Grotius, his arguments for the truth of Christian religion rendred into plain English verse.
Grotius, Hugo, 1583-1645., Virgil. Bucolica. 4. English.
*HE whom these Arguments, or others, move
As true, and best, Christianity t'approve,
Would he the knowledg of it's Precepts gain,
Must search those sacred Scriptures which obtain
Page 55The name of Testament, or Cov'nant, new;
Where we the whole of this Relig'ion view:
For this we should not scruple to receive,
What Christi'ans always hold that they believe:
To Men of ev'ry Sect we Credit pay,
As to the Books they shew us of their way:
And thus the Alcoran is justly thought,
To shew what Doctrines Mahomet has taught.
Since then the Truth of Christ's Religion's known;
And that lies in the Books the Christi'ans own;
If any a more special Proof require,
We them t'admit this equal Rule, desire,
That they who any Writing will oppose,
With which for sev'ral Ages Men did close,
Are bound those Arguments first to maintain,
Which may impeach the Credit that did gain,
Till which, of full Authority it must remain.
The Books in which no Christians disagree,*
To which some certain Names affixt we see,
To have been wrote by those whose Names they bear,
The Writers of succeeding times declare;
Thus Justin, Irenaeus, Clement, shew,
With other Men of Ages that ensue,
That all the sacred Books were titled true.
Add farther, as Tertullian does declare,
Some of th'Orig'inals in his time were fair:
And ev'ry Christian Church the same did own,
Ev'n before Councils to unite them, known.
Nor did the Jews, or Pagans, ever doubt,
But they were theirs, whose Names they bear about.
Julian confest in terms by no means dark,
That Peter, Paul, with Matthew, Luke, and Mark,
Page 56Were Authors of those Books which bear their Names;
Thus he but his own want of Wit proclaims,
Who doubts of what both Greeks and Romans thought,
T'have been by Homer, or grave Virgil, wrote:
More on that Evidence should we rely,
Which almost ev'ry Nation does supply.
*Yet does the Volume now in use, contain
Books, which at first did not like Credit gain;
Thus 'twas with one which we St. Peter's call,
The same did those of James and Jude befal:
And thus with two, which the like late consent,
From John, the Elder sty'd, supposes sent.
Th' Apocalyps as doubtful has been thought,
And the Epistle to the Hebrews wrote:
Howe'r that many Churches them receiv'd,
And sacred their Authority believ'd,
Appears, in that Christi'ans who first did write,
Them, as of such Authority, do cite;
Which may in reason well be thought to shew;
Of some, nothing at first, some Churches knew;
Howe're the Truth being set in a clear light,
They did with others in their use unite:
Nor was there any cause in these to cheat;
For without them the System were compleat,
The self-same Doctrine they do but repeat.
*Nor should th'Epistle to the Hebrews wrote;
Or two reputed Johns, be spurious thought,
Or the Apocalyps of doubtful Fame
'Twixt John th'Apostle, and one of his Name:
Page 57The quality of Books is most esteem'd:
Some Histories have been authentick deem'd,
Whose Authors never did themselves declare;
Thus the Account o'th' Alexandrian War,
Does with a gen'ral Reputati'on pass,
Since part of what he writes the Author plainly was.
So since the Authors of the Books we cite,
Liv'd in the very times of which they write,
And as they add themselves, partakers were
Of Gifts, which fell to an Apostle's share;
It is enough our full belief to gain:
If any say these qualities they feign,
And to some Books fictiti'ous names did give:
They urge what none that think can e're believe;
As if who preach up Truth, and Piety,
Should venture without any cause to lie,
Which not all good Men only, would refuse,
But to forbid by Law the Romans chuse.
The Books which the new Cov'nant, then,* declare,
Were doubtless wrote by them, whose Names they bear.
Or such, at least, as they themselves profess:
And, what there is like reason to confess,
The things of which they wrote the Authors knew,
Nor could desire to mix what was untrue:
For Falshood we no other grounds receive,
Than Ign'rance, or intention to deceive.
