« AnteriorContinuar »
pented that he had made Saul king over Israel." 1 Sam. xv. 35. A statement which would defy the ingenuity of the most casuistical theorist to reconcile with the doctrine of eternal prescience.
The prophecies of Balaam contain predictions of high importance, both in connexion with the history of the tribes of Israel, and the great subject of the promised Messiah. But then these things are all represented as matters of Divine determination, and not as objects of eternal anticipation for Balaam, "took up his parable, and said, Alas, who shall live when God doeth this?" Numb. xxiv. 23.
"And David said unto the Lord, Will the men of Keilah deliver me and my men into the hands of Saul? And the Lord said, They will deliver thee up." 1 Sam. xxiii. 11. He who searcheth the heart knew very well the treacherous dispositions of the men of Keilah towards David; and the answer which was returned to David's inquiry, like many other predictions contained in the Scriptures, must be regarded as the opinion or judgment of God upon the case, and not as a piece of information derived from the records of fate. But the opinion or judgment of an infinite mind upon any thing which in its own nature is a casualty, can never amount to an absolute certainty. David did not regard this deliberate judgment of omniscience, as the cognition of an infallible prescience, from which it would have been impossible for omnipotence himself to have extricated him; but he considered the prediction as a seasonable warning, and by that means he escaped both the treachery of the men of Keilah and the vengeance of Saul. And here let me add, if in every other case of premonition recorded in this book, the persons so warned had been equally faithful to the monitory predictions of the Deity, the fair pages of their subsequent history would not have been sullied with a single crime. Judas would not have betrayed his Lord and Master; Peter would not have denied his Saviour; Hazael would not have dashed the children and ripped up the women with child; Solomon would not have apostatized from the worship of the living and true God; Saul would not have become a consulter of witches; and our primitive ancestors would not have tasted of the forbidden
The prophet Elijah undoubtedly knew it was the inten
tion of the Lord to bring a drought upon the land of Israel; but he did not predict that judicial visitation as an object of prescience, but as a matter of Divine determination. Elijah said, "As the Lord liveth, before whom I stand, there shall be no dew nor rain these years, but according to my word." 1 Kings xvii. 1.
In replenishing the widow's barrel of meal and cruse of oil, the agency of God is sufficiently conspicuous. "Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, the barrel of meal shall not waste, neither the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth." 1 Kings xvii. 14.
The Syrians, on several occasions, had laid an ambuscade for the children of Israel; but, by attending to the prophetical premonitions of Elisha, the people of Israel had always escaped the snare of the Syrians. "Therefore the heart of the king of Syria was sore troubled; and he called his servants, and said unto them, Will ye not shew me which of us is for the king of Israel? And one of his servants said, None, my lord, O king! but Elisha the prophet that is in Israel, telleth the king of Israel the words that thou speakest in thy bedchamber." 2 Kings vi. 11, 12. Here we see the advantages of living in the vicinity of a people who had the knowledge and worship of the true God. The servant of the king of Syria had no recourse to the heathen notions of fortune, and prescience, and fate, but he immediately and clearly recognised the agency and interposition of that Being who is acquainted with the contents of the hearts of all men.
"And behold there came a man of God out of Judah by the word of the Lord unto Bethel; and Jeroboam stood by the altar to burn incense. And he cried against the altar by the word of the Lord, and said, O altar, altar, thus saith the Lord! Behold a child shall be born to the house of David, Josiah by name; and upon thee shall he offer the priests of the high places that burn incense upon thee, and men's bones shall be burnt upon thee." 1 Kings xiii. 2-5. A man must be under a strange perversion of intellect who could not perceive, in the foregoing passage of holy writ, abundant evidence of the purpose and agency of God. Three miracles were performed in succession, to demonstrate the origin of the prediction, and to exhibit the agency which was engaged to secure its fulfilment. How the fulfilment
of this prediction may be reconciled with the freedom of man, will be the subject of a future inquiry.
"And Ahaziah fell down through a lattice in his upper chamber that was in Samaria, and was sick and he sent messengers, and said unto them, Go, inquire of Baalzebub the god of Ekron, whether I shall recover of this disease. But the angel of the Lord said unto Elijah the Tishbite, Arise, go up to meet the messengers of the king of Israel, and say unto them, Is it not because there is not a God in Israel, that ye go to inquire of Baalzebub, the god of Ekron? Now therefore, thus saith the Lord, thou shalt not come down from that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die." 2 Kings i. 3, 4. Eternal fate and eternal prescience were the cardinal doctrines of pagan theology; and as Ahaziah knew that the god of Ekron pretended to nothing more than to be learned in the contents of the book of fate; he therefore presented no petition to Baalzebub for help, for the cure of his disease or the pardon of his sins, but he merely inquired of the oracle what would be the issue. O wonderful prescience! What a helper of the afflicted! What a saviour of the lost! What a refuge for a guilty sinner, who dares not, or will not, make the living God his refuge! Ahaziah, guilty in spirit, was afraid to confide in the mercy of that Being by whose agency he had been afflicted; and therefore, under the madness of his desperation, he chose rather to consult the god of Ekron upon the supposed records of fate, than apply for mercy to the living God. Like many other sinners, he seemed willing to defer all application to Jehovah, as long as any hope of recovery remained. And here let me ask, how are we to distinguish the pagan oracles from the prophets of the true God, except by identifying the doctrine of prescience with the one and that of Divine agency with the other? Now if this reasoning be not conclusive, it will devolve upon the objector to detect its fallacy. The message of the prophet is relevant and decisive. "Thus saith the Lord, Thou shalt not come down from that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die."
