In Two Parts.

Made English.

LONDON, Printed in the year, 1688 and sold by most Booksellers.

TO THE Right Honourable GEORGE Lord Jeffereys, Baron of Wem, Lord High Chancellor of Eng­land.


THo' Your Quality and the Awfulness of your High Station, might very well prevent the Ambition of an Author from making Addresses [Page] of this nature, to your Lord­ship, yet I confess my self less discouraged by the grandeur of your Titles, than I am by that of your Wit; 'tis that alone that brings me trembling to your Feet with this little Tribute of my Duty. Methought when all the honest part of the World was full of your Praise, when all that profess Loyalty were Celebrating your never dying Name, I shou'd have lookt up­on my self as unworthy of the Honour I now aspire to, if I amongst the number, shou'd not with all imaginable grati­tude pay my acknowledgments for the good you have rendred the publick, as well as for the Services you have rendred the Crown; which you have [Page] more effectually done, with more noble Bravery, Fortitude and Resignation, than any o­ther great States-man; you have so absolutely attach'd your self to the interest of your Monarch, that 'tis evident you are as intirely his own, as if after him you had no more business with the World, or even Life it self; and to this Glory you have arriv'd by such difficulties as no other Parts, Wit, or Courage could have conquer'd, and by it have carried your great Fame even above Envy.

Nor can the unthinking and most malicious of your Enemies reproach your Lordship with self-interest in any of your Servi­ces, since all the World knows, when they were thought Cri­minal, [Page] nay even Punishable, (for such miserable times we have seen) when 'twas enough to have forfeited your Fortune, and almost your Life, then, I say, there was found in your Lordship, that undaunted Bravery, that Spirit and fire of Loyalty, that true concern for the Royal Cause, that you were the first destin'd Victim for the slaughter, the first to be Sa­crific'd to the Association Rage, even when you had nothing left you but Honour, Justice and Innocence for your Guard. And as it may be truly affirm'd that the greatness of your Re­solution gave the most consi­derable assistance to the turn of those Rabble-ruling times, and the reestablishing them in their [Page] right and regular motion, it must be also confess'd that the same unchangeable resolution has continued them still (under God and our Gracious Sove­reign) in the same tranquillity we now behold them; and we, who have reap'd the advan­tages of so good a conduct, have now no more to do but to express our sense of it in our several degrees; the People by their Prayers, and the Poets by their Panegyricks. Such I would gladly offer in Im­mortal Songs; but oh! the Mu­ses have all taken Wing, and are fled to Climates more en­couraging and kind, and have scarcely left behind them one Son inspir'd; so that instead of Nobler numbers, they are ne­cessitated [Page] servilely to creep after the sence of foreign Authors, stinting the Generous fancy to anothers thought.

Of this nature, my Lord, is this small Piece which I most hum­bly Dedicate to your Lordship. 'Tis a Discourse of Religion, in a time when we have scarce a­ny other Theme; 'tis grown so general a Mode, that even the Sword-men are now fiercer dis­putants than heretofore the la­zier Gown-men were, while every Spark of noise enough, (sometimes the best of the Ar­gument) shews his Wit and Learning on that subject. But since the stream runs that way, I believ'd it as ridiculous to ap­pear in good company drest like Mrs. Abigail, as (at this [Page] time) not to be arguing some points of Religion, tho never so Mal à propo. But least, by such an undertaking I should, as ma­ny do, but the more embarass the Mystries of it, we shall treat here only of the Pagan Religion, and of the abominable Cheats of the Oracles and their Priests.

My Author, who is of the French Nation, has here giv­en us a collection of many diverting and useful remarks on the Ancient Religion of the Pagans, and a very good account of those Oracles that once made so great a noise in the World; and which, I believe, will not be unpleasant to the Readers. But if in the result, it have but the Honour of being approv'd by your Lordship I shall, be very [Page] happy in the occasion it gives me of begging leave to sub­scribe my self,

My Lord,
Your Lordship's most humble and most obedient Servant, A. B.

THE PREFACE TO THE History of Oracles.

NOt long since there fell into my Hands a small Book writ­ten in Latin, de Oraculis Ethnicorum, or of the Heathen Ora­cles, composed by Mr. Van-Dale Do­ctor of Physick, and printed in Holland, in which I found that the Author has strenuously refuted the commonly recei­ved Opinion, that the ancient Oracles were delivered by Daemons, and that they ceased wholly at the coming of Iesus Christ. The whole Work appeared to me to be full of Knowledge in Anti­quity and profound Learning: Which gave me a great Curiosity to translate it, that the Ladies and those Gentle­men, who do not much care to read [Page] Latin, might not be deprived of so a­greeable and useful a Discourse. But I reflected, that a Translation of this Book (though excellent in its Origi­nal) would not be so good if too close­ly turned into French: For Mr. Van­dale wrote only for the Learned, and had Reason to neglect those Ornaments and Softnesses, which they do not esteem; he cites a great Num­ber of Passages very faithfully, and his Versions are wonderful exact when he translates from the Greek; he en­ters also into a discussion of many Points of Criticism, which, though they are not always necessary, yet they are al­ways curious; and this he does, to gratifie the Learned, who care little for flourishing Reflections, Discourses of Morality, or pleasant Wit.

Besides, Mr. Van-Dale makes no difficulty very often to interrupt the Thread of his Discourse, and to intro­duce other things which present them­selves: And from one Digression he some­times passes to another, and so perhaps to a third. And herein he does not amiss, since those for whom he writes, [Page] are fitted for the Fatigue of Reading, and this Learned Disorder does not at all embarass or perplex them. But those, for whom I design this Transla­tion, would have been very ill accom­modated, if I had taken this Method: The Ladies, and the Major Part of the Men of this Country, are indeed more pleased with the Graces and Turns of Expression and Thought than with the most exact Enquiries and profound­est Arguments: And being very fond of ease, they desire to read Books writ­ten in a facile Method, that they may be the less obliged to a troublesome At­tention. For this Reason, I laid-by the thoughts of translating, and thought it would be better, preserving the Foundation and principal Matter of the Work, to give it altogether ano­ther Form. And I confess, that no Man can extend this Liberty farther than I have done; for I have changed the whole Disposition of the Book, and have retrenched whatever appeared to me, either of too little Profit in it self, or of too little Pleasure to make a­mends for that little Profit. I have [Page] not only added all the Ornaments I could think of, but many things which prove or clear up what is in Question upon the same Subject and the same Passages, which Mr. Van-Dale furnish­ed me withal. I argue sometimes in a manner contrary to his, and I have not been scrupulous to insert many Rea­sons wholly my own: In fine, I have new cast and modelled the whole Work, and have put it into the same Order as I should have done at first (to have pleased my particular view) had I had so much Knowledge as Mr. Van-Dale; but, since I am far from it, I have borrowed his Learning, and ven­tured to make use of my own Wit and Fancy (such as it is,) to adorn it. Nor should I have fail'd to have pursued his Method, had I had to do with the same Persons as he had. And if it shall happen that this comes to his Knowledge, I beseech him to pardon the Liberty I have taken, since it will serve to show the Excellency of his Book: For certainly what belongs to him will still appear extremely fine, tho' it have passed through my Hands.

[Page]I have lately learned two things, which have Relation to this Book. The first out of the Tracts called For the Month of June 1686. Nou­velles, &c. or News from the Com­mon-wealth of Letters, which is, that Mr. Maebius, chief of the Professors of Divinity at Leipsick has undertaken to confute Mr. Van-Dale. He acknow­ledges indeed, that Oracles did not cease at the Coming of Jesus Christ, (which will be indisputable when we shall have examined that Question;) but he will by no means yield, that Dae­mons were not the Authors of Oracles. So that he himself makes a very conside­rable Invasion on the common Opinion, in allowing Oracles to extend them­selves beyond the time of the coming of Christ; and it will be a great Argu­ment that they were not delivered by Daemons, but by the Cheats of the Priests, if the Son of God did not si­lence them. 'Tis certain, that accord­ing to the usual Acceptation of these two Notions, what destroys the one ex­tremely shakes the other, or rather quite ruins it: And this perhaps, after the reading of this Book, will be readily acknowledged to be so.

[Page]But what is more remarkable, is, that I found in the same Book, that one of Mr. Maebius's strongest Reasons against Mr. Van-Dale, was that God for bad the Israelites to consult Wizards and the Spirits of Python, whence he concludes that Python, that is to say the Daemons, managed the Oracles, and that it was by their Aid that the Ghost of Samuel was made to appear. Mr. Van-Dale may answer what he pleases, but for my part, I declare, that under the Name of Ora­cles, I do not pretend to comprehend Magick: In which it is not to be dispu­ted but that Daemons are concerned; nor is it comprehended in what we com­monly understand by the word [Oracle] not even according to the Sencè of the ancient Heathens, who on one side re­garded Oracles with Respect, as a part of their Religion, and on the other Hand had a Horror for Magick, as well as we. To go and consult a Necromancer, or some Witch of Thessaly, like Ericto in Lucan, was not called, going to an Oracle; and if we mark it, this distin­ction is true, even according to the com­mon Opinion, which affirms that Oracles [Page] ceased at the coming of Christ, and yet no Man can pretend that Magick then ceased. So that the Objection of Mr. Mae­bius makes nothing against me, if he take the word [Oracle] in its ordinary and natural Signification, as well ancient as modern.

The second thing I have to speak of is, that I am advertised that the Re­verend Father Thomasin, a Priest of the Oratory, famous for so many excel­lent Books, wherein he has joined solid Piety to Profound Learning, has taken from this Book the Honour of first broaching this Paradox, by treating O­racles as meer Knavery (in his Book called, The Method of Study, and of teaching the Poets to Christian Chil­dren.) I confess I was a little troub­led at this, but I pacified my self with reading the twenty first Chapter of the eleventh Book of this Method, where I found nothing relating to my Opini­on, save only that in the nineteenth Article, there are a very few words to the following Sence: The true Reason (says he) why Silence was imposed on Oracles, was, because by the Invo­cation [Page] of the Divine Word, truth has enlightned the World, and spread a­broad abundance of Light far different from what was before, by which Men are emancipated from the Illusions of Augurs and Astrologers, the Observa­tions of the Entrails of Beasts, and the greatest part of Oracles: Which were indeed but Impostures, whereby Men deceived one another with ob­scure Words that bore a double Sence: In fine, if there were Oracles, in which the Devil spoke, the coming of the Incarnate Truth condemned the Fa­ther of Lyes to an eternal Silence. 'Tis however very certain that Daemons were consulted, whenever Men had Recourse to Inchantments and Ma­gick, as Lucan reports of Pompey the younger, and as the Scripture as­sures us concerning Saul. I agree that in such a great Treatise, which mentions Oracles but by the by (and that without any Design of searching into the depth of the matter) it is enough to attribute the most part of Oracles to the Contrivances and Deceits of Men, and to make a Question whether there [Page] were any of them at all in which Dae­mons were concerned, and to allow the Daemons no further Imployment than comes within the Compass of Incanta­tions and Magick; and in fine to prove that Oracles ceas'd, not because the Son of God imposed Silence on 'em, all of a sudden; but because the most en­lightned Wits were disabused by the Publication of the Gospel: Which still supposes that those humane Artifices could not be detected in a little time. However in my Opinion a Question de­cided in so few Words ought to be treated of a-new, and that in all its natural Extent, without any Mans being offended by the Repetition; for 'tis putting in great, what the World has hitherto seen but only in little; and so in little, that its Objects are scarce perceptible.

I know not whether it be permitted me to enlarge my Preface, by making a short Observation upon the Stile I shall use, which is familiar, and after the manner of conversing: And I Imagine that I entertain my Reader so much the more pleasingly, because I must, as [Page] it were, dispute with him: And the matter which I have in Hand, being often capable enough of being turned into Ridicule, engaged me in a Manner of Writing far different from that of Sublime; since I am of Opinion that none ought to write loftily, but he that writes in Defence of himself, it is so little natural. I confess, that the low Stile is yet something worse, but there is a Medium of a very great Latitude; yet 'tis mighty hard to take that Pitch which is necessary, and to keep steady to it.


MY design is not to give you directly an History of Ora­cles; I only intend to argue against that common Opinion which attributes 'em to Daemons, and will have 'em to cease at the coming of Iesus Christ. In doing this 'tis ne­cessary that I run through the whole History of Oracles, that I unfold their Originals, their Progress, the different Manners in which they were deliver'd; and lastly their De­cay, with the same exactness as if I were in these matters pursuing the Natural and Historical Order.

[Page 2]It is not at all surprizing, that Philosophers shou'd have so much trouble in finding out the secrets of Nature, her Principles being so hidden that 'tis rashness in Men to think to discover 'em. But when we have no more to do, but to enquire whether the Oracles were a Trick and Artifice of the heathen Priests, or not, and at what time they ceas'd, Where lies the difficulty? Cannot we that are Im­posed on every day, imagine how far other Men may have been deceivers or deceived? But especially when the whole matter turns upon the time when Oracles ceased, Where can the difficulty be? There are many Books that treat of Oracles; let us see there­fore in what time or in what Age the last Oracles, of which we have any knowledge, were deliver'd.

Men are not willing to suffer the decision of things to be too easie, and therefore they mingle their own prejudices with truths, and so create greater perplexities than are Natu­rally found therein; and those scru­ples, which our selves frame, give us [Page 3] the most pain to untangle. And in my opinion this business of Oracles hath no considerable difficulty in it, but what we our selves have raised. It is in it's own Nature, a matter of Re­ligion amongst the Pagans, and be­come so without any necessity a­mongst Christians, and on both sides it is loaded with prejudices which obscure the clearest truths.

I confess that prejudices are not in themselves common to a true as well as a false Religion; for they Reign chiefly in the false, which is only the contrivance of humane Wit; but in the true (which is the production of God alone,) there wou'd none be ever found, if humane Wit cou'd be preven­ted from Intermedling and mixing something of its own with it; for all its new inventions are but prejudices without ground, and it is not able to add any thing real or solid to the great work of God. Nevertheless these pre­judices that are in the true Religion are, as I may say, so closely interwo­ven with it, that they have drawn that respect to themselves which is [Page 4] only due to the true Religion; and we dare not find fault with the one for fear of attacking at the same time something that is holy in the Other. I do not reproach this excess of Re­ligion in those that are capable of dis­cerning, but rather praise it; yet whatever Commendations they may deserve, we cannot but confess that a just medium is much the safest course; and that it is more reasona­ble to remove error from truth, than to venerate error because it is mix'd with truth. Christianity has been alwaies able to stand of its self without false proofs; but it is at present rendred more so than ever, by the pains the great Men of this Age have taken to Establish it on true foundati­ons with greater Power and force than ever the Ancients did; and we ought to be fill'd with so just a con­fidence of our Religion as to reject all false advantages, tho they may be use­ful to a weaker party. Having laid this foundation I advance boldly to prove that Oracles, of what nature so­ever, were not deliver'd by Daemons [Page 5] and that they did not cease at the co­ming of Iesus Christ. Each of which points deserves a particular dis­course.

THE FIRST DISCOURSE. That Oracles were not given by Dae­mons.

IT is certain that there are Dae­mons, evil Genii, and Spirits con­demn'd to eternal Punishment. Re­ligion teaches us that; and if so, then our reason must tell us that these Dae­mons might have animated Statues, and delivered Oracles, if God had permitted them so to do. We are therefore only to inquire whether they had such a permission or not.

'Tis only then a matter of fact which is in dispute; and this matter of fact depending wholly on the will of God, it is certain that it would have been revealed to us, if the [Page 6] knowledge thereof were necessary. But the Holy Scriptures do not teach us any where that Oracles were deli­ver'd by Daemons; and therefore we are at liberty to choose which side we will take in this matter; for it is of the number of those things that the Divine Wisdom has thought fit to leave to our own decision.

Now it is agreed on by the whole World, that there was something su­pernatural in Oracles; the reason of which is easily found, as to what re­gards the present Age: For since it was believ'd in the first Ages of Christianity that Oracles were deli­ver'd by Daemons, this seems a suffi­cient cause for us to believe it now; for whatever was the opinion of the Ancients, good or bad, it was alwaies favourably received; and what they themselves cou'd not prove by suffi­cient Reasons, is in our days prov'd by their Authority alone. If they foresaw this, they did very well not to give themselves the trouble of rea­soning too nicely. But let us inquire after the reasons which obliged the [Page 7] Primitive Christians to believe that Oracles had something supernatu­ral in 'em, and we shall afterwards try whether they were sound and solid, or not.

CHAP. I. The first Reason why the Primitive Christians believed that Oracles were delivered by Daemons, and the surprizing Histories that were publish'd concerning Oracles and Genii.

ANtiquity is full of abundance of wonderful Histories and Ora­cles, which, as it is believ'd, must needs be attributed to spirits: I will relate some few examples, which shall serve for a taste of what the rest were.

All the World knows what hap­pen'd to the Pilot Thamus: His Ship being one evening near certain Islands in the Aegean Sea, the Winds were [Page 8] hush'd on a suddain, and the Waves ceas'd their motion: all the Passen­gers were awake, and the greatest part of 'em passing their time in drinking one with another, when on a suddain they heard a Voice which came from the Islands, and call'd a­loud, Thamus. Thamus suffer'd himself to be call'd thrice before he return'd an answer, and then the Voice com­manded him, that when he did ar­rive at a certain place, he should cry out, That the great Pan was dead. There was not a Man in the Ship who was not seiz'd with fear and dread at these words, and they all consulted whe­ther Thamus ought to obey the Voice or not; but Thamus resolv'd that if when they were arrived at the appointed Place, there were Wind enough to Sail onwards, he would pass by with­out saying any thing; but if a calm happen'd to keep him there, he then would acquit himself of the or­der he had receiv'd. And so finding himself to be surpriz'd with a Calm in that very place, he cry'd out with all his force, That the Great Pan was [Page 9] dead. Scarce had he given over speaking, but they heard from every side Groans and Complaints as of a great multitude surpriz'd and Affli­cted at this news. All those who were in the Ship were witnesses of this Accident; the Fame of which spread it self in a little time, as far as Rome; and the Emperor Tiberius ha­ving a desire to see Thamus himself, assembled a great number of Pagan Priests to know of them who this great Pan was, and it was concluded that he was the Son of Mercury and Penelope. Thus in Plutarch's Dia­logues (where he treats of the Cessa­tion of Oracles) Cleombrotus tells this story, and says he had it of E­pithersis his Grammar-Master, who was in the Ship with Thamus when this wonder happen'd.

Thulis was a King of Egypt, Suidas. whose Empire extended it self as far as the Ocean: It is he who (as they said) gave the Name of Thule to the Isle now called Iseland. His Empire rea­ching thither was of a large extent, and the King puff'd up with Pride at [Page 10] his Success and Prosperity went to the Oracle of Serapis, and thus he spake to it: Thou that art the God of Fire, and who governest the Course of the Heavens, tell me the Truth: Was there ever, or will there ever be one so Puissant as my self?

The Oracle answered him thus.

First God, then the Word and Spirit, all—uniting in one, whose Power can never end. Go hence im­mediately, O Mortal, whose Life is always uncertain. And Thulis at his going thence had his Throat cut.

Eusebius has collected from the Wrtings of Porphyrius these follow­ing Oracles.

  • 1. Groan ye Tripodes, Apollo leaves you; he is forced to leave you by a Celestial Light. Jupiter has been, is, and ever will be: Oh great Jupiter! Alas! My famous Oracles are no more.
  • 2. The Voice can return no more to the Priestess, she is condemn'd to Si­lence. [Page 11] Make such Sacrifices to Apol­lo, as are worthy of a God.
  • 3. Vnhappy Priest, (said Apollo to one of his Priests,) Interrogate me no more concerning the Holy Father, his only Son, nor the Spirit which is the Soul of all things: It is this Spi­rit that chases me for ever from these Abodes.

Augustus now grown old,Suidas, Ni­cephorus, Cedronus. and de­signing to choose a Successor, went to consult the Oracle of Delphos. The Oracle returned no Answer, although Augustus spared no Sacrifice; but in the End he drew from it this fol­lowing:

The Hebrew Infant, to whom all the Gods pay Obedience, chases me hence and sends me into Hell. There­fore quit this Temple without speaking any more.

It is easie to see that upon the Cre­dit of such like Histories they ground their Opinion, who say, that Dae­mons employed themselves in pro­nouncing Oracles. This great Pan (who died in the Reign of Tiberius, as well as Iesus Christ) is the Master [Page 12] and Prince of the Daemons, whose Empire was ruined by the Death of a God so saving to the Universe: Or, if this Explanation do not please you, (for I hope we may without Impiety give different Solutions of the same thing, although it be of a religious concern) this great Pan was Iesus Christ him­self: Whose Death caused so general a Grief and Consternation among the Daemons, who from that time could no more exercise their Tyranny over Mankind: Thus a way has been found out to give a double account who this great Pan was.

Could the Oracle delivered to King Thulis (an Oracle so positive con­cerning the Holy Trinity) be a hu­mane Fiction? How could the Priest of Serapis have divined so great a Mystery, unknown then to all the World, and even to the Iews them­selves?

If these Oracles were delivered by Priests, who were Impostors, what could oblige them to discredit them­selves, and publish the Cessation of their own gainful Oracles? Is it not [Page 13] visible, that God forced Daemons to bear Witness to the Truth? Besides, why did the Oracles cease; if they were only deliver'd Priests?

CHAP. II. The Second Reason why the Primi­tive Christians believed that Ora­cles were supernatural, and the Agreement of this Opinion with the System of Christianity.

THAT there are Daemons being once allowed by Christianity, it was natural and easie enough to attribute to them the Ability of per­forming any thing that is Great and Wonderful, and not to refuse them the Power of delivering Oracles, and effecting any other Pagan Miracles, which seemed to have need of their Assistance. And thus the Ancients saved themselves the trouble of en­tring [Page 14] into a strict enquiry about Mat­ters which would be tedious and diffi­cult: For all that was surprizing and extraordinary, was without any more ado ascribed to these Daemons: And this alone they thought a sufficient Confirmation of their Existence, and of the Religion it self that warranted it.

Moreover, it is certain, that a­bout the time of the Birth of Iesus Christ, there is often mention made of the Cessation of Oracles even in Prophane Authors. Now, why this time rather than any other, was destined for the Cessation of them is very easily made out, ac­cording to the System of the Chri­stian Religion. God had chosen his People out of the Iewish Na­tion, and left the Empire of the rest of the World to Daemons till the coming of his Son; but then, he deprived them of that Power, which before he permitted them to have: His Will then was, that all should submit themselves to Iesus Christ; and that nothing should [Page 15] hinder the Establishment of his Kingdom over all the World. There is such a sort of Happiness in this Thought, that I do not wonder it has made so great a Progress. This is one of those things to the truth of which we so easily accord, and which perswaded us, because we are willing to believe.

CHAP. III. The Third Reason of the Primitive Christians, taken from the A­greement of their Opinion with the Philosophy of Plato.

NEver any Philosophy was so a­la-mode, as that of Plato du­ring the First Ages of the Church: The Pagans interested themselves a­mongst all the different Sects of Philo­sophers, but the Conformity which Plato's was found to have with Reli­gion, made almost all the knowing [Page 16] Christians of that Sect. Thence came the mighty Esteem they had of Pla­to: They looked upon him as a sort of Prophet who had fore-told many important Points of Christianity, e­specially that of the Holy Trinity; (which we cannot deny to be clearly enough contained in his Writings:) Nay, they went so far as to take his Works for Comments on the Scri­pture; and to conceive the Nature of the Word, as he conceived it. He represented God so elevated above his Creatures, that he did not believe that they were immediately made by his Hands; and therefore he put between them and him this Word, as a degree by which the Actions of God might pass down to them: The Christians had the like Idea of Iesus Christ: And this may perhaps be the Reason why no Heresie has been more generally received and maintained with grea­ter heat than Arrianism.

This Platonism then (which seems, to Honour the Christian Religion by countenancing it) was very full of Notions about Daemons: And [Page 17] thence they easily pass'd into that O­pinion which the old Christians had of Oracles.