Matthew, John, Peter, Jude, were known of those,
Whom Christ t'attest his words, and Actions chose;
And therefore needs must know the things they tell,
And this to James may be apply'd as well,
Page 58Be'ing an Apostle, or to Christ of kin,
And Bishop of Jerusalem had bin,
Advanc'd by the Apostles to that See.
St. Paul from Error must have been as free,
When what he learn'd from Christ he did declare,
Being rapt above the Regions of the Air:
To him, or Luke, who always clos'd his side,
For what Christ did, Faith ought not be deny'd:
That Luke did know, 'tis easy to suppose,
What of our Saviour's Life and Death he shows;
Being born hard by, and having travell'd o're
The places Christ had visited before,
And had, Eye-witnesses of what he writes
Often consulted, as himself recites;
Many with whom he Friendship did contract
Besides Apostles, could attest the Fact,
Some whose Diseases at Christ's word had fled,
Who saw him living after being dead.
If Tac'itus, and Suetoni'us, are believ'd,
In things which happ'ned long before they liv'd,
Because they're diligent Enquirers thought;
Rather should one esteem what Luke has wrote.
Of Mark a constant Fame is known to pass,
That he Companion to St. Peter was,
And what he wrote should have the like esteem,
As if St. Peter dictated to him:
And farther hardly any thing is there,
But what th'Apostles Writings do declare:
Nor could the Writer of the things (a) reveal'd,
When God large folds of Providence unseal'd,
Have been impos'd upon in what he saw;
Or he, who wrote (b) to them o'th' Jewish Law,
In what he says from th' holy Spirit came,
Or the Apostles witnessing the same.
That they to cheat with Lies could not design,*
Mention'd before, we always should subjoin,
When we would reinforce that Law divine,
Which from our preaching King at first was spred,
With his return to life from being dead.
Who Witnesses of ill intent'ion blame,
The grounds of such their ill intent'ion name;
Here can be none: If any say they feign,
That they the cause they manag'd might maintain.
For such a cause why should they so contend,
Which no advantage here could recommend?
Nor did they any dangers thereby shun,
For that alone they did all hazards run,
And, as to wordly Goods, were quite undone:
No Man can therefore think they chose this cause,
But in obedience to God's holy Laws;
Which would not have encourag'd Falsities,
Chiefly in that wherein Salvation lies.
So ill a charge these things with strength oppose;
The pious Doctrines which they did propose,
Their Lives unspotted, and so free from blame,
That their worst foes their Ign'rance only name,
No proper Parent of invented tale:
To shew their faithfulness this should not fail,
That their own faults they leave upon record,
That all forsook, and Peter thrice deni'd their Lord.
But God himself did witness to them bear,*
Whilst he by Wonders did their Truth declare;
On which since they, and all Men of their way,
Such mighty stress with such assurance lay,
And to the Publick Scrutiny advance
The Times, and Places, ev'ry Circumstance;
The Magistrates concern'd, did they so please,
The truth or falshood might have learnt wth ease.
Page 60This too th'assisting of Heav'n do's shew,
That many spake the Tongues they never knew,
And Pains fled suddenly in publick view.
Nor were they terrifi'd from what they prest,
To think the ruling Jews were foes profest,
Nor were the Romans less enclin'd to close
With what might them for Novelties expose.
Nay Jews and Pagans, of the Times most nigh,
That these had Wonders wrought durst not deny.
St. Peter's Mir'cles Phlegon does report,
An Annalist o'th' Emp'rour Adrian's Court:
And Christians pleading before any State,
Urge all these facts, as being past debate:
That at the Tombs of Martyrs there remain'd
A wondrous Pow'r, they publickly maintain'd;
And that throughout some Ages it did last;
Which if untrue, they might with shame be cast,
When they were put to justify their Cause,
Before Dispensers of the Civil Laws:
So frequent were the Prodigies there wrought,
Of them such uncontested Proofs were brought;
As even Porphiry himself confest.
With what's already said we well might rest;
Yet there's an heap of Arguments behind,
Which may commend those Books to 'a serious mind.