"And Elisha said, Hear ye the word of the Lord; thus saith the Lord: To-morrow, about this time, a measure of fine flour shall be sold for a shekel, and two measures of
barley for a shekel, in the gate of Samaria." 2 Kings vii. 1. The name of the Lord is here pledged for the fulfilment of the prediction: let us therefore inquire how the pledge was redeemed. "The Lord made the host of the Syrians to hear a noise of chariots, and a noise of horses, and a noise of a great host: and they said one to another, Lo, the king of Israel hath hired against us the kings of the Hittites, and the kings of the Egyptians, to come upon us. Wherefore they rose and fled in the twilight, and left their tents, and their horses, and their asses, even the camp as it was, and fled for their life."
"And Elisha came to Damascus; and Benhadad the king of Syria was sick. And the king said unto Hazael, Take a present in thine hand, and go and meet the man of God, and inquire of the Lord by him, saying, Shall I recover of this disease? So Hazael went to meet him, and said, Thy son Benhadad, king of Syria, hath sent me unto thee, saying, Shall I recover of this disease? And Elisha said, unto him, Go, say unto him, Thou mayest certainly recover howbeit the Lord hath shewed me, that he shall surely die. And he settled his countenance stedfastly until he was ashamed, and the man of God wept. And Hazael said, Why weepest thou? And he answered, Because I know the evil that thou wilt do unto the children of Israel: their strong holds wilt thou set on fire, and their young men wilt thou slay with the sword, and wilt dash their children, and rip up their women with child. And Hazael said, But what! is thy servant a dog, that he should do this great thing?" 2 Kings viii. 7, &c. Here, let me ask, Why did the prophet settle his countenance upon Hazael, and burst into tears? Was it not because he knew the wickedness of Hazael's character, and the villany of his present purposes? And, why was Hazael himself ashamed? Was it not because his conscience accused him? and because he was aware that the prophet had a knowledge of the wicked designs which he had formed in his heart? And yet, like other vile and hardened characters, he endeavoured to conceal his guilt and inward confusion, under the veil of an affected ignorance and a plausible reply. The prophet knew the ambition of Hazael's heart, his desire of the throne of Syria, and his purpose to assassinate his master: he also knew the hypocrisy and cruelty of
Hazael's character, the purpose of God to make him king of Syria, and employ him as a scourge upon rebellious Israel; and therefore, his prophetic spirit boded all the cruelties which he would be likely to commit upon the people of Israel. It is notorious, that when Benhadad inquired of Hazael about the answer of the prophet, Hazael was already so much a dog as to conceal the real answer of Elisha, and to make a reply that was every way preparatory to the execution of his bloody designs. And, "It came to pass on the morrow, that he took a thick cloth, and dipped it in water, and spread it on the face of the king, that he died: and Hazael reigned in his stead."
There is not a single case recorded in the Scriptures, of a person making inquiry of God merely for the purpose of knowing the future, but what is distinctly marked with the displeasure of God: and hence many persons have imagined, that it was the curiosity of wishing to pry into secret things that excited the displeasure of the Lord; whereas it was not the curiosity of the inquirer that was displeasing to God, but his implied infidelity, of rejecting the agency of the Supreme Being. But when any person has inquired about the will of the Almighty, or sought his direction, his help, or his mercy, such conduct in human beings has been uniformly marked with the approbation of God.
Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum, said unto the messengers of Josiah, "Thus saith the Lord, I will bring evil upon this place, &c. But unto the king of Judah, &c. Because thy heart was tender, &c. when thou heardest what I spake against this place, &c. thou shalt be gathered unto thy fathers in peace." 2 Kings xxii. 16—20. From whence it would follow, that God did most assuredly include Josiah himself among the objects of his vengeance; and that the repentance of Josiah became the means of altering the determination which the Deity had previously formed, and of averting the impending evil. But who is able to reconcile this with eternal prescience?
"Therefore thus saith the Lord to Hezekiah, concerning the king of Assyria, He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shield, nor cast a bank against it. By the way that he came, by the same shall he return, and shall not come into this city, saith the Lord. For I will defend this city, to save it, for