaf, dumb, or
paralytic; and experience, if not philosophy, will teach you,
that oil has no such natural efficacy as this.
2. Of this you seem not insensible already, and therefore
fly away to your favourite supposition, that "they were not
cured at all; that the whole matter was a cheat from the
beginning to the end." But by what arguments do you evince
this? The first is, "The Heathens pretended to do the
same." Nay, and "managed the imposture with so much art,
that the Christians could neither deny nor detect it; but
insisted always that it was performed by demons, or evil
spirits." (Ibid.) But still the Heathens maintained, "the
cures were wrought by their gods, by JEsculapius in parti-
cular." And where is the difference? seeing, as was observed
before, "the gods of the Heathens were but devils."
3. But you say, Although public monuments were erected
in proof and memory of these cures, at the time when they
were performed, yet it is certain all those heathen miracles
were pure forgeries." (Page 79.) How is it certain? If you
can swallow this without good proof, you are far more cre-
dulous than I. I cannot believe that the whole body of tile
Heathens, for so many generations, were utterly destitute of
common sense, any more than of common honesty. Why
should you fix such a charge on whole cities and countries ?
You could have done no more, if they had been Christians!
4. But "diseases, though fatal and desperate, are oft sur-
prisingly healed of themselves." And therefore "we cannot
pay any great regard to such stories, unless we knew more pre-
cisely in this case the real bounds between nature and miracle."
(Ibid.) Sir, I understand you well. The drift of the argu-
ment is easily seen. It points at the Master, as well as his
THE REV. DR. MIDDLETON.
servants; and tends to prove that, after all this talk about
miraculous cures, we are not sure there were ever any in the
world. But it will do no harm. For, although we grant,
(1.) That some recover, even in seemingly desperate cases; and,
(2.) That we do not know, in any case, the precise bounds
between nature and miracle; yet it does not follow, Therefore
I cannot be assured there ever was a miracle of healing in the
world. To explain this by instance: I do not precisely know
how far nature may go in healing, that is, restoring sight to,
the blind; yet this I assuredly know, that if a man born blind
is restored to sight by a word, this is not nature, but miracle.
And to such a story, well attested, all reasonable men will pay
the highest regard.
5. The sum of what you have advanced on this head, is,
(1.) That the Heathens themselves had miraculous cures
among them. (2.) That oil may cure some diseases by its
natural efficacy. And, (3.) That we do not know the precise
bounds of nature. All this I allow. But all this will not
prove that no miraculous cures were performed, either by our
Lord and his Apostles, or by those who lived in the three
Section III. 1. The Third of the miraculous powers said to
have been in the primitive Church, is that of casting out devils.
The testimonies concerning this are out of number, and as
plain as words can make them. To show, therefore, that all
these signify nothing, and that there were never any devils
cast out at all, neither by the Apostles, nor since the Apostles,
(for the argument proves both or neither,) is a task worthy of
you. And, to give you your just praise, you have here put
forth all your strength.
2. And yet I cannot but apprehend, there was a much
shorter way. Would it not have been readier to overthrow all
those testimonies at a stroke, by proving, there never was any
devil in the world? Then the whole affair of casting him out
had been at an end.
But it is in condescension to the weakness and prejudices
of mankind that you go less out of the common road, and only.
observe, "that those who were said to be possessed of the
devil, may have been ill of the falling sickness." And their
symptoms, you say, "seem to be nothing else but the ordinary
symptoms of an epilepsy." (Page 81.)
If it be asked, But were "the speeches and confessions of
the devils, and their answering to all questions, nothing but
the ordinary symptoms of an epilepsy ?" you take in a second
hypothesis, and account for these "by the arts of imposture,
and contrivance between the persons concerned in the act."
But is not this something extraordinary, that men in
epileptic fits should be capable of so much art and contrivance ?
To get over this difficulty, we are apt to suppose that art and
contrivance were the main ingredients; so that we are to add
only quantum sufficit of the epilepsy, and sometimes to leave
it out of the composition.
But the proof, Sir? where is the proof? I want a little of
that too. Instead of this, we have only another supposition:
"That all the Fathers were either induced by their prejudices
to give too hasty credit to these pretended possessions, or
carried away by their zeal to support a delusion which was
useful to the Christian cause." (Ibid.)
I grant they were prejudiced in favour of the Bible; but
yet we cannot fairly conclude from hence, either that they
were one and all continually deceived by merely pretended
possessions; or that they would all lie for God,-a thing
absolutely forbidden in that book.
3. But "leaders of sects," you say, "whatever principles
they pretend to, have seldom scrupled to use a commodious
lie." (Page 83.) I observe you are quite impartial here.
You make no exception of age or nation. It is all one to you
whether your reader applies this to the son of Abdallah, or
the Son of Mary. And yet, Sir, I cannot but think there
was a difference. I fancy the Jew was an honester man than
the Arabian; and though Mahomet used many a commodious
lie, yet Jesus of Nazareth did not.
4. However, "Not one of these Fathers made any scruple
of using the hyperbolical style," (that is, in plain English, of
lying,) "as an eminent writer of ecclesiastical history
declares." (Ibid.) You should have said, an impartial writer.
For who would scruple that character to Mr. Le Clere? And
yet I cannot take either his or your bare word for this. Be
pleased to produce a little proof. Hitherto you have proved
absolutely nothing on the head; but, as your manner is,
taken all for granted.
5. You next relate that famous story from Tertullian: "A
woman went to the theatre, and returned possessed with a
THE REV. DR. MIDDLETON.
devil. When the unclean spirit was asked how he dared to
assault a Christian, he answered, 'I found her on my own
ground.'" (Ibid.) After relating another, which you
endeavour to account for naturally, you intimate that this
was a mere lie of Tertullian's. But how is that proved?
Why, "Tertullian was an utter enemy to plays and public
shows in the theatre." He was so: But can we infer from
thence that he was an utter enemy to common honesty?
6. You add: "The Fathers themselves own that even the
Jews, yea, and the Heathens, cast out devils. Now, it will be
granted, that these Jewish and Heathen exorcists were mere
cheats and impostors. But the Fathers believed they really
cast them out. Now, if they could take their tricks for the
effects of a supernatural power, well might they be deceived
by their own impostors. Or they might think it convenient
to oppose one cheat to another." (Pages 84, 87, 88.)
Deceived, say you, by their own impostors? Why, I thought
they were the very men who set them to work I who opposed
one cheat to another! Apt scholars, who acted their part so
well, as even to deceive their masters! But, whatever the
Heathen were, we cannot grant that all the "Jewish exorcists
were impostors." Whether the Heathens cast out devils or
not, it is sure the sons of the Jews cast them out. I mean,
upon supposition, that Jesus of Nazareth cast them out;
which is a point not here to be disputed.
7. But "it is very hard to believe what Origen declares, that
the devils used to possess and destroy cattle." You might
have said, what Matthew and Mark declare concerning the
herd of swine; and yet we shall find you, by and by, believing
far harder things than this.
Before you subjoined the silly story of Hilarion and his
camel, you should, in candour, have informed your reader,
that it is disputed, whether the life of Hilarion was wrote by
St. Jerome or no. But, be it as it may, I have no concern
for either: For they did not live within the three first ages.
8. I know not what you have proved hitherto, though you
have affirmed many things, and intimated more. But now
we come to the strength of the cause, contained in your five
You observe, First, "that all the primitive accounts of
casting out devils, though given by different Fathers, and in
different ages, yet exactly agree with regard to all the main
circumstances." (Page 91.) And this you apprehend to'be a
mark of imposture. "It looks," you say, "as if they copied
from each other!" Now, a vulgar reader would have
imagined that any single account of this kind must be
rendered much more (not less) credible, by parallel accounts
of what many had severally seen, at different times, and in
9. You observe, Secondly, "that the persons thus
possessed were called Eyra-psitpOoi, 'ventriloquists;' (some
of them were;) "because they were generally believed to
speak out of the belly. Now, there are, at this day," you
say, "those who, by art and practice, can speak in the same
manner. If we suppose, then, that there were artists of this
kind among the ancient Christians, how easily, by a corre-
spondence between the ventriloquist and the exorcist, might
they delude the most sensible of their audience !" (Page 92.)
But what did the ventriloquist do with his epilepsy in the
mean time? You must not let it go, because many of the
circumstances wherein all these accounts agree cannot be
tolerably accounted for without it. And yet, how will you
make these two agree? It is a point worthy your serious
But cheats, doubtless, they were, account for it who can.
Yet it is strange none of the Heathens should find them out;
that the imposture should remain quite undiscovered till
fourteen hundred years after the impostors were dead i He
must have a very large faith who can believe this; who can
suppose that not one of all those impostors should, either
through inadvertence, or in the midst of tortures and death,
have once intimated any such thing.
10. You observe, Thirdly, "that many demoniacs could
not be cured by all the power of the exorcists; and that the
cures which were pretended to be wrought on any were but
temporary, were but the cessation of a particular fit or access
of the distemper. This," you say, "is evident from the
testimony of antiquity itself, and may be clearly collected from
the method of treating them in the ancient Church." (Ibid.)
Sir, you are the most obliging disputant in the world: For
you continually answer your own arguments. Your last
observation confuted all that you had advanced before. And
now you.are so kind as to confute that. For if, after all, these
demoniacs were real epileptics, and that in so high a degree as
THE REV. DR. MIDDLETON.
to be wholly incurable, what becomes of their art and practice,
and of the very good correspondence between the ventriloquist
and the exorcist?
Having allowed you your supposition just so long as may
suffice to confute yourself, I must now observe, it is not true.
For all that is evident from the testimony of antiquity, is this:
That although many demoniacs were wholly delivered, yet
some were not, even in the third century; but continued
months or years, with only intervals of ease, before they were
entirely set at liberty.
11. You observe, Fourthly, "that great numbers of
demoniacs subsisted in those early ages, whose chief habita-
tion was in a part of the church, where, as in a kind of
hospital, they were under the care of the exorcists; which will
account for the confidence of those challenges made to the
Heathens by the Christians, to come and see how they could
drive the devils out of them, while they kept such numbers
of them in constant pay; always ready for the show; tried
and disciplined by your exorcists to groan and howl, and give
proper answers to all questions." (Pages 94, 95.)
So now the correspondence between the ventriloquist and the
exorcist is grown more close than ever! But the misfortune
is, this observation, likewise, wholly overthrows that which
went before it. For if all the groaning and howling, and other
symptoms, were no more than what they were disciplined to
by their exorcists;" (page 95;) then it cannot be, that "many
of them could not possibly be cured by all the power of those
exorcists!" (Page 92.) What! could they not possibly be
taught to know their masters; and when to end, as well as to
begin, the show? One would think that the cures wrought
upon these might have been more than temporary. Nay, it
is surprising, that, while they had such numbers of them, they
should ever suffer the same person to show twice.
12. You observe, Fifthly, "that, whereas this power of
casting out devils had hitherto been in the hands only of the
meaner part of the laity;" (that wants proof;) "it was, about
the year 367, put under the direction of the Clergy; it being
then decreed by the Council of Laodicea, that none should be
exorcists but those appointed (or ordained) by the Bishop.
But no sooner was this done, even by those who favoured and
desired to support it, than the gift itself gradually decreased
and expired." (Page 95.)
You here overthrow, not only your immediately preceding
observation, (as usual,) but likewise what you have observed
elsewhere,-that the exorcists began to be ordained "about
the middle of the third century." (Page 86.) If so, what need
of decreeing it now, above an hundred years after? Again:
If the exorcists were ordained an hundred years before this
Council sat, what change was made by the decree of the
Council? Or how came the power of casting out devils to cease
upon it? You say, The Bishops still favoured and desired to
support it. Why, then, did they not support it? It must
have been they (not the poor exorcists, who were but a degree
above sextons) who had hitherto kept such numbers of them
in pay. What was become of them now? Were all the
groaners and howlers dead, and no more to be procured for
money? Or rather, did not the Bishops, think you, grow
covetous as they grew rich, and so kept fewer and fewer of
them in pay, till at length the whole business dropped?
13. These are your laboured objections against the great
promise of our Lord, "In my name shall they cast out
devils;" whereby (to make sure work) you strike at him and
his Apostles, just as much as at the primitive Fathers. But,
by a strange jumble of ideas in your head, you would prove
so much, that you prove nothing. By attempting to show all
who claimed this power to be at once both fools and knaves,
you have spoiled your whole cause, and, in the event, neither
shown them to be one nor the other; as the one half of your
argument all along just serves to overthrow the other. So
that, after all, the ancient testimonies, touching this gift,
remain firm and unshaken.
Section IV. 1. You told us above, that "the fourth miraculous
gift was that of prophesying; the fifth, of seeing visions; the
sixth, of discovering the secrets of men." (Page 72.) But
here you jumble them all together, telling us, "The next
miraculous gift is that of prophetic visions, and ecstatic trances,"
(ecstatic ecstasies, you might have said,) "and the discovery
of men's hearts." (Page 96.) But why do you thrust all
three into one? Because, you say, "these seem to be the
fruit of one spirit." Most certainly they are, whether it was
the Spirit of Truth, or (as you suppose) the spirit of delusion.
2. However, it is the second of these on which you chiefly
dwell, (the fifth of those you before enumerated,) taking but
little notice of the fourth, "foretelling things to come," and
THE REV,' DR. MIDDLETON.
none at all of the sixth, "discovering the secrets of'men."
