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cises in a manner so elevated as to astonish every one who had formerly known the young Benjaminite,-till then remarkable only for a mild disposition and great bodily strength.
The mental bias towards prediction, which is al. most unavoidably acquired by the practice of eluci. dation and commentary on a dark text, soon showed itself in the Schools of the Prophets. Many of them, trusting to their own ingenuity rather than to the suggestion of the Spirit of truth, ventured to foretell the issue of events, and to delineate the fu. ture fortunes of nations, as well as of individuals. Hence the race of false prophets who brought so much obloquy upon the whole order, and not unfrequently barred against the approach of godly ad. monition the ears of those who were actually ad. dressed by an inspired messenger. Nay, it appears that some of them arrogated the power of realizing the good or the evil which they were pleased to foretell; allowing the people to believe that they were possessed with demons, who enabled them not only to foresee, but to influence in no small measure the course of Providence. The impression on the mind of Ahab, in regard to Micaiah, leaves no room for doubt that the king imagined the prophet to be actuated by a malignant feeling towards him. “ I hate him,” he exclaimed, “ for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil.” Nor was the conviction, that this ungracious soothsayer spoke from his own wishes rather than from a di. vine impulse, confined to the Israelitish monarch. The messenger who was sent to call Micaiah spake unto him, saying, “ behold now, the words of the prophets declare good unto the king with one mouth :
let thy word, I pray thee, be like the word of one of them, and speak that which is good.”*
When we consider the uncertainty which must have attended all predictions, where the wishes or feelings of the prophet could give a different expression to the purposes of God, we cannot any longer be surprised at the neglect with which such announcements were frequently treated by those to whom they were addressed. It is remarkable, too, that one prophet did not possess the gift of ascertaining the truth or sincerity of another who might declare that he spoke in the name of God; and hence there were no means of determining the good faith of this order of men, except the general evi. dence of a pious character, or the test of a successful experience. For example, when Jeremiah proclaimed the approaching fall of Jerusalem the other prophets were among the first to oppose him, saying, “ thou shalt surely die: why hast thou prophesied in the name of the Lord that this house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate without an inhabitant?” The Princes of Judah assembled in the Temple to hear the charge repeated against this fearless mi. nister; when again “spake the priests and the prophets unto the princes, and to all the people, saying, this man is worthy to die; for he hath prophesied against this city, as ye have heard with your ears.”
It is worthy of notice, too, that the prediction which gave so much offence was conditional and contingent, and that Jeremiah, accordingly, incurred the hazard of suffering the severe punishment due to a false prophet; because if the people had
• 1 Kings xxii. 8, 13.
turned from their sins the fate of their capital and nation would have been protracted. “ The Lord sent me to prophesy against this house, and against this city, all the words that ye have heard. Therefore now amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the Lord your God; and the Lord will repent him of the evil that he hath pronounced against you. As for me, behold, I am in your hand; do with me as seemeth good and meet unto you: but know ye for certain, that, if ye put me to death, ye shall surely bring innocent blood upon yourselves, and upon this city, and upon the inhabitants there. of: for of a truth the Lord hath sent me unto you, to speak all these words in your ears.”*
The decision of the princes was more equitable than the accusation adduced by the priests and prophets; for according to the law of Moses no man could be punished for predicting the most calami. tous events, provided he persevered in the assertion that he spoke in the name of Jehovah. The Divine legislator denounced the penalty of death against every prophet who should speak in the name of any false god, or who should speak in the name of Jehovah that which he was not commanded to speak; but, in regard to the latter offence, the guilt could only be substantiated by the failure of the prophecy.“ And if thou say in thine heart, how shall we know the word which the Lord hath not spoken? When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously.”+
• Jeremiah xxvi. 8-16.
+ Deut. xviii. 21, 22.
It is obvious, however, that in all cases where a condition was implied, the fulfilment of the prediction could not be regarded as essential to the establishment of the prophetic character. The capture of Jerusalem produced the most undeniable testimony to the inspiration of Jeremiah, as well as to the sincerity of his expostulation; yet it is well known that his motives did not escape suspicion, and that his memory was loaded by many of his countrymen with the charge of having favoured the Chaldeans.
It may not appear out of place to inform the young reader that the prophets, whose writings are contained in the Old Testament, are in number sixteen, and usually divided into two classes, the greater and the minor, according to the extent of their works and the importance of their subject. Of the former, Isaiah, who may be regarded as the chief, began to prophesy under Uzziah, and continued till the first year of Manasseh. Jeremiah flourished a few years before the great captivity, and lived to witness the fulfilment of his own predictions. Ezekiel, who had been carried into the Babylonian territory some time before the ruin of his native country in the days of Zedekiah, began to perform his office among the Jewish captives in the land of the Chaldees in the fifth year after Jehoiakim was made prisoner. Daniel, the youngest of the four, was only twelve years of age when he was involved in the miseries of conquest, and reduced to the con dition of a dependant at a foreign court.
Among the twelve minor prophets, Jonas, Hosea, Amos, and Micah, preceded the destruction of the kingdom of Israel. Nahum and Joel appeared between that catastrophe and the captivity of Judah. Habak
kuk, Obadiah, and Zephaniah, lived at the time when Jerusalem was taken, and during part of the captivity. Haggai, Zecharias, and Malachi, the last of the whole, prophesied after the return from Babylon.
But our business is rather with the literature of the prophets at large than with the special functions of the few individuals of their body who were commissioned by Heaven to reveal the secrets of future time. Of the fruits of their professional study we have fine examples preserved in the Psalms of David and the Proverbs of Solomon; the former, a collection of sacred lyrics composed for the worship of Jehovah; the latter, a compend of practical wisdom, suggested by an enlightened experience, and expressed in language equally striking for its divine truth and rare simplicity.
In early times the dictates of moral philosophy are enounced in short sentences, the result of much thought, and of which the effect is usually heightened by the introduction of a judicious antithesis both in the sentiment and the expression. The apothegms ascribed to the wise-men of Greece belong to this kind of composition; being extremely valuable to a rude people who can profit by the fruits of reasoning without being able to attend to its forms, and deposite in their minds a useful precept, unencumbered with the arguments by means of which its soundness might be proved. The books which bear the name of Solomon are distinguished above all others for the sage views that they exhibit of human life, and for the sensible maxims addressed to all conditions of men who have to encounter its manifold perils—proving a guide unto the feet and a lamp unto the path. • In no respect does the Hebrew nation appear to