who have accompanied me thus far may be disposed to say: "Well, this is all very amusing as a story; but what is the practical interest of it? We are not likely to believe in the miracles worked by the spolia of SS. Marcellinus and Petrus, or by those of any other saints in the Roman calendar."
The practical interest is this: If you do not believe in these miracles, recounted by a witness whose character and competency are firmly established, whose sincerity can not be doubted, and who appeals to his sovereign and other contemporaries as witnesses of the truth of what he says, in a document of which a MS. copy exists, probably dating within a century of the author's death, why do you profess to believe in stories of a like character which are found in documents, of the dates and of the authorship of which nothing is certainly determined, and no known copies of which come within two or three centuries of the events they record? If it be true that the four Gospels and the Acts were written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, all that we know of these persons comes to nothing in comparison with our knowledge of Eginhard; and not only is there no proof that the traditional authors of these works wrote them, but very strong reasons to the contrary may be alleged. If, therefore, you refuse to believe that "Wiggo" was cast out of the possessed girl on Eginhard's authority, with what justice can you profess to believe that the legion of devils were cast out of the man among the tombs of the Gadarenes? And if, on the other hand, you accept Eginhard's evidence, why do you laugh at the supposed efficacy of relics and the saint-worship of the modern Romanists? It can not be pretended, in the face of all evidence, that the Jews of the year 30, or thereabout, were less imbued with the belief in the supernatural than were the Franks of the year A.D. 800. The same influences were at work in each case, and it is only reasonable to suppose that the results were the same. If the evidence of Eginhard is insufficient to lead reasonable men to believe in the miracles he relates, a fortiori the evidence afforded by the Gospels and the Acts must be so.
But it may be said that no serious critic denies the genuineness of the four great Pauline Epistles—Galatians, First and Second Corinthians, and Romans—and that, in three out of these four, Paul lays claim to the power of working miracles. Must we suppose, therefore, that the Apostle to the Gentiles has stated that which is false? But to how much does this so-called claim amount?
- Of course there is nothing new in this argument; but it does not grow weaker by age. And the case of Eginhard is far more instructive than that of Augustine, because the former has so very frankly, though incidentally, revealed to us, not only his own mental and moral habits, but those of the people about him.
- See 1 Cor. xii, 10-23; 2 Cor. vi, 12; Rom. xv, 19.