« VorigeDoorgaan »
he performed many miracles, particularly, transporting himself in the air from one place to another, and even raising the dead. He is also said to have ascended into heaven, and to have appeared to the emperor Alexander
But it certainly tends to discredit the story, that Apollonius had been dead, or translated, above a hundred years before Philostratus wrote, and that his history was compiled partly from the commentaries of one Damis, which were never published, but given to this writer by the empress Julia, as secret memoirs, without any evidence of their being genuine; and partly from the writings of Maximus Æginenfis, and Meragenes, the former of whom only wrote a few particulars ; and, according to the character given of him by Philostratus himself, was a very fabulous and romantic writer.
It is, indeed, said, that there were public monuments of some of the Miracles of Apollonius, but they are also said to have been in disant cities of India and Ethiopia, where no writer pretends to have found them. Some letters of Apollonius are mentioned, but Philostratus owns that they did not relate to any of his miracles, but only to the curiosities of the countries through which he travelled.
The manner in which Philostratus writes, gives us but a very indifferent opinion of his own character, and his style is affected and extravagant, full of an ostentation of learning, and shewing a disposition to exaggerate every thing that could tend to the reputation of his hero.
Many of the miracles ascribed to Apollonius were said to have been done in fecret, or before
few witnesses; some were selfcontradictory, and others were evidently vain and foolih; and not a few of them appear to have been borrowed from the hiltory of the Evangelists.
The occasion of Philostratus's writing seems to have been his desire to ingratiate himself with Julia, the wife of Severus, and with Caracalla the succeeding emperor, by
detracting from christianity, to which they both had a yery great averfion.
Lastly, the story of these miracles presently died away, and the disciples of Apollonius were so few, that there is little reason to believe that he
any respect, so extraordinary a person as Philostratus pretended.
As to the magical rites of the heathens, nothing could be more wicked or absurd. Nero fhewed the most extravagant fondness for this odious and contemptible art, and sent for the most eminent professors of it from all parts of the world; but the issue of it was his own, and a general conviction of the folly of their pretences.
The emperor Vespasian is said to have cured a blind and a lame man at Alexandria; and this, Mr. Hume says, is one of the best attested miracles in all profane history. But it may be easily collected from the accounts of the two historians, who mention
these miracles (neither of whom it is probable believed in them, and one of them evidently did not) that these extraordinary narrations were very convenient, in order to give weight to the authority of Vespasian, who was newly made
Mohammed himself did not pretend to any miracle, except the Koran itself; and that this was a divine composition he does not pretend to give any positive proof; but contents himself with appealing to its own excellence; and it was probably superior to the poetical compositions of other Arabians of his time; and this it might very well be, though written by himself, or his confidents. In the translation of Mr. Sale, who is allowed to have been a great master of the Arabic language, and who certainly meant to give it all poslìble advantage, it is, upon the whole, a very mean performance. The style of the Koran cannot be said to be comparable to that of many parts of the Old Testament, which, however, was never alledged as any proof of its divinity.
It does not appear that this only pres tended miracle of Mohammed gained him any followers ; the propagation of his religion having been owing chiefly to the sword. Moreover, though the Mohammedan religion be very absurd, and unnaturally harsh in some respects, especially in the absolute prohibition of wine, it flatters men with the greatest indulgence in others ; every man being allowed four wives, and as many concubines as he can keep ; and the future rewards of good Musselmen are represented as being of a sensual nature. advantage which Mohammedanism had over the corrupt christianity of the times in which it was published, was, that it afferted the great doctrine of the unity of God, against the Trinitarians; but, in other respects, all who profess this religion are llaves to the most abject superstition. And yet Mr. Chubb says, that whether Mohammedanism be a divine revelation, or not, there seems to be a plausible pretence, arising froin the circumstances of things, to stamp a divine character upon it.