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the people, their impiety, their idolatry, and rejection, stand | (Rev. xxi. 2-9.), who ought to be "without spot" (Eph. in the same relation with respect to the sacred covenant; as v. 27.), as the Shulamite is represented to be. (Song iv. 7.) chastity, modesty, immodesty, adultery, divorce, with respect And, surely, if this most beautiful pastoral poem had not to the marriage-contract. And this notion is so very fami- been understood in a spiritual sense, it would not have been liar and well understood in Scripture, that the word adultery admitted into the sacred canon by the ancient Jewish (or whoredom) is commonly used to denote idolatrous wor church. Nor is this inconsistent with the opinions of the ship, and so appropriate does it appear to this metaphorical ancient Jews, who, as well as Saint Paul and other Chrispurpose, that it very seldom occurs in its proper and literal tian writers, found the Messiah almost every where in the Scriptures. Indeed, they always believed their economy to be peculiarly under the protection of the Messiah, in some one or other of his characters, as the Great Angel of the covenant, the King of Israel, or the Son of God. In particular, they applied to him the forty-fifth psalm (which, of all Scripture, most resembles the Song of Songs); for the Chaldee paraphrase on the second verse expressly says, "Thy fairness, O King Messiah! exceedeth the sons of men." In the same manner they applied the seventy-second, hundred and tenth, and various other psalms, as well as many passages of the prophets.
Of this mode of speaking, the sacred writers furnish us with abundance of examples. Thus the evangelical prophet, when treating of the reconciliation of the church to Jehovah, and her restoration to the divine favour, among many images of a similar nature, introduces the following:
For thy husband is thy Maker;
Jehovah, God of Hosts, is his name:
And thy Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel;
The God of the whole earth shall be be called.-Isa. liv. 5, 6.
And as a bridegroom rejoiceth in his bride,
Bishop Lowth restricts this sublime allegory to the universal church, and conceives that it has no reference whatever to the spiritual state of individuals; than which he and ground-work of the allegory itself, as well as with the conceives nothing can be more inconsistent with the nature general practice of the Hebrew poets. With regard to the Psalms, Bishop Horne (we think) has demonstrated their spiritual application not only to the church generally, but also to believers who compose the individual members of that church; and that the Song of Solomon is to be legitimately and soberly interpreted in the same way, it is apprehended, will satisfactorily appear from the following additional observations:
The same image a little diversified, and with greater freedom of expression, as better adapted to the display of indignation, is introduced by Jeremiah (ii. 2. iii. I, &c.), when he declaims against the defection of the Jews from the worship of the true God. Upon the same principle the former part of the prophecy of Hosea ought also to be explained; and whether that part of the prophecy be taken in the literal and historical sense, or whether it be esteemed altogether allegorical, still the nature and principles of this figure, which seems consecrated in some measure to this The church is to be considered as composed of individual subject, will evidently appear. None of the prophets, how-believers; and that there is an analogy between the conduct ever, have applied the image with so much boldness and of God towards his church in general, and his conduet tofreedom as Ezekiel, an author of a most fervid imagination, wards individuals, is plainly indicated in many parts of the who is little studious of elegance, or cautious of offending. New Testament. Thus, sometimes the sacred writers comHis great freedom in the use of this image is particularly pare the whole body of believers to a temple, in which they displayed in two parables (xvi. and xvii.), in which he de- form living stones, being built on the only foundation, Christ scribes the ingratitude of the Jews and Israelites to their Jesus; at other times, they consider individual believers as great Protector, and their defection from the true worship, temples of the Holy Spirit. (1 Cor. iii. 16, 17. Eph. ii. 20 under imagery assumed from the character of an adulterous-22.) So, also, they sometimes speak of the church as one, wife, and the meretricious loves of two unchaste women. -the bride the Lamb's wife; and at other times, of distinct If these parables (which are put into the mouth of God him-churches or individual believers, as severally married to the self with a direct allegorical application, and in which, it Lord. (Rev. xxi. 9. 2 Cor. xi. 2.) In this manner, St. Paul must be confessed, that delicacy does not appear to be par- allegorizes the history of Hagar and her mistress, referring ticularly studied, according to our refined notions of deli- to the two dispensations, while at the same time he makes cacy) be well considered, we are persuaded that the Song a practical application of it to the consciences of the Galaof Solomon (which is in every part chaste and elegant) will tians. (Gal. iv. 22-31.) not appear unworthy of the divine sense in which it is usually taken, either in matter or style, or in any degree inferior either in gravity or purity to the other remains of the sacred poets. To these instances we may add the forty-fifth psalm, which is a sacred epithalamium, of the allegorical application of which to the union between God and the church no doubt has hithert› been entertained; though many suspect it, and not without good reason, to have been produced upon the same occasion, and with the same relation to a real fact, as the Song of Solomon. Neither ought we to omit, that the writers of the New Testament have freely admitted the same image in the same allegorical sense with their predecessors, and have finally consecrated it by their authority.
