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"Lord rose against his people, and there was no " remedy *."
But Pagan and Jewish belief held a different course, and the difference is instructive. The Pagan first believed what his prophets and oracles told him, and afterwards rejected; the Jew rejected, and afterwards believed. There is every reason to think that the result in each case was equally just; conformable to the deserts of the subjects examined.
* 2 Chronicles xxxvi. 16.
END OF PART I.
JEREMIAH XXV. 4.
And the Lord hath sent unto you all his servants the Prophets, rising early, and sending them; but ye have not hearkened, nor inclined your ear to hear.
HITHERTO I have considered the contents of Prophecy, which may be called moral or didactic, as distinguished from its predictive matter. But I must pursue the statement already given through two topics which deserve for their importance, under this head of my subject, a more distinct mention; an importance which will be acknowledged on every principle of Reason or Natural Religion. The first of these topics is the doctrine of Providence, the other the doctrine of Repentance.
I. The Prophets of the Old Testament inculcate with a remarkable perspicuity and decision, the overruling agency of God's providence in the affairs of the world. Their whole prophecy is more or less a commentary upon this doctrine. Let us
attend to the form in which it is expressed. The prediction of prophecy, verified in its fulfilment, attests the divine foreknowledge, and the communication of that foreknowledge. But prophecy combines therewith the illustration of another divine attribute. It represents the future event, which it brings to view, as a part of that system of things in which the Creator is present by the direction of his power, and the counsels of his wisdom, appointing the issues of futurity as well as foreseeing them; acting with "his mighty hand and outstretched arm," seen or unseen; "ruling in the kingdoms of men, ordering all things both in heaven and "earth."
This doctrine of a controuling and present providence is not restricted to the Jewish Theocracy, wherein it is displayed by more palpable manifestations. It is extended to Egypt, to Babylon, and Persia; to Moab, and Ammon; to the isles of the Gentiles; and in a word, to all the nations of the earth. It is asserted, when the event in question is brought about with no sensible disturbance of the ordinary influence of human motives; no derangement of what we commonly call the natural course of things. Cyrus, for instance, whom the Greek historian describes, and describes, no doubt, truly, as pursuing his career of conquest in his own proper character, was yet an instrument appointed for purposes of the divine government, which purposes are explained by the Prophet Isaiah. Moses
was a deliverer from Egypt, and Cyrus from Babylon: the one acted under an express legation, clothed with the power of miracles; the other had no such extraordinary power given to him. Yet the divine providence wrought by both; and so that providence, in its ordinary course, is yet certain, active, and universal. This is the account of the present constitution of things, which the tenour of prophecy goes to assert and establish.
Agreeably thereto the Prophets deliver their disclosure of events hereafter to take place, not as if they were announcing the bare truth of the future fact, but a purpose and a design; dispensing a strain of prediction which carries in itself the seed of its accomplishment, and declaring themselves sometimes to have been thereby constituted, as it were, the agents of the divine counsels. "I the Lord "will accomplish it" is subjoined to the event declared. "Shall there be evil in a city (evil suffered) "and the Lord hath not done it *." "See," saith the Oracle to Jeremiah, "I have this day set thee "over the nations, and over the kingdoms, to root
out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to "throw down, and to build, and to plant." This is a figure indeed, for the Prophet himself was not to do these things; but it is plain without a figure who was to do them. Again, "Hast thou not "heard long ago, how I have done it, and of an
* Amos iii. 6.
† Chap. i. 10.