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as himself, received this answer :- “ First, God, next the word, and the spirit with them. They are equally eternal, and make but one whose power
will never end. But thou, mortal, go hence, and think that the end of man's life is uncertain,”
Van Dale, in his Treatise of oracles, does not believe that they ceased at the coming of Christ. He relates several examples of oracles consulted till the death of Theodosius the Great. He quotes the laws of the Emperors Theodosius, Gratian, and Valentinian, against those who consulted oracles, as a certain proof that the superstition of oracles still existed in the time of those emperors.
HAD DEMONS ANY SHARE IN THE ORACLES ?
The opinion of those who believe that the demons had no share in the oracles, and that the coming of the Messiah made no change in them : and the contrary opinion of those who pretend that the incarnation of the word imposed a general silence on oracles, should be equally rejected. The reasons appear from what has been said, and therefore two sorts of oracles ought to be distinguished, the one dictated by the spirits of darkness, who deceived men by their obscure and doubtful answers, the other the pure artifice and deceit of the priests of false divinities. * As to the oracles given out by demons, the reign of Satan was destroyed by the coming of the Saviour ; truth shut the mouth of falsehood ; but Satan continued his old craft among idolaters. All the devils were not forced to silence at the same time by the coming of the Messiah ; it was on particular occasions that the truth of christianity, and the virtue of christians imposed silence on the devils. St. Athanasius tells the pagans, they have been witnesses themselves that the sign of the cross puts the devils to flight, silences oracles, and dissipates enchantments.
* “ Among the more learned, it is a pretty general opinion that all the oracles were mere cheats and impostures ; calculated either to serve the avaricious ends of the heathen. ish priests, or the political views of the princes. Bayle positively asserts, that they were mere human artifices, in which the devil had no hand. In this opinion he is strongly supported by Van Dale, a Dutch physician, and M. Fontenelle, who have expressly written on the subject."-Vide Demonologia, op. citat. p. 159.
This power of silencing oracles, and putting the devils to flight, is also attested by Arnobius, Lactantius, Prudentius, Minutius, Felix, and several others. Their testimony is a certain proof that the coming of the Messiah had not imposed a general silence on oracles.
The Emperor Julian, called the Apostate, consulting the oracle of Apollo, in the suburbs of Antioch, the devil could make him no other answer, than that the body of St. Babylas, buried in the neighbourhood, imposed silence on him. The Emperor, transported with rage and vexation, resolved to revenge his gods, by eluding a solemn prediction of Christ. He ordered the Jews to rebuild the temple of Jerusalem ; but in beginning to dig the foundations, balls of fire burst out, and consumed
the artificers, their tools and materials. These facts are attested by Ammianus Marcellinus, a pagan, and the emperor's historian ; and by St. Chrysostom, St. Gregory Nazianzen, and Theodoret, Sozomen and Socrates, in their ecclesiastical histories. The sophist Libanius, who was an enemy of the Christians, confessed also that St. Babylas had silenced the oracle of Apollo, in the suburbs of Antioch.
Plutarch relates that the pilot Thamus heard a voice in the air, crying out :-" The great Pan is dead :" whereupon Eusebius observes, that the deaths of the demons were frequent in the reign of Tiberius, when Christ drove out the wicked spirits. The same judgments may be passed on oracles as on possessions. It was on particular occasions, by the divine permission, that the christians cast out devils, or silenced oracles, in the presence and even by the confession of the pagans themselves. And thus it is we should, it seems, understand the
of St. Jerom, Eusebius, Cyril, Theodoret, Prudentius, and other authors, who said, that the coming of Christ had imposed silence on the oracles.
OF ORACLES, THE ARTIFICES OF PRIESTS OF FALSE
As regards the second sort of oracles, which were pure artifices and cheats of the priests of false divinities, and which probably exceeded the numbers of those that immediately proceed from demons, they did not cease till idolatry was abolished, though they had lost their credit for a considerable time
before the coming of Christ. It was concerning this
common and general sort of oracles that Minutius Felix said, they began to discontinue their responses, according as men began to be more polite. But, howsoever decried oracles were, impostors always found dupes ; the grossest cheats having never failed.
Daniel discovered the imposture of the priests of Bel, who had a private way of getting into the temple, to take away the offered meats, and made the king believe that the idol consumed them. Mundus, being in love with Paulina, the eldest of the priestesses of Isis, went and told her that the god Anubis, being passionately fond of her, commanded her to give him a meeting. She was afterwards shut up in a dark room, where her lover Mundus (whom she believed to be the god Anubis,) was concealed.
This imposture having been discovered, Tiberius ordered those detestable priests and priestesses to be crucified, and with them Iolea Mundus's free woman, who had conducted the whole intrigue. He also commanded the temple of Isis to be levelled with the ground, her statue to be thrown into the Tiber, and, as to Mundus, he contented himself with sending him into banishment.
Theophilus, Bishop of Alexandria, not only destroyed the temples of the gods, but discovered the cheats of the priests, by shewing that the statues, some of which were of brass, and others of wood, were hollow within, and led into dark passages made in the wall.
Lucius in discovering the impostures of the false
prophet Alexander, says, that the oracles were chiefly afraid of the subtilties of the Epicureans and Christians. The false prophet Alexander sometimes feigned himself seized with a divine fury, and by means of the herb sopewort, which he chewed, frothed at the mouth in so extraordinary a manner, that the ignorant people attributed it to the power of the god he was possessed by. He had long before prepared the head of a dragon made of linen, which opened and shut its mouth by means of a horses hair. He went by night to a place where the foundations of a temple were digging, and having found water, either of a spring or rain that had settled there, he hid in it a goose egg, in which he had inclosed a little serpent that had just been hatched. The next day, very early in the morning, he came quite naked into the street, having only a scarf about his middle, holding in his hand a scythe, and tossing about his hair as the priests of Cybele ; then getting on the top of a high altar, he said that the place was happy to be honoured by the birth of a god. Afterwards running down to the place where he had hid the goose egg, and going into the water, he began to sing the praises of Apollo and Æsculapius, and to invite the latter to come and shew himself to men; with these words he dips a bowl into the water and takes out a mysterious egg, which had a god enclosed in it, and when he held it in his hand, he began to say that he held Æsculapius, whilst all were eager to have a sight of this fine mystery, he broke the egg, and the little serpent starting out, twisted itself about his fingers.