Thus John the Baptist beautifully represents Christ as the bridegroom; himself, as his friend or bridesman, and the church as his spouse.2 (John iii. 28.) Our Lord also adopts the title of Bridegroom in Matt. ix. 15.; and likewise in the parable of the virgins or bride's maids attendant upon the marriage. (Matt. xxv. 1.) "The Lamb's wife" also, the church, is represented as a "bride adorned for her husband" On the alleged Immorality of the language of Scripture, see Vol. I. F. "In the prophetical book of the Song of Solomon," says Bishop ley, "the union of Christ and his church is described in images taken entirely from the mutual passion and early love of Solomon and his bride. Read the Song of Solomon, you will find the Hebrew king, if you know any thing of his history, produced, indeed, as the emblemn of a greater personage; but you will find Him in every page." Sermons, vol. p Commentators in communion with the Romish church, not content with considering the Song of Solomon as adumbrating the union of Christ and his church, extend it also to the union of Christ with the Virgin Mary. Such is the notion of the elegant Italian translator, Melesigenio. (Good's Song of Slomon, Pref. p. xxxiv.) In the short preface prefixed to this oook in the Dublin edition of the Anglo-Romish Bible (1825, page 596.) it is affirmed, that "the spouse of Christ is the church, more especially as to the happiest part of it, viz. perfect souls, every one of which is his beloved; but, above all others, the immaculate and ever blessed virgin mother!
Further, we consider the allegory as designed for the purposes of piety and devotion, which cannot be so well answered without such an application. Though this argument may, at first view, appear weak, it will be strengthened when we recollect the doctrine of the New Testament, that, "whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning;" and that their grand design is, "to make us wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus." This shows both the propriety and importance of a particular application of scriptural truths to the circumstances and experience of individuals. Religion is a personal thing; and that professor is a hypocrite, the feelings of whose heart are not influenced by it, as well as the actions of his life.5
The fact is, that much of the language of this poem has been misunderstood by expositors, some of whom, not entering into the spirit and meaning of Oriental poesy, have caused particular passages to be considered as coarse and
4 Dr. Hales's Analysis, vol. ii. p. 400.
confirmation of the preceding view of the spiritual design of this sacred 5 Williams's translation of the Song of Songs, pp. 113-115. In further oriental poem, we may observe, that this allegoric mode of describing the sacred union between mankind at large, or an individual and pious soul, and the great Creator, is common to almost all Eastern poets from the earliest down to the present age. Without such an esoteric or spiritual Hors-interpretation, it is impossible to understand inany passages of the Persian pocts Sadi and Hafiz: and the Turkish commentators on them have uniformly thus interpreted them; though in many instances they have pursued their mystic meaning to an undue length. A similar emblematic mysticism is equally conspicuous in the bards of India; and the Vedantis or Hindoo commentators have in like manner attributed a double, that is, a literal and spiritual meaning to their compositions. This is particularly the case with the Gitàgovinda, or Songs of Jayadeva, the subject of which is the loves of Chrishna and Radha, or the reciprocal attraction between the divine goodness and the soul of man; and the style and imagery of which, like those of the royal Hebrew poet, are in the highest degree flowery and amatory. Good's Song of Songs, p. xxii. Kistemaker, Canticum Canticorum illustratum ex Hierographia Orientalium, pp. 23-40. Sir William Jones has given several examples of the mystical or allegorical" language of the celebrated Persian poet, Hafiz, in his Dissertation on the Mystical Poetry of the Persians and Hindoos. (Works, vol. iv. p. 227. 8vo.)
indelicate, which, in the original, are altogether the reverse; employment as beneath the dignity of the highest characters. while others (as the learned Dr. Gill for instance) have so Least of all, could it be supposed to be inconsistent with the confounded the literal and allegorical senses as to give character of Solomon, whose father was raised from the neither, distinctly or completely; at the same time, they sheepfold to the throne of Israel. The pastoral life is not have applied the figures to such a variety of objects, as to only most delightful in itself, but from the particular circumleave the reader still to seek the right, and, by their minute stances and manners of the Hebrews, is possessed of a kind dissection of the allegory, they have not only destroyed its of dignity. In this poem it is adorned with all the choicest consistency and beauty, but have also exposed the poem to colouring of language, with all the elegance and variety of the unmerited ridicule of profane minds. Much, unques- the most select imagery. Every part of the Canticles," tionably, has been done, by later writers, towards elucidating says the learned and eloquent Bossuet, "abounds in poetical the language and allusions of the Song of Songs by the aid beauties; the objects, which present themselves on every of Oriental literature and manners: but, after all the labours side, are the choicest plants, the most beautiful flowers, the of learned men, there will perhaps be found many expres- most delicious fruits, the bloom and vigour of spring, the sions which are very difficult to us, both as to the literal sweet verdure of the fields, flourishing and well-watered meaning, and the spiritual instruction intended to be convey- gardens, pleasant streams, and perennial fountains. The other ed by them; and some descriptions must not be judged by senses are represented as regaled with the most precious modern notions of delicacy. But the grand outlines, soberly odours natural and artificial: with the sweet singing of birds, interpreted, in the obvious meaning of the allegory, so ac- and the soft voice of the turtle; with milk and honey, and cord with the affections and experience of the sincere Chris- the choicest of wine. To these enchantments are added all tian, "that he will hardly ever read and meditate upon them, that is beautiful and graceful in the human form, the endearin a spirit of humble devotion, without feeling a conviction ments, the caresses, the delicacy of love; if any object be that no other poem of the same kind, extant in the world, introduced which seems not to harmonize with this delightful could, without most manifest violence, be so explained as to scene, such as the awful prospect of tremendous precipices, describe the state of his heart at different times, and to ex- the wildness of the mountains, or the haunts of lions, its cite admiring, adoring, grateful love to God our Saviour, as effect is only to heighten by the contrast the beauty of the this does."2 other objects, and to add the charms of variety to those of grace and elegance."3
With regard to the style, says Bishop Lowth, this poem is of the pastoral kind, since the two principal personages are represented in the character of shepherds. The circumstance is by no means incongruous to the manners of the Hebrews, whose principal occupation consisted in the care of cattle (Gen. xlvi. 32-34.); nor did they consider this
The Chaldee paraphrase of this book is a long and tiresome application of it throughout to the circumstances of the history of the Jews. The Greek version of it is tolerably exact; and Bos, in the Frankfort edition of the Septuagint (1709), ascribes it to Symmachus.
