Grotius, his arguments for the truth of Christian religion rendred into plain English verse.
Grotius, Hugo, 1583-1645., Virgil. Bucolica. 4. English.
Page  152

CHAP. II. Clement's Quotation of St. Paul vindicated from Vandale's Objection; and his Authorities from Tully turned upon him.

SEveral Objections against the Authority of the Sibylline Writings have been heretofore made by Isaac Casaubon, David Blondel, and others, who are fully answered by my Learned Friend Dr. Twisden,* whose Treatise on this Sub∣ject may be sufficient to silence the most Sceptical.

But lately one Vandale a Dutch-man, who I suppose had not English enough to understand Dr. Twisden, and who has no great reason to boast of his Country Air as the most refined, re∣flects upon those who give credit to such things, as if they were;

*Boeotum in terrâ, crasso{que} sub aere nati.
"Born in a land of Dolts, and foggy Air.

I find but two Heads insisted on by Vandale, which may seem to deserve a particular Animad∣version.

1. The first is, his endeavour to prove by St. Paul himself, that he never urg'd the Sibylline, or other Ethnick Predictions.

2. The other is, Vandale's improvement of what occurs in Tully, relating to the Sibylline Predictions.

Page  1531. His authority from St. Paul is taken out of Ephes. 3.5, 6. concerning the knowledg of the mystery of Christ: one Verse of which,* leaving out the other, Vandale has taken the liberty to render,*Quod nullis aliis saeculis declaratum sit hominum generi; ut suo tempore patefactum esset Sanctis DEI Apostolis, ac Prophetis, divinâ in∣spiratione.

Which was not declared to Mankind in any other Age; that in its, or his time, it might be revealed to God's holy Apostles and Prophets, by divine Inspiration.

If this were a true Translation, it might go a great way towards his Conclusion, that the whole Mystery was reserved for the Apostles and Pro∣phets of that time.

But this differs widely from the Original.

〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, &c.*

Which in former Generations, or Ages, was not made known unto the Sons of Men, as it is now, or in this Age, revealed unto his holy Apo∣stles and Prophets, by the Spirit.

That the Gentiles should be fellow-Heirs, * and of the same body, and partakers of his Promise in Christ by the Gospel.

If any of the Sibyls wrote but within that Age wherein Christ was born, their Predictions might come within this Provision.

However 'tis evident from the Text, that God's Spirit had communicated this divine Light to the Gentiles, or at least for the benefit of them, as well as of others; and no more can be inferr'd to Vandale's purpose, than that the Spirit of Prophecy was more restrain'd in former times. Page  154 To say there were no Revelations before concer∣ning the Messiah, were to deny the holy Writ which records the Prophecies among the Jews; nay,* and that of Baalam the Moabitish Sorcerer.

Yet there is no doubt but the Apostles and Pro∣phets under the Gospel, had a more steady Light to guide them; and herein the Sibyls seem to have been far short of the Christian or Jewish Prophets.

1. That they themselves understood not the true meaning of what they spake in a Divine Fury.

2. Nor could they bring any Evidence to sa∣tisfy the World of the truth of what they fore∣told; and therefore, how clear soever the Pre∣dictions seemed by the Event, they were obscure till then, and of little or no use at first, especially incomparison with those which were uttered for the Comfort of God's People, and were often publickly attested by convincing Miracles.

3. And the People among whom they were delivered, had not those Anticipations, or Pre-dis∣positions, which might fit them for the recieving that Light. So that what would have brought clear Day to others, could make but a very little dawning with them, by reason of that thick Darkness which encompass'd them; and upon that account their Light was to be accounted weak, as not able to disperse the Clouds which lay in the way; and by how much the stronger Rays were requisite; by so much were their illuminations the more imperfect.

*2. The second Head observable in Vandale is, what he urges out of Tully, who, in his first Page  155 Book of Divination, represents his Brother Quin∣ctius his Arguments to shew, that there was such a thing as a fore-knowledg of future Contin∣gences; for which Tully owns, that he brought many (a) clear and illustrious Instances known among the Romans.

