« PreviousContinue »
prophets. Such an one we read of, Judg. vi. 8. “ The Lord sent a prophet unto the children of Israel, which said unto them," &c. : Such an one he seems to have been that we read of, 1 Sam. ii. 27.“ And there çame a man of God to Eli,” &c.
But there was no such order of men upheld in Israel for any constancy, before Samuel ; the want of it is taken notice of in 1 Sam. iii. 1.“ And the word of the Lord was precious in those days ; there was no open vision.” But in Samuel there was begun a succession of prophets, that was maintained continually from that time, at least with very little interruption, till the spirit of prophecy ceased, about Malachi's time: And therefore Samuel is spoken of in the New Testament as the beginning of this succession of prophets, Acts jii. 24. “ And all the prophets from Samuel, and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have foretold of these days.” After Samuel was Nathan, and Gad, and Iddo, and Heman, and Asaph, and others. And afterwards in the latter end of Solomon's reign, we read of Ahijah ; and in Jeroboam and Rehoboam's time we read of prophets ; and so continually one prophet succeeded another, till the captivity. We read in the writings of those prophets that are inserted into the canon of the scriptures, of prophets as being a constant order of men upheld in the land in those days : And in the time of the captivity there were prophets still, as Ezekiel and Daniel ; and after the captivity there were prophets, as Zechariah, Haggai, and Malachi.
And because God intended a constant succession of prophets from Samuel's time, therefore in his time was begun a school of the prophets ; that is a school of young men that were trained up under some great prophet, who was their master and teacher in the study of divine things, and the practice of holiness, to fit them for this office as God should call them to it. Those young men that belonged to these schools, were called the sons of the prophets ; and oftentimes they are called prophets. These at first were under the tuition of Samuel. Thus we read of Samuel's being appointed over them, 1 Sam. xix. 20. “ And when they saw the company of the prophets prophecying, and Samuel standing as
appointed over them.” The company of prophets that we read of i Sam. x. 5, were the same. Afterwards we read of their being under Elijah. Elisha was one of his sons ; but he desired to have a double portion of his spirit, as his successor, as his first born, as the eldest son was wont to have a double portion of the estate of his father ; and therefore the sons of the prophets, when they perceived that the spirit of Elijah rested on Elisha, submitted themselves to him, and owned him for their master, as they had done Elijah before him ; as you may see, 2 Kings ii. 15. “ And when the song of the prophets which were to view at Jericho, saw him, they said, The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha. And they bowed themselves to the ground before him.”
And so after this, Elisha was their master or teacher; he had the care and instruction of them ; as you may see, 2 Kings iv. 38. “ And Elisha came again to Gilgal, and there was a dearth in the land, and the sons of the prophets were sitting before him : And he said unto his servant, Set on the great pot, and seethe pottage for the sons of the prophets." In Elijah's and Elisha's time, there were several places where there resided companies of these sons of the prophets ; as there was one at Bethel, and another at Jericho, and another at Gilgal, unless those at Gilgal and Jericho were the same : And possibly that which is called the college, where the prophetess Huldah resided, was another at Jerusalem ; see 2 Kings xxü. 14. It is there said of Huldah the prophetess, that she « dwelt in Jerusalem, in the college.” They had houses built, where they used to dwell together; and therefore those at Jericho being multiplied, and finding their house too little for them, desired leave of their master and teacher Elisha, that they might go and hew timber to build a bigger; as you may see, 2 Kings vi. 1, 2.
At some times there were numbers of these sons of the prophets in Israel ; for when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the Lord, it is said, that Obadiah took an hundred of them, and hid them by fifty in a cave, 1 Kings xvii. 4.
These schools of the prophets being set up by Samuel, and afterwards kept up by such great prophets as Elijah and
Élisha, must be of divine appointment; and accordingly we find, that those sons of the prophets were often favored with a degree of inspiration, while they continued under tuition in the schools of the prophets ; and God, commonly, when he called any prophet to the constant exercise of the prophetical office, and to some extraordinary service, took them out of these schools ; though not universally. Hence the prophet Amos, speaking of his being called to the prophetical office, says, that he was one that had not been educated in the schools of the prophets, and was not one of the sons of the prophets, Amos vü. 14, 15. But Amos's taking notice of it as remarkable, that he should be called to be a prophet that had not been educated at the schools of the prophets, shows that it was God's ordinary manner to take his prophets out of these schools ; for therein he did but bless his own institution.