ON THE PROPHETS.
GENERAL OBSERVATIONS ON THE PROPHETS AND THEIR WRITINGS.
I. The prophetical Books, why so called.-II. Different kinds of Prophets mentioned in the Scriptures.-III. Situation of the Prophets, and their Manner of Living.-IV. Mosaic Statutes concerning Prophets.-Evidences of a Divine Mission.V. Qualifications of the Prophets.-VI. Nature of the prophetic Inspiration.-VII Antiquity and Succession of the Prophets, -VIII. Collection of their Writings, and Mode of announcing their Predictions.-IX. Number and Order of the Prophetic Books.
I. We now enter on the fourth or prophetical part of the Old Testament, according to the division which is generally adopted, but which forms the second division, according to the Jewish classification of the sacred volume. This portion of the Scriptures is termed PROPHETICAL, because it chiefly consists of predictions of future events; though many historical passages are interspersed through the writings of the prophets, as there are also many predictions of future events scattered through those books which are more strictly historical. But these books also contain very many passages which relate to other subjects, such as the nature and attributes of God; the religious and moral duties of man; reproofs of idolatry and other sins; exhortations to the practice of true religion and virtue; together with advices and warnings respecting the political state of the country, and the administration of affairs, which in the theocratical form of government were sent to the kings and princes of the Hebrews by the prophets as ambassadors of their supreme monarch, Jehovah. The authors of these books are, by way of eminence, termed Prophets, that is, divinely inspired persons,
who were raised up among the Israelites to be the ministers of God's dispensations. Jehovah, at sundry times and in divers manners, spake unto the fathers by the prophets: for prophecy came not of old time by the will of man, but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. (Heb. i. 1. 2 Pet. i. 21.)
II. To these messengers of heaven frequent reference is made in various parts of the Sacred Writings. The term PROPHET, indeed, is of general signification. It was applied by the heathens to all persons who were supposed to be conversant with divine things; and, in conformity to this notion, St. Paul, in his Epistle to Titus (i. 12.), when citing a passage from a profane poet, calls him a prophet, because the heathens supposed their poets to be inspired. In the historical books of the Old Testament we meet with frequent notice of the school of the prophets, that is, of seminaries, where religious truths, or the divine laws, were particularly taught: for the pupils in these schools were not, strictly speaking, all of them prophets; though God bestowed upon some of them the spirit of prophecy, or of predicting future events. (2 Kings ii. 3.) Further, in the Old Testament, the prophets The chief error of all the translators of this book, Dr. Good observes are spoken of, as "holy men of God," as "seers," and as with great truth, "results from their having given verbal renderings of prophets," in the most exalted sense of the term. The first equivalently; a method, by which any language in the world, when inter- denomination seems to have been sometimes applied to men preted into another, may not only occasionally convey a meaning altogether of exemplary piety, who assiduously studied the divine law different from what the author intended, but convert a term or phrase of perfect purity and delicacy, in its original import, into one altogether indelias communicated by their legislator Moses; who firmly becate and unchaste." Song of Songs, p. xxvi. Dr. Good illustrates this lieved in the predictions of good and evil that should attend remark by some well-chosen examples, which want of room compels us the Israelites according to the tenor of their conduct; who to omit; but the result of its application, we may be permitted to observe, was his very elegant and delicate version, in which, though he adheres solely to the literal sense, yet he decidedly expresses himself (p. xviii.) in favour of the mystical meaning of the poem.
terms and idioms, which to have
2 Scott, Pref. to Sol. Songs.
3 Bossuet, Præf. in Canticum Canticorum, Oeuvres, tom. i. p. 467. 4to. See an account of these schools in Part IV. Chap. VII. Sect. III. § 1. of this volume.
