Page images
PDF
EPUB

1

III. The miracles related to have been wrought at the tomb of the Abbé Paris, admit in general of this solution. The patients who frequented the tomb, were so affected by their devotion, their expectation, the place, the solemnity, and, above all, by the sympathy of the surrounding multitude, that many of them were thrown into violent convulsions, which convulsions, in certain instances, produced a removal of disorders depending upon obstruction. We shall, at this day, have the less difficulty in admitting the above account, because it is the very same thing as hath lately been experienced in the operations of animal magnetism ; and the report of the French physicians upon that mysterious remedy' is very, applicable to the present consideration viz. that the pretenders to the art, by working upon the imaginations of their patients, were frequently able to produce convulsions ; that convulsions so produced, are amongst the inost powerful, but, at the same time, most uncertain and unmanageable appli

[ocr errors]

cations to the human frame which can be employed.

i

Circumstances, which indicate this explication in the case of the Parisian miracles, are the following:

1. They were tentative. Out of many thousand sick, infirm, and diseased persons, who resorted to the tomb, the professed history of the miracles contains only nine cures.

2. The convulsions at the tomb are admitted.

3. The diseases were, for the most part, of that sort which depends upon inaction and obstruction, as dropsies, palsies, and some tumours,

4. The cures were gradual ; some patients attending many days, some several weeks, and some several months.

5. The cures were many of them incomplete.

6. Others were temporary

So that all the wonder we are called upon to account for is, that, out of an almost innumerable multitude which resorted to the tomb' for the cure of their complaints, and many of whom were there agitated by strong convulsions, a very small proportion experienced a beneficial change in their constitution, especially in the action of the nerves and glands.

Some of the cases alleged, do not require that we should have recourse to this solution. The first case in the catalogue is scarcely distinguishable from the progress of a natural recovery. It was that of a young man, who laboured under an inflammation of one eye, and had lost the sight of the other. The inflamed eye was relieved, but the blindness of the other remained. The inflammation had before

The reader will find these particulars verified in the de. tail, by the accurate inquiries of the present Bishop of Sarum, in his Criterion of Miracles, p. 132, et seq.

[ocr errors]

been abated by medicine: and the young man, at the time of his attendance at the tomb, was using a lotion of laudanum. And, what is a 'still more material part of the case, the inflammation after some interval returned. Another case was that of a young man who had lost his sight by the puncture of an awl, and the discharge of the aqueous humour through the wound. The sight, which had been gradually réturning, was much improved during his visit to the tomb, that is, probably, in the same degree in which the discharged humour, was replaced by fresh secretions. And it is observable, that these two are the only cases, which, from their nature, should seem unlikely to be affected by convulsions.

In one material respect I allow, that the Parisian miracles were different from those related by Tacitus, and from the Spanish miracle of the cardinal de Retz. They had not, like them, all the power and all the prejudice of the country on their side to begin with. They were alleged by one

party against another, by the Jansenists against the Jesuits. These were of course opposed and examined by their adversaries. The consequence of which examination was, that many falsehoods were detected, that with something really extraordinary much fraud appeared to be mixed. And if some of the cases upon which designed misrepresentation could not be charged, were not at the time satisfactorily accounted for, it was because the efficacy of strong spasmodic affections was not then sufficiently known. Finally, the cause of Jansenism did not rise by the miracles, but sunk, although the miracles had the anterior persuasion of all the numerous adherents of that cause to set out with.

These, let us remember, are the strongest examples, which the history of ages supplies. In none of them was the miracle unequivocal ; by none of them, were established prejudices and persuasions overthrown; of none of them, did the credit make its way, in opposition to authority

« PreviousContinue »