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This little volume of 'Practical Reflections on the writings of the Minor Prophets' is by the same author who has written in like manner on some other parts of Holy Scripture, and for whose volumes on the New Testament and on the Psalms Dr. Liddon wrote highly commendatory Prefaces some years ago.
The object of the writer is the same in these volumes as in the others. His reflections are not critical, or literary, or intended to satisfy the merely intellectual reader; but his object is religious—that is, to assist the reader of the Prophetic writings to hear in them a living voice, which in the perplexities of modern times may enable him to know, more clearly, and truthfully, the mind and will of God.
This way of interpreting the Old Testament is primarily in obedience to the Lord's own example, who, on the way to Emmaus, 'beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.' The whole object of the Bible is
Practical Reflections on the Minor Prophets
to bring us to Christ, that in Christ we may come back to God and to one another. Then the love of God, and the love of man, will flow in our hearts according to the law which God has appointed for our perfection and happiness.
The bringing back of man to God, and to his fellowmen, has been gradual, as man has been able to bear it : and consequently God's own Revelation of His will and purpose has been in different degrees of clearness and fulness. In the Bible we can see the Divine method of perfecting the human character which will provide us with the necessary elements for our individual discipline. In the call of Abraham, and in the training of the Patriarchs, there is the fundamental lesson personal singleness,' 'personal responsibility,' 'alone with the Alone,' one with One.' In the Law man is taught 'the supremacy of duty and the moral law,' the necessity, and difficulty, of living in obedience to the Divine will. In the Psalms the religious affections are developed; they are the first great teachers and patterns of prayer'; they tell us of the freedom and joy of worship.'
worship.' 'The Prophets predict; but even still more, they teach. They draw out, and elucidate, and apply the meaning of the moral law.' The Prophets show us the application of the moral law, not only to individuals but to society, as
regulating the rise and fall of the kingdoms of the world (cf. the Discipline of the Christian Character, R. W. Church). If in this general outline of the Divine method we can see the constant or unvarying elements of true religious training, it is obvious that we may find ourselves at one time more in need of one element of discipline, and at another time of another.
Bishop Butler has told us how in the middle of the last century so great was the fear of enthusiasm,' that men had manifestly got into the contrary extreme, under the notion of a reasonable religion: so very reasonable as to have nothing to do with the heart and affections, if these words signify anything but the faculty by which we discover speculative truth' (Bishop Butler's sermons on The Love of God). We have seen the evil of this in the reaction, and undisciplined development of the feelings and affections among the Wesleyans and different branches of that remarkable connexion : and we may thankfully hope that something has been done of later years in the Church, by the introduction of choirs and choral services, to restore the disciplinary lessons of the Psalter, and to give due place in our religion to the heart and its affections. Thus we are beginning to see in the Great Act of Christian worship an application of the words of the Psalmist, 'The memorial of Thine abundant
Practical Reflections on the Minor Prophets
kindness shall be showed: and men shall sing of Thy righteousness' (Psalm cxlv. 7).
But we have, in the last fifty years, passed through trials of unbelief which threatened to be more funda
mental in their destruction than the errors of the Deists
(against whom Butler wrote). We have also, we may thank God, seen this cloud lift and pass away, and the light of truth shine out over our pathway more clearly and powerfully than before. We have been reassured of the initial truth of human personality (Illingworth's Bampton Lectures, 1894). We have re-accepted, with increased admiration and confidence, the pre-Christian assertion that man's individual perfection is only to be attained by the fulfilment of his social duties. We have been led to reconsider with renewed hope the new standard and the new forces which constitute the unique excellence of Christian ethics (Strong's Bampton Lectures, 1895; Bishop Ellicott's Foundations of Sacred Study, 1895). We have learnt that man's duties to his fellowmen are not to be limited by the state, or race, or class, or sex—'all are one in Christ-Jew and Gentile, Greek and Barbarian, bond and free.' But we have not fully learnt our lesson yet: we trust that we are learning it; and we feel with increasing confidence that the truest guide is the Revelation of the Divine