(Princes and kings, p. 13.)
How memorable the histories, moreover, of Nebuchadnezzar 1 and his decrees; of Darius 2 and his also; but especially of Cyrus and his great monumental edict! 3 The beautiful narratives of the Queen of Sheba and of the Persian consort of Queen Esther (probably Xerxes) are also manifestations of the ways of Providence in giving light to the heathen world through that "nation of priests" in Israel.
But Lactantius, who uses the Sibyls so freely, should not have omitted to show what Sibylline oracles God drew forth from "the princes of this world" also, by the illumination of the pharos which he established in Sion, "to be a light to lighten the Gentiles" until the great Epiphany should rise upon them in "the dayspring from on high."
I extract from a paradoxical but most entertaining author, whom I have often quoted, certain extracts from Philo, which I translate from his note in the SoirÃ©es. Thus:--
"Agrippa," says Philo, 4 "having visited Jerusalem in Herod's time, was enchanted by the religion of the Jews, and could never cease to speak of it....Augustus ordered that every day, at his own expense, and under the legal forms, a bull and two lambs should be offered in holocaust to the Most High God on the altar at Jerusalem, though he knew that it contained no image, whether exposed or within the veil; for this great prince, surpassed by none in the philosophic spirit, felt the actual necessity in this world of an altar dedicated to a God invisible."
Philo also says:--
"Your great-grandmother Julia 5 also made superb presents to the temple; and although women very reluctantly detach themselves from images, and rarely conceive of anything apart from sensation, this lady, nevertheless, greatly superior to her sex in culture and in natural endowments, arrived at that point in which she preferred to contemplate such things in the mind rather than in sensible objects, regarding these as mere shadows of the realities."
In the same discourse, wasting words on Caligula, Philo reminds him that Augustus "not only admired, nay, rather, he adored (ethau'maze kai` prose'kunei, k.t.l.), this custom of employing no sort of image to represent, materially, a nature invisible in itself." Poor De Maistre, who quotes this testimony against images from Philo with intense appreciation, will yet sophisticate himself and others into the very contrary in behalf of his one predominant idea of (prosku'nesis) canine self-abasement to the decrees of the Vatican. On this account I am forced to consider him a sophist as well as a fanatic; but I delight to render justice to his genius, for, wherever he talks and reasons as a Christian merely, he fascinates and instructs me. He never conceived of "Catholicity," and lived under the delusion of the Decretals, a disciple of the Jesuits.