Book IIIAll the promises given to the patriarchs, the whole typical service of the law, the succession of the Jewish prophets; — all these things were means employed by God to prepare the world for the revelation of his Son.–HorsleyArgument
Retrospection of past dangers and deliverances. – Israel settled in the land of Canaan, adopted as the visible Church, and made the depositaries of the Divine Covenant. – The Prophets. – An order of inspired men, sent to instruct the Israelites in the will of God on special occasions; to illustrate the types and shadows of the Mosaic economy; and gradually to develope the design of God in the redemption of the world by a Divine, incarnate, suffering Messiah. – Samuel. – His early piety, and the call to the prophetic office. – His zeal and probity in the discharge of the duties of his office as Judge in Israel. – The people require a king. – Saul raised to the throne. – His impiety and rejection. – Samuel’s death. – Saul’s visit to Endor. – Samuel’s appearance, and annunciation of the defeat of Israel, and the death of Saul and his sons. – Scriptural instruction conveyed by example. – Varied gifts and characters of the prophets. – Elijah. – His power with God by prayer. – Divine manifestation made to him in Mount Horeb. – His intercourse with Elisha. – His translation. – Elisha, consecrated by the Spirit, his successor in the prophetic office.
By action the prophets instructed the people in the will of God and conversed with them in signs.–Warburton
‘Scaped from the terrors of the stormy deep,
Where Death and Danger sleepless vigils keep,
How sweetly sinks the mariner to rest!
What glowing gratitude inspires his breast,
When circled by the dear domestic throng,
By memory borne life’s backward path along,
He hearts again the angry tempest roar.
In hollow murmurs on the dangerous shore;
Recalls the thunders dire, the lightning’s stroke,
The surge that o’er his straining vessel broke;
The Genius of the Storm, who frowning stood,
And hurl’d destruction o’er the raging flood.
Pensive, yet thankful, o’er the stormy scene
His spirit wanders: years have roll’d between,
And Time, with pliant hand and pencil fine,
In shadow softer than at day’s decline
Rests on the glassy lake, has thrown the whole.
Yet still it lives, ‘tis pictured on his soul:
The gush of grief, the agony of wo,
The shriek o fear, the storm, above, below,
Still on his ear with softening murmurs steal.
His heart has felt, and bled; it still can feel;
Yet sinks subdued, by sainted suffering taught;
Or taught by Him who with that suffering wrought,
To loose its sails, to court the’ ethereal wind,
A stormless sea, a sheltering port to find,
To rise by faith to heaven, and leave the world behind.
From the deep sea, the desert’s fervid flame,
At length to Canaan favour’d Israel came.
Their foes subdued, the fruitful land possess’d,
Their leaders valiant, and their people bless’d,
Sweet songs of triumphs through their woods resound,
Their vine-clad hills repeat the echo round.
Egyptian bondage wakes their sighs no more,
The perill’d march through dreary wastes is o’er;
Or only to the conscious thought return,
When bright the flames of holy ardour burn,
When grateful Memory prompts the voice of Praise
To hymn the blessings of departed days,
Or calm reflection, pensive, from the past
Culls Wisdom’s seeds in Grief’s rude furrows cast.
Now trumpets breathe the solemn tones of praise,
And lofty lyres in rich harmonious lays
Proclaim their triumphs o’er the crown of pride,
O’er Rahab, whelm’d beneath the ocean tide;
For hostile nations by their sword subdued,
For wonders in the wide, waste solitude,
Wrought by Jehovah’s arm; — for these the songs
Of Zion wake, and all her tuneful tongues
Join with the tender lute in dulcet flow,
Or organ, pealing deep, majestic, slow,
While, soft, ascends the meek adoring hymn
To God, enthroned ‘midst shining seraphim.
Yet Israel, Heaven’s first-born, was still a child
Untrain’d in intellect, in passion wild,
Wayward, rebellious, prone to leave his guide,
To start from sacred discipline aside:
Though fenced within the fiery bound of law,
Though chasten’d by stern Judgment’s sword to awe,
Though taught by angel ministries his will,
Yet was he false to God, a froward wanderer still.
He was a wayward child, yet still an heir,
The cherish’d object of Jehovah’s care,
The guardian of Jehovah’s truth, design’d
To hold the covenant charter for mankind.
Though on his neck the servile yoke was laid,
And Justice, in the stern command array’d,
Rebuked his froward path, yet Love, behind,
In harshest seeming, most intensely kind,
His spirit tutor’d by that rigorous rule,
For gentler discipline in Mercy’s school,
His privilege in riper years to claim,
A son in freedom, as a son in name,
The spirit with the heritage possess,
And, heir of God, partake his righteousness.
