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up to rebellion by the prophet Abijah. Jehoram is successful in his attack upon the Edomites, and in his persuasions of Israel to idolatrous practices; but with all this, he cannot escape the rebuke of Righteousness, and the death-striking letter of Elijah finds its victim.*
Who can forget, in more private life, that Shunamite, and the man of God visiting her “as he passed by," and the prophet's room and his resting-couch, and the confiding mother, and the stricken boy. David was still but a shepherd lad, with the unenviable addition of being the hated of Saul, when the voice of the prophet Gad warns him from Mizpeh.t The nepotism of Eli might have passed unreproved by the public, as he had power to practice it unresisted, but prophets know no other power than the power of truth, and even the Priest, the Legal Guardian of Religion, escapes not the visit and the remonstrance of some humbler man of God, who denounces his simony and prophesies his fall. I
There are indeed abundant indications in Jewish history of the supervision the prophets pretty extensively and indiscriminately exercised over the people's morals, although the instances actually recorded, relate, as is to be expected, for the most part, to their reproof of the most conspicuous characters of the history.
It appears, then, even from the remarks thus loosely thrown together, and from a fuller and more methodical induction, we are sure it would much more plainly appear, that the Prophets were the most important body of men among the Jews, and the most important part of their moral and political machinery. And yet, as often happens with a nation's most powerful influences, they grew out of the circumstances of the times as they occurred, and the wants of the people as they were felt. There was in the original constitution of the nation no express provision for the existence and regulation of such a body; a body that speedily in importance superseded Kings, Priests, and Magistrates. There were elements from which they might be formed, but it was left to the exigencies that should require them actually to form them. They were no part of the original Jewish Constitution, and yet were the most important part of its actual working. It is thus perpetually in the history of nations, that provisions are set at nought by the produce of exigency.
Provision supplied the English People with Ministers of Religion, by establishments at Oxford and Cambridge. Exigency set provision to a great extent at nought, and called forth thousands of religious Teachers from other quarters—from the school, * 2 Chron. xxi. + 1 Sam. xxii.
1 Sam, ii.
the academy, the merchant's storehouse, and the plough. Provision supplied a family to reign over the French people—the clever Bourbons; also, a race of ministers of state to counsel them-Lomenie, Calonne, Neckar; but exigency set provision at nought,and summoned into the Council-chamber the Sansculottes and Epimenides, Robespierre and Napoleon. Provision has, for centuries back, given England a Monarch; exigency has given it, or has taken some steps towards giving it, a House of Commons. And thus Provision supplied the Jewish people with Priests; exigency almost set provision at nought by summoning from all imaginable quarters the race of Prophets. In the mechanical and formal the Priests occupied a conspicuous post; in the influential and spiritual, they bowed their heads before the Prophets. Indeed, what class of men must not have bowed the head to them, when we consider who and what they were ? No order of men claiming honour on account of their order, but separate independent minds starting up in various parts of the country, at various periods, with diverse purposes and qualifications. Some were of noble, others of ignoble birth; some were of priestly race, some indifferently of the other stocks. Some were taken from the Colleges,* and some from the herds. But they were all Men of Mind, of deep penetrating sagacity, of rocky firmness, and lion dauntlessness, of solemn religious conviction, and glowing religious fervour.
When we look at such men as mere foreseers and foretellers of futurity, we seem to assign them a fugitive and now forgotten office, for that futurity has merged into the past; but when we look at them as the bold Truth-tellers of their day and generation, who so wedded to contempt of what he may call Jewish Superstition, as not to venerate them ?-to venerate them, and place them in the pages of the world's undying history?
We have thus far spoken in allusion to the accredited and the more celebrated among them, who forced their way into public estimation, and really carried on the great work of good. But no pretensions, such as theirs, so well sustained by their reality, could exist among any people, without giving rise to pretensions from other quarters, where there was incapacity to sustain
* Where they are supposed to have been taught Music, and perhaps other arts of refined life. The Colleges, however, sprung from them, rather than they from the Colleges. The College of Prophets was no infallible specific for making the unqualified qualified, nor could the absence of attendance at it make the qualified unqualified. Amos could not minister, were he now resuscitated, even to an agricultural population, from a pulpit of the Church of England. Though we know who is permitted to do so. But, then, how can it be helped ? Amos would not have had an University education ! Child of Exigency make room for the children of Provision !
them. There were then, besides the great Prophets, a vast number of inferior, nay, of false and lying ones, infesting the fair lands of Canaan. In fact, it would appear as if no village were without some pretender to the august office of Truth-discerner and Truth-teller.
The majority of these had no further skill than that which enabled them to exercise a temporary influence over their neighbours, and died forgotten or unknown. It sometimes, however, happened that some great occasion, the visit of a king perhaps, with some undetermined purpose of war or of alliance, into their neighbourhood, raised the prophets of the vicinity into a temporary importance, and caused their opinions to be demanded. These were probably in all, as we know they were in some instances, mere echoes of the royal will and pleasure, and bore down the remonstrance of some really illuminated man among them, some Prophet indeed.*
With this class, then, can scarcely be identified the few moral heroes, of whom we speak, when we speak of the Jewish Prophets. The others were seers, diviners; in point of real fact, corresponded very much to the conjurers, witches, and magicians that have always infested every partially-enlightened age or class of society.t They ministered to the credulous curiosity of the weak in order to secure respect and profit to themselves. With these, then, to whatever extent they existed among the Jews, we have nothing to do. They were the political, social, and religious charlatans of their respective times and neighbourhoods, and had about as much to do with such men as Micaiah, Nathan, and Jeremiah, as a bigotted and wily priest in some village of Spain would have to do with Priestley, or the political adventurer or desperado with the political philanthropist or philosopher.