*In them are many things plainly fore-shown,
Which no Man could by nat'ral skil have known;
Th' event declaring them for God alone.
As the (a) large sudden-spreading of that way,
And that (b) no Age should see its pow'r decay,
That it should (c) be rejected by the Jews,
While Gentiles far remote obedience chuse:
What Cru'lties for Christ's Name Men should endure:
The (e) siege, and dismal ruin to invade
That (f) City, where the Jews their Worship paid;
That there the Temple should be left forlorn,
With the (g) Calamities still to be born.
Add here, if God regard our mortal state,
Chiefly in what t'his Worship does relate,
He cannot suffer Errors to abound,
Where nothing but his Honour Men propound.
But for the sacred Books this proof supplys,*
That of all Christian Sects did e're arise,
Scarce any has been found that these denys.
Some the whole Volume for authentick take,
And they who doubts concerning any make,
Others receive which do with them agree;
When yet we such warm differences see,
That what one Party for their Rule have chose,
Others would shun, if 'twere but to oppose.
Indeed some Christians did those Books disown,*
Which were against their darling notions known,
Either, who, out of hatred to the Jews,
Their God, and Law, did with reproaches use,
Or, fearing Evils Christians were to bear,
Themselves deceitfully did Jews declare.
But by all Christians these abandon'd were;
While, as they were by the Apostles taught,
No differences unkind Divisi'ons wrought,
So they did not from Piety withdraw:
These, who adult'rate thus the Christi'an Law,
May meet Conviction in what's said above,
Where that there is (a) one Deity we prove,
Nay, ev'n the Books they for authentick take,
Shew that the Hebrew God did all things make:
He was by Moses represented (c) good,
But is thro' Jesus better understood.
The other sort of Men we will confute,
Where we against the real Jews dispute.
In the mean while this wonderful may seem,
That with these Men St. Paul has no esteem:
More Churches no Apostle did erect,
And those stupendous Works he did effect,
Were then by Christians publickly maintain'd,
When they might be discover'd if they feign'd:
If it be granted Miracles he wrought,
What colourable ground can then be brought,
We should his heavenly Visions disbelieve;
Or what he says, he did from Christ receive?
But if on Christs he did so much attend,
That he would nothing teach, him to offend;
Durst he have ventur'd with a lie t'impose?
His Doctrine, most condemn'd, who can oppose,
Where, from their Ritu'al, Jews discharg'd he shows?
Nothing but Truth its self could this procure;
He (d) Circumcision did before endure:
(e) Some voluntary Proofs in him, they saw
Of def'rence pay'd unto the Jewish Law,
And to more (f) hardships did for Christ aspire,
Than did the Rigor of that Law require:
These things, by no means pleasing to the Ear,
He did to all his Followers declare;
Instead of one, the Jews no more afford,
To keep all days for (g) Sabbaths to the Lord;
(h) Instead of some small charge did them befal,
To bear with equal Mind the loss of all;
Page 63And for the Blood of Beasts, they us'd to slay,
Our own an Offering to our God to pay.
Nay he affirms, that hands with him were joyn'd
By (i)Peter, John, and James, all of one Mind;
Had it been false, he durst not this proclaim,
When they might have deny'd it to his shame.
Excepting then, those we before observ'd,
Who scarce to bear the Christi'an Name deserv'd,
The manifest consent of all beside,
Who with these Books, as sacred, have comply'd,
Joyn'd to the Miracles their Writers wrought,
And God's (k) peculiar care of such things taught;
Should be enough to quiet doubting Minds;
When for all Histories of other kinds,
Which are not of such Proofs as these possest;
No man will their Authority contest,
Unless some Reason do against them weigh,
Which none, that well considers, here can say.
If any say these Books such things contain*
Which, as impossible, no Credit gain;
It soon appears that the Objection's vain.
W'have shown above the Pow'r of the most High
In things that carry no (l) Repugnancy,
Tho they by far all humane reach exceed,
Such are the things that Admiration breed,
Those hidden Vertues Nature never knew,
And after Death seeing the Moon's renew.
