« FöregåendeFortsätt »
The compilers of the Lessons have been much more careful to exhibit the Prophets as preachers of righteousness than as mere predicters. I have felt that this aspect of their lives has been greatly overlooked in our day, and that there is none which we have more need to contemplate. The history of the Hebrew Monarchy, without the light which it receives from Jewish prophecy, seems to me as unintelligible and incoherent as it does to those who reject it or who try to reconstruct it. Seen by that light, I can find nothing more orderly or continuous, nothing more consistent with itself or more helpful in interpreting the modern world.
I have found that the Old Testament prophets, taken in their simple natural sense, in that sense in which they can be understood by and presented to a lay student, clear up difficulties which torment us in the daily work of life; make the past intelligible, the present endurable, the future real and hopeful; cast a light upon books; deliver us from the tyranny of books; bring the invisible world near to us; shew how the visible world may be subjected to its laws and principles. He who knows and feels thus much, cannot be silent merely because there is a vast amount of knowledge, most needful for the elucidation of this, of which he possesses nothing. Let those who have it produce it, and let them point out all the blunders and confusions into which we have fallen who want it. But of this I am sure, that the portion of
truth, which God has enabled us to take in, is one which neither learned men nor ignorant men can dispense with ; and which it is a sin for us not to proclaim, because, if there are only one or two who listen to it or care for it, yet
may bear fruit in those one or two for the good of this land and of the whole Church.
The history of the Jewish kingdom begins with Saul and ends with Zedekiah. The corresponding cycle of Jewish prophecy begins with Samuel and ends with Ezekiel. Upổn the period which follows, one embracing various new topics, requiring a different kind of treatment, I have not entered.
THE NEW PERIOD IN JEWISH HISTORY.
LINCOLN's Inn, 22ND SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY.-Nov. 1, 1851.
1 SAMUEL, VIII. 4-8. Then all the Elders of Israel gathered themselves together,
and came to Samuel unto Ramah; and said unto him, “ Behold thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways. Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations." But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, “ Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed unto the Lord. And the Lord said unto Samuel, " Hearken to the voice of the people in all they say unto thee, for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.”
THE titles of this and the next book in our canon are either the first and second books of Samuel or the first and second books of Kings. The propriety of the latter name is obvious. We are entering upon the history of the Hebrew kings; we are told by what steps the age of the judges passed into theirs. But how should Samuel, whose death is recorded before the end of the first of these books, who ceases to be the most conspicuous person in it after he has anointed Saul, have succeeded in stamping such an
SAMUEL'S PLACE IN HISTORY.
image of himself upon the narrative ? He is not the composer of the record; there are no lengthened prophecies of his introduced into it. We have a very clear picture of him certainly in infancy, boyhood, manhood, and old age. But there are many biographies equally distinct; yet the subjects of them have not possessed this dignity; they have not given their names to any portion of the history.
I apprehend that this fact indicates a consciousness among the Jews, that the age of the kings would be also the
age of the prophets. It could not, they felt, be contemplated in one light without being contemplated in the other. On all occasions the prophet would be beside the king to reprove, direct, and encourage him. On all occasions the prophet's office would be to show what the office of the king was, how it might be neglected and violated, how it might be faithfully executed, how the full significance of it would at last be brought out and actually embodied. The Book of Kings therefore is the Book of Samuel, not merely because the individual man was the last of the judges, and poured the anointing oil upon the first two of the kings, but because he represented in his own person a power and a position which were quite different from theirs, and yet which could not be rightly understood apart from theirs.
When we first meet with Samuel, he appears as the reprover of an aged priest. Eli was not insensible to the greatness of his vocation. But his dignity was an hereditary one, and the subordinate priests were members of his family. His sons had become utterly corrupt and abominable. He had failed to preserve a seed which could feel, and make their countrymen feel, that the service of the God of Israel was a reality and not a fiction. Eli's faith was all his own; it brought no one within its circle; it