Being to answer his Brothers Arguments he says; He (b)affirms nothing, in all things is only upon the enquiry, for the most part doubts, and distrusts himself, or his own Arguments.

And that which he seems most to triumph in, is,* rather a cavilling at the definition of Divina∣tion given by his Brother, than a disproving the possibility that the Gods should certainly fore∣know what is to come to pass, and communi∣cate that knowledg to Men, without destroying the nature of Contingency by any compelling necessity.

1. When he comes to object against the Au∣thority of the Sibylline Writings, one Objecti∣on, is their obscurity,* and the uncertainty of Time, Person, or the like, to which they may be applied: But in this Vandale and I, may say all Disputers against these since our Saviour's time, are so far from agreeing with Cicero, that the Ob∣jection most commonly insisted on, is, their clear∣ness, and certainty.

2. Another is, that the Acrosticks, in which sort of Verse the Predictions, or most of them, were wrote,* shew them to be rather the Effect of Art and Diligence, than of Incitation and Fury: As if that Power which inspired the Sibyl, Page  156 could not as well do it in that manner, as in one more negligent: Besides, it could not derogate from the Prediction, if the substance of what was imprinted on the Mind, from whatever Spi∣rit, was afterwards regularly digested; if this were before what was foretold came to pass.

3. The last Objection is against the Faithful∣ness of the Officers, who were entrusted with this their sacred Possession.

One of the Predictions, which in Tully's time was pronounced as fitting for the occasion on which they were then consulted, being that men∣tioned by Grotius.*

Quem re verâ Regem habebamus, appellandum: quo{que} esse Regem si salvi esse vellemus.

That he who in truth was our King, ought to be called or owned for King, if we would be safe, or sav'd.

Tully, who was an Enemy to the name of King, s••ys,

Cum Antistitibus agamus, ut quidvis potius ex illis libris quam Regem proferant:

Let us manage the matter so with the Offi∣cers, that they poduce out of those Books any thing rather than a King.

*Upon this enlarges, as if it were a meer trick of State, and that the Officers made the Sibyls speak what should be thought for the advantage of the Senate, to whom the Verses were to be first shewn; wherefore, says he, Cato, who durst not wholly tax them of Fiction, would have them seen by the People first: ad∣mit this to have been never so true, yet it can signifie nothing here, in relation to those Verses which so plainly describe our Saviour, as shews Page  157 that they could not be counterfeited to serve any Interest of their State.

Besides, no more can be inferr'd from Tully's words, than that the Officers, among those which were the true Verses, took out such as they thought fit for the present occasion: not was more implied in Cato's demand, which had took effect, than that 'twas reasonable the Peo∣ple, as well as the Senate, should have a Judg∣ment of what was fit then to be divulg'd, lest they should be kept from the knowledg of what might be of great benefit to them: and this (c)Dion shews that Cato aimed at.

But notwithstanding all that Cicero urges for disputation sake,* I conceive his Letters to Lentu∣lus shew, that he did not contemn the Sibylline Writings.

Ptolomy, King of Egypt, was forc'd to fly to Rome for Protection against his Rebellious Sub∣jects: having been there for some time, and be∣ing made acquainted with a Prediction,* which he thought fore-told, that he should be carried back into his Kingdom without Arms, he prest hard, and bribed high, to have this effected for him. Dion, who lived about 200 Years after, says, that it was contained in the Sibyls Books;

If a King of Egypt come wanting Aid, do not de∣ny him Friendship, but help him with no Forces; for if you do, you will have trouble and danger.
And to the same purpose the Poet Lucan, who died Anno Christi, 65, had it before.*

Haud equidem immerito Cumanae carmine vatis*
Cautum, ne Nili Pelusia tangeret ora,
Hesperius Miles—.
Page  158Th'Italian Souldiers of Egyptian Air,
Cumaean Sibyl justly bids beware.

