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CHAPTER III.

PROPHECY.

Mr. P. would persuade us that prophets were merely poets, or musicians, who make no pretensions to inspiration or prediction; and that Christian theologists have advanced them to their present rank !! This he endeavours to prove, by observing that there “is not a word in the Bible 'which signifies a poet. Certainly there is in the New Testament ;? but, if there were not, what would this be to the purpose ? There is no word in the Bible for a metaphysician ; ergo a prophet signifies a metaphysician !—But he says that the prophets wrote in verse. This they did frequently : yet they sometimes wrote in prose. Occasionally they played also on musical instruments. What then: Did none except prophets write poetry, and use music and psalmody? Did they all do these things. The New Testament prophets are not recorded to have used either music or poetry. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are expressly and repeatedly called prophets ;3 though Mr. P. denies it; and says, “it does not appear that they could

either sing, play music, or make poetry.' But whatever were the original idea of a prophet or prophesying, who but Mr. P. would have confi

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dently asserted the meaning at present annexed to those words to be a modern invention? What! did not the ancient Jews expect a Messiah according to the prophets ?-Yet he allows that the profession of a SEER, the art of seeing, a visionary insight into things concealed, became incorporated into the word prophet, at the time when Saul banished the wizards.' Who can help noting with admiration this writer's consistency!

The words poet and prophet are in pagan writers in some respects synonymous: because the pagans ascribed poetic raptures to inspiration. Thus the poet was exalted into a prophet: but who, before our author, ever thought of degrading the prophet into a mere poet or musician? I am confident the sober student of the Bible will find very few passages in which the idea of a divine impulse, in one way or other, is not evidently connected with the words prophet or prophesying ; except where false prophets are evidently intended.

The moral character of the man was not essential to the prophetical office. Balaam was a vile wretch; yet his predictions have been wonderfully accomplished : and many such prophets will be detected at the day of judgment. “The evil spirit “ from God” did not come on Saul, 'when he

joined the prophets ;' but “the Spirit of God “came upon him, and he prophesied."2 But, when “the Spirit of the Lord departed from him,” an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him :3 and then indeed he acted very ill ; for, perhaps mimicking

"P. ii. p. 55.-Compare 1 Sam. ix. 9. with xviii. 3. '1 Sam. x. 6-12. xix. 20-24. 1 Sam. xvi. 14, 15. xviii. 10.

the agitations of the prophets when under divine impulses, he was instigated by Satan to attempt the murder of David.

A prophet, in scripture, does not always denote one that predicts future events : but it means in almost all places a man supernaturally instructed or directed by the Lord; except when false prophets, the counterfeits of the true, are spoken of. The argument concerning predictions does not however depend on the meaning of a word: it must be decided by facts. Did not the ancient prophets foretel a variety of circumstances concerning the promised Messiah, which were exactly fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth: Did they not mark out the line whence he would spring, the place of his birth, the miracles which he would perform, the usage which he would experience, the sufferings which he would endure, his conduct under them, with that of the Jews and the soldiers ; his death, burial, and resurrection, and the subsequent prevalence of his cause? If this be undeniable, how absurd is it to pretend that moderns have falsely dignified Jewish poets and musicians with the title of prophets !

Were not the predictions of the Old Testament exactly descriptive of the events which have since taken place, respecting Egypt, Tyre, Nineveh, Babylon, Jerusalem, and the Jewish nation? Does not the New Testament contain predictions of “ Jerusalem trodden under foot of the Gentiles;" “ of the Jews scattered through all nations ;” and of the superstitions, idolatries, usurpations, and persecutions of that church, which hath “ forbid“ den to marry, and commanded to abstain from

“ meat,” hath enjoined the “ worship of angels,” and been “ drunken with the blood” of Christians: Were these predictions unmeaning words, or random conjectures :-Even the Romans, from a slight acquaintance with the Jewish scriptures, had concluded that some wonderful person was about to arise in the world when Christ was born, as the writings of the Roman historians, the Eclogue of Virgil called Pollio, and the famed sybilline books undeniably prove.

Nothing seems more suited to convince a sen'sible but hesitating inquirer concerning the truth

of revelation, than a careful comparison of' the twenty-eighth chapter of Deuteronomy with the 'actual history of the Jewish nation to the present ‘day. This appears capable of effecting every

thing that any external evidence imaginable can effect: and the demonstration thence deduced, 'which may be continually re-examined, at leisure

and with deliberation, seems more convincing 'than any miracles, which are transient acts, and

can only be reviewed in the testimony by which • they are authenticated.'?.

I have not entered particularly on the subject of types ; because I would not rest the argument of the divine inspiration of scripture on that ground, but on things more obvious: otherwise, to a considerate mind a very wonderful confirmation of the truth may be derived from them, as well as an illustration of it.-But I would here further observe, that there is not a single instance throughout the scriptures, in which any intimation is given

· The Author's Commentary.

that “it repented the Lord,” when a remote prophecy was spoken of, for this expression always relates to threatening messages, when averted by reformation, or in answer to the prayers of the prophet; or to promises implying a condition which was not performed. So that ‘ the Bible makes no ‘fool” of any man; but tells him plainly what to expect in all possible cases, “whether he will hear “ or whether he will forbear.” If revelation were impossible, or could not be communicated, prophecy would indeed be useless. But, if it ever pleased God to reveal himself to mankind, as miracles were more suited to impress that generation to whom the prophets were sent, so predictions, evidently accomplishing from age to age, while new predictions were still given, must be the most conclusive proof to remote generations. And, did the limits of this work admit of it, the predictions, interwoven with all the separate divisions of the scripture, might be shewn to demonstrate them severally, as well as collectively, to be the word of God. But I shall only add, if Mr. P. and his disciples desire to know further the use of prophecy, let this answer suffice: It enables us to shew that the scoffs and reproaches of infidels were predicted by the sacred writers;" that the very abuses of Christianity, which they deem unanswerable objections to its divine original, are in every instance a fulfilment of the scriptures; “thus “ it was written, and thus it must be;” and that in this respect prophecy enables us to cut off Goliath's head with his own sword.

* 2 Pet. iii. 3, 4, Jude 18.

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