For this, though tutor’d by the mystic sign,
The letter’d ordinance, the beamy shrine,
The worldly sanctuary’s sumptuous rite,
To view the Day Star in its distant light,
Yet other means Jehovah’s grace prepared,
And gave to language what the sign declared,
By voice oracular his mind express’d,
And placed his witness in the prophet’s breast,
Drew back with gradual hand the veiling shade,
And wisdom’s brightening lineaments display’d,
Taught, line by line, his love’s mysterious plan,
And communed oft on sacred themes with man.
For this to chosen seers the Spirit came,
And told the secrets of Jehovah’s Name,
Proclaim’d Messiah nigh, in whom unite
The cleansing laver, the vicarious rite,
Whom patriarchs in primeval promise saw,
Whom Moses magnified in mystic law,
Whom Aaron, in his jewell’d robes array ‘d,
Within the blood-stain’d shrine, in glorious pomp portray’d.
With voice sublime, his pioneers of grace,
Messiah’s heralds, to a wandering race,
Anointed seers and hallow’d prophets came,
Commissioned teachers in Jehovah’s name.
With words of fire in thundering wrath they spoke,
When guilt, rebellious, urged the’ uplifted stroke,
Or proffer’d Mercy’s gifts in gentlest strains,
As dews reviving, or soft vernal rains.
Dauntless, as meek, they dared to meet the eye
Of tyrant Rage, or lawless Anarchy,
Reprove the throne, beside the altar stand,
And charge defection on a traitor land;
On idol priests the doom of Heaven fulfil,
Arouse the tempest, bid the sun stand still.
As brass their brow ‘gainst skeptic Scorn they set,
Bade Guilt recoil, and Power its grasp forget;
Unnerved the arm outstretch’d in furious pride;
Impress’d subjection on the rolling tide;
Controll’d the fiercer multitude, and stood
As moveless rocks amid the boisterous flood;
Endured affliction; lived as signs below,
Despised precursors of the Man of Wo;
Like Him, they, weeping, pour’d the patriot prayer,
Content themselves to die, might Heaven their country spare.
From Ramah’s palms thus sainted Samuel came,
To learn in Shiloh the mysterious Name:
While yet a child, within the hallow’d shrine,
An infant votary to the Power Divine,
He heard that voice which makes, in gentlest tone,
Its call of love to youthful worship known:
Heard, ere his untried ear the whisper knew,
Or vision’d form had met his opening view;
Yet sacred ardours fired his panting breast;
Soft breathing Love invoked the heavenly Guest;
Prayer, holy prayer, his yielding spirit bow’d;
And Contemplation, from the gathering crowd
Detach’d a mind too hallow’d for the tone
Of boisterous mirth, to think and feel alone.
His was the gentle joy, the calm delight,
To think of heaven, to walk with spirits bright
Amidst the splendours of the star-lit sky,
Entranced with sounds of spheric harmony.
O holy pleasures of obedient youth!
O rich rewards of early-chosen truth!
When guileless Fancy takes Devotion’s wings,
And soars and sojourns ‘midst unearthly things;
When thoughts, and hopes, and ecstasies refined,
Purge from terrestrial dross the’ expanding mind;
When sweet affections spread their swelling sails,
And favouring Heaven dilates with prosperous gales;
‘When love and duty in one call unite,
And love is heaven, and duty is delight!
Such for himself the sacred Spirit seals,
To such the secrets of his will reveals.
To Samuel, nurtured thus, that Spirit came,
And thrice on midnight silence breathed his name;
Show’d to the listening child his awful will,
Sad Eli’s burthen of approaching ill:
Eli, his venerable friend, his guide! —
Ah! his heart trembled, while his lips replied
To the deep searchings of foreboding fear,
Demanding secrets it was death to hear:
Death to a parent’s hopes, a parent’s love,
Who fail’d to chasten, linger’d to reprove,
Though impious Folly scoff ‘d at Wisdom’s rules,
And Heaven-sent teachers trod the path of fools.
Devout in youth, the seer’s maturer mind
To Israel’s weal its stronger powers consign’d.
Ere yet the tribes a regal throne prepared,
And earthly kings Jehovah’s homage shared,
He bore the burthen of their cares, their crimes,
A faithful ruler amid faithless times.
For them, when Judgment frown’d, he meekly pray’d;
The sword of Judgment at his prayer was stay’d.
Beneath his rule fierce Moloch’s shrines decay;
Swift pass Astarte’s impious rites away;
From Baal’s groves repentant Israel turns,
And wisdom from the Voice in Shiloh learns.
With wakeful love, — such love as parents feel
Who guard, solicitous, their offspring’s weal, —
He meekly bore his venerable sway,
And drew the wanderers back from danger’s way.
The rule from Heaven derived, — for Heaven employ’d,—
No venal aim, no base designs alloy’d.
Clean were his hands; and pure his guileless heart;
Truth was his law, and love his only art.
