Grotius, his arguments for the truth of Christian religion rendred into plain English verse.
Grotius, Hugo, 1583-1645., Virgil. Bucolica. 4. English.
Page  [unnumbered] Page  143


Concerning Prophcies and Predicti∣ons, particularly the Sibyls, and the foregoing Translation of what Virgil rehearses out of the Cumaean Sibyls Verses.*〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉. Despise not Prophesy∣ings: Or rather, reckon not as if there are no true Prophecies.

CHAP. I. Of the Importance of Prophecies for confirmation of the Christian Religion; how the Sibyline Verses were preserved, and the Primitive Chri∣stians justified in their Appeals to them. Their Authority confirm'd, by a Passage cited as St. Paul's, by Clement of Alexandria.

OF all the Arguments excellently urg'd by Grotius, and but enervated by my Rythms, there is none which seems more undeniably to enforce the belief of a Deity, and the Religion which Christ Jesus taught Page  144 Mankind, than the Evidence that there have been, at least in some Ages of the World, such Predictions as have manifested a fore-knowledg of those future Events, of which it was impossi∣ble to have the least intimation from any Cause, or Sign, appearing only by natural Light; and that such an one as the blessed Jesus, had been fore-shewn, and was accordingly expected, about that time when he first convers'd among Men.

Numbers not injudicious, may be impos'd upon with appearances seemly miraculous, either by a Confederacy, flight of hand, or natural Ma∣gick, in applying the occult Qualities of things new and strange.

But it must evidently be beyond all humane Power, to know future things in their remote Causes, the Causes themselves not existing till many Ages after; nay, where the Causes act ar∣bitrarily, and consequently the Effects are wholly contingent.

Whether the Instruments of conveying to Mankind the notices of such things, were actu∣ated by good or bad Spirits, is not of any Conse∣quence here; since if they were bad, it shews the influence of a superiour Being, which makes the very Devils subservient to that Power, which was to destroy their Kingdom.

And it cannot but be look'd upon as a great Mercy and Providence of God, that he not only left witness of himself among the Jews,* in those Prophecies, which sufficiently pointed out the Time, Place, Person, and Character of the Messi∣ah. But that the Gentiles might have no pre∣tence that these were Juggles, and a meer Con∣spiracy against their ancient and establish'd Rites, Page  145 he so ordered it, That the Roman Capitol should become a Sanctuary, and Depository of these Di∣vine Truths; That there the Sibylline Writings, which describe that pacific Prince, who was to be born of a Virgin, so clearly, that thence is now taken the main Objection against their Authori∣ty; should be preserved with that care, which might prevent all manner of scruples with un∣bias'd minds, against those mighty Testimonies to Christianity.

To those therefore the Primitive Fathers, (a)Justin Martyr,(b)Clement of Alexandria,(c)Tertullian, and Origen, even the last of which was born within the second Certury, appeal'd in their Disputes with the Heathens, or Apologies for themselves. (d)Celsus his Objection, That the Christians had inserted many, and blasphe∣mous things into the Sibyls Books, is so far from an Objection that ought to weigh with us; that it is a Confirmation of our Faith, and that those Writings contained such things of one to be born into the World, as the Heathens accounted it Blas∣phemy to ascribe to any but their Gods, or the great Jove, or Jehova.

Origen's Challenge, for Celsus to shew what the Christians had inserted, not being answered, were of it self a sufficient disproof of this Ca∣lumny: but 'tis strange it should be taken up by Christians now, especially by the Learned (e)I∣saac Vossius, who in the main defends the Sibyl∣line Writings; for what ever may have been ad∣ded through the officious, or mistaken Zeal of any Christians since, 'tis highly improbable that it should have been so in Celsus his time, or as long as the Capitol stood, to which the Heathens Page  146 would certainly have resorted; to falsifie the Quotations made by the Christians, if they had not been exactly true. Not can it be imagin'd how the Christians should at any time, after the birth of our Saviour, till the (b) burning of the Capitol, which was about the Year of Christ 395, be able to thrust in any spurious Copies a∣mong those which were received by the Hea∣thens.

