sophical of our learned elder divines, I have only to add an observation, as suggested by them; That as many and fearful mischiefs have ensued from the confusion of the Christian with the National church, so have many and grievous practical errors, and much unchristian intolerance, arisen from confounding the outward and visible church of Christ with the spiritual and invisible church, known only to the Father of all spirits. The perfection of the former is to afford every opportunity, and to present no obstacle, to a gradual advancement in the latter. The different degrees of progress, the imperfections, errors, and accidents of false perspective, which lessen, indeed, with your advance (spiritual advance), but to a greater or lesser amount are inseparable from all progression : these, the interpolated half-truths of the twilight, through which every soul must pass from darkness to the spiritual sun-rise, belong to the visible church, as objects of hope, patience, and charity, alone*.'

But the Protestant will to little purpose have availed himself of his free access to the Scriptures; will have read, at least, the Epistles of St. Paul with a very unthinking spirit; who does not apply the same maxims to the church of Christ; who has yet to learn that the church militant is a floor whereon wheat and chaff are mingled together;' that even grievous evils and errors may exist that do not concern the nature or being of a church; and that may even prevail in the particular church to which we belong, without justifying a separation from the same, and without invalidating its claims on our affection as a true and living part of the church universal. And with regard to such evils we must adopt the advice that Augustine (a man not apt to offend by any excess of charity) gave to the complainers of his day: Ut misericorditer corripiant quod possunt, quod non possunt patienter ferant, et cum delectione lugeant, donec aut emendet Deus aut in messe eradicet zizania et paleas ventilett."

. On the Constitution of the Church and State, &c., by S. T. Coleridge, Esq. R.A. R.S.L. 1830. pp. 151, 152. f Idem, pp. 194, 195.



The particular office which those, who are emphatically termed PROPHETs in Scripture, sustained, was that of religious statesmen. In many instances they were men of rank and learning, such as statesmen and leaders of nations ought always to, and must generally, be. Moses was versed in all the learning of the most learned nation of his age, and was admitted into the rank

of the royal family. Isaiah was a member of the reigning house of David ; and his observations on the march of armies, the fastnesses and strong-holds of the country, and on the line of policy adopted, and to be pursued, proves his mind to have been habitually exercised upon these subjects. Daniel was the chief minister of an empire composed, during his administration, of various discordant materials, which it required consummate wisdom to preserve and regulate. It is needless to particularize others less eminent in station, though not less distinguished as political counsellors: all alike directed the attention of their contemporaries to the public destinies of nations, and derived their knowledge of those destinies from the declared will of God.

Whether by imitation of THE PROPHETS of God, or from what other cause, we will not now stop to inquire, it is certain, that, in every age, every nation, with whose records we are acquainted, has believed that its fate was to be ascertained from supernatural authority. The Greeks divided and subdivided into many genera and species the different kinds of communications which they supposed were made to them by the Deity. No business of any moment was transacted, war waged, or treaty of peace concluded, but by the consultation and advice of their tutelar divinity. It matters nothing to the present argument whether the responses were the suggestions or revelations of Satan; or whether, as Van Dale has written a learned treatise to maintain, they were the inventions of crafty priests. Cicero justly argues, that it is impossible the Delphian oracle should ever have gained so much repute in the world, or have been enriched with so magnificent presents from nearly all kings and nations, if the truth of its predictions had not been attested by the experience of all ages. One of the kinds of diviners above referred to were called Εγγατριμυθοι, Εγγαστριμαντεις, Eyyaspırai : of which sort were they whom Isaiah warned the people against consulting, in chap. viii. 19, if we may judge by the Septuagint, which translates " them which have familiar spirits" by ruç eyyaspuuvous. That this was some special method of divination we know from the way in which Aristophanes ridicules it.

Μιμησαμενος την Ευρυκλεος μαντειαν, και διανοιαν

Εις αλλοτριας γατερας ενδυς, κωμωδικα πολλα χεασθαι. The damsel possessed with a spirit of divination, in Acts xvi. 16, is said to have trevja avowvos, which was altogether a different kind of spirit from the other; at least it was so in the estimation of the Greeks, whatever validity there may be in their opinion.

The highest order of prophet was the partis : a term which is not found in the Septuagint, although its derivative, partevoua., occurs frequently. Herein also,” says the learned Gale

(Court of the Gentiles), “the devil played the ape, and imitated the divine mode of prophetie, which for the most part was by ecstatic raptures and visions. There was an obvious difference between the seer and the prophet, but in sacred Scripture προφητης is used indiscriminately for all kinds, except ο βλεπων. Commentators have endeavoured to prove that this word is used in Tit. i. 12 for a poet; but no reason is shewn why the Apostle should not quote a heathen prophet as well as a heathen poet. Neither by sacred or profane writers does mpoonins necessarily mean one who foretells future events : by both it is more often used for those who declare the Divine will at a time which has been already predicted by others.

Customs and manners of nations change in name and in circumstance, but much less in essentials than those who are ill versed in the records of antiquity imagine. The seclusion in which the Mohammedans confine their women was practised by the Persians centuries before the name of Mohammed was heard of. Plutarch, in his life of Themistocles, informs us that the Persians were jealous, coarse, and morose towards their women, not only wives, but concubines and slaves; that no one ever saw them besides their own family; that when at home they were immured in apartments appropriated to themselves, and that when they took a journey they were carried in coaches closely covered on every side. The lying prophecies of Delos and Dodona have been continued in every age and country in which the Papal superstition has prevailed. Prince Hohenlohe is still resorted to by thousands : and even in our own land of Bibles and sects Moore's Almanack is the guide of many farmers in harvest; while most neighbourhoods have a “cunning woman,” like the Witch of Endor, or Pythoness of old, who leads the credulous peasant to the recovery of his lost watch or strayed cattle.