This either was the opinion of the Priests upon the words of the Prediction, or else was the account spread after the Birth of Christ, whose carrying into Egypt exactly agrees with Tully's account of this Prediction, which was, That a King should be carried into Egypt with∣out a multitude,* and was never verified in any other, than this Spiritual King. It being thought that Ptolemy was the Person design'd by the Pre∣diction, there was great striving for the Honour of executing the purpose of the Gods in carry∣ing him home.

This Lentulus was very ambitious of, and had a former Decree of the Senate on his side: Cicero lays a project for his performing this,* which was, that he should place Ptolemy at Pto∣lemaic, or some neighbouring place, from whence he should go to Alexandria with a Navy and Army, and when he had setled it in peace and well garison'd it, then Ptolemy might return into his Kingdom. Ita fore ut per te restituatur, quem∣admodum Senatus initio censuit, & sine multitu∣dine reducatur, qoemudmodum bominer religiosi Sibylla placere dixerunt.

So he may be restored by you, as the Senate at first decreed, and may be brought back with∣out a multitude, as the religious men said it plea∣ses the Sibyl.

And what was Cicero's Opinion concerning this matter, appears by a passage in his fourth Epistle to Lentulus.*

Page  159 Nemo est qui nesciut, quo minus discessio fieret per adversarios tuos esse fuctum, qui nunc Populi Romani nomine, re autem verâ sceleratissimo la∣trocinio: si quae conabuntur agere satis provisam est, ut ne quid Salvis auspiciis, aut Legibus, um etiam sine vi, agere possint.

No Man is ignorant that your departure is stopt by your Adversaries, who use the name of the People of Rome to cover the most infamous Robbery: If they attempt any thing, sufficient care is taken to make it known, that nothing can be done without contemning the Prophecy, and the Laws, and indeed without force.

Where he charges Lentulus his Opposers as the most wicked Robbers, or Invaders of that Right, which he looks upon as given hith by the Pre∣diction, and the Law, meaning the first Decree of the Senate; and tells Lentulus that he had ac∣quainted the People with this.

'Tis very improbable that Cicero (as Vandale would have him) look'd upon Religion but as a Pretence, when he himself uses its Authority:* in∣deed he says 'twas the Opinion of the Common People, that Religion was but pretended in the business.

But herein is demonstration, that Cicero thought the Sibilline Writings sacred, in that he opposed Cato's pressing to have the Verses relating to that occasion publish'd, as nefarious, or prophane; and of such a nature, that the fear of it diverted him from the immediate service of his Friend, as what was of much less consequence.

Page  160*Nos, says he, cum maxime Concilio, studio, la∣bore, gratiâ, de causâ regiâ niteremur; subito ex∣orta est nefaria Catonis promulgatio, quae nostra studia impediret, & animos a minore curâ ad sum∣mum timorem traduceret, &c. Catoni quidem quo∣quo modo sefe res habeat profecto resistimus.

When we were using our utmost endeavours, by Counsel, study, labour, favour, in the Cause of the King; of a sudden Cato's nefarious pro∣mulgation hapned; which gave us an interrup∣tion, and diverted our minds from a less care, to a Fear of the highest nature, &c.

What ever is the consequence of it as to our affair, I think it my duty to resist Cato.

These Passages compared together, make it e∣vident, that Cicero was far from contemning the Sibylline Writings: but admit he slighted them never so much, yet no Man can evade those Testi∣monies which he involuntarily gave to Christiani∣ty, in shewing, that before Christ was born there were Predictions preserved in the Capitol, and published in Rome, which spake,

1. Of a King, whom Men ought to own for their King, if they will be saved.

2. Of a King to be carried into Egypt with∣out a Multitude; which could not agree with King Ptolemy,* for he was carried thither by Ga∣binius, with a powerful Army, which beat out Archelaus, whom the Egyptians had set up for King.