For before our Saviour's birth, (c)Augustus had made a Collection of those Books of the Sibyls, which upon examination were found au∣thentick; these were laid up in two gilded Hut∣ches, under the foot of a Pillar in the Temple of Palatine Apollo, where they were preserved as the most (d) sacred Possession which they had. And whereas at first two, and after that ten, were appointed the Keepers and Priests of those scat∣ter'd Oracles, which they had formerly gathered together, fifteen had the Charge of this new Collection; and in all Emergencies of State, or portentous Accidents, these Quindecemvirs con∣sulted the fatal Books, as they call'd them, by the Decree of the Senate, and without such De∣cree these Officers were not to acquaint the Peo∣ple with any Verse there.

Nay, there was great care taken that they might not be cheated with new, or false Copies; when in Tiberius his time,*Caninius Gallus, one of the Quindecemvirs, press'd for a Decree of the Senate, for having a Book then found, treasured among the other Writings of the Sibyls (whether Page  147 there was but one, or more, Tacitus, who relates it, would not determine.) Tiberius tells him by Letter, that he was ignorant what was the an∣cient Custom upon such a discovery, which was, to have every Verse read and weighed in full Se∣nate before it was received, and then the matter was to be left to the Priests, that they might use all possible humane means for discerning the true from false.

That the Christians therefore could not cheat them in this matter, and would have been dis∣proved by authority of the Senate, if they made any false Quotations, cannot be doubted.

The only Question remaining is, How the Christians could come by any of these Writings, which were kept with so much caution, that none were admitted to them but the immediate Offi∣cers intrusted with them, nor could they publish them without a Decree from the Senate: And further yet, as it is in Tiberius his Letter menti∣oned by Tacitus, Augustus made a Law,* That whenever any Copy of such Writings should occur, it should within a day be carried to the Pretor, or Mayor of the City, and that no pri∣vate Person should retain any by him.

Notwithstanding all which, it is easily suppo∣sable that the Christians, and others, might have made large Collections of those Predictions which were there treasured up: And Augustus his De∣cree seems to concern only what look'd like Ori∣ginals, or were Copies from other parts, of which they had nothing in the Capitol.

But in Tully's time the Sibylline Writings were in all peoples hands, and some seem to have Page  148 made a trade of (e) telling Fortunes by them, with the help of Lots.

*And Tully takes notice of a Decree of the Se∣nate against the reading of those Books, as obso∣lete, and antiquated; But thinks it reasonable that this Decree should be revived to prevent Su∣perstition; but then there was no restraint to keep Tully, and the other Enquirers of that Age, from satisfying their Curiosity about these;* And several of their Verses are mentioned in the Au∣thors of those Times, agreeably to which Lactan∣tius, who was born within the third Century, says, that the Sibylline Verses which the Christi∣ans then urg'd against the Heathens, were taken out of Tully, Varro, and other Ancients, who died before Christ was born.

And that these Verses were in many hands before the middle of the second Century after our Saviour, is evident in Justin Martyr, who im∣putes it to the prevalence of Devils, or Daemons, that the Sibylline Books, among others, were then prohibited;* yet, says he,

we not only possess them without fear, but (as you see) offer them to your view.

Which shews that the Prohibition extended only to Men of their own Rites; and the Decree against the reading of them, seems to have been revived to prevent the spreading of Christianity, not that it was always inforc'd. Justin says, Page  149 the reading of these was made capital;*

That by fear they might turn away Men that are apt to believe the knowledg of Good; and that they may keep them Slaves to themselves.

Upon three accounts it is easily to be conceiv'd, how the Sybils Verses should have been publick.

1. It might have been through the Treachery of Officers entrusted with them,* who might have privately transcribed them, as Attilius did, who was one of the two entrusted with the Collection then made, and for the breach of that Trust suffered as Parricide.

2. The occasions of consulting these Verses were very frequent and numerous; and the Ver∣ses which were then made publick were, no doubt, carefully preserv'd, and communicated from one to another.

3. Those Writings which were kept in the Capitol before Augustus his time, were for the most part Transcripts from what were recorded in several parts of Greece; from amongst these and others, Augustus made his Collection; and as it was no difficult thing to have recourse to those places, from whence any of them had been transcribed; no more was it to have sufficient Evidence, which, among the Verses so recorded, were transcribed and carried into the Capitol.