Nor is there greater weight in what they move,*
Who somethings there would against Reason prove:
More Wit or Learning can such Men pretend,
Than did from the first times these Books defend?
Page 64What e're we with right Reason shew'd t'agree,
In lively Characters you there will see;
Possest of all (o) Perfection ever known,
Pow'r, Wisdom, Goodness, Life, beyond degree,
That the whole (p) Universe he caus•d to be,
That he alone (q) preserves things what they are,
But (r) chiefly Man, his more immediate care:
That he both (s) can, and will, fully reward
Those, who him only, as their End regard.
That we our (t) loose Desires should bridle in:
That all the race of Mortals are of (u) kin;
From whence an Argument of force does prove,
That we should one another truly love.
Reason's a Guide deceitful, very weak,
If to know any thing beyond we seek,
Or of God's Nature, or his Soveraign Will:
What lew'd Dissentions all the Schools did fill,
While best Philosophers betray'd their want of Skill!
Nor need this be a wonder, since we find
They little understood of humane Mind,
And how can the Supream then be defin'd?
The Prudent know, that it much danger brings
To search into the purposes of Kings;
And that the search however would be vain.
But what Conjecture can expect t'attain,
To what th'Almighty freely does ordain?
That 'tis not to be known Plato did hold,
Unless an Oracle that secret told:
But then no Oracle that ever was,
Had proofs so clear, as the new Cov'enant has:
Nor ever yet did Man attempt to prove,
That any Revelati'on from above
Page 65Did, of God's Nature, or his Will, make known
What is repugnant to what there is shown:
Some things of middle nature we may view,
Which of themselves claim'd no obedience due,
Or else in which no turpitude did stand,
Which before Christ had licence, or command;
These Books for want of such, are no less full;
Since later Laws may former disanul.
But some their doubts concerning them declare,*
Upon the disagreeing senses there:
Yet this should credit add with them that find,
How they for Faith and Doctrine are conjoyn'd,
So as in other Writings ne're was seen,
Amongst the Learn'd that ever yet have been,
Whether you Jews, or Greeks, or Romans name,
In ev'ry Science Men of greatest Fame:
Of ev'ry Sect some Men will disagree,
This we in Zenophon and Plato see:
Men from themselves are often diff'rent known,
Either forgetting what before had gone,
Or being doubtful what to fix upon:
But all those Writings which we Sacred call,
About those things to no division fall,
Which do the Rules of Faith and Life contain,
Or how Christ liv'd & dy'd, and liv'd again,
And they agree entirely in the main.
Indeed in circumstances of no weight,
We sometimes find occasion of debate;
But many things, which lie from us conceal'd,
Might all these seeming diff'rences have heal'd;
Or, that like things at diff'rent times abound,
Or Names ambiguous do the Mind confound;
Or had one Man, or Place, Names more than one;
And such-like circumstances, now unknown:
Page 66But this them from imputed fraud may free;
Who lie by compact, will in all agree.
If some slight disagreement still appear,
Which will no Reconciliati'on bear;
We ought not therefore all these Books suspect,
Unless we will all History reject;
For we as much may of that kind perceive,
In those which we without dispute receive:
Polybi'us, and Herodotus to name,
Livy, and Plutarch, Authors of great fame:
How much more equal is it not to doubt,
When it appears the Writers were devout;
And thought it criminal, things false to tell?
We by extrinsick Proofs might such refel.
*But I affirm, none such are to be found;
Unless our doubts on later times we ground,
Where Enemies the Christi'an Name would wound.
We cannot such for Witnesses receive;
Nay, foreign Proofs confirm what we believe.
