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the argument of Paley, except that the latter confines it CHAP. to the case of eye-witnesses, and to matters of fact. It is hard to pronounce upon an apologetic writing without a thorough knowledge of the individuals to whom it was addressed, or the special occasion which called it forth, and perhaps either or both of these circumstances might account for what appear imperfections in these tracts; but such reasoning as is borrowed is certainly not improved, nor are the additions to it either vigorous or ingenious; in particular, the abundant quotations from scripture addressed to an adversary who neither admitted nor appreciated the authority appealed to, are singularly mistimed, a circumstance which was remarked many years ago."
We have now to proceed to a writer whose mind, powers, position, and productions are singularly different, and whose remains I think have been undeservedly neglected even by the labourers in this particular field of inquiry.
The Disputationes of Arnobius consist of seven books adversus Gentes, containing as usual a defence of Christianity and an exposure of Paganism, and embodying most of the ordinary arguments on each of these topics, but supplying at the same time some important additions and exhibiting some most remarkable views. It appears from the little information we possess concerning this writer, that he was a rhetorician teaching at Sikka in Africa, when his attention was first directed to Christianity; and it is related that when he applied for ad
2 See Lactantius, D. I. v. 4; Hieron. Ep. 84.
3 It is not a little singular that Lactantius, in his notice of preceding or contemporary apologists (D. I. v. 1.), omits all mention
whatever of Arnobius, though it
CHAP. mission into the Church, his previous behaviour had left his character and intentions so suspicious that he wrote the treatise in question as a pledge of his sincerity. The internal evidence of the composition would certainly not run counter to such a tale; the author is clearly misinformed on many points, and uninformed on others, and displays very much such an apprehension of Christianity as might be expected in one whose knowledge was collected simply from notorious facts, or perhaps from teaching like that in the Octavius. The first two books are devoted to the defence, and the remaining five to the attack; it is of course the former division with which we shall be principally here concerned.
The commencement alleges the calumnies against the Christians, before mentioned, as the principal cause of the Apology, and a few pages are allotted to their refutation. This is cleverly though artificially conducted, and exhibits from many points the utter absurdity of the charge. The transition is easy from this argument to a general apology for the principles of the Christian faith, as far indeed as the writer either understood or was inclined to disclose them; he defends the worship of a man born' (natum hominem) and crucified, by examples and precedents from their own religion, and shews that there can be no prima facie objection to Christianity even on that hypothetical ground. But he rapidly proceeds to disprove the simple humanity of Christ, and to prove his divinity, and his steps at this
This is only for argument's sake. I. 19. "sed concedamus, interdum (i.e. interim, see notes) manum vestris opinationibus dantes, unum fuisse Christum de nobis," &c. See too c. 23.
2 Not in the special Christian sense; he calls Christ, "interiorum potentiarum Deus, rei maximæ caussa a summo Rege ad nos missus." ib. 23.
point are particularly worthy of notice. He appeals CHAP. boldly and summarily to the miracles, insisting minutely and strongly on
I. their character; that they were never noxious, but always salutary, and of a kind befitting their author.*
II. their number; which, with their variety, precluded the possibility of misapprehension."
III. their openness, that they were performed clearly, in open day, and in the sight of all."
IV. the circumstances of their performance; which was without any intermediate mechanism, and solely by a word."
V. the transmission of the power to others; which was even a stronger argument than its possession.
After setting forth with excessive but characteristic diffuseness these several points, he meets the opinion of those who would ascribe the works to the exercise of magic, and alludes to the assertion that Christ learnt in Egypt those powerful arts by which such prodigies were performed. He asks whether any magician of any age or country had ever done such deeds as these; whether the exploits of sorcerers were not notoriously confined to certain well-known practices; whether they were not invariably achieved with certain aids of time, place, and instruments, and whether, if their performances instead of their promises were to be considered,
CHAP. any one could be named whose pretensions would bear the most distant comparison with the works of Christ."
He next examines the claims of other gods to miraculous virtues, and after intimating that he could probably perplex his adversary by demanding authenticated examples of such works, he asserts that no cures were ever performed in the temples or at the shrines without the accompaniment of some medicine or regimen, so that the effect (if any) might always be attributed to the medium." He also adds that the cures were not complete, and that the seeds of the disease still remained;10 and that the miracles were tentative, for that where there was one patient healed, thousands had wasted their time and substance around the altars of Esculapius, without experiencing either improvement or advantage.'
From this he proceeds to an objection familiar indeed to modern ears, but seldom urged or argued in ancient times. "You will deny the facts," he says,-Sed non creditis gesta hæc! and he replies with the best appeal to historical evidence and universal testimony which an apologist could have made. He enlarges especially and repeatedly on the open and unlimited exhibition of the miracles, points to their effects on eye-witnesses,' remarks
? Ib. 24.
8 "cibum aliquem jusserunt capi, aut qualitatis alicujus ebibi potionem, aut herbarum et graminum succos superponere inquietantibus caussis, ambulare, cessare, aut aliqua re, quæ officiat, abstinere." Ib. 27.
10 Illud audire desidero, an fecerit (deus iste) et emori valetudinum caussam, et debilium corpora ad suas remeare naturas." Ibid. Compare Paley's Evidences, Prop. II. c. 1.
"Nonne alios scimus malis suos commortuos, cruciatibus alios consenuisse morborum, perniciosius alios sese habere cæpisse, post quam dies noctesque in continuis precibus et pietatis expectatione triverunt? quid ergo prodest unum aut alterum fortasse curatos ostendere ?" Ibid. 28. Compare Paley again as above. 21. 32; II. 9, 10.
3 "Sed qui ea conspicati sunt fieri et sub oculis suis viderunt agi, testes optimi certissimique auctores, et crediderunt hæc ipsi,
that these were mighty multitudes and almost entire CHAP. nations,* who could not possibly have trusted any thing less than the irrefragable evidence of their senses, and that a refusal of their testimony involves virtually a charge of falsehood or stupidity against a whole generation, probably as sagacious, and naturally as incredulous, as ourselves; he observes, too, that this history has been handed down through a body of men, who, on any supposition but the truth of Christianity, must have voluntarily and gratuitously endured all temporal hardships and resigned all temporal comforts for the sake of propagating a lie.
He next appeals to the existing facts of the case, and asks how the prevalence and extension of Christianity through all ranks and nations, in spite of opposition and tyranny, can be explained, if it is based upon falsehood." This argument shews incidentally the different intentions with which this work and the Apology of Tertullian were composed; Tertullian uses it only as a dissuasive from cruelty, he was pleading merely for toleration; Arnobius turns it to a proof of his faith, he was shewing the credibility of the religion.
Towards the better consideration of the case he offers a few remarks of general import. The Christians, as is well known, were attacked for their credulity. He points to the practical influence and use of faith, in all the
et credenda posteris nobis haud exilibus cum approbationibus tradiderunt." 1. 32.
"Gentes, populi, nationes, et incredulum illud genus humanum." Ibid.
'Numquid dicemus illius temporis homines usque adeo fuisse vanos, mendaces, stolidos, brutos ut quæ nunquam viderant, vidisse se fingerent ?" Ibid. Com
pare Leslie's Short Way with the
6 66 Cumque possent vobiscum
'Ibid. 33: 11. 4. Compare Archbishop Whateley, Logic, p.