But, however they might be respected by pious monarchs, the prophets were frequently exposed to cruel treatment from wicked princes, whose impiety they reprehended, and to insults and jeers from the people, whose immoral practices they censured and condemned; and many of them were even put to violent deaths. (Heb. xi. 35-38.) Yet, amid all these persecutions and this injurious treatment, they despised dangers, torments, and death, and with wonderful intrepidity attacked whatever was contrary to the law and worship of Jehovah, contemning secular honours, riches, and favours with astonishing disinterestedness.3
were observant of the character of the times in which they lived; and who might be able to discern the natural and inevitable consequences of particular actions, without the necessity of immediate inspiration. These men of God, however, received peculiar communications upon certain emergencies. They were divinely appointed to execute some important commissions, and to predict events which were not in the ordinary course of things, but far beyond the reach of human penetration. It was this which sometimes gave them the title of seers. The higher class of prophets were those who foretold important events that were to take place at distant periods; which no human sagacity could foresee, IV. "Prophecy being necessary in the early ages for the and which were most opposite to the natural conceptions or preservation of the knowledge of God, in the Hebrew comgeneral expectations of mankind: as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Eze-monwealth prophets were not merely tolerated, as some have Kiel, and the minor prophets.1 supposed, but they were also promised, lest the Hebrews should have recourse to soothsayers who were idolaters, and would seduce them into idolatry. (Deut. xviii. 9-22.) But, that advantage might not be taken of this institution by false prophets, Moses decreed, that impostors should suffer capital punishment; and furnished the judges with two distinguishing marks, by which a false prophet might be known. 1. The prophet, who should endeavour to introduce the worship of other gods beside Jehovah, was to be considered as an impostor; and, as a rebel against their king, to be capitally punished. (Deut. xiii. 2—6.)
2. Whoever should predict any thing which was not accomplished by the event, although he should do it in the name of Jehovah, was to be condemned to death, as an impostor who had presumed to counterfeit the seal of their king, (Deut. xviii. 20-22.) Hence it is plain that the prophets were not sagacious men, whose perspicacity enabled them to foresee future events; for an error committed by such, and unaccompanied by guilt, would never have received from Moses so severe a punishment."
III. The prophets, according to Augustine,2 were the philosophers, divines, instructors, and guides of the Hebrews in piety and virtue. These holy men were the bulwarks of religion against the impiety of princes, the wickedness of individuals, and every kind of immorality. Their lives, persons, and discourses were alike instructive and prophetical. Raised up by God to be witnesses of his presence, and living monuments of his will, the events that frequently happened to them were predictions of what was about to befall the Hebrew nation. Although the prophets possessed great authority in Israel, and were highly esteemed by pious sovereigns, who undertook no important affairs without consulting them, yet their way of life was exceedingly laborious, and they were very poor, and greatly exposed to persecution and ill treatment. They generally lived retired in some country place, and in colleges or communities, where they and their disciples were employed in prayer, in manual labour, and in study. Their labour, however, was not such as required intense application, or was inconsistent with that freedom from secular cares which their office required. Thus, In consequence of these laws, "a prophet ran a great risk Elisha quitted his plough, when Elijah called him to the in undertaking a divine mission, unless he knew, by infallible prophetic office (1 Kings xix. 19, 20.); and Amos (vii. 14.) proofs, that he had really received the commands of the tells us that he was no prophet, neither a prophet's son, but a Deity, and was not deluded by his own imagination. Of herdsman, and a gatherer of sycamore fruit. The pupils or the nature of these proofs we are not informed, although sons of the prophets, who lived under the direction of Elijah some circumstances are recorded, which show that the and Elisha, erected their own dwellings, for which they cut prophets were certainly possessed of them. For instance, down the timber that was requisite. (2 Kings vi. 1-4.) it is mentioned (1 Sam. iii. 7.), that, at first, Samuel did not The apparel of the prophets was in unison with the sim- know the voice of God; and Jeremiah (xxxii. 6-9.) conplicity of their private life. Elijah was clothed with skins, fesses, that it was the correspondence of the event, which and wore a leather girdle round his loins. (2 Kings i. 8.) assured him that the direction to buy the field of his relative Isaiah wore sackcloth (xx. 2.), which was the ordinary habit had come to him from God. (Compare also Jer. xxviii. 9.) of the prophets. Zechariah, speaking of the false prophets The proofs, by which Moses was satisfied respecting his who imitated externally the true prophets of the Lord, says divine commission, are recorded at length in Exod. iii. 1.that they should not wear a rough garment (Heb. a garment iv. 17. That the prophets had other means of distinguishing of hair) to deceive. (Zech. xiii. 4.) Their poverty was con- divine revelations from their own thoughts, appears from spicuous in their whole life. The presents they received 1 Sam. xvi. 6, 7. 2 Sam. vii. 1-17. 1 Chron. xvii. 1-16. were only bread, fruits, and honey; and the first-fruits of the Isa. xxxviii. 1-8. 