That Jesus suffer'd, Jews and Heathens taught,
And that he and his Follow'rs Wonders wrought,
Some forty years from Christ Josephus wrote,
Who does in Terms the most perspic'ous own,
What was by Herod, Pilate, Festus, done;
Foelix, John Baptist, and Gamali'el names,
And how Jerusalem expir'd in Flames:
The Talmudists the same fully relate:
Tacitus tells th'effects of Nero's hate,
When he against Christi'anity did rage:
And several Books were extant in that Age,
(Such was old Phlegon's we before did name)
And publick Records menti'oning the same
Page 67To which the Christi'ans commonly appeal'd;
Nor was the Star, pointing at Christ, conceal'd:
They name the Earth-quake, and Eclipse o'th'Sun,
Against the Course in which Nature had run,
When yet the Moon at Full felt not the loss,
About the time when Christ was on the Cross.
No other difficulty I can name,*
But that the Writings are not still the same:
To fate of other Writings we must own,
To have betided these may here be shown:
The Copier's Neglect, or faulty Will,
If not his want of necessary Skill,
In Letters, Syllables, or Words, might wrong,
By change, omission, some of them too long:
But these things should no Controversy raise,
Being but incident to length of days:
But that by fraud, or any other ways,
In Doctrinals all Copies vicious were,
Or where they memorable Facts declare,
Don't or by Books, or Witness, of those times, appear.
What ever of that kind is offer'd since,
Must pass for Railing, not for Evidence.
This may be thought enough to silence those,
Who for Mutations holy Writ oppose;
On whom it lies not to object, but prove;
Since they'd a settled Reputati'on move;
But we their vain pretence may soon detect,
Who what ne'er was, nor can be, here object.
Before we prov'd, to any equal Mind,
The Books were their's whose Names affixt we find;
It follows then there was no change of Books:
And if to every part of them one looks,
Page 68No change of part materi'al can be found;
Some end who made the Change must needs propound:
That, where the Change was made, should differ more
From those remaining what they were before,
Than here the sharpest search could e're explore:
Nay, as before was in this Tract observ'd,
A wonderful Consent's throughout preserv'd:
Besides, when any of th'Apostles wrote,
Or Men who Apostolical were thought,
Sincere Professors of the Christi'an Name,
As their concern for Truth it well became,
Must needs have us'd all diligence, to gain
The valu'd Transcripts of what they maintain,
Through Europe, Asia, Aegypt, these diffus'd
(For the Greek Tongue among all these was us'd)
Could not but spread as far as Christ was known.
Consider farther, as before was shown,
That some Originals were seen to last,
Until the second Century was past:
A Book of which so many Copies were,
Preserv'd not only by a private care,
But by whole Churches which did Christ obey,
No Man to have been counterfeit can say.
Add, that 'tis evident the sacred Text
Was read in sev'ral Tongues i'th'Ages next,
The Syriac, Aethiopic, Arabic,
And Latin too, agreeing with the Greek,
In all those weighty things of which we speak.
Farther their Writings to our hands are brought,
Whom the Apostles, or their Follow'rs, taught;
Who many Passages from them do quote,
Agreeing with that Sense which now we note.
Page 69Nor in the Church was any Man possest
Of such Authority above the rest,
That they'd comply, if he a Change had prest.
This Irenaeus, and Tertullian, shew,
The Cyprian too, who without fear withdrew
From those who then were most reputed sage:
And, if we come to the succeeding Age,
We find Men of best judgments, greatest parts,
Wh'had run their Stages thro' the lib'ral Arts,
After the utmost search these to receive,
And of Orig'nal Purity believe:
In proof of this divided parties joyn;
All who believe the World a work divine,
And Christ the Founder of a sacred Law;
Each against changing would the other awe:
Nor yet did any Sect that licence take,
That to have chang'd them for their side would make;
Which hence is seen, that when e're they dispute,
Each would from thence his Opposite confute.
What's urg'd of Providence concern'd for all,
To every part of these alike will fall,
Nor ought it of our God to be believ'd,
That he would suffer Men to be deceiv'd
(In what's of greatest moment to the Mind)
Who had his Honour above all design'd,
And next the way to Happiness would find.
For many thousands such as these to run
Into those Errors which they could not shun!
This may be thought sufficient to maintain,
What the New Testament does there contain,
And there at large is our Religion seen.
Yet since th'Almighty's Pleasure it has been,
Which no small Light to our Religion bear,
'Tis not amiss to shew their Credit here.