A bolder and more desperate undertaking was to commit a prophecy to writing, which should serve as a beacon through successive generations. Yet these, too, were not wanting. Much of the point of “ the Demagogues” is made by Aristophanes to turn on the faith of the Athenians in written prophecies. Mr. Mitchell observes, that “the Athenian taste for oracles and predictions is best learned by a perusal of Herodotus. Those ascribed to the Sybil, Musæus, and other inspired persons of the fabulous and heroic times, seem to have been in great request. A still more particular credit was ascribed to those which bore on them the name of Bacis, a Baotian, who was supposed to have received the gift of prophecy from the Nymphs, whose temple stood in the olden times on Mount Cithæron. There appear to have been individuals or families at Athens, who, possessing large collections of oracles ascribed to this Bacis, thought themselves masters of a great

treasure, and thus became the prey of more cunning persons, who pretended to decipher these mysteries, which were enveloped in strange and enigmatical characters.” The interpretation of prophecies delivered by another was a different gift from that of delivering the prophecy itself: persons so endowed were called χρησμολογοι, υποφηται, &c. There is not a single instance of supernatural direction recorded in Holy Scripture which has not its imitation among the Greeks. Do we turn to the sign of the alternate dry and wet fleece ? we find, in exact correspondence, čexeogal owvoy among the Greeks, and arripere omen with the Latins. Jonathan fixed on the very words which he would interpret into a direction from God to attack his enemies; and the utterer of ominous words was said by the Greeks βλασφημειν, or ευφημειν, according as the import was favourable or otherwise to the object of the hearer. Samuel turned the rending of his garment by Saul into a sign that the king would lose his kingdom ; and Æneas converted the remark of Ascanius about eating the bread which had first served them for tables on which to lay their meat, into the fulfilment of a prediction by Anchises in their favour.

With prophetic chronology the Heathen appear to have dabbled but little. To fix a period for the accomplishment of a specific fact is far more dangerous than to diffuse it over the whole life of a man, or the duration of a dynasty. The Jews alone seem to have given a full rein to their imaginations in the mystical import of numbers : but the famous arithmetical puzzle, in the eighth book of The Republic, shews that Plato had some glimmerings at least of the existence of such a guide to the future destinies of man, however clumsy, and even unintelligible, his attempts to apply it may be.

The dissertation of Bishop Horsley on the Sybilline Books is well known to all into whose hands these hints are likely to fall. Fragments of the Jewish Scriptures were probably scattered throughout many of the surrounding nations. The whole argument, on the appearance of a Person who was to be sovereign of the world, between Cæsar and Cicero, whatever else it proves, at least confirms the fact of the existence of prophetic writings, which, in the opinion of the people, described the future fates of the republic. One of the most curious points that debate establishes, is, the opinion of the necessity of prophetic writings containing proofs of their being written by persons actuated by a foreign and uncontroulable power, who set ordinary phraseology and method at defiance. The Pollio of Virgil, containing such similarity of expression to Isaiah, could be derived ultimately, though perhaps indirectly, from no other source than the writings of the inspired prophet.

It would not, probably, be difficult to shew, that in whatever

respect the most civilized nations of antiquity differed from the most barbarous, was owing to their nearer approximation to the only fountain of good. Plato, the most distinguished among them, but who did not flourish till after the Hebrew canon was closed, refers continually to the ralalol loyol, which were accounts received in his travels from the Egyptian priests through the two Hermæ, and these doubtless from the Old Testament.

Our common post-diluvian progenitor prophesied the fates of his three sons, and their posterity. Dodanim was his great grandson : and Dodona, Herodotus declares, was the most ancient oracle in Greece. All accounts, to whatever origin they refer it, agree in attributing its antiquity to be nearly equal to the Flood. In every country the prophetic spirit is said to have been possessed by their remotest ancestors. The universality of belief in supernatural directions is not more remarkable than the variety of the objects which were supposed to convey them: every beast, bird, and insect; tree, shrub, and flower; expression, gesture, or sneeze ; posture of sitting, rising, or walking, had, or might have, a particular prognostic.

Amidst such free scope for delusion and imposture, it will readily be conceived how difficult a task the true PROPHETS OF Jehovah had to perform. Not an assertion could they make, not a miracle could they work, not a warning could they give, but they might be reminded of some similar exploit by the prophets of Jupiter, Apollo, or Baal. Were Elias again to appear in human form upon the earth, he would now in like manner be reminded of Emanuel Swedenborg, Prince Hohenlohe, and Joanna Southcotte. But, notwithstanding the extent of the infatuation which prevailed in Paganism, and the exquisite torture to which minds of much sensitiveness must have been exposed, THE LORD, instead of denouncing the lying oracles, and forbidding his people to credit the possibility of attaining to the knowledge of future events by supernatural means, enters himself into controversy with them, and challenges his own superior claim to adoration upon this very ground. “ To whom will ye liken me, and make me equal, and compare me that we may be alike?.... Remember this, and shew yourselves men: bring it again to mind, Oye transgressors. Remember the former things of old : for I am God, and there is none else ; I am God, and there is none like me; declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done; saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.” (Isai. xlvi. 5—10.) “And who, as I, shall call, and shall declare it, and set it in order for me, since I appointed the people for the age to come? and the things that are coming, and shall come, let them shew them unto thee” (xliv. 7).

In no age of the world was disbelief in revelations from the

« 上一页继续 »