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quotes from Cicero, which being so long before the time in which Messiah appeared, must repel every suspicion of its having been a pious forgery
of after ages.
“That it was necessary, if they desired to be saved, they should acknowledge Him for King who should be King."
The language and the ideas here are clearly Hebrew, through whatever channel they may have come.
As to the cause of their production, we can only form conjectures. The most probable is, that such verses were published by the Jews (for by this time theywere scattered over most parts of the Roman empire) in order to beat down the foolish pretensions of the nations. Of all these, the most arrogant were the Romans: they termed Rome the eternal city, and they flattered themselves that the world was to lie for ever at their feet. The Jews, feeling their superiority as a people highly favoured of heaven, produced also oracles infinitely transcending those of Delphi or Dodona, that they expected a time when there should be “one Lord over all the earth, and his
"_" The Lord is our king, he will save us." From this latter, might arise the oracle which Cicero recites.
In this poem the great Person mentioned as about to appear--the time and state of things there delineated, are so lofty and grand, that
setting the light of scripture aside, they have nothing corresponding to them in the history of mankind. With Messiah and his days they have a wonderful agreement. The assumption then has at least something of reason that these verses, going under the name of Sibylline, were supplied from the Greek version of the prophets, and by Virgil enlisted into the service of the Roman muse, and graced with his own matchless harmony
The opinion that these which were handed about without number, as productions of Sibylline women, were actually in some part, the work of the Jews of the dispersion, is strengthened by the consideration that these Sibyls are assigned to various countries. There being said to be a Roman Sibyl, a Greek Sibyl, a Persian Sibyl, a Hebrew Sibyl, and all this without pretending to any thing like certainty in the matter. To these verses then, which in Hebrew stile and images, so plainly describe Messiah, and the effects of his coming, might be uwing that general opinion, mentioned by Tacitus and Suetonius, as of a long time pervading all the east, that some one coming from Judea should rule the world. The very words of Suetonius (in fatis) in the prophecies, prove that it was from some of the Sibylline verses he had taken his information, and which he appears to have copied verbatim. These he terms,
in another part of his work, (fatidici libri) prophetical collections. Such, having so much for their theme, universal empire, and the destruction of all other kingdoms; and perhaps by the aid of calculation, built on Daniel's seventy weeks, pointing out the time when this was expected to happen, seem to have had the same effect upon Augustus, that the words of the eastern magi had upon Herod. Elevated to the throne of the Roman empire, which had been recently erected on the ruins of the commonwealth, and the line of succession not being fixed, every whistling of a leaf was likely to disquiet him. He issued orders to gather up these collections, whether Greek or Latin, to the amount of about two thousand, and having selected a few, directed to burn all the rest*. I shall now endeavour to analyze some parts
of of this singular poem, so far as they touch on the subject of the future age, and remark on their truth and agreement with the records of the Hebrew nation.
This poem, Virgil wrote about fifty years before the birth of Christ. A spirit of inquiry and expectation had by this time begun to bestir itself among the nations, that some great deliverer was about to appear. This might primarily take its rise from the universal dispersion of the Jews, Such of them as were truly fearers of the God of heaven, might piously wish to bring their heathen neighbours to be participants of the same hopes with themselves, They might employ the harmless expedient of excerpting from their own scriptures some of the declarations concerning Messiah and the blessings of his reign. To these they might give the form of the responses, which were wont to be issued from the dark caves of heathen oracles. An over-ruling Providence might direct all this for good: here might be laid the first foundation of the conversion of the Gentile nations unto God : here might be scattered those seeds of divinę knowledge, which, rising by degrees, were, by the watering of Christ and his apostles, to grow to a plentiful crop. From some such disposition beginning to manifest itself in the hearts of the nations, it was that Christ bid his disciples
* Quicquid fatidicorum librorum Græci Latinque generis, nullis val parum idoniis autoribus vulgo ferebatur, supra duo millia contracta undique, cremavit, Suet. in vit. August.
their eyes and mark the fields already white to harvest."
Virgil had long witnessed, and even shared in the disasters of the civil wars, which crushed and finally put an end to the Roman republic. It might be during this time that some of the supposed Sibylline verses fell into his hands, describing a reign and blessings the very reverse of what for years he had beheld. It would seem that
while he read he was charmed, and he determined to drop for a little the rural muse, that he might touch the Hebrew lyre, and attempt in Roman measure some of the strains of Zion. : He seems conscious that the subjects which had hitherto employed his pen, were low and mean in comparison of that which was now in his view. Yet it is difficult to account why he terms this divine subject the woods, and that in it there was something suitable to the character of Pollio (sylvæ sint consule digna.) The difficulty is further heightened by this, that from the one end of the
poem to the other, there is nothing that can justify the title that is given. One commentator thinks that in the term woods, there is an allusion to those forests of timber, the care of which sometimes devolved on the consul, upon his going out of office; yet with the same breath he tells us, that this was the lowest of all the offices with which the consul was intrusted. To reconcile this with the poet's saying, that he was going to attempt a higher theme, will perhaps prove a difficult task.
I now take the liberty of suggesting a method of penetrating into these woods, according with the purpose of the poet, and founded upon a known custom of the antient Hebrews, namely, that of inscribing a book with the introductory words, or with such as expressed the leading sub
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