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ON THE INSTRUMENTALITY OF THE PROPHETS OF JEHOVAH, IN THE PRESERVATION OF TRUE RELIGION.
In addition to the promises and threats of the Almighty, so frequently repeated in the mosaic law; and with which the whole nation must, in every age, have been made acquainted, as often as the offices of true religion were performed; in addition to the constant experience of rulers and subjects in successive generations, assuring them that "it cannot be well with the wicked;" holy men, and inspired prophets, were repeatedly employed to instruct, direct, exhort, and admonish. These exerted every effort to stem the vast tides of irreligion and infidelity which threatened, at every period, to deluge the nation. Although their success did not equal their zeal, they still prevented depravity from being universal, and irremediable.
To these messengers of heaven, frequent reference is made in the historical parts of holy writ. They had different offices, and enjoyed different portions of the divine communication; but the moderns are not agreed respecting their
peculiar characteristics. We read of the schools of the prophets; by which it is not to be understood that the power of predicting future events was taught as a science. The term prophet is of a general signification. It was applied by heathens to all who were supposed to be conversant with divine things; and in the Scriptures many persons are considered as prophets who did not possess the gift of prophesying; as were Abraham and Aaron. The schools of the prophets appear to have been seminaries where religious truths, or the divine laws, were particularly taught; and as it is obvious from the preceding history, that the supreme Being prefers the use of Instruments to the utmost extent of their influence, thus we perceive that, generally speaking, those who were destined to higher offi ces, were selected from these schools.
In the historical writings of the Old Testament, these prophets are spoken of as holy men of God, as Seers, and as Prophets, in the most exalted sense of the term.
The first denomination seems to have been sometimes applied to men of exemplary piety, who assiduously studied the divine law, as communi cated by their legislator Moses; who firmly believed in the predictions of the good and the evil that should attend the Israelites, according
to the tenor of their conduct; who 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 modes of conduct, without the necessity of immediate inspiration. Knowing it to be an immutable principle, proclaimed by Jehovah himself, and confirmed by all the historical events with which they had made themselves acquainted, that strictly to obey the divine commands was in all cases, the wisest mode of acting, they were abundantly qualified to give the most salutary counsel, as often as they were consulted by their sovereigns, concerning the expediency or probable result of particular plans and enterprizes. We are told that Rehoboam was dissuaded from waging war against the revolting Israelites, by a man of God, without our being informed that he was immediately inspired. Amaziah, when he proposed to augment his force, by an improper alliance with the house of Israel, was prohibited by a man of God, who perceived the inexpediency and danger of associating with those, whose irreligious conduct foreboded destruction, and whose intimacy was contagious. In neither of the above instances is the necessity of an immediate revelation obvious.
But these men of God also received peculiar
communications upon certain emergencies. They were divinely appointed to execute some impor tant commissions, and to predict certain events, which were not in the ordinary course of things, and far beyond the reach of human penetration. It was this which sometimes gave them the title of Seers. Thus Samuel who was commissioned to anoint Saul to be king over Israel, and was subsequently enabled to give him signs to direct his course, is called a Seer. "Samuel answered Saul, I am the Seer."* Hanan the Seer reproved Asa, king of Judah, for a want of confidence in his God, and predicted that he should have wars, Elijah and Elisha were eminent for these oc casional inspirations; although they were igno rant of events which personally concerned themselves. But the higher class of Prophets were those who foretold important events which were to take place at distant periods; in which no. human sagacity could avail; and which were most opposite to the natural conceptions or ge neral expectations of mankind: as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and the minor prophets. These having predicted events, which were not to be immediately accomplished, and some of which respected future generations, their predictions were committed to writing; and care* 1 Sam. ch. ix. v. 9.-ch. x.
fully preserved, under a conviction that they contained important truths, to be hereafter more fully revealed; and which were to receive their accomplishment at the appointed periods,
Opposed to these were constant successions of false prophets; who were extremely numerous in seasons of great degeneracy. They also were of different classes and characters. It appears, evidently, from various passages in sacred writ, that they were depraved or apostate Israelites. When the ten tribes revolted, and Jeroboam had introduced the worship of the two golden calves, to prevent his subjects from going up to Jerusalem, they did not, at the commencement, entirely forsake Jehovah. They professed to worship him under these emblems. But the adoption of one custom of the Pagans introduced another and before they forsook totally the God who brought them out of Egypt, they profanely worshipped him with the rites of paganism. The true worshippers of God being permitted to consult the oracle for direction, advice, and assistance, the advantage was too great and honourable not to be counterfeited; and these corruptors of the true religion, in the progress of their degeneracy, attempted to consult the oracles