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SECT. IX. And from oracles.

AND almost all the same things may be applied to solve that which they allege concerning oracles; especially what was before said, that such men deserved to be imposed upon, who despised that knowledge which reason and ancient tradition suggested to every man. Moreover the words of the oracles were for the most part ambiguous, and such as might be interpreted of the event, be it what it would.502502   See the places of Œnomaus, concerning this subject, in Eusebius, book iv. chap. 20, 21, 22, 23, 21, 25, 26. Hence Apollo was by the Greeks called Λοξίας. Ambiguous. Cicero, in his second book of divination, says, the oracles of Apollo were ambiguous and obscure. “Whichsoever of them came to pass, (says he), the oracle was true.”—(Perhaps many of the oracles were counterfeited after the event; and there are many reasons to suspect that abundance of frauds were used by diviners; concerning which D. de Fontenelle has written an excellent book in French, which I refer you to, and what is said in defence of it, vol. xiii. of the Choice Library; and what Antony Van Dale has written of this matter above all others, in his book of oracles. (Le Clerc). And if any thing was more particularly foretold 169by them, there is no necessity of its proceeding from an omniscient Being; because either they were such as might be perceived beforehand, from natural causes then appearing, as some physicians foretel future diseases;503503   Chalcidius on Timæus. “Men are forewarned either by the flying of birds, or by entrails, or by oracles, some propitious Dæmons foretelling, who knew all things that will afterwards come to pass; just as a physician, according to the rules of physic, de. dares either death or health, and as Anaximander and Pherecydes did an earthquake.” Pliny, book ii. chap. 79. or they might with probability be conjectured, from what we usually see come to pass; which we read was often done by those who were skilful in civil matters.504504   See the writers of the life of Atticus. “A plain evidence of this thing, besides those books wherein he (Cicero) mentions it expressly, (which are published among the common people), are sixteen volumes of epistles sent to Atticus, from his consulship to the end of his days; which whoever reads, will not think that he wants a complete and regular history of those times; there is such a full description of the inclinations of princes, of the vices of great men, and of the alterations in the republic, that there is no. thing which is not laid open; so that one would easily be led to think prudence to be a kind of divination. For Cicero did not only foretel future things that would happen in his own lifetime, but, like a diviner, declared those also that came to pass lately.” Cicero affirms truly of himself, in his sixth epistle of his sixteenth book: “In that war, nothing happened ill which I did not foretel. Wherefore, since I who am a public augur, like other augurs and astrologers, by my former predictions, have confirmed you in the authority of augury and divination, you ought to believe what I foretel. I do not make my conjecture from the flying of birds nor from the manner of their chirping, as our art teaches us, not from the rebounding of the corn that falls from the chickens’ mouths, nor from dreams; but I have other signs, which I observe.” Thus Solon foretold that great calamities would come upon Athens, from Munichia. And Thales, that the forum of the Milesii would one time be in a place then despised. Plutarch in Solon. And if at any time God made use of any of those works, done by the diviners among the heathen, to foretel such things as could have no other real foundation but the will of God, it did not tend 170to confirm the heathen religion, but rather to overthrow it; such as those things we find in Virgil’s fourth eclogue, taken out of the Sibylline verses;505505   See Augustine’s city of God, book x. chap. 27. in which, though unknown to himself, he describes the coming of Christ, and the benefits we should receive from him:506506   It is now sufficiently evident, that all the prophecies of the Sibyls are either doubtful or forged; wherefore I would not have Virgil, an interpreter of the Sibyl, be thought to have declared a kind of prophecy, without any design like Caiaphas, who was ignorant of what he prophesied: I know not what Sibyl, or rather person under the disguise of such a one, predicted, that the golden age was a-coming; from the opinion of those who thought that there would be a renovation of all things, and that the same things would come to pass again. See what Grotius has said of this matter, book ii. sect. 10. and the notes upon that place. Wherefore in this, the Sibyl was not a prophetess, nor did Virgil write thence any prophecies of Christ. See Servius upon the place, and Isaac Vossius’s interpretation of that eclogue. Le Clerc. Thus, in the same Sibyls, that he was to be acknowledged as king, who was to be truly our king;507507   Cicero mentions him in his second book of divination. who was to rise out of the east, and be lord of all things.508508   Suetonius of Vespasian, chap. 4. Tacitus, Hist. v. The oracle of Apollo509509    5 See Augustine of the city of God, book xix. chap. 23. and Eusebius’s Preparat. book iv. chap. 4. And the same Porphyry, in his book of Oracles, says, “the god (Apollo) testifies that the Egyptians, Chaldæans, Phœnicians, Lydians, and Hebrews, are they who have found out the truth.” He that wrote the exhortation to the Greeks, amongst the works of Justin, quotes this oracle:—    “The Hebrews only and Chaldees are wise,
Who truly worship God the Eternal King.”

   And this,

   “Who the first mortal form’d, and call’d him Adam.”

   There are two oracles of Cato’s concerning Jesus, which Eusebius in his gospel demonstration, transcribed out of Porphyry:—
   “Souls, of their bodies stript, immortal are;
This wise men know; and that which is endued
With greatest piety, excels the rest.”
“The souls of pious men to heaven ascend,
Though various torments do their bodies vex.”

   The same are mentioned by Augustine, book xix. chap. 23. of his city of God, out of the same Porphyry: where he brings another oracle, in which Apollo said, that the Father whom the pious Hebrews worshipped, was a law to all the gods.
is to be171seen in Porphyry;510510   This is justly enough said upon Porphyry, and those who are of the same opinion with him, concerning those oracles; and may be brought as an argument ad hominem, as logicians call it; but since it does not appear that these oracles were not feigned, nay, there are very good reasons to think they were fictitious, they ought to be of no weight amongst Christians. Le Clerc. in which be says, the other gods were aërial spirits, and that the one God of the Hebrews was to be worshipped: which words if the worshippers of Apollo obeyed, they ceased to be his worshippers; if they did not obey him, they accused their god of a lie. To which may be added, that if these spirits would in their oracles have consulted the good of mankind, they would, above alt things, have proposed to them a general rule of life, and assured them of a reward, which they who so lived might expect; but they did neither of them. On the contrary, they many times in their Verses applauded kings, though never so wicked:511511   See those alleged by Œnomaus, in Eusebius’s gospel preparat. book v. chap. 23, and 35. decreed divine honours to champions,512512   See his same author, chap. 34. of Cleomedes; which we find also in Origen’s third book against Celsus. enticed men to unlawful embraces,513513   This was shewn before. to pursue unjust gain,514514   See Eusebius’s gospel preparat. book v. chap. 22. and to commit murder;515515   Œnomaus recites oracles of this kind, which you may find in the fore-mentioned book of Eusebius, chap 19, and 27. which may be evidenced by many instances.

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