What prov'd those other Books were titled right,
Will serve for these, where any shall deny't.
The Authors of those Books the Jews receiv'd,
Were Prophets, or most fit to be believ'd,
Such Esdras was, thought to have joyn'd in one,
Those scatter'd Books which went before alone;
When at that time some Prophets were alive,
Who would against an Impositi'on strive,
Such Haggai, Malachi, Zach'ry, were known:
To pass what was in praise of Moses shown;
Pagans confirm not only what he wrote,
But what of later times the Jews were taught:
So the Phoenician Annalists proclaim
David, and Solomon, so great in Fame,
And they their Treaties with the Tyri'ans Name.
Nebuchadonozor, with others joyn'd,
Who Caldees rul'd, we in Berosus find;
Aegyptian Vaphres, Jeremy does name,
And Aphri'es in Her'odotus, are the same.
Of Cyrus, and who follow'd in his charge
Until Darius, Graeci'ans speake at large.
And in those Books Josephus did endite,
When Appian to his way he would invite.
We many things may gather in a Throng,
Which to the Honour of the Jews belong.
And to what's mention'd here we well may add,
What we from Strabo, and from Trogus had:
But we who in our suff'ring Lord believe,
These Books without disputing should receive;
Since there is scarce a Book but ours do cite,
And so far to agree with theirs delight;
Page 71And when Christ blames the Doctors of their Law,
And what in the proud Pharisee he saw,
He never menti'ons any Change they made,
In what from any Prophet was convey'd,
Or that supposititious Books they brought,
Nor can this after Christ of them be thought:
Consid'ring how the wandring Hebrew Sheep,
Scatter'd throughout the World, these Books did keep.
Ten of the Tribes first from Assyr'ia led,
And after two, did through all Media spread;
And after Cyrus did the Jews restore,
Many did ramble Foreign Nati'ons o're,
These Men the Macedoni'ans did invite
In Alexandria to take delight:
The Cruelty Antiochus did shew,
The Civil Wars the Asmodaeans knew,
The Wars which Pompey, and which Sossius made,
Did force the Jews, in various parts to trade,
These did the Cyrenaic Region fill,
The Cities too of Asia saw their Skill;
This Macedonia, Lycaonia, knew,
The Isles of Crete, Cyprus, and others too:
That anciently at Rome they num'rous were,
Both Horace, Martial, Juvenal declare.
No Art could People, so divided, cheat;
Nor could they have conspir'd t' a Fraud so great.
Almost three hundred years e're Christ was here,
Some Kings of Egypt made their care appear
To propagate to those Books the Jews admire,
Whilst they the Seventy's Version did require:
So in like sense the Greeks did them receive,
Whence with a change 'twas harder to deceive:
The Language which we from Caldeans take,
And that which at Jerusalem they spake,
Page 72That is half-Syriack, help't these Books to spred,
Part before Christ, part after he was dead:
Aquila, Sym'chus, Theodosion,
Each to have turn'd them into Greek are known,
Which with the Seventy, Origin did view,
With others, in the main all of them true,
In things of weight none can a diff'rence shew.
Philo liv'd famous in Calig'la's Reign,
Josephus to Vespasian's did remain;
Both cite, out of the Books among the Jews,
The very same which at this day we use:
And many then of Jews, Christians became,
Who'd certainly what change they found pro∣claim,
If't were of moment, which they might compare
With the most ancient Copies that there were;
But far from doing this, they oft delight,
In the same sense with Jews, their Books to cite.
But any Crime 'gainst Jews has more pretence,
Than either Falshood, or else Negligence.
With such Devotion they these Books imbrace,
That they will tell you ev'ry Letter's place.
Add yet a stronger proof, which last we range,
These Books the Jews would not on purpose change,
Since thence, who for their Saviour Christ receive,
Prove strongly, or at least as they believe,
That he they worship, that Messias was,
Of whom the Promise to the Jews did pass;
And none can think since that dispute arose,
The Jews would, had they Pow'r, a Change have chose.