Plato said, that Daemons were of a middle Nature, between God and Man; that they were the aerial Ge­nii appointed to hold a Commerce, between God and us; that altho they were near us, yet we could not see them; that they penetrated into all our Thoughts; that they had a Love for the Good, and a Hatred for the Bad; and that it was for their Honour that such variety of Sacrifi­ces, and so many different Ceremo­nies were appointed: But it does not at all appear, that Plato acknowledg­ed any evil Daemons, to which might be attributed the management of the illusions of Oracles. Plutarch, not­withstanding, assures us, that Plato was not ignorant of them; and amongst the Platonical Philosophers, the thing is out of doubt. Dialogues of the cea­sing of O­racles, Lib. 4, 5, 6. Eusebius in his E­vangelical Preparations, recites a great Number of Passages out of Porphyri­us, where that Pagan Philosopher as­sures us, that evil Daemons are the [Page 18] Authors of Enchantments, Philtres and Witch-Crafts; that they cheat our Eyes with Spectres, Fantoms, and Apparitions; that lying is Es­sential to their Nature; that they raise in us the greatest part of our Passions; and that they have an Am­bition to pass with us for Gods; that their aerial and spiritual Bodies are nourished with Suffumigations, and with the Blood and Fat of Sacrifices; and that 'tis only these that imploy themselves in giving Oracles, and to whom this Task so full of Fraud is assign'd: in short at the Head of this Troop of evil Daemons he places Hecate and Serapis.

Tertullian in his A­pologies. Iamblichus, another Platonist, has said as much. And the greatest part of these things being true, the Chri­stians received them all with Joy, and have added to them besides a little of their own: As for Example, that the Daemons stole from the Wri­tings of the Prophets some Know­ledge of things to come; and so got Honour by it in their Oracles.

[Page 19]This System of the ancient Christi­ans had this Advantage, that it dis­covered to the Pagans by their own Principles, the Original of their false Worship, and the Source of those Er­rors which they always embraced. They were perswaded that there was something supernatural in their Ora­cles; and the Christians, who were always disputing against them, did not desire to confute this Opinion. Thus by Daemons (which both Par­ties believed to be concerned in the O­racles,) they explicated all that was su­pernatural in them. They acknow­ledged indeed that this sort of ordina­ry Miracles were wrought in the Pa­gan Religion; but then they ruined this Advantage again, by imputing them to such Authors as evil Spirits. and this way of convincing, was more short and easie, than to con­tradict the Miracle is self, by a long train of Enquiries and Arguments. Thus I have given you the manner how that Opinion which the first A­ [...]es of the Church had of the Pagan Oracles, was grounded, I might to the [Page 20] three Reasons, which I have already brought, add a fourth of no less Au­thority perhaps than those: That is, That in the Supposition of Oracles being given by Daemons, there is something miraculous: And if we consider the humor of Mankind a lit­tle, we shall find how much we are taken with any thing that is Miracu­lous. But I do not intend to enlarge my self on this Reflection; for those that think upon it, will easily believe me, and those that do not, will per­haps give it no credit, notwithstand­ing all my Arguments.

Let us now examine the several Reasons which Men have had to be­lieve Oracles to be Supernatural.

CHAP. IV. That the surprizing Histories of Oracles ought to be suspected.

IT is very difficult to give an Account of those Stories and Oracles [Page 21] which we have mentioned, without having Recourse to Daemons. But the Question is, Whether they be true? Let us be assured of the Matter of Fact, before we trouble our selves with enquiring into the Cause. It is true, that this Method is too slow and dull for the greatest part of Man­kind, who run naturally to the Cause, and pass over the truth of the matter of Fact; but for my part, I will not be so ridiculous as to find out a Cause for what is not.

This kind of Misfortune happened so pleasantly at the end of the last Age, to some Learned Germans, that cannot forbear speaking of it. ‘In the Year 1593, there was a Report that the Teeth of a Child of Si­lesia of seven Years old, dropp'd out, and that one of Gold came in the Place of one of his great Teeth-Horstius, a Physician in the Uni­versity of Helmstad, wrote in the Year 1595 the History of this Tooth, and pretends that it was partly natural, and partly miracu­lous, and that it was sent from God [Page 22] to this Infant, to comfort the Chri­stians who were then afflicted by the Turks. Now fansie to your self what a Consolation this was, and what this Tooth could signifie, either to the Christians or the Turks. In the same Year (that this Tooth might not want for Historians) one Rolandus wrote a Book of it: Two Years after, Ingolsteterus, another Learned Man, wrote against the Opi­nion of Rolandus concerning this gol­den Tooth; and Rolandus presently makes a Learned Reply. Another Great Man, named Libavius, col­lected all that had been said of this Tooth, to which he added his own Opinion. In fine there wanted no­thing to so many famous Works, but only the truth of its being a golden Tooth. For when a Gold-Smith had examined it, he found, that it was only a thin Plate of Gold fixed to the Tooth with a great deal of Art. Thus they first went about to com­pile Books, and afterwards they con­sulted the Gold-Smith.

[Page 23]Nothing is more natural than to do the same thing in all other cases. And I am not so convinc'd of our Igno­rance by the things that are, and of which the Reasons are unknown, as by those which are not, and for which we yet find out Reasons. That is to say, as we want those Principles that lead us to truth, so we have those which a­gree exceeding well with error and falsehood.

Some Learned Physicians have found out the reason why Places un­der Ground are hot in the Winter and cool in the Summer; and greater Physicians have since discover'd that they are not so.

Historical Enquiries are much more liable to this error. For when we argue from what is said in History, what assurances have we that these Historians have never been byassed, nor credulous, nor misinform'd, nor negligent? 'Tis necessary therefore that we should look out for one, that has been an Eye-witness of all those things of which he writes, uncon­cern'd by Interest, and diligent. But [Page 24] especially when Men write of such matters of Fact, as have a Relation to Religion, it is very hard not to savour (according to the party of which they are) a false Religion with those advantages that are not due to it; or not to give a true one those false assistances of which it has no need▪ And yet we may be assured that we can never add more truth to what is true already, nor make that true which is false.

Some Christians in the first Age, for want of having been convinced of this, Maxim have suffer'd them­selves, in favour of Christianity, to in­troduce suppositions bold enough, which the sounder part of Christians have been fain afterwards to disown. This Inconsiderate zeal has produc'd a great number of Apocryphal Books, to which were given the Names of Pagan or Iewish Authors; for the Church, having to do with these two sorts of Enemies, what was more advantageous to her than to fight 'em with their own Weapons, by pro­ducing Books, which, tho' made, [Page 25] as was pretended, by their own par­ty were written nevertheless very much in favour of Christianity? But whilst they strained the point too far, to draw from those counterfeit works some very great benefit to their Reli­gion, they gained none at all; for the clearness of the manner in which they were written, betray'd them; and our Mysteries are therein so plainly un­folded, that the Prophets of the Old and New Testament understood no­thing in comparison of those Ie­wish and Pagan Authors. And which way soever Men turn themselves to save the reputation of those Books, they will find in their too great clear­ness a difficulty not to be surmoun­ted. If some Christians fathered spu­rious Books on Pagans and Iews, He­reticks found the way of doing the like on the Orthodox. There was no­thing to be met with but false Go­spels, false Epistles of the Apostles, and false Histories of their Lives; and no­thing but an effect of the Divine Pro­vidence could have separated the truth from so many Apocryphal Works, as confounded it.

[Page 26]Some great Men of the Church have sometimes been deceived either by the spurious works of Hereticks fathered upon the Orthodox, or by what the Christians father upon the Iews; but oftenest by the latter: For they seldom examine strictly enough that which seems favourable to Religi­on; the heat with which they contest for so good a Cause, not giving them the leisure to make a good Choice of their Weapons. This is the reason that they have hapned sometimes to make use of the Books of the Sibyls or of those of Hermes Trismegistus King of Egypt.

We do not intend by this to wea­ken the Authority, or to lessen the Merit of those great Men. For after we shall have examin'd all the errors, (into which perhaps they have fallen on some certain subjects,) there will yet remaine abundance of solid Reaso­nings, and very curious discoveries, which are worthy of our highest Admiration. And if, with the true proofs of our Religion, they have left us others which may be suspected, it [Page 27] is our part to receive that only which is legitimate; and to pardon their zeal, who have furnish'd us with more proofs than there was any necessity for.

I am not at all surpriz'd that this same Zeal has convinced 'em of the truth of I know not how many Ora­cles, advantageous to their Religion, which passed for currant in the first Ages of the Church. The Authors of the Books of the Sibyls, and those of Hermes Trismegistus, were also pro­bably the Authors of these Oracles; at least it was more easie to feign them, than to counterfeit intire Volumes. The History of Thamus is Originally heathen, and yet Eusebius and other great Authors have given it the Re­putation of being believed. It is im­mediately followed in Plutarch with a Relation so ridiculous, that it will be sufficient wholly to discredit the other. For Demetrius saies there, that the most part of the Islands near England are desert and Consecrated to Daemons and Heroes, and that he, being sent by the Emperor to disco­ver these Islands, chanced to land up­on [Page 28] one of those that were Peopled, and that, a little time after his Arrival, there happen'd a Tempest and terrible claps of Thunder and Lightning, which made the People of the Coun­try conclude that some one of their Principal Daemons was dead; because their Death's were alwaies attended with something strange and horrible. To this Demetrius adds, that one of those Islands was the Prison of Saturn who was kept there by Briareus, and was Buried in a Profound sleep (which methinks should render the custody of the Giant very needless) incom­pass'd with an infinite number of Dae­mons lying at his feet as slaves.

Has not Demetrius made a very curious Relation of this Voyage? And is it not pleasant to see such a Philo­sopher as Plutarch coldly relate to us such Wonderful things? It is not without reason that Herodotus is e­steemed the father of History; and all the Greek Writers of that kind are on that account his offspring, and par­take of his Genius. They have some­what of truth, but more of wonder­ful [Page 29] and amusing stories. But let it be how it will, it were sufficient al­most to refute the History of Thamus (tho it had no other defect) to have been found in the same Treatise with the Daemons of Demetrius.

But besides this, it cannot receive a reasonable interpretation. For if the Great God Pan were a Daemon, could not the Daemons have sent one another an account of one of their Deaths, with­out employing Thamus to that end? Have they no other way of infor­ming one another of news? And, on the other side, can they be so im­prudent as to discover to Men their Misfortunes and the weakness of their Natures? God compell'd 'em, per­haps, you will say. Then God had some design in doing so; But let us see what follow'd thereupon; there was no Person that was converted from Paganism by having heard of the Death of the great God Pan. It was declared that he was the Son of Mer­cury and Penelope, and that it was not he that was acknowledg'd in Arca­dia for supream God of all (as his [Page 30] Name imports;) and therefore tho' the voice had named him the great Pan, yet he was understood to be but the little Pan, whose Death was of no great consequence, and there did not appear any considerable regret for it.

If this great Pan were Iesus Christ, the Daemons would not have told to Men news of a death so much to their advantage, unless God had compell'd 'em to it. But what's the effect of all this? did any one under­stand the Name of Pan, in its true sence? Plutarch liv'd in the second Age of the Church, and yet no Person then knew that Pan was Iesus Christ, who died in Iudea.

The History of Thulis is related by Suidas (an Author who heaps up a great many things, perphaps ill e­nough chosen) His Oracle of Serapis is reproach'd with the same fault, as the Books of the Sibyls; that is, of being too clear concerning our My­steries. And farther, we are certain that this Thulis King of Egypt was not one of the Ptolomyes; and what [Page 31] then will become of the whole Ora­cle, if Serapis were a God first brought into Egypt by a Ptolomy, who sent for him out of Pontus, as ma­ny Learned Men pretend from very strange probabilities? at least it is cer­tain that Herodotus, who has written so plentifully about old Egypt, does not mention Serapis, and that Taci­tus recounts at length how and why one of the Ptolomyes brought from Pontus the God Serapis, that was then known no where else.

The Oracle, said to be given to Au­gustus concerning the Hebrew Child, is by no means to be reciev'd. Cedre­nus cites Eusebius for it; but at this day there is no such thing to be found there. It is not impossible that Cedrenus should make a false Citation, or should cite some work not rightly attributed to Eusebius. He has thought fit to relate upon the credit of certain counterfeit Histories of St. Peter, which pass'd for currant in his time, That Simon the Magician had at his door a great Dog, which de­vour'd all those that his Master would [Page 30] not have enter; and that St. Peter co­ming thither to speak with Simon, commanded the Dog to go and tell his Master in Humane Language, That Peter the servant of God, would speak with him: The Dog went and performed that Command, to the great Amazement of such as were then with Simon. But Simon, to shew that he could do as much as St. Peter, bid the Dog go and tell him, That he might Enter: which the Dog imme­diately did. Hence you may see what it is that the Greeks call wri­ting of History. Cedrenus lived in an ignorant Age, when the liberty of writing Fables was joined with the General inclination of the Greeks to­wards 'em.

But tho' Eusebius, in some work of his, which has not come down to us, had effectually spoke of the Oracle of Augustus, yet we find Eusebius himself is sometimes deceived; of which there are good proofs. The first Defenders of Christianity, Iustin, Tertullian, Theophilus, Tatian, would they have said nothing of an Oracle [Page 33] so much in Favour of their Religion? Had they so little Zeal as to neglect a thing of such Advantage? but even Crede­nus, Sui­das, Ni­ceph. those that give us this Ora­cle, spoil it by adding, that Augustus in his Return to Rome, built in the Capitol an Altar with this Inscri­ption, This is the Altar of the only Son (or Eldest Son) of God. Where had he the Idea of this only Son of God, of which the Oracle makes no mention? In short, that which is most observable, is, that Augustus af­ter the Voyage he made into Greece, nineteen Years before the Birth of Ie­sus Christ, never returned to Rome; but allowing that he did, he was not then in an Humor to erect Altars to any God but himself: For he suffered not only theTacitus, Dion Cas­sius. Asian Maids to raise Al­tars to him, and celebrate holy Games in his Honour; but also at Rome they consecrated one to Fortune Re­turning, Fortunae reduci, that was to say, to himself, and they were to keep the day of his happy return as a festival.

[Page 34]The Oracles, which Eusebius re­lates out of Porphyrius, appear har­der to make out than all the rest: for Eusebius would not have char­ged Porphyrius with Oracles of which he made no mention, and Porphyri­us, who was so addicted to Paganism, would not have cited false Oracles (concerning the Cessation of Oracles themselves) to the Advantage of the Christian Religion: For in this Case, it seems, that the Testimony of an Enemy has a great deal of Credit and Force.

But on the other side, Porphyrius was not so unskilful a Man, as to furnish the Christians with Weapons against Paganism, without being ne­cessarily engaged to it by the Conse­quence of some Reasons, which does not in this matter appear to be his Case. If these Oracles had been al­ledged by the Christians, and Por­phyrius owning that they were effe­ctually given, had denied the Con­sequences drawn from them, it is certain that they would have then been much to be relied on.

[Page 35]But it is out of Porphyrius him­self that the Christians (as it appears by the Example of Eusebius) pretend to fetch these Oracles; it seems, that Porphyrius takes Pleasure to ruin his own Religion, and to establish a­nother. The Truth is, this is suspi­cious of it self, and yet it becomes more so, by his pushing the thing so far; for they tell us from him of I know not how many Oracles most clear and most positive, concerning the Person of Iesus Christ, concern­ing his Resurrection and Ascension. In fine, the most resolute, and know­ing amongst the Pagans hath loaded us with Proofs of Christianity; we may well suspect so great a piece of Generosity.

Eusebius believed it a very great Advantage to be able to place Por­phyrius at the Head of a Multitude of Oracles so favourable to Religion; and he gives them us stripp'd of what ever accompanies them, in the Wri­tings of Porphyrius. How do we know, but that he did refute them? According to the Interest of his Cause, [Page 36] he ought to have done it; and if he did not do it, certainly he had some hidden Intention.

It is to be suspected, that Porphy­rius was wicked enough to frame false Oracles, and present them to Christians, with a Design of making Sport with their Credulity, if they should receive them for true, and en­deavour to strengthen their Reli­gion by such like props: And then he would have drawn thence such Con­sequences as would be of greater Im­portance than these Oracles, and with this instance have attacked the whole Religion. However at the botom this would have been but a frivolous Argument.

'Tis very certain, that this same Porphyrius (who furnisheth us with all these Oracles) held, (as we have seen) that they were delivered by lying Spirits; it may very well then be imagined, that he hath put into Oracles all the Mysteries of our Re­ligion, endeavouring to destroy it by rendring it suspected of Forgery, as depending on the Testimony of [Page 37] false Witnesses: I know the Christi­ans did not take it so; yet seeing they could never prove by any Ar­gument, that the Daemons were sometimes forced to speak the Truth, Porphyrius was always in a condition to make use of his Oracles against them. And therefore (if we take the Matter right) their better way had been to have denied, that there were ever any Oracles, as we do at this pre­sent. This appears to me to be a suf­ficient Reason, why Porphyrius was so prodigal of Oracles, that were so favourable to our Religion. But what would have been the Success of the great debate between the Christians and Infidels, we can only conjecture; for all the written pieces of their Dis­putes are not come to our Hands. Thus in examining things a little clo­ser than ordinary, we find that the Oracles, which were reckoned such Wonders, never were at all; of which, I shall not need to give any more In­stances, all the rest being of the same Nature.

CHAP. V. That the common Opinion concerning Oracles does not agree so well as 'tis imagin'd with the Christian Religion.

THE silence of the Scriptures concerning these evil Dae­mons, (which are Pretend­ed to be the managers of Oracles) hath not only left us at liberty to be­lieve nothing of 'em, but it obliges us to believe the contrary; for can it be possible that the Scriptures should not have instructed the Iews and Christians in a thing which it so ex­tremely imported them to know, (and which they cou'd never have found out by their natural Reason) to the end that they might not be shaken in their own Religion, by see­ing things so surprising in ano­ther. For I conceive that God spake not to Man, but to supply the weak­ness [Page 39] of his understanding, which of it self was not sufficient to guide him; and that whatsoever he has not de­clar'd to him, is either of such a nature that he may learn it by himself, or else God does not think it necessary that he should know it. So if the Ora­cles had been deliver'd by evil Daemons, God would have made it known to us, to have prevented us from belie­ving that he himself deliver'd 'em, or that there was something Divine in false Religions.

David reproached the Infidels with Gods that had mouths and spake not, and wishes that their Adorers, for a punishment, might become like those they Ador'd; but if these Gods had not only the use of Speech, but also the knowledge of things to come, I see no reason David had thus to reproach the Infidels, nor ought they to have been angry for having been resembled to their Gods. When the Holy Fathers inveighed with so much reason against the Worship of Idols, they alwaies argu'd from the impotency of 'em; but if they had [Page 40] spoken, if they had predicted things to come, then they ought not to have treated them with such contempt on the account of their impotency, but shou'd rather have disabus'd the Peo­ple, and have confess'd the wonderous Power that was in 'em: In fine, could they be so mightly mistaken who ador'd what they believed was animated by a Divine vertue, or at least a vertue more than humane. 'Tis true, you'll say, that these Daemons were enemies of God, but how cou'd the Heathens Divine that? Because Daemons required ceremonies that were Barbarous and extravagant, the Pagans themselves believ'd 'em fanta­stical and cruel, but nevertheless they believ'd 'em more powerful than Men; nor did they know that the true God offer'd 'em his protection against them. They did for the most part submit themselves to their Gods as to dreaded enemies who were to be appeased at any Price; nor had this submission and fear been quite with­out Reason, if so be that in effect Daemons did give some proof of their [Page 41] power over nature. In fine, Paganism (tho a Worship abominable in the sight of God) would have been but an involuntary and excusable error.

But you will say, if the crafty Priests made it their business to im­pose upon the People, then Paganism was no more but a simple error into which the credulous fell, whilst their honest and downright intention was to Honour a superior being.

But the case is much otherwise; for it behoves Men to precaution them­selves against errors, into which other Men may lead 'em; but there is no possibility of fore-arming themselves against those errors into which they may be led by Genii, or Daemons which are above themselves. The light of my Reason is sufficient to examine whether a statue speaks or does not, but in the moment that it does speak, nothing can perswade me against the Divinity which I at­tribute to it. In a word, God is ob­lig'd by the Laws of his Bounty to protect me from those surprises from which I cannot defend my self; but [Page 42] as for other things, it belongs to my reason to do its office.

We see also that when God per­mitted the Daemons to work prodi­gies, he at the same time confounded them by working miracles far grea­ter. Pharaoh might be deceived by the Magicians, but Moses was still more powerful than the Magicians of Pha­raoh. The Daemons never had more po­wer or did more surprizing things, than in the time of Iesus Christ and the Apostles. This hinders not, but that Paganism with justice hath been alwaies called the worship of Dae­mons. For in the first place the Idea which is taken therein of the Divini­ty, does not at all agree with the true God, but with the reprobate and eter­nally unhappy Genii.

Secondly, the design of the Hea­thens was not so much to adore the first Being which is the source of all good, but those ill Beings of whose anger and caprice they stood in fear. In fine, the Daemons, (who have with­out contradiction the power of temp­ting Men and laying snares for 'em) [Page 43] countenanced as much as ever they could the gross errors of the Pagans, and made 'em blind to impostures, which were not notoriously visible. From hence it is said that Paganism was not born up by the Miracles, but by the Artifices of Daemons; which sup­poses that in whatever they did there was nothing of reality or truth, nor of such force as effectually to make a Statue speak.

Nevertheless, it may be that God has sometimes permitted the Dae­mons to animate Idols; but if this e­ver happen'd, God had his peculiar reasons for it, which are alwaies wor­thy of profound veneration; But ge­nerally speaking, there has never been any such thing. God permitted the Devil to burn the Houses of Iob, and lay his Pastures desolate; to cause all his Oxen and Sheep to Die, to strike his Body with a thousand wounds, but it must not therefore be said that the Devil is let loose on all those to whom such misfortunes hap­pen. When there is a discourse about any Mans being sick or ruin'd we ne­ver [Page 44] think that the Devil is concern'd in it. The case of Iob is a par­ticular case; we argue Indepen­dantly of it, and our general reaso­ning never excludes the exceptions that the Almighty power of God can make in all things.

'Tis apparent then that the com­mon opinion concerning Oracles, does not very well agree with the bounty of God, and that it dischar­ges Paganism of the greatest Part of the extravagances and Abominations which the Holy Fathers alwaies found in it. The Pagans might have said in their own justification, that it was no wonder, that they shou'd o­bey those which animated Statues, and performed every day a thousand extraordinary things; and therefore the Christians to take from them all excuse, ought never to have yielded 'em this Point. If all the Pagan Re­ligion were no other than the cheats of Priests, Christians took advantage of the excess of ridiculousness into which the Pagans fell.

Besides, is there any great appea­rance [Page 45] that the disputes between the Christians and Pagans was in that state, seeing Porphyrius confesses with so much willingness, that the Oracles were delivered by evil Daemons? Of these evil Daemons he made a double use: He made use of 'em (as we have already seen) to render those Oracles unprofitable and disadvanta­geous to the Christian Religion, which the Christians thought were on their side; and besides he imputed all the follies and Barbarities of an infinite number of sacrifices, which without ceasing they reproach'd the Pagans withal, to these cunning and cruel Genii. We then attack Porphyri­us even in his last retrenchments, and assert the true interest of Chri­stianity, by undertaking to prove that Daemons were not the Au­thors of Oracles.

CHAP. VI. That Daemons are not sufficiently establish'd by Platonism.

IN the first Ages, Poetry and Phi­losophy were the same thing, and all Wisdom was contained in Verse. Nor was Poetry more credited by this Alliance, but Philosophy was less. Homer and Hesiod were the first Gre­cian Philosophers; and thence it is that all other Philosophers, have had in very great Estimation what ever they said, and have never cited them but with great Honour.

Homer very often confounds together the Gods and Daemons: But Hesiod distinguishes four species or kinds of reasonable Natures, viz. the Gods, the Daemons, the Demy-Gods or Heroes, and Men. Nay, he goes far­ther yet, and notes the Duration of the Lives of Daemons: For the Nymphs, [Page 47] of which he speaks in the Place I am going to cite, are these Daemons, and Plutarch understands them so.