The testimonies, therefore, for these remain in full force, as
you do not even attempt to invalidate them. With regard to
visions or ecstasies, you observe, First, that Tertullian calls
ecstasy "a temporary loss of senses." (Page 97.) It was so,
of the outward senses, which were then locked up. You
observe, Secondly, that "Suidas" (a very primitive writer,
who lived between eight and nine hundred years after Ter-
tullian) "says, that of all the kinds of madness, that of the
Poets and Prophets was alone to be wished for." I am at a
loss to know what this is brought to prove. The question is,
Were there visions in the primitive Church? You observe,
Thirdly, that Philo the Jew says, (I literally translate his words,
which you do not; for it would not answer your purpose,)
" When the divine light shines, the human sets; but when
that sets, this rises. This uses to befall the Prophets." (Page
98.) Well, Sir, and what is this to the question? Why,
"from these testimonies," you say, "we may collect, that the
vision or ecstasy of the primitive Church was of the same kind
with those of the Delphic Pythia, or the Cummean Sibyl."
Well collected indeed! But I desire a little better
testimony than either that of Philo the Jew, or Suidas, a
lexicographer of the eleventh century, before I believe this.
How little Tertullian is to be regarded on this head you
yourself show in the very next page.
3. You say, Fourthly, Montanus and his associates were
the authors of these trances. They first raised this spirit
of enthusiasm in the Church, and acquired great credit by
their visions and ecstasies." Sir, you forget; they did not
"raise this spirit," but rather Joel and St. Peter; according
to whose words, the "young men saw visions," before
Montanus was born.
4. You observe, Fifthly, how Tertullian was "imposed
upon by-the craft of ecstatic visionaries," (page 99,) and then
fall upon Cyprian with all your might: Your objections to
whom we shall now consider:-
And, First, you lay it down as a postulatum, that he was
"fond of power and episcopal authority." (Page 101.) I
cannot grant this, Sir: I must have some proof; else this,
and all you infer from it, will go for nothing.
You say, Secondly, "In all questionable points of doctrine
or discipline, which he had a mind to introduce into the
Christian worship, we find him constantly appealing to the
testimony of visions and divine revelations. Thus he says to
Cecilius, that he was divinely admonished to mix water with
wine in the sacrament, in order to render it effectual."
You set out unhappily enough. For this can never be a
proof of Cyprian's appealing to visions and revelations in order
to introduce questionable points of doctrine or discipline into
the Christian worship; because this point was unquestionable,
and could not then be "introduced into the Christian wor-
ship," having had a constant place therein, as you yourself
have showed, (Introductory Discourse, p. 57,) at least from the
time of Justin Martyr.
Indeed, neither Justin nor Cyprian use those words, "In
order to render it effectual." They are an ingenious and
honest addition of your own, in order to make something out
5. I observe you take much the same liberty in your next
quotation from Cyprian. "He threatens," you say, "to
execute what he was ordered to do 'against them in a
vision.'" (Page 102.) Here also the last words, "in a
vision," are an improvement upon the text. Cyprian's words
are, "I will use that admonition which the Lord commands
me to use."* But neither was this in order to introduce
any questionable point, either of doctrine or discipline; no
more than his using the same threat to Pupianus, who had
spoken ill of him and left his communion.
6. You go on: "I e says likewise, he was admonished of
God to ordain one Numidicus, a Confessor, who had been left
for dead, half burnt and buried in stones." (Pages 103, 101.)
True, but what "questionable point of doctrine" or discipline
did he introduce hereby? or by ordaining Celerinus; "who
was over-ruled and compelled by a divine vision to accept that
office?" So you affirm Cyprian says. But Cyprian says it
not; at least, not in those words which you cite in the
margin: which, literally translated, run thus: "I recommend
to you Celerinus, joined to our Clergy, not by human suffrage,
but by the divine favour."t
"In another letter, speaking of Aurelius, whom he had
ordained a Reader, he says to his Clergy and people,' In ordain-
ing Clergy, my dearest brethren, I use to consult you first; but
Utar eA admonilione,,qu6 me Dominus uti iubet. Epis. 9.
SNon human suffragatione, sed divine dignatone, conjunctum. Epis. 34.
TIE REV. DR. MIDDLETON.
there is no need to wait for human testimonies, when the
divine suffrage has been already signified.' "
An impartial man would wonder what you could infer from
these five passages put together. Why, by the help of a short
postulatum, "He was fond, of power," (you have as much
ground to say, He was fond of bloodshed,") you will make
it plain, this was all a trick to enlarge his episcopal
authority." But as that postulatum is not allowed, you have
all your work.to begin again.
7. Hitherto then the character of Cyprian is unhurt; but
now you are resolved to blow it up at once. So you proceed :
"The most memorable effect of any of his visions was his
flight from his Church in the time of persecution. He affirms,
that he was commanded to retire by a special revelation from
heaven. Yet this plea was a mere fiction, contrived to quiet
the scandal which was raised by his flight; and is confuted by
himself, where he declares, it was the advice of Tertullus
which prevailed with him to withdraw." (Pages 104, 105.)
You here charge Cyprian with confuting himself, in saying,
he "withdrew by the advice of Tertullus;" whereas he had
"before affirmed, that he was commanded to retire by a special
revelation from heaven." Indeed he had not; there is no
necessity at all for putting this construction upon those words,
"The Lord who commanded me to retire;" which may with-
out any force be understood of the written command," When
they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another." (Matt. x.
23.) It is not therefore clear, that this plea of a special revelation
was ever advanced. And if it was advanced, it still remains
to be proved, that "it was nothing else but a mere fiction."
8. Your citing his editor here, obliges me to add a remark,
for which you give continual occasion: If either Rigalt, Mr.
Dodwell, Dr. Grabe, Mr. Thirlby, or any editor of the Fathers,
ever drops an expression to the disadvantage of the author whom
he publishes or illustrates, this you account so much treasure,
and will surely find a time to expose it to public view. And all
these passages you recite as demonstration. Thesq are doubt-
less mere oracles; although when the same person speaks in
favour of the Father, his authority is not worth a straw. But
you have "none of those arts which are commonly employed
by disputants to palliate a bad cause! (Preface, p. 31.)
9. What you relate of Dionysius, Bishop of Alexandria, you
have not from himself, but only from one who lived near a
VOL. X. E
hundred years after Dionysius was dead. Therefore he is
not at all accountable for it; as neither am I for any vision
of St. Jerome. But I am concerned in the consequence you
draw from it: "If this was a fiction, so were Cyprian's too."
That will not follow. Many objections may lie against the
one, which have no place with regard to the other.
10. You now bring forth your grand discovery, that "all
the visions of those days were contrived, or authorized at least,
by the leading men of the Church. For they were all applied,
either, (1.) To excuse the conduct of particular persons, in
some instances of it liable 'to censure; or, (2.) To enforce
some doctrine or discipline pressed by some, but not relished
by others; or, (3.) To confirm things not only frivolous, but
sometimes even superstitious and hurtful." (Page 109.)
Well, Sir, here is the proposition. But where is the proof?
I hope we shall have it in your next "Free Inquiry;" and
that you will then give us a few instances of such applications,
from the writers of the three first centuries.
11. Being not disposed to do this at present, you fall again
upon the poor heretic Montanus; who first gave a vogue"
(as you phrase it) to visions and ecstasies in the Christian
Church." (Page 110.) So you told us before. But we cannot
believe it yet; because Peter and Paul tell us the contrary.
Indeed, you do not now mention Montanus because it is any
thing to the question, but only to make way for observing, that
those who wrote against him "employed such arguments against
his prophecy as shake the credit of all prophecy. For Epipha-
nius makes this the very criterion between a true and a false
prophet, that the true had no ecstasies, constantly retained
his senses, and with firmness of mind apprehended and uttered
the divine oracles.' Sir, have you not mistook? Have you
not transcribed one sentence in the margin, and translated
another? That sentence which stands in your margin is this:
" When there was need, the saints of God among the Prophets
prophesied all things with the true Spirit, and with a sound
understanding and reasonable mind." Now, it is difficult to
find out how this comes to "shake the credit of all prophecy."
12. Why thus: Before the Montanists had brought those
ecstasies into disgrace, the prophecy of the orthodox too was
exerted in ecstasy. And so were the prophecies of the Old
Testament, according to the current opinion of those earlier
days." (Page 111.)
THE REV. DR. 3M1DDLETON.
That this was then the current opinion," you bring three
citations to prove. But if you could cite three Fathers more
during the three first centuries, expressly affirming that the
Prophets were all out of their senses, I would not take their
word. For though I take most of the Fathers to have been
wise and good men, yet I know none of them were infallible.
But do even these three expressly affirm it ? No, not one of
them; at least in the words you have cited. From Athena-
goras you cite only part of a sentence, which, translated as
literally as it will well bear, runs thus : "Who in an ecstasy of
their own thoughts, being moved by the Divine Spirit, spoke
the things with which they were inspired, even as a piper
breathes into a pipe." Does Athenagoras expressly affirm in
these words, that the Prophets were "transported out of
their senses ? I hope, Sir, you do not understand Greek.
If so, you show here only a little harmless ignorance.
13. From Justin Martyr also you cite but part of a
sentence. He speaks, very nearly, thus:-
"That the Spirit of God, descending from heaven, and
using righteous men as the quill strikes the harp or lyre, may
reveal unto us the knowledge of divine and heavenly things."
And does Justin expressly affirm in these words, that all the
Prophets were "transported out of their senses?"
Tertullian's words are: "A man being in the Spirit,
especially when he beholds the glory of God, must needs lose
sense." Now, as it is not plain that he means hereby, lose
his understanding, (it being at least equally probable, that he
intends no more than, losing for the time the use of his out-
ward senses,) neither can it be said that Tertullian expressly
affirms, The Prophets were all out of their senses." There-
fore you have not so much as one Father to vouch for what
you say was "the current opinion in those days."
14. I doubt not but all men of learning will observe a
circumstance which holds throughout all your quotations.
The strength of your argument constantly lies in a loose and
paraphrastical manner of translating. The strength of mine
lies in translating all in the most close and literal manner;
so that closeness of translation strengthens mine, in the same
proportion as it weakens your arguments; a plain proof of
what you elsewhere observe, that you use "no subtle
refinements or forced constructions." (Preface, p. 31.)
Necesse est, excidat sensu.
15. But to return to Cyprian: "I cannot forbear," you say,
"relating two or three more of his wonderful stories. The first
is, A man who had denied Christ was presently struck dumb:
The second, A woman who had done so was seized by an unclean
spirit, and soon after died in great anguish: The third, of which
he says he was an eye-witness, is this,-The heathen Magistrates
gave to a Christian infant part of what had been offered to an
idol. When the Deacon forced the consecrated wine on this
child, it was immediately seized with convulsions and vomiting;
as was a woman who had apostatized, upon taking the conse-
crated elements." (Pages 112, 113.) The other two relations
Cyprian does not affirm of his own personal knowledge.
Now, what can we think," say you, "of these strange
stories, but that they were partly forged, partly dressed up in
this tragical form, to support the discipline of the Church in
these times of danger and trial?" (Page 115.)
Why, many will think that some of them are true, even in
the manner they are related; and that if any of them are not,
Cyprian thought they were, and related them in the sincerity
of his heart. Nay, perhaps some will think that the wisdom
of God might, in those times of danger and trial," work
things of this kind, for that very end, "to support the dis-
cipline of the Church." And till you show the falsehood, or
at least the improbability, of this, Cyprian's character stands
untainted; not only as a man of sense, (which you yourself
allow,) but likewise of eminent integrity; and consequently
it is beyond dispute, that visions, the fifth miraculous gift,
remained in the Church after the days of the Apostles.
Section V. 1. The sixth of the miraculous gifts which you
enumerated above, namely, "the discernment of spirits," you
just name, and then entirely pass over. The seventh is, that
of expounding the Scriptures." (Page 116.) You tack to it,
"or the mysteries of God." But, inasmuch as it is not yet
agreed (as was intimated above) whether this be the same
gift, it may just as well be left out.
2. Now, as to this, you say, There is no trace of it to be
found since the days of the Apostles. For even in the second
and third centuries, a most senseless and extravagant method
of expounding them prevailed. For which when we censure
any particular Father, his apologists with one voice allege,
'This is to be charged to the age wherein he lived, which
could not relish or endure any better.'"
TIHE REV. DR. MIDDLETON.
I doubt much, whetheryou can produce one single apologist
for any "ridiculous comment on sacred writ," who anywhere
"alleges, that the second or third century could not relish or
endure any better." But if they were all to say this with one
voice, yet no reasonable man could believe them. For it is
notoriously contrary to matter of fact. It may be allowed,
that some of these Fathers, being afraid of too literal a way
of expounding the Scriptures, leaned sometimes to the other
extreme. Yet nothing can be more unjust than to infer from
hence, "that the age in which they lived could not relish or
endure any but senseless, extravagant, enthusiastic, ridiculous
comments on sacred writ."
Will you say, that all the comments on Scripture, still to
be found in the writings of Ignatius, Polycarp, Athenagoras,
or even of Origen and Clemens Alexandrinus, are senseless
and extravagant ? If not, this charge must fall to the ground;
it being manifest, that even "the age in which they lived"
could both "endure and relish" sound, sensible, rational (and
yet spiritual) comments on holy writ.
