Page:American Journal of Sociology Volume 9.djvu/398

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384 THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY

set forth. It is rather the fact that the sympathetic student of the literary prophecy finds himself often in the same atmosphere which he does when he turns to the devotional and wisdom litera- ture of Israel that is to be noted. He finds much in the prophets of the same general character as this from the Psalms :

Help, Jehovah, for the godly man ceaseth ;

For the faithful fail from among the children of men.

12 : 1.

All this leads him to assert that to the prophets the poor and the righteous were usually the same. Though there were unques- tionably those who were righteous among the prosperous, the circumstances of the time were such that many of the worthiest men were brought low and were trodden under foot.

The prophets, then, were not sentimentalists ; but strong men who espoused the cause of the poor, not alone because they were poor, but also because they were usually, if not always, righteous persons, without whom the state would have found it difficult to maintain itself. Their efforts in behalf of the poor were labors which had to do with the welfare of the whole social body. For the well-to-do to exterminate the peasantry and grind out of existence the free artisans would be for them to imperil the life of their people and to extinguish the hope of moral regeneration at home. For after all, though the prophets looked to the Golah 1 as the salt, they turned to the peasants and the artisans at home as the mass into which they as salt were to be cast upon their return. The actual workers and producers may have been bond- men for the most part ; but the economic well-being of their land was largely in the hands of the poor. It speaks much for the sanity of the social ideals of the prophets that they had the prescience to apprehend this clearly, as it does for their soundness of heart that they set themselves to espouse the cause of those who were regarded by the rich as inferiors in such an age as theirs. God pity the man who can read the prophets of Israel without discovering that many of their utterances were instinct with moral heroism !

Always the poor have needed those who would stand up for

1 The Golah were the Hebrews scattered abroad.