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was that a superior paradise opened its gates, through which, from the consequent evils of life, a happy. flight is given to the righteous.
Such were the opinions which from the earliest times prevailed with respect to the state of the soul during its separation from the body. These, it would seem, and even the phraseology were derived to them from the antient Hebrews. What the rhapsodists of antient times might recite, as the native sentiment, as the genuine effusion of the heart, would, with the poet of after ages, savour more of imitation, and obtain a place in his compositions, merely as an embellishment of art.
In the most enlightened period of Rome, the first of her scholars and philosophers, in speaking of the invisible state, as having no existence, assumed a tone of decision as if guided by a spirit of heaven. This was Cæsar. In presence of the Roman senate, he gave as his most valid reason for not putting to death some who had been concerned in the conspiracy of Catiline, that death was mercy, inasmuch as it was a rest from sorrows, and put a period to all the disasters of mortals. Such also is the language of Cicero: “What evil pray does death bring with it, except we are drawn by silly stories and fables, to think that he (Cluentius) is suffering in Hades those punishments which are the portion of the wicked?" Cato, in his reply to Cæsar, remarks, that what
had fallen from him, concerning the state of separate spirits, exhibited a departure of opinion from the general belief of his countrymen.
« Believe ing," says this latter, “I imagine that what is commonly affirmed with regard to the invisible state, and the distinct abodes of the righteous and the wicked, to be destitute of any foundation in truth.”
That Cato himself was a firm believer in the separate existence of the soul, is plain from what he says
in his reflexions on the death of his son. “O glorious day, when taking my departure from this low and mean sojonrn, I shall go to that divine
company and assembly of souls. If in this I err, it is an error to which my heart cleaves, nor will I, while life remains, ever suffer it to be wrested from me."
Tacitus had said that with respect to Hades, the Jews entertained the same opinion with the Egyptians. This is fully confirmed in a passage from Plutarch: “ The Egyptians have reasons for many others of their appellations : they call the subterranean region Amenthes ; this is the place into which souls enter after death. The name signifies that which receives and gives up.”
These truths formed, for a series of ages, the popular creed. In these times mankind were remarkable for veracity and simplicity of manners. Judgments denounced, and for the most part,
executed, had a mighty tendency to preserve on their minds an influencing belief of the interposition of the divine arm. This restraining awe was then termed the fear of God, and where this fear was apprehended not to be, the servant of God moved with trembling steps. Gen. xx. 11.
In proportion as mankind emigrated in quest of settlements, to distant lands, the source from which they had derived these notices of an invisible state, was gradually wore out and lost from the remembrance. The Almighty, who had decreed to wink at these times of ignorance, neither interposed to vindicate what remained of the truth, nor to detect the errors which were perpetually accumulating. The children of pride arose, and under the name of philosophers, set themselves to explain away, or to prove that these antient notices, delivered under a symbolic veil, were merely the dreams of vulgar ignorance. Even so early as the age of Enoch there were scoffers in the earth, and who found a cure for their scepticism, only in the waters of the deluge.
CHAPTER CHAPTER XIX.
A Dissertation on some Passages in the fourth
Eclogue of Virgil. FROM the earliest times of Christianity an opinion had prevailed that this poem possessed some relation with the monuments of genuine prophecy, and derived its origin from the sacred fountain. “ This poem,” says Dr. Lowth, « when I take i into view the different periods and personages, the most conspicuous in the Roman commonwealth, the more I read, the less I understand. Such is the beauty of the stile, and the elegance of the verse, that the mysteriousness of the subject, for the most part, lies concealed, and passes unobserved by the reader. To me, when I take a closer view of each particular, and when I thoroughly balance the nature and value of the images and the phrases, so many things occur, widely different from the manners of the Romans, and so remote from the conceptions of the people of that age and nation, that I can scarce persuade myself it would be sufficiently understood, even when it was first published. But when an interpretation given from the records of the Hebrew nation, places these things in so bright a light, the force
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and magnitude of which interpretation the poet could neither comprehend or even know in the remotest degree-how far the learned will yield to me in this matter, I know not: what my opinion is, with difficulty I venture to declare ; and yet let me say, that to me this appears so wonderful, and so much out of the ordinary road of na. ture, that sometimes I am inclined almost seriously to believe, that that has happened for once, what Socrates in irony affirms concerning the poets. “ Therefore God suspending their judg. ment, employs them as his servants, in giving forth notices of future things, that when we hear we may know that it is not they who give forth matters of such weighty importance, in which their judgment has no share, but that it is God himself who speaks, and through them makes his voice be heard, even to us." That this, however, was the case with the poet in question, I can by no means bring myself to believe. humbly of opinion that these phenomena, how. ever wonderful in themselves, are solvable on a more natural hypothesis.”
It is the opinion of Grotius, that the antient Sibylline oracles, kept by the Quindecimviri at Rome, appear to have been nothing else but Greek verses of some Hellenist Jews, excerpted from the sacred volume, and drawn up in the form of the oracular responses. One of these he i