Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol I:
Early Church Fathers
The Life of Constantine with Orations of Constantine and Eusebius.: Chapter XVIII
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. 3458
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 serpents 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. 3459
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! Earths oozing pores 3460
shall mark the day;
Earths 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 earths glories lie,
Riches, and pomp, and mans idolatry!
In that dread hour, when Natures fiery doom
Startles the slumbring tenants of the tomb,
Trembling all flesh shall stand; each secret wile,
Sins long forgotten, thoughts of guilt and guile,
Open beneath Gods searching light shall lie:
No refuge then, but hopeless agony.
Oer heavens expanse shall gathering shades of night
From earth, sun, stars, and moon, withdraw their light;
Gods arm shall crush each mountains towering pride;
On oceans plain no more shall navies ride.
Dried at the source, no rivers rushing sound
Shall soothe, no fountain slake the parched ground.
Around, afar, shall roll the trumpets blast,
Voice of wrath long delayed, revealed at last.
In speechless awe, while earths foundations groan,
On judgments seat earths kings their God shall own.
p. 575 Uplifted then, in majesty divine,
Radiant with light, behold Salvations Sign!
Cross of that Lord, who, once for sinners given,
Reviled by man, now owned by earth and heaven,
Oer every land extends his iron sway.
Such is the name these mystic lines display;
Saviour, eternal king, who bears our sins away. 3461
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.
“Of their own selves.”
[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.]
[ ῾Ιδρώσει γὰρ χθὼν, κ.τ.λ.—Bag.]
[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 Heavn descend,
At whose Tribunal the whole world attend.
Both Just and Wicked shall, when Time grows old,
Their mighty God in flesh arrayd 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 imprisond lay,
Shake off their Fetters, and return to Day.
Fire twixt Good and Bad shall diffrence make,
And filthy Dross from purer Metal take.
Mans secret Deeds shall all be open layd,
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 rolld 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 Earths Face shall shrivel sore.
The crackling Rivers with fierce Fire shall burn,
Which shall their streams to solid Crystal turn.
The Heavnly Trump shall blow a doleful sound,
And th worlds destruction, and its sin resound.
The yawning Earth Hells vast Abyss shall shew;
All Kings before Gods 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, describd in Verse,
Our Saviour, dying, shall mans doom Reverse.”
Next: Chapter XIX