Yet this extravagant charge you have repeated over and
over in various parts of your work; thrusting it upon your
reader in season and out of season: How fairly, let all candid
3. Touching the miraculous gift of expounding Scripture,
you say, "Justin Martyr affirms, it was conferred on him
by the special grace of God." (Page 117.) I cannot find
w here he affirms this. Not in the words you cite, which,
literally translated, (as was observed before,) run thus: He
hath revealed to us whatsoever things we have understood by
his grace from the Scriptures also." You seem conscious,
these words do not prove the point, and therefore eke them
out with those of Monsieur Tillemont. But his own words,
and no other, will satisfy me. I cannot believe it, unless
from his own mouth.
4. Meantime, I cannot but observe an odd circumstance,
-that you are here, in the abundance of your strength, con-
futing a proposition which (whether it be true or false) not
one of your antagonists affirms. You are labouring to prove,
"there was not in the primitive Church any such miraculous
gift as that of expounding the Scriptures." Pray, Sir, who
says there was ? Not Justin Martyr; not one among all those
Fathers whom you have quoted as witnesses of the miraculous
gifts, from the tenth to the eighteenth page of your "Inquiry."
If you think they do, I am ready to follow you step by step,
through every quotation you have made.
5. No, nor is this mentioned in any enumeration of the
miraculous gifts which I can find in the Holy Scriptures.
Prophecy indeed is mentioned more than once, by the Apostles,
as well as the Fathers. But the context shows, where it is
promised as a miraculous gift, it means the foretelling things
to come. All therefore which you say on this head is a mere
ignoratio elenchi, "a mistake of the question to be proved."
Section VI. 1. The Eighth and last of the miraculous gifts
you enumerated was the gift of tongues. And this, it is
sure, was claimed by the primitive Christians; for Irensus
says expressly, "'We hear many in the Church speaking
with all kinds of tongues.' And yet," you say, "this was
granted only on certain special occasions, and then withdrawn
again from the Apostles themselves: So that in the ordinary
course of their ministry, they were generally destitute of it.
This," you say, "I have shown elsewhere." (Page 119.) I
presume, in some treatise which I have not seen.
2. But Irenseus, who declares that "many had this gift in
his days, yet owns he had it not himself." This is only a
proof that the case was then the same as when St. Paul
observed, long before, "Are all workers of miracles? Have
all the gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues?"
(1 Cor. xii. 29, 30.) No, not even when those gifts were
shed abroad in the most abundant manner.
3. "But no other Father has made the least claim to it."
(Page 120.) Perhaps none of those whose writings are now
extant; at least, not in those writings which are extant. But
what are these in comparison of those which are lost ? And
how many were burning and shining lights within three
hundred years after Christ, who wrote no account of themselves
at all; at least, none which has come to our hands? But
who are they that "speak of it as a gift peculiar to the times
of the Apostles ?" You say, "There is not a single Father
who ventures to speak of it in any other manner." (Ibid.)
Well, bring but six Ante-Nicene Fathers who speak of it in
this manner, and I will give up the whole point.
4. But you say, "After the apostolic times, there is not, in
all history, one instance, even so much as mentioned, of any
particular person who ever exercised this gift." (Ibid.' You
THE REV. DR. MIDDLETON. 65
must mean, either that the Heathens have mentioned no
instance of this kind, (which is not at all surprising,) or that
Irenmus does not mention the names of those many persons
who in his time exercised this gift. And this also may be
allowed without affecting in anywise the credibility of his
testimony concerning them.
5. I must take notice here of another of your postulatums,
which leads you into many mistakes. With regard to past
ages, you continually take this for granted: What is not
recorded was not done." But this is by no means a self-
evident axiom: Nay, possibly it is not true. For there may
be many reasons in the depth of the wisdom of God, for his
doing many things at various times and places, either by his
natural or supernatural power, which were never recorded at
all. And abundantly more were recorded once, and that with
the fullest evidence, whereof, nevertheless, we find no certain
evidence now, at the distance of fourteen hundred years.
6. Perhaps this may obtain in the very case before us.
Many may have spoken with new tongues, of whom this is not
recorded; at least, the records are lost in a course of so many
years: Nay, it is not only possible that it may be so, but it is
absolutely certain that it is so; and you yourself must acknow-
ledge it; for you acknowledge that the Apostles, when in
strange countries, spoke with strange tongues; that St. John,
for instance, when in Asia Minor, St. Peter, when in Italy, (if
he was really there,) and the other Apostles, when in other
countries, in Parthia, Media, Phrygia, Pamphylia, spoke each
to the natives of each, in their own tongues, the wonderful
works of God. And yet there is no authentic record of this:
There is not in all history, one well-attested instance of any
particular Apostle's exercising this gift in any country what-
soever. Now, Sir, if your axiom were allowed, what would
be the consequence? Even that the Apostles themselves no
more spoke with tongues than any of their successors.
7. I need, therefore, take no trouble about your subsequent
reasoning, seeing they are built upon such a foundation.
Only I must observe an historical mistake which occurs toward
the bottom of your next page. Since the Reformation, you
say, "This gift has never once been heard of, or pretended
to, by the Romanists themselves." (Page 122.) But has it
been pretended to (whether justly or not) by no others, though
not by the Romanists? Has it "never once been heard of"
since that time? Sir, your memory fails you again: It has
undoubtedly been pretended to, and that at no great distance
either from our time or country. It has been heard of more
than once, no farther off than the valleys of Dauphiny. Nor
is it yet fifty years ago since the Protestant inhabitants of
those valleys so loudly pretended to this and other miraculous
powers, as to give much disturbance to Paris itself. And how
did the King of France confute that pretence, and prevent its
being heard any more? Not by the pen of his scholars,
but by (a truly heathen way) the swords and bayonets of his
8. You close this head with a very extraordinary thought :
"The gift of tongues may," you say, "be considered as a
proper test or criterion for determining the miraculous preten-
sions of all Churches. If among their extraordinary gifts
they cannot show us this, they have none to show which are
Now, I really thought it had been otherwise. I thought
it had been an adjudged rule in the case, "All these worketh
one and the self-same Spirit, dividing to every man severally
as he will;" and as to every man, so to every Church, every
collective body of men. But if this be so, then yours is no
proper test for determining the pretensions of all Churches;
seeing He who worketh as He will, may, with your good
leave, give the gift of tongues, where He gives no other; and
may see abundant reasons so to do, whether you and I see
them or not. For perhaps we have not always known the
mind of the Lord; not being of the number of his counsellors.
On the other hand, he may see good to give many other gifts,
where it is not his will to bestow this. Particularly where it
would be of no use; as in a Church where all are of one mind,
and all speak the same language.
9. You have now finished, after a fashion, what you pro-
posed to do in the Fourth place, which was, "to review all the
several kinds of miraculous gifts which are pretended to have
been in the primitive Church." Indeed you have dropped
one or two of them by the way: Against the rest you have
brought forth your strong reasons. Those reasons have been
coolly examined. And now let every impartial man, every
person of true and unbiassed reason, calmly consider and judge,
whether you have made out one point of all that you took in
hand; and whether some miracles of each kind may not have
THE REV. DR. MIDDLETON.
been wrought in the ancient Church, for anything you have
advanced to the contrary.
10. From page 127 to page 158, you relate miracles said to
be wrought in the fourth century. I have no concern with
these; but I must weigh an argument which you intermix
therewith again and again. It is in substance this: "If we
cannot believe the miracles attested by the later Fathers, then
we ought not to believe those which are attested by the earliest
writers of the Church." I answer, The consequence is not
good; because the case is not the same with the one and with
the other. Several objections, which do not hold with regard
to the earlier, may lie against the later, miracles; drawn either
from the improbability of the facts themselves, such as we
have no precedent of in holy writ; from the incompetency of
the instruments said to perform them, such as bones, relics, or
departed saints; or from the gross "credulity of a prejudiced,
or the dishonesty of an interested, relater." (Page 145.)
11. One or other of these objections holds against most of
the later, though not the earlier, miracles. And if only one
holds, it is enough; it is ground sufficient for making the
difference. If, therefore, it was true that there was not a
single Father of the fourth age, who was not equally pious
with the best of the more ancient, still we might consistently
reject most of the miracles of the fourth, while we allowed
those of the preceding ages; both because of the far greater
improbability of the facts themselves, and because of the
incompetency of the instruments. (Page 159.)
But it is not true, that "the Fathers of the fourth age,"
whom you mention, were equally pious with the best of the.
preceding ages. Nay, according to your account, (which I
shall not now contest,) they were not pious at all. For you
say, "They were wilful, habitual liars." And, if so, they
had not a grain of piety. Now, that the earlier Fathers were
not such has been shown at large; though, indeed, you
complimented them with the same character. Consequently,
whether these later Fathers are to be believed or no, we may
safely believe the former; who dared not to do evil that good
might come, or to lie either for God or man.
12. I had not intended to say anything more concerning
any of the miracles of the later ages; but your way of
accounting for one, said to have been wrought in the fifth, is
so extremely curious that I cannot pass it by.
The story, it seems, is this: Hunneric, an Arian Prince,
in his persecution of the orthodox in Afric, ordered the
tongues of a certain society of them to be cut out by the roots.
But, by a surprising instance of God's good providence, they
were enabled to speak articulately and distinctly without
their tongues. And so continuing to make open profession
of the same doctrine, they became not only Preachers, but
living witnesses, of its truth." (Page 182.)
Do not mistake me, Sir: I have no design at all to vouch
for the truth of this miracle. I leave it just as I find it.
But what I am concerned with is, your manner of accounting
13. And, First, you say, "It may not improbably be
supposed, that though their tongues were ordered to be cut
to the roots, yet the sentence might not be so strictly executed
as not to leave in some of'them such a share of that organ as
was sufficient, in a tolerable degree, for the use of speech."
So you think, Sir, if only an inch of a man's tongue were
to be neatly taken off, he would be able to talk tolerably
well, as soon as the operation was over.
But the most marvellous part is still behind. For you
add, "To come more close to the point: If we should allow
that the tongues of these Confessors were cut away to the
very roots, what will the learned Doctor say, if this boasted
miracle should be found at last to be no miracle at all? "
"Say? Why, that you have more skill than all the
" strolling wonder-workers" of the three first centuries put
But to the point: Let us see how you will set about it.
Why, thus: "The tongue" (as you justly, though keenly,
observe) "has generally been considered as absolutely neces-
sary to the use of speech; so that, to hear men talk without
it, might easily pass for a miracle in that credulous age. Yet
there was always room to doubt, whether there was anything
miraculous in it or not. But we have an instance in the
present century, which clears up all our doubts, and entirely
decides the question: I mean, the case of a girl born without
a tongue, who talked as easily and distinctly as if she had
had one; an account of which is given in the Memoirs of the
Academy of Sciences at Paris." (Ibid.)
THE REV. DR. MIDDLETON.
14. And can you really believe this, that a girl "spoke
distinctly and easily" without any tongue at all? And, after
avowing this belief, do you gravely talk of other men's
credulity? I wonder that such a volunteer in faith should
stagger at anything. Doubtless, were it related as natural
only, not miraculous, you could believe that a man might see
Surely there is something very peculiar in this; something
extraordinary, though not miraculous; that a man who is too
wise to believe the Bible, should believe everything but the
Bible! should swallow any tale, so God be out of the
question, though ever so improbable, ever so impossible!
15. I have now," you say, "thrown together all which I
had collected for the support of my argument;" (page 187;)
after a lame recapitulation of which you add with an air of
triumph and satisfaction: "I wish the Fathers the ablest
advocates which Popery itself can afford; for Protestantism,
I am sure, can supply none whom they would choose to
retain in their cause; none who can defend them without
contradicting their own profession and disgracing their own
character; or produce anything, but what deserves to be
laughed at, rather than answered." (Pages 188, 189.)
Might it not be well, Sir, not to be quite so sure yet? You
may not always have the laugh on your side. You are not yet
infallibly assure, but that even Protestantism may produce
something worth an answer. There may be some Protestants,
for aught you know, who have a few grains of common sense
left, and may find a way to defend, at least the Ante-Nicene
Fathers, without disgracing their own character." Even
such an one as I have faintly attempted this, although I
neither have, nor expect to have, any preferment, not even to
be a Lambeth Chaplain; which if Dr. Middleton is not, it is
not his own fault.
V. 1. The last thing you proposed was, "to refute some of
the most plausible objections which have been hitherto made."
To what you have offered on this head, I must likewise
attempt a short reply.
You say, It is objected, First, that by the character I have
given of the Fathers, the authority of the books of the New
Testament, which were transmitted to us through their hands,
will be rendered precarious and uncertain." (Page 190.)
After a feint of confuting it, you frankly acknowledge the
whole of this objection. "I may venture," you say, "to
declare, that if this objection be true, it cannot hurt my
argument. For if it be natural and necessary, that the craft
and credulity of witnesses should always detract from the
credit of their testimony, then who can help it ? And if this
charge be proved on the Fathers, it must be admitted, how
far soever the consequences may reach." (Page 192.)
"If it be proved!" Very true. If that charge against
the Fathers were really and substantially proved, the authority
of the New Testament would be at an end, so far as it
depends on one kind of evidence. But that charge is not
proved. Therefore even the traditional authority of the
New Testament is as firm as ever.
2. "It is objected," you say, Secondly, that all suspicion
of fraud in the case of the primitive miracles is excluded by
that public appeal and challenge which the Christian apolo-
gists make to their enemies the Heathens, to come and see
with their own eyes the reality of the facts which they
attest." (Page 193.)
