« PreviousContinue »
honours are prohibited. They who talk thus shew that they understand not, or will not understand either the strong and figurative style of the scriptures, or the ra, tional inethods of interpreting them, or the true nature of virtues and vices.
If this author proposed to bimself to acquire the applause of free-thinkers, he had his reward: but when Phocion had made a speech which was applauded by the populace, he asked, Have I not said some foolish thing?
To return to divination, it appears from the Scriptures that some good and great men, when they were taking leave of the world, and blessing their children, or their nation, were enlightened with a prophetic spirit. Homer makes his heroes, as Patroclus and Hector, prophesy at the time of their death ; and Cicero introduces his brother thus arguing in behalf of divination: Epicurum ergo antepones Platoni & Socrati? qui ut ra, tionem non redderent, auctoritate tamen hos minutos philosophos vincerent. Jubet igitur Plato, sic ad somnum proficisci corporibus affectis, ut nihil sit, quod errorem a. nimis perturbationemque afferat.—Quum ergo est somno sevocatus animus a societate, et a contagione corporis, tum meminit præteritorum, presentia cernit, futura prievidet : jacet enim corpus-viget animus: quod multo magis fa. ciet post mortem-itaque appropinquante morte multo est divinior.---Divinare autem morientes, etiam illo exemplo confirmat Posidonius-Idque fucilius eveniet appropin, quante morte, ut animi futura augurentur, Ex
quo illud est Calani, de quo ante dixi, et Homerici Hectoris, qui moriens propinquum Achilli mortem denuntiat. De Divin. i. 30.
The Pagans had also an opinion that the good wish; es and the imprecations of parents were often fulfilled,
and had in them a kind of divination. Read the story of Phænix in Homer, Il. I. 445, &c. And Plato says that every wise person revered and esteemed the
prayers of his parents, knowing that they were very frequently accomplished. , Πας δή ν&ν έχων φοβείται και τιμά γονέων ευχας, άδως πολλούς και πολλάκις επί τελής γενομένας. De Leg. xi. p. 931. Consult the place, and compare it with the case of Esau, in Gen. xxvii.
Eusebius has treated the subject of Oracles in his Præparutio Evangelica, L. iv.v. vi. He produces such arguments as tend to shew that it was all human fraud, and, amongst other things, he informs us, that many Pagan priests and prophets, who (under Constantine, I suppose) had been taken up, and tried, and tortured, had confessed that the oracles were impostures, and had laid open the whole contrivance, and that their confessions stood upon record, and that these were not obscure wretches, but philosophers and magistrates, who had enriched themselves by persecuting and plundering the Christians. So Theodoret tells us, that in demolishing the temples at Alexandria, the Christians found hollow statues fixed to the walls, into which the priests used to enter, and thence deliver oracles, v. 22. Eusebius adds, that the Peripatetics, Cynics, and Epicureans were of opinion that such predictions were all artifice and knavery. He then produces the arguments of Diogenianus against Divination. But Eusebins, as also all the ancient Christians, was of opinion, that with these human frauds there might have been sometimes a mixture of dæmoniacal tricks. Pr. Ev. vii. 16. He then arges against the oracles from the concessions and the writings of Pagans. He shews from Porphyry, that, according to that philosopher's own principles, and according to
the reasonings of other Pagans, the gods who delivered oracles must have been evil dæmons. He proves the same thing from human sacrifices, and produces Porphyry's testimony and opinion that the Pagans worshipped evil dæmons, the chief of whom were Serapis and Hecate. He proves the same from Plutarch, and he gives a collection made by Oenomaus of wicked, false, trifling, ambiguous oracles.
The old Oracles often begin with’Ana' örær, But when, which is an odd setting out. Thus in Herodotus,
'Αλλ όταν ημίονος-i. 55.
'Αλλ' όταν 'Αρτέμιδος-- viii. 77. In the Oracula Vetera,
'Αλλ' οι μεν καθυπερθε-
'Αλκ' όταν oικήσωσιIn imitation of which style, we find in the Sibyl. line oracles, and in the beginning of a sentence,
'Αλλ' οπόταν μεγάλοιο ΘεεAnd so in many places of that collection, which I shall not transcribe. Hence Aristophanes, in banter, I
of the predictions in Herodotus, makes a pompous and ridiculous oracle, and uses the same foolish introduction, to persuade a sausage-monger to set up for a demagogue and a ruler. The oracle is in heroic verse, and runs thus : Eguit. 197.
'Αλλ' οπόταν μαρψη βυρσαίεθος αγκυλοχίλης
Νή τότε Παφλαγόνων μεν απόλλυται η σκοροδάλμη.
Αϊχεν μη σωλεν αλλαντας μάλλον έλωνίαι. But when the Tanner-Eagle with a crooked beak shall seize the stupid blood-drinking dragon, then the Paphlagonian pickle shall perish; and the Deity shall advance the sausage-mongers to the highest hunours, if they will but leave off their trade, and sell no more puddings.
Lucian also, De Morte Peregrini, gives us two ora. cles made upon the death of that knave, who burnt himself publicly, tlie one by a seeming friend, tlic other by a foe.
The first was ascribed to the Sibyl, who was the Mother Shipton of the Ancients :
'Αλλ' οπόταν Πρωθευς Κυνικών όχ’ άρισος απάντων
Σύνθρονον Ηφαίσω και Ηρικλή ανακή.. But when Proteus, the chief of the Cynics, leaping into the flames, near the temple of Jupiter, shall ascend up to Olympus, then let all mortals with one consent adore the nocturnal hero, and rank him with Vulcan and Hercules.
The seeond was fathered upon Bacis, the Nostrodimus of his times:
'Αλλ' οπόταν Κυνικός πολυώνυμος ες φλόγα πολλών
Χρυσώ σαξάμενος σήρην, μάλα πολλα δανείζων,
'Εν καλαίς Πάτραισιν έχων τρίς σέντε τάλαντα. But when the Cynic, who has more names than one, incited by the Furies, and by the mad love of vain-glory, shall jump into the flames, then let all the dog-fores, his trusty disciples, follow the example of the departed wolf. And if any one of them shrink, and be afraid of the fire, let all the Greeks pelt him with stones, that he may no more shew his courage only by prating, and put gold into his satchel, and lend it out to interest, and add to the fifteen talents which he has hoarded up at Patræ.
It is probable that Lucian made both these oracles, to divert himself and his readers, not forgetting the essential 'Ana’örar. But Lucian's raillery could not put a stop to the superstition of the world ; for this Peregrinus, or Proteus, was deified, and had, at Parium, a statue erected, to which religious honours were paid, and which delivered oracles. See Athenagoras Legat.
The comedy of Aristophanes, cited above, abounds with ridicule upon the oracles, and shews the liberty which the wits in his days took to deride them, and to bring them into contempt.
If the writer de Dea Syria be in earnest, and sincere in his narration, as he seems to be, there were few Pagan temples and oracles more remarkable than that of Hierapolis in Syria, and from his account it may be inferred, that the priests of that temple had carried the arts of imposture to great perfection, and surpassed their ancient instructors the Egyptians, like the thief who stole a statue of Mercury, and told the god,
Πολλοί μαθηαι κρείσσονες διδασκάλων. . The Egyptians, says this author, were the first who had knowledge of the gods, and built them temples, &c. and from them tlie Assyrians learned these things.