2 Kings xx. 1-11. Occasionally, the earth were given them, as being persons who possessed impression made by the revelation was so strong, that it was nothing themselves. (2 Kings iv. 42.) The woman of Shu- impossible to doubt of its origin; so that they confess themnem, who entertained Elisha, put into the prophet's chamber selves unable to refrain from speaking, as in Jer. xx. 7-10. only what was plain and absolutely necessary. (2 Kings iv. The means, indeed, by which they distinguished their own 10.) The same prophet refused the costly presents of Naaman thoughts from divine revelations, they could not express (2 Kings v. 16.), and pronounced a severe sentence upon his in words; just as it is impossible to explain to one unacservant Gehazi, who had clandestinely obtained a part of them. quainted with the subject, how we know the painter of a (20-27.) Their frugality appears throughout their history; picture, or the author of a composition, solely by his style. for instance, the wild gourds, which one of the prophets To the hearers and first readers of the prophets their divine ordered to be prepared for his disciples. (2 Kings iv. 38-41.) mission was proved either by miracles predicted, and accordThe angel gave Elijah only bread and water for a long jour-ingly performed; or, if such were not granted, by the event ney (1 Kings xix. 6-8.); and Obadiah, the pious governor corresponding with the prophecies: for the prophecies were of Ahab's househoid, gave the same food to the prophets whose lives he saved in a cave. (1 Kings xviii. 4. 13.) Their recluse, abstemious mode of living, and mean apparel, sometimes exposed them to contempt among the gay and courtly: it was probably, the singular dress and appearance of Elisha which occasioned the impious scoffs of the young men of Bethel. (2 Kings ii. 23.) But, in general, the prophets were regarded with high esteem and veneration by the wise and good, and even by persons of the first rank in the state. (1 Kings xviii. 7.) It does not appear that the prophets were bound by any vow of celibacy; for Samuel had children, and the Scriptures mention the wives of Isaiah (viii. 3.) and Hosea. (i. 2.) But the prophets maintained a very guarded intercourse with the female sex, as is evident in the conduct of Elisha towards his benevolent hostess. (2 Kings iv. 27.)
Dr. Cogan's Theological Disquisition, p. 275. et seq. Dr. Gregory
of a twofold description, some relating to proximate, others to remote events. Those of the former kind, which were clear, and contained various circumstances of the predicted events, which must necessarily be beyond the reach of human foresight, afforded by their completion a proof to the contemporaries of the prophet that he was a messenger of God, and that his predictions concerning remote events, coming from the same source with those which they had seen fulfilled, were worthy of equal credit. The accomplishment of these would afford to posterity the proof of his divine mission. This consequence was so evident, that not a few even of the heathens, among whom Cyrus may be mentioned as a most remarkable instance, were convinced by it, and acknowledged that the author of these prophecies
3 Calmet, Preface Générale sur les Prophètes, Art. 3. sur la Manière de Vie des Prophètes, &c. Dissert. tom. ii. pp. 308-311.
Compare 1 Sam. iii. 19-21., where the general knowledge of the fact, that Samuel was a divinely commissioned prophet, is stated as a conse quence of God's letting none of his words fall to the ground; that is, of the regular fulfilment of his predictions.
must be the one true God. It was necessary, therefore, that the prophets should secure the credence of their contem poraries in that portion of their prophecies which related to remote events by some predictions respecting events of speedy occurrence. This accounts for the fact, that the prophets sometimes predicted proximate events of little moment with as much care as others of far more importance.2 Compare 2 Sam. xii. 14. xxiv. 11-14. 1 Kings xí. 31-39. xiii. 1-5. xiv. 6. 12. Isa. vii. 4-16.3 xxxviii. 4-8. Jer. xxviii. 16, 17. xxxvii. 1. xxxviii. 28."4
V. In considering the circumstances relative to the Hebrew prophets, the QUALIFICATIONS which were requisite for the prophetic office claim distinctly to be considered: they were two in number, viz.
1. The first and leading qualification was, A HOLY CHARAC
"As this is the uniform sentiment of Jewish writers, so it is confirmed by the history and lives of the ancient prophets, and by the express testimony of St. Peter, that holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. (2 Pet. i. 21.) Though we meet with some instances of wicked men, to whom God, on special occasions, imparted his secret counsels, such as the covetous Balaam, and the idolatrous kings, Pharaoh, Abimelech, and Nebuchadnezzar;5 yet we may presume, that none but good men were statedly honoured with these divine communications; and especially that none but such were employed as penmen of the Sacred Writings. The declaration, therefore, of Peter, will, doubtless, apply to all the prophetic writers of the Old Testament. They were all men of real and exemplary holiness. The importance of personal piety and virtue in the extraordinary ministers of Jehovah will account for his withdrawing the spirit of prophecy from the Hebrew nation in the fatter stages of their polity, that is, from Malachi to Christ; because during this period their religious and moral state was universally corrupt."
2. The mind of the prophet must be in a SERENE AND COMPOSED FRAME, in order to receive the spirit of inspiration. "The Jewish doctors tell us, that a mind loaded with fresh guilt, oppressed with sorrow, or disturbed with passion, could not duly receive and exercise this heavenly gift. Accordingly, when David, in his penitential psalm, after the affair of Uriah, prays that the holy spirit might be restored to him, that God would give him joy and gladness and a free spirit; the Hebrew commentators understand by these expressions, that prophetic spirit, which his guilt and distress of mind had banished, and that peaceful and cheerful frame, which would invite its return. To prove that passion unfitted the mind for the prophetic impulse, they plead the story The prophets themselves occasionally refer to this evidence of their divine mission, and draw plainly the distinction between the proximate cies, and those more remote which it was their principal object to foretell. events, by predicting which they obtain credence for their other propheCompare Isa. xli. 22. xlii. 9. xliv. 7, 8. Jer. xxviii. 9.-For an enumeration of prophecies of proximate events, and their accomplishment, see Allix's Reflections upon the Books of the Old Testament, ch. 3. in Bishop Watson's Tracts, vol. i. pp. 358-361. The subject of the evidence of the divine mission of the prophets is copiously discussed by Witsius in his Miscellanea Sacra, lib. i. c. 15. de notis veræ prophetiæ et veri prophetiæ, pp. 132-159.