A Crow, (says Hesiod) lives nine times as long as a Man, a Stag four times as long as a Crow, a Raven three times as long as a Stag, the Phoenix nine times as long as a Raven; and in fine the Nymphs ten times as long as the Phoenix. One would take this Calculation for no other than a mere Poetick Fancy, unworthy the Re­flections of a Philosopher, or the imi­tation of a Poet; for there is in it neither agreeableness nor truth: But Plutarch is not of this Opinion; for he finds, that supposing the Life of Man to be seventy Years, (which is its ordinary Duration,) the Daemons then ought to live six hundred and eighty thousand, and four hundred Years: And not conceiving how any Experiment of this so long Life of the Daemons can be made, he rather be­lieves that Hesiod by the Age of Man, understands but one Tear. The In­terpretation is not very natural; but according to this Estimation; the [Page 48] Life of the Daemons is not above nine thousand, seven hundred and twen­ty Years, and then Plutarch had not much Trouble to find out how Dae­mons could live so long. And besides, he remarks in the Number of nine thousand, seven hundred and twen­ty Years, certain Pythagorean Per­fections, which render it altogether worthy to design the Term of the Lives of Daemons. Such as these are the boasted reasonings of Antiquity.

From the Poems of Homer and He­siod, the Daemons passed into the Phi­losophy of Plato, who can never be too much commended, since 'tis he of all the Greeks, who has conceived the highest Idea of God; tho even that plunged him in false Notions. For, because God is infinitely eleva­ted above Men, he believed that there ought to be placed between him and us, a kind of middle Beings, which should cause a Communica­tion of two Extremes so far distant, by the means of which, the Opera­tions of the Deity might be brought down to us. God (says he) resem­bles [Page 49] a Triangle, which has three Sides equal, the Daemons are like a Tri­angle that has but two Sides equal, and Men are like a Triangle which has all three Sides unequal.

This Idea is well enough fansied, and there is nothing wanting but some­thing of Solidity to support it.

But after all (may it be said) has not Plato reasoned justly? And do not we know for certain by the Ho­ly Scriptures, that there are Genii, Ministers of the Will of God and his Messengers to Men? Is it not wonderful that Plato should discover this, only by the Light of his natural Reason?

I confess, that Plato has conjectu­red aright; nevertheless, I blame him for his Conjecture. Divine Revelation assures us of the Existence of Angels and Daemons, but it is not within the Sphere of humane Reason to assure us of it. He knows not what to make of the infinite space which is be­tween God and Man, and therefore he fills it with Genii and Daemons: But with what shall that infinite space [Page 50] be fill'd, which is between God and these Genii or Daemons themselves? For the distance between God and a­ny Creature whatsoever, is infinite. And if the Actions and Will of God must traverse, as one may say, this Infinite Vacuum to go to the Daemons, they may as well reach even to Men, since they are farther off but by very few degrees, which bear no Proportion to the first great distance. When God treats with Men by the Ministry of Angels, 'tis not to be understood that Angels are necessary for this Com­munication (as Plato pretends;) God emploies them for Reasons, into which Philosophy can never penetrate, and which can never be perfectly known but by himself.

According to that Idea, which the Comparison of the Triangle gives us, we find that Plato framed this Notion of Daemons, to the end we might mount from one Creature, to a­nother Creature more perfect, till at length we arriv'd at God himself. So that God would have but some de­grees of Perfection more than the [Page 51] highest Creature; but it is visible, that as they are all infinitely Imperfect in res­pect of him, because they are all infinite­ly distant from him; so the Differen­ces of Perfection, which are between the Creatures, vanish as soon as they are compared with God; for what ele­vates them one above another does not at all bear any proportion to him.

And if we consult nothing but hu­mane Reason, there is no need of Spi­rits to make the Actions of God communicable to Men, nor of placing between God and us any thing that approaches him nearer than we do.

And perhaps Plato himself was not so sure of the Existence of his Dae­mons, as the Platonists have since been. That which makes me sus­pect this, is, That he places Love in the Number of the Daemons, (for he often mixes Gallantry with Philoso­phy, and his Talent is not mean on subjects of that Nature.) He says, that Love is the Son of the God of Riches, and the Goddess of Poverty: from his Father he holds, his great­ness of Courage, his Elevation of [Page 52] thought, his Inclination to give, his Prodigality and his Confidence in his Strength, his good Opinion of his own Merit, and Desire to have al­ways the Preference. But, on the otherside, he holds from his Mother that Indigence, which makes him al­ways asking, that Importunity with which he asks, that Timidity and Bashfulness, which hinders him of­ten times from daring to ask, that Disposition which he has to Servi­tude, and that Fear of being despi­sed, which he can never lose. This, in my Opinion, is one of the prettiest Fa­bles that was ever made. It is plea­sant to find Plato sometimes wri­ting Amours as soft and agreeable as Anacreon could himself have done. This Description of the Pedegree of Love extremely well sets forth all the fantasticalness of his Nature: But we know not what to make of Daemons, if Love must pass for one.

There is no appearance that Plato understood this in a natural and Phi­losophical Sence, nor that he could say, Love was a Being out of us, or [Page 53] extrinsecal, which inhabits the Air: Certainly, he means this only as a Gallantry, and then it must be per­mitted me to believe, that all his Dae­mons are of the same kind with Love. And that, since he mingles Fables with his System, he cares not much, if the rest of his System pass for a Fa­ble. Hitherto we have only an­swered the Reasons, that made Men believe Oracles, to have had some­thing in them of Supernatural. Let us now begin more closely to attack this Opinion.

CHHP. VII. That some Grand Sects of the Pagan Philosophers, did not believe there was any thing Supernatural in Oracles.

IF in the midst of Greece it self, where all places resounded with their Oracles, we had maintained [Page 54] that they were but Impostures, no one would have been astonished with the Boldness of the Paradox; and there would have been no need of taking any Measures, how to vend the Opinion in secret. For Philo­sophers were divided about the Sub­ject of Oracles; the Platonists and Stoicks were for them, but the Cynicks, Peripateticks and Epicureans decla­red highly against them. The Won­ders of the Oracles were not so great, but that half the Wise Men of Greece, were still at Liberty to believe no­thing of them; and this, notwith­standing the common Prejudices or Bigotry of the Grecians: Which is a very remarkable thing.

Lib. 4. of his E­vang. Pre­parations. Eusebius, tells us of six hundred Heathen Authors, who have writ a­gainst the Oracles: But of all these, in my Opinion, Oenomaus, (of whom he makes mention, and of whom he has preserved some Fragments) is one, the Loss of whose Works are to be the most lamented. There is a great deal of Pleasure to be found in those Fragments of his that re­main, [Page 55] where Oenomaus, full of his Cynical Liberty, argues upon every Oracle against the God who deliver­ed it, and draws up an Accusation against him. See how he treats the God of Delphos, who in his Answer to Croesus had pronounced these Words:

Croesus, in passing the River Halis, shall destroy a great Empire.

Which fell out accordingly; for Croesus passing the River Halis at­tack'd Cyrus, who (as all the World knows) came thundring upon him, and divested him of his Kingdoms.

You boast, (says Oenomaus to Apollo) in another Oracle delivered to Croe­sus, that you know the Number of the Grains of the Sea Sand; and I suppose, you set a great Value upon your self, be­cause you saw from Delphos, the Tor­toise, that Croesus ordered to be boiled in Lydia, at that very instant; this is a precious Knowledge to be proud of! But when you were consulted, con­cerning the Success of the War be­tween Croesus and Cyrus, there you [Page 56] were at a stand. If you can divine what shall happen in time to come, to what purpose do you make use of a manner of speaking which cannot be understood? do you not foresee your self that they will not be understood? if you do foresee it, you then take pleasure to make us your sport; if you do not know it, let us inform you that you ought to speak more clearly, and that you are not understood.

I tell you also, if you have a mind to use an Equivocation, that the Greek words by which you express, that Croe­sus shall destroy a great Empire, are not well chosen, and that they can signi­fy nothing else but a victory of Croesus over Cyrus. If there be a necessity that things must happen, wherefore dost thou amuse us with thy Ambigui­ties? what dost thou do at Delphos, (unhappily employ'd as thou art) to sing us useless Prophecies? to what pur­pose do we make thee so many Sacri­fices? what fury possesses us?

But Oenomaus is yet more out of humour with the Oracle, which Apol­lo deliver'd to the Athenians. When Xerxes fell upon Greece with all the [Page 57] forces of Asia, the Pythian Oracle gave 'em for answer, ‘That Minerva Protectress of A­thens endeavour'd all manner of waies (but in vain) to appease the anger of Iupiter; but nevertheless Iu­piter in favour of his Daughter, con­sented to suffer the Athenians to save themselves in walls of wood; and that Salamine shou'd see the Destruction of many Children dear to their Mothers; either when Ce­res shou'd be scattered abroad or when she should be gathered in.’

Upon this Oenomaus wholly loses his Respect for the God of Del­phos.

This combat between the Father and the Daughter, saies he, is very unhandsom for Gods. 'Tis very pretty there should be in Heaven such con­trary interests and inclinations? Ju­piter is angry with Athens, he brings down all the forces of Asia against it; but if he could not have ruin'd it without 'em, if he had no more Thun­der left, if he was reduc'd to borrow [Page 58] foreign forces, how had he it then in his Power to make all the forces of A­sia come down against this Town? Yet after this he suffers 'em to save them­selves in Walls of Wood; on whom then was his Anger to fall? what, on the Stones? Rare Diviner! you know not whom these Children shall be that Sala­mine shall see the destruction of, whe­ther Greeks or Persians; it cannot be avoided but they must be either one or t'other Army; and do not you at least know, that we shall soon see you know nothing? you conceal the time of Bat­tel under these Poetical expressions, When Ceres shall be scatter'd, or when she shall be gather'd in. You are willing to blind us with this Pompous Language; but does not every body know that a Naval Battel is never fought but either in Seed time or Har­vest; doubtless it will not be in Win­ter. But let what will happen you will get your self off by the means of this Jupiter, whom Minerva endeavours to appease; if the Grecians loose the Battel, Jupiter is then Inexorable; if they gain it, then Jupiter suffer'd [Page 59] himself to be appeas'd. And (Apol­lo) when you say, let 'em fly to Walls of Wood, you counsel, you do not Devine. I, who know not what Devining is, cou'd have said as much as this, and cou'd have judg'd as well, that the fury of the War wou'd fall upon Athens; and that since the Athenians had Ships, the best thing they cou'd do, was to abandon the Town and betake them­selves to the Sea.

Such was the veneration that some great sects of the Philosophers had for Oracles, and for those very Gods they thought the Authors of 'em. 'Tis very pleasant that all the Pagan Religion was no more than this one Problem of Philosophy; it is necessary to know whether the Gods take care of Men, or not, before the question can be answered, whether we ought to Adore 'em, or neglect 'em; the People have already deci­ded it, and are for Adoration, and nothing is to be seen but Temples and Sacrifices; but great Sects of the Philosophers maintain publickly [Page 60] that these Sacrifices, these Temples, these Adorations, are as so many fruitless and unprofitable things; and that the Gods are so far from de­lighting in 'em, that they take no cognizance of 'em. There is scarce a Greek who does not consult the O­racles concerning his affairs; but this does not prevent their being treated in three great Schools of Phi­losophy as absolute impostures.

Let me beg leave to carry this re­flection a little farther, which may serve to lay more open the Pagan Religion; the Grecians in general had a great deal of Wit, but they were very light, curious, unquiet, and uncapable of moderation in any thing; and, to tell my whole opini­on of 'em, they had so much Wit, that their Reason suffer'd by it. The Romans had quite another Character; they were Solid, Serious, and Indu­strious, they knew how to pursue a design and could foresee at a great distance the consequences of it. I should not be surpris'd that the Gre­cians (without thinking of the re­sult [Page 61] of things) shou'd impertinently treat pro and con of every thing; and at the same time that they are ma­king Sacrifices, dispute whether or no these Sacrifices approach the Gods; and consult Oracles without being assur'd whether they are meer Illusions or not. Doubtless the Philo­sophers concern'd themselves so lit­tle in the Government, that they took no care not to shock Religion in their disputes; and perhaps the People had not faith enough in the Philosophers to abandon their Reli­gion or change any thing in it up­on their word. In fine, the predomi­nant passion in the Greeks was to di­scourse on all matters at any rate: yet doubtless it is more astonishing to find that the Romans, and those the ablest amongst them too, and who knew best of what conse­quence Religion was to politicks, durst publish works that did not only call their Religion in question, but also turn'd it into ridicule. I speak of Cicero, who in his Books of Divina­tion has spar'd nothing of what was [Page 62] most Sacred at Rome. After he had made it evident enough to his very adversaries, how great a folly 'twas to consult the entrails of Beasts, he drives them at last to this answer: That the Gods, who are Almighty, change these entrails in the very mo­ment of the Sacrifice, to the end that we shou'd by them know their plea­sure in things to come. This answer was given by Chrysippus, by Antipa­ter and Possidonius, all great Philo­sophers and chief of the Party of the Stoicks. Ha! what say you? crys Cicero: the very old Women are not so credulous as you are. Can you believe (says he) that the same Calf has the Liver well dispos'd, if chosen for the Sacrifice by one, and ill dispos'd, if chosen by another? Can this dispositi­on of the Liver be chang'd in an in­stant, to accomodate it self to the for­tune of those that sacrifice? see you not, that it is chance that makes the choice of victims? does not ex­perience tell you so? for it often­times happens that the entrails of one victim may foretel something that is [Page 63] unfortunate and terrible, and those which are immediately after sacri­fic'd foretel most happy events. What then becomes of the menaces of these first entrails? What! are the Gods so soon Appeas'd? But you'll reply, that in a Bull, which Caesar was sacrificing, there was no heart found; and since this Animal cou'd not live without a Heart, it must of necessity be, that the Heart vanish'd just in the moment of the Sacrifice. Is it possible that you shou'd have sense enough to know that this Bull cou'd not live without an Heart, and yet have not enough to per­ceive that this heart cou'd not vanish in a moment, I know not whither. And a little after he adds; Believe me, you ruine all Physicks by defending the Art of Sooth-sayers: for then it is not the ordinary course of Nature that gives Birth aud Death to all things: and there are some Bodies which come from nothing and shall re­turn to nothing. What Naturalist ever held this opinion?

I cite this passage of Cicero's, but as an example of the extream liber­ty [Page 64] with which he insulted over that Religion which he himself profess'd. In a thousand other places he shows no more favour to Sacred Fowls, the flights of Birds, and all the Miracles with which the Annals of the chief Priest were fill'd. Why did they not Indict him for his Impiety? Why did not all the People regard him with horror? Why did not all the College of Priests rise up against him? But we have reason to believe that among the Pagans, Religion was a practice, the speculation of which was very indifferent. They did as others did, but believ'd what they themselves pleas'd. This principle is very extravagant; but the People who knew nothing of the imperti­nency of it, were content with it; and the Philosophers submitted to it very willingly, because it gave them freedom enough.

So that we may see that all the Pagan Religion was meer Ceremony, in which the mind bore no part. The Gods are angry, their Thunder is rea­dy to be discharg'd, how shall they be [Page 65] appeas'd? Must we repent us of the crimes we have committed? Must we re-enter into the paths of that natural Justice which ought to be among all Men? Not at all; we need only take a Calf of such a colour, calv'd at such a time, and cut the Throat of it with such a knife, and this will disarm the wrath of all the Gods: Nay farther, it is permitted you to laugh at the Sacrifice, if you have a mind to it; 'twill go never the worse with you.

Probably 'twas so also with the Oracles: every one believ'd, that wou'd; however they ceas'd not to consult 'em. So great a force custom has over the minds of Men, that there is no need of Reason to join with it.

CHAP. VIII. That other Men besides Philoso­phers have had little esteem for Oracles.

HIstories are full of Oracles, which were either despis'd by those who receiv'd 'em, or alter'd according to their fan­cy. Hero­dot. Book the first. Pactias a Lydian, and subject of the Persians, being fled to Cumae a Greek Town, the Persians sent to have him deliver'd up; the Cumaeans presently consult the Oracles of the Branchides, to know what they ought to do with him; the Oracle answered, that they shou'd deliver up Pactias. Aristodicus one of the Principal Cumeans, who was not of this mind, obtained through his cre­dit, that they should send a second time to the Oracle, and caus'd him­self to be made one of the Deputies; but the Oracle made the same answer it had done before. Aristodicus un­satisfied [Page 67] with this, as he was walk­ing about the Temple endeavoured to fright away certain little Birds which were building their Nests there; whereupon he presently heard a voice from the Sanctuary, crying, Detestable Mortal, how dare you fright from this place, those who are under my protection? And yet, great God, (replyed Aristodicus) you Order us to expel Pactias, who is under ours? Yes (answered the God) I do order it, to the end that you who are an Im­pious People, may be the sooner de­stroyed, and that you may come no more hither to Importune me with your Questions. It seems by this that the God was press'd home, since he had re­course to railing; but it appears al­so that Aristodicus did not over­much believe that it was a God who gave these Oracles, because he went a­bout to entrap him by the comparison of the Birds, and after he had in effect trap'd him, 'tis likely that he believ'd him less a God than he did before. The Cumeans themselves were not much perswaded of his being a [Page 68] Deity, since they believed a se­cond deputation might obtain a con­trary answer, or that at least the God might consider of what he had to say. By the way I observe that Ari­stodicus, when he laid his snare for the God could not but foresee that they would not let him fright away the Birds from so Holy a Sanctuary without saying any thing to him; and that the Priests were extreamly jealous of the honour of their Tem­ples.

The People of Egina Herodot. Lib. 5. had ravag'd the Coast of Attica, and the Athenians prepar'd themselves for an Expedition against them; at what time there came an Oracle from Delphos, threatning 'em with utter ruine in case they made War with those of Aegina, with­in the compass of thirty years; but when those thirty years were past, they were only to build a Temple to Aeacus and to undertake the War, and then all things wou'd succeed well. The Athenians, who burnt with a desire of Revenge, split the Oracle in half, and took notice of that [Page 69] part of it only, which related to the Temple of Aeacus, which they built out of Hand; but as to the thirty Years, they slighted that, and ap­plyed themselves immediately to at­tack the Aegineans, and obtained all the Advantages imaginable. This was not a particular Person, who had so little Regard for the Authority of Oracles, but a whole Common-wealth, and that a very superstitious one too.

It is not very easie, to tell what kind of regard the Pagans had for their Religion: For we said a little while ago, that they contented themselves with the outward Respect, which their Philosophers paid to the Oracles; but this was not always so; for I am not certain, that Socrates re­fused to offer Incense to the Gods, or behaved himself like other People at the Publick Festivals; but this I am sure of, that the Rabble accused him of Atheism, though they could only guess at his Opinion in this Point; for he never openly explained him­self. The People knew well enough [Page 70] what was taught publickly in the Schools of Philosophers; how then could they suffer Opinions, contrary to the Established Worship (and of­ten-times even against the Existence of the Gods) to be there maintain­ed? At least, they knew perfectly well, what was play'd upon the Theaters; for those shows were made for them: and it is sure the Gods were never treated with less Respect, than in the Comedies of A­ristophanes. Mercury in his Plutus complains that sight was restored to the God of Riches, who had till that time been blind, and that Plutus now beginning equally to favour all the World, the other Gods (to whom People no longer made Sacrifices to obtain Wealth) were starved for Hunger: And Mercury carries the Humor on so far, as to look out for some mean Imployment in a Citizen's House, that he might have Meat and Drink. The Birds of A­ristophanes are also very bold. All the Comedy turns upon this, That a certain City of Birds, which was [Page 71] designed to be built in the Air, would interrupt the Trade and Correspon­dence that was carried on between the Gods and Men; and by render­ing the Birds Masters of all, would reduce the Gods to the utmost Mi­sery: I leave you to judge, if this be not mighty devout. Yet this was the same Aristophanes, who endea­voured to excite the Rabble against the pretended Impiety of Socrates: There is therefore something, which I know not how to express, that is often found in the Affairs of this World. And it is apparent by these Examples, and may be made so by an Infinity of others, if there were Oc­casion, that the People were some­times in a Humor to hear with de­light their Religion rallied upon, and turned into a Jest; and if they ob­served Ceremonies, it was only to free themselves from those Inconve­niences which attend an open neglect of them; but 'tis evident, that at the bottom, they had not overmuch Faith in them: And they had just the same Respect for Oracles: For [Page 72] most commonly, they consulted them, that they might have no more Occasion to consult them; and if the Answers were not accommo­dated to their Designs, they did not much trouble themselves to obey them; for perhaps, it was no con­stant Opinion even amongst the com­mon People, that Oracles were de­livered by a Divine Power.

After all this, it would be unne­cessary to mention the Histories of those great Captains, who thought it no Crime, to reckon themselves above both Oracles and Auguries. And what is most remarkable, is, that this dis-esteem of Religion was practi­sed even in the first Ages of the Ro­man Common-wealth: In those times of happy Ignorance, when Men were so scrupulously fond of their Religi­on, and when (as Titus Livius says in a Place, which I am going to cite) Philosophy, which taught Men to despite the Gods, was not yet known.

Liv. lib. 10. Papirius made War with the Samnites, and in a certain conjun­cture [Page 73] of time, when the Roman Army with an extreme ardor, desired to come to a Battel, the sacred Chickens (forsooth) must be con­sulted; but the earnestness to fight was so general, that though the Chickens eat nothing at all, when they put them out of the Coop, yet those, who were appointed to ob­serve the Augury, reported to the Consul, that they had eaten very well: Upon this, the Consul promi­sed to his Souldiers both a Battel and Victory. But however secret this Augury was kept, the deceit broke out at last, and there arose a great Contest amongst the Keepers of the Chickens, about the false report that was made: The noise of which came to the ears of Papirius, who said, that for his Part, he had received a very favourable Augury, and that he was satisfied with it, and if what was told him were untrue, let those, whose Business it was to take the Au­gury, look to it; for all the evil would fall upon their Heads. Immediately therefore he ordered, that those un­happy [Page 74] People, the Keepers of the Sa­cred Chickens should be placed in the first Ranks, and so before the sig­nal of the Battel was given, an Ar­row (from whence shot none knew) pierced that poor unlucky Keeper who had given a false account of the Augury; as soon as the Consul heard this News, he cried out aloud— The Gods are here present: The Cri­minal is punish'd: They have dischar­ged all their Anger on him, who deser­ved it, and we have now all the Rea­son in the World to hope the best. Then immediately, he caused the Signal to be given, and gained an in­tire Victory over the Samnites.

It is very apparent, that the Gods had a less share in the Death of this Poor Keeper than Papirius; and that the General had a Design, by his Death, to encourage those Souldiers, whom the falsness of the Augury might have terrifi'd; for the Romans were acquainted with these Arts and Tricks in the times of their greatest Simplicity.

[Page 75]It must be confessed then, that we should be much in the Wrong, if we should believe these Auguries and O­racles, which the Pagans themselves did not believe. And if we will not think as meanly of them, as some Philosophers, and some Generals of Armies did; yet let us at least have such thoughts of them, as the People themselves sometimes had.

But doubtless (may some object) all the Pagans did not despise Ora­cles: And some particular Persons, that had no regard for them, are not sufficient intirely to discredit them. And to the Authority of those who did not believe them, we need do no more than oppose the Authority of those that did.

But it may be answered, that these two Authorities are not of equal Strength; for the Testimony of those who uphold a thing that is already established, contributes not much to the support of it; but the Testimony of those who do not believe it, is of Force enough to destroy it; for those who do believe a thing, may [Page 76] perhaps not know the Reasons, that may be given against the belief of it; but those who do not believe it, can­not chuse but know, why others be­lieve it.

It is quite contrary, when a new thing is to be introduced; for in that case, the Testimony of those that believe it, carries more weight with it, than the Testimony of those who do not believe it; for 'tis probably to be supposed, that those who believe it, must needs have examined it; and those who do not believe it, may perhaps not have considered of it.

I will not say, that either in the one or the other Case, the Authority of those who believe, or believe not, is a final decision; but I will say, that without a regard be had to the Rea­sons on which the two Parties found themselves, sometimes the Authority of one seems more receivable, and sometimes that of the other. Upon the whole Matter, in quitting a com­mon Opinion, or in receiving a new one, we make use of our Reason (whether it be good or bad;) but [Page 77] there is no need of making use of a­ny to reject a new opinion, or to take up one that is already common; for we have need of strength to resist a torrent, but we need none to fol­low it.

And it avails not to the credit of Oracles, that among those who be­lieve, that there is something in 'em of divine and supernatural, there shou'd be found some Philosophers of great name, such as the Stoicks are; for when Philosophers are once prepos­sess'd with any thing, they are more incurable than the common People, and are as much blinded with pre­judices and false Reasons, with which they uphold their opinion. The Sto­icks in particular (as proud and su­percilious a Sect as they were) held some opinions which deserv'd pity. How cou'd they chuse but believe Oracles, who believ'd Dreams? The great Chrysippus himself adop­ted some points for articles of his faith, which had been more suitable for the belief of some silly Old Wo­man.

