Page:Literature and Dogma (1883).djvu/90

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pectation concerning the future they stamped the character. With them, however, our interest does not so much lie; it lies rather with the prophets and those whom the prophets represent. It lies with the continued depositaries of the original revelation to Israel, Righteousness tendeth to life; who saw clearly enough that the promises were to righteousness, and that what tendeth to life was not the seed of Abraham taken in itself, but righteousness. With this minority, and with its noble representatives the prophets, our present interest lies; the further development of their conviction about righteousness is what it here imports us to trace. An indestructible faith that the righteous is an everlasting foundation they had; yet they too, as we have seen, could not but notice, as time went on, many things which seemed apparently to contradict this their belief. In private life, there was the frequent prosperity of the sinner. In the life of nations, there was the rise and power of the great unrighteous kingdoms of the heathen, the unsuccessfulness of Israel; although Israel was undoubtedly, as compared with the heathen, the depositary and upholder of the idea of righteousness. Therefore prophets and righteous men also, like the unspiritual crowd, could not but look ardently and expectantly to the future, to some great change and redress in store.

At the same time, although their experience that the righteous were often afflicted, and the wicked often prosperous, could not but perplex pious Hebrews; although their conscience felt, and could not but feel, that, compared with the other nations with whom they came in contact, they themselves and their fathers had a concern for righteousness, and an unremitting sense of its necessity, which put them in covenant with the Eternal who makes for righteousness, and which rendered the triumph of other nations over them a triumph of people who cared little for righteous-