Yet Israel, treacherous Israel, sought to find
A ruler like the rulers of mankind;
To change the spreading palm tree’s simple state,
For gorgeous throne of eastern potentate,
The prophet’s rule, unostentatious, spurn’d,
And counsels of the sons of Ammon learn’d.
God lends his ear in anger to the cry
Of peevish, clamorous importunity;
Yet with the grant its just award conveys, —
The poison’d pleasure wings the shaft that slays,
Saul moved a king ‘midst Israel’s martial hosts,
Philistia trembled through her sea-girt coasts,
O’er Moab’s, Ammon’s, Edom’s, Zobah’s kings,
His conquering standards stretch’d their wide-spread wings;
But He who guided Joshua in the fight,
Who vanquish’d Amalek by Gideon’s might,
Went not, as erst, before the camp, nor near
Its valiant leader came the Heaven-taught seer;
Save when, with trembling steps and sinking heart,
Constrain’d to bear the stern reprover’s part,
Or wrest the sceptre from that faithless hand
Which ruled regardless of Divine command.
Unhappy Saul! the prophet’s patriot prayer
For thee ascended oft; his brow with care,
His heart with grief, was clouded for thy sake;
At morn, at midnight’s lonely watch awake,
He wept thy waywardness, thy kingdom rent,
Till Heaven reproved his vain regrets, and sent
To Jesse’s shepherd son the’ anointing oil,
Then bade his hallow’d age repose from toil.
Such rest befell not thee! Around thy bed
Their halcyon wings no blissful seraphs spread,
But dreams of fear thy turbid slumbers broke,
And phantoms scared thee, e’en when morn awoke.
The prophet slept: In Ramah’s palmy shade
By pious hands his honour’d dust was laid;
His spirit to its glorious Source return’d,
And truth in Heaven’s essential light discern’d.
The prophet slept in peace, yet Israel wept,
And solemn mourning to his memory kept.
They wept: — for now the teaching word withdrew,
Nor yet the tribes a rising prophet knew;
While, vex’d by foes without and feuds within,
Sore meed retributive of guilt and sin,
Their hapless king for counsel sought in vain;
Jehovah answer’d not, his priests were slain;
Dim mists obscured the ephod’s sparkling light,
Nor dream nor vision broke the gloom of night.
What balm can yield the troubled breast repose?
Can spicy shrub in Gilead’s vale that grows
Distil soft unction for the festering mind,
Where guilt, corrosive, leaves remorse behind?
Alas, for thee, distracted king! whose power
Avail’d thee not in sorrow’s poignant hour!
Earth had no opiate for thy pain, nor art
To draw the arrow from thy wounded heart.
And thou, presumptuous, when dread Heaven delay’d,
Didst turn, and vainly ask of hell for aid;
But hell, through all its flaming depths is bound:
Omnipotence within that dark profound
Rules as in realms; above; nor demon there
On seared wing can rise to upper air,
Than as permissive wisdom yields the hour
To deeds of darkness and the tempter’s power,
It was a lowering dawn, a wildering day,
When Saul, in close and terrible array,
Beheld Philistia’s warlike hosts combined
To scatter Israel, as the driving wind
Pursues autumnal spoils, when o’er the sky
Fierce hurtling tempest clouds impetuous fly:
It was a fearful night, when fell Despair
Drew from Gilboa, and his captains there,
The guilty, gloomy king, to tempt the path
From mortal step debarr’d : Heaven frown’d in wrath,
Nor moon, nor twinkling star, its radiance lent,
To guide the silent travellers, as they went
Down the deep glen by Endor’s mountain wood,
To seek the demon’s haunt, ‘midst rocks that stood
Frowning precipitous, beneath the ground
Where cavern’d vaults repeat unearthly sound,
Where wizard spells, and incantations dread,
And howling murmurs o’er the buried dead
Break not on mortal ears; nor mortal sight
Scans the dire deeds of those who hate the light.
Here, in this wild and rueful haunt conceal’d,
The Pythoness unhallow’d things reveal’d;
And here, the king from her demoniac art,
Sought knowledge Heaven vouchsafed not to impart.
Shame seeks concealmeant, Sin affects disguise;
No kingly guest before the searching eyes
Of hell’s distorted instrument appear’d,
Yet Guilt, suspicious, still the stranger fear’d.
“Peace to thy terrors!” Saul impatient cries,
“Bid holy Samuel from his slumbers rise.”
He said: a reverend, mantled form arose;
The prophet roused him from his deep repose;
The startled necromancer backward drew,
But Saul the venerable stranger knew.
He knew, and prostrate in his presence fell:
Can quivering lip the strange convulsion tell?
The tempest of contending thoughts that broke
O’er his rack’d bosom, while the vision spoke?
“Why has thy rashness ventured to intrude
On Hades’ quiet realm of solitude?
Why has thou brought me up?”