3 See an illustration of this predietion of a proximate event and its fulfilment, supra, Vol. I. p. 121.
Professor Turner's and Mr. Whittingham's translation of Jahn's Introduction, pp. 313. 315.
The transient vouchsafement of this spirit to bad men, while it answered some special purpose of divine wisdom, admirably displayed the sovereignty of God in using the most unlikely and wicked instruments to serve his own design, in constraining even his enemies to utter those truths and predictions, which promoted his honour and interest, and sealed their own con lemnation and ruin. It magnified his unsearchable wisdom, holiness, and power in compelling the most unhallowed lips to pronounce his pure messages without the least adulteration, yea, with astonishing energy and sublimity. It enforced in the most striking manner the essential distinction between splendid and even miraculous gifts, and sanctify ing grace; between the occasional effusions of a prophetic spirit, and the genuine workings of human depravity. These lessons are forcibly taught by the history of Balaam. This noted magician had been allured by Balak, king of Moab, to come to him, with a view to curse Israel, who then lay encamped on his borders. The heathen nations believed that their enemies their tutelar deities, engage the celestial powers against prophets or diviners could, by religious charms or ceremonies, decoy from them, and thus ensure their destruction. Thus Homer represents the capture of Troy as depending on the removal from that city of the sacred image of Minerva. The pagans, previously to a military engagement, usually employed a priest to pronounce, at the head of the army, a solemn imprecation against the adverse power. But though Balaam was invited and fully inclined to perform this office against Israel, infinite goodness, power, and wisdom turned the curse into a blessing, by forcing this malig nant enemy of his people to announce, in the most lofty strains, their present and future glory, the triumphs of their divine Leader and future Mes siah, and the signal destruction of his and their adversaries. We see, in this and similar instances, the singular beauty of the divine conduct; which, by thus inspiring and controlling the minds of sinful men, turned their counsels into foolishness, and made their wrath and wickedness sub. servient to his praise.
of Elisha; who being requested by the three kings of Judah, Israel, and Edom, to inquire of God for them in their dis tress for water during a military expedition, was transported with pious indignation against the wicked king of Israel: but being willing to oblige the good king of Judah, called for a minstrel or musician, for the apparent purpose of calming his passion, and thus preparing him for the spirit of inspiration. Accordingly, while the minstrel played, we are told, the hand of the Lord came upon him. This intimates one important reason why the prophets and their pupils cul tivated sacred music; and also why those who composed and sung divine hymns are sometimes styled prophets; viz. because in many cases this heavenly art was not only assisted by, but wonderfully fitted persons for, celestial communications."
3. Though prophecy was a perfectly gratuitous gift of God, and independent on human industry, yet it did not exclude APPLICATION AND STUDY, for the purpose of ascertaining the meaning of a particular prophecy.
Thus, Daniel prayed and fasted in order that he might know the mystery of the seventy weeks which had been predicted by Jeremiah. (Dan. ix. 2.) Zechariah applied himself seriously to the study of prophecy (2 Chron. xxvi. 5.); and St. Peter states, that this was the employment of the ancient prophets. (1 Pet. i. 10, 11.)
VI. Great diversity of opinion has prevailed respecting the nature, extent, permanency, and different degrees of inspiration which the prophets possessed. Not to enter into a useless discussion of conflicting sentiments, we may remark, that the communication between God and man is by prayer, by the word of God, and by his works: in old times it was also by the prophets, and before them by the angel of the Lord, and the proper symbols of the divine presence. Mankind, at first, consulted God by prayers and sacrifices at his altars. After the promulgation of the law from Mount Sinai, and the establishment of the priesthood, we find three modes of communicating the divine will mentioned in the Old Testament:-1. The Shechinah:-2. The Urim and Thummim; and,-3. Revelation by Dreams, Visions, by Inspiration, or by immediate Conversation with the Deity. When these kinds of prophecy ceased under the second temple, according to the Talmudists, they were succeeded, 4. By the Bath Kol, or voice from heaven.
1. The SHECHINAH was the sitting or dwelling of God between the cherubim on the mercy-seat, or cover of the ark (Psal. lxxx. 1. and xcix. 1.); whence he delivered his answers in an articulate voice. (Exod. xxv. 22. xxix. 42. Num. vii. 89.)
2. The URIM AND THUMMIM, which was on the highpriest's breastplate (Exod. xxviii. 30.), was another standing oracle, to be consulted on all great occasions (Num. and the answers were returned by a visible signification of xxvii. 21. 1 Sam. xxviii. 6. xxiii. 9. xxx. 7. Ezra ii. 63.); the divine will. This oracle was not only venerable among the Jews, but was also celebrated among the Greeks, as Josephus informs us,7 for its infallible answers.
