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and upon many other occasions mentioned in the Psalms." In fine, they had fasts which they imposed upon themselves out of pure devotion, or to perform some vow; for they were very strict in keeping their vows and oaths. As to vows, the instance of Jephthah is but too convincing :' and for oaths, Joshua kept the promise he made to the Gibeonites, though it was obtained by a manifest fraud, because he had sworn to them by the name of the Lord. Saul had resolved to put Jonathan to death for transgressing the order he had made with an oath,' though Jonathan offended only through ignorance ; and we see many more examples of it. They entered into such solemn engagements very seriously, and did not allow themselves any latitude in interpreting them. Swearing by the name of God was an act of religion ; " for this oath distinguished the Israelites from those that swore by the name of false gods: this is to be understood of lawful and necessary oaths, such as are taken in a court of judicature.
Their vows consisted usually in offering some part of their substance to God, either for His service in sacrifices, or to be set apart by itself. Thence came those great treasures in Solomon's temple, which were made up of the offerings of David, Samuel, Saul, Abner, and Joab." It was chiefly of the booty taken from enemies. The
Psalm xxxv. 13, 14. lxix. 10, 11.
Josh, ix. 19. "1 Sam. xiv. 27.
Psalm Ixiii. 11. 1 Chron. xxvi. 27.
Gentiles made such offerings in the temples of their false gods, sometimes upon other occasions : we need no other example than the temple of Delphi, and the rich presents that Cresus sent to obtain favourable oracles.
The most considerable vow was that of the Nazarites, who obliged themselves for so long a time to drink no wine nor strong drink, nor to cut their hair; and to keep themselves carefully from all legal impurities, particularly from coming near dead bodies. The rule of the Rechabites seems to be founded upon such vows.
The author of it was Jonadab the son of Rechab, 9 who lived in the time of Jehu, king of Israel, and the prophet Elisha. He forbad his children to drink wine, build houses, to plant, have lands, or vineyards." They abode therefore under tents, employing themselves, in all probability, as the Levites did, in breeding cattle, and exactly imitating the pastoral life of the patriarchs. They were married, and inviolably observed this rule in their family at least one hundred and eighty years, for we cannot tell what became of them after the captivity.
CHAP. XVIII. .
ANOTHER sort of religious people, and much more considerable (than the Rechabites) were the prophets. There was a great number of them from Samuel's time: witness that company which Saul met, who prophesied at the sound of instruments, transported by the Spirit of God; and that other company which prophesied before Samuel, and seem to have been his disciples. But it does not appear that there ever were so many as from the days of Elijah and Elisha to the Babylonish captivity. They lived separate from the world, distinguished by their habit and manner of life; they dwelt upon mountains, as Elijah and Elisha did upon Carmel and Gilgal. The rich woman, who lodged Elisha when he went by Shunem, had a chamber, as I said, built and furnished for him, " where he lived so retired, that he did not speak so much as to the person who entertained him, but made his servant Gehazi speak to her for him : and when she came to entreat him to raise her son to life again, Gehazi would not let her touch the prophet's feet, a
When Naaman, general of the Syrian
1 Sam. X. 5. • 2 Kings iv. 10.
" i Sam. xix. 20. * 2 Kings iv. 27.
armies, came to him to be cured of his leprosy, he sent him word what to do, without being seen by him.
Two other of this prophet's miracles shew that his disciples lived in societies; that of the herbpottage which he made wholesome, and that of the barley bread which he multiplied;' which shews also the plainness of their food. There were a hundred prophets that lived together in this society, and they wrought with their hands ; for, finding their lodgings too straight, they went themselves to cut down wood to build with, and were so poor that one of them was obliged to borrow a hatchet.
Their dress was sack-cloth or hair-cloth, that is, mourning, to shew they were always in affliction for the sins of the people. Thus, to describe Elijah, they said, he was a man clothed in a hairy gar. ment, and girt with a girdle of leather about his loins." Thus, when God bids Isaiah undress himself, he orders him to loose his sackcloth from off his loins.' It appears that the two great prophets mentioned in the Revelation were both clothed in sackcloth.
The prophets, at least some of them, were nevertheless married men ; and that widow, whose oil Elisha multiplied, was a prophet's widow.' It seems also as if their children followed the same profession ; for the prophets are often called sons
• 2 Kings v. 10.
2 Kings iv. 38, 41, 43, 44.
2 Kings i. 8. * Rev. xi. 3.
of the prophets ; which made Amos say, I was no prophet, nor prophet's son, but only a herdsman ;* to shew that he did not prophesy by profession, but by an extraordinary call. For though God most frequently made use of such as led a prophetic life to declare His will, yet He was under no obligation not to make revelations to any one else.
Yet commonly none were reckoned prophets but such as led that sort of life: whence it comes that the writings of David, Solomon, and Daniel, are not put by the Jews among the prophetic books ; because the two first were kings, living delicately and magnificently, and the other a Persian goyernor, who also lived at court, and in the hurry of the world: but this distinction is not attended to by our LORD, who expressly calls Daniel a prophet. Matt. xxiv. 15.
These holy men, after the patriarchs, preserved the purest tradition of the true religion : their employment was meditating upon the law of God; praying to Him often day and night, both for themselves and others; and inuring themselves to the practice of every virtue. They instructed - their disciples ; explained to them the spirit and meaning of the law; and opened to them the sublime mysteries relating to the state of the church, either upon earth, or in heaven, after the Messiah should come, that were hidden under allegories of things sensible, and seemingly mean. They instructed the people too who came to hear them upon Sab
- Amos vii. 14.
• Ecclus. xlix, 10.