CHAP. IX. That the Ancient Christians them­selves did not very firmly be­lieve that Oracles were deliver'd by Daemons.

ALtho' the Learned Christians in the first Ages, were fond enough of asserting that Oracles were deliver'd by Daemons, yet they wou'd very often reproach the Heathens with their being imposed upon by their Priests: Which thing was un­doubtedly true, since they asserted it, even with the hazard of losing this system of Daemons, which they esteemed so favourable to 'em.

Thus Clement Alexandrinus speaks in his third Book of Tapistries.

Boast, if you will, of your Oracles, full of folly and impertinence, of those of Claros, of Apollo Pythius, of Didy­mus of Amphiaraus, and of Amphilo­cus. You may yet add your Augurs and [Page 79] Interpreters of Dreams and Prodigies. Show us in the Presence of Apollo Pythius, those Men who divined by Flower or by Barley, and those who have been so esteemed, because they spoke out of their Bellies. Let the Secrets of the Aegyptian Temples, and of the Hetrurian Necromancers re­main still in Darkness, for they are certainly all but extravagant Impostures and Deceits, not better than meer cheating at Dice: And the Goats which are kept for Divination, and the Ravens which are taught to deli­ver Oracles, are but as the Assistants or Zaneys of Mountebanks, who cozen all Mankind.

Eusebius, in the Beginning of his fourth Book of Evangelical Prepara­tions, proposes at large the best Rea­sons in the World to prove, that Oracles could be no other, than Im­postures: And it is upon those very Reasons, that I pretend to support my self, when I come to treat of the cheats of Oracles in particular.

[Page 80]Nevertheless, I must confess, that tho Eusebius knew so very well how to prove, that Oracles could not be supernatural, yet he attributes them to Daemons; and the Authority of a Man so well instructed with the Rea­sons on both sides, is a very great encouragement to the Party which he embraces.

But it is to be noted, that after Eu­sebius had very well proved, that O­racles could be no other than the Im­postures of Priests, he assures us (without either destroying or weak­ning those first Proofs) that for all this, they were delivered by Dae­mons. But he ought to have cited some unsuspected Oracle, which had been delivered in such Circumstan­ces, that although many others might be imputed to the Artifices of Priests, yet that could not. But Eusebius has done no such thing. This is, as if he should say, I clearly see, that all the O­racles can be no other than Cheats; but yet, I will not believe them to be so, because it serves my purpose, that the Devil should now and then enter into an Oracle.

[Page 81]This is a very lamentable kind of reasoning. But I must confess, if Eusebius (in the Circumstances of the times which he lived in) durst not have said openly, that Oracles were not the Works of Daemons, it had been excusable; but then in seeming to maintain that they were so, he ought to have managed his Arguments in such a way, that he might have insinuated the contrary with the best Address he was capable of. But we are at liberty to guess at the Reasons, that guided Eusebius in this matter, according to the Esteem we have of him: For my own part, I believe clearly, that he asserted these Oracular Daemons, rather by way of Apology and from a forced Respect he had for the common Opinion, than on any other Account.

There is a passage of Origen, in his Seventh Book against Celsus, which sufficiently proves that he at­tributed Oracles to Daemons, only to accommodate himself to the Times, and to the Disputes, which in that Age were between the Christians and the [Page 82] Pagans. I might (said he) make use of the Authority of Aristotle, and the Peripateticks, to render the Pythian Oracle suspected: I could draw from Epicurus and those of his Sect, an In­finity of things, that would discredit Oracles; and I could easily make it appear, that the Greeks themselves made no great Account of them; but conceding that they were not fictions, nor Impostures, let us examine the Case a little more carefully, and consi­der, whether there were any Necessity, that a God should have any business there, and if it were not more reasona­ble to believe, that they were managed by evil Daemons and Genii, that were Enemies to Mankind.

It is sufficiently evident, that Origen was inclined to believe of Oracles, as we do; but the Pagans, who used them for a Proof of the Divinity of their Religion, had no Reason to consent, that they were but the Ar­tifices of their Priests: So, that to gain a little upon the Pagans, there was a necessity of yielding to them, what they maintained with so much [Page 83] Obstinacy, and to let them see, that tho there might be something of Su­pernatural in the Oracles, yet there was no reason to say, that a true Di­vinity was concerned in them; and so Daemons were to be brought upon the Stage.

'Tis true, that it had been much better wholly to have excluded even these Daemons from Oracles; and by that means, the greatest blow would indeed have been given to the Pagan Religion that can be imagined. But all the World perhaps did not enter so deep into this Matter, and they thought they had done enough, when by the Hypothesis of Daemons, (which solves the whole Business in two words,) they disparaged all those Miracles, which the Pagans could al­ledge for their false Worship.

This, it is probable, was the Cause, why in the first Ages of the Church, Men so generally embraced this O­pinion concerning Oracles. For we see clearly enough into the Darkness of re­mote Antiquity, to discover, that Christians did not hold this Opinion [Page 84] so much for the truth, which they found in it, as for the Advantages, which it gave them in their Disputes against Paganism: And could they be born again in the Age wherein we live, I doubt not, but that being then delivered, like us, from those strange Notions, that obliged them to that Hypothesis, they would have had (almost all of them) the same dis­esteem of Oracles, as we have at this time.

Hitherto, we have only taken a­way the Prejudices that are contrary to our Opinion, and which are drawn, either from the System of the Christian Religion, or else from Phi­losophy, with the general Consent of both Pagans and Christians. We have answered all this, not only by making a simple Defence, but very often by starting Objections; but now we shall make our Assaults with greater Vigour, and demonstrate by all those particular Circumstances, which we can remark in Oracles, that they never ought to have been attributed to Daemons.

CHAP. X. That Oracles were corrupted by Bribery.

IT was so easy a matter to cor­rupt these Oracles, that it was ve­ry evident that they were managed by Men. The Pythian Priestess Phi­lipises, said Demosthenes, when he was complaining that the Oracles of Delphos were alwaies conformable to the interest of Philip.

Herod. Lib. 6. When Cleomenes King of Sparta was minded to dethrone Demaratus the former King, on pretence that he was not the Son of Ariston his predecessor, and that Ariston himself had complain'd that his Son was born a little too soon after his Marriage, the Oracle was consulted on so difficult a question; for the thing was of such a Nature, that it cou'd be decided on­ly by the Gods. But Cleomenes himself went beforehand to engage the chief Priestess of Delphos, and so she [Page 86] declar'd that Demaratus was not the Son of Ariston. The cheat was some­time after discover'd, and the Priestess depriv'd of her Dignity; for they were bound to revenge this disho­nour done to their Oracles, and to endeavour to repair their lost cre­dit.

Herod. Lib. 5.During the time that Hippias was Tyrant of Athens, some Citizens whom he had Banish'd, obtain'd of the Pythian Priestess by the force of Money, that when the Lacedaemonians shou'd come to consult her (no matter on what affairs) she should always tell 'em, they must deliver Athens from Tyrany. And the Lacedaemonians, to whom the same thing was always repeated, whatever they came about, believ'd at last, that the Gods wou'd never Pardon them, if they con­temn'd their so frequent Orders; and thereupon they took up Arms a­gainst Hippias, tho' he were their Ally.

If the Daemons delivered Oracles, they were alwaies full of complai­sance to those Princes that were once [Page 87] become redoubted; and 'tis to be no­ted that Hell had a very great regard for Alexander and Augustus. Some Historians tell us plainly that Alex­ander had a mind by his absolute Authority to make himself the Son of Iupiter Ammon, both for his inte­rest and the Honour of his Mother, who was suspected to have had a gallant much less considerable than Iupiter: and they add, that before he went to the Temple, he caus'd the God to be advertis'd of his will and pleasure; and the God very honestly obeyed his command. Other Au­thors hold, that the Priests found out of themselves this way of flatte­ring Alexander. There is none but Plutarch that grounds this Divinity of Alexander on a mistake of the Priest of Ammon, who saluting this King, and intending to say to him in Greek, Oh my Son, pronounc'd a [...] for a [...], [...] for [...]. (for he was a Lybian, and knew not well how to pronounce the Greek;) and the words with this change signify, Oh Son of Iupiter. And the whole Court fail'd not to [Page 88] construe this mistake of the Priest, to the advantage of Alexander; and without doubt the Priest himself made it pass for an Inspiration of the God who had directed his Tongue, and so by Oracles afterwards confirm'd his ill pronounciation. This last man­ner of relating this History pleases me extreamly, for I love to find very little Originals give rise to mighty things; this seems to me to be proba­ble, and a Mockery worthy of spor­ting fortune.

Pruden. Augustus was so in Love with Livia, that he took her by force from her Husband, big with Child as she was; and so impatient, was his Passion, that he would not deferr his Marriage till she were delivered, but the action being something extra­ordinary the Oracle was consulted a­bout it; who knew well how to make its Court to so glorious a Mo­narch, and was not only content to approve the Marriage, but assur'd him, that Weddings never succeded better, than when the Bride was al­ready with Child. This seems [Page 89] to me a very strange Maxim.

There were at Sparta but two fa­milies, out of which they might chuse their Kings. But Lysander, one of the greatest Men that ever Sparta bred, fram'd a design to take away this distinction, too advantage­ous for those two Families, and too in­jurious to all the rest; and to open a way to Royalty for all those who had merit enough to pretend to it. In order to this, he contriv'd so per­plex'd a plot, that I admire how a Man of Wit could hope to draw any suc­cess from it. Plutarch says very well, that it was like a Mathematical De­monstration, to which no Man ar­rives but by tedious methods. There was a Woman in Pontus who preten­ded to be Big with Child by Apollo; Lysander cast his thoughts upon this Son of Apollo, intending to make use of him when he shou'd be born; (this it was to have a very great foresight) and he causes a report to be spread abroad, that the Priests of Delphos had in their possession very ancient Oracles which they were not [Page 90] permitted to read, because Apollo had reserv'd that privilege for some one that should come of his blood, and who should come to Delphos to justi­fy his descent. The Child of the Woman at Pontus was to be this Son of Apollo; and it was contriv'd that amongst those mysterious Oracles, so closely conceal'd, there should be one found out, which should declare to the Spartans that they ought to give the Crown to Desert only, without having any regard to Families. So that now nothing remain'd but to shape up some Oracles; to get this Son of Apollo (who was called Silenus) into the project, to make him come to Delphos, and to bribe the Priests. All this was done, which seems to me very surprizing; for what strange machines must they have made use of, for the accomplishing so great a design? Silenus comes to Greece and prepares to make himself known at Delphos for the Son of A­pollo; but, as ill luck would have it, one of Lysander's creatures having some terrors upon him; at last when he [Page 91] found himself embark'd in so dange­rous an affair, spoil'd all.

There is scarce a more remarkable example to be found in all History of the corruption of Oracles; but in reporting it, I will not dissemble a truth which my Author saies no­thing of; which is, that Lysander had before endeavour'd to corrupt many other Oracles, but could not accom­plish it. Dodona refused to take his money, Iupiter Ammon was inflexible, and even the Priests of the place sent deputies to Sparta to accuse Lysan­der; but by the force of his credit he got himself clear of that affair. The great Priestess of Delphos denyed to sell him her voice. And this makes me believe, that there were in Delphos two Colleges, which held no communication with one another, the one of Priests, the other of Priestesses; for Lysander, who could not corrupt the great Priestess, could yet suffici­ently corrupt the Priests. The Prie­stesses were those only who deliver'd the Oracles Viva voce, and who with a thousand Antick motions and grima­ces [Page 92] acted the Possess'd on the Tripos, and seemed to rage, with the inspi­rations of the God; but in all probabi­lity the Priests had a Ware-house of Written Prophecies, of which they were the Masters, the Dispensers, and the Interpreters.

It is not to be doubted, but that the Priests, for the honour of their trade would seem very nice and scru­pulous to those who desir'd to bribe 'em, especially when things were requir'd wherein there was no rea­son to hope for much success; such as was the novelty, which Lysander had a design to introduce into the government of Sparta: and perhaps the faction of Agesilaus, which was against that of Lysander, was some­what jealous of his project, and had been before-hand with the Oracles. Nor is it to be imagin'd, that the Priests of Ammon would have taken the pains to have come from the far­thest part of Libya to Sparta, to have accused so great a Man as Lysander, if there had not been a very good understanding between their Oracles [Page 93] and his Enemies, who encouraged them to accuse him.

CHAP. XI. Of the Erection of new Oracles.

THe Oracles, which were some­times erected anew, do as much weaken the Hypothesis of Dae­mons, as the Oracles that were cor­rupted by Bribery.

After the Death of Ephaestion, A­lexander, to comfort himself, would needs have it believed, that Ephaesti­on was a God; To which, all his Courtiers consented without any Difficulty: And immediately, Tem­ples were erected in many Cities to Ephaestion, Festivals were instituted to his Honour, Sacrifices were made to him, Miraculous Cures were attri­buted to him, and in fine (that no­thing at all might be wanting) they made him deliver Oracles. Lucian [Page 94] says, that Alexander, who was at first astonished to see the Divinity of Ephaestion have such Success, believed it himself at length to be true, and found a great deal of Pleasure, in thinking not only, that he himself was a God, but that he had also the Power of making Gods.

Adrian committed the same Folly for the lovely Antinous: In Honour of whose Memory he built the City of Antinopolis, he consecrated Tem­ples and Prophets to him (says St. Ierome:) Now there were no Pro­phets, but in those Temples where there were Oracles. And there is yet remaining this Greek Inscription:

To Antinous,

The Companion of the Gods of Ae­gypt. M. Ulpius Apollonius, his Prophet.

After this, we need not wonder, that Augustus also delivered Oracles, as we find it in Prudentius: And cer­tainly Augustus was as fit to be wor­shipped [Page 95] as Antinous or Ephaestion, who according to all likelihood, owed their Divinity only to their Beauty.

Without doubt, these new Oracles caused even those, who were the least capable of thinking, to make Re­flections upon them. Was there not Reason to believe, that these were of the same Nature with the Ancient ones? And to make a due Judgment on the first beginnings of those of Amphiaraus, Trophonius, Orpheus, and of Apollo himself, they needed no more, than to consider those of Ephaestion, Antinous and Augustus.

'Tis plain however, that they were not in like Credit with those of more ancient Dates, and that there is a vast difference between them; for they stinted the Gods of the new Edition to certain Answers, that were neces­sary for the flattering of Princes; but for any thing else, they were not seriously consulted.

For when Questions of Importance were to be asked, they went to Del­phos. The ancient Tripodes had been in Possession of Futurity, time out of [Page 96] Mind; and the word of a good, sage, experienced God was far more authentick than that of these Up­starts, who were less versed in the Trade. The Roman Emperors, whose Interest it was to advance and set a value on the Divinity of their Prede­cessors (since themselves claimed the same) would have endeavoured to have render'd the Oracles of the dei­fied Emperors (such as Augustus was) more celebrated, if it had not been that the People, accustomed to their ancient Oracles, could not have the same Confidence in these; for I would willingly believe, that, what Inclina­tion soever they had to the most ri­diculous superstitions, yet they laugh'd at these new Oracles, and in general, at all the Consecrations of new Gods: For how could they pos­sibly take the Eagle, which flew out of the flaming Funeral Pile of a Ro­man Emperor, to be the Soul of that Emperor, that was taking its Flight to Heaven?

How then came it to pass, that People were deceived at the first E­rection [Page 97] of Gods and Oracles? Thus it was, as I conjecture. As for the Gods, Paganism had only two prin­cipal sorts of them, either Gods who were supposed to be essentially of a Divine Nature, or Gods which did not become so, till after they had been of a humane Nature first. The former sort were declared Gods by the Lear­ned, or by the Legislators with a multitude of Mysteries; and the Peo­ple neither saw them, nor ever had seen them: The second sort (tho' the whole World knew that they had been Men, yet they) were made Gods by the Inclination of the Peo­ple, in Memory of their Vertues. They framed to themselves a very elevated Idea of the one sort, be­cause they were above their view; and of the other, because they loved them. But they could not have that Devotion for a Roman Emperor, who was only made a God by the Favour and Order of the Court, and not by the Love of the People, and who be­sides this, was known so very lately to have been a Man.

[Page 98]As for the Oracles, their first Esta­blishment is not difficult to unfold: For find me but half a dozen Persons, whom I can perswade that it is not the Sun that makes the Day, and I will not despair of prevailing with a whole Nation to embrace the same Opinion: For however ridiculous a­ny thing seems at first, if you can but maintain it for some time, so that it gains the Authority of Antiquity, it is then sufficiently proved.

There was on the top of Par­nassus a hole, out of which an Exha­lation came, which was of such a Nature, that it made Goats dance and caper, by fuming into their Heads; and perhaps some Body, whose Head was filled with this Ex­halation became an Enthusiast, fell a talking, without knowing what he said, and by chance spoke truth. Im­mediately, there was something Di­vine fansied to be in this Exhalation, and that it contained the Knowledge of Futurity; then, they begin to ap­proach this hole with Veneration, and Ceremonies are by little and lit­tle [Page 99] introduced. Thus in all probability, the Oracle of Del­phos was at first erected. And as it owed its Original to an Exhalation, which infected the Head, there was a necessity that the Pythian Priestess should be in a Fury, when she was to prophesie; but in the greatest part of the other Oracles, Fury was not practised. Let but one Oracle be set up, and you need not doubt but a thousand will follow the Exam­ple; for if the Gods can speak in one, why should they not do so as well in others? The People struck with the Wonder of the thing, and finding of what use it would be, and cove­tous of the Profit, which they ex­pected from it, desired nothing more than to see Oracles set up in every place; and in time, all these Oracles got the Advantage of Antiquity, which stood them in great stead. And it could not be expected, that the new ones should have such Success, since they were established by Prin­ces: whereas the People are most willing to believe, what they make themselves.

[Page 100]Add to all this, that at the time of the first institution both of Gods and Oracles, Ignorance was much greater than it was afterwards. Phi­losophy was not then known in the World, and the most extravagant su­perstitions had met with no contra­diction from thence. 'Tis true that those we call the People are never mighty knowing; yet the dulness, with which they are alwaies possess'd, re­ceives some difference according to the Ages in which they live. But there are some Ages wherein all the World are the People, and those times without comparison are the most favourable for the introduction of errors. 'Tis no wonder then, that the People had a less esteem for the new Oracles, than for the Ancient ones; but this makes not the old Oracles any whit better than the new ones. Now either a Daemon went to lodge in the Statue of Ephaestion, to deli­ver Oracles from thence (as soon as it pleas'd Alexander to erect one to him as to a God:) or if the Statue deliver'd Oracles without this Dae­mon, [Page 101] then that of Apollo Pythius might do so as well. And it seems to me very strange and surprizing, that the fancy of Alexander should be able to send a Daemon to take pos­session of a Statue, which by that means only was to become an eter­nal occasion of error to all Men.

CHAP. XII. Of the places where Oracles were.

WE shall now enter upon the History of those Artifices and cheats what the Priests pra­ctis'd: which contains many things of Antiquity very agreeable and par­ticular.

Countries that were Mountainous (and by consequence full of holes, and caverns) were alwaies fullest of Oracles; such was Boeotia, which anciently, as Plutarch saies, had a number of them. Where by the way [Page 102] you may observe that the Boeotians had the repute of being the foolishest Nation of the World; and therefore it was a fit country for Oracles, be­ing full of blockheads and Ca­verns.

I cannot believe that the first esta­blishment of Oracles was a design'd cheat; but that the People fell into some superstition which gave 'em a beginning, and that afterwards Men of Wit made their advantages of 'em. For the weakness of the People is oftentimes greater than could have been foreseen; and many times those that deceive 'em, think of nothing less, until they themselves give some opportunity for the fraud. And my opinion is, that Oracles were not therefore placed in Boeotia, because 'tis Mountainous; but because the O­racle of Delphos had by chance its beginning there, after the manner which we have related, therefore o­thers, that were made in imitation of that in the same country, were situ­ated also in the Caverns: the conve­niences of which for that purpose, [Page] were very well known to the Priests.

This custom afterwards spread it self every where; for the pretence of Divine exhalations render'd these caverns necessary: and besides ca­verns of themselves affect one with a certain horror, which does not a little advance superstition; and in things that are only to make impres­sions on the imaginations of Men nothing is to be neglected. It may be also, that the situation of Delphos contributed to the making it be e­steem'd as a holy Town; it was built on a small level which was half way up the Mountain of Parnassus, and encompass'd with precipices which fortify'd it without the help of art. That part of the Mountain which was above it, had the resemblance of a Theatre; and the voice of Men, and the sound of Trumpets was multi­ply'd by the echoes of the Rocks. Do not you believe then, that they knew how to make even these Echoes of great use to 'em?

The advantages of the Priests, and the majesty of the Oracles, do equal­y [Page 104] require these caverns; for which reason there was no great number of these prophetick Temples situated on Plains; but yet there were some, whose defects the Priests knew well enough how to remedy, and instead of natural caverns, to accomodate 'em with Artificial ones, that is to say, what they call Sanctuaries, which were a sort of Caves where the Di­vinity perpetually resided, and where none but the Priests ever en­ter'd.

Plutar. Dial. that Oracles are not ceas'd. When the Pythian Priestess placed her self upon the Tripos, it was in her Sanctuary, an obscure place at some distance from a certain little chamber, wherein those who came to consult the Oracles were to stand. The entrance of this Sanctuary was all cover'd over with boughs of Lau­rel, by whch means those who had the liberty of approaching it, could make no discoveries.

From whence do you think, pro­ceeds the diversity that is to be found in the description which the Anci­ents give of their oracles? It is be­cause [Page 105] they never saw what pass'd in the most sacred recesses of their Temples.

For example, they agree not a­mong themselves about the Oracle of Dodona, and yet what could be better known to the Greeks? Ari­stotle, (as Suidas reports) writes, that at Dodona there were two co­lumns, upon one of which there was a Bason of Brass, and upon the other a Statue of a Child who held a Whip, the cords of which being also of Brass made a noise against the Bason, when they were agitated by the Wind.

Demon (according to the same Suidas) says that the Oracle of Iu­piter at Dodona is all encompass'd with Basons, of which, when any one is push'd against the next, the moti­on is communicated all round to the rest, and they make a din, which continues for some time.

Others say, that there was a resoun­ding Oak, which shook its Branches, and leaves together, all the while the Oracle was consulted; and its mea­ning [Page 106] was pronounced by the Priestes­ses called Dodonides. It is plain from all this that there was nothing certain but the noise, which was to be heard from without; but not seeing the inward Sanctuary, where the Oracle resided, they only knew, but by con­jecture, and the fallacious reports of the Priests what caus'd this noise. Yet we find in History, that some few had the privilege to enter into these Sanctuaries; but they were persons of no less quality than Alexander and Vespasian. Strabo reports from Cal­listhenes that Alexander enter'd a­lone with the Priest into the Sanctu­ary of Ammon, and that all the rest heard the Oracle only from with­out.

Tacitus also relates that Vespasian when he was at Alexandria, (having already a design upon the Empire) would needs consult the Oracle of Serapis; but before he enter'd, he made every body quit the Temple; and yet for all this, perhaps he did not enter into the Sanctuary. But the instances of this privilege are [Page 107] very rare; for my Author averrs that he never knew of any other than these two; unless you will add what Tacitus says of Titus, to whom the Priest of Paphian Venus discovered in secret many great things, concer­ning the designs which he had then in hand. But yet this example proves less than that of Vespasian, that the Priests allow'd great Men the liberty of entring into the Sanctuary of their Temples. Doubtless one ought to have a great deal of credit with the Priests, to oblige 'em to discover the Arcana of their mysteries; but they did it only to Princes, whose Inte­rest they knew it was to keep the se­cret; and who, in the circumstances which they were then in, had some particular reason to raise and not les­sen the reputation of Oracles.

