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myself, of investigating its structure and use in the several periods wherein it was dispensed. But here, more than in any other stage of my inquiry, I must confine myself to a restricted speculation. No attempt will be made to exhaust the subject even under the most general views of it; but only to treat of it in a few of its leading points, and by such inferences as may be obtained from them, to secure some determinate principles applicable to the whole argument concerning Prophecy in its constitution and use.
Some of the observations which I shall have to make will be simple and obvious; others of them may militate with particular notions of systematic opinion. The request I make in favour of them all is, that they may be laid together, and examined by these two tests; first, whether they do not truly express the state of Prophecy, such as it is found; and next, whether they do not assert and justify the objects and purposes which are assigned to it, so far as my investigation may go. No disputable conclusions can ever be of any avail in illustrating Prophecy in its character or its intent. Nor indeed is there any reason to have recourse to them. For though particular texts of it may be obscure, as many of them are confessed to be; yet the design and character of the whole, when impartially surveyed, is not so; and the fault must be in our own discussions, if, on those points, they end in obscure or inapplicable results. Having said this, I proceed.
III. Of Prophecy in the age of Samuel.-That the first Prophet after Moses might appear with an authority, public and acknowledged, equal to his commission, which fell upon a season of great importance in the regulation of the religious and the civil state, we observe how he is invested with his office. A supernatural call and a prophetic vision were granted to him in the first rudiments of his life and ministry. For the public degeneracy having reached to the priesthood, Eli and his sons, in whose hands religion suffered contempt, were to be removed from their functions; and a train of exact prediction, first communicated to Eli by a man of God, and then to the child Samuel in a vision *, foreshewed the judgment of God in the excision of Eli and his house; the speedy fulfilment of which prophecy, with other present signs of his mission, "made all Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, know "that Samuel was established to be a Prophet of "the Lordt." These immediate tokens corresponded with his office; for Samuel was a Prophet sent to govern and to judge, as well as to prophecy. He had, therefore, present credentials in predictions of an instant kind, to ensure the reception and acknowledgment of his inspired character; and so it is written that "the Lord was with him, and did let "none of his words fall to the ground."
Thus initiated, he was called to regulate in the
great change which straightway ensued in the appointment of a sovereign ruler over the people of Israel with the title and offices of king. The institution of the regal polity was an act of their own, adopted in conformity to the example of the nations around them, but opposed by the dissuasion and remonstrance of the Prophet, who had been raised up to controul in some measure the aberrations of a people whom yet God punished by permitting them to follow their will. For their demand of a visible earthly Sovereign was in disparagement of their trust in the protection and government of that extraordinary Providence, which had distinguished them from the nations of the earth, and taken them by a privilege under an immediate Theocracy. Jehovah was their king. The majesty of his mysterious presence filled the throne of Israel. Their offence, therefore, and the reproof of it lay in this, as the oracle of God declared, "they have rejected 66 me, that I should not reign over them."
It were easy to vindicate the Prophet's reproof delivered on this occasion from the notable abuse to which it has been wrested, in defamation of the principles of monarchical government, as though the Scripture or the Prophet intended any such defamation*. The offence of the Israelites was a peculiar one in the instance: it sprung from a con
1 Sam. viii. 10-18.
dition in which no other people has been placed. When the Almighty shall again dictate a code of civil law and government for the use of any nation, and charge Himself with the superintendence and execution of it, it will then be time to think how far this passage of Scripture may have to do with the principles of any given polity. Meanwhile, however we think of it, let it be taken honestly and entire. Let men fortify their civil obedience by a stronger piety, by a sense of the impending power and presence of God, the principle from which the Israelites are censured for having swerved, and in that case their mistake, if any be made, will have some consistency, but no evil in it, unless it be in turning the edge of a cavil against its authors.
The sin of the Israelites was founded in a revolt from God, in the abdication of a perfect trust and reliance upon his providential government in that method in which, with respect to them, he had ordered it. But their fault, though uncommon in its form, is not at all so in its principle. Something to see, and nothing to believe, is the wish and the wrong propensity of more than the Israelites. And therefore, since the agency of the Providence of God is one chief object and principle of religion, whether that Providence act in the Theocracy of Israel, or by its more ordinary law, the doctrine of the prophet had its use, and has it still, in enforcing the habit and duty of faith in the one Invisible Go
vernour of the world, though it can have none now in derogating from the just title and power of the earthly governours of it. I say, their just title and power; for it is not to be denied, that the reproof of the prophet is cast into such a form as to represent the abuses and excesses of a personal indulgence, to which the kingly power, and all other power, in human hands, is prone to seduce its possessors*.
The prophet conceding a king, made choice by an inspired direction of the person; first of Saul : afterwards, when he, for his transgression, was rejected, though not publicly disturbed or set aside, of David; Saul of the tribe of Benjamin; David of the tribe of Judah. But there was a great difference in the manner of the appointment and designation in the two cases. Saul was publicly nominated by Samuel, who continued to “judge Israel all the days of his life," in virtue of his Prophetic mission. Whereas David, though anointed by Samuel, to seal the divine choice resting upon him, did not attain to the throne of Israel, till long after the Prophet's death, a time remote from the prediction. The second appointment, therefore, was a signal prediction given by Samuel, and exhibited in the act of anointing; a prediction that the youngest of the seven sons of Jesse, a retired Bethlemite,
* 1 Sam. viii. 10-18.