3. Another mode of revealing the divine will was by Dreams and Visions, by Inspiration, or a Conversation with THE DEITY.
(1.) DREAMS, or (to adopt the elegant expressions of the Temanite) Thoughts from the visions of the night, when deep sleep falleth on man (Job iv. 16.), are frequently mentioned in the Scriptures as channels by which the divine will was communicated to mankind. Abimelech was reproved and admonished in a dream concerning Sarah (Gen. xx. 3.); and, to Abraham, by a prophetic_dream, were announced the bondage of his posterity in Egypt, and their deliverance, accompanied with the promise of long life to himself before he should be gathered to his fathers. (Gen. xv. 12-16.) The dreams of Joseph, and of Pharaoh and his servants, were divine (Gen. xxxvii. 5. xl. 5. xli. 1.); as also was that of Nebuchadnezzar concerning the fate of many kingdoms sition, and carried the evidence of their divine original by (Dan. ii. 1.) All these were worthy of the divine interpothe revelations they made, and the strong impressions they left upon the mind.8
(2.) VISIONS were revelations made in a trance or ecstacy, during which ideas and symbolic representations were presented to the imagination of the prophet, when awake, or
Tappan's Lectures on Jewish Antiquities, pp. 191–193.
Ant. Jud. lib. iii. c. 8. (al. 9.) § 9.
8 Sharpe's Second Argument in Defence of Christianity from Prophecy, pp. 20-28. Jahn, Introductio ad Vet. Foed. § 86. III. Witsii Miscellanea Sacra, lib. i. c. 5.
the future was exhibited as it were in distant prospect. | troubled and fainted; but Moses was not so. To him the Thus, Isaiah beheld the LORD sitting upon a lofty throne, his LORD spake, face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend train filling the temple, above which stood seraphim, who (Exod. xxxiii. 11.), that is, freely and familiarly, without alternately proclaimed his praises. (Isa. vi. 2, 3.) While fear and trembling.-4. Not one of the other prophets could Ezekiel was among the captives by the river Chebar, the utter predictions at their pleasure; but Moses, on whom the heavens were opened, and he beheld the visions of God, spirit of prophecy rested at all times, was free to prophesy, which he has described. (ch. i.) To this class of divine and might have recourse at any time to the sacred oracle in manifestations is supposed to belong the revelation made to the tabernacle, which spake from between the cherubim.5 Jeremiah, concerning the girdle which he was commanded "In all the cases here described, the prophets could not, to conceal near the river Euphrates, and to resume it after it without doubting the clearest and most palpable evidence, had become decayed. (Jer. xiii. 1-9.) Indeed, it is not distrust the truth of the revelations which they received; credible, that the prophet should have been sent twice upon and, with respect to us, we have ample reason, from a cola journey of such considerable length and difficulty (for the lective consideration of their writings, to be convinced that Euphrates is computed to have been eighteen or twenty days their inspiration was accompanied with sufficient characters distant from Jerusalem), to a very great loss of his time, to distinguish it from the dreams of enthusiasm, or the viwhen every purpose would have been answered altogether sions of fancy." Though their bodily strength was someas well, if the transaction had been represented in vision. times overpowered by the magnitude of their revelations, and The same supposition of a vision must be admitted in other their eyes were dazzled with the splendour of the visionary cases also, particularly in Jer. xxv. 15-29.; for it would be light, as in the instances of Daniel (x. 5-9.) and the apostle absurd to believe that Jeremiah actually went round with a John (Rev. i. 17.), yet they retained full possession of their up in his hand to all the kings and nations enumerated in understanding, and the free exercise of their reason. The that chapter, and made them drink of its contents. Micaiah, prophetical spirit, seating itself in the rational powers, as in vision, beheld the LORD sitting upon his throne, surround-well as in the imagination, never alienated the mind, but in ed by the celestial host, and all Israel scattered upon the formed and enlightened it; and those who were actuated by hills. (1 Kings xxii. 17-19.) Other instances of revela- it always maintained a clearness and consistency of reason, tions by visions may be seen in Num. xxiv. 15. Ezek. iii. with strength and solidity of judgment. For God did not 1. iv. 5. 12. 15. viii. 1. et seq. Dan. vii. Acts x. 9, 10. 2 employ idiots or fools for the purpose of revealing his will, Cor. xii. 1-3. Many of the scenes represented in the Apo- but those whose intellects were entire and perfect, and he calypse were in vision. In Job iv. 13-16. there is a de- imprinted so clear a copy of his truth upon them, that it bescription of a vision by Eliphaz the Temanite, which, for came their own sense, being digested fully into their undersublimity, is unrivalled by any production of ancient or of standings, so that they were able to represent it to others as modern poetry. "Midnight, solitude, the deep sleep of all truly as any person can express his own thoughts. And around, the dreadful chill and erection of the hair over the if at any time they did not clearly understand the prophetic whole body, the shivering not of the muscles only, but of revelation communicated to them, they asked for an explathe bones themselves, the gliding approach of the spec- nation: such was the conduct of Daniel (Dan. ix. 18-23. tre, the abruptness of his pause, his undefined and inde- x. 1. et seq.), and of Zechariah. (i. 9. iv. 4. vi. 4, 5.) scribable form, are all powerful and original characters, which have never been given with equal effect by any other writer."2