You answer: "This objection has no real weight with any
who are acquainted with the condition of the Christians in
those days." You then enlarge (as it seems, with a peculiar
pleasure) on the general contempt and odium they lay under,
from the first appearance of Christianity-in the world, till it
was established by the civil power. (Pages 194-196.)
"In these circumstances, it cannot be imagined," you say,
"that men of figure and fortune would pay any attention to
the apologies or writings of a sect so utterly despised." (Page
197.) But, Sir, they were hated, as well as despised; and that
by the great vulgar, as well as the small. And this very hatred
would naturally prompt them to examine the ground of the
challenges daily repeated by them they hated; were it only,
that, by discovering the fraud, (which they wanted neither
opportunity nor skill to do, had there been any,) they might
have had a better pretence for throwing the Christians to the
lions, than because the Nile did not, or the Tiber did, overflow.
3. You add: "Much less can we believe that the Emperor
or Senate of Rome should take any notice of those apologies,
or even know indeed that any such were addressed to them."
Why, Sir, by your account, you would make us believe,
that all the Emperors and Senate together were as "senseless,
THE REV. DR. MIDDLETON.
stupid a race of blockheads and brutes," as even the
But hold. You are going to prove it too: "For," say you,
"should the like case happen now, that any Methodist,
Moravian, or French prophet," (right skilfully put together,)
"should publish an apology for his brethren, addressed to the
King and Parliament; is it not wholly improbable, that the
Government would pay any regard to it?" You should add,
(to make the parallel complete,) "or know that any such was
addressed to them."
No: I conceive the improbability supposed lies wholly on
the other side. Whatever the Government of heathen Rome
was, (which I presume you will not depreciate,) the Govern-
ment of England is remarkable for tenderness to the very
meanest subject. It is therefore not improbable in the least,
that an address from some thousands of those subjects, how
contemptible soever they were generally esteemed, would not
be totally disregarded by such a Government. But that they
should "not know that any such had been addressed to
them," is not only improbable, but morally impossible.
If therefore it were possible for the-Heathens to "have a
worse opinion of the ancient Christians than we," you say,
"have of our modern fanatics," still it is utterly incredible
that the Roman Government should, not only "take no
notice of their apologies," but "not even know that any such
were addressed to them."
4. "But the publishing books was more expensive then
than it is now; and therefore we cannot think the Christians
of those days were able to provide such a number of them as was
sufficient for the information of the public." (Pages 198, 199.)
Nay, if they were not able to provide themselves food and
raiment, they would be sure to provide a sufficient number of
these; sufficient, at least, for the information of the Emperor
and Senate, to whom those apologies were addressed. And how
great a number, do you suppose, might suffice for them? How
many hundred or thousand copies? I apprehend the Emperor
would be content with one; and one more would be needful
for the Senate. Now,I really believe the Christiansof those days
were able to provide both these copies; nay, and even two more;
if it should have fallen out, that two or three Emperors were on
the throne; even though we should suppose that in Tertullian's
time there were but forty thousand of them in all Rome.
5. However, you plunge on: "Since, then, the Christians
were not able to bear the expense of copying them," (whether
the Heathens were disposed to buy them or no, is at present
out of the question,) "there is great reason to believe, that
their apologies, how gravely soever addressed to Emperors and
Senates, lay unknown for many years." tIbid.) There is no
great reason to believe it from anything you have advanced
yet. You add: "Especially when the publishing of them
was not only expensive, but so criminal also, as to expose
them often to danger, and even to capital punishment."
In very deed, Sir, I am sometimes inclined to suspect that
you are yourself related to certain ancient Fathers, (notwith-
standing the learned quotations which adorn your margin,)
who used to say, Gracum est: Non protest legi.* You lay
me under an almost invincible temptation to think so upon
this very occasion. For what could induce you, if you knew
what he said, to place at the bottom of this very page a
passage from one of those apologists, Justin Martyr, which
so clearly confutes your own argument? The words are:
"Although death be determined against those who teach, or
even confess, the name of Christ, we both embrace and teach
it everywhere. And if you also receive these words as enemies,
you can do no more than kill us."t Could danger then, or
the fear of "capital punishment," restrain those Christians
from presenting these apologies? No; capital punishment
was no terror to them, who daily offered themselves to the
flames, till the very heathen butchers themselves were tired
with slaughtering them.
There can therefore no shadow of doubt remain, with any
cool and impartial man, but that these apologies were
presented to the most eminent Heathens, to the Magistrates,
the Senate, the Emperors. Nor, consequently, is there the
least room to doubt of the truth of the facts therein asserted;
seeing the apologists constantly desired their enemies "to
come and see them with their own eyes;"-a hazard which
those "crafty men" would never have run, had not the facts
themselves been infallibly certain. This objection then
It is Greek: It cannot be read.-EnDT.
+- Kanreo havaTe opsWOEPros Kara rw v i8taatoromv, "t oXeS otoko'yv*rwv To ovoya
T XpeS-8, 711ets rav7axel Kao aoTra(o/ita Kat 8taOCo.V. Et aet KalELs ws exeOpo
Evkevtese 0o'oeea Tro Aoy S e, YS wE ov rTI r waaOCrs T O tpoveE.-Just. Mart. Apol. 1,
THE REV. DR. MIDDLETON.
stands against you in full force. For such a public appeal to
their bitterest enemies must exclude all reasonable suspicion
of fraud, in the case of the primitive miracles.
6. You tell us, it is objected, Thirdly, "that no suspicion
of fraud can reasonably be entertained against those who
exposed themselves, even to martyrdom, in confirmation of
the truth of what they taught." (1bid.)
In order to invalidate this objection, you assert, that some
of the primitive Christians might expose themselves to
martyrdom, out of mere obstinacy; others, from a desire of
glory; others, from a fear of reproach; but the most of all,
from the hope of a higher reward in heaven ; especially, as they
believed the end of the world was near, and that the Martyrs
felt no pain in death. "All which topics," you say, "when
displayed with art, were sufficient to inflame the multitude to
embrace any martyrdom." (Pages 200-204, 208.)
This appears very plausible in speculation. But fact and
experience will not answer. You are an eloquent man, and
are able to display any topic you please with art enough.
Yet if you was to try, with all that art and eloquence, to
persuade by all these topics, not a whole multitude, but one
simple, credulous ploughman, to go and be shot through the
head; I am afraid, you would scarce prevail with him, after
all, to embrace even that easy martyrdom. And it might be
more difficult still to find a man who, either out of obstinacy,
fear of shame, or desire of glory, would calmly and
deliberately offer himself to be roasted alive in Smithfield.
7. Have you considered, Sir, how the case stood in our
own country, scarce two hundred years ago? Not a
multitude indeed, and yet not a few, of our own countrymen
then expired in the flames. And it was not a general
persuasion among them, that Martyrs feel no pain in death.
That these have feeling, as well as other men, plainly
appeared, in the case of Bishop Ridley, crying out, "I cannot
burn, I cannot burn!" when his lower parts were consumed.
Do you think the fear of shame, or the desire of praise, was
the motive on which these acted? Or have you reason to
believe it was mere obstinacy that hindered them from
accepting deliverance? Sir, since "human nature has always
been the same, so that our experience of what now passes in
our own soul will be the best comment on what is delivered
to us concerning others," let me entreat you to make the case
your own. You must not say, "I am not one of the ignorant
vulgar: I am a man of sense and learning." So were many
of them; not inferior even to you, either in natural or
acquired endowments. I ask, then, Would any of these
motives suffice to induce you to burn at a stake? I beseech
you, lay your hand on your heart, and answer between God
and your own soul, what motive could incite you to walk into
a fire, but an hope full of immortality. When you mention
this motive, you speak to the point. And yet even with
regard to this, both you and I should find, did it come to a
trial, that the hope of a fool, or the hope of an hypocrite,
would stand us in no stead. We should find, nothing else
would sustain us in that hour, but a well-grounded confidence of
a better resurrection; nothing less than the "steadfastly looking
up to heaven, and beholding the glory which shall be revealed."
8. "But heretics," you say, "have been Martyrs." I will
answer more particularly, when you specify who and when.
It may suffice to say now, whosoever he be, that, rather than
he will offend God, calmly and deliberately chooses to suffer
death, I cannot lightly speak evil of him.
But Cyprian says, "Some who had suffered tortures for
Christ, yet afterwards fell into gross, open sin." It may be
so; but it is nothing to the question. It does not prove, in
the least, what you brought it to prove; namely, "that bad
men have endured martyrdom." Do not evade, Sir, and say,
"Yes, torments are a kind of martyrdom." True; but not
the martyrdom of which we speak.
9. You salve all at last, by declaring gravely, "It is not
my design to detract in any manner from the just praise of
those primitive Martyrs who sustained the cause of Christ at
the expense of their lives." (Page 112.) No. Who could
ever suppose it was ? Who could imagine it was your design
to detract from the just praise of Justin, Irenasus, or
Cyprian? You only designed to show what their just praise
was; namely, the praise of pickpockets, of common cheats
and impostors. We understand your meaning, therefore,
when you add, "It is reasonable to believe, that they were
the best sort of Christians, and the chief ornaments of the
Church, in their several ages." (Page 213.)
10. You conclude: My view is to show that their martyr-
dom does not add any weight to their testimony." Whether
it does or no, "it gives the strongest proof" (as you yourself
THE REV. DR. MIDDLETON.
affirm) "of th- sincerity of their faith;" and consequently
proves that "no suspicion of fraud can reasonably be enter-
tained against them." (Ibid.) But this (which you seem to
have quite forgot) was the whole of the objection; and,
consequently, this as well as both the former objections
remain in their full force.
11. "It has been objected," Fourthly, you say, that you
"destroy the faith and credit of all history." (Page 114.)
But this objection, you affirm, "when seriously considered,
will appear to have no sense at all in it." (Page 215.)
That we will try. And one passage, home to the point, is as
good as a thousand. Now, Sir, be pleased to look back. In
your Preface, page 9, I read these words : "The credibility of
facts lies open to the trial of our reason and senses. But the
credibility of witnesses depends on a variety of principles wholly
concealed from us. And though, in many cases, it may reason-
ably be presumed, yet in none can it certainly be known."
If this be as you assert, (I repeat it again,) then farewell
the credit of all history. Sir, this is not the cant of zealots:
You must not escape so: It is plain, sober reason. If the
credibility of witnesses, of all witnesses, (for you make nq
distinction,) depends, as you peremptorily affirm, on a variety
of principles wholly concealed from us, and, consequently,
though it may be presumed in many cases, yet can be certainly
known in none; then it is plain, all history, sacred or profane,
is utterly precarious and uncertain. Then I may indeed
presume, but I cannot certainly know, that Julius Caesar was
killed in the Senate-house; then I cannot certainly know that
there was an Emperor in Germany, called Charles the Fifth;
that Leo the Tenth ever sat in the See of Rome, or Lewis the
Fourteenth on the throne of France. Now, let any man of
common understanding judge, whether this objection has any
sense in it, or no.
12. Under this same head, you fall again upon the case of
witchcraft, and say, "There is not in all history any one mira-
culous fact so authentically attested as the existence of witches.
All Christian" (yea, and all heathen) "nations whatsoever
have consented in the belief of them. Now, to deny the reality
of facts so solemnly attested, and so universally believed, seems
to give the lie to the sense and experience of all Christendom;
to the wisest and best of every nation, and to public monu-
ments subsisting to our own times." (Page 221.)
VOL. X. F
What obliges you, then, to deny it? You answer: "The
incredibility of the thing." (Page 223.) O Sir, never strain
at the incredibility of this, after you have swallowed an
hundred people talking without tongues!
13. What you aim at in this also is plain, as well as in your
account of the Abb6 de Paris. The point of your argument
is, If you cannot believe these, then you ought not to believe
the Bible: The incredibility of the things related ought to
overrule all testimony whatsoever."
Your argument, at length, would run thus:-
If things be incredible in themselves,'then this incredibi-
lity ought to overrule all testimony concerning them.
"But the gospel miracles are incredible in themselves."
Sir, that proposition I deny. You have not proved it yet.
You have only now and then, as it were by the by, made any
attempt to prove it. And till this is done, you have done
nothing, with all the pother that you have made.
14. You reserve the home stroke for the last: "There is
hardly a miracle said to be wrought in the primitive times, but
what is said to be performed in our days. But all these modern
pretensions we ascribe to their true cause,-the craft of a few,
playing upon the credulity of the many, for private interest.
When, therefore, we read of the same things done by the
ancients, and for the same ends of acquiring wealth, credit, or
power; how can we possibly hesitate to impute them to the
same cause of fraud and imposture ?" (Page 230.)
The reason of our hesitation is this: They did not answer
the same ends. The modern Clergy of Rome do acquire credit
and wealth by their pretended miracles. But the ancient
Clergy acquired nothing by their miracles, but to be afflicted,
destitute, tormented." The one gain all things thereby; the
others lost all things. And this, we think, makes some differ-
ence. Even unto this present hour," says one of them,
(writing to those who could easily confute him, if he spoke not
the truth,) we both hunger and thirst, and are naked, and are
buffeted, and have no certain dwelling-place. Being reviled,
we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it; being defamed, we
entreat. We are become as the filth of the world, as the off-
scouring of all things unto this day." (1 Cor. iv. 11-13.) Now,
Sir, whatever be thought of the others, we apprehend, such
Clergy as these, labouring thus, unto the death, for such credit
and wealth, are not chargeable with fraud and imposture.
