« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
Eί μέν κ' αύθι μένων Τρώων πόλιν αμφιμάχωμαι,
ΙΙ. Ι. 410. The same poet tells us that Polyïdus, a diviner, assured his son Euchenor, that, if he stayed at home, he should fall sick and die ; and if he went to Troy, he should be slain in battle : upon which the youth chose the latter fate.
"Ην δε τις Ευχήνωρ, Πολυδε μάνθιος φος,
Πολλάκι γάρ οι έειπε γέρων αγαθός Πολύδος,
. ΙΙ. Ν. 663. Thus the Pagans had the same notion with that which is mentioned in Scripture, of a double destiny, depending on human choice.
Again : Man would be glad to know that he shall obtain a future good. Hope is one of the greatest comforts that poor mortals have in this world ; but a certain foresight of prosperity produces a more solid joy, and a firmer support. God made some favourable predictions to Noah. He promised a multitude of blessings to Abraham, relating to him, to his family, and to his posterity. When Hagar was driven from her home, she and her son, and cast out into the wide world, an angel comforted her, and assured her that her son should be the father of a great nation. God repeated the same promises to Isaac which he had made to Abraham. lle revealed himself to Jacob, when he was forced to fly from his father's house, and gave him assurances of support and protection. He foretold to Moses, that by him he would deliver the people of Israel, and to Joshua, that he should be victorious in all his wars, and to David that he should be king of Israel, and that the kingdom should continue in his family. Jeremiah comforted Baruch in his affliction with this prophecy, Thus saith the Lord, I will bring evil on all flesh, but thy life will I give thee for a prey in all places tohither thou goest. xlv. 5. He himself, who was a man of sorrows, and lived in calamitous times, received this consolation from God, I am with thee to save thee, and to deliver thee. He also received an order from God to say to Ebedmelech the Æthiopian, I will bring evil upon this city, bat I will deliver thee in that day, saith the Lord, and thou shalt not be given into the hand of the men of whom thou art afraid : for I will surely deliver thee, and thou shalt not fall by the sword, but thy life shall be for a prey unto thee, because thou hast put thy trust in me, saith the Lord. In the New Testament we find that St Paul, on some occasions, had a promise of deliverance out of the hands of his enemies. Our Saviour prophesied evil, that is, temporal evil, to all his disciples, and told them, that they should be exercised with sufferings and afflictions; but to compensate tliis, he promised them in the present world peace of mind, and joy in the Holy Spirit, and the Divine assistance, and in the world to come, eternal happiness.
It must have been a great satisfaction to the illustrious persons whom we have mentioned, and to 0thers recorded in sacred history, that they were secure of the Divine favour and protection. This must have given them courage and constancy under all the difficulties of life, and have enabled them to look danger
and distress in the face. The Greek poet describing Ulysses as an example of prudence, patience, resolua tion and presence of mind under a variety of trials, supposes that he had not only the assistance of Pallas, but a prediction from Tiresias, that he should at last return home, and subdue his domestic enemies, and reign happy over his happy subjects, and come to a good old age. Odyss. A. 90.
To receive predictions of future unavoidable evils would be a curse rather than a blessing, and in the scriptures, when such predictions are delivered, it is by way of punishment. Tlius God foretold to Eli all the evil which he would bring upon his family, and the prophets denounced upon some occasions the calamities which should befäl some wicked people, and the untimely death which they should not escape.
To know future blessings of which we shall partake, and to receive an admonition how we may avoid an impending evil, are favours which men would often be glad to receive ; and these favours were granted to the people of God in ancient times and ruder ages, for several reasons which we have enumerated but when by his Son he had introduced a purer and sublimer religion, he no longer continued, under the evangelical dispensation, to inform men of such témporal events. It is enough for a Christian to know that he may secure to himself everlasting happiness by his obedience: As the great things relating to the next state were more clearly revealed, the smaller things relating to this world, and to its frivolous concerns, were shut up in obscurity.
