« ForrigeFortsett »
would have been strictly analogous to that of Seneca; and I should then have readily allowed, that no argument in favour of a divine inspiration could be built upon the one, which might not with equal propriety be built upon the other. But weak indeed must be the discriminating powers of that person, who cannot see the grand and essential difference between a prophecy, like. that of Seneca, confined to a single particular ; and a prophecy, like that of Moses, comprehending no less than seventeen perfectly distinct particulars.
(2.) We may next observe a marked dissimilarity in the grounds and reasons, on which each prophecy is supported.
Moses, as we have already seen, could not possibly have foretold the future destiny of his people by a sagacious induction of probable effects from already existing and well known causes. We can form no idea of the train of thought, by which a mere uninspired legislator, fifteen centuries even before the commencement of the events predicted, could have been led gratuitously to hazard a prophecy, at once singularly minute and abstractedly most unlikely to be ever accomplished.
But, in the poetical vaticination of Seneca, we trace with perfect facility the train of thought, which was passing through his mind : we observe him, in the verses which he puts into the mouth of his Chorus, deducing from well known and
already existing causes their highly probable ultimate effects. The sea has now yielded, and patiently endures all laws. No Argo, compacted by the hand of Pallas, and impelled illustrious by the oars of princes, is now sought after : any vulgar bark safely wanders over the deep. Every ancient boundary is removed : and cities have placed their new walls in new lands. The pervious globe has left nothing in the situation, where once it was. The Indian drinks the cold Araxes: the Persians taste the Elbe and the Rhine. In late years ages shall arrive, when the ocean shall relax the bonds of the universe, and a mighty land shall be laid open, and Tiphys shall unveil new worlds, and Thulè shall no longer be the utmost extremity of the earth *. Who does not here perceive, at a single glance, the mode in which
Nunc jam cessit pontus, et omnes
Senec. Med. ver. 365-380.
the poet reasons ? Navigation has been brought to a much higher degree of excellence, than it was at the time of the Argonautic expedition. Most probably, in the course of years, it will be carried to a state of perfection far beyond its present condition. Whenever that takes place, men will boldly tempt the main ocean: and then a new world, hitherto wrapt in obscurity and darkly concealed in the bosom of the mighty waters, will be familiarly unveiled to the eyes of the adventurous mariner.
(3.) Such, I think, was clearly enough the train of thought, which occupied the mind of Seneca, when he penned the oracle brought forward so triumphantly by Mr. Collins : and I more than suspect, that the train itself was set in motion by a circumstance, which effectually deprives the pretended vaticination even of the very semblance of a prophecy.
There is reason to believe, that the existence of America was not altogether unknown to the ancients; though, from the rude and imperfect state of navigation, it had not been visited since the downfall of the Phenician Power. That the enterprizing mariners of the Punic states were acquainted with it, and that their acquaintance was so intimate as to lead even to colonization, we have testimony as direct and explicit as can well be desired.
Having treated of the islands on this side the pil: lars of Hercules; says Diodorus Siculus, we will
proceed to those which are in the ocean. Opposite then to Africa lies an island in the main sea, vast in extent, and lying westward at the distance of many days navigation. Its soil is fruitful, partly mountainous, and partly champagne. Navigable rivers intersect and water it. Forests abound in it, planted with various sorts of trees : and its towns contain many sumptuous edifices. Its climate is singularly mild, so that trees bear fruit during the greater part of the year. On the whole, it is so happy a region, that it may well be deemed the habitation rather of gods than of men. This island was long unknown, on account of its great distance from the rest of the world: but, ultimately, the following causes led to its discovery. The Phenicians, from the most remote time, were wont to undertake distant voyages for the sake of traffic. Hence they planted many colonies in Africa and not a few' in western Europe. Their affairs prospering, and their riches increasing, they were at length tempted to push beyond the columns of Hercules into the main ocean. In such expeditions, they first built Gades, and explored the coast of Africa. Afterwards, being caught by a tempest, they were hurried away, after a voyage of many days, to the large island which has been described. From them, the knowledge of its extraordinary value and fertility was communicated to others; insomuch that the Tuscans, when they gained the empire of the sea, purposed to have colonized it : but they were prevented by the jealousy of the Carthaginians. For that people wished to reserve it as a refuge for themselves, in case their republic should
ever be brought into danger : for they trusted, that they might migrate thither with all their families, as a region unknown to their conquerors, having prepared it in better times for their reception*.
From the Phenician discoverers, the knowledge of the existence of a western continent seems to have been spread very extensively.
Thus, according to Elian, Silenus told Midas, that Europe, Asia, and Africa, were islands surrounded by the ocean ; and that beyond them there was a continent of infinite magnitude, which nourished large animals and men twice as tall and as long-lived as ourselves : that, in the same country, there were large states, varying from our own in their institutes and laws : and that that land contained such an immense quantity of gold and silver, that among the natives it was of less value than iron is with us f. Thus Apuleius, after describing the old continent as being in truth an island surrounded on all sides by the Atlantic ocean, adds, that the same ocean also washes other islands not less than this, which may
well be deemed in a manner unknown, when we are not perfectly acquainted even with that which we ourselves inhabit I. Thus Ammianus Marcellinus asserts, that in the Atlantic ocean
* Diod. Bibl. lib. iv. p. 299, 300. edit. Rhodoman.
+ Ælian. Hist. lib. iii. apud Horn. de origin. Americ. lib. i. c. 10. p. 57.
| Apul. de mund. Oper. vol. ii. p. 122.