THE REV. DfI. MIDDLETON.
VI. I have now finished what I had to say with regard to
your book. Yet I think humanity requires me to add a few
words concerning some points frequently touched upon therein,
which perhaps you do not so clearly understand.
We have been long disputing about Christians, about Chris-
tianity, and the evidence whereby it is supported. But what /
do these terms mean? Who is a Christian indeed? What is
real, genuine Christianity? And what is the surest and most
accessible evidence (if I may so speak) whereby I may know '
that it is of God? May the God of the Christians enable me
to speak on these heads, in a manner suitable to the importance ,
of them !
Section I. 1. I would consider, First, Who is a Christian
indeed? What does that term properly imply ? It has been
so long abused, I fear, not only to mean nothing at all, but,
what was far worse than nothing, to be a cloak for the vilest
hypocrisy, for the grossest abominations and immoralities of
every kind, that it is high time to rescue it out of the hands of
wretches that are a reproach to human nature; to show deter-
minately what manner of man he is, to whom this name of
2. A Christian cannot think of the Author of his being,
without abasing himself before Him; without a deep sense
of the distance between a worm of earth, and Him that
sitteth on the circle of the heavens. In His presence he
sinks into the dust, knowing himself to be less than nothing
in His eye; and being conscious, in a manner words cannot
express, of his own littleness, ignorance, foolishness. So that
he can only cry out, from the fulness of his heart, "0 God!
what is man ? what am I ?"
3. He has a continual sense of his dependence on the Parent
of good for his being, and all the blessings that attend it. To
Him he refers every natural and every moral endowment; with
all that is commonly ascribed either to fortune, or to the wisdom,
courage, or merit of the possessor. And hence he acquiesces in
whatsoever appears to be His will, not only with patience, but
with thankfulness. He willingly resigns all he is, all he has, to
His wise and gracious disposal. The ruling temper of his heart
is the most absolute submission, and the tenderest gratitude, to
his sovereign Benefactor. And this grateful love creates filial
fear; an awful reverence toward Him, and an earnest care not
to give place to any disposition, not to admit an action, word,
or thought, which might in any degree displease that indulgent
Power to whom he owes his life, breath, and all things.
4. And as he has the strongest affection for the Fountain of
all good, so he has the firmest confidence in Him; a confidence
which neither pleasure nor pain, neither life nor death, can
shake. But yet this, far from creating sloth or indolence,
pushes him on to the most vigorous industry. It causes him
to put forth all his strength, in obeying Him in whom he con-
fides. So that he is never faint in his mind, never weary of
doing whatever he believes to be His will. And as he knows
the most acceptable worship of God is to imitate Him he
worships, so he is continually labouring to transcribe into him-
self all His imitable perfections; in particular, His justice,
mercy, and truth, so eminently displayed in all His creatures.
5. Above all, remembering that God is love, he is conformed
to the same likeness. He is full of love to his neighbour;
of universal love; not confined to one sect or party; not
restrained to those who agree with him in.opinions, or in out-
ward modes of worship; or to those who are allied to him by
blood, or recommended by nearness of place. Neither does he
love those only that love him, or that are endeared to him by
intimacy of acquaintance. But his love resembles that of Him
whose mercy is over all His works. It soars above all these
scanty bounds, embracing neighbours and strangers, friends
and enemies; yea, not only the good and gentle, but also the
froward, the evil and unthankful. For he loves every soul
that God has made; every child of man, of whatever place or
nation. And yet this universal benevolence does in nowise
interfere with a peculiar regard for his relations, friends, and
benefactors; a ferventlove for his country; and the most endeared
affection to all men of integrity, of clear and generous virtue.
6. His love, as to these, so to all mankind, is in itself gene-
rous and disinterested; springing from no view of advantage
to himself, from no regard to profit or praise; no, nor even the
pleasure of loving. This is the daughter, not the parent, of his
affection. By experience he knows that social love, if it mean
the love of our neighbour, is absolutely different from self-love,
even of the most allowable kind; just as different as the objects
at which they point. And yet it is sure, that, if they are under
due regulations, each will give additional force to the other,
till they mix together never to be divided.
7. And this universal, disinterested love is productive of all
THE REV. DR. MIDDLETON.
right affections. It is fruitful of gentleness, tenderness,
sweetness; of humanity, courtesy, and affability. It makes a
Christian rejoice in the virtues of all, and bear a part in their
happiness; at the same time that he sympathizes with their
pains, and compassionate their infirmities. It creates
modesty, condescension, prudence, together with calmness
and evenness of temper. It is the parent of generosity,
openness, and frankness, void of jealousy and suspicion. It
begets candour, and willingness to believe and hope whatever
is kind and friendly of every man; and invincible patience,
never overcome of evil, but overcoming evil with good.
8. The same love constrains him to converse, not only with a
strict regard to truth, but with artless sincerity and genuine
simplicity, as one in whom there is no guile. And, not content
with abstaining from all such expressions as are contrary to
justice or truth, he endeavours to refrain from every unloving
word, either to a present or of an absent person; in all his con-
versation aiming at this, either to improve himself in knowledge
or virtue, or to make those with whom he converses some way
wiser, or better, or happier than they were before.
9. The same love is productive of all right actions. It leads
him into an earnest and steady discharge of all social offices,
of whatever is due to relations of every kind; to his friends,
to his country, and to any particular community, whereof he
is a member. It prevents his willingly hurting or grieving
any man. It guides him into an uniform practice of justice
and mercy, equally extensive with the principle whence it
flows. It constrains him to do all possible good, of every
possible kind, to all men; and makes him invariably resolved,
in every circumstance of life, to do that, and that only, to
others, which, supposing he were himself in the same situation,
he would desire they should do to him.
10. And as he is easy to others, so he is easy in himself. He
is free from the painful swellings of pride, from the flames of
anger, from the impetuous gusts of irregular self-will. He is
no longer tortured with envy or malice, or with unreasonable
and hurtful desire. He is no more enslaved to the pleasures of
sense, but has the full power both over his mind and body, in
a continued cheerful course of sobriety, of temperance and
chastity. He knows how to use all things in their place, and
yet is superior to them all. He stands above those low pleasures
of imagination which captivate vulgar minds, whether arising
from what mortals term greatness, or from novelty, or beauty.
All these too he can taste, and still look upward; still aspire to
nobler enjoyments. Neither is he a slave tofame; popular breath
affects not him; he stands steady and collected in himself.
11. And he who seeks no praise, cannot fear dispraise.
Censure gives him no uneasiness, being conscious to himself
that he would not willingly offend, and that he has the appro-
bation of the Lord of all. He cannot fear want, knowing in
whose hand is the earth and the fulness thereof, and that it is
impossible for Him to withhold from one that fears Him any
manner of thing that is good. Hle cannot fear pain, knowing
it will never be sent, unless it be for his real advantage; and
that then his strength will be proportioned to it, as it has
always been in times past. He cannot fear death; being
able to trust Him he loves with his soul as well as his body;
yea, glad to leave the corruptible body in the dust, till it is
raised incorruptible and immortal. So that, in honour or
shame, in abundance or want, in ease or pain, in life or in
death, always, and in all things, he has learned to be content,
to be easy, thankful, happy.
- 12. He is happy in knowing there is a God, an intelligent
Cause and Lord of all, and that he is not the produce either
of blind chance or inexorable necessity. He is happy in the
full assurance he has that this Creator and End of all things
is a Being of boundless wisdom, of infinite power to execute
all the designs of His wisdom, and of no less infinite goodness
to direct all His power to the advantage of all His creatures.
Nay, even the consideration of his immutable justice, rendering
to all their due, of his unspotted holiness, of his all-sufficiency
in Himself, and of that immense ocean of all perfections
which centre in,God from eternity to eternity, is a continual
addition to the happiness of a Christian.
13. A farther addition is made thereto, while, in con-
templating even the things that surround him, that thought
strikes warmly upon his heart,-
These are thy glorious works, Parent of good I
while he takes knowledge of the invisible things of God, even
his eternal power and wisdom in the things that are seen, the
heavens, the earth, the fowls of the air, the lilies of the field.
How much more, while, rejoicing in the constant care which
He still takes of the work of his own hand, he breaks out, in
THE REV. DR. MIDDLETON.
a transport of love and praise, "0 Lord our Governor, how
excellent are thy ways in all the earth! Thou that hast set
thy glory above the heavens !" While he, as it were, sees the
Lord sitting upon His throne, and ruling all things well;
while he observes the general providence of God co-extended
with His whole creation, and surveys all the effects of it in the
heavens and earth, as a well-pleased spectator; while he sees
the wisdom and goodness of His general government descend-
ing to every particular, so presiding over the whole universe
as over a single person, so watching over every single person
as if he were the whole universe; how does he exult when he
reviews the various traces of the Almighty goodness, in what
has befallen himself in the several circumstances and changes
of his own life all which he now sees have been allotted to
him, and dealt out in number, weight, and measure. With
what triumph of soul, in surveying either the general or par- /
ticular providence of God, does he observe every line pointing
out an hereafter, every scene opening into eternity !
14. HIe is peculiarly and inexpressibly happy, in the
clearest and fullest conviction, "This all-powerful, all-wise,
all-gracious Being, this Governor of all, loves me. This Lover
of my soul is always with me, is never absent, no, not for a
moment. And I love Him: There is none in heaven but
thee, none on earth that I desire beside thee I And he has
given me to resemble Himself; he has stamped His image on
my heart. And I live unto Him; I do only His will; I
glorify him with my body and my spirit. And it will not be
long before I shall die unto Him; I shall die into the arms
of God. And then farewell sin and pain; then it only
remains that I should live with Him for ever."
15. This is the plain, naked portraiture of a Christian.
But be not prejudiced against him for his name. Forgive his
particularities of opinion, and (what you think) superstitious
modes of worship. These are circumstances but of small
concern, and do not enter into the essence of his character.
Cover them.with a veil of love, and look at the substance,-
his tempers, his holiness, his happiness.
Can calm reason conceive either a more amiable or a more
desirable character ?
Is it your own? Away with names! Away with opinions!
I care not what you are called. I ask not (it does not deserve
a thought) what opinion you are of, so you are conscious to
yourself, that you are the man whom I have been (however
Do not you know, you ought to be such? Is the Governor
of the world well pleased that you are not?
Do you (at least) desire it? I would to God that desire
may penetrate your inmost soul; and that you may have
no rest in your spirit till you are, not only almost, but
altogether, a Christian!
Section II. 1. The Second point to be considered is, What
is real, genuine Christianity? whether we speak of it as a
principle in the soul, or as a scheme or system of doctrine.
Christianity, taken in the latter sense, is that system of
doctrine which describes the character above recited, which
promises, it shall be mine, (provided I will not rest till I
attain,) and which tells me how I may attain it.
2. First. It describes this character in all its parts, and that
in the most lively and affecting manner. The main lines of
this picture are beautifully drawn in many passages of the
Old Testament. These are filled up in the New, retouched
and finished with all the art of God.
The same we have in miniature more than once; particularly
in the thirteenth chapter of the former Epistle to the Cor-
inthians, and in that discourse which St. Matthew records as
delivered by our Lord at his entrance upon his public ministry.
3. Secondly. Christianity promises this character shall be
mine, if I will not rest till I attain it. This is promised both
in the Old Testament and the New. Indeed the New is, in
effect, all a promise; seeing every description of the servants
of God mentioned therein has the nature of a command; in
consequence of those general injunctions: "Be ye followers
of me, as I am of Christ:" (1 Cor. xi. 1:) "Be ye followers
f them who through faith and patience inherit the promises."
leb. vi. 12.) And every command has the force of a pro-
lise, in virtue of those general promises: "A new heart will
I give you, and I will put my Spirit within you, and cause
you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments,
and do them." (Ezek. xxxvi. 26, 27.) "This is the covenant
that I will make after those days, saith the Lord; I will put
my laws into their minds, and write them in their hearts."
(Heb. viii. 10.) Accordingly, when it is said, "Thou shalt
love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy
soul, and with all thy mind;" (Matt. xxii. 37;) it is not only a
TIHE REV.'DR. MIDDLETON.
direction what I shall do, but a promise of what God will do
in me; exactly equivalent with what is written elsewhere:
The Lord thy God will circumcise thy heart and the heart
of thy seed," (alluding to the custom then in use,) "to love
the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul."
(Deut. xxx. 6.)
4. This being observed, it will readily appear to every
serious person, who reads the New Testament with that care
which the importance of the subject demands, that every
particular branch of the preceding character is manifestly
promised therein; either explicitly, under the very form of a
promise, or virtually, under that of description or command.
5. Christianity tells me, in the Third place, how I may
attain the promise; namely, by faith.
But what is faith? Not an opinion, no more than it is a
form of words; not any number of opinions put together, be
they ever so true. A string of opinions is no more Christian
faith, than a string of beads is Christian holiness.
It is not an assent to any opinion, or any number of opinions.
A man may assent to three, or three-and-twenty creeds: He
may assent to all the Old and New Testament, (at least, as far
as he understands them,) and yet have no Christian faith at all.
6. The faith by which the promise is attained is represented?
by Christianity, as a power wrought by the Almighty in an
immortal spirit, inhabiting a house of clay, to see through that
veil into the world of spirits, into things invisible and eternal;
a power to discern those things which with eyes of flesh and
blood no man hath seen or can seejeither by reason of their
nature, which (though they surround us on every side) is not
Lvperceivable by these gross senses; or by reason of their
distances being yet afar off in the bosom of eternity.
