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The general opinion is, that Gods are made by the enactments and decrees of mortals, and that those eminent persons are deified who have discovered arts, taught agriculture, introduced improvements, or slain wild beasts. We have shewed, in the former books, how far such merits are from deserving immortality, and we will now do the same thing again, that it may appear that it is righteousness alone, that procures eternal life for man; that it is God alone who confers immortality. As to those who are said to have become immortal by their deeds, they were devoid of righteousness, and therefore, devoid of all true virtue. They acquired for themselves, by their sins and lusts, not immortality, but death. They deserved not a heavenly reward, but the punishment of hell, which they, with all those who have worshipped them, will endure. I will shew that the time of judgment draws near; at which time an adequate reward will be conferred upon the righteous, and merited punishment inflicted on the guilty.
Plato, and many other of the philosophers, since they were ignorant of the origin of things, and the time in which the world was made, asserted that many thousands of ages have flowed on since this beautiful order of things was called into existence, following, perhaps, in this respect, the Chaldeans, who, as Cicero tells us, in his first book, “ concerning divination,” are mad enough to think that they have comprehended in their monuments the chronicles of forty or seventy thousand years. They think, I suppose, because no one is old enough to confute them, that they are at full liberty to tell lies ; but we, whom holy writ leads to the knowledge of truth, know the beginning and the end of the world, and as, in my second book, I gave a history of the beginning of the world, so in this last I mean to treat of its termination.
I beg, then, to inform the philosophers, who count millions of ages from the beginning of the world, that the sixth thousand year is not yet closed. When that number is completed, a consummation will take place, and the state of human affairs will undergo a reformation. That I may be quite clear, I will first shew you the argument on which this truth depends. THE WORLD THOUGHT TO BE ABOUT TO CONTINUE IN
A STATE OF SIN FOR SIX THOUSAND YEARS. God created this admirable structure, our world, as the Scriptures teach us, in the space of six days. He sanctified the seventh day, because on it he rested from his labours. This day is called the Sabbath, from a Hebrew word, which signifies seven. This is the very reason on account of which the seventh number is considered legitimate and full. For there are both seven days, which, being revolved through their turns, the years are completed—and seven stars which do not set, and seven stars which are called planets, whose various courses and unequal movements are thought to affect the varieties of things and seasons. Since, therefore, all God's works were perfected in six days, it is necessary that the world should remain in this state during six ages—that is, six thousand years. For a great day of God is terminated by the circle of a thousand years, as the prophet indi. cates, when he says, “A thousand years in thy sight are but as one day;" and as God laboured those six days in fabricating such great things, so also it is necessary that his religion and truth should labour in these first six thousand years, amid the prevalence and ascendancy of wickednessAnd again, since when his works were perfected, he rested on the seventh day and blessed it, it is necessary that at the end of the sixth thousand year, all wickedness should be abolished from the earth, that righteousness should reign through a thousand years, and that there should be tranquillity and rest from those labours which the world has for a long time suffered. But how that will be I shall explain in order.