Upon which Considerations, I should think it no more strange, that many Sibylline Writings should be in the hands of Christians while the Capitol stood, agreeing with Verses there recor∣ded, than that several Copies of any Book, should agree with the same Original: and as the Chri∣stians, by quoting the Sibyls to the Heathens, shewed their assurance that the Quotations were Page  150 right, and of such Writings as the Heathens themselves received for Authorities; so their not being disproved in particular instances, shews, that that assurance was well grounded.

And this will be further evident, if any one of the Apostles at any time used these Authorities, either to Heathens, or Christians; for tho this Argument was not so necessary, that we ought to suppose the Apostles inspired to know the Con∣tents of these Verses, before they came to their hands: Yet we cannot think, that the holy Spi∣rit, which was to lead them into all Truth, would suffer them to quote any thing adulterate; nor is it to be imagined that any Christian then, could have counterfeited these Verses, and not be dis∣covered.

*Clement of Alexandria, speaking of God's Mercy, not only to the then Christians, and Jews, but to the Gentiles also, and of his having raised up Prophets among them, says,

Besides the Preaching of St. Peter, St. Paul manifests, or will manifest, the same, who says,

Observe the Sibyl how she declares one God, and the things which were to come: Take and read Histaspes, and there you will find it much more clearly and plainly of the Son of God, &c.

That this passage is not to be found among the Writings of St. Paul now extant, is not of it self of greater weight, than if any of the Primitive Christians should have mentioned some expressi∣on, or action of our Saviour's, of which a clear Tradition then ran; tho it were not recorded by any of the Evangelists: whereas St. John con∣cluding his Gospel, says;

* And there were many other things which Jesus Page  151 did, the which if they should be written every one, I suppose the World it self could not contain the Books that should be written.

'Tis evident, by the manner of the Quotation, that what Clement cites as St. Paul's words, were among them to whom he wrote, as much ac∣counted St. Paul's, as any passage which he cites from St. Peter, was thought to be his.

So that there is no more in this Objection, than that this has not been transmitted down to us, in the same manner with the rest of S. Paul's Writings.

But, circumstances considered, we are not here so much as to examine whether Clement, who mentions this, was one of integrity; but the on∣ly Question will be, Whether he, and others of that time, might have sufficient evidence, whe∣ther any Writings, which went under the name of any Apostle, were in truth his whose name they then bore? Nor can there be any great Question of this here, if we consider, that Cle∣ment finish'd his Book in the time of the Em∣perour Severus, who died Anno Christi 212, St. Paul died about the Year 67 or 69;* so that here were but 145 Years at the most, to preserve the Tradition, and not 100 to Clement's being of years of understanding; and Polycarp, a Disciple of one of the Apostle, lived till the year of Christ 168. so that, with him at least, Clement,* and others then alive, might have conversed, and possibly with some of St. Paul's own Followers.

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.

Page  161

CHAP. III. What is offered in the two foregoing Chapters, confirm'd by Virgil's fourth Eclogue, and the Translation of it asserted.

THat the first was meant of the Salvation of Mankind, by one, whom all ought to own for King, can be no question to any who shall impartially consider the first Eclogue of Virgil in the Original, or my Essay towards a Translation of it; which, tho it lose much of the Spirit by the Transfusion, I shall here justify to be so far true, that there is nothing inserted or varied from the genuine import of Virgil's Expressions, to make the Prediction more plainly to denote our Saviour, than Virgil's account makes it.

Tho Vandale thinks it a meer Dream that Vir∣gil, or others,* were permitted the Inspection of the Sibylline Verses through Augustus his favour,* yet elsewhere he owns, that tho the Books were not to be consulted without a Decree of the Senate; yet in Jul. Caesar's time the Officers made an inspecti∣on by the sole Authority or Direction of Caesar, who was Emperour, and Chief Pontif: And if in this the ancient course of expecting the Senate's Decree was broken, why might not Augustus as well break the other, and order that a private Person should have the inspection?

But however Vandale himselfe owns,* that these Verses were disperst through all Grecia, Asia, Africa, and other Regions, when Augustus made Page  162 his Collection; and where Virgil saw them is not greatly material here, but that he had seen Verses which pass'd for Cumaean Sibyl's, and wrote to one who is presumed not to have been unac∣quainted with them, appears, when he says;

Ʋltima Cumaei venit jam carminis aetas.

