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what would be the consequences of a thorough and universal adoption of the principles of Christianity, they may be said to be best fulfilled in Christianity, though it is far from capable of proof, that the writers had particular reference to that religion at the time they wrote.
In fact, we are not only of opinion (however these views be sympathized in by others,) that the prophecies of the Old Testament do not contain a single, clear, express, and positive prediction of Christianity, but that the whole nature of the prophetic office is mistaken, when it is regarded as a foretelling office, instead of a forewarning and a denunciatory one.
It would not shake our faith in the prophets—it would not lower one degree our veneration and appreciation of them—if it should appear, as we are wholly inclined to believe that on full investigation and reflection it will, that their prophecies were only so far predictions, as auguries of coming good; fears and warnings of probable ill, denunciations of the bad effects of bad actions, are likely to prove predictions when the course of causation has brought about results. In this sense all men would be prophets, in as far as they possess the knowledge of the necessary consequences of action and event. We shall then be said by those who can imagine no ground of appreciation but that held by themselves, to degrade the prophets. We believe them to have been the noblest set of men that ever blessed this earth with the light of truth and righteousness, except Jesus Christ and his Apostles. We believe them to have been more—far more—than mere vessels, into which was infused, by a power not their own, a knowledge of futurity.
We believe them to have been penetrating, earnest, fearless advocates of national happiness and virtue—the stability of their times. We cannot deny them, with these qualities, a predicting and foretelling power, but we believe this power grew up with their other powers of mind, drank from the same sources its inspiration, grew with their growth, and strengthened with their strength. Men who were deeply imbued by their Maker, and by the influences and circumstances under which that Maker had placed them, with the spirit of holiness and of a sound mind-men whose clear moral discernment penetrated all veils of hypocrisy, all pretexts of guilt, and whose intellectual vision extended long down the chain of sequences in action and event
-who went fearless forth into the world, calling monarchs to account and summoning nations to their duty-were likely to be both denouncers of woe and promisers of bliss—were likely to unfold consequences to deter from crime, as well as hopes to stimulate to good. They beheld the germs of coming events in present ones. A wicked, rash, luxurious, monarch, they foresaw would have trouble at home, and invasion from abroad. A dissolute people, abandoning the Law that would have kept them in their duty to each other, and the Religion which prescribed allegiance to virtue by requiring allegiance to a God whose will was virtue, they foresaw would subject themselves to domestic disturbances, or become the prey of some foreign foe.
That these men who were ready to risk their lives in forewarning of such dangers, who were the first to reprove and to upbraid their countrymen, whether kings or subjects, for the follies and the crimes which would involve these sufferings, should also, when the afflictions really came, be the first to cheer and to console them, to share their troubles with them, and strive to relieve the heaviness of their burdens, is perhaps the noblest completion to patriotic effort that the heart of humanity can desire. Look at them, severe, unsparing, rigorous ! glorying as it were in the outpoured vials of their indignation-denouncing, with utmost vehemence, blighting and desolating woes upon their country, and loading with heaviest invective the sinners of their land :—“ Hear, o heavens, and give ear, O earth! for the Lord hath said, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. Why should ye be stricken any more? Ye will revolt more and more; the whole head is sick and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it, but wounds and bruises and putrifying sores. Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire! your land! strangers devour it in your presence! Woe to the crown of pride! to the drunkards of Ephraim, whose glorious beauty is as a fading flower, as the hasty fruit before the summer! Ye scornful men, that rule this people in Jerusalem, ye have said, “We have made a covenant with death, and with Hades are we at agreement: when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come to us.' Your covenant with death shall be annulled, your agreement with Hades shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, ye shall be trodden down by it. From the time that it goeth forth, it shall take you: for morning by morning shall it pass over ; by day and by night it shall be a vexation but to hear the report thereof."
But listen to them again, when their nation is in sorrow:“Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: she hath received of the Lord's hand double for all her sins. Fear not, thou worm, Jacob, and Israel my son! fear not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee by the hand of my righteousness. The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for thee; the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose. The eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. The lame man shall leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall sing: in the wilderness waters shall break out, and streams in the desert. And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall filee away.”
In all the stormy and trying periods of Jewish history you see these patriot men, though often with dungeons and death before them as the consequences of their interference, resolutely warning, wisely counselling, or kindly comforting. It is vain that four hundred courtier-soothsayers join in the chorus, “ Go up to Ramoth-gilead and prosper !”* There is a Micaiah present who will not be induced, by the smiles of royalty or the fears of water of affliction and bread of affliction, to go one word beyond his knowledge of the truth; and he says, “I saw all Israel scattered upon the hills, as sheep that have not a shepherd : and the Lord said, These have no master; let them return every man to his house in peace.” Princes and kings might do what they liked with Jeremiah to persuade him to prophesy smooth things; but if they burnt his scroll, prophetic of evil, he would have it written again, till they were tired of burning it; and if they threw him into prison for telling them truthfully of coming defeat, he would repeat the unwelcome truth the moment he came out again.t
But these prophets were not merely birds of ill omen, when danger was at hand; they were prudent counsellors, that if listened to, would have often warded the threatened danger off, and willing patriots, glad when the burden of their denunciations could be directed against the common foe. “ Amend your ways,” they cried, “your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place. Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The temple of the Lord! the temple of the Lord! the temple of the Lord are these! For if ye thoroughly amend your ways and your doings; if ye thoroughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbour; if ye oppress not the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and shed not innocent blood in this place; neither walk after other gods to your hurt,—then will I cause
havass; but ith Jeremicace."
