Page:An Exposition of the Old and New Testament (1828) vol 4.djvu/19

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Prophet is a title that sounds very great to those who understand it, though, in the eye of the world, many of those who were dignified with it, appeared very mean. A prophet is one who has a great intimacy with Heaven, and a great interest there, and, consequently, a commanding authority upon earth. Prophecy is put for all divine revelation, (2 Pet. i. 20, 21.) because that was most commonly, by dreams, voices, or visions, communicated to prophets first, and by them to the children of men, Numb. xii. 6. Once indeed God himself spake to all the thousands of Israel, from the top of Mount Sinai; but it was so intolerably dreadful, that they entreated God would, for the future, speak to them as he had done before, by men like themselves, whose terror should not make them afraid, nor their hands be heavy upon them. Job xxxiii. 7. God approved the motion; They have well said; (says he, Deut. v 27, 28. ) and the matter was then settled by consent of parties, that we must never expect to hear from God any more in that way, but by prophets, who received their instructions immediately from God, with a charge to deliver them to his church. Before the sacred canon of the Old Testament began to be written, there were prophets, who were instead of Bibles to the church. Our Saviour seems to reckon Abel among the prophets, Matth. xxiii. 31, 35. Enoch was a prophet; and by him that was first in prediction, which is to be last in execution—the judgment of the great day; (Jude 14.) Behold, the Lord comes with his holy myriads. Noah was a preacher of righteousness. God said of Abraham, He is a prophet. Gen. xx. 7. Jacob foretold things to come, Gen. xlix. 1. Nay, all the patriarchs are called prophets; (Ps. cv. 15.) Do my prophets no harm. Moses was, beyond all comparison, the most illustrious of all the Old Testament prophets, for with him the Lord spake face to face, Deut. xxxiv. 10. He was the first writing prophet, and by his hand the first foundations of holy writ were laid; even those who were called to be his assistants in the government, had the Spirit of prophecy, such a plentiful effusion was there of that Spirit at that time, Numb. xi. 25. But after the death of Moses, for some ages, the Spirit of the Lord appeared and acted in the church of Israel more as a martial Spirit, than as a Spirit of prophecy, and inspired men more for acting than speaking; I mean, in the time of the Judges. We find the Spirit of the Lord coming upon Othniel, Gideon, Samson, and others, for the service of their country, with their swords, not with their pens; messages were then sent from heaven by angels, as to Gideon and Manoah, and to the people, Judges ii. 1. In all the book of Judges there is never once mention of a prophet, only Deborah is called a prophetess; then the word of the Lord was precious, there was no open vision, 1 Sam. iii. 1. They had the law of Moses, recently written; let them study that. But in Samuel prophecy revived, and in him a famous epocha, or period, of the church began; a time of great light in a constant uninterrupted succession of prophets, till some time after the captivity, when the canon of the Old Testament was completed in Malachi; and then prophecy ceased for near 400 years, till the coming of the great Prophet and his forerunner. Some prophets were divinely inspired to write the histories of the church; but they did not put their names to their writings, they only referred themselves for proof to the authentic records of those times, which were known to be drawn up by prophets, as Gad, Iddo, &c. David and others were prophets, to write sacred songs for the use of the church. After them, we often read of prophets, sent on particular errands, and raised up for special public services; among whom the most famous were Elijah and Elisha in the kingdom of Israel, but none of these put their prophecies in writing, nor have we any remains of them but some fragments in the histories of their times; there was nothing of their own writing, (that I remember,) but one epistle of Elijah's, 2 Chron. xxi. 12. But toward the latter end of the kingdoms of Judah and Israel, it pleased God to direct his servants the prophets, to write and publish some of their sermons, or abstracts of them. The dates of many of their prophecies are uncertain, but the earliest of them was in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and Jeroboam the second, his contemporary, king of Israel, about 200 years before the captivity, and not long after Joash had slain Zechariah the son of Jehoiada, in the courts of the temple. If they begin to murder the prophets, yet they shall not murder their prophecies; they shall remain as witnesses against them. Hosea was the first of the writing prophets; and Joel, Amos, and Obadiah published their prophecies about the same time. Isaiah began some time after, and not long; but his prophecy is placed first, because it is the largest of them all, and has most in it of Him to whom all the prophets bare witness; and indeed, so much of Christ, that he is justly styled the Evan-