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supernatural qualities. But a deduction from a knowlege of the constancy of the laws of nature, is not a Prophecy,
It can scarcely be needful to say that the wicked impostures of astrology and divination are not prophecies. The foundation of these pretences lies in absolute heathenism: their allegations of fulfilment have arisen from the ambiguity or some other fraud in the oracle, or from the imagination of the deceived: nor can I conceive it possible for any person, living under the light of the gospel, to pay regard to these pretences without pitiable folly and extreme impiety.*
One precautionary remark further I beg leave to make. It is not proper to include under the name of Prophecy those declarations which abound in the Scriptures concerning the general purposes of God's moral government; the promises and threatenings which refer to the spiritual state of men in the present life, and to the retributions of the world to come. Such, for example, as these : “ Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him; for they shall eat the fruit of their doings. Woe unto the wicked! It shall be ill with him ; for the reward of his hands shall be given him. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved ; but he that believeth not shall be damned. We must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that which he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” Passages of this description form a most important part of the divine word; they are declarations from the Eternal God; they are annunciations of future events; and their accomplishment is absolutely certain : yet, since the events which they declare fall not under the eye of man in the present state, and they cannot be adduced as arguments in discussing the great questions concerning the evidence of revelation, I conceive that we cannot properly consider them as belonging to the class of Prophecies.
* See the admirable observations of Michaelis on this subject, and on the dreadful mischief which a belief in these impostures produces in a community, in his Commentaries on the Mosaic Law, Sect. 253; English translation, Vol. IV. pp. 74–82.
But I would propose the following as a just description of a Prophecy. It is a declaration made by a creature, whether human or of a superior order, under the inspiration and commission of the Omniscient God, relating to an event or series of events, which have not yet taken place, which could not have been certainly foreknown by any science or wisdom of man, but which shall take place in the visible dispensations of the divine government in the present state,
In the earlier ages of the world, while the plan of divine revelation was but beginning to be developed, and when the records of that revelation were as yet very imperfect, God was pleased to inspire with the gift of prophecy different persons, in various countries, and for purposes more or less extensive in his moral government. Such were Enoch, Noah, Jacob, Moses, Balaam; and probably other persons, of whom the brief limits of sacred history have not admitted any mention. Under the admirable and actually miraculous constitution of the Israelites, the prophetic office filled a very wide and important space in the Theocratic system. A succession of Prophets was maintained, by the power and inspiration of God, who not only were instruments of religi-. ous instruction and, by their poetical and musical talents, an invaluable aid to public and private devotion; but who were also frequently commissioned to bear direct messages from Jehovah, of precept, reproof, consolation, or prediction of future events. These were called prophets, seers, and men of God. They fearlessly rebuked all violations of the Mosaic Covenant; the idolatry and superstition of princes, the corruption and time-serving of priests, the vices and crimes of all ranks among the people. Their personal characters were generally holy and unblameable; and their private life was simple and even austere. They wore a distinguishing dress, in addition to the close under-garments of their country's custom ; a large cloak or mantle, * of sackcloth or some other coarse material, fastened with a leathern girdle.
• When this was laid aside, the person was said to be naked, according to the idiom of the Jewish language, though the under-garinents sufficiently covered the body. See Isaiah xx. 2.
They carried the messages of God to the highest and the lowest of their countrymen. They taught, they explained, they enjoined all religious and moral obedience; they threatened the just punishments of God, particularly war and its ordinary consequences of impoverishment, famine, and pestilential diseases; and they encouraged repentance and reformation, by assurances of forgiving and restoring mercy. The best kings of Israel and "Judah always paid them eminent respect : and the worst dreaded and often persecuted these servants of God, the faithful patriots and truest friends of their country. They were sometimes maligned and opposed by pretenders; who were unprincipled men, hypocrites or apostates, and flatterers of the wicked kings and men in power: these are mentioned, in the historical and prophetic books, under the description of false, lying, and deceitful prophets. Of those who were really true and divinely commissioned prophets, the sacred books make mention of Samuel, David, Nathan, Gad, Shemaiah, at the time of the separation of the two kingdoms,* Ahijah, Azariah, t Hanani, I Jehu, the son of Hanani, $ Elijah, Micaiah, Elisha, Eliezer, Zachariah, the son of Jehoiada the high priest, Urijah who was martyred for his fidelity,** and Iddo, the grandfather of Zachariah, some of whose prophecies are in the canon of scripture; besides others who occur in the history, but their names are not recorded. Three females also are mentioned ; Deborah in the time of the Judges, Huldah, who “ dwelt at Jerusalem in the college," probably apartments adjoining to the temple, tt and Noadiah, of whom mention not to her honour is made by Nehemiah. #1
There are also sixteen prophets who have left written specimens of what the Spirit of God had commissioned them to make kuown; though not all their writings, which have been preserved to us in the Old-Testament Canon, are prophetical.