In these dark Sanctuaries it was, that all the machines of the Priests lay; and they enter'd into them by intricate paths under ground. Rufi­nus describes to us the Temple of Se­rapis full of covert ways: and (to bring a testimony yet stronger than [Page 108] his) do not the Holy Scriptures dis­cover to us the impostures of the Priests of Belus, who had a private conveyance to enter secretly into his Temple, and to take away the meat which was there offer'd to him? It seems to me that this History alone ought to decide the whole question in our favour; for we there have an ac­count of one of the miracles of Paga­insm, which was the most universally believ'd, how that the Gods took the pains to come and Eat the consecra­ted meat, themselves. Do the Scri­ptures attribute this prodigy to Dae­mons? not at all; but to the Priests, who were impostors. And it is in this place alone that the Scriptures vouchsafe to give the description of a Pagan miracle; and by not adverti­sing us that the rest were not of the same nature, they give us plainly to understand that they were. After all, how much easier was it to perswade People that the Gods descended into Statues to speak to 'em, and give 'em wholesome instructions, than that they came down to Eat the members [Page 109] of Goats and Sheep; and therefore surely if it was the Priests that Eat and not the Gods, by much stronger reason, it was they that pronounced the Oracles in their stead.

The Cavities of the Sanctuary, in­creas'd the voice, and caus'd reboun­ding Echoes, which imprinted a sort of awful terror in all that approach'd it: you see also in all the Poets that the Pythian Priestesses strain'd their voices, so much beyond the pitch of nature, that they appear'd to be more than humane. Perhaps too that sort of Sir Sam. Morelands speaking Trumpet. Trumpet which multiplies the sound, was not then altogether un­known: and it may be Sir, Samuel Moreland, has but revived this secret, which the Pagan Priests knew be­fore him; tho' they chose rather to get profit by concealing it, than ho­nour by publishing it. And Father Kirker assures us that Alexander had one of these instruments, with which he made himself be heard by his whole Army at the same time. There is one little thing which I will not forget, because it serves to demon­strate [Page 110] the extream application which the Priests had to cheating. From the Sanctuary or bottom of the Tem­ple there came out sometimes a very agreeable vapour which fill'd all the place where the Consulters were: It was the arrival of the God, you must know, that perfum'd all. Judge then, if Men who carried on their impo­stures so curiously as to descend to these trifles, would neglect any thing that was essential.

CHAP. XIII. Of the Distinctions of days, and other Mysteries of Oracles.

THE Priests neglected not any kind of precaution; and therefore they had certain days on which no man was permit­ted to consult the Oracle. This had a mysterious Air, which is still much practis'd in like matters; but yet the chief advantage which they drew [Page 111] from it, was, that they could put you off with this pretext till another time, either if they had no mind to give you any answer at all, or if they thought fit to have this time of si­lence for the taking their measures and making their preparatives.

On occasion of these pretended un­lucky days, there was deliver'd to Alexander one of the pleasantest O­racles that ever was. He went to Delphos to consult the God, and the Priestess, pretending that it was not then a lawful time to interrogate, would not enter into the Temple. A­lexander, who was very rough and impatient, took the Priestess by the Arm and led her in by force; where­upon she cry'd out, Ah, my Son, you are not to be resisted. I desire no more, (says Alexander) this Oracle is e­nough for me.

But the Priests had got another secret to gain time when they plea­sed. Before they would consult the Oracles they must Sacrifice; and if the entrails of the victim were not lucky, then the God was not in an hu­mour [Page 112] to answer; now none judged of the victims but the Priests: and for the most part (as it appears by many examples) they were alone when they examin'd 'em: And often, to delay the time, they would make men begin their Sacrifice a new, and bring a second victim, tho' they had already offer'd one that had the finest Heart and Liver in the World.

What were call'd the Mysteries and secret Ceremonies of the Gods, were without doubt the best Artifices the Priests could invent to keep People in the dark: and yet they could not so well hide the juggle, but that the cheat would be suspected by many persons; and therefore they contri­ved among themselves to establish certain Mysteries, which should in­gage those that were initiated into them to an inviolable secrecy.

'Tis true there were mysteries in those Temples where there were no Oracles but there were no Oracles but what had mysteries: as for in­stance in that of Delphos. Plutarch, in his Dialogues so often cited, says, [Page 113] that there was no Person in the Town of Delphos, nor in all that Country, that was not initiated into their mysteries, and so every body had his dependance on the Priests; and if any one had dared to have o­pened his mouth against 'em, they presently cryed out, O the Atheist! O the impious Man! and he would have drawn upon himself by his plain dealing such inconveniences, as he could never have got quit of. But yet if there had been no such myste­ries, the inhabitants of Delphos would have been alwaies obliged to have conceal'd the knavery of their Priests; for Delphos was a City which had no other Revenue but that of its Tem­ple, and was maintain'd only by its Oracle; but for all that, the Priests were not contented till they had se­cured the People to themselves by a double tie, and so they annexed super­stition to their interest. And with­out doubt a Man who had spoken ill of their Oracles, would have been wonderous well received in such a Town.

[Page 114]Those, who were initiated into their mysteries, gave also further se­curity for their discretion; for they were oblig'd to make a confession to their Priests of all the most private actions of their Lives: so that by this means they became slaves to their Priests, that their own secrets might be kept.

It was upon this sort of confession that a Lacedaemonian, who was go­ing to initiate himself into the my­steries of Samothrace, spoke roundly thus to the Priest: If I have commit­ted any crimes, surely the Gods are not ignorant of 'em.

Another answer'd almost after the same manner: Is it to you or to God we ought to confess our Crimes? It is to God, says the Priest. Well then, retire thou, answered the Lacedaemo­nian, and I'll confess 'em to God. These Lacedaemonians were not very full of the Spirit of Devotion, and I do not doubt but there might have been some Man Wicked enough to go and make a false confession, to get himself initiated into their myste­ries, [Page 115] and then afterwards to make a discovery of all their Extravagancies, and publish the Cheats of the Priests.

I believe that this Misfortune may have happened, for though Priests used all possible means to prevent such Discoveries: They observed narrow­ly what Persons they were, with whom they had to do; and, I'll warrant you, the two Lacedaemoni­ans, whom we have mentioned, were not admitted. Besides, they decla­red the Epicureans, incapable of be­ing initiated into their Mysteries, because they were a sort of Men, who made it their Business to laugh at them; and I believe, they never delivered Oracles to them: Nor was it very difficult to know them; for all those among the Greeks, who ap­plied themselves to Literature, made choice of some Sect of Philosophy, or other, and took their Appellation from that Sect, almost as we do from a Country. For Example, there were three Demetriuses, which were thus distinguished; one was Demetri­us [Page 116] the Cynick, the other, Demetrius the Stoick, and the third, Demetri­us the Peripatetick. This Custom of excluding the Epicureans from all Mysteries, was so general, and so ne­cessary for the securing of Sacred things, that it was made use of by that Grand Cheat, whose Life Lucian describes so agreeably; I mean that Alexander, who fooled the Greeks so long a time with his Serpents: But he also added the Christians to the Epicureans; for he thought one no bet­ter than the other: And before he be­gan his Ceremonies, he always cried, Let the Christians be put out. To whom the People answered in a kind of Chorus, Let the Epicureans be put out also. Nay, he did far worse than all this; for seeing himself tormented by these two sorts of People, (who, tho pushed by different Interests, yet con­spired together to turn his Ceremo­nies into Ridicule) he declared that Pontus (where he then lived) was filled with wicked People, and that the God, whose Prophet he was, would speak no more, if they did [Page 117] not rid themselves of them; and up­on this, they murdered all the Epi­cureans and the Christians.

Daphnean Apollo, in the Suburbs of Antioch, was in the same uneasi­ness, when in the time of Iulian the Apostate, he answered all those, who asked him the Cause of his silence, that they must lay the blame on cer­tain dead People, who were interred in the Neighbour-hood. These dead People were Christian Martyrs, and amongst the rest, St. Babilas. Now the current Opinion is, that it was the Presence of these blessed dead Bo­dies, which deprived the Daemons of the Power of speaking in the Oracle; but 'tis more probable, that the great Concourse of Christians, which dai­ly visited the Sepulchers of these Martyrs, incommoded the Priests of Apollo, who did not care, that such clear-sighted Enemies should be Wit­nesses of their Actions; and there­fore they endeavoured by this false Oracle, to obtain of the Pagan Em­peror, that he would cause these Bo­dies, [Page 118] of which the God complained, to be cast out from thence.

But let us return to the Artifices of the Priests, of which the Oracles are full: And to comprehend in one Re­flection alone, all those that can be made upon them, I would fain have some one tell me, why the Daemons could not predict what was to come, unless they were in holes, in Ca­verns and in obscure Places? And why they did never animate a Statue, in some common Road, where four high Ways met, exposed on all sides to the view of the World? But it may perhaps be said, that those Oracles which were given in answer to sealed Letters, and those that were deli­vered by Dreams, could not have been without Daemons; but 'twill be very easie for us to show, that they had nothing in them more wonderful and miraculous than the rest.

CHAP. XIV. Of Oracles that were delivered in Answer to Sealed Letters.

THe Priests were not so scru­pulous in that Point, as not to unseal the Letters that were brought them. The Custom was to lay them upon the Altar: After which the Temple was to be shut; but the Priests knew very well how to enter, without being perceived. Or else, they put the Letters into the Hands of the Priests, that they might sleep upon them, and receive in a Dream the Answer, which they were to return: And in both Cases, they had the Leisure to open them privately. For the doing this, they had many secret Arts: Some of which we see practised by the false Prophet of Lucian. And they are to be seen in Lucian himself by any one, that has the Curiosity to know [Page 120] how the Letters of the Ancients were to be opened, without its being per­ceived that they were so.

Certainly, they made use of some of these Secrets, to open those Let­ters, that the Governour of Cilicia (of whom Plutarch speaks) had sent to the Oracle of Mopsus, which was at Mallus, a City of that Province. The Governour knew not what to think of the Gods; for he was pos­sessed by the Epicureans with many doubts, which they had put into his Head: So that, he was resolved, as Plutarch pleasantly observes, to send a spy among the Deities, to learn what he could of them: So he gave him a Letter very carefully sealed, to carry to the Oracle of Mopsus. This Envoy came, and, as the Custom was, laid his Letter upon the Altar, and himself slept in the Temple, where he saw in a Dream, a Man, very well made, who said to him, Black. He carried back this Answer to the Governor with his Letter sealed just as he sent it, to all Appea­rance. The Answer seemed very ri­diculous [Page 121] to the Epicureans, that were at Court; but himself was struck with Astonishment and Wonder at it; and opening his Letter before them, he showed them what he had written; which was this Question: Shall I sacrifice to you a white or a black Bullock? After this Miracle, he was all his Life very much devo­ted to the God Mopsus. We will hereafter discover to you the Myste­ry of the Dream; but it is sufficient at present to tell you, that there is no doubt, but that the Letters were o­pened and sealed again with great Dexterity and Address; for what ne­cessity was there of sending a Letter to the Temple, if a Daemon was to make the Answer? And if it some­times happened so, that the Priests durst not venture to open the Let­ters, then they endeavoured by their Cunning, to discover what Men came to the Oracle about; for they were commonly Persons of Note, and who had some Design or Passion in their Heads, that was not un­known to the World. And the [Page 122] Priests had so much Conversation with those that came to consult, ei­ther at their Sacrifices, or during the delays, that were made by the Ora­cle, before it would answer, that it was not difficult to draw from their own Mouths (or at least to con­jecture) what was the Cause of their Voyage: They made them offer one Sacrifice after another, till they had gotten some Light into their Affairs: They put them also into the Hands of certain little Officers of the Tem­ple, who, (under pretence of show­ing them the Antiquities, the Sta­tues, the Paintings, and the Offer­ings,) managed the matter so well, as to pump many things out of them concerning the Business which they came about. These Antiquaries (like those who live upon this Trade now in Italy) were in all the Temples that were any thing considerable. They knew by Heart all the Miracles that were done, they set forth to you the Power and Wonders of their God, and they re­counted to you a long Story of eve­ry Present that was consecrated to [Page 123] him. And therefore, Lucian says very pleasantly, that all this sort of Men lived and subsisted on Fables; and that in Greece, they would have been very angry to have been told truth, tho' it had cost them nothing. If those who came to consult the Oracle, would not tell all themselves, yet their Servants could not hold their Peace. You must know, that in an Oracle-Town, there were scarce any Persons but Oracle-Officers: Some were Prophets and Priests; others, Poets (who put into Verse the Ora­cles, which were delivered in Prose;) others, simple Interpreters; others, little Sacrificers, who killed the Vi­ctims, and examined their Intrails; others, sellers of Perfumes and In­cense, or of Beasts for the Sacrifices; others, Antiquaries; and in fine, all the rest were but In-keepers, whom the great resort of Strangers inriched. Now all these People were for the In­terest of the Oracle and the God: And if by the means of the Servants be­longing to these Strangers, they dis­covered any thing worth the know­ing, [Page 124] you need not doubt, but they soon advertized the Priests of it.

The false Prophet, Alexander, who had set up his Oracle in Pontus, had Correspondents even in Rome it self, who sent him an Account of the most secret Affairs of those who went to consult him; by this means he could answer without the trick of opening their Letters. And these Correspondencies were doubtless not unknown to the Priests of Apollo of Claros, if it be true, that it was suffi­cient only to tell them the Names of those that consulted them. Tacitus speaks thus of them in his se­cond Book of Annals. Germani­cus went to consult Apollo of Claros, where a Woman does not deliver the Oracles, as at Delphos; but a Man chosen out of certain Families and who is almost always of Miletus; you need tell him only the Number and Names of them that come to consult him; and then he retires into a Grot­to, and having taken some Water from a certain secret Fountain there, he answers you in Verse, to whatever [Page 125] you have in your thoughts, though for the most part, he is a very ignorant Fellow.

Here we may observe, that the Oracle of Delphos was committed to the management of a Woman, be­cause she had nothing else to do there, but to make ridiculous and antick Gestures, and to act the being pos­sessed and inspired; but because that of Claros had more difficulty in it, therefore a Man only was to be in­trusted with it. We may further remark, that the Ignorance of the Prophet, (which was indeed the grea­test Wonder of the Oracle, (could not be very easily discovered; for the Daemon of the Oracle, as much a Dae­mon as he was, laid it down for an in­dispensable Rule, that they must bring him the Names of those who consul­ted him. But we are not come to that yet; it is sufficient to have shown how they could answer, not only to seal'd Letters, but also to sim­ple thoughts. It is true, they could not answer to the thoughts of all the World: For what the Priest of Cla­ros [Page 126] did for Germanicus, he could not do for a private Citizen of Rome.

CHAP. XV. Of Oracles delivered in Dreams.

THe Number of Oracles deli­vered in Dreams is very great; for this way had more of Wonder in it than any other, and yet was not very difficult in the Practice. The most famous of all these Oracles was that of Trophonius in Boeotia. Tro­phonius was but a simple Hero, but his Oracle was delivered with more Ceremony than those of any God.

Pausanias himself, who had been to consult it, and who had pass'd through all its Ceremonies, has left us a very ample Description of it: And I believe, that an exact Abridg­ment of his Relation will not be dis­agreeable to the Reader.

[Page 127]Before any Body descended into the Den of Trophonius, they were obliged to pass a certain number of days in a kind of little Temple or Chapel call'd the Chapel of good Fortune, and of the good Genius. During this time they u­sed expiations of all sorts; they abstain'd from hot bathings; they wash'd them­selves very often in the River Her­cynas; they sacrific'd to Trophonius and all his family, to Apollo, to Iupiter, surnam'd the King, to Saturn, to Iu­no, to one Ceres Europa who had been Nurse to Trophonius; and they lived only upon the flesh of the Sa­crifices. It is also more than probable that the Priests liv'd upon nothing else. The Entrails of all these vi­ctims were to be examined, to see if Trophonius thought fit that the con­sulters should descend into his Den; but if these had yielded all the most happy Omens in the World, yet it would not do; for the decisive en­trails were those of a certain Ram, which was to be Sacrific'd last; and if they were favourable, then the consulters were led in the Night to [Page 128] the River Hercynas, where two young Lads about thirteen or four­teen years Old rubbed all their Bo­dies over with Oil; then they con­ducted them to the Source of the River, and there they made them drink of two sorts of Waters; those of Lethe, which effaced out of their Minds all the prophane thoughts which before possess'd 'em; and those of Mnemosyne, which had the virtue to make them remember whatsoever they should see in the Sacred Den. After all these preparatives, they were show'd the Statue of Trophoni­us, to which they made their Pray­ers; and then they were covered with linen vests, which were girt about them with certain Sacred Band­lets, and so at last they were admit­ted to the Oracle.

The Oracle stood upon a Moun­tain and was encompassed with a Wall of white Stones, upon which Obelisks of Brass were erected: with­in this Cercle was a Cavern of the figure of an Oven, cut out by Art, whose entrance was so strait, that [Page 129] Men did not descend into it by Stairs but by little Ladders, and when they were come to the bottom, they found another little Cavern, whose entrance was yet streighter: Here they laid themselves down upon the Earth and took into each hand certain composi­tions of Honey which they were ob­liged to carry, and then they put their feet within the opening of the little Cavern, and immediately they perceived themselves pulled into it with much force and sudden­ness.

Then it was that things to come were declared to 'em; but not to all in the same manner; for some heard and did not see, and those that saw were not to hear. After this they came out of the Den, creeping upon the Earth, as they entered in, with their feet foremost. Immedia­tely they were put into the Chair of Mnemosyne, where they were asked what they had seen or heard; thence they were led into the Chapel of the good Genius, being still quite a­maz'd and out of their Wits; but re­trieving [Page 130] their senses by little and little, they began to be able to laugh; for till then the grandeur of the Mysteries, and the Divinity with which they were filled, had pre­vented it; though for my part I think one may well wonder how they could refrain so long.

Pausanias tells us that there was one Man who enter'd into the Den of Trophonius and never came out again: This was a certain Spy that Demetrius sent thither, to see if there were any thing in that Holy Place, worth the plundering. The Body of this unhappy Man was afterwards found a far off from thence; for 'tis to be suppos'd that he was cast out of the Sacred Den by some more se­cret way than he enter'd into it.

It is very easy for us to make re­flections upon all this; for what lei­sure and opportunity could the Priests want during all the Sacrifices which they obliged Men to make, to qualify them for the entrance into this Sacred Den? For certainly Tro­phonius knew how to choose his Men, [Page 131] and would not receive every Body. How did all these Washings, Expiati­ons, and Night-watchings, and these passages into their strait and ob­scure Caverns, fill Mens minds with superstition, dread and fear? How many Machines were at work in those dark places? The History of the Spy of Demetrius assures us, that there was no security in the Den for those who came thither with ma­licious intentions; and that besides the Sacred passage into it, which was known to all the World, the Den had another secret one, which was known only to the Priests. When Men were drawn in by their feet, it was doubtless done by Cords, (tho' not perceiv'd:) for they could not put their hands to feel what it was that drew 'em, because they were embarass'd with those compositions of Honey, which they were oblig'd not to let go. And perhaps those Ca­verns were full of Perfumes and O­dours which stupefied the brain: and the Waters of Lethe and Mnemosyne were, also ('tis probable) prepar'd [Page 132] for the same effect. To say nothing of the frightful sights and the noises which they might be terrified with­al; and when they came out from thence little better than distracted, they talk'd strangely of what they had seen or heard; so that People taking advantage of their disorder, might collect what they pleas'd, and Change it as they thought fitting, and in fine, interpret it as they li­sted themselves.

Add to all this, that there were some of those Oracles which were de­liver'd in Dreams, where one must pre­pare ones self by fasting, as that ofPhilo­stratus Li. 2. Life of Apolloni­us. Am­phiaraus in Attica; and then if your Dream could not receive a clear in­terpretation, they made you sleep again in the Temple, (at fresh char­ges) and never fail'd to fill your Head with fancies fit to make you Dream of Gods and extraordinary things: And for the most part, you were to sleep upon the skins of Vi­ctims, which perhaps were rubb'd with a drug which had some odd ef­fect on the Brain.

[Page 133]But when it was the Priests who sleeping upon the sealed Letters, had themselves the Prophetick Dreams, you may easily imagine, that those Dreams were not very dif­ficult to unfold.

Indeed the care, that the Pagan Priests took to hide their Impostures, seems to have been greater than it needed to have been; for if People were credulous and stupid enough to content themselves with the Dreams of the Priests, and to give credit to them, then there was no necessity, to suffer them to dream in the Tem­ples: And the Priests might have reserved this Privilege to themselves alone, without any Contradiction. For considering what sort of People they were, whom they had to do withal, it was too much Honour for them, to be cheated with Precaution and Address.

There was in Achaia Pausani­as. an Oracle of Mercury, which was delivered in this manner: After many Ceremo­nies, they whispered the God in the Ear, and asked him what Question [Page 134] they pleas'd, and afterwards they stopt their own ears with their hands, and the first words which they heard after they were come out of the Temple, was taken to be the answer of the God. And to the end that the Priests might the more easily cause them to hear what they pleas'd, and the imposture not be discover'd, this Oracle was alwaies to be consulted in the night.

CHAP. XVI. Of the Ambiguity of Oracles.

ONe of the greatest secrets of the Oracles, and one of the things which most of all assures us that they were managed by Men, is their Ambiguity, and the Art that was used to contrive such answers as would be suitable to any event that was likely to happen.

Arian. Lib. 7. When Alexander fell sick all of a [Page 135] sudden at Babylon, some of the Princi­pal of his court went to pass a Night in the Temple of Serapis, to inquire of that God, if it were not fit for 'em to bring their King thither to be cu­red by him. The God answer'd, that it was better for him to remain where he was. Serapis had reason; for if he had advised the bringing Alexander thither, and he had died by the way, or in the Temple it self, what would they not have said? But if the King continued at Babylon and recover'd his Health there, what a mighty Glory would it have brought the Oracle? and if he Died, it might be said to be the best that could be­fall him after the conquests that he had made, which if he lived, he could neither augment nor preserve. And without doubt this last interpre­tation was made for the honour of Serapis, after Alexander was Dead.

Macrobius saies, that when Trajan had a Design of attacking the Par­thians, he was desired to consult the Oracle of the City Heliopolis about it, whither the manner was only to [Page 136] send a sealed Letter. Now, though Trajan put no great Confidence in Oracles, yet he sent a sealed Letter thither, in which there was nothing written, and they sent him back a suitable Answer, that is, none at all. So that Trajan being now convinced of the Divinity of Oracles, sends ano­ther sealed Letter, in which he de­mands of the God, whether he should finish the War, that he had underta­ken, and return to Rome, or not? The God ordered, that they should take a Vine, which was one of the Offerings of the Temple, and cut it in pieces, and so carry it to Trajan. The Event, says Macrobius, was confor­mable to the Oracle; for Trajan dy­ing in this War, his Bones, which were represented by the broken Vine, were carried to Rome.

All the World knew for certain that the Emperor designed to make War with the Parthians, and that this was the Business about which he consulted the Oracle: And, the Ora­cle was so cunning, as to return him an Allegorical Answer, and so [Page 137] general an one, that it could not fail of being true. For if Trajan had re­turned to Rome, either Victorious, but hurt, or having lost some part of his Souldiers; or if he were over­come, and his Army put to Flight; or if any division had been amongst his Men; or if any Mutiny had hap­pened amongst the Parthians; or if any had happened at Rome in the Ab­sence of the Emperor; if the Parthi­ans had been wholly conquered; or if they had been but partly worsted, or that they had been abandoned by some of their Allies, in any one of these cases, this broken Vine mira­culously had foretold all: And there was no question, but some one of these would happen. And I believe the Bones of the Emperor that were carried to Rome, and by which they explained the Oracle, were, for all that, the only thing of which the O­racle never thought.

This Vine puts me in mind of a kind of Oracle that accommodated it self to every thing, of which, as A­puleius tells us, the Priests of the [Page 138] Goddess of Syria were the Inventors▪ They made two Verses, the Sence whereof was this:

Two Oxen yok'd together cut the Earth,
And make the Fields produce a fruit­ful Birth.

Now there was no Question, which they could not answer with these two Verses. For if they were con­sulted upon a Marriage, it was the same thing, Oxen yoked together, and a fruitful Birth. If they were consulted about the Purchace of any Land, again, it was yoked Oxen, and fruitful Fields. If about a Journey; the Oxen yoked together, and so ready to go forth, and the fruit­ful Fields promised a great Profit or Success by the Journey. If one went to War, these Oxen under the Yoke, do clearly signifie, that you shall put your Enemies under the Yoke. Cer­tainly, this Goddess of Syria did not love much tatling, and had found out the true secret to satisfie all [Page 139] Questions with one single An­swer.