* 1 Kings, xxii.
+ Jer. xxxvii, xxxviii. See that exquisite prayer of Jehoshaphat, 2 Chron. xx, and the encouraging prophecy that follows.
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you to dwell in the land that I gave your fathers for ever and ever. Oh! do not these abominable things that I hate.”
6 I am afraid,” cries Zedekiah to the prophet, “ of the Jews that are fallen to the Chaldeans, lest they deliver me into their hands, and they mock me.” But Jeremiah said, “They shall not deliver thee. Obey, I beseech thee, the voice of the Lord, which I speak unto thee: so shall it be well unto thee, and thy soul shall live.” O prophet, thou fillest an ungrateful office! Thou hast spoken truth; ’tis crime enough to be thy death. And yet so merciful are princes grown, that if thou let no man know of these words that have passed between you,—what ? why thou shalt not die. Take up thy guerdon, and go thy ways; be grateful, and, if thou canst, tell truth no more.
O, ye prime-ministers, who listen to the first and second lessons of the day occasionally on Sunday mornings, do ye ever draw morals from what ye hear? A Jewish prophet, his king's counsellor of state! before whom is placed the questions of warlike issues, who gives advice not only on points of royal morals, but of national interest. But the prophets have only been read as yet in England. Some time or other, they will be preached. And as the slender form attributed to them by modern estimation fades away before us, there is a something taking its place from the dim magnificence of the distance, that bids us hasten onward with our task, lest we feel too miserably the short-comings of our power.
Not only were the prophets the faithful denouncers of wrong and the faithful warners of the calamitous consequences of wrong to their sinning compatriots, they combated with them and for them, when truth permitted, and turned these denunciations on the foe. They had the eloquent appeal ready to rally the spirits of patriot combatants, and the fearful imprecation that shot terror into the hostile camps. “Woe unto Nebo, for it is spoiled; Sciriathaim is confounded and taken ; Misgat is confounded and dismayed. The spoiler shall come upon every city, and none shall escape: the valley also shall perish, and the plain shall be destroyed. Harness the horses, and get up, ye horsemen, and stand forth with the helmets; furbish the spears, and put on the brigandines. Wherefore have I seen them dismayed and turned away back ? and their mighty ones are beaten down, and are fled apace and look not back !-Fear is round about them, saith the Lord. In that day the hearts of those your foes shall melt in the midst of them; they shall fight every one against his brother, and every one against his neighbour, city against city, and kingdom against kingdom. The hand of fierce kings shall be upon them; the waters shall fail from their seas, and the rivers shall be wasted and dried up. Every thing sown by their brooks shall wither. The anglers by the stream side shall lament, the spreaders of nets upon the waters languish. There shall be no work for Egypt, which the head or tail, branch or rush, may do !”
It were useless to crowd passage on passage in separate illustration of our positions. Those who study the prophets with their eyes and ears and hearts open, will know them as the most thrilling works of antiquity. If one can realize the feelings of a superstitious foe, whose fears have once begun to be acted on, and those of a noble-minded and enlightened man, trusting alone on his Maker and on his own spirit, and fearless of what god, or idol, or man could do to harm him, we may conceive the effect of such denunciations, even in the floating fragments of report, on the minds of Israel's enemies.
What, then, would not such appeals be to Israel itself ?—such appeals from the men who rebuked in sin, who denounced unscrupulously the calamities deserved, who had never deceived them, and they knew never would, but who now stood forth with inspiring words of courage to their country, and paralyzing threats and dread forewarnings for the hordes that came up to oppress it. The Lacedæmonians smiled at Tyrtæus before the taking of Ithome; but depend upon it, Israelites, before siege or after siege, in adversity or prosperity, in peace or in war, listened gravely to the voice of their Prophets.
When one adds to all these high and public duties, so effectively and solemnly discharged, the constant supervision they exercised over the private morals and usual habits of the people, the picture of them in their real character and influence begins to be more filled up. No hovel so low, no palace so lofty, that their truth-telling voice did not penetrate and fill it. Ahab commits a wrong, which is of no particular magnitude for a king; but no sooner does he stand on the ground of which he had wrongfully possessed himself, than the truth-telling voice of that hated Tishbite salutes his unwilling ears, and he starts to the sounds, “ Hast thou killed and also taken possession ?"*
Neither his fear for the prince nor his friendship for the man is sufficient to prevent Nathan remonstrating against David's transgressions of all-binding morality. Solomon is free from the interference of these truth-tellers until he abandons truth and justice himself; and then dissolute habits, involving extravagance, heavy taxation, and neglect of the common weal, his crimes meet with their retribution, and Jeroboam is stirred
* 1 Kings, xxi.
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