* 1 Kings xii. 22. + Ibid. xiv. 2. 1 2 Chron. xvi. 7. § 1 Kings xvi. 1.
12 Chron. xx. 37. ** Jer. xxvi. 20. ft 2 Kings xxii. 14.
11 Nehem. vi, 14.
The earliest of these was Jonah, who probably lived about the middle of the ninth century before the Christian
His short book is entirely historical. It contains an account of the threatenings which he was commanded to denounce against the inhabitants of Nineveh, but which, upon their profession of repentance, were graciously remitted.
Probably Hosea lived during the turbulent and sanguinary reigns of the last six or seven kings of the apostatized kingdom of the Ten Tribes of Israel, very often called Ephraim. The whole of his interesting but difficult book is occupied in pathetic remonstrances against the licentiousness, cruelty, superstition, idolatry, and the unbridled dissoluteness of that degenerate people, combined with awful denunciations of judicial miseries; but many tender and condescending invitations of divine mercy are intermingled. Only few and interspersed portions of this book are properly prophetic.
In the same period, or perhaps a little earlier, flourished JOEL, esteemed by eminent critics the most sublime and poetically beautiful of all the prophets, next to Isaiah and Habakkuk. He predicts extreme distress to his country Judah, from a tremendous visitation of locusts; he earnestly calls to penitent humiliation ; and he discloses the view of signal blessings in future times, under a new and more glorious dispensation. This prophet also pronounces the judgments of God upon some other nations ; particularly the Tyrians and Philistines, whose crime is especially pointed out to be the slave- trade which they carried on, by getting into their possession Jewish prisoners of war, or children procured by treachery, or poor persons impelled by famine, and then selling them to the Greeks.
At the same time Amos uttered his predictions; which are chiefly threatenings of judicial ruin for national wickedness, upon the kingdom of the Ten Tribes and several of the neighbouring nations. The Tyrian slave-trade is here again particularly distinguished as procuring God's heavy judgments. Final mercy is promised to repenting Israelites.
This also was the age in which ISAIAH poured forth his lofty strains, and not only, with his contemporary Micah,
described the fallen moral state of Judah, predicted their sufferings from the Syrians and Assyrians, and, above all, from the Babylonians, and uttered the oracles of God with regard to the surrounding nations; but, incomparably more than any other prophet, painted in the most lively colours the coming of the Messiah, bis sufferings and triumphs, his kingdom and glory.
Soon after the final overthrow of the separate kingdom of Israel, Nahum predicted the divine judgments against the kingdom and dynasty of Assyria.
When the pious king Josiah was labouring to stem the torrent of his country's depravity, ZEPHANIAH reproved the inveterate wickedness which pervaded all ranks, their treåchery and hypocrisy; he depicted the overwhelming desolation which was soon to burst upon them and the nations around; and he prophesied of their repentance, their supplications to their covenant-God, and his signal mercy in releasing them from captivity and restoring them to the land of their fathers.
While the kingdom of Judah was rapidly verging towards its fall, the magnificent HABAKKUK described the character of the invading Chaldæans, and their insults and cruelties to the vanquished Jews; gave obscure intimations of the ven- . geance which awaited those destroyers; and recorded his prayer of faith for the support and consolation of the small number of God's uncorrupted servants who were involved in the common calamity.
JEREMIAH was the mourning witness of his nation's ruin. A considerable part of his writings is narrative : the rest consists of descriptions, lamenting, reproving and deploring the wickedness of his countrymen; fervent appeals and supplications to God; and predictions on a variety of subjects, near and afar off, respecting the Jews and other nations, distressful and joyous, and, above all, the return from the captivity and the righteous days of the Messiah.
At the time of the tremendous capture of Jerusalem, Obadiah predicted judgments upon the Edonites, chiefly on account of their taking the most ungenerous and cruel advantage of the distresses of the Jews.