Those, who received these ambi­guous Oracles, took the pains very willingly to justifie them, by ad­justing the Success and the Prediction together. And often-times, that which had but one Sence (in the In­tention of those who delivered the Oracle,) was after the event, found to have two. For the Impostors might be secure, that their Honour would be preserved with all the Care imaginable by those very Persons whom they abused. Thus, when the false Prophet Alexander was ask­ed by Rutilianus, what Masters he should provide for his Son; he an­swered, that he should let him have Pythagoras, and Homer. Rutilia­nus took it in the plain sence, that he should study Philosophy and Huma­nity. But the young Man dying within a few days after, they repre­sented to Rutilianus, that the Pro­phet was very much mistaken: But Rutilianus found out (with a very great deal of Subtilty) that the [Page 140] Death of his Son was foretold by the Oracle, because it appointed a Pytha­goras and Homer, two dead Men, for his Tutors.

CHAP. XVII. The Cheats of the Oracles mani­festly discovered.

BUT there is now no need of being any further solicitous to detect the cunning of the Priests, by Subtilties spun almost as finely as their own; for they were fully and clearly discovered to the Eyes of the whole World, when the true Religi­on triumphed entirely over Paga­nism, under the Christian Empe­rors.

Theodoret, says, that Theophilus, Bishop of Alexandria, shewed the Inhabitants of that Town, the hollow Statues, into which the Priests pri­vately crept to deliver their Oracles.

[Page 143]When by the Order of Constantine, the Temple of Aesculapius, in Cili­cia, was pluck'd down, they chased thence, (says Eusebius, in the Life of this Emperor,) not a God, nor a Dae­mon, but the Cheat, that had so long deluded the People. He adds, that in general, in the demolished Idols, they found no Gods at all, nor Dae­mons, nor so much as a melancholy Shade or obscure Specter; but only some Hay, Straw, or Ordures, or the Bones of dead Men. It is from him, that we learn the History of Theo­technus, who set up in the City of Antioch, the Statue of Iupiter, God of Friendship; which questionless was contrived to deliver Oracles, since Eusebius says, that there were Prophets belonging to this God. Theotechnus, upon this Account got so great Credit, that Maximin made him Governour of all the Province. But Licinius coming to Antioch, and suspecting the Imposture, caused the Priests and Prophets of this new Iu­piter to be tortured with the Rack; hereupon they confessed all, and [Page 142] both they and their Accomplices were put to a cruel Death, their Master Theotechnus suffering first. The same Eusebius, in the fourth Book of his Evangelical Preparations, says, that in his time, the most fa­mous Prophets amongst the Pagans, and their most celebrated Divines, of whom some were Magistrates of their Cities, were compelled by Torments to discover the very parti­culars of all the Cheats of the Oracles. If we were now to make out what the old Christians believed of them, all these Passages of Eusebius, in my Opinion, would decide the Question. They admitted Daemons indeed in a certain general System, which ser­ved for their Disputes; but when they came to particular matters of Fact, they spoke little of them, or rather directly denied them.

I cannot believe, that we need any better Witnesses against the Daemons, than the Pagan Priests themselves, by whose Confessions, the thing seems to me to be clearly made out. I will only therefore add one Chapter [Page 143] about their Lots; not to discover the Imposture of them, for that is com­prehended in what we have already said of Oracles in general; and besides it will be sufficiently apparent of its self; but that I may not omit a spe­cies of Oracles very famous in Anti­quity.


LOts are the Effects of Chance, and, as it were, the Oracles of Fortune, by which she decides all things: And they are the Instru­ments we make use of, to know what this Decision is.

These Lots for the most part were a kind of Dice, whereon were ingra­ven certain Characters, or words, the Explication of which was to be sought for, in Tables made for that purpose. The manner of using these [Page 144] Lots was various: In some Temples they cast them out of their Hands, in others they threw them out of an Vrn; from whence comes this Proverb so common with the Greeks, the Lot is cast.

This Game of Chance was always ushered in by Sacrifices, and abun­dance of Ceremonies. The Priest, as 'tis probable, knew how to ma­nage the Dice; but if they would not take that pains, they might e'en let 'em run as they would, since they were al­ways Masters of the Explanation.

Cicero de Divin. lib. 1. The Lacedaemonians went one day to consult the Lots of Dodona, upon a War that they were under­taking; for besides the speaking Oaks, the Doves, the Basons, and the Oracles, there were also Lots of Dodona. After the Ceremonies were past, just as they were going to cast the Lots, with a great deal of Respect and Veneration, a Monkey of the King of the Molossi, being got into the Temple, threw down the Lots and the Vrn; upon this the frighted Priestess told the Lacedaemonians, [Page 145] that they ought not to think of con­quering, but only how to save them­selves. And all the Writers assure us, that the Lacedaemonians never received a more unlucky Presage.

The most famous Lots of all, were those of Praeneste and Antium, two little Towns in Italy. At Antium, there were wonderful Statues that moved of themselves, (according to the Testimony of Macrobius, Book 1. Chap. 23.) whose different Mo­tions, either served for Answers, or declared whether it was fitting to consult the Lots, or not.

And there is a Passage in Cicero's Second Book of Divination, which tells us, that they consulted the Lots of Praeneste, with the Consent of Fortune; which implies that the Statue of Fortune could nod with its Head, or give some other Signs of its will and Pleasure.

We find also, that there were o­ther Statues, which had this very same Faculty. Diodorus Siculus and Quintus Curtius say, that Iupiter Hammon was carried by four-score [Page 146] Priests, in a kind of golden Chair of State, covered with a rich Canopy, from which hung abundance of sil­ver Cups that made a jangling noise, and that he was followed by a great Number of Women and Maids, who sung Hymns in the Language of their Country; And that this God, by some Motions or Signs that he made, instructed the Priests that car­ried him, which may he would have them go.

The God of Heliopolis in Syria, according to Macrobius, did as much: All the difference was, that he would be carried by Men of the best Quality in the Province, and such as had a long time liv'd in perfect continence, and had their Heads shaved.

Lucian, in his Treatise of the God­dess of Syria, says, that he once saw a much more miraculous sort of Apollo, who, being carried on the shoulders of his Priests, took a fancy to leave them in the lurch below on the Earth, and to take a Walk by himself in the Skies. And that all this should be done in the sight of such [Page 147] a kind of Man as Lucian, is no small Wonder.

But I am so tired with discover­ing the Cheats of these Pagan Priests, (and am perswaded, my Reader is as weary of it as I am my self) that I will not spend any time in consi­dering how it was, that they made their Puppets dance, and play'd all their juggling tricks.

In the East, the Lots were Ar­rows, and to this day the Turks and Arabians make use of them in the same manner. The Prophet Eze­kiel says, that Nebucadonosor min­gled his Arrows against Ammon and Hierusalem, and the predicting Ar­row flew towards Hierusalem; which decided the Question, against which People he should make War.

In Greece and Italy, they often drew the Lot from some famous Po­et, as Homer or Euripides: And what first presented it self at the o­pening of the Book, was looked up­on to be the Decree of Heaven. And History furnishes us with a thousand Examples of this kind.

[Page 148]'Tis evident, that about two hun­dred Years after the Death of Virgil, they set a great Value on his Verses, and began to believe them prophe­tick, and to use them in stead of the ancient Lots of Praeneste. pridius. Lam- A­lexander Severus, in particular, (at a time, when Heliogabalus was not much his Friend) received this An­swer in the Temple of Praeneste out of Virgil.

—Si qua fata aspera rumpas,
Tu Marcellus eris.
If you can vanquish Destiny,
The Great Marcellus you shall be.

Here my Author remembers, that Rabelais mentions the Virgilian Lot, which Panurge consulted concerning his Marriage: And he judges that Place of the Book, as learned, as 'tis agreeable and full of fancy; he says, that the Whimsies and Follies of Ra­belais are many times more to be esteemed, than the most serious Discourses of others. I would not [Page 149] forget this Elogy, because 'tis a thing very singular to meet with, in the midst of a Treatise of Oracles that is full of knowledge and erudition. 'Tis certain that Rabelais had a great deal of Wit and reading, and a particular Art of writing of Learned things in a frolick and jesting way, and of relating a thousand Ridiculous and fantastical stories without being tiresome to his Reader. And 'tis a misfortune that he liv'd not in an Age that would have oblig'd him to a Style more Gentleman like and inoffensive.

These lots were afterwards in use amongst Christians; who consulted the Holy Scriptures for that purpose, as the Pagans did their Poets. Saint Augustin, in his 119 Epistle to Ianua­rius, appears not wholly to disap­prove it, unless it be done for some wicked or vain end. Gregory of Tours tells us himself what his pra­ctice was: He pass'd seven days in Fa­sting and Prayer, afterwards he went to the Tomb of Saint Martin, where he opened some Book of the Scri­pture as his fancy led him, and took [Page 150] for the answer of God, the first pas­sage which offer'd its self to his view; and if this passage made nothing for his purpose, then he opened the Bible in another place.

Others took the first thing they heard sung when they enter'd into the Church, for a Divine presage.

But who would believe that the Emperor Cedrenus. Heraclius, deliberating in what place he should Winter his Ar­my, should determine it by this kind of Lot? He purify'd his Army dur­ing three days, and afterwards open'd the Book of the Evangelists, and there found that Albany was mark'd out for his Winter quarters. Was that an affair of which a Man could reasonably hope for a decision in the Scriptures?

At last indeed the Church has quite banished this superstition, but it took up a great deal of time first: For when once our minds are pos­sess'd with an error, 'tis a wonder if ever we will be undeceiv'd.

The end of the first Discourse.

THE SECOND DISCOURSE. That Oracles did not cease at the coming of Jesus Christ.

THE greatest difficulty that regards Oracles is now sur­mounted, since we have pro­ved that Daemons were not at all con­cerned in them. And if this be true, then Oracles signify so little to the Christian Religion, that there will be no necessity to maintain, that they ceased precisely at the coming of Ie­sus Christ.

CHAP. I. The weakness of those reasons upon which the opinion, that Oracles ceased at the coming of Jesus Christ, is founded.

THat which made most Men believe that Oracles ceas'd at the coming of Iesus Christ, was the prediction of Oracles them­selves, which foretold their own si­lence, and the confession of the Hea­thens that liv'd about the time of Ie­sus-Christ, who often speak of their cessation.

We have already shown the falsity of these pretended Oracles, in which a Daemon that was struck dumb, said himself that he was struck dumb; but these Daemons were either feign'd by the over great Zeal of the Chri­stians, or too easily receiv'd by their credulity.

I will recite one of those Oracles [Page 153] upon which Eusebius supports his opi­nion, that they did cease at the Birth of Iesus Christ. 'Tis taken from Por­phyrius; and Eusebius never fails of making all the advantage he can of the testimony of this Enemy.

I will declare to you the truth con­cerning the Oracles of Delphos and Claros, (said Apollo to his Priests.) In times past there came from the Bo­som of the Earth an infinity of Ora­cles and Fountains, and Exhalations, which inspir'd People with Divine fu­ries; but the Earth by the continual changes which time makes in it, has reimbibed and caus'd to enter into its self, all those Fountains, Exhalations and Oracles: and there remains now no more but the Waters of Mycale in the Didymean fields, and the Ora­cles of Claros, and Parnassus.

Upon this, Eusebius concludes in ge­neral that all Oracles were then come to an end.

But 'tis certain that three of 'em at least are to be excepted, according [Page 154] to this Oracle which he reports him­self: But he takes notice only of those words that make for his purpose, and troubles not himself with the rest.

But besides, does this Oracle of Por­phyrius tell us, when the other Oracles ceas'd? not at all; tho' Eusebius will by all means have it understood to be at the time of the coming of Iesus Christ. We may commend his zeal, but his manner of arguing does not at all deserve our Praise.

Nay suppose that Porphyrius's O­racle did speak of the coming of Ie­sus Christ, would it follow therefore that all Oracles then ceas'd, and that none remain'd? Eusebius perhaps imagin'd that this exception signified little, and that it is sufficient if the greatest part of the Oracles did then cease; but he is mistaken, for if O­racles had been deliver'd by Daemons, who by the birth of Iesus Christ were condemn'd to eternal silence, then no Daemon would have been excep­ted, or privileged. So that if there was but one Daemon remaining after [Page 155] the Birth of Iesus Christ, it would be sufficient to prove that it was not His Birth that imposed a perpetual silence upon Oracles. This is one of those cases, where the least exception ruins the general proposition.

But you may say perhaps, that Dae­mons at the Birth of Iesus Christ did cease to deliver Oracles; but that yet Oracles continued still for all that, because the Priests counterfeited them.

This supposition is without any foun­dation; for I can prove that Oracles continued four hundred years after the Death of Christ, and there is no mention any where made of the least difference observ'd between those that were delivered after the Birth of Ie­sus, and those that were pronounced before it. And besides, if the Priests could so dextrously put the cheat upon People during the space of four hundred years, why could they not continue to do it longer?

Of all the Pagan Authors that are in request with those who would make us believe that Oracles ceas'd at [Page 156] the coming of Iesus Christ, Plutarch is the chief: He lived some hundreds of years after Christ, and has written a Dialogue concerning the cessation of Oracles. Many Men upon his Authority only, have taken up their opinions, and espoused their party; and yet Plutarch positively excepts the Oracle of Libadia, (that is to say, of Trophonius) and that of Del­phos: where, as he says, Anciently there was imployment enough for two Priests, and sometimes for three, but in his daies one served the turn.

Besides, he confesses that the Ora­cles were fallen to decay in Boeotia, a Country, which had formerly been famous for producing a great num­ber of them.

All this, 'tis true, proves the cessati­on of some Oracles, and the diminution of the credit of others; but not the intire cessation of all, which howe­ver there is an absolute necessity for those to prove, who maintain the common opinion.

The Oracle of Delphos was not [Page 157] so mightily decay'd in Plutarch's time; for he himself tells us in ano­ther Treatise, that the Temple of Del­phos was then far more magnificent than ever it had been; that they had repaired the Ancient Buildings which time began to ruin, and that they had added others to it, which were altogether after the Modern mode; that there was a small Town near Delphos, which increas'd daily by little and little, and had its nourish­ment from the old City, like a little Tree that springs from the foot of a great one; and that this little Town was become more conside­rable than it had been for a thou­sand years past. But even in this Dialogue, which treats of the cessati­on of Oracles, Demetrius the Cilici­an, one of the interlocutors, says, that before he began his Voyage, the Oracles of Amphilochus and Mopsus were as flourishing as ever; but that since he came from thence he knew not how things stood with 'em. You see then what is to be found in favour of the cessation of Oracles at [Page 158] the coming of Christ in this Treatise of Plutarch, to which a Multitude of Learned Men referr you for the Proof of it.

Here my Author pretends, that we are also fallen into a gross mistake, concerning a Passage in the second Book of Divinations: Where Cicero laughs at the Oracle, that was deli­vered by Apollo in Latin to Pyrrhus, who consulted him concerning the War, he was going to make against the Romans. This Oracle had a dou­ble meaning, so that it could not be understood, whether Pyrrhus should overcome the Romans, or the Ro­mans overcome Pyrrhus. The Equi­vocation is so peculiar to the Latin Phrase, that one cannot well render it into English; for my part, I can­not translate it better than thus:

I do pronounce that Rome
Pyrrhus shall overcome.

But the Words of Cicero, con­cerning this Oracle, are these that follow.

[Page 159] In the first Place, (says he,) A­pollo never spoke Latin; in the second Place, the Greeks knew nothing of this Oracle; thirdly, Apollo in the time of Pyrrhus had left off Rhiming; in fine, although the Aeacides (from which Family Pyrrhus was descended,) were far from being Men of a fine Iudgment, or of a Piercing Wit, yet the Equivocation of the Oracle was so manifest, that Pyrrhus could not chuse but perceive it. But why is it so long since any Oracles were deliver­ed in this kind at Delphos? For this Reason it is, that now adays nothing is more despised than they are.

It is on these last words, that the Opinion is grounded, that Oracles were not delivered at Delphos in the time of Cicero.

But my Author says, that they are deceived, who think so, and that these Words, Why are there no more Oracles delivered in this kind at Del­phos? Plainly shew, that Cicero speaks only of Oracles in Verse: Since he is discoursing in that Place about one wrapp'd up in an Hexa­meter.

[Page 160]But I know not whether we ought to be altogether of my Author's Opi­nion; for observe how Cicero goes on. When the Defenders of Oracles are hard put to it; they answer, that this Virtue in the Exhalation of the Earth, which inspired the Py­thian Priestess, is evaporated with length of time. One would think that they were talking of some Wine that was grown flat, and that had lost its Spirits; for what time can consume, or dry up a Vertue all Divine? And what can be more Divine than an Ex­halation from the Earth, which works such an Effect upon the Soul, as to give it both the Knowledge of Futurity, and the Power to express its self in Verse.

It seems to me, that Cicero means, that the whole Virtue was intirely lost: Whereas he would have ac­knowledged, that a good part of it had remained, if Oracles were still delivered at Delphos, though but in Prose. For no Man will say, that a Prophecy is nothing at all, unless it be in Verse?

[Page 161]I do not think, that they are so mightily mistaken, who take this Passage for an absolute Proof of the entire Cessation of Oracles at Del­phos; but they do ill, who pretend to draw any Argument from thence, for attributing this Cessation to the Birth of Iesus Christ. For the Ora­cle ceased too soon for that, since it appears by this very Passage, that it ceased a long time before Cicero.

But for all this, the thing was not in Truth, as Cicero seems to under­stand it in this Place. For he him­self, in his First Book of Divinations, makes his Brother Quintus, who stands up for Oracles, to speak in this manner. I relie upon this Point, that the Oracle of Delphos had never been so famous, and had never received so many offerings from Kings and all sorts of People, if the Truth of its Predictions had not been acknowledged. Now indeed it is not so famous, be­cause its Predictions are less true: And so, on the other side, if they had not been once extremely true, it would never have been so mighty famous [Page 162] heretofore as it was. But (which is yet a stronger Proof) Cicero himself (as Plutarch relates in his Life) did in his Youth consult the Oracle of Delphos, concerning the Conduct he ought to keep in the World: and 'twas answer­ed him, that he should follow his Genius, rather than conform himself to the Opinion of the Vulgar. Now if it were not true, that Cicero con­sulted the Oracle of Delphos, yet, at least, this Story obliges us to grant, that in the time of Cicero, it was consulted.

CHAP. II. Why the Ancient Authors contra­dicted each other, very often, a­bout the time of the Cessation of Oracles.

PErhaps, it may be objected, How comes it to pass then, that in the fifth Book of Lucan's Phar­salia, we find this Account of the O­racle of Delphos? The Oracle of Delphos, which has been silent ever since Great Men were afraid of what was to come to pass, and forbid that the Gods should declare it, is the most considerable of all those Favours of Heaven, which our Age has lost.

And a little after, Appius, who was desirous to know the Destiny of I­taly, had the Boldness, to go and in­terrogate this Cavern, that had been mute so long; and to move the Tri­pos, that had been so long undisturb­ed. And that Iuvenal says in a cer­tain [Page 164] Place, Since the Oracles speak no more at Delphos—

In fine, whence comes it, that a­mong the Authors of the same Age, we find some, who say, the Oracle of Delphos speaks no more, and o­thers that say, he speaks still? And whence comes it, that the same Au­thor sometimes contradicts himself so often upon this Subject?

The Reason most certainly is, be­cause Oracles were neither in their Ancient Reputation, nor yet were they absolutely ruined: So, that one may well say, that in Comparison of what they had formerly been, they were nothing; but yet, for all that, they continued to be something still.

Besides, some Oracles were ruined for a certain time, and afterwards came into Credit again; for Oracles were subject to several Adventures and Misfortunes: And we ought not to believe them annihilated from the time of their being mute; for they might afterwards assume a Voice a­gain and speak.

[Page 165] Plutarch says, that in old time a Dragon came and lodg'd upon Par­nassus and caus'd the Delphick Oracle to be deserted, and that it was com­monly believ'd, that solitude invi­ted the Dragon to that place; but that 'twas more probable that he caus'd the solitude, Greece being fill'd with Cities, &c.

You see that Plutarch speaks of a time very far distant back. So the Oracle had since its erection been once abandon'd already, and we are sure that afterwards it was very well re-establish'd. But after this, the Temple of Delphos underwent divers misfortunes. It was plundered by a Thief descended from Phlegias, by the Army of Xerxes, by the Phocen­ses, by Pyrrhus, by Nero; and last of all, by the Christians under Con­stantine. All this did no great good to the Oracle, for the Priests were either massacred, or dispers'd, the place was abandon'd, the Sacred u­tensils were lost, and it must of ne­cessity require great charges, care, [Page 166] and time, to rigg out these Oracles again fit for holy use.

All this then may be possible, that Cicero in his Youth consulted the Oracle of Delphos, that during the War between Caesar and Pompey, and in that general disorder of the Uni­verse, the Oracle was mute, as Lucan will have it; and that after the end of this War, when Cicero writ his Book of Philosophy, it might begin to be re-established so much, as to make Quintus say it was still in the World; and yet so little, that Cicero might suppose that it was not in be­ing.

When Dorimachus, as Polybius re­ports, had burnt the Portico of the Temple of Dodona, had quite destroy'd the Sacred Place of the Oracle, and had pillag'd, or ruin'd all the offer­ings, an Author of that time might very well say that the Oracle of Do­dona spoke no more. But for all this, in the following age, another Author might be found transmitting to po­sterity some of the answers, which it gave in his time.

CHAP. III. The History of the Duration of the Oracle of Delphos, and some other Oracles.

WE cannot better prove, that about the time of Iesus Christ, to which the silence of the Delphick Oracle is so usually referred, it did not altogether cease, but was only interrupted, than by setting down all the different occasions that we find it took of speaking since.

Suetonius in the Life of Nero says that he, consulting the Oracle of Del­phos, was warn'd to have a care of seventy three years; and that there­upon Nero believ'd, he should not Die till that Age, and never thought of old Galba, who being seventy three years old took his Empire from him. For he was so conceited of his long life and good fortune, that having lost in a Ship-wrack things of a very [Page 168] great value, he bragg'd that the fishes would bring 'em back to him again.

But certainly Nero either receiv'd from the Oracle of Delphos some o­ther answer that seem'd less favoura­ble to him, or was discontented that he was destin'd to live no lon­ger than Seventy three years, or else he would never have took from the Priests of Delphos the Cirrhaean Fields,Dion Cassius. Pausanias. to give them to his Soldiers. He also took from the Temple more than five hundred Statues, some of Men, and, some of Gods, but all of Brass; and to prophane or for ever abolish the Oracle, he caus'd several Mens Throats to be cut at the very Mouth of the Sacred Cavern, where the Divine exhalation issued forth.

That the Oracle after such an ad­venture as this, should be mute till the Reign of Domitian, and, as Iuve­nal says, should speak no more, is not at all to be wonder'd at.

And yet 'tis impossible it could be altogether mute from the time of Nero to that of Domitian; for ob­serve what Philostratus saies in the [Page 169] Life of Apollonius Tyanaeus, who came to the Court of Domitian: Ap­pollonius visited all the Oracles of Greece, that of Dodona, that of Del­phos, and that of Amphiaraus. And in another place he speaks yet farther: You may see Apollo of Delphos made illustrious by the Oracles which he de­livers in the midst of Greece; he an­swers those who consult him, as you know very well your self, in very few words, and without accompanying his answers with prodigies; altho it were very easie for him to make Parnassus tremble, to stop the course of Cephisus, and to change the Waters of Castalia into Wine; but he tells the truth plainly and does not amuse himself to make an unprofitable shew of his power. 'Tis very pleasant that Philostratus should expect to have the greater va­lue set upon this Apollo, because he was no great worker of Miracles. But I think there lurks in this place some secret Poison against the Chri­stians.

We formerly acquainted you, that in the time of Plutarch, who lived un­der [Page 170] Trajan, this Oracle was yet in be­ing, but reduc'd to one single Prie­stess, tho' in elder times it had two or three. Under Adrian, Dion Chry­sostom says, that he consulted the O­racle of Delphos, and relates one of its answers, which seem'd to him to be very intricate, and which was so indeed.