(3.) INSPIRATION was a third mode by which the divine designs were manifested to the prophets; by which term we are to understand "a suggestion of ideas to the understanding, without such representations to the fancy as the former methods imply. Maimonides, one of the most rational and learned of the Jewish doctors, explains this inspiration to be a divine impulse, enabling and urging the subject of it to utter psalms and hymns, or useful moral precepts, or matters civil, sacred, and divine; and that, while he is awake, and has the ordinary use and vigour of his senses. Such was the inspiration of Zacharias and Elizabeth, who on a very interesting occasion are said to have been filled with the Holy Ghost,' and to have uttered the most sublime acknowledgments or predictions. (Luke i. 41, 42. 67-79.) Such, too, was the inspiration of the ancient prophets in general, who spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.' This sacred impulse was of a calm and gentle nature, and thus was clearly distinguished from the fanatical inspiration of heathen diviners. But the prophets of the true God were only 'moved,' that is, calmly influenced by his inspiring spirit. This influence, far from suspending, added vigour and elevation to their own reason and prudence.”+
(4.) But the most eminent of all the modes of communicating the divine will to man was, a direct CONVERSATION WITH GOD. It is especially recorded of Moses, that there arose no prophet subsequently, like unto him, whom the Lord knew face to face. (Deut. xxxiv. 10.) This has been termed the Mosaical Inspiration it was the highest degree, and was characterized by the following circumstances, which distinguished it from the revelations made to the rest of the prophets:-1. Moses was made partaker of these divine revelations, while he was awake (Num. xii. 6-8.), whereas God manifested himself to all the other prophets in a dream or vision.-2. Moses prophesied without the mediation of any angelic power, by an influence derived immediately from God, while in all other prophecies some angel appeared to the prophet.-3. All the other prophets were afraid, and
1 Witsii Miscellanea Sacra, lib. i. c. 3. § ix. pp. 19, 20. Dr. Blayney, on Jer. xiii. 4. 2 Dr. Good's Translation of Job, p. 51.
3 Virgil in his sixth Eneid represents the sibyl, when the prophetic spirit seized her, as perfectly frantic, as struggling in vain to shake off the deity that inspired her, and as irresistibly forced to utter his dictates. (n. vi. 47. et seq. 77. et seq.) Lucan describes the Pythian prophetess in the same manner. (Lib. v. v. 142-218.)
Tappan's Lectures on Jewish Antiquities, p. 199.
When the various kinds of prophecy above enumerated ceased under the second temple, they were succeeded, according to the Talmudist, by
4. The BATH KOL, voice from heaven, or the aerial regions, daughter-voice, or daughter of a voice; because, on the cessation of the divine oracle, this came in its place as its daughter or successor. Some expositors have imagined, that this voice is alluded to in John xii. 28., but there appears to be no foundation for such a conjecture. Dr. Prideaux, however, has shown, that the Bath Kol was no such celestial voice as the Talmudists pretend, but only a fantastical way of divination of their own invention, like the Sortes Virgiliana among the heathens: for as, with them, the words of the poet, upon which they first dipped, were the oracle whereby they prognosticated those future events, concerning which they were desirous of information; so, among the Jews, when they appealed to Bath Kol, the next words which they heard from any one were regarded as the desired divine oracle.8
Some of the adversaries of the Bible have represented the Hebrew prophets as public incendiaries, who perpetually denounced, and frequently brought, calamities upon their country, merely on account of religious opinions. For such charge there is no other ground but this, viz. that the prophets constantly testified against idolatry, equally among rulers and people. It will be recollected, that idolatry in the Hebrew nation was high-treason against their own constitution, and Jehovah their king. Idolatry directly forfeited their territory and privileges: it was an inlet to every abomination; it defeated the great end for which that people was selected; and in their fundamental laws the most destructive calamities were denounced against it. Consequently, the prophets, in boldly arresting this evil, even at the hazard of their own lives, showed themselves to be, not the malignant disturbers, but the truest and most disinterested friends of their country: especially as by this conduct they executed the benevolent commission with which Jehovah had intrusted them;-a commission intended not to destroy, but, if possible, to save
Smith's Select Discourses on Prophecy, ch. xi. Witsii Miscell. Sacr. lib. i. c. 7. Bp. Gray's Key, p. 325.
Smith's Select Discourses, pp. 190. et seq.
8 Prideaux's Connection, part ii. book 5. sub anno 107. vol. ii. pp. 328, 329. The Christians, after Christianity began to be corrupted, learnt from the heathen the same mode of divination, and used the Bible in the same manner as the heathen had employed the poems of Virgil. In pp. 329, 330. Dr. Prideaux has given some remarkable instances of this absurd mode of penetrating into futurity. See also Smith's Select Discourses: on Prophecy, ch. 10.