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Chapter XVIII.—Of the Erythræan Sibyl, who pointed in a Prophetic Acrostic at our Lord and his Passion. The Acrostic is “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour, Cross.”

My desire, however, is to derive even from foreign sources a testimony to the Divine nature of Christ. For on such testimony it is evident that even those who blaspheme his name must acknowledge that he is God, and the Son of God if indeed they will accredit the words of those whose sentiments coincided with their own.34583458    “Of their own selves.” The Erythræan Sibyl, then, who herself assures us that she lived in the sixth generation after the flood, was a priestess of Apollo, who wore the sacred fillet in imitation of the God she served, who guarded also the tripod encompassed with the serpent’s folds, and returned prophetic answers to those who approached her shrine; having been devoted by the folly of her parents to this service, a service productive of nothing good or noble, but only of indecent fury, such as we find recorded in the case of Daphne.34593459    [Daughter of Tiresias, and priestess at Delphi. She was called Sibyl, on account of the wildness of her looks and expressions when she delivered oracles (Lempriere in voc.).—Bag.] On one occasion, however, having rushed into the sanctuary of her vain superstition, she became really filled with inspiration from above, and declared in prophetic verses the future purposes of God; plainly indicating the advent of Jesus by the initial letters of these verses, forming an acrostic in these words: Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour, Cross. The verses themselves are as follows:

Judgment! Earth’s oozing pores34603460    [ ῾Ιδρώσει γὰρ χθὼν, κ.τ.λ.—Bag.] shall mark the day;

Earth’s heavenly king his glories shall display:

Sovereign of all, exalted on his throne,

Unnumbered multitudes their God shall own;

Shall see their Judge, with mingled joy and fear,

Crowned with his saints, in human form appear.

How vain, while desolate earth’s glories lie,

Riches, and pomp, and man’s idolatry!

In that dread hour, when Nature’s fiery doom

Startles the slumb’ring tenants of the tomb,

Trembling all flesh shall stand; each secret wile,

Sins long forgotten, thoughts of guilt and guile,

Open beneath God’s searching light shall lie:

No refuge then, but hopeless agony.

O’er heaven’s expanse shall gathering shades of night

From earth, sun, stars, and moon, withdraw their light;

God’s arm shall crush each mountain’s towering pride;

On ocean’s plain no more shall navies ride.

Dried at the source, no river’s rushing sound

Shall soothe, no fountain slake the parched ground.

Around, afar, shall roll the trumpet’s blast,

Voice of wrath long delayed, revealed at last.

In speechless awe, while earth’s foundations groan,

On judgment’s seat earth’s kings their God shall own.

575Uplifted then, in majesty divine,

Radiant with light, behold Salvation’s Sign!

Cross of that Lord, who, once for sinners given,

Reviled by man, now owned by earth and heaven,

O’er every land extends his iron sway.

Such is the name these mystic lines display;

Saviour, eternal king, who bears our sins away.34613461    [It can scarcely be necessary to observe that the acrostic, the general sense of which has been aimed at in the above translation, must be regarded as the pious fiction of some writer, whose object was to recommend the truth of Christianity to heathens by an appeal to the authority of an (alleged) ancient heathen prophecy.—Bag.] The quotation is found in the edition of Alexandre, Bk. VIII. ch. 219–250. (Cf. translation in Augustin, De civ. Dei.) The translation of Bag., giving the “general sense” and reproducing the acrostic, stands unchanged. The translation of 1709, much more vigorous and suggestive of the “Dies Iræ,” is as follows:
   “When the Great Day of Judgment shall appear,

   The melting Earth shall then dissolve with fear;

   A King Immortal shall from Heav’n descend,

   At whose Tribunal the whole world attend.

   Both Just and Wicked shall, when Time grows old,

   Their mighty God in flesh array’d behold;

   Armies of Saints on His Right hand shall come,

   Whilst Humane Souls expect their final doom.

   Th’ Universe shall be a dry, Barren Strand,

   And Thorns shall flourish on the scorched land;

   Men shall with indignation cast away

   Their Wealth and Idols in that dreadful day.

   The parching Earth, and Heaven in flames shall fry,

   And searching fire drain the Ocean dry:

   All flesh which in the Grave imprison’d lay,

   Shake off their Fetters, and return to Day.

   Fire ’twixt Good and Bad shall diff’rence make,

   And filthy Dross from purer Metal take.

   Man’s secret Deeds shall all be open lay’d,

   And th’ obscure Mazes of their Hearts displayed;

   Gnashing their Teeth, they shall their Fate bewail:

   The stars harmonious dance, and th’ Sun shall fail.

   The Orbs roll’d up, shrink into darkest night,

   The Labouring Moon shall lose her borrowed light.

   Mountains with Plains on the same Level lye;

   Vallies shall gape no more, nor Hills be high.

   On the proud Billows Ships shall ride no more:

   And Lightning the Earth’s Face shall shrivel sore.

   The crackling Rivers with fierce Fire shall burn,

   Which shall their streams to solid Crystal turn.

   The Heav’nly Trump shall blow a doleful sound,

   And th’ world’s destruction, and its sin resound.

   The yawning Earth Hell’s vast Abyss shall shew;

   All Kings before God’s just Tribunal go.

   Then Liquid Sulphur from the Sky shall stream,

   God shall pour down Rivers of vengeful flame;

   All men shall then the Glorious Cross descry,

   That wished-for sign unto a faithful eye:

   The Life of pious Souls, their chief delight;

   To Sinners an Offence, a dismal sight!

   Enlightening the called with its beams,

   When cleansed from sin in twice six limpid streams.

   His Empire shall be boundless, and that God

   Shall Rule the Wicked with an Iron Rod;

   This God, Immortal King, describ’d in Verse,

   Our Saviour, dying, shall man’s doom Reverse.”

It is evident that the virgin uttered these verses under the influence of Divine inspiration. And I cannot but esteem her blessed, whom the Saviour thus selected to unfold his gracious purpose towards us.

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