7. This is Christian faith in the general notion of it. In its
more particular notion, it is a divine evidence or conviction
wrought in the heart, that God is reconciled to me through
his Son; inseparably joined with a confidence in him, as a
gracious, reconciled Father, as for all things, so especially for
all those good things which are invisible and eternal.
To believe (in the Christian sense) is, then, to walk in the
light of eternity; and to have a clear sight of, and confidence in,
the Most High, reconciled to me through the Son of his love.
8. Now, how highly desirable is such a faith, were it only
on its own account! For how little does the wisest of men
know of anything more than he can see with his eyes! What
clouds and darkness cover the whole scene of things invisible
and eternal! What does he know even of himself as to his
invisible part ? what of his future manner of existence? How
melancholy an account does the prying, learned philosopher,
(perhaps the wisest and best of all Heathens,) the great, the
venerable Marcus Antoninus, give of these things! What
was the result of all his serious researches, of his high and
deep contemplations ? "Either dissipation, (of the soul as
well as the body, into the common, unthinking mass,) or
re-absorption into the universal fire, the unintelligent source of
all things; or some unknown manner of conscious existence,
after the body sinks to rise no more." One of these three he
supposed must succeed death; but which, he had no light to
determine. Poor Antoninus with all his wealth, his honour,
his power with all his wisdom and philosophy,
What points of knowledge did he gain ?
That life is sacred all,-and vain !
Sacred, how high, and vain, how low,
!: could not tell; but died to know.
9. He died to know !" and so must you, unless you are
now a partaker of Christian faith. 0 consider this! Nay,
and consider, not only how little you know of the immensity
of the things that are beyond sense and time, but how uncer-
tainly do you know even that little How faintly glimmering
a light is that you have Can you properly be said to know
any of these things ? Is that knowledge any more than bare
conjecture? And the reason is plain. You have no senses
Suitable to invisible or eternal objects. What desiderata
then, especially to the rational, the reflecting, part of man-
kind are these? A more extensive knowledge of things
invisible and eternal; a greater certainty in whatever know-
ledge of them we have; and, in order to both, faculties
capable of discerning things invisible.
1.0. Is it not so? Let impartial reason speak. Does not
every thinking man want a window, not so much in his
neighbour's, as in his own, breast? He wants an opening
there, of whatever kind, that might let in light from eternity.
He is pained to be thus feeling after God so darkly, so
uncertainly; to know so little of God, and indeed so little of
any beside material objects. He is concerned, that he must
see even that little, not directly, but in the dim, sullied glass
THE REV. DR. MIDDLETON. I"
of sense; and consequently so imperfectly and obsacrely, (
that it is all a mere enigma still.
11. Now, these very desiderata faith supplies. It gives a
more extensive knowledge of things invisible, showing what
eye had not seen, nor ear heard, neither could it before enter
into our heart to conceive. And all these it shows in the clear-
est light, with the fullest certainty and evidence. For it does not
leave us to receive our notices of them by mere reflection from
the dull glass of sense; but resolves a thousand enigmas of the
highest concern by giving faculties suited to things invisible.
O who would not wish for such a faith, were it only on these
accounts How much more, if by this I may receive the
promise, I may attain all that holiness and happiness !
12. So Christianity tells me; and so I find it, may every
real Christian say. I now am assured that these things are
so I experience them in my own breast. What Christianity
(considered as a doctrine) promised, is accomplished in my
soul. And Christianity, considered as an inward principle, is -
the completion of all those promises. It is holiness and hap-
piness, the image of God impressed on a created spirit; a
fountain of peace and love springing up into everlasting life.
Section III. 1. And this I conceive to be the strongest
evidence of the truth of Christianity. I do not undervalue
traditional evidence. Let it have its place and its due honour.
It is highly serviceable in its kind, and in its degree. And
yet I cannot set it on a level with this.
It is generally supposed, that traditional evidence is weak-/
ened by length of time; as it must necessarily pass through;
so many hands, in a continued succession of ages. But no
length of time can possibly affect the strength of this internal
evidence. It is equally strong, equally new, through the\
course of seventeen hundred years. It passes now, even as
it has done from the beginning, directly from God into the
believing soul. Do you suppose time will ever dry up this
stream? 0 no I It shall never be cut off:
Labitur et labelur in omne volubilis csvum.*
2. Traditional evidence is of an extremely complicated
nature, necessarily including so many and so various consi-
derations, that only men of a strong and clear understanding
can be sensible of its full force. On the contrary, how plain
It flows on, and will for ever flow.
and simple is this; and how level to the lowest capacity! Is
not this the sum: "One thing I know; I was blind, but
now I see?" An argument so plain, that a peasant, a
woman, a child, may feel all its force.
-"3. The traditional evidence of Christianity stands, as it
were, a great way off; and therefore, although it speaks loud
and clear, yet makes a less lively impression. It gives us an
account of what was transacted long ago, in far distant times
as well as places. Whereas the inward evidence is intimately
p resent to all persons, at all times, and in all places. It is
nigh thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, if thou believes
in the Lord Jesus Christ. "This," then, "is the record,"
this is the evidence, emphatically so called, "that God hath
given unto us eternal life; and this life is in his Son."
4. If, then, it were possible (which I conceive it is not) to
shake the traditional evidence of Christianity, still he that
has the internal evidence (and every true believer hath the
witness or evidence in himself) would stand firm and
unshaken. Still he could say to those who were striking at
the external evidence, "Beat on the sack of Anaxagoras."
But you can no more hurt my evidence of Christianity, than
the tyrant could hurt the spirit of that wise man.
5. I have sometimes been almost inclined to believe, that
the wisdom of God has, in most later ages, permitted the
external evidence of Christianity to be more or less clogged
and incumbered for this very end, that men (of reflection
1 especially) might not altogether rest there, but be constrained
to look into themselves also, and attend to the light shining
in .their hearts.,
Nay, it seems (if it may be allowed for us to pry so far into
the reasons of the divine dispensations) that, particularly in
this age, God suffers all kind of objections to be raised
against the traditional evidence of Christianity, that men of
/ understanding, though unwilling to give it up, yet, at the
Same time they defend this evidence, may not rest the whole
strength of their cause thereon, but seek a deeper and firmer
support for it.
6. Without this I cannot but doubt, whether they can long
maintain their cause; whether, if they do not obey the loud
call of God, and lay far more stress than they have hitherto
done on this internal evidence of Christianity, they will not,
one after another, give up the external, and (in heart at least)
TIE REV. DR. MIDDLETON.
go over to those whom they are now contending with; so that
in a century or two the people of England will be fairly
divided into real Deists and real Christians.
And I apprehend this would be no loss at all, but rather
an advantage to the Christian cause; nay, perhaps it would
be the speediest, yea, the only effectual, way of bringing all
reasonable Deists to be Christians.
7. May I be permitted to speak freely? May I, without
offence, ask of you that are called Christians, what real loss
would you sustain in giving up your present opinion, that the
Christian system is of God? Though you bear the name,
you are not Christians: You have neither Christian faith nor
love. You have no divine evidence of things unseen; you
have not entered into the holiest by the blood of Jesus. You
do not love God with all your heart; neither do you love
your neighbour as yourself. You are neither happy nor holy.
You have not learned in every state therewith to be content;
to rejoice evermore, even in want, pain, death; and in every-
thing to give thanks. You are not holy in heart; superior
to pride, to anger, to foolish desires. Neither are you holy
in life; you do not walk as Christ also walked. Does not
the main of your Christianity lie in your opinion, decked
with a few outward observances? For as to morality, even
honest, heathen morality, (O let me utter a melancholy
truth!) many of those whom You style Deists, there is reason
to fear, have far more of it than you.
8. Go on, gentlemen, and prosper. Shame these nominal
Christians out of that poor superstition which they call
Christianity. Reason, rally, laugh them out of their dead,
empty forms, void of spirit, of faith, of love. Convince them,
that such mean pageantry (for such it manifestly is, if there
is nothing in the heart correspondent with the outward
show) is absolutely unworthy, you need not say of God, but
even of any man that is endued with common understanding.
Show them, that while they are endeavouring to please God
thus, they are only beating the air. Know your time; press
on; push your victories, till you have conquered all that
know not God. And then He, whom neither they nor you
know now, shall rise and gird himself with strength, and go forth
in his almighty love, and sweetly conquer you all together.
9. O that the time were come Iow do I long for you to
be partakers of the exceeding great and precious promise!
How am I pained when I hear any of you using those silly
terms, which the men of form have taught you, calling the
mention of the only thing you want, cant! the deepest wisdom,
the highest happiness, enthusiasm! What ignorance is this!
How extremely despicable would it make you in the eyes of any
but a Christian But he cannot despise you, who loves you as
his own soul, who is ready to lay down his life for your sake.
10. Perhaps you will say, "But this internal evidence of
Christianity affects only those in whom the promise is fulfilled.
It is no evidence to me." There is truth in this objection.
It does affect them chiefly, but it does not affect them only.
It cannot, in the nature of things, be so strong an evidence
to others as it is to them. And yet it may bring a degree of
evidence, it may reflect some light on you also.
For, First, you see the beauty and loveliness of
Christianity, when it is rightly understood; and you are sure
there is nothing to be desired in comparison of it.
Secondly. You know the Scripture promises this, and says,
it is attained by faith, and by no other way.
Thirdly. You see clearly how desirable Christian faith is,
even on account of its own intrinsic value.
Fourthly. You are a witness, that the holiness and
happiness above described can be attained no other way.
The more you have laboured after virtue and happiness, the
more convinced you are of this. Thus far then you need not
lean upon other men; thus far you have personal experience.
Fifthly. What reasonable assurance can you have of things
whereof you have not personal experience? Suppose the
question were, Can the blind be restored to sight? This you
/ have not yourself experienced. How then will you know that
/ such a thing ever was? Can there be an easier or surer way
than to talk with one or some number of men who were
blind, but are now restored to sight? They cannot be
deceived as to the fact in question; the nature of the thing leaves
no room for this. And if they are honest men, (which you
may learn from other circumstances,) they will not deceive you.
iNow, transfer this to the case before us: And those who
were blind, but now see,-those who were sick many years,
but now are healed,-those who were miserable, but now are
happy,-will afford you also a very strong evidence of the truth
of Christianity; as strong as can be in the nature of things,
till you experience it in your own soul: And this, though it
THE REV. DR. MIDDLETON.
be allowed they are but plain men, and, in general, of weak
understanding; nay, though some of them should be mistaken
in other points, and hold opinions which cannot be defended.
11. All this may be allowed concerning the primitive
Fathers; I mean particularly Clemens Romanus, Ignatius,
Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Ireneus, Origen, Clemens
Alexandrinus, Cyprian; to whom I would add Macarius
and Ephraim Syrus.
I allow that some of these had not strong natural sense, that
few of them had much learning, and none the assistance which
our age enjoys in some respects above all that went before.
Hence I doubt not but whoever will be at the pains of
reading over their writings for that poor end, will find many
mistakes, many weak suppositions, and many ill-drawn
12. And yet I exceedingly reverence them, as well as their
writings, and esteem them very highly in love. I reverence
them, because they were Christians, such Christians as are
above described. And I reverence their writings, because
they describe true, genuine Christianity, and direct us to the
strongest evidence of the Christian doctrine.
Indeed, in addressing the Heathens of those times, they
intermix other arguments; particularly, that drawn from the
numerous miracles which were then performed in the
Church; which they needed only to open their eyes and see
daily wrought in the face of the sun.
But still they never relinquish this: "What the Scripture
promises, I enjoy. Come and see what Christianity has done
here; and acknowledge it is of God."
I reverence these ancient Christians (with all their failings)
the more, because I see so few Christians now; because I
read so little in the writings of later times, and hear so little,
of genuine Christianity; and because most of the modern
Christians, (so called,) not content with being wholly
ignorant of it, are deeply prejudiced against it, calling it
enthusiasm, and I know not what.
That the God of power and love may make both them, and
you, and me, such Christians as those Fathers were, is the
earnest prayer of, Reverend Sir,
Your real friend and servant.
January 24, 1748-9.
LETTER TO A ROMAN CATHOLIC.
1. You have heard ten thousand stories of us who are
commonly called Protestants, of which if you believe only
one in a thousand, you must think very hardly of us. But
this is quite contrary to our Lord's rule, Judge not, that ye
be not judged;" and has many ill consequences; particularly
this,-it inclines us to think as hardly of you. Hence we are
on both sides less willing to help one another, and more
ready to hurt each other. Hence brotherly love is utterly
destroyed; and each side, looking on the other as monsters,
gives way to anger, hatred, malice, to every unkind affection;
which have frequently broke out in such inhuman barbarities
as are scarce named among the Heathens.
2. Now, can nothing be done, even allowing us on both
sides to retain our own opinions, for the softening our hearts
towards each other, the giving a check to this flood of
unkindness, and restoring at least some small degree of love
among our neighbours and countrymen? Do not you wish
for this ? Are you not fully convinced, that malice, hatred,
revenge, bitterness, whether in us or in you, in our hearts or
yours, are an abomination to the Lord? Be our opinions
right, or be they wrong, these tempers are undeniably
wrong. They are the broad road that leads to destruction,
to the nethermost hell.