Nor can Pollio well be thought to have been a Stranger to the Predictions of the Sibyls, being the first,* who, by Augustus his order, afterwards made a publick Library at Rome; which must have been, as he was thought the fittest for such a charge.

The Commentators seem industriously to cast a Cloud over Virgil's Representation of the Pre∣diction, which he mentions to Pollio: and will have it that this Poem was made to celebrate the Birth of Pollio's Son, that some Eclogues are ap∣plied by Virgil to Pollio himself, others to Au∣gustus, the rest to the Son of Pollio.

Where they seem to mind neither the time when it was wrote, the manner of the Expressi∣ons, nor the contexture of the Poem, which of one of the most noble and best turn'd that Vir∣gil ever wrote, they would make confused, and unworthy any Man of Judgment.

The Poem it self shews, that 'twas composed in Pollio's Consulship, which was in the Year 713,* after the building of Rome, about 14 before Christ, this was during the Triumvirat of Octa∣vius, Anthony, and Lepidus; wherefore I cannot think that there is any ground to believe, that Virgil spake otherwise, than only of what should happen in Pollio's Consulship, when he says,

Page  163
Te Duce, si qua manent sceleris vestigia nostri,
Irrita perpetuâ solvent formidine terras.

This indeed a great Poet has rendred,

"The Father banish'd Vertue shall restore,*
"And Crimes shall threat the guilty World "no more.

And the Commentators take Te Duce, to be the same with Te Authore, and that Virgil means either Augustus, or Pollio, and the Crimes to be the Civil Wars, between Augustus and Anthony at Mutina: whereas this was before Octavius took the name of Augustus; nor is there any thing to lead to him here: Besides, Octavius and Anthony were reconciled at least the Year before Pollio's Consulship, and Pollio was on Anthony's side while the division lasted;* so that there is no colour to think that Virgil meant that Pollio was to compose the Civil War after it was over, or to impute to him the Success of the opposite Party.

There were more of colour in the Supposition,* that Pollio being one of the three, who were ap∣pointed to divide the Lands of some, who were Criminals in opposing Octavius his having the Command of the Army, tho decreed by the Se∣nate: Virgil, having been connived at by Pollio, thanks him for freeing him from the fear of what he might justly have expected to suffer; yet I question whether Virgil would term one the Author of what he did, as joint Commissioner with others; nor would he upon such an account say,

Page  164Perpetuâ solvent formidine terras.

As if the whole Earth were concerned in Vir∣gils Fears.

And by attending to the time when this was wrote, we find that

—tuus jam regnat Apollo.


*Pacatum{que} reget patriis virtutibus Orbem,
could not be meant of Augustus, who assumed not that name till the Battel of Actium was over, which was about the Year of Rome 718, five Years after Pollio's Consulship, when this Poem was wrote.

2. If we observe the manner of the Expressi∣ons, we shall find, that whereas Pollio's Son is re∣puted the chief Subject of the Poem; how much soever a Poet may be allowed to strain his Characters, no Man can imagine that Virgil would ascribe such high and mighty things to the Son of a Consul, when he was little more than Titular, under the check of the Triumvirs; durst he call him the Offspring of the Gods, the great encrease of Jove, and suppose that he should re∣store the Golden Age, and that Heaven it self expects support from him? this would have been no less than Crimen laesae Majestatis.

But to put this out of Controversy, 'tis all applied to one who was expected to be born; when the Commentors will have it in celebrati∣on of Pollio's Son's Birth.

3. If we observe the Connexion of one Verse to another.

Page  165It appears that Decus-evi, the Grace, or Glory of that Age, who was to restore the Age of Gold, was expected to be born during Pollio's Consulship, that while he was Consul the Sins of Mankind were to be taken away; nor can any think it supposed to be done by any other, than by him who is called the great encrease of Jove, who was to ascend into Heaven, and to govern the World with his Father's Vertues, which I may well render by expressing his Father.

The Clouds being thus removed, these Parti∣culars appear with a clear Light.

