Early Church Fathers
1 "Delere licebit Quod non edideris: nescit vox missa reverti."-Hor. Art Poet. 389-90.
2 This is a remarkable asseveration in view of the many miraculous accounts which follow. When we remember, on the one hand, how intimate Sulpitius was with St. Martin, and how strongly, as in this passage, he avouches the truth of all he narrates it is extremely difficult to decide as to the real value of his narrative. It has been said (Smith's Dict. II. 967) that Sulpitius' Life of St. Martinus is "filled with the most puerile fables," and undoubtedly many of the stories recorded are of that character. But whether, considering the close relation in which the two men stood to each other, all the miraculous accounts are to be discredited, must be left to the judgment of the reader. The following valuable remarks may be quoted on this interesting question. "Some form years ago," writes Dr. Cazenove, "an audience in Oxford was listening to a professor of modern history (Dr. Arnold of Rugby), who discussed this subject. After pointing out the difference between the Gospel miracles and those recorded by ecclesiastical historians, the lecturer proceeded as follows: `Some appear to be unable to conceive of belief or unbelief, except as having some ulterior object: "We believe this because we love it: we disbelieve it because we wish it to he disproved." There is, however, in minds more healthfully constituted a belief and a disbelief, founded solely upon the evidence of the case, arising neither out of partiality, nor out of prejudice against the supposed conclusions, which may result from its truth or falsehood. And in such a spirit the historical student will consider the case of Bede's and other historians' miracles. He will, I think, as a general rule, disbelieve them, for the immense multitude which he finds recorded, and which, I suppose, no credulity could believe in, shows sufficiently that on this point there was a total want of judgment and a blindness of belief generally existing which make the testimony wholly insufficient; and, while the external evidence in favor of these alleged miracles is so unsatisfactory, there are, for the most part, strong internal evidence against them. But with regard to some miracles, he will see that there is no strong a priori improbability in their occurence, but rather the contrary; as, for instance, when the first missionaries of the Gospel in a barbarous country are said to have been assisted by a manifestation of the spirit of power; and, if the evidence appears to warrant his belief, he will readily and gladly yield it. And in doing so he will have the countenance of a great man (Burke) who in his fragment of English history has not hesitated to express the same sentiments. Nor will he be unwilling, but most thankful, to find sufficient grounds for believing that not only at the beginning of the Gospel, but in ages long afterwards, believing prayer has received extraordinary answers; that it has been heard even in more than it might have dared to ask for. Yet, again, if the gift of faith-the gift as distinguished from the grace-of the faith which removes mountains, has been given to any in later times in remarkable measure the mighty works which such faith may have wrought cannot be incredible in themselves to those who remember our Lord's promise,and if it appears from satisfactory evidence that they were wrought actually, we shall believe them,-and believe with joy. Only as it is in most cases impossible to admit the trustworthiness of the evidence, our minds must remain at the most in a state of suspense; and I do not know why it is necessary to come to any positive decision." 0'-"The Fathers for English Readers": St. Hilary of Poitiers and St. Martin of Tours, p. 191.
On this subject it has lately been said: "Most, if not all, of the so-called miracles which were supposed to surround Martin with a blaze of glow were either absolutely and on the face of them false; or were gross exaggerations of natural events; or were subjective impressions clothed in objective images; or were the distortions of credulous rumor; or at the best cannot claim in their favor a single particle of trustworthy evidence. They cannot be narrated as though they were actual events. Martin was an eminent bishop but half of the wonderful deeds attributed to him are unworthy and absurd."-Farrar's Lives of the Fathers, I. 644.
5 The text is here corrupt and uncertain, but the general meaning is plain to the above effect. Hahn has adopted "divinam servitutem," instead of the common "divina servitute."
6 Sulpitius uses reges instead of the more common expression imperatores.
7 Sulpitius manifestly refers to baptism in these words. However mistakenly, several others of the early Fathers held that regeneration does not take place before baptism, and that baptism is, in fact, absolutely necessary to regeneration. St. Ambrose has the following strong statement on the subject: "Credit catechumenus; sed nisi baptizetur, remissionem peccatorum non potest obtinere."-Libri de his, qui initiantur mysteriis, chap. 4.
8 The place here called by Sulpitius "Ambianensium Civitas" was also known as "Samarobriva," and is supposed to be the modern Amiens.
9 St. Matt. xxv. 40.
10 There is a peculiar use of quamdiu in the old Latin rendering of the passage here quoted. It is used as an equivalent for the Greek e0f0 o#son, no doubt with the meaning "inasmuch as."
11 Comp. Tacitus, Agric. chap. 5, "electus, quem contubernio aestimaret."
12 Commonly known as Julian the Apostate.
13 This city was called Borbetomagus, and is represented by the modern Worms.
14 This city of the Pictones (or Pictavi) who are mentioned by Caesar, Bell Gall. iii. 11. Their territory corresponded to the modern diocese of Poitiers.
15 Comp. Ps. cxviii. 6.