3. I do not suppose all the bitterness is on your side. I
know there is too much on our side also; so much, that I
fear many Protestants (so called) will be angry at me too, for
writing to you in this manner; and will say, "It is showing
you too much favour; you deserve no such treatment at our
4. But I think you do. I think you deserve the tenderest
regard I can show, were it only because the same God hath
raised you and me from the dust of the earth, and has made
us both capable of loving and enjoying him to eternity; were it
LETTER TO A ROMAN CATHOLIC.
only because the Son of God has bought you and me with
his own blood. How much more, if you are a person fearing
God, (as without question many of you are,) and studying to
have a conscience void of offence towards God and towards
5. I shall therefore endeavour, as mildly and inoffensively
as I can, to remove in some measure the ground of your
unkindness, by plainly declaring what our belief and what
our practice is; that you may see, we are not altogether such
monsters as perhaps you imagined us to be.
A true Protestant may express his belief in these or the
6. As I am assured that there is an infinite and independent
Being, and that it is impossible there should be more than one;
so I believe, that this One God is the Father of all things,
especially of angels and men; that he is in a peculiar manner
the Father of those whom he regenerates by his Spirit, whom
he adopts in his Son, as co-heirs with him, and crowns with
an eternal inheritance; but in a still higher sense the Father
of his only Son, whom he hath begotten from eternity.
I believe this Father of all, not only to be able to do what-
soever pleaseth him, but also to have an eternal right of
making what and when and how he pleaseth, and of possessing
and disposing of all that he has made; and that he of his own
goodness created heaven and earth, and all that is therein.
7. I believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Saviour of the
world, the Messiah so long foretold; that, being anointed
with the Holy Ghost, he was a Prophet, revealing to us the
whole will of God; that he was a Priest, who gave himself a
sacrifice for sin, and still makes intercession for transgressors;
that he is a King, who has all power in heaven and in earth,
and will reign till he has subdued all things to himself.
I believe he is the proper, natural Son of God, God of
God, very God of very God; and that he is the Lord of all,
having absolute, supreme, universal dominion over all things;
but more peculiarly our Lord, who believe in him, both by
conquest, purchase, and voluntary obligation.
I believe that he was made man, joiningthe human nature
with the divine in one person; being conceived by the
singular operation of the Holy Ghost, and born of the blessed
Virgin Mary, who, as well after as before she brought him
forth, continued a pure and unspotted virgin.
VOL. X. G
I believe he suffered inexpressible pains both of body and
soul, and at last death, even the death of the cross, at the time
that PontiusPilate governed Judea, under the Roman Emperor;
that his body was then laid in the grave, and his soul went to
the place of separate spirits; that the third day he rose again
from the dead; that he ascended into heaven; where he
remains in the midst of the throne of God, in the highest power
and glory, as Mediator till the end of the world, as God to
all eternity; that, in the end, he will come down from heaven,
to judge every man according to his works; both those who
shall be then alive, and all who have died before that day.
8. I believe the infinite and eternal Spirit of God, equal
with the Father and the Son, to be not only perfectly holy in
himself, but the immediate cause of all holiness in us;
enlightening our understandings, rectifying our wills and
affections, renewing our natures, uniting our persons to
Christ, assuring us of the adoption of sons, leading us in our
actions; purifying and sanctifying our souls and bodies, to a
full and eternal enjoyment of God.
9. I believe that Christ by his Apostles gathered unto him-
self a Church, to which he has continually added such as
shall be saved; that this catholic, that is, universal, Church,
extending to all nations and all ages, is holy in all its mem-
bers, who have fellowship with God the Father, Son, and
Holy Ghost; that they have fellowship with the holy angels,
who constantly minister to these heirs of salvation; and with
all the living members of Christ on earth, as well as all who
are departed in his faith and fear.
10. I believe Godforgives allthe sinsof them that trulyrepent
and unfeignedly believe his holy gospel; and that, at the last
day, all men shall rise again, every one with his own body.
I believe, that as the unjust shall, after their resurrection,
be tormented in hell for ever, so the just shall enjoy
inconceivable happiness in the presence of God to all eternity.
11. Now, is there anything wrong in this? Is there any
one point which you do not believe as well as we ?
But you think we ought to believe more. We will not
now enter into the dispute. Only let me ask, If a man
sincerely believes thus much, and practises accordingly, can
any one possibly persuade you to think that such a man shall
12. But does he practise accordingly?" If he does not,
A ROMAN CATHOLIC.
we grant all his faith will not save him. And this leads me
to show you, in few and plain words, what the practice of a
true Protestant is.
I say, a true Protestant; for I disclaim all common
swearers, Sabbath-breakers, drunkards; all whoremongers,
liars, cheats, extortioners; in a word, all that live in open
sin. These are no Protestants; they are no Christians at
all. Give them their own name; they are open Heathens.
They are the curse of the nation, the bane of society, the
shame of mankind, the scum of the earth.
13. A true Protestant believes in God, has a full confidence
in his mercy, fears him with a filial fear, and loves him with all
his soul. He worships God in spirit and in truth, in everything
gives him thanks; calls upon him with his heart as well as
his lips, at all times and in all places; honours his holy name
and his word, and serves him truly all the days of his life.
Now, do not you yourself approve of this ? Is there any
one point you can condemn ? Do not you practise as well as
approve of it? Can you ever be happy if you do not ? Can
you ever expect true peace in this, or glory in the world to
come, if you do not believe in God through Christ ? if you
do not thus fear and love God? My dear friend, consider,
I am not persuading you to leave or change your religion, but
to follow after that fear and love of God without which all reli-
gion is vain. I say not a word to you about your opinions or
outward manner of worship. But I say, all worship is an abomi-
nation to the Lord, unless you worship him in spirit and in
truth; with your heart, as well as your lips; with your spirit,
and with your understanding also. Be your form of worship
what it will, but in everything give him thanks; else it is all
but lost labour. Use whatever outward observances you please,
but put your whole trust in him; but honour his holy name
and his word, and serve him truly all the days of your life.
14. Again: A true Protestant loves his neighbour, that is,
every man, friend or enemy, good or bad, as himself, as he
loves his own soul, as Christ loved us. And as Christ laid'
down his life for us, so is he ready to lay down his life for his
brethren. He shows this love, by doing to all men, in all
points, as he would they should do unto him. He loves,
honours, and obeys his father and mother, and helps them to
the uttermost of his power. He honours and obeys the King,
and all that are put in authority under him. He cheerfully
submits to all his Governors, Teachers, spiritual Pastors, and
Masters. He behaves lowly and reverently to all his betters.
He hurts nobody, by word or deed. He is true and just in
all his dealings. He bears no malice or hatred in his heart.
He abstains from all evil speaking, lying and slandering;
neither is guile found in his mouth. Knowing his body to
be the temple of the Holy Ghost, he keeps it in sobriety,
temperance, and chastity. He does not desire other men's
goods; but is content with that he hath; labours to get his
own living, and to do the whole will of God in that state of
life unto which it has pleased God to call him.
15. Have you anything to reprove in this? Are you not
herein even as he ? If not; (tell the truth,) are you not con-
demned both by God and your own conscience? Can you
fall short of any one point hereof without falling short of
being a Christian ?
Come, my brother, and let us reason together. Are you
right if you only love your friend and hate your enemy ? Do
not even the Heathens and publicans so ? You are called
to love your enemies; to bless them that curse you, and to
pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you.
But are you not disobedient to the heavenly calling? Does
your tender love to all men, not only the good, but also the
evil and unthankful, approve you the child of your Father
which is in heaven? Otherwise, whatever you believe and
whatever you practise, you are of your father the devil. Are
you ready to lay down your life for your brethren ? And do
you do unto all as you would they should do unto you ? If
not, do not deceive your own soul: You are but a Heathen
still. Do you love, honour, and obey your father and mother,
and help them to the utmost of your power ? Do you honour
and obey all in authority? all your Governors, spiritual
Pastors, and Masters ? Do you behave lowly and reverently
to all your betters? Do you hurt nobody, by word or deed?
Are you true and just in all your dealings? Do you take
care to pay whatever you owe ? Do you feel no malice, or
envy, or revenge, no hatred or bitterness to any man? If
you do, it is plain you are not of God : For all these are the
tempers of the devil. Do you speak the truth from your
heart to all men, and that in tenderness and love ? Are you
" an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile ?" Do you keep
your body in sobriety, temperance, and chastity, as knowing
A ROMAN CATHOLIC.
it is the temple of the Holy Ghost, and that, if any man defile
the temple of God, him will God destroy ? Have you learned,
in every state wherein you are, therewith to be content? Do
you labour to get your own living, abhorring idleness as you
abhor hell-fire? The devil tempts other men; but an idle man
tempts the devil. An idle man's brain is the devil's shop,
where he is continually working mischief. Are you not sloth.
ful in business? Whatever your hand finds to do, do you do
it with your might ? And do you do all as unto the Lord,
as a sacrifice unto God, acceptable in Christ Jesus?
This, and this alone, is the old religion. This is true, primi-
tive Christianity. O when shall it spread over all the earth !
When shall it be found both in us and you ? Without waiting
for others, let each of us, by the grace of God, amend one.
16. Are we not thus far agreed? Let us thank God for
this, and receive it as a fresh token of his love. But if God
still loveth us, we ought also to love one another. We ought,
without this endless jangling about opinions, to provoke one
another to love and to good works. Let the points wherein
we differ stand aside; here are enough wherein we agree,
enough to be the ground of every Christian temper, and of
every Christian action.
O brethren, let us not still fall out by the way! I hope to see
you in heaven. And if I practise the religion above described,
you dare not say I shall go to hell. You cannot think so. None
can persuade you to it. Your own conscience tells you the con-
trary. Then if we cannot as yet think alike in all things, at
least we may love alike. Herein we cannot possibly do amiss.
For of one point none can doubt a moment,-" God is love;
and he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him."
'17. In the name, then, and in the strength of God, let us
resolve, First, not to hurt one another; to do nothing unkind
or unfriendly to each other, nothing which we would not have
done to ourselves: Rather let us endeavour after every instance
of a kind, friendly, and Christian behaviour towards each other.
Let us resolve, Secondly, God being our helper, to speak
nothing harsh or unkind of each other. The sure way to
avoid this, is to say all the good we can, both of and to one
another: In all our conversation, either with or concerning
each other, to use only the language of love; to speak with
all softness and tenderness; with the most endearing express.
sion which is consistent with truth and sincerity.
ROMAN CATECHISM, AND REPLY.
Let us, Thirdly, resolve to harbour no unkind thought, no
unfriendly temper, towards each other. Let us lay the axe to
the root of the tree; let us examine all that rises in our heart,
and suffer no disposition there which is contrary to tender
affection. Then shall we easily refrain from unkind actions
and words, when the very root of bitterness is cut up.
Let us, Fourthly, endeavour to help each other on in what-
ever we are agreed leads to the kingdom. So far as we can,
let us always rejoice to strengthen each other's hands in
God. Above all, let us each take heed to himself, (since each
must give an account of himself to God,) that he fall not
short of the religion of love; that he be not condemned in
that he himself approveth. O let you and I (whatever others
do) press on to the prize of our high calling! that, being
justified by faith, we may have peace with God through our
Lord Jesus Christ; that we may rejoice in God through Jesus
Christ, by whom we have received the atonement; that the
love of God may be shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy
Ghost which is given unto us. Let us count all things but
loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ our
Lord; being ready for him to suffer the loss of all things, and
counting them but dung, that we may win Christ.
Your affectionate servant, for Christ's sake.
DUBLIN, July 18, 1749.
A ROMAN CATECHISM,
FAITHFULLY DRAWN OUT OF THE ALLOWED WRITINGS
OF THE CHURCH OF ROME.
WITH A REPLY THERETO.
IT has been a frequent complaint among some of the Romish
Church, that the Protestants have misrepresented the doctrine
of their Church: On the other side, the Protestants accuse
ROMAN CATECHISM, AND REPLY.
the writers in that Church, of concealing, disguising, and
palliating their doctrines. The latter justify their charge by
producing such authors as have in several ages not only
taught that doctrine, but taught it as the doctrine of their
Church; the former deny the charge, by appealing from
particular authors to an higher authority, to Councils and
public acts and decrees, to Missals, Breviaries, and Catechisms.
Now, though those Protestants are not to be blamed, when
the authors they quote have been first licensed and approved
in that Church, and were never afterward condemned by it;
yet in composing this Catechism, to avoid contention as much
as I can, I have generally observed their directions, and have
seldom made use of particular authors, but when it is for the
explication of a doctrine that is not sufficiently explained, or
for confirmation of a doctrine generally received. I am very
confident that the quotations throughout are true, having again
and again examined them; and I have been as careful as I
could not to mistake the sense of them; that I might rightly
understand and truly represent the doctrine which I profess
to censure; for without a faithful and impartial examination
of an error, there can be no solid confutation of it.
OF THE CHURCH, AND RULE OF FAITH.
QUESTION 1. WHAT is the Church of Rome?
ANSWER. The Church of Rome is that Society of Christians
which professes it necessary to salvation to be subject to the
Pope of Rome,* as the alone visible head of the Church.t
REPLY. Christ is the Head, from whom the whole body is
fitly joined together. And the holding to that Head (Coloss.
ii. 19) is the one great note of the Church, given by St. Austin.
Dicimus, definimus, pronunciamus absolute necessarium ad salute, omni
humane creature subesse Romano Ponifici. Extravag. c. Unam sanctum de
Majoritate et Obedientia.
