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been in perpetual exercise, either by the direction of natural events, or by the more open manifestations of an interference, they would have sunk into all the horrors of idolatry without a remedy; and the whole moral world would have been involved in mental darkness. This energy was finally efficacious, in establishing among a particular people, an acknowledgment of the existence, unity, moral attributes, and exclusive sovereignty of the God of universal nature.
We were taught by the early part of the Jewish history, that no one can disobey the come mands of God with impunity; no one can manifest a disposition to obey without a recompense : and we perceive from the minuter circumstances in the history of this peculiar people, that their idolatrous propensities constituted the great offence. Under the government that was strictly theocratical, their sovereign ruler considered this as the act of rebellion. When that form of government was discontinued, rewards and punishments, the smiles and the frowns of Providence, were dispensed in exact proportion, as king and subjects opposed or adopted, the impious absurdities of Pagan superstition. Whoever believes in a future state, believes that the moral conduct of individuals will be amenable to a future tribunal. There is also a righteousness which exalteth a nation; and there are immoralities which conduct to ruin. Under the Jewish economy the unpardonable, offence was Idolatry. The national virtue consisted in the patronage and observance of true religion. Neglects respecto ing these were invariably punished, obedience was amply rewarded.
When those persons whose general character and deportment were acceptable and exemplary, lapsed into the iniquities of paganism, they were still punished for this offence. Those who supported the cause of Monotheism were prosperous; notwithstanding many depravities in their character. After a contest with this people, from the days of Abraham to the return of the house of Judah from the captivity of Babylon, comprehending a space approaching to fourteen hundred
years, Jehovah at length prevailed, and established his throne in the regions of Judea.
But to produce this effect, the instrumentality of the true prophets of the Lord constituted an essential part of the divine plan. Its influence and importance demand particular consideration.
ON THE INSTRUMENTALITY OF THE
PROPHETS OF JEHOVAH, IN THE PRESERVATION OF TRUE RELIGION.
In addition to the promises and threats of the Almighty, so frequently repeated in the mosaic law; and with which the whole nation must, in every age, have been made acquainted, as often as the offices of true religion were performed; in addition to the constant experience of rulers and subjects in successive generations, assuring them that "it cannot be well with the wicked;" holy men, and inspired prophets, were repeatedly employed to instruct, direct, exhort, and admonish. These exerted every effort to stem the vast tides of irreligion and infidelity which threatened, at every period, to deluge the nation. Although their success did not equal their zeal, they still prevented depravity from being universal, and irremediable.
To these messengers of heaven, frequent reference is made in the historical parts of holy writ. They had different offices, and enjoyed different portions of the divine communication; but the moderns are not agreed respecting their peculiar characteristics. We read of the schools of the prophets ; by which it is not to be understood that the power of predicting future events was taught as a science. The term prophet is of a general signification. It was applied by heathens to all who were supposed to be convefsant with divine things; and in the Scriptures many persons are considered as prophets who did not possess the gift of prophesying; as were Abraham and Aaron. The schools of the prophets appear to have been seminaries where religious truths, or the divine laws, were particularly taught; and as it is obvious from the preceding history, that the supreme Being prefers the use of Instruments to the utmost extent of their influence, thus we perceive that, generally speaking, those who were destined to higher offices, were selected from these schools.
In the historical writings of the Old Testament, these prophets are spoken of as holy men of God, as Seers, and as Prophets, in the most exalted sense of the term.
The first denomination seems to have been sometimes applied to men of exemplary piety, who assiduously studied the divine law, as communi. cated by their legislator Moses; who firmly believed in the predictions of the good and the evil that should attend the Israelites, according to the tenor of their conduct; who were observant of the character of the times in which they lived; and who might be able to discern, the natural and inevitable consequences of particular modes of conduct, without the necessity of immediate inspiration. Knowing it to be an immutable principle, proclaimed by Jehovah himself, and confirmed by all the historical events with which they had made themselves acquainted, that strictly to obey the divine commands was in all cases, the wisest mode of acting, they were abundantly qualified to give the most salutary counsel, as often as they were consulted by their sovereigns, concerning the expediency or probable result of particular plans and enterprizes. We are told that Rehoboam was dissuaded from waging war against the revolting Israelites, by a man of God, without our being informed that he was immediately inspired. Amaziah, when he proposed to augment his force, by an improper alliance with the house of Israel, was prohibited by a man of God, who perceived the inexpediency and danger of associating with those, whose irreligious conduct foreboded destruction, and whose intimacy was contagious. In neither of the above instances is the necessity of an immediate revelation obvious.