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comme d'un être invisible, dont la nature leur étoit incon nue, et qui avoit créé le soleil même et les étoiles. Ils croyoient aussi l'immortalité de l'ame, et avoient même une idée confuse de la résurrection, à ce que dit Garcilasso de la Vega.—Supposé que ce qu'il dit soit véritable, on peut dire qu'une société idolâtre comme celle-là étoit incomparablement meilleure que ne le seroit une société d'athées.-Ceux qui n'ont pas encore lû cette histoire seront charmez de l'excellente police des Peruviens, de la charité qu'ils avoient pour les pauvres, les veuves et les orphelins, et de l'innocence de leurs mœurs, à les considérer comme des peuples destituez des lumières de la révélation. Il y aura même bien des gens, qui seront plus édifiez des vertus morales des Américains, destituez des lumières du ciel, que des vertus théologiques des Espagnols, qui sont, comme ils le croyent, les meilleurs Chrétiens du monde.' Le Clerc, Bibl. Chois. v. p. 380.
Bayle, after having showed us the worst side of Paganism, proceeds to insult Christianity, and to tell us, that a nation consisting of true Christians must soon perish, and could not maintain itself against its irreligious neighbours; which doctrine is also retailed in that flagitious and detestable book, called The Fable of the Bees.' And how does this appear? Is it because Christianity makes a man a poltroon? He does not pretend to say that: but because, according to the Gospel, self-defence is unlawful, stratagems in war are crimes, merchandising is wickedness, and riches and honours are prohibited. They who talk thus show that they understand not, or will not understand, either the strong and figurative style of the scriptures, or the rational methods of interpreting them, or the true nature of virtues and vices.
If this author proposed to himself 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 scripture 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 et Socrati? qui ut rationem non redderent, auctoritate tamen hos minutos philosophos vincerent. Jubet igitur Plato, sic ad somnum proficisci corporibus affectis, ut nihil sit, quod errorem animis perturbationemque afferat.-Quum ergo est somno sevocatus animus a societate, et a contagione corporis, tum meminit præteritorum, præsentia cernit, futura prævidet: jacet enim corpus-viget animus: quod multo magis faciet post mortem-itaque appropinquante morte multo est divinior.-Divinare autem morientes, etiam illo exemplo confirmat Posidonius-Idque facilius eveniet appropinquante morte, ut animi futura augurentur. Ex quo et illud est Calani, de quo ante dixi, et Homerici Hectoris, qui moriens propinquam Achilli mortem denuntiat.' De Divin. i. 30.
The Pagans had also an opinion, that the good wishes and the imprecations of parents were often fulfilled, and had in them a kind of divination. Read the story of Phoenix 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. Πᾶς δὲ νοῦν ἔχων φοβεῖται καὶ τιμῇ γονέων ἐυχὰς, εἰδῶς πολλοῖς καὶ πολλάκις ἐπιτελεῖς 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 "Præparatio Evangelica,' 1. iv. v. vi. He produces such arguments as tend to show 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 arti
fice and knavery. He then produces the arguments of Diogenianus against divination. But Eusebius, as also all the antient Christians, was of opinion, that with these human frauds there might have been sometimes a mixture of dæ moniacal tricks. Pr. Ev. vii. 16. He then argues against the oracles from the concessions and the writings of Pagans. He shows 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 'Aλa' orav, But when,' which is an odd setting out. Thus in Herodotus,
̓Αλλ ̓ ὅταν ἡμίονος-1. 55.
̓Αλλ ̓ ὅταν ἐν Σίφνῳ-iii. 57.
In the Oracula Vetera,
Αλλ ̓ οἱ μὲν καθύπερθε
In imitation of which style, we find in the Sibylline oracles, and in the beginning of a sentence,
̓Αλλ ̓ ὁπόταν μεγάλοιο Θ
And so in many places of that collection, which I shall not transcribe.
Hence Aristophanes,--in banter, I suppose, 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: Equit. 197. ̓Αλλ ̓ ὁπόταν μάρψῃ βυρσαίετος ἀγκυλοχείλης Γαμφηλῃσι δράκοντα κοάλεμον, αἱματοπώτη Νὴ τότε Παφλαγόνων μὲν ἀπόλλυται ἡ σκοροδάλμη Κοιλιοπώλησιν δὲ Θεὸς μέγα κῦδος ὀπάζει, Αἴκεν μὴ πωλεῖν ἀλλᾶντας μᾶλλον ἕλωνται.
'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 sausagemongers to the highest honours, if they will but leave off their trade, and sell no more puddings.'
Lucian also, De Morte Peregrini,' gives us two oracles made upon the death of that knave, who burnt himself publicly, the one by a seeming friend, the other by a foe. The first was ascribed to the Sibyl, who was the Mother Shipton of the antients:
̓Αλλ ̓ ὁπόταν Πρωτεὺς Κυνικῶν ὄχ ̓ ἄριστος ἁπάντων
'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 second was fathered upon Bacis, the Nostradamus of his times :
̓Αλλ ̓ ὁπόταν Κυνικὸς πολυώνομος ἐς φλόγα πολλὴν
'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-foxes, 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 show 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 'A' Tav. 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 shows 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 antient instructors the Ægyptians,-like the thief who stole a statue of Mercury, and told the god,
Πολλοὶ μαθηταὶ κρείσσονες διδασκάλων.
The Egyptians, says this author, were the first who had knowledge of the gods, and built them temples, &c. and from them the Assyrians learned these things. Herodotus and Diodorus Siculus say the same. Lucian. de Dea Syr. § 2. Ἔνι δὲ καὶ θεοὶ δὲ κάρτα αὐτοῖσι ἐμφανέες. ἱδρώει͵ γὰρ δὴ ὧν παρὰ σφίσι τὰ ξόανα, καὶ κινέεται καὶ χρησμηγορέει καὶ βοὴ δὲ πολλάκις ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ νηῷ, κλεισθέντος τοῦ ἱροῦ, καὶ πολλοὶ ἤκουσαν. 'Sunt autem-præsentes valde iis Dii. Sudant enim apud illos simulacra, et moventur, atque edunt oracula. Clamor etiam sæpe in æde multis exaudientibus ortus cum clausuni esset templum.'