We say, define, and pronounce, that it is absolutely necessary to salvation,
for every man to be subject to the Pope of Rome."
t Bellarm. De Eccles. milit. 1. 3, c. 2, sec. Nostra autem sententia ; et cap. 5.
sec. Respondeo neminem.
ROMAN CATECHISM, AND REPLY.
(De Unit. Eccles. c. 3, 4.) But there is neither in Scripture
nor antiquity any evidence for a visible head, and much less
for the visible head, the Pope; and, least of all, that it is
necessary to salvation to be subject to him.
If it is necessary to salvation to be subject to him, it is
necessary to know who is the Pope; but that the world hath
often been divided about, when there were sometimes three,
and for about forty years together two, Popes.-Vide Theod.
Niem. de Schism. Univers.
Q. 2. How comes subjection to the Pope to be necessary to
salvation, and an essential note of the Church?
A. Because the Pope is Christ's Vicar, St. Peter's successor,
(Concil. Trid. Sess. 6; Decret. de Reform. cap. 1; Bulla Pii
IV, sup. Form. Juram.,) and hath the supreme power on
earth over the whole Church. (Con. Trid. Sess. 14, c. 7.)
"The Church is called one, as it has one invisible Head,-
Christ; and one visible, who doth possess the chair at Rome,
as the lawful successor of St. Peter, prince of the Apostles."
(Catech. Rom. par. 1, c. 10, n. 11.)
REPLY. If Christ gave no such power to St. Peter, or the
Pope be not St. Peter's successor, then the Pope has no
pretence to this power. Now, we read that "Christ gave
some Apostles, and some Prophets, for the work of the ministry
and the edifying the body." (Eph. iv. 11, 12.) But that he
gave one Apostle pre-eminence above the rest, much less
absolute power over them, we read not. This power they
were forbidden to attempt or desire; (Matt. xx. 26;) and St.
Paul was so far from acknowledging it, that he challenged an
equality with the rest of the Apostles, (Gal. i. 15, 17,) and,
upon occasion, withstood St. Peter. (Gal. ii. 11.)
To this we may add the judgment of St. Cyprian: "The
other Apostles are the same St. Peter was, endowed with
an equal fellowship of honour and power." (Epist. de Unit.
Q. 3. What authority doth the Church of Rome challenge?
A. She declares that she is the mother and mistress of all
Churches; (Concil. Later. 4, can. 2; Concil. Trid. Sess. 7; De
Bapt. can. 3, &c.;) and that to believe her so to be is necessary
to salvation. (Bulla Pii IV, super. Form. Jur.) Pope Innocent
III. thus decreed : "As God is called universal Lord, because
ROMAN CATECHISM, AND REPLY.
all things are under his dominion; so the Church of Rome is
called Catholic, or universal, because all Churches are subject
unto her." (Apud Baron. Annal. 1199.)
REPLY. As it was foretold, so it was fulfilled: "Out of
Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from
Jerusalem." (Isaiah ii. 3.) There the Church began; and
therefore, in the Synodical Epistle of the Second General
Council of Constantinople, Jerusalem is called "the mother
of all Churches." (Baron. A. D. 382, p. 461.)
If she is the mistress because she is the mother, (as Pope
Innocent I. would have it, Epist. 1, Concil., tom. 4, p. 5,)
then Jerusalem was the mistress. If the mistress because
she was once the imperial city, then Constantinople was so
likewise; and accordingly it was decreed in the Fourth
General Council, that of Chalcedon, can. 28, "That the
Church of Constantinople should have equal privileges with
that of Rome, because she is the imperial seat."
And if she claims this sovereign authority upon any other
reason, she never had, nor can ever prove, a right to it.
This is confirmed by Pope Pius II., (when a Cardinal,) who
saith, that before the time of the Nicene Council, little regard
was had to the Church of Rome." (Epist. 288.)
Q. 4. What use doth she make of this authority ?
A. She requires all persons, upon her sole authority, to
receive and believe the doctrines she proposes to be received
and believed,* and without the belief of which she declares
there is no salvation.t
REPLY. The gospel which was preached of me, is not after
man; for I neither received it of man, neither was I taught
it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ." (Gal. i. 11, 12.)
"Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other
gospel unto you, than that which we have preached, let him
be accursed." (Verses 8, 9.)
The Church of Rome cannot avoid St. Paul's anathema,
Sacrosancta synodus omnibus Christi fidelibus interdicit, ne posthac de sane-
tissimi Eucharistia aliter credere, docere, aut predicare audeant, quam ut est
hoc present decreto explicatum, atque definitum.-Concil. Trid. Sess. 13, Decret.
de Euchar. So again, Sess. 25, Decret. de Purgatorio. And there are above a hun-
dred anathemas in that Council in point of doctrine against such as do not so believe.
+ Hane veram eatholicamfidem, extra quam nemo salvus esse potest: That is,
"This is the true Catholic faith, without which no man can be saved."-Bulla
Pii IV., super Form. Juram.
90 ROMAN CATECHISIM, AND REPLY.
when she requires to bow down before an image, which the
Scripture forbids; and forbids to read the Scripture, which it
And without doubt the text of the Apostle holds as much
against any other, as against himself or an angel from heaven.
Q. 5. Doth not the Church of Rome acknowledge the holy
Scripture to be a sufficient rule for faith and manners?
A. No: For there are some doctrines proposed by that
Church as matters of faith, and some things required as
necessary duty, which are by many learned men among
themselves confessed not to be contained in Scripture.
REPLY. We read in Scripture of "the faith once delivered
to the saints;" (Jude 3;) and "all" or the whole "Scrip-
ture is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for
instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be
perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." (2 Tim.
iii. 16, 17.)
The Scripture, therefore, is a rule sufficient in itself, and
was by men divinely inspired at once delivered to the world;
and so neither needs, nor is capable of, any further addition.
So Tertullian: Let Hermogenes show that this thing is
written. If it be not written, let him fear the woe pronounced
against them that add to, or take from, Scripture." (Contra
Hermog,, c. 22.)
Q. 6. What doctrines of faith and matters of practice are
thus acknowledged not to be in Scripture?
A: The doctrines of transubstantiation, (Scotus in 4 Sent.
Dist. 11, q. 3, et Yribarn in Scot.,) of the seven sacraments,
(Bellarm. 1. 2, de Effectu Sacram., c. 25, sec. Secunda pro-
batio,) of purgatory, (Roffens. contra Luther., art. 18,) and
the practice of half-communion, (Concil. Constan., Sess. 13,
Cassander, art. 22,) worshipping of saints and images, (Bel-
larm. de Cult. Sanct., 1. 3, c. 9, sec. Praterea. Cassand. Con-
sult., art. 21, sec. 4,) indulgences, (Polyd. Virg. de Invent.,
1. 8, c. 1,) and service in an unknown tongue. (Bellarm. de
Verb. Dei, 1. 2, c. 26.)
REPLY. On the contrary, St. Augustine writes, "If any
one concerning Christ and his Church, or concerning any
other things which belong to faith or life, I will not say if we,
but (which St. Paul hath added) if an angel from heaven,
ROMAN CATECHISM, AND REPLY.
preach unto you besides what ye have received in the Law
and Evangelical Writings, let him be accursed." (Contr.
Petil., 1. 3, c. 6.) For as all faith is founded upon divine
authority, so there is now no divine authority but the
Scriptures; and, therefore, no one can make that to be of
divine authority which is not contained in them. And if
transubstantiation and purgatory, &c., are not delivered in
Scripture, they cannot be doctrines of faith.
Q. 7. What doth the Church of Rome propound to herself
as an entire rule of faith ?
A. Scripture with tradition; and she requires that the
traditions be received and reverenced with the like pious
regard and veneration as the Scriptures; and whosoever
knowingly contemns them, is declared by her to be accursed.
(Concil. Trid. Sess. 4; Decret. de Can. Script.)
REPLY. "In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines
the commandments of men;" (Matt. xv. 9;) forbidding that
as unlawful which God hath not forbidden, and requiring
that as necessary duty which God hath not required.
So St. Hierom: "The sword of God," his word, "doth
smite those other things, which they find and hold of their
own accord, as by apostolical tradition, without the authority
and testimony of Scripture." (In Cap. 1, Aggwei)
Q. 8. What do they understand by traditions?
A. Such things belonging to faith and manners as were
dictated by Christ, or the Holy Ghost in the Apostles, and
have been preserved by a continual succession in the Catholic
Church, from hand to hand, without writing. (Concil. Trid.
REPLY. But St. Cyril affirms, "It behoveth us not to
deliver, no, not so much as the least thing of the holy mysteries
of faith, without the holy Scripture. That is the security of
our faith, not which is from our own inventions, but from
the demonstration of the holy Scriptures." (Catechis. 5.)
Q. 9. What are those traditions which they profess to have
received from Christ and his Apostles?
A. The offering the sacrifice of the mass for the souls in
purgatory, (Cone. Trid. Sess. 22, c. 2,) the mystical bene-
dictions, incensings, garments, and many other things of the
93 'ROMAN CATECHISM, AND REPLY.
like kind, (c. 5,) salt, spittle, exorcisms, and wax candles used
in baptism, &c., (Catech. Rom., par. 2, c. 2, n. 59, 65, &c.,)
the Priests shaving the head after the manner of a crown.
(Ibid. c. 7, n. 14.)
REPLY. "Laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold
the tradition of men." (Mark vii. 8.)
"It is necessary even for novices to learn the Scriptures,
that the mind may be well confirmed in piety, and that they
may not be accustomed to human traditions." (St. Basil in
Reg. Brev. Reg. 95.)
The Church of Rome hath no more to show for their holy
water, and incensings, and salt, and spittle, &c., than the
Pharisees for their traditions; and since they no less impose
them as divine than the other, they are alike guilty with them.
Q. 10. Doth the Church of Rome agree with other Churches
in the number of canonical books of Scripture ?
A. No: For she hath added to the canonical books of the
Old Testament, Esdras, Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus,
Baruch, the two Books of Maccabees,* and a new part of
Esther and Daniel; which whole Books, with all their parts,t
whosoever rejects as not canonical, is accursed. (Concil.
Trident. Sess. 4, Decret. de Scriptur.)
REPLY. These apocryphal books were wrote after prophecy
and divine inspiration ceased, and so were not received by
the Jewish Church, (to whom "were committed the oracles
of God," Rom. iii. 2,) nor by the Christian Church, as the
Sixtieth Canon of the Council of Laodicea shows, where there
is a catalogue of the canonical Books, without any mention of
"As therefore the Church doth read Tobias, Judith, and
the Books of the Maccabees, but doth not receive them into
the canonical Scriptures; so it doth read the two volumes of
Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus for the edification of the people,
not to establish the authority of ecclesiastical principles."
St. Jerome. (In Prologo Proverb.)-See Bellarm. de Verbo,
1. 1, c. 10 init.
These books are so sacred, as that they are of infallible truth.-Bellarm. De
Verbo, 1. 1, c. 10, sec. Ecclesia vera.
+ Wherefore doth the Council add, "with all their parts;" unless that all
should understand those parts also, about which there was some time a dispute,
to belong to the sacred canon of the Bible ?-Ibid. c. 7, sec. Denique.
ROMAN CATECHISM, AND REPLY. 93
Q. 11, Are the people of the Church of Rome permitted
to read the Scripture in a tongue vulgarly known?
A. No; they were for a time permitted to read it, under
the caution of a license, where it could be obtained; (Reg.
Ind. Libr. Prohib. Reg. 4;) but since they are forbid it, or to
have so much as any summary or historical compendium of it
in their own tongue. (Index Libr. Prohib. Auctor. Sixti V.,
et Clem. VIII. Observat. circa 4 Regulam.)
REPLY. Under the Law, the people had the Scriptures in
a tongue vulgarly known; and they were required to read
the law, and to be conversant in it: "These words, which I
command thee this day, shall be in thine heart," &c.; (Deut.
vi. 6;) and accordingly our Saviour sends them thither:
"Search the Scriptures." (John v. 39.) So St. Paul requires
that his Epistle be read to all the brethren;" (1 Thess. v.
27;) and, if so, it was wrote in a language they understood.
And so it was in the primitive Church; therefore St.
Chrysostom exhorts his hearers, though secular men, to
provide themselves Bibles, the medicines of their souls, to be
their perpetual instructors. (Comment. in Coloss. iii. 16.)
Q. 12. For what reason is the Scripture thus prohibited
A. "Because," say they, "if it be permitted to be read
every where, without difference, there would more prejudice
than profit proceed from it." (Reg. Ind. Libr. Prohib. Reg. 4.)
REPLY. In the Apostles' times there were some that
"wrested the Scriptures to their own destruction;" and yet
the Apostle thought of no other expedient than to give the
Christians a caution, that they were "not also led away with
the error of the wicked." (2 Pet. iii. 16, 17.) The way to
prevent this, therefore, is, not to keep the Scriptures from
the people, which were written for our learning," (Rom.
xv. 4,) but to exhort them to a diligent perusal of them: "Ye
err, not knowing the Scriptures." (Matt. xxii. 29.)
The sheep should not cast away their skin, because wolves
sometimes hide themselves under it." (St. Austin de Serm.
Dom. in Monte.)
Q. 13. Since the Scripture may be misunderstood, have
they no judge to determine the sense of it?
A. They say, "It belongs to the Church" (of Rome) "to