The knowledge of the things whicli will bjefal us, and our parents, and children, and friends, how long we and they shall live, and when and how we shall
die, die, are secrets which God has concealed from us, and which in wisdom and kindness he has concealed from us. Sometimes prosperous events come most agreeable when they are least expected, and it would be a sad thing to anticipate all our griefs, and to be miserable before hand. · And yet such has been the disposition of men in almost all ages, that many have had an intemperate desire of this knowledge, which gave rise and encouragement to wicked arts and to vile impostures. History, both ancient and modern, informs us of this, and affords us several examples of princes, statesmen, politicians, who have had little or no religion, who have been mere atheists both in principles and in practice, as Tiberius, the Cardinals Richelieu and Mazarin, and others, who yet were very credulous in this way, with all their free-thinking, and gave great heed to divination, and to predictions made by pretenders to those arts; so that irreligion and superstition are not at all inconsistent, and he who believes no God, may believe in evil spirits, or unknown powers, or fatal influences of the heavenly bodies. Pliny the elder, who had atheistical notions, yet says of earthquakes, that the mischief which they portend is as great as that which they cause, if not greater, and that the city of Rome was never shaken with one, which did not forebode future evil. Nec vero simplex malum, aut in ipso tantum motu periculum est ; sed par aut majus ostento. Nunquam urbs Roma tremuit, ut non futuri cuentus alicujus id prænuncium esset. L. II. lxxxvi. p. 113. : :
Il n'y a rien de si commun, que de voir les Incredules entêtez de l’Astrologie Judiciaire, et persuadez que les Magiciens font des choses qui sont uu dessus de l'ordre de la nature. Par exemple, on accuse deux grands mi
nistres d'Etat, dont les actions ne nous laissent pas croire que la foi en Dieu fut une de leurs plus grandes vertus, d'avoir crú tous deux les predictions des Astrologues; et l'un d'eux, de s'être persuadé qu'un homme qui vomissoit diverses liqueurs, le faisoit par le moyen de la Magie. “Le Cardinal de Richelieu," dit Vittorio Siri; Mem. Rec: T: viii. p.669: “consultoit outre l’Astrologie, toute “sorte de divinations, jusqu'à des femelettes ; dont la “ science consiste en des vapeurs de Mere, qui leur font “predire par hazard quelque évenement fortuit. Il étoit "si credule qu'il attribuoit à l'operation du Démon l'art " de jetter par la bouche toutes sortes de liqueurs, après “qoir bú de l'eau, comme le faisoit un Charlatan Italien. “ Mazarin n'étant pas encore Cardinal, ayant éclatté de "rire à un discours si simple, pensa perdre sa faccur par " là; et le Cardinal irrité de cet éclat de rire, par le“quel il jugea que Mazarin se moguoit de lui, lui dit iro" nequement, qu'il n'étoit pas Monsieur Mazarin qui a"voit une profonde étude et une exacte connoissance de “ tout. Mazarin repliqua tout soumis, qu'en donnant “ cinquante pistoles, que le Charlatan demandoit pour
enseigner son secret, on verroit si l'operation du Dé“ mon s'en méloit. Mazarin regardoit toutes les divina"tions, comme des sottises, excepté l'Astrologie, dont il “ étoit fort entêté, quoiqu'il feignit le contraire. Lorsque * Madame Mancini sa swur mourut, et cnsuite la Due "chesse de Mercrur sa Niece, comme il eut rů par-là "accomplie la prediction, qu'un Astrologue en avoit faite " à Rome, par écrit longtems auparavant, il en devint " extraordinairement triste et mélancholique; non par “ tendresse pour ses parens, mais parceque ce mêine Ais strologue doit fixé le tems de sa mort à un terme qui "s'approchoit. Il en perdit l'appetit, et demeura plu"sieurs nuits sans dormir."