Now this remarkable dispensation of Providence that we are upon, viz. God's beginning a constant succession of prophets in Samuel's time, that was to last for many ages, and to that end, establishing a school of the prophets under Samuel, thenceforward to be continued in Israel, was a step that God took in that great affair of redemption that we are upon. For the main business of this succession of prophets was to foreshow Christ, and the glorious redemption that he was to accomplish, and so to prepare
for his coming; as appears by that forementioned place, Acts iii. 24, and by Acts X. 43. « To him give all the prophets witness ;” and by Acts iii. 18. “ But those things which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he bath so fulfilled.”
As I observed before, the Old Testament time, was like a time of night, wherein the church was not wholly without light, but had not the light of the sun directly, but as reflected from the stars. Now these prophets were the stars that reflected the light of the sun ; and accordingly they spoke abundantly of Jesus Christ, as appears by what we have of their prophecies in writing. And they made it very much their business, when they studied in their schools or colleges, and elsewhere, to search out the work of redemption ; agreeably
to what the apostle Peter says of them, 1 Pet. i. 10, 11. « Of which salvation the prophets have inquired, and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you ; searching what, or what manner of time the spirit of Christ that was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follaw.” We are told that the church of the Redeemer is built on the foundation of the prophets and apostles, the Redeemer himself being the chief corner stone, Eph. ii. 20.
This was the first thing of the nature that ever was done in the world ; and it was a great thing that God did towards further advancing this great building of redemption. There had been before occasional prophecies of Christ, as was shown; but now the time drawing nearer when the Redeemer should come, it pleased God to appoint a certain order of men, in constant succession, whose main business it should be to foreshew Christ and his redemption, and as his forerunners to prepare the way for his coming ; and God established schools, wherein multitudes were instructed and trained up to that end, Rev. xix. 10. “ I am thy fellow servant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus ; for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy."
From David to the Babylonish Captivity.
I COME now to the fifth period of the times of the Old Testament, beginning with David, and extending to the Babylonish captivity ; and would now proceed to shew how the work of redemption was carried on through this period also
And here, 1. The first thing to be taken notice of, is God's anointing that
person that was to be the ancestor of Christ, to be king over his people. The dispensations of Providence that have been taken notice of through the last period, from Moses
to this time, respect the people whence Christ was to proceed. But now the scripture history leads us to consider God's providence towards that particular person whence Christ was to proceed, viz. David. It pleased God, at this time, remarkably to select out that person of whom Christ was to come, from all the thousands of Israel, and to put a most honorable mark of distinction upon him, by anointing him to be king over his people. It was only God that could find him out. His father's house is spoken of as being little in Israel, and he was the youngest of all the sons of his father, and was least expected to be the man that God had choseng by Samuel. God had before, in the former ages of the world, remarkably distinguished the persons from whom Christ was to come; as he did Seth, and Noah, and Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob. But the last that we have any account of God's marking out in any notable manner, the very person of whom Christ was to come, was in Jacob's blessing his son Judah ; unless we reckon Nahshon's advancement in the wilderness to be the head of the tribe of Judah. But this distinction of the person of whom Christ was to come, in David, was very honorable ; for it was God's anointing him to be king over his people. And there was something further denoted by David's anointing, than was in the anointing of Saul. God anointed Saul to be king personally ; but God intended something further, by sending Samuel to anoint David, viz. to establish the crown of Israel in him and in his family, as long as Israel continued to be a kingdom ; and not only so, but what was infinitely more still, establishing the crown of his universal church, his spiritual Israel, in his seed, to the end of the world, and throughout all eternity.
This was a great dispensation of God, and a great step taken towards a further advancing of the work of redemption, according as the time drew near wherein Christ was to come. David, as he was the ancestor of Christ, so he was the greatest personal type of Christ of all under the Old Testament. The types of Christ were of three sorts ; types of institution or instituted types, and providential, and personal types. The ordinance of sacrificing was the greatest of the instituted VOL. II.