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23. Behold a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
Quintilian, in his chapter upon presumptive proofs, adduces the following examples. As the generality of his illustrations are derived from history it can scarcely be doubted that he here refers to the facts of our Saviour's birth, his miracles, and his resurrection, which he cites as unworthy of belief, because contrary to all the rules of presumptive evidence.
"Presumption is to be examined through all times, past, present, and to come. An example of the past is, When a woman has borne a child, it is a presumption that she is no virgin. An example of the present is, That the sea must roll when it is ruffled by the wind. An example of the future is, That a man must be dead after his heart is wounded."-QUINTIL. 1. v. c. 9.
1. Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
2. Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
The Chaldæans were from the earliest ages observers of the stars. Diodorus says
of them :
"From a long observation of the stars, and an exact knowledge of the motions and influences of every one of them, wherein they excel all other nations, they foretel many things that are to happen. The appearance of comets, they say, is significative of good or evil not only to nations in general but to kings, and even to private individuals." DIOD. SIC. 1. II. c. 30.
According to the Chaldæans the birth of infants is regulated by the moon, and they observe and take particular notice of the natal stars with which the moon happens to be in conjunction at the moment of a nativity."—CIC. de div. 1. II. c. 43.
Lucan, speaking of the prodigies which attended the civil wars at Rome, says :
"Then horrid comets shook their fatal hair
And bade proud royalty for change prepare."-Phars. l. 1. v. 528. "Stars are suddenly formed in the heavens themselves. The Greeks name these stars Those that are named_acontiæ, vibrate like a dart, with a very quick motion. It was one of this kind that the Emperor Titus described in his very excellent poem as having been seen in his fifth consulship; and this was the last of these bodies which has been observed."-PLIN. Hist. nat. 1. II. c. 22.
"In the reign of Nero a blazing star, which is vulgarly supposed to portend destruction to kings and princes, appeared above the horizon several nights successively.". SUETON. Nero, c. 36.
The ancients were of opinion that their great men and heroes at their death migrated into some star: hence the names of many of the constellations. Perhaps the Magi may have held some such belief, connecting the appearance of a new star with the birth as well as with the departure of a hero.
"Why, Daphnis, dost thou search in old records,
See, Cæsar's lamp is lighted in the skies."-VIRG. Ecl. IX. v. 46.
Insensible, high shoots his spreading fame,
"Julius Cæsar was ranked among the gods, not only by a formal decree but in the belief of the vulgar. For during the first games which Augustus, his heir, consecrated to his memory, a comet blazed for seven days together, rising always about eleven o'clock; and it was supposed to be the soul of Cæsar now received into heaven; for which reason, likewise, he is represented on his statue with a star on his brow."-SUETON. Cæs. c. 88.
The following lines from Virgil, are supposed to have been taken from the Sibylline verses, and to have reference to the birth of Christ :
"The last great age, foretold by sacred rhymes,
Renews its finish'd course: Saturnian times
And haste the glorious birth! thy own Apollo reigns.
The lovely boy, with his auspicious face,
Shall Pollio's consulship and triumph grace:
Majestic months set out with him to their appointed race.
And crimes shall threat the guilty world no more.
By gods and heroes seen, and gods and heroes see.
The Fates, when they this happy web have spun,
The nodding frame of heav'n, and earth, and main !
And joyful ages, from behind, in crowding ranks appear."
"Many were under a strong persuasion that in the ancient books, kept by their priests, a prophesy was contained-That at this very time the power of the East should prevail, and out of Judæa should spring such as should rule over all nations: a prophetic riddle by which Vespasian and Titus were prefigured.”—TAC. Hist. 1. v. c. 13.
"A firm persuasion had long prevailed through all the East that it was fated for the empire of the world at that time to devolve on some one who should go forth from Judæa."-SUET. Vespas. c. 4.
11. They presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. "There is no country in the world that produces frankincense except Arabia. It is the Sabæi alone, and no other people among the Arabians, that behold the incense-tree."
PLIN. Hist. nat. 1. XII. c. 14.
16. Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in
Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise
The murder of the innocents is recorded by Dion in his life of Octavius Cæsar, and more at length by Macrobius, who adds that Herod caused his own son to be killed among the rest. It was this Herod who, on his death-bed, sent for all the most considerable Jews to Jericho, where he then was, and having shut them up in a circus, commanded that as soon as he was dead, they should be slain, that there might be a great lamentation throughout the country at the time of his death. The persons to whom he gave this charge did not execute it. Macrobius relates (Sat. II. 4.) that when Augustus heard that Herod had included his own son among the children of two months old whom he had caused to be slain in Syria, he exclaimed, It is better to be Herod's hog than his child. (vvý vióv.)”
4. And the same John had his raiment of camel's hair.
"There are camels in those regions whose hair equals the Milesian wool in soft-
O generation of vipers.
Clytemnestra is likened by Eschylus to a serpent, and Agamemnon, her victim, to an eagle
In the dire serpent's spiry volumes perished."-Choeph. v. 246. "CREON. (to Ismene). Come forth thou serpent!"-SOPH. Antig. v. 531. 12. Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
"Now we are winnowed clean; for the sojourners I call the chaff of the citizens.” ARISTOPH. Acharn. v. 507.