Under the Antonini, Lucian says, that a Priest of Tyana, went to demand of the false Prophet Alexander, if the Oracles that were deliver'd then at Didymi, at Claros, and at Delphos, were indeed the answers of Apollo, or impostures. Alexander who had a regard for these Oracles, which were so like his own, answered the Priest, that it was a secret not fit for him to know. But when this wise Priest demanded what he should be after his death, he was answered boldly, Thou shalt be a Camel, then a Horse, then a Philosopher, and at last a Prophet as great as Alexander.

After the Antonini, three Empe­rors disputed the Empire, Severus septimus, Pescennius Niger, and Clodi­us [Page 171] Albinus. Delphos was consulted, says Spartianus, to know which would be best for the Commonwealth; and the Oracle answered in Verse, The Black is the best, the African is good, but the White is the worst of all. By the Black was meant Pescennius Niger; by the African, Severus Septi­mus, who was of Africa; and by the White, Clodius Albinus. It was ask'd afterwards, Who should remain Master of the Empire; and it was answer'd, The blood of the White and the Black shall be spilt, and the African shall go­vern the World. Then it was demanded, how long time he should govern; and it was answered, He shall ride on the Sea of Italy with twenty Ships, tho' with one Ship he may cross the Sea. By which it is meant that Severus should reign twenty years. Here the Oracle reserv'd to it self an obscure meaning, to have recourse to in time of need. But yet in the times when Delphos was most Flourishing, there were ne­ver better or more substantial Oracles than these.

[Page 172]We find nevertheless, that Cle­mens Alexandrinus, in his Exhorta­tions to the Gentiles, which he com­posed, either under Severus, or a­bout that time, says very plainly, that the Fountain of Castalia, which belonged to the Oracle of Delphos, and that of Colophon and all the o­ther Prophetick Fountains, had at last, tho it were late first, lost their fabulous Virtues.

Perhaps in that time, these Oracles were fallen into one of those Silen­ces, to which they were so subject by Intervals: Or perhaps, because they were no more in Reputation, Cle­mens Alexandrinus thought fit to say, they were totally silenced.

'Tis certain, that under Constan­tius, the Father of Constantine, and during the Youth of Constantine, Delphos was not yet ruined; since Eusebius writes in the Life of Con­stantine, that he said, that there was then a Report, that Apollo had deli­vered an Oracle, not by the Mouth of a Priestess, but from the bottom of the obscure Cavern, which said— [Page 173] That the Iust Men, who were upon Earth, were the Cause, that he could not speak Truth. A very pleasant Reason this! Besides the Oracle of Delphos must then necessarily be in a very miserable Condition, since it could not maintain one Priestess.

But this Oracle received a terrible Blow under Constantine, who com­manded, or suffered, that Delphos should be pillaged. Then, says Eu­sebius in the Life of Constantine, they produced in the open view of all the People, in the Publick Places of Con­stantinople, those Statues, which the Errors of Men had caused to be so long Time the object of Veneration and Worship; here Apollo Pythius, there Sminthius. The Tripodes were exposed in the Circus and the Helico­nian Muses in the Palace, to the rail­leries of all the World.

But after all this, the Oracle of Del­phos came into credit once again; for the Emperor Theodo­ret. Iulian sent to enquire of it, about the Expedition, that he was designing against the Persians. If the Oracle of Delphos [Page 174] did continue any longer, we cannot however extend its History farther; for there is no more spoken of it in any Author. But in all likelihood, that was the very time, when it became silent, and its last Words were ad­dressed to the Emperor Iulian, who was so zealous for Paganism. I can­not therefore well understand, how some Great Men could put Augustus in the Place of Iulian, and boldly affirm, that the Oracle of Delphos ended with the Answer it delivered to Augustus, concerning the Hebrew Infant. Some Melan­cthon. P. Peucer. Boissard Hospin. Modern Authors, who thought Oracles worthy of a Glorious End, since they made so great a Noise in the World, have con­trived one very fit, to give them a Reputation. They found in Sozome­nus and Theodoretus, that in the time of Iulian, the Temple of Apollo, which was in the Suburbs of Antioch, called Daphne, was set on Fire, no Body being able to discover the Au­thor, or Cause of it; but the Pagans accused the Christians of this Con­flagration, and the Christians attri­buted [Page 175] it to Thunder and Lightning thrown by the Hand of God. Theo­doretus indeed says, that the Light­ning fell upon this Temple, but Sozo­menus says nothing at all of it. Now these Modern Authors had a Mind to transplant this Accident to the Temple of Delphos, which was in­deed far distant from thence. And so they write, that by the just Venge­ance of God, it was destroyed by Lightning, accompanied with a mighty Earth-quake. But there is no mention made of this great trem­bling of the Earth, neither by Sozo­menus, nor Theodoret, in their Rela­tion of the Fire of Daphne; though o­thers added it, to keep the Thunder Company, and to heighten the Pro­digiousness of the Accident.

But it would be a very troublesome thing, to give you a History of the Duration of all the Oracles, after the birth of Iesus Christ. It is sufficient to consider in what time we find, that some of the principal Ones spoke their last. But you must always re­member, that it is not understood, [Page 176] that this was the very last time they spoke, but that it was the last Occa­sion Authors had to tell us that they spoke.

Dion, who did not finish his Histo­ry, till the eighth Year of Alexander Severus, that is, in the 230 Year of Iesus Christ, says, that in his time, Amphilochus delivered Oracles in Dreams: He tells us also, that there was in the City of Apollonia an Ora­cle, where things to come were fore­told by observing the manner how the Fire took hold of the Incense, that was cast upon the Altar. But it was not permitted to ask this Oracle any Questions concerning Death or Marriage. These peevish Restrictions were sometimes founded upon the particular History of the God, who in his Life-time, perhaps had an Occa­sion given him of taking an Aversion to certain things: Though I am also of Opinion, that they might some­times come from the ill Success, which those Answers had, that were deli­vered by the Oracle, concerning some particular Matters.

[Page 177] Zosimus. Under Aurelius, towards the Year of Christ 272, the Palmyrenians being revolted, consulted the Ora­cle of Apollo Sarpedonius in Cilicia. They consulted likewise that of Ve­nus of Aphaca; the Form of which was so very singular, that it deserves to be mentioned here. Aphaca, is a Place between Heliopolis and Biblus. Near the Temple of Venus is a Lake like a Cittern: And at certain Assem­blies, that are held there at some par­ticular Seasons, there is to be seen a Fire in the Form of a Globe of Lamps: And this Fire, says Zosimus, has con­tinued to be seen even in our Days, that is to say, about the 400 Year of Iesus Christ. Those that offer, throw into the Lake the Present designed for the Goddess, of what sort soever they be; if she receives them, they sink to the bottom; if she receives them not, they swim on the Surface of the Wa­ter, though they be of Silver, or Gold. In the Year before the Ruin of the Palmyrenians, their Presents sunk to the bottom, but the Year following every thing swam on the top.

[Page 178] Zosiim. Licinius having a Design, to renew his War with Constantine, consulted the Oracle of Apollo Didymaeus, and had for Answer two Verses of Homer, of which this is the Sense: Vnhappy old Man! It is not for thee to fight against Young Men; thou hast not Strength enough left, for old Age pulls thee down.

Ammian. Marcelli­nus. A God, of no great Reputation, named Besas, delivered Oracles in Answer to Letters at Abydum, a Town in the Confines of Thebais, under the Empire of Constantius. For there were sent to this Emperor certain Letters, which had been left upon the Altar, in the Temple of Besas; upon which, he began to make a very rigorous Prosecution against those who had laid those Letters there; and cast into Prison, or sent to Banish­ment a great Number of Persons, or else caused them to be cruelly tor­mented: Because by these Letters, they enquired after the Fate of the Empire, or concerning the Dura­tion of the Reign of Constantius, or the Success of some Designs, [Page 179] which they were framing against him.

In fine, Macrobius, who lived un­der Arcadius and Honorius, Sons of Theodosius, speaks of the God of He­liopolis in Syria, and of his Oracle, and of the Lots of Antium, in terms which positively prove that they were all remaining in his time.

But here we must observe, that it is of no absolute necessity to our de­sign, that all these Histories should be true, or that these Oracles did re­ally deliver those very answers which are attributed to 'em; for the very counterfeiting of answers, implies that the Oracles were in being when those answers were pretended to be delivered by them: and 'tis most plain by the Histories, which so many Authors have written of 'em, that they did not believe that they were wholly silenc'd in their days.

CHAP. IV. That Oracles for the most part were abolish'd at the same time with Heathenism.

ORacles for the most part ceas'd when Heathenism was abo­lish'd, which was not immediately after the coming of Iesus Christ. For Constantine himself demolished but a few Temples, and he was fain to make the horrid Crimes that were perpetrated there, his pretence for pulling 'em down. On this pretext he plucked down the Temple ofZosi­mus Ve­nus Aphacitis, and that ofEusebius. Aesculapius of Aegae in Cilicia, in both of which there were Oracles. But yet he Theodo­retus. prohibited Sacrificing to the Heathen Gods, and by that edict began to make their Temples of no use. The Edicts of Constantius and of Iulian (when Con­stantius had but newly declared him Caesar) are still extant, wherein on pain of Death they forbid all sorts of [Page 181] Divination, not only Astrology, in­terpretation of Dreams and Magick, but also foretelling by the flights of Birds, and by the entrails of Beasts; which gave a mighty shock to the Religion of the Romans. And indeed the Emperors had a particular interest in prohibiting all kinds of fortune­telling, because one or other was al­ways inquiring about their Destiny, and especially to know who was to be the next Successor, who usually, upon the flattery of the Diviner, made a revolt, and set up his own claim to the Empire.

As there were many Oracles re­maining, when Iulian was proclaim'd Emperor, so he apply'd himself, as much as he could, to the re­stauration of those that had been destroyed. For example, that of the Suburbs of Daphne was destroyed by Adrian, Sozomen. who when he was a private Man, having dipt a leaf-in the Castalian Spring, (for there was one of this Name at Daphne as well as at Delphos,) found when he took it out of the Water, a Narrative of [Page 182] what was to befal him, and Advice to think of obtaining the Empire. And therefore when he was after­wards made Emperor, least the same Oracle should give the like counsel to some body else, he caus'd the Sacred Spring to be choak'd up, by throw­ing a great quantity of Stones into it. There was a great deal of ingra­titude in this procedure; but Iuli­an Ammia­nus Mar­cellinus. caus'd the spring to be opened, the Dead Bodies, which were Buri­ed near it, to be removed, and the place to be Purified in the same man­ner as the Athenians had in former time purged the Island of Delos. But Iulian went farther, and would needs be himself the Prophet of the Didymaean Oracle; for this he thought would be a means of bring­ing Prophecies into credit again, which then lay under much con­tempt. As he was Emperor he was (Pontifex Maximus, or) Chiefest Priest; and tho the Emperors had not been accustomed to make any great use of this Sacerdotal dignity; yet he [Page 183] was resolved to make it more than an empty Title: And therefore we see that, in one of those Letters of his, which are come to our view, in the quality of Pontifex maximus he suspends a Pagan Priest for three years from the exercise of his Sacred function. And the Letter, which he wrote to Arsaces, Pontifex of Galatia, acquaints us with the way which he took to make Paganism flourish again: He congratulates in the first place his own felicity, in that his zeal had produced such great effects in so short a time; and then he declares his judgment to be, that the best means for the re-establishment of Heathe­nism would be, to transplant the ver­tues of Christianity into it, such as Charity towards Strangers, the care of Burying the Dead decently, and that Sanctity of Life which the Chri­stians, as he says, counterfeited so well. He therefore commands that Pontifex to oblige the Priests of Ga­latia, either by arguments or threats, to live regularly, to abstain from the publick shows and Tipling-houses; [Page 184] to quit all sordid and infamous im­ployments, to addict themselves, with all their Family, only to the Service of the Gods, and to have a watchful eye upon the Galileans, (so he scorn­fully calls the Christians,) and to suppress their impieties and profana­tions. He observes, that it is a great shame, that whilst the Iews and Ga­lileans maintain'd not only their own poor, but such as were Heathens too, the Pagans should let their poor starve, and not remember that Ho­spitality and Liberality are vertues so peculiar and proper to 'em, that Homer brings in Eumaeus speaking thus: My guest, if a Man of quality much inferior to thine, had come hi­ther, I must have entertain'd him; for all Men that are either strangers or Poor come to us, as it were on an errand from Jupiter; and tho' I have but little to give, yet I give that lit­tle with chearfulness. Last of all, he sets down what distributions he ap­points to be made each year to the Poor of Galatia and he bids the Ponti­fex take care that there be Hospitals [Page 185] Built in each Town for the recepti­on of Men of other Religions as well as Heathens. He thinks it not befitting the dignity of the Pontifex to make frequent visits to the Governors at their Houses, but that he rather write to 'em; nor will he have the Priests go meet 'em, when they come into any Town; but when they come to the Temples, the Priests may go to receive 'em as far as the Porch, but no farther. He also forbids the Go­vernors on such an occasion to have their Guards Marching before them, because they are then to be conside­red only as private Persons; but he gives the Soldiers leave to go in af­ter them, if they will.

With this care, and this imitation of Christianity, it is probable that Iulian (if he had lived) would have put some stop to the ruine of his Re­ligion; but it pleased God to cut him off before he had reigned two years.

Iovian, who succeded him, began to endeavour zealously the destructi­on of Heathenism; but in the seven [Page 186] Months of his Reign it was not pos­sible for him to make any great pro­gress.

Valens, who had the Eastern Em­pire, gave liberty of conscience to all Men to worship what Gods they listed, and was himself more inclined to support Arianism than Christiani­ty. Theod. Lib. 5. So that during his Reign Sa­crifices were publickly made, and Men eat the flesh of the Victims of­fered up to Idols. The Bacchanalian Mysteries were celebrated openly; they ran up and down with their Thyrsi in their hands; they tore Dogs in pieces, and committed all the o­ther extravagances which are suita­ble to that Devotion.

Valentinian, his Brother, who had the Western Empire, was more zea­lous for the glory of Christianity; but yet his conduct was not so stea­dy, as it should have been. He had made a law to forbid all sorts of No­cturnal Ceremonies; whereupon Prae­textatus, the Proconsul of Greece, re­presented to him, that if he took a­way from the Greeks those Ceremo­nies, [Page 187] to which they were so mightly addicted, they would lead their Lives unpleasantly. This prevailed with Valentinian, and he consented, that notwithstanding his Law, they might keep their old Customs. It is true, that we have this account from Zo­simus a Pagan Historian: and one may say, that he invented it, to make us believe that the Pagans were still in some credit with the Emperors; but we answer, that Zosimus considering the condition which his Religion was in, was more likely to have been in an humor of complaining of severities that were not acted, than of pleasing himself with the recital of a favour that was never shown. But this is certain however, that there are Old Inscriptions at Rome, and in other Cities of Italy, by which it is mani­fest, that under the Reign of Valenti­nian, Persons of great quality celebra­ted the Sacrifices called Taurobolia and Criobolia, that is to say, The sprinkling of Bulls Blood and Rams Blood. Nay by the great number of those Inscriptions one would be [Page 188] made to think that those Ceremonies were the principal ones in fashion, during the time of this Valentinian, and the two other Emperors of the same Name.

Now they being the oddest and most singular of all the Heathen Rites, I suppose that a description of 'em will not be irksome to the Rea­der. Prudentius, who perhaps had seen them, sets 'em down at length. There was a deep Pit digged, into which the person, for whom the Ce­remonies were performed, descend­ed with Sacred Ribons and a Crown upon his Head, and in a dress altoge­ther Mysterious. Over the Pit they placed a Covering made of Planks pierced through with a great many Holes: Upon this Covering they brought a Bull adorned with a Garland of Flowers and little plates of Gold hanging upon his Horns and Forehead. Then his throat was Cut with a Sacred Knife, and his Blood dropt down through the holes that were in the Planks into the Pit, whi­lest the Person that stood there, re­ceived [Page 189] it with much devotion, cat­ching it on his forehead, his Cheeks, his Arms, his shoulders, and every part of his Body, and being industri­ous that not one drop should fall any where but on himself. At last out he came, a frightful spectacle, all dawb'd with blood, and his Hair, Beard and Cloaths still dropping with it; but his comfort was, that his Sins were all wash'd away, and he was regenerated to all Eternity: For, as it appears by the Inscriptions, this Sacrifice was to those who celebrated it, a Mystical and Eternal Regenera­tion. But unless it were renewed once in twenty years, it would lose its force, and the perpetuity of its duration. And Women, as well as Men, were capable of this Regenera­tion; and those, who were not at the Ceremony, might receive the be­nefit of it by Association: Nay, which is most remarkable of all, whole Cities sometimes performed it by Proxy or Deputation. This Sacrifice was now and then made for the Emperors health: and the Provinces made their [Page 190] Court to him by sending some Person in their name to bedawb himself with Bulls-Blood, for the obtaining of a long and happy Life for the Empe­ror. All this may be prov'd out of the old Inscriptions.

But now we come to Theodosius and his Sons, who put a full Period to Pagan superstitions.

Theodosius began first in Egypt, where he caused all the Temples to be shut up: At last he went so far as to demolish the Temple of Serapis, which was the most famous of 'em all. And as Strabo informs us, there was no­thing more Glorious in the whole Heathen Religion than the Pilgrima­ges which were made to Serapis. When the time, says he, of certain Festivals was near at hand, it is hard to believe what a multitude of People went down the River from Alexandria to Canopus, where this Temple stood. Day and Night there was nothing to be seen, but Boats full of Men and Wo­men, Singing and Dancing with all the liberty imaginable. At Canopus there [Page 191] were a vast number of Inns on the Ri­ver side, which were of use for the entertainment of the Passingers and accommodating them in their diver­tisements. And therefore the Sophister Eunapius, who was a Pagan, seems to have had a mighty concern for the Temple of Serapis, and with Gall enough he describes its destruction. Men (says he) that had never heard the sound War, show'd themselves mighty Valiant against the Stones of this Temple, but especially against the rich Offerings, which it was full of: And in those Holy Places they put Monks, a People (says he) in­famous and useless; who, because they wear a black and slovenly Habit, ar­rogate to themselves a Tyrannical Authority over the minds of Men; and instead of those Gods which the light of our natural Reason discovers to us, they set up for objects of our Adoration, the heads of Malefactors who were executed for their Crimes, which they salt to preserve 'em from Corruption. Thus does this impious wretch treat Monks and Relicks; and [Page 192] certainly the Liberty of those times was very great, when such Invectives were written against the Emperors Religion. Ruffinus informs us, that the Temple of Serapis was found to be full of secret Passages, and Ma­chines contrived for the Impostures of the Priests. He tells us, amongst other things, that on the East side of the Temple there was a little Window, through which, on a cer­tain day of the Year, the Sun Beams entring, fell just upon the Mouth of Serapis: At the same time, an Image of the Sun made of Iron was brought in, which being attracted by a great Loadstone fixed in the Cieling, a­scended up to the Image of Serapis. Then they cried out, that the Sun saluted their God: But when the I­ron Image fell down again, and the Sun-Beams went off from Serapis's Mouth, they said, that the Sun, ha­ving finished his Complement, was retired, to go about his own Af­fairs.

After that Theodosius had defeated the Rebel Eugenius, he went to Rome, [Page 193] where still the whole Senate stood up for Paganism. Their chiefest Rea­son was, because, for twelve hun­dred Years, Rome had thriven well e­nough with its Gods, from whom it had received all sorts of Prosperity. The Emperor made a Speech in the Senate-House, perswading them to embrace the Christian Religion; but they replied, that by Custom and Experience, they had found Paga­nism to be a good and convenient Religion: and if they should change it for that of the Christians, they could not foresee what might be the Event. Was not this fine Theology, for the Roman-Senate? Theodosius finding, that this was not the way to deal with them, told them, that the publick Treasury was too much ex­hausted by making chargeable Sacri­fices, and that he had Occasion to imploy that Money in paying his Ar­mies. They replied, that their Sa­crifices would not be acceptable, un­less they were made at the Charge of the Publick. But that inconveni­ence was no Argument with him: [Page 194] So he put an end to all Sacrifices and old Ceremonies. And Zosimus does not let flip the Occasion of ob­serving, that from that time forwards all sorts of Misfortunes happened to the Roman Empire.

The same Author tells us, that when Theodosius made that Voyage to Rome, Serena, the Wife of Stili­con, entred into the Temple of the Mother of the Gods, to put some Af­front upon her, and that she made bold to convert to her own use a fair Neck-lace, which the Goddess wore: This an old Vestal Virgin reproved her very sharply for, and, as she went out of the Temple, followed her, cursing her with a thousand Im­precations. After which, says Zosi­mus, the poor Serena was often frigh­ted (both waking and sleeping) with a certain Apparition, that threatned her with sudden Death.

But the last Efforts of Paganism were those made by Symmachus, to obtain of the Emperors, Valentinian, Theodosius, and Arcadius, the Re­establishment of the Privileges of the [Page 195] Vestals, and of the Altar of Victory in the Capitol; but all the World knows with what Vigour St. Ambrose opposed him. Yet it appears by the very Proceedings in that Contention, that Rome did in those days retain a strong Tincture of Paganism. For St. Ambrose asks Symmachus, why the Pagans are not contented with having the Publick Places, Portico's and Baths filled with their Idols, and if nothing will serve their turns, un­less the Altar of Victory be set up in the very Capitol, which is the Place of the whole City, whither most Christians resort; that the Christians, says he, may, whether they will or no, have the Smoak of the Sacrifices blown in their Eyes, the Musick in their Ears, the Ashes in their Throats, and the Incense in their Noses.

Nay, even when Rome was be­sieged by Alaricus, in the Reign of Honorius, it was still full of Idols. Zosimus complains, that all things conspiring to the Ruin of that un­happy City, the Gods were not only robbed of their Ornaments, but even [Page 196] some of those that were of Gold or Silver were themselves melted down; of which Number was the Goddess of Fortitude, which from that time forward wholly abandoned the Ro­mans. Though this be a lucky hit, yet Zosimus will never make it pass upon us for the true cause of the tak­ing of that City.

I am in some suspence, whether upon the Credit of this Author, we may admit the following Story to be true. Honorius forbad all Persons that were not of the Christian Reli­gion, to appear at Court, with a Shoulder-belt, or to have any Mili­tary Command. Generidus, a Pa­gan and Barbarian too, but a Man of great Courage, who commanded the Troops that lay in Dalmatia and Pan­nonia, came no more into the Empe­ror's Presence, laid aside his Shoul­der-belt, and forbore to exercise his Charge. Honorius one day asked him, how it came to pass, that he came not to Court in his Turn, as it was his Duty to do? To which he re­plied, That there was a Law made, [Page 197] that dispossessed him of his Belt, and his Command. The Emperor told him, that Law was not for such Men as he was; but he answered, that he could not take the Benefit of any Distinction that separated him from those who professed the same Wor­ship with himself. In effect, he would not undertake to act again in his Command, till the Emperor him­self, compelled to it by Necessity, re­pealed that Law. If this Story be true, then we may easily judge that Honorius contributed very little to the down-fall of the Heathen Religi­on.

But at last all Exercise of that Re­ligion was prohibited on Pain of Death, by an Edict of the Emperors Valentinian the Third, and Martian, in the Year of Christ 451. and this was the last Blow given to that Su­perstition. And yet we find, that those very Emperors, who were so zealous for the Advancement of Chri­stianity, did, for all that, themselves retain some Relicks of Heathenism, which served to augment their Au­thority. [Page 198] As for Example, they still took upon them the Title of Ponti­fex Maximus, that is to say, Chief Patriarch (as it were) of those who divined by the Flights of Birds, and the Entrails of Beasts, and of all the Colleges of Pagan Priests, and Su­preme Head of all the ancient Romish Idolatry.

Zosimus pretends that Constantine the Great, Valentinian and Valens willingly accepted from the Heathen Priests both the Title and Habit of that Dignity, which according to Custom was presented to them at their Accession to the Empire; but that Gratian refused the Pontifical Office; which being related to the Priests, the principal amongst them replied in a great heat: Si princeps non vult appellari Pontifex, admodum brevi Pontifex Maximus fiet. The Sharpness of which saying lies whol­ly in the Latin words, and it was grounded on the Revolt of Maximus against Gratian at that time, with a Design to strip him of the Empire.