In a word, then, what were the prophets to the Jewish Nation? We must close our reference to them as we began it; they were their Truth-tellers. And contemplating these with other features of the Jewish history, and feeling as we do that the records of them form some of the noblest and holiest chapters in the Chronicles of Man, we could scarcely account for the sleepy disregard, or the inveterate hatred that has been manifested by various parties in Christian nations towards the Jewish history in general, were it not that we remember that when Exaction requires more than rational faith will give, the only offerings it receives will be from the slavish assent of ignorant Credulity on the one side, or from the indignant opposition of outraged Scepticism on the other. That there were vice, and ignorance, and wilfulness to an enormous extent among the Jewish people, no one denies; that there were excellence, enlightenment, and heroic perseverence in good also, we presume so far as to say, no one ought to deny. If in compliance with the usual dictates of common sense and good taste, we rake not up, and for ever dwell upon, the records of vice in this nation, any more than we would dwell upon similar records in any other nation, that which is eternal, generous, and good, we surely may delight to reverence, and deem it a privilege to possess.
* See above, 1 Kings, xxii.
+ Those that pretended to be inspired by idol deities were the most numerous class. But there were others of better dispositions, but with similar delusion probably, tracing the knowledge, which they gained by natural means, to supernatural influence. These parties exercised their office as soothsayers or diviners, as a profession; a profession not unconnected with honour and profit. 1 Sam. ix, 5, 6, testifies to their frequency, even if Samuel cannot be included among them. See also the story of the Witch of Endor, the narrative in 1 Kings, xiii, and the frequent reprobation of the habit of consulting with those who had familiar spirits. The English reader should be aware, in reference to remarks made above, that to prophesy does not necessarily mean to foretell : it often means to sing, to preach, or to pray. See 1 Sam, xix, 20 24. 1 Kings, xviii, 29.
With regard to the other side of the comparison, which by the heading of the present article we have at least implied, there are several important limitations and points of contrast to be noticed, before it can with propriety be brought forward. Modern Ministers of Religion for the most part correspond less with the ancient Prophets than with the mechanical and formal Priesthood of Judaism, offering up the stated sacrifice, at the stated hour and place; joining in the stated ceremonial, and promulgating the stated law, with no fresh-breathing air of individual vitality about them-a conventional body of men in the nation, not an order of independent minds among the people.
In fact, if we view the two classes, Prophets and Ministers, thus, their distinctive internal characteristics might not be so incorrectly indicated by their distinctive external characteristics. Behold the pictures of the outward men! On the one side, the leathern girdle, and the sheepskin mantle,* and the flowing beard, and the wild and wandering life; on the other, the slimness and the sleekness and the well-ordered habitudes of a decorous conventionality. And for the interior—on the one side, independence and the convictions of the individual; on the other, formalism and the feelings of a class.
But the Prophets we have said were no conventional order of men, unless, indeed, you class the pretenders to the gift with them, but a set of independent individual minds, of whom several, or few, or one, or none, might exist in any particular generation. Strictly speaking, therefore, to find in the history of any nation
• It is, perhaps, an injustice, however, to the clerical habiliments of the day to take Elijah, the Tishbite, as a standard.
a class at all analogous to the Prophets, we must select the greatest and noblest minds as they have appeared here and there throughout its duration; not a whole class existing at one particular period. To compare the Prophets, as we now have them, that is, separated from the chaff, surviving all charlatans, pretenders, and inferior contemporaries, with the present generation of Ministers of Religion, would be a manifest absurdity. The real counterpart in a comparison, into which they were introduced, would be the Truth-telling heroes, not of this day and generation, but of all modern history. A few names would then rise from the modern to meet the few names preserved to us from the antique; we should have medical, moral, political, and social Truth-tellers, as well as religious ones; in a word, human Truth-tellers; those who had spoken Truth on any of the great questions that affect the permanent well-being and interests of man.
But again, another point in which such a comparison would obviously fail, is in the fact, that in the division of labour which society, even in matters of mind, carries on, that which seems to have fallen principally, and sometimes almost exclusively on the shoulders of the Prophets, is now shared among many. Instead of having political, moral, and theological truth told by one man, you have this one set of connected truths told in fractions by two or three different sets of people—the Politicians, the Theologians, and the Moralists. Now, the glory and the peculiarity of the Prophets consisted in the expansiveness and generosity of view with which they looked on all that interested and seriously concerned man, and the consequent connectedness, completeness, and mutually-dependent relatedness of the truths they so effectively propounded. The opposite system, separating connected truths, has introduced politicians without an interest in morality, and indifferent to the principles of religion; moralists, taking necessarily narrow views of their own subject from their ignorance of other subjects, looking at morality as an individual thing, beginning with “Do,” and ending with “Do not,” without contemplating the influences affecting it from without, or the causes which render it binding—which, in fact, make it morality; and theologians, living in their own abstract speculation, ignorant of man, in striving, and generally in vain, to know God, and commanding respect only from the reverence due to the sublimity of the subject which they attempt to understand.*
* The theologian, it will be seen, we here take to be, not the man engaged in the consideration of the varied interests and solemn duties of humanity, but the inquirer into the Divine Nature and the Divine Character, a subject utterly too vast for us ever rightly to comprehend, and which we can only know, even in part, by what appears through the human mind, and the material creation,