1. That the Cumaean Sybil spake of a Virgin,* which might then perhaps be thought meant of Astraea, because of the glorious things said of her.

2. That there was expected a wonderful Re∣volution, a Restauration, of the state of Inno∣cence, or Golden Age, such as the Poets fancied to have been in Saturn's Reign, and in truth was under the Primitive Theocracy.

3. That this was to be at the Birth of a Man-Child, to whom are ascribed such things as no poetical License, without warrant from a Prophe∣cy or Prediction, could excuse.

And tho I may seem to strain, where I call him (the Rythm requiring it) Earth's King, nothing less can be implied from,

Pacatum{que} reget patriis virtutibus orbem,
Aggredere, ô magnos, aderit jam tempus, ho∣nores.
Adspice convexo mutantem pondere mundum,
Terras{que} Tractatus{que} Maris Coelum{que} pro∣fundum.
Adspice, venturo laetentur ut omnia sacla, &c.

Page  166Where the Poet invites him to enter upon his appointed Honour, or Office, of governing the World, nay, and Heaven it self.

Could these things be with any colour ascribed to the Son of Pollio? Nay: and does he not sup∣pose him to be more than Man, not only where he says,

Ille Deum vitam accipiet, &c.
Chara Deum soboles—

But more plainly, where he calls him,

—Magnum Jovis incrementum:

Where the Increase of Jove seems to shew, that tho he had an Hypostasis, or Personality, di∣stinct from the Great God, yet is one God with him, Jove being spread out or encreas'd, with another Person, but his Godhead undivided.

With those Divine Mysteries which Virgil re∣ports from the Sybil, he seems to joyn some poe∣tical Flourishes of his own, as that the Earth should pay this Infant an early Tribute of its Stores; that when he grows up the Oak should yeild Honey; and that when he is arrived to Manhood, Nature should die the Flocks with the most pleasing Colours without the help of Art, and the like.

But I know not but another part, which is in∣terpreted of a fancied Platonical Revolution, may have a truly moral Signification.

Pauca tamen suberunt veteris vestigia fraudis,
Alter erit tum Tiphys, &c.

Page  167Where this may seem not so much to fore∣tell from Prophetical Inspiration, as by a moral Judgment; that tho former Sins were purged a∣way, yet that would not remove the capacity of sinning, but that the same, or like Crimes and Fol∣lies, should be in the World again, till the subject of the Prophecy should come to maturity.

Hinc ubi jam firmata virum te fecerit eras.

Which might be rendred; Till the perfect Age of the Church. And this perhaps a Millena∣ry would apply, as a Prediction of Christ's Reign, at his return to the Earth before the general Re∣surrection.

But waving what may be doutful, or wholly poetical; what has been here said, together with the account how carefully the Sybils Prophecies were kept, and examined by the Romans, and with the Justification of the Primitive Christians in their Appeals to them; may satisfy any Man, who impartially considers, that Virgil's fourth Eclogue is, in the main, an account of the Cu∣maean Sybil's Prediction, of such an one ex∣pected to be born about that time, as Christians maintain, and none could ever with any colour deny, the Author of their Faith to have been.

That this account was wrote before the Birth of our Saviour, can be no question, unless we will think that some Christian, was not only Poet good enough to counterfeit Virgil's Vein, but had the art to slide it in so well, and so early, that none should be able to discover the Cheat, by shewing any Copies wherein this was omit∣ted. And besides, all this Artifice would have Page  168 been to no purpose, unless at the same time he could have prevailed upon the Keepers of the Sybilline Writings in the Capitol, to let some Verses be foisted in to countenance the matter.

For tho this Account was given by Virgil be∣fore Augustus made his Collection; yet we should have heard of it before now, if there had been nothing in the Capitol to warrant Vir∣gil's Quotations.

And in truth, the lewd Interpretations which have been put upon this Poem, shew, that 'twas thought more easy to cast a blind, by making Virgil write with unallowable poetical License, and without any manner of coherence, than to gain Credit in the denial that this Poem was Virgil's. If they believ'd their own Interpretati∣ons; we may well say, 'twas because they thought of no Person to whom they might apply the Character, which no Man, after reading the Scriptures, and Grotius, can deny to belong to our Saviour, and to him only.

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