[Page 199]But the old Inscriptions still re­maining, are a Testimony of this matter, more to be credited than Zosimus. There we see the Title of Pontifex Maximus given to the Chri­stian Emperors, even in the sixth Century. Two hundred years after Christianity had ascended the Throne, the Grute­rus. Emperor Iustin amongst his o­ther Titles assumes that of Pontifex Maximus in an Inscription, which he had caused to be made for the City of Iustinopolis in Istria, which was called by his Name.

To be one of the Gods of a false Religion was surely much worse than to be the Pontifex Maximus of it. Now the Heathens erected the Ro­man Emperors into Gods: And well they might, seeing they made the City of Rome a Goddess. The Em­perors, Theodosius and Arcadius, tho' they were Christians, permitted Sym­machus, that great Defender of the Heathen Religion, to give them the Title of (Vestra Divinitas, or) Your Divinity: Which could be only [Page 200] taken in the Sence, and according to the Custom, of the Pagans. And in some Inscriptions, which were set up in Honour of Arcadius and Honori­us, these following Words are to be found; Devotus Numini Majesta­ti (que) eorum, that is, Devoted to their Divinity and Majesty.

But the Christian Emperors went farther than the bare receiving of those Titles; for they gave them to themselves: As appears by the Con­stitutions (or Laws) of Theodosius, Valentinian, Honorius and Arcadius; wherein they sometimes call their Edicts, Heavenly Statutes, and Di­vine Oracles: And sometimes they say expresly, The most happy Expedi­tion of our Divinity, &c.

It may be said, that this was no­thing but the Stile of the Court of Chancery; but it was certainly an unjustifiable and ridiculous Stile un­der the Heathen Religion its self, and a blasphemous one under the Christi­an. And therefore it is very won­derful, that such like Extravagancies should become so familiar and com­mon [Page 201] a way of speaking, that they were in every Bodies Mouth.

The Truth is, that Flattery, which Subjects are so apt to bestow upon their Sovereigns, and the natural Fondness which Princes have for Praise, made the Custom of using these Expressions, last longer than it ought to have done. I confess that the Flattery and the Fondness in this Case were each of them very extraor­dinary in its kind: And it is no won­der, since they are things uncapable of being limited to any bounds. That a Man should be in earnest when he gives another Man the Title of a God is hard to conceive, and yet the fre­quency takes off the Wonder; but that this Man should accept the Ti­tle, and that with so much easiness, as by Degrees to come to the giving of it to himself (and all this while have a right Notion of what is truly called God,) This, I say, is a thing that I know not how to give such an Account of, as will save the Honour of Humane Nature.

[Page 202]As for the Title of Pontifex Maxi­mus, I do not see what was in it, that could flatter the Vanity of the Christian Emperors into the making it so much their Interest to conserve it: But, perhaps, they thought that it was of some use for the imprinting of a respectful Awe in the Minds of those that were still of the Heathen Religion: Or, it may be, they plea­sed themselves with the Supremacy over Christians, which under the Ambiguity of that Title they assu­med to themselves. In effect, upon certain Occasions they were Magiste­rial enough in their use of it: And some Authors would perswade us, that the Emperors quitted their Pre­tensions to this Title, out of Respect to the Pope; who, it seems, began to be apprehensive that they might make ill uses of it.

But it is not so surprizing by far, to see these Heathen remains continue for some time in the Christian Reli­gion, as to see what was most bar­barous, extravagant, and directly op­posite to Reason and the common In­terest [Page 203] of Mankind, keep such firm foot­ing, as to be the last that left the Field of all the Pagan Superstitions, I mean, Humane Sacrifices. That Re­ligion was certainly very fantastical and full of Variety; for it consisted of some things extremely frolick, and others no less mournful. In one Place, the Ladies go to the Temples in a fit of Devotion, to offer their Favours to the first Comer: And in another place, the same Devotion causes the throats of Men to be cut upon an Al­tar. These detestable Sacrifices were practised by all Nations: The Greci­ans celebrated them, as well as the Scythians, though not so often; and the Romans (for all that they obliged the Carthaginians, in a Treaty of Peace concluded between them, not to sacrifice their Children to Saturn, according to the Custom derived from their Ancestors, the Phoenicians, yet) did themselves every Year offer up a Man to Iupiter Latialis. Eu­sebius cites Porphyrius for this, as a thing still in usage in his Days. Lactantius and Prudentius, the one [Page 204] in the beginning, and the other in the end of the fourth Age, are Evi­dences of the same thing, each of them for his own Time. These Ce­remonies, that were so full of Hor­rour, lasted as long as the Supersti­tion of Oracles, which was only ly­able to the Reproach of Stupidity and fond Credulity.

CHAP. V. That if Heathenism had not been abolish'd, yet Oracles would have ceased; and the first particular Reason hereof.

THE down-fall of Heathenism, when Christianity triumphed over it, could do no less than involve Oracles in the common ruine with its self. But it may be farther as­serted that Christianity, even before it became the reigning Religion, was an irresistible enemy to Oracles; for the Christians made it their business to disabuse mankind, and discover im­postures. And yet if the Christian Re­ligion had never been, Oracles would for other reasons have lost their cre­dit by degrees, and at last have quite fail'd.

It was observ'd that they began to degenerate from the very time [Page 206] when they left of giving their an­swers in Verse. Plutarch has writ­ten a tract expresly to enquire about the reason of this Change, wherein (according to the fashion of Greek Authors) he sets down all that could be said on this subject, either true or false. First he saies, that the God who inspires the Pythian Priestess propor­tions himself to her Capacity, and does not answer in Verse by her, un­less she have a natural faculty that way; for the prediction only be­longs to Apollo, but the manner of Expression to the Priestess. Thus, it is not the fault of the Musician, if he cannot make as good melody with a Cittern as with a Lute; for the property of the Instrument must be considered. Suppose, it had been the custom for the Oracle to deliver its answers in writing, could we reaso­nably deny that Apollo inspired 'em, unless the Priestess wrote 'em in a fair hand. The Soul of the Prophe­tess, when united to Apollo, is like an innocent Maid when she is first Married, who is ignorant both of [Page 207] the pleasure and the duty of her new condition.

But why then did the Ancient Priestesses always answer in Verse? Were not they as pure and Virgin Souls, contracted to Apollo? To this Plutarch replies first of all, That even the Ancient Priestesses did now and then speak in Prose. And besides this, in Old times all People were born Poets: so that, as he tells us, they had no sooner drank a little freely, but they made Verses; they had no sooner cast their eyes on a Handsom Woman, but they were all Poesy, and their very common discourse fell naturally into Feet and Rhime: So that their Feasts and their Courtships were the most dele­ctable things in the World. But now this Poetick Genius has deserted Man­kind: and tho' our passions be as ar­dent as those of our Ancestors, and we talk as much as they did, yet Love at present creeps in humble prose. And even all the Socrates's and Plato's, who discoursed so much concerning that agreeable passion, [Page 208] had not the least skill in Poetry.

Now all this has too much fancy and too little truth in it, to deserve a serious answer. But Plutarch gives us another reason, which has some­thing more of probability; which is this; that the Ancients wrote al­waies in Verse, whether they treated of Religion, Morality, Natural Philo­sophy or Astrology. Orpheus and He­siod, whom every body acknowled­ges for Poets, were Philosophers also: and Parmenides, Xenophanes, Empe­docles, Eudoxus, and Thales, whom all Men own for Philosophers, were Poets too. It is very strange indeed that Poetry should be elder Brother to Prose, and that Men did not at first light upon the most natural and easie way of expressing their thoughts; but it is very probable, that since all their writings were as so many precepts, they were shap'd into measured lines, that they might be the more easily remembred: and there­fore all their Laws and their rules of Morality were in Verse. By this we may see that Poetry had a much [Page 209] more serious beginning than is usu­ally imagin'd, and that the Muses have of late days mightily deviated from their original Gravity. Who would imagine that the Old Statutes should by right have been written in Metre, and Chaucer's Tales in Prose? There was a necessity there­fore, saies Plutarch, that Ancient O­racles should be deliver'd in Verses, since all matters of importance were so; for Apollo was then willing to follow the mode of those times, and when Prose came afterwards to be in use, he was for being in the fashion still.

I am of the same opinion my self, and believe that Oracles at first gave their answers in Verse, both that they might be more easily remem­bred, and to comply with the custom which had condemned Prose to be u­sed only in trival discourses. But Histo­ry and Philosophy began to shake off those useless Chains about the Reign of Cyrus. For Thales, who lived at that time, was one of the last Poe­tick Philosophers; but Apollo conti­nued [Page 210] to speak in Verse till about Pyr­rhus's daies, as Cicero informs us, which was about two hundred and thirty years after Cyrus. Whence it appears, that Poetry being found suitable to the dignity of Oracles, it was retain'd in use at Delphos, as long as it was possible; till at last plain Prose get­ting the victory banish'd it quite from thence.

Plutarch could hardly be in ear­nest, when he said, that Oracles were therefore at last pronounced in Prose, because People began to require clearer answers, and to be weary of the Mysterious bombast of Verses. For whether it were the Gods or but the Priests that spoke, I would fain know how Men durst accuse 'em of obscurity.

But he has more probability on his side, when he pretends, that prophetick versifying fell into con­tempt, by being in use amongst those Fortune-tellers, who stroling about the High-ways, were consulted by the Rabble: Now, the Priests who belonged to the Temples, scorn'd to [Page 211] use the same Customs in common with these Gypsies; for they thought themselves to be a nobler and graver sort of Fortune-tellers; which makes a mighty difference, I'll assure you, in this great affair.

But Plutarch reserves his true reason till last: which is, that in for­mer times Men went to consult at Delphos only about matters of the highest consequence; as Wars, Buil­ding of Cities, interest of Kings and Commonwealths; whereas now adays, saies he, every ordinary Person runs thither to ask the Oracle, If they shall Marry, If they shall buy a slave, If they shall thrive by their Trade; and when a City sends thither, 'tis only to enquire, whether their Lands will yield a good Crop, or their Cattle increase. These questions deserve not the trouble of an answer in Verse, for if Apollo should take that pains, he would be like those Sophi­sters, who labour mightily to show their learning, when there is no pro­per occasion for it.

But now I come to that which [Page 212] was the most effectual cause of the ruine of Oracles. The Romans made themselves Masters of all Greece, and those Kingdoms founded by Alex­ander's Successors: and assoon as the Grecians had submitted to the Ro­man Yoke, from which they had no hopes of being ever free, they were no longer agitated with the conti­nual divisions and quarrels which had wont to harass those petty States, whose interests were so mightily embroiled; for their com­mon Masters made 'em all quiet, and peace was the product of their slave­ry. And I think, the Greeks had never happy days till then; for they lived in a profound tranquility, and in perfect ease; they passed their time in their places of exercise, in their Theaters, and in their Schools of Philo­sophy. They had publick sports, Comedies, Disputations and Haran­gues; and for Men of their Genius, what could be desired more? But all this afforded little business for Oracles, and there was very seldom any occa­sion to importune the Delphian God. [Page 213] And it is very easie to imagine, that the Priests would not give them­selves the trouble of answering in Verse, when they found their trade fell off, and the profit of it was not worth the while.

And as the Romans did the Oracles some prejudice by the peace which they established in Greece, so they did them more by the slight esteem which they had of 'em themselves: for their folly did not lie that way; they addicted themselves only to the Books of the Sibylls and to the Tuscan Divinations, which were per­formed by the observations of the flights of Birds and the entrails of Sacrificed Beasts. Now the maxi­mes and opinions of the Victors, ea­sily obtain amongst the Conquered: and therefore it is no wonder that Oracles, being a Greek invention, should follow the fate of Greece; and that as with her they flourish'd in prosperity, so with her they lost their Ancient Glory.

But for all this, we must acknow­ledge, that there were some Oracles [Page 214] in Italy. Tiberius, as Suetonius says, went to the Oracle of Geryon near Padua; where there was a certain Spring, if we will believe Claudian, which restored speech to the Dumb and healed all sorts of Diseases. Sueto­nius saies further, that Tiberius had once a mind to destroy all the Oracles that were near Rome; but he was pre­vented by the miracle of the Praene­stine Lots, which, when they were brought up to Rome in a Box well lock'd and seal'd, were not to be found there; but when the Box was carried back to Praeneste, then they were found in it again.

To these Lots of Praeneste and those of Antium, we must add the Lots of the Statius. Temple of Hercules which was at Tibur.

Pliny the Younger thus describes the Oracle of Clitumnus the God of a certain River in Vmbria: The Temple is Ancient and much revered; in it stands Clitumnus in a Roman habit, and his Lots manifest his Presence and the power of his Divinity. Round a­bout it, there are several little Cha­pels, [Page 215] in some of which there are foun­tains and Springs: for Clitumnus is, as it were, the father of many other little Rivers which join with its Streams. There is a Bridge which separates the Sacred part of these Waters from the prophane. Above this Bridge Men may only go in Boats; but below it they may bathe themselves in the River. This is the only River of my acquaintance that was Oracu­lar, for they had other business to do than to turn Fortune-tellers.

But there were Oracles at Rome it self. Had not Aesculapius one in his Temple which stood in an Island in the River Tibur? There has been found at Rome a piece of a Marble Table, wherein the Miracles of Ae­sculapius are engraven in Greek. One of the most considerable of which, is this that follows, translated word for word from the Inscription. At the same time the Oracle made this answer to a Blind Man Named Caius. He was bid go to the Sacred Altar, and kneel down and Worship there; then to go from the Right side to the [Page 216] Left, and lay his five fingers upon the Altar, and afterwards clap his hand upon his Eyes. After all this was done, the Blind Man was restored to his Sight, as all the People were Witnesses, and testifyed the joy which they received in seeing such mighty wonders wrought in the Reign of our Emperor Antoninus. The two o­ther Cures are less miraculous; for one was of a Pleurisie and the other of a loss of Blood; (both of 'em very despe­rate Diseases without doubt,) but the God prescribed to the Sick Persons some Pine Apples and Honey with Wine and certain Ashes; which were things that those Men who are some­thing incredulous, will be apt to say are meerly natural remedies.

These Inscriptions, for all that they are in Greek, were certainly done at Rome; for the form of the Letters and the spelling, do not at all seem to be from the hand of some Grecian Sculptor. Besides, tho' it be true, that the Romans made their Inscriptions in Latin, yet they made some few in Greek, especially when they had [Page 217] some particular reason for it. Now it is very probable, that no other language but Greek was used in the Temple of Aesculapius, because he was originally a Grecian God, and brought to Rome in that great plague, of which every one knows the Story.

Thus we see that the Oracle of Ae­sculapius was not of a Roman institu­tion: and I doubt not, but that if it were an enquiry worth the while, most of the Italian Oracles would be found to be of a Greek Origi­nal.

However it be, the smalness of the number of the Italian Oracles, and e­ven of those that were at Rome it self, makes but a very inconsiderable ex­ception to the generality of the noti­on which we propose. Aesculapius dealt only in Physick, and concerned not himself in matters of Govern­ment: and tho' he had a rare knack at making Blind Men see, yet I believe the Senate would have been loth to have depended upon his advice in a case even of the smallest importance. [Page 218] Private persons amongst the Romans might give what credit they listed to Oracles; but the State had little faith in them. Thus the Sibylls Books and the entrails of Beasts governed all. And so a vast number of Gods fell into contempt, when People took notice that the Masters of the World would not vouchsafe to consult 'em.

CHAP. VI. The second particular cause of the Cessation of Oracles.

BUT I meet with a difficulty in this business, that I will not conceal. For if about the time of Pyrrhus, Apollo was reduced to Prose, this implies that Oracles began then to grow into discredit, and yet the Romans were not masters of Greece till a long time after Pyrrhus; and between the Reign of Pyrrhus and the Romans conquest of Greece, there were as many Wars and Commoti­ons [Page 219] in that Country as ever, and by consequence as many important sub­jects to consult the God of Delphos about.

This indeed is true; but we must also observe that about the time of Alexander the Great, a little before Pyrrhus's days, there appear'd in Greece certain great Sects of Philoso­phers, such as the Peripateticks and Epicureans, who made a mock of Oracles. The Epicureans especially made sport with the paltry Poetry that came from Delphos. For the Priests hammered out their Verses as well as they could, and they often­times committed faults against the common Rules of Prosodia. Now those Fleering Philosophers were mightily concerned that Apollo, the very God of Poetry, should come so far behind Homer, who was but a meer mortal, and was beholding to the same Apollo for his inspira­tions.

It was to little purpose to excuse the matter, by saying, that the bad­ness of the Verses was a kind of Te­stimony [Page 220] that they were made by a God, who nobly scorn'd to be tyed up to rules and to be confined to the Beauty of a Style. For this made no impression upon the Philosophers; who, to turn this answer into ridi­cule, compared it to the Story of a Painter, who being hired to draw the Picture of a Horse tumbling on his Back upon the ground, drew one running full speed: and when he was told, that this was not such a Picture as was bespoke, he turned it upside down, and then ask'd if the Horse did not tumble upon his back now. Thus these Philosophers jeered such Persons, who by a way of arguing that would serve both ways, could equally prove that the Verses were made by a God, whether they were good or bad.

So that at length the Priests of Delphos being quite baffled with the railleries of those learned Wits, re­nounced all Verses, at least as to the speaking them from the Tripos; for there were still some Poets main­tain'd in the Temple, who at leisure [Page 221] turned into Verse, what the Divine fury had inspired the Pythian Prie­stess withal in Prose. It was very pretty, that Men could not be con­tented to take the Oracle just as it came piping hot from the Mouth of their God. But perhaps, when they had come a great way for it, they thought it would look sil­ly to carry home an Oracle in Prose.

Nay the Gods, being willing to keep up the use of Verses as long as ever they could, did now and then stoop to borrow a line or two out of Homer; whose Poetry, it seems, was better than their own. Of this there are abundance of Examples; but, both this borrowing of Verses, and keeping Poets at standing wages in their Temples, may well pass for good arguments that the old natural Poetry of Oracles had mightily lost its reputation.

But these great Sects of Philoso­phers, enemies to Oracles, must needs have done them a more essential pre­judice than the bare reducing them [Page 222] to Prose. For questionless they opened the eyes of a great many rational persons, and even amongst the po­pulace they made the infallibility of those things lie under more suspici­on than it had done before. For when Oracles first crept out into the World, Philosophy had not yet appear'd.

CHAP. VII. The last particular causes of the Cessation of Oracles.

THE cheats of Oracles were so gross, that at last they were discovered by a thousand several accidents. I suppose that Oracles were at first entertained with gree­diness and joy, because that nothing could be more convenient than to have Gods always ready at hand to answer every question that might be suggested by uneasiness or cu­riosity: and I fansie that it was with a great deal of reluctancy that People parted with this supposed conveniency; and that Oracles would never have come to an end as long as Heathenism lasted, if they had not been the most impertinent things in the World. But at last Men were forced to yield to their own experiences and suffer themselves to be disabused.

[Page 224]To this the Priests gave no small help by the extreme Impudence, which they used in the Exercise of their false Ministry; for they thought that things were brought to such a Point, that there was no occasion for any Circumspection.

I say nothing of the Waggishness of the Oracles, which they sometimes delivered: For Example, Athenae­us. To a Man that came to ask of the Deity, What he should do to grow rich, he an­swered very pleasantly, That he need do no more than get all the Land be­tween Sycione and Corinth. And sometimes the Consulter would make free with the God. Polemon, sleep­ing in the Temple of Aesculapius, to learn of him how to cure his Gout, the God appeared to him and told him: That he must abstain from cold Drink. Polemon replied, you would be puzled then, my good Friend, if you were consulted about an Ox? But these were but the gayeties and frolicks of the Priests, who would sometimes both give and take a Jest.

But it was still more remarkable, [Page 225] that the Gods never failed to fall in Love with the fair Ladies; for they must come and pass away the Nights in their Temples, tricked up for the purpose by their own Husbands, and furnished with Presents to make the God amends for his pains. 'Tis not to be doubted, but that the Doors of the Temple were shut up in the sight of the whole World, but who could secure the Husbands against the Pas­sages under Ground.

For my Part, I do not question, but such Intrigues were often practi­sed. And Herodotus writes, that in the eighth and uppermost Story of that lofty Tower belonging to the Temple of Belus in Babylon, there was a Magnificent Bed, where there lay every Night a pretty Woman se­lected by the God. The like was done at Thebes in Egypt: And when the Priestess of the Oracle of Patara in Lycia was to prophesie, she must first take a Nights Lodging all alone in the Temple, whither Apollo came (forsooth) to inspire her.

All these things were practised du­ring [Page 226] the darkest Mists of Paganism, and in times when Heathen Ceremonies were not to be contradicted; but in the view of the very Christians them­selves Saturn of Alexandria had such Women brought in the Night to his Temple, as he thought fit to chuse by the Mouth of his Priest Tyrannus. Many Women had received this Ho­nour with a great deal of devout Re­spect, and none of them made any Complaints of Saturn, though he was the Oldest and the least a Gallant of all the Gods. But at last there was one, who having had her Nights lodging in the Temple, considered with her self, that nothing had passed there, but what mortal Man was capable of performing, and Tyrannus could have done himself: And so she ac­quainted her Husband with her Su­spicion, who hereupon accused Ty­rannus. The unhappy Priest con­fessed all; and the Lord knows what a scandal this gave to the Inhabitants of Alexandria.

Thus the Wickedness of the Priests, their Insolence, and several [Page 227] Chances that had discovered their Cheats, and the Obscurity, Uncer­tainty and Falseness of their Answers would at last have quite ruined the Reputation of Oracles, and entirely abolished them, even if Heathenism had not been come to a Period. But the thing became more unavoidable by the Addition of other Foreign Rea­sons: Such as first the Raillery of the Grecian Philosophers, then the little use the Romans had always of them, and last of all the Christians utter de­testation of them, and putting a full end to them and Paganism toge­ther.



The First Discourse. That Oracles were not deliver­ed by Daemons, Page 5.
Chap. 1. THE first Reason why the Primitive Chri­stians believed that Oracles were delivered by Daemons, and the surprizing Histories that were published concerning Oracles and Genii.
Page 7
Chap. 2. The second Reason why the Primitive Christians believed, that Oracles were supernatural, and the Agreement of this Opinion with [Page] the System of Christianity.
p. 13
Chap. 3. The third Reason of the Primitive Christians, taken from the Agreement of their Opinion with the Philosophy of Plato.
p. 15
Chap. 4. That the surprizing Histo­ries of Oracles ought to be suspected.
p. 20
Chap. 5. That the common Opinion concerning Oracles does not agree so well as 'tis imagined with the Chri­stian Religion.
p. 38.
Chap. 6. That Daemons are not sufficiently established by Paganism.
p. 46.
Chap. 7. That some Grand Sects of the Pagan Philosophers, did not be­lieve there was any thing su­pernatural in Oracles.
p. 53
Chap. 8. That other Men besides Philosophers have had little Esteem for Oracles.
p. 66
Chap. 9 That the ancient Christi­ans themselves did not very firmly believe that Oracles were delivered by Daemons.
p. 78
Chap. 10. That Oracles were cor­rupted by Bribery.
p. 85
[Page] Chap. 11. Of the Erection of new O­racles.
p. 93
Chap. 12. Of the Places where O­racles were.
p. 101
Chap. 13. Of the Distinctions of Days, and other Mysteries of Oracles.
p. 110
Chap. 14. Of Oracles that were delivered in Answer to Sealed Letters.
p. 119
Chap. 15. Of Oracles delivered in Dreams.
p. 126
Chap. 16. Of the Ambiguity of O­racles.
p. 134
Chap. 17. The Cheats of Oracles ma­nifestly discovered.
p. 140
Chap. 18. Of Lots.
p. 143


The Second Discourse. That Oracles did not cease at the coming of Iesus Christ. Page 151.
Chap. 1. THE Weakness of those Reasons upon which the Opinion, that Oracles ceased at the coming of Jesus Christ, is founded.
Page 152
Chap. 2. Why the Ancient Authors contradicted each other, very of­ten, about the time of the Cessation of Oracles.
p. 163.
Chap. 3. The History of the Dura­tion of the Oracle of Delphos, and some other Oracles.
p. 167
[Page] Chap. 4. That Oracles for the most part were abolished, at the same time with Heathenism.
p. 180.
Chap. 5. That if Heathenism had not been abolished, yet Oracles would have ceased; and the first parti­cular Reason hereof.
p. 205
Chap. 6. The second particular Cause of the Cessation of Oracles.
p. 218
Chap. 7. The last particular Causes of the Cessation of Oracles.
p. 223

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