16. And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him.
17. And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.
Here is a manifestation of the three persons in the Sacred Trinity. Of this mystery the Hebrews had but a very imperfect knowledge; nor was it fully revealed until after the birth of Christ. Nevertheless there are traces of this doctrine in the earliest heathen writers; and though these are very vague and contradictory in their character, yet, since it cannot be conceived that the idea of a Trinity should be discovered by human reason, we must conclude that the philosophers and poets of the Greeks and Romans derived their notions of it from those who were acquainted with the Holy Scriptures. The Platonists and Pythagoreans both maintained the existence of three hypostases, or persons, in the Godhead; for which idea they were said to be indebted to the mystical hymns of Orpheus. These hymns, if we may consider them to be genuine, are among the most ancient Greek poems in existence. The following passages will show that the number three was generally held to possess some sacred and mystical significance: they also shew that the doctrine of a divine Trinity, in one form or other, was very widely diffused among those who could have had no real knowledge of its original.
"Three brother deities from Saturn came,
Ethereal Jove extends his high domain:
My court beneath the hoary waves I keep,
And hush the roarings of the sacred deep."-Hoм. Il. 1. xv. v. 187.
"The Æginitæ, after the battle of Platea, presented to the deity of Delphi a golden tripod, resting on a three-headed snake of brass: it was placed near the altar." HDT. 1. IX. c. 81.
"The Pythagoreans say that the universe and all things are determined and contained by three principles."-ARISTOT. de Cœlo, l. 1. c. 1.
"Wherefore from Nature, as it were observing her laws, have we taken this number of three, making use of the same in the sacrifices of the gods and other purifications." IBID. 1. I. c. 5.
"They say that Zoroaster made a three-fold distribution of things, and that he assigned the first and highest rank of them to Oromasdes, who in the oracles is called the Father: the lowest to Arimanes; and the middle to Mithras, who in the same oracles is likewise called the second mind."-PLUT. de Isid, et Osirid. c. 46.
"The Pythagoreans call the equilateral triangle by the name of Pallas, born from the brain of Jupiter, and Tritogenia, being equally divided into three right lines from three equal angles."-IBID. c. 75.
"When Oromasdes, who is engendered of the purest light, had augmented and triplicated himself, he removed as far from the sun as the sun is distant from the earth, adorning and embellishing the heavens with stars."-IBID. c. 47.
A similar story is told of the Persian Mithras, who was commonly called Triplasios, three-fold or treble. Thus Dionysius, the Pseudo-Areopagite, says-The Persian Magi, to this very day, celebrate a festival solemnity in honour of the Triplasian (that is, triplicated or three-fold) Mithras.
Thespesius in his vision beheld in the place of departed spirits three deities sitting together in the form of a triangle."-PLUT. de ser. num. vind. c. 22.
"The gods divided the universe into three shares, and each was content with that which fell to his lot."-IBID. Pomp. c. 53.
"By the high-ruling God, great, immortal, heavenly; the Son of the Father; the Spirit proceeding from the Father; one out of three and three out of one."
LUCIAN. Philop. c. 12.
"There is, according to Homer, a threefold division of all things, the sea being assigned to Neptune, the dark and subterraneous parts to Pluto, but the heavens to Jupiter."--MAX. TYR. diss. 16.
"Night, Erebus, and Chaos she proclaims,
And three-fold Hecat, with her hundred names,
"Invoked by three mysterious names,
Three-formed Diana !"-HOR. 1. III. carm. 22.
"Thou seest the faces of Hecate, turned in three different directions that she may watch the cross roads."-Ov. Fast. 1. 1. v. 141.
"The hind was sacrificed in honour of the three-fold Diana."-IBID. v. 337.
Hecate and Diana are sometimes confounded. The former was the patroness of magic, and was regarded as a beneficent deity. Her triple statues were set up in places where three ways met; hence she was called Trivia. The latter was called Luna in heaven, Diana upon earth, and Proserpine in hell: she was painted with three heads, one of a lion, another of a bull, and the third of a dog.
5. The holy city.
"The sacred citadel of Troy."-Hoм. Odyss. 1. I. v. 2.
16. The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.
"HERALD (announcing the return of Agamemnon)——
"If e'er of old
Those eyes with favour have beheld their king,
ESCH. Agam. v. 520.
Xerxes himself lives and beholds the light.
That brightens through the melancholy gloom."-IBID. Pers. v. 299.
Lucian says, after listening to the language of Nigrinus
"I rejoiced as if looking forth from the murky atmosphere of my former life into a region of purity and great light."-LUCIAN. Nigrin. c. 4.
2. He opened his mouth and taught them.
"I will speak to thee plainly, as friends ought to open the mouth to one another."
VIRG. n. 1. II. v. 246.
6. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
"A thirst for philosophy."-ARISTOT. de cælo, l. II. c. 12.
"An insatiable hunger and thirst after money."-HOR. 1. 1. epist. 18.
8. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."
Maximus Tyrius (Diss. 1,) admirably enlarges on the necessity of purifying ourselves from sensual desires and worldly cares if we wish to understand God and his nature. This, he says, we shall do most perfectly when death shall have carried us to another world; but we may attain to it in some measure even here, by applying ourselves to the contemplation of God's excellence and of his works in the economy of nature. Those who know God thus he says "have seen God."
"BACCHUS. The god even now, being near, sees what I suffer.
EURIP. Bacch. v. 500.
"Would you know where the chief good is to be found! It is in the mind. Unless this be pure and holy it is not fit for the residence of God."-SENEC. Epist. 87. 11. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and
shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.