« PreviousContinue »
and he then living a shepherd, unknown and secluded in the privacy of his father's house, and depressed below the consideration and respect of his own brethren, was the heir of the kingdom of Israel.
By a series of events, following in the ordinary course of Providence, without any miracle interposed, this prediction was brought to pass. David was raised to his divinely appointed station, when his shepherd's staff became a sceptre, and his flock a great people; none contributing more to the preparation of this event than Saul himself, who in his jealousy sought to destroy the faithful friend he had called forth, but whose hostility placed him in the way to power by the necessities of a just self-defence; the decree of prophecy turning the counsels of Saul to counterwork their object.
I believe that no other single narrative of Scripture is so prolix and circuitous as that which describes the accomplishment of this particular prediction. The sequel of things described is protracted; often retrograde in the expectation, and apparently receding from the event; and it fills many chapters* before it is brought to a close. Upon which I would observe, that it offers, and seems to be designed to offer, an example, in the actual development, of the progress of prophecy to its completion, whatever may be the mazes and flexures through which it has
*From 1 Sam. xvi. to 2 Sam. v.
to work its way; and suggests to us, in other cases not so particularly narrated, how the divine prescience penetrates through the perplexity of human affairs, and its predictions, without a sensible miracle, pass to their near or their remote fulfilment. The complicated narrative is the exposition of the prophetic prescience. In that sense it ought to be read, and its import and reference, which otherwise might be overlooked, will be seen. Among other circumstances, advert to the visit of domestic kindness which David made to his elder brethren in the camp of Israel, when he was requited with their reproach," With whom hast thou left those few sheep "in the wilderness?" The circumstance is a casual and minute one. But it is interposed between the prediction and its fulfilment; and so interposed it serves to shew how wide was the interval of things from the one to the other. The same extended narrative has also a second reference, as a sign of the eminent importance which attaches to the throne and kingdom of David.
As the succession of David had been foretold, so the time and manner of the death of Saul, and of his sons, in battle, were exactly foreshewn*. And thus the whole of this public change, in each of its parts, was made a topic of prophecy. The event was considerable: the predictions of it exact and complete.
1 Sam. xxviii. 19.
Upon the whole, the characteristic of Prophecy at this æra is exceedingly prominent and conspicuous. It was almost exclusively of a civil nature, being directed to the public state of the commonwealth of Israel: it watched over the change introduced by the establishment of the kingly government, and it appointed the sceptre to the person and tribe of David. The transference of the priesthood from Eli's house, the other chief subject of prophecy, is altogether of the like kind; for it made no change in the religion, but only in the public and ecclesiastical order of it. The civil character of prophecy at this period is therefore the simple distinguishing note of it. In which light, though clearly adapted to its season, and applied to the state of things passing or emergent, it is something different from the prophecy of almost every other period.
Yet with all their adaptation to the circumstances of the time, it could not be said of these predictions that they were framed under favour of those circumstances, or after the bent and leading of them. For the prophet was subjected to this test; his verse predictions concerning Eli and Saul, the priesthood and the throne, he delivered in the face of their power; his favourable prediction respecting David, he bequeathed to the hope of a distant and improbable fulfilment. His first prophecies challenged a jealous scrutiny; his last was placed beyond the command of his influence and direction,
In each case the authority of the prophet was strictly
But what prophecy had to foreshew of the first beginnings of the kingdom of Israel is but introductory to the enlarged revelations upon it which immediately ensue.
END OF DISC. V. PART I.
STATE OF PROPHECY IN THE REIGNS OF DAVID AND
ISAIAH IX. 7.
Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice, from henceforth even for ever; the zeal of the Lord of Hosts will do this.
In the times which follow, the predictions of Prophecy begin to take a wider range, and present a greater variety of matter to be considered. To give perspicuity, therefore, to the observations which I have to make upon it in this its more extended state, I shall reduce them under distinct heads, and keep an arrangement of the whole corresponding with that of the history of the adopted people of God to whom prophecy was given. For as delivered to them, it took its stand upon their affairs, in their religion, their polity, or their public condition; and hence we find that the prophecies of the