I have often said that lesser and small things carried the figures of great things, and foreshewed them; and that this our common day, terminated as it is by the rising and the setting of the sun, carries the likeness of a great day, which the circuit of a thousand years determines. In the same way also, the formation of an earthly man presented to posterity the construction of a celestial people. For as when all those things were perfected which God formed for the use of man, he formed the man himself last on the sixth day, and brought him into the world as it were into a house diligently furnished for him, so now on the sixth great day a true man is formed by the Word of God, that is, a holy people is formed by doctrine and precepts to the righteousness of God. And as mortal and imperfect man was formed of earth on the sixth day, that he might live a thousand years in this world; so from this terrestrial age a perfect man is formed, that being quickened by God, in this sixth great day, he may rule in this same world through a thousand years. But how the consummation is about to be, and what issue impends over human affairs, any one may discover who shall examine into Holy Writ. Nay, even the words of secular poets, agreeing with Revelation, announce the end of things and their ruin after a short time, describing the world as now fatigued and tottering in its old age. However, before that that extreme conclusion arrives, I will set down, collected and gathered together from them all, those things which the prophets and seers declared to be about to happen. WICKEDNESS AND MISERY OF THE TIMES OF APOSTASY
AND THE JUDGMENTS ON IT. We find in the Sacred Writings, that upon the occasion of a famine, the head of the Hebrew nation, with all his house and kindred, went into Egypt. There his posterity remained for a considerable time. They grew into a great nation, and were oppressed with a grievous and intolerable yoke of servitude. God struck Egypt with an incurable plague, and delivered his people. He led them through the Red Sea, the waters of which sepa
rated and stood as a wall on both hands, whilst the people walked through on dry land. The King of Egypt, endeavouring to overtake the fugitives, followed them into the sea; but the waters came together, and overwhelmed him and his forces. This event, so striking and so marvellous, whilst it shewed the power of God to men for the time then present, was however the figure of, and designed to foreshew, a greater thing, even a thing which the same God was about to do at the last consummation of times : for he will liberate his people from the heavy servitude of the world. But since then there was only one people of God-since he was only served by one nation, at that time Egypt alone was stricken; but now, because the people of God is gathered together from all languages, and lives among all the nations, and is oppressed by the tyranny of all, it is necessary that all nations, that is the whole world, should be scourged with celestial plagues, that the righteous people which worships God may be liberated. And as then signs were made by which the future ruin of Egypt might be shewn; so at last, wonderful prodigies will be made through all the elements of the world, whereby the ruin hanging over all nations may be understood. Therefore, when the end of this present age approaches, the state of human things will undergo a change. Wickedness will increase, things will go headlong, so that even these our times, in which wickedness and iniquity have increased to the highest pitch, may be considered as happy and almost golden, in comparison with the incurable evil that will then abound. For righteousness will be so rare,-im. piety, and avarice, and cupidity, and lust will so abound, that if any will then be good, they will be a prey to the wicked, and harassed in every way by the unrighteous. The bad alone will be rich, but the good will be cast uuder contumely and poverty; all right will be confounded, and laws will perish. No one will then have any thing, except what has either been acquired or maintained by force. Audacity and violence will possess all things. There will not be faith among men, nor peace, nor humanity, nor shame, nor truth; and so there will neither be security nor government, nor any rest from evils. All the earth will be in a state of tumult. Wars will rage in every direction. All nations will be in arms and at variance among themselves. Neighbouring states will be engaged in battle, and, first of all, Egypt will suffer the punishment of its foolish superstitions, and will be covered with blood as with a river. Slaughter will stalk through the earth, mowing down all before it like a harvest. Of this devastation and confusion this . will be cause; that the Roman name, by which the world is now governed (my mind shudders to say it, but I will say it, because it surely will be) will be taken from the earth, and the sovereignty will return into Asia, and again the east will reign and the west will serve. Nor ought it to be seen wonderful to any one, if a kingdom, founded with such toil, and increased for such a length of time, by so many and such great men; confirmed, in fine, by so much riches should at length fall prostrate; for there is nothing constructed by human strength, which cannot in like manner by human strength be destroyed, since the works of mortals are themselves all mortal. It has been so before. Other kingdoms, though they flourished for a length of time, nevertheless at length fell. It is well known that the Egyptians, the Persians, the Grecians, and the Assyrians, have had sway in the earth. It is by the destruction of all these that the chief power has also come to the Romans, who by how much they excel all the other kingdoms in magnitude, by so much will they fall with a greater overthrow; just as the higher things are, the more grievous is their fall.
Seneca with considerable exactness divided the times of the Roman city into ages. He said, that its first infancy was under King Romulus, by whom Rome was, as it were, begotten and educated, then, that its boyhood was under the other Kings by whom it was both increased, formed with discipline, and supplied with institutions, or