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prognosticated that Alexander Severus would be Emperor he was born the same day on which Alexander the Great died: he was brought forth in a temple dedicated to Alexander the Great: he was named Alexander; and an old woman gave to his mother, a pigeon's egg of a purple colour produced on his birth-day. A comet is an infallible prognostic of the death of a king. But of what king? Why, of the king who dies next.— Suetonius, with the solemnity of a pulpit-instructor, informs us, that the death of the Emperor Claudius was predicted by a comet; and of Tiberius, by the fall of a tower during an earthquake *. Such opinions, having a foundation in our nature, take fast hold of the mind, when invigorated by education and example. Even philosophy is not sufficient to eradicate them but by slow degrees : witness Tacitus, the most profound of all historians, who cannot forbear to usher in the death of the Emperor Otho, with a foolish account of a strange unknown bird appearing at that time. He indeed, with decent reserve, mentions it only as a fact reported by others; but from the glow of his narrative it is evident, that the story had made an impression upon him. When Onosander wrote his military institutions, which was in the fourth century, the intrails of an animal sacrificed were still depended on as a prognostic of good or bad U 4 fortune.
* Charlemagne, though an eminent, astronomer for his time, was afraid of comets and eclipses.
fortune. And in chap. 15. he endeavours to account for the misfortunes that sometimes happened after the most favourable prognostics; laying the blame, not upon the prognostic, but upon some cross accident that was not foreseen by the tutelar deity. The ancient Germans drew many of their omens from horses: " Proprium gentis, equorum "præsagia ac monitus experiri. Publicè aluntur 66 iisdem nemoribus ac lucis, candidè, et nullo "mortali opere contacti, quos pressos sacro curra, “sacerdos, ac rex, vel princeps civitatis, comitan"tur, hinnitusque ac fremitus observant. Nec "ulli auspicio major fides, non solùm apud ple"bem, sed apud proceres, apud sacerdotes * +" There is scarce a thing seen or imagined, but what the inhabitants of Madagascar consider as a prognostic of some future event. The Hindoos rely on the augury of birds, precisely as the old Romans did. Though there is not the slighest prabability, that an impending misfortune was ever prevented by such prognostics; yet the desire of knowing future events is so deeply rooted in our nature,
It is peculiar to that people, to deduce omens and presages from horses. These animals are maintained at the pu"blic expence, in groves and forests, and are not allowed to "be polluted with any work for the use of man; but being
yoked in the sacred chariot, the priest, and the king, or chief of the state, attend them, and carefully observe their neighings
and snortings. The greatest faith is given to this method of
<< augury, both among the vulgar and the nobles."
Tacitus De moribus Germanorum, cap. 10.
nature, that omens will always prevail among the vulgar, in spite of the clearest light of philoso-phy *.*
With respect to prophecies in particular, offe apology may be made for them, that no other prognostic of futurity is less apt to do mischief. What Procopius observes of the Sybilline oracles, is equally applicable to all prophecies, “That it is
"above the sagacity of man to explain any of
"them before the event happen. Matters afe
"there handled, not in any order, nor in a conti"nued discourse: but after mentioning the dis
"tresses of Africa, for example, they give a slight "touch at the Persians, the Romans, the Assy4rians; then returning to the Romans, they fall "slap-dash upon the calamities of Britain." A curious example of this observation, is a book of oprophecies composed in Scotland by Thomas Learmont, commonly called Thomas the Rhymer, because the book is in rhyme. Plutarch in the life of Cicero reports, that a spectre appeared to Cicero's nurse, and foretold, that the child would become a great support to the Román state; and
Is it not mortifying to human pride, that a great philoso◄ pher (Bacon) should think like the vulgar upon this subject? With respect to rejoicings in London upon the marriage of the daughter of Henry VII. of England to James IV. of Scotland, he says, "not from any affection to the Scots, but from a secret "instinct and inspiration of the advantages that would accrue
from the match."
most innocently he makes the following reflection, “This might have passed for an idle tale, had not "Cicero demonstrated the truth of the predic"tion." At that rate, if a prediction happen to prove true, it is a real prophecy; if otherwise, it is an idle tale. There have been prophecies not altogether so well guarded as the Sybilline oracles. Napier, inventor of the logarithms, found the day of judgment to be predicted in the Revelation'; and named the very day, which unfortunately he survived. He made another prediction, but prùdently named a day so distant as to be in no hazard of blushing a second time. Michel Stifels, 'à German clergyman, spent most of his life in attempting to discover the day of judgment; and at last announced to his parishioners, that it would happen within a year. The parishioners resolving to make the best of a bad bargain, spent their time merrily, taking no care to lay up provisions for another year; and so nice was their computation, as at the end of the year to have not a morsel remaining, either of food or of industry. The fa !mous Jurieu has shewn great ingenuity in explaining prophecies; of which take the following instance. In his book, intituled Accomplishment of the Prophecies, he demonstrates, that the beast in the Apocalypse, which held the poculum aureum plenum abominationum *, is the Pope; and his reason is, that the initial letters of these four Latin words
"The golden cup full of abominations."
compose the word papa; a very singular prophe cy indeed, that is a prophecy in Latin, but in no other language. The candid reader will advert, that such prophecies as relate to our Saviour and tend to ascertain the truth of his mission, fall not under the foregoing reasoning; for they do not anticipate futurity, by producing foreknowledge of future events. They were not understood till our Saviour appeared among men; and then they were clearly understood as relative to him.d, th
There is no end of superstition in its various modes. In dark times it was believed universally, that by certain forms and invocations, the spirits of the dead could be called upon to reveal future events. A lottery in Florence, gainful to the government and ruinous to the people, gives great scope to superstition. A man who purposes to purchase tickets, must fast six and thirty hours, must repeat a certain number of Ave Maries and Pater Nosters, must not speak to a living creature, must not go to bed, must continue in prayer to the Virgin and to saints, till some propitious saint appear and declare the numbers that are to be successful. The man, fatigued with fasting, praying, and expectation, falls asleep. Occupied with the thoughts he had when 1, when awake, he dreams that a saint appears, and mentions the lucky numbers. If he be disap pointed, he is vexed at his want of memory; but trusts in the saint as an infallible oracle. Again