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The great difference of words and verses which
appears even in the same passages of the Sibylline oracles, as they are cited by different Fathers, shews that the collections of these poems varied much, and that every librarian thrust in what he thought proper, and what he had picked up here and there from any dunghill,
Amongst the defenders of the Sibylline oracles wag Isaac Vossius, who wrote a book on that subject, a learned book, for he could write no other : but as to judgment, you must not seek it there. Credimus, says he, omnes istos libros (Apocryphos) a Judæis fuisse compositos, DEO IMPELLENTE IPSORUM MENTES ad significandum gentibus Christi adventum. Infinita itaque illi edidere volumina ; partim sub Patriarcharum et Prophetarum suorum nominibus, quales fuere libri qui olim lecti fuere sub nominibus Adami, Enochi, Abrahami, Moysis, Elice, Esaiæ, et Jeremiæ ; partim vero sub nominibus illorum, quorum magna apud gentiles esset existimatio, veluti Hystaspis, Mercurii Trismegisti, Zoroastris, Sibyllarum, Orphei, Phocylidie, et complurium aliorum. De Sibyl. Or. c.7. It must be owned to have been a generous proceeding in Vossius, to take the weaker side on several occasions, and to be an advocate for those who stood most in need of assistance, in which charitable behaviour he has been, and will be imitated, for this sort of charity also never faileth : but for inventing and maintaining paradoxes, he never had an equal, except Father Harduin.
Virgil's fourth Eclogue was written, as Bishop Chandler, and Mr Masson have observed, when Polo lio was consul, and the design of it was to compliment Augustus, or Cæsar Octavianus, as he was then called, and to foretell the birth of a son whom his wife Scribonia should bear, who was then with child: but it proved a daughter, and the infamous Julia. See Chandler's Def. of Christ. and Vindicat. and at the end, a Dissertation of Masson.
Ultima Cumci venit jam carminis ætas. Ultima means here postrema, and prima, the fifth and last in order, and the first, that is, the returning golid
isque parentem Te, Saturne, refert ; tu sanguinis ultimus auctor.
Æn. vii, 48. Venit means is come: it is contrary to the genius of the Latin tongue to interpret it abüt. Colins follows Fabricius in giving this latter sense to the verb: it is pity he did not follow him in many other points, where he would have found him a good guide. Věnit in the present tense is, it is coming ; cènt in the præterperfect, it is come, unless when it stands for an aorist, for habe, and means, it came. Fuit indeed often denotes what was, and is not. Fuimus Troes, fuit Ilium : for, to avoid saying that a man was dead, the Romans said fuit, by an euphemismus.
Cuinceum carmen, cannot be the poem of Hesiod, for Virgil calls him Aserreum senem, and his poems Ascrieum carnem. It must be, ás Servius interprets it, Carmen Sibyllinum.
Hence we may suppose, that in Virgil's time there were said to be Sibylline oracles, which mentioned the return of the golden age, and a renovation ef happy days : but whether these oracles were forged by a Jew, or by a Pagan, or whether the substance of them were stollen from the holy Scriptures, or whether Virgil borrowed any of his ideas and expressions from these oracles, is a matter of doubt and uncertainty. It can
not be denied, that there is a great resemblance between Virgils Eclogue and the sacred prophecies. See Bp. Chandler's Def. p. 10, &c.
Virgil's fourth Eclogue is a continued prophecy, and he must be supposed, for the sake of the decorum, to have acquired this foresight one way or other, elsc the poem
ridiculous. He gives no intimation that he was himself inspired, I speak of prophetic, not of poetic inspiration ; and father Hesiod was no predicter of future events, so that from him he could not pretend to learn it. Whence thien could he feign to have it, but from old oracles, from the Cumæum carmen? If he had set up on this oceasion for a prophet, he would have spoiled his compliment; it was better to represent himself as only an interpreter of ancient prophecies, which he adorned with the graces of Latin poesy: this gave the Eclogue an air of importance and authority.
He pronounces that the golden age should commence under Augustus, and at the birth of his song and should be brought to perfection when the young hero should arrive to manhood, and when his father (as the reader was left to suppose) was returned to heaven, and become one of the celestial gods.
Virgil has touched upon the same subject in other places ; let us compare them together.
He declares, Georg. i. 24. that Augustus, when he should leave the earth, would become a god, one of the Dü majorum gentium.
Tuque adeo, quem mox que sint habitura deorum
Concilia, incertum est; dc.
Jampridem nobis cæli te regia, Cæsar,
He intimates, ver. 500, that Augustus should restore peace and happiness, and that he was intended
-everso succurrere sæc!o. Again in the vi. Æneis, the Siby', the Cumæan virgin, and prophetess, leads Æneas to Elysium, where he learns that Augustus should arise and bring with him the golden age, 792.
Hic vir, hic est, tibi quem promitti sæpius audis :
Sæcula qui rursus Latio.
Hujus in adventum jam nunc et Caspia regna
Responsis horrent dirúm— My inference from these things is, that Virgil by Cumæum Carmen meant a Sibylline oracle, but I say not that he took any thing thence, besides a renovation and a golden age.
Virgil certainly paid no sincere regard to the Sibyl, and to her predictions. The Epicurean philosophy, in his days, had debauched the wits and the polite world, and he, as well as his friend Horace, was infected with it; but Virgil saw plainly that the atheistical system would make a poor figure in heroic poetry, and therefore has introduced it sparingly and obliquely. They who deny this Epicureism are persons with whom it would be a folly to dispute.
· Not only the Sibylline oracles are to be rejected, but there is reason to suspect the Orphic verses, and also some few of the fragments of ancient poets produced by the fathers, to have been forged or interpolated by Jews or Christians. Such are the Orphic verses cited by Justin. Cohort. g 15, and by others;
Φθε γξομαι oις θέμις έσi-c. Cudworth declared his doubts concerning them, Intell. Syst. p. 300. See also Le Clerc Hist. Eccl. p. 692. Les Peres, au moins Clement Alexandrin, savoient bien
que l'on avoit attribué plusieurs choses d Orphée, qui n'en étoient point, et l'on a sujet de doubter qu'ils crussent bien assurément que le passage de l'unité de Dieu fút de lui. Ils ont pu le citer, contre ceux qui pouvoient croire qu'il en étoit effectivement, par un raisonnement, dont les Philosophes même se servent, fuute de plus propres à persuader ceux, à qui ils ont à faire, et dont ils disent; valeat quantum poterit valere. Le Clerc, Bibl. Chois. xxvii. 438.
In Eusebius Proep. Evang. xiii. 13. these orphic verses are to be found, as they were produced by Aristobulus.
An Oracle of Apollo cited by Justin, Cohort. § xi. and by Porphyrys in Eusebius Præp. Evang. ix. 10. says;
Μάνοι Χαλδαίοι (οφίην λάχον, ήδ' άρ' Εβραίοι,
Qui casto ceternum venerantur Numen honore. Here the Pagans and Porphyry were the dupes, who took this for a sacred oracle. Justin and Eusebius seem to use it as an argumentum ad hominem. Justin reads Θεόν αυτόν.
. Some have suspected, but without sufficient reason, this book of Porphyry to be forged. See a Dissertation in Le Clerc, Bibl. Chois. xiii. 178. which well deserves to be perused. The author, whom I take to have been Le Clerc himself, acts the part of a Moderator between Fontenelle, or Van Dale, and their antagonist, and upon the whole is most inclined to side