“In sore distress
I crave thy succor, who wast wont to bless.
Philistine foes, in fearful force array’d,
Approach the camp, and God denies me aid:
To thee, my only hope, my last recourse,
I flee for succour, – O direct my course!”
“Whom God forsakes, his prophets cannot save.
Why hast thou brought me from the quiet grave?
Yet stay; or God o’errules infernal power,
No demon governs in this solemn hour.
Too late, behold fulfill’d Jehovah’s word,
From me, his messenger in Gilgal heard,
Dishonour’d then by thy perverseness, now
The diadem he dashes from thy brow,
Wrenches the sceptre from thy faithless hand,
And gives to Jesse’s son thy forfeit land.
Yet, listen, for still deeper sounds I bear, –
Devoted Israel shall thy judgments share;
Tomorrow, vanquish’d in inglorious fight,
Philistine foes shall put thy hosts to flight,
And thou, tomorrow, with thy sons, shalt be
Among the quiet dead at rest with me.”
It pass’d: as flash to flash succeeds, when bright
Destructive lightnings gild the gloom of night,
So Saul, with startled ear, with bursting heart,
Heard those stern tidings: eager to depart,
Suspended life in quivering balance hung,
Fear chill’d his bosom, anguish bound his tongue.
Prone to the earth in strengthless swoon he fell.
Sad Saul! thy bitter tale let Pity tell.
Let tender Friendship drop the pious tear
O’er noble Jonathan’s untimely bier,
As Jesse’s son for holy truth renown’d;
Wreath’d in one chaplet be their honours found.
One fill’d awhile a glorious throne below;
Heaven deign’d a brighter kingdom to bestow
On him whose generous virtue, prompt, resign’d
Each selfish aim to benefit mankind.
Celestial wisdom by example speaks;
She holds her mirror to the mind that seeks
Acquaintance with itself. Where firmer feet
Stood insecurely, fly not thou to meet
The world’s inextricable maze of care,
Tempt not Ambition’s dangerous path; beware
Of lurking Envy, of o’erweening pride;
Nor trust, presumptuous, in thy strength untried.
If God exalt thee, suffer not thy mind
To start aside from Wisdom’s laws; nor, blind,
To peevish Passion yield unhallow’d away;
But rule thyself and his commands obey.
So shall thy subjugated spirit know,
He gains dominion o’er the mightiest foe
Who binds the bursting ardours of his soul,
And brings his rebel will beneath Divine control.
Wisdom and Love the churches’ lights reclaim,
Yet not unwitness’d leave the hallow’d name.
To unseen realms the elders urge their flight,
And prophets vanish in a car o light;
Yet still the plenteous unction ceaseless flows,
Jehovah’s hand the needful gift bestows,
Benign, the oft-rejected call renews,
By varied means his love’s design pursues,
Nor yields to judgment while one warning cry,
Unutter’d yet, may snatch from danger nigh.
To Israel thus succeeding prophets came,
To guide, to teach, to warn, reprove, reclaim.
Austerely some the rustic garment wore,
In ruthless deserts rigorous hardships bore,
From rifted rocks came forth to meet with Pride,
Turn’d from the hum of worldling crowds aside
To gather strength from Heaven for service high,
To baffle hell’s concerted agency,
Chastise the breaches of Jehovah’s law,
Arouse the careless, bend the rude to awe,
Reclaim the stray’d, or, ministers of wrath,
Bear the black pennon of approaching death.
Such was the TISHBITE’S charge; so deep, so strong,
The stamp of Heaven upon his brow, his tongue,
That impious Ahab quail’d before the sign,
And Israel own’d the messenger Divine.
Sent in apostate times, he bore the sword
Of sacred justice. At Elijah’s word
Heaven seals its influence. O’er the burning sky,
Nor sheltering cloud, nor dewy vapours fly;
Nor rising mists, nor soft-descending rain,
Refresh the pastures of the arid plain;
From crystal spring no bubbling current flows,
Unwater’d flocks round streamless fountains close;
Gaunt Famine stalks along the dreary way,
And livid Pestilence prepares to slay.
Elijah prays: the opening heavens again
Dissolve in copious showers; abundant rain
Falls on the thirsty glebe; new harvests rise;
A softer lustre gilds the genial skies;
For panting flocks adown the mountain’s side,
Bright gushing streamlets pour their silver tide;
Reviving Plenty fills her horn, and brings
Content and pleasure on her balmy wings;
Life springs exulting from Destruction’s gloom.
And haggard Sickness hides beside the tomb.
In desert wilds the wearied prophet sleeps;
His hallow’d charge an angel sentry keeps,
With heavenly strength his grief-worn spirit cheers,
Recruits his wasted frame, dispels his fears,
And guides him to the mount renown’d of old,
Where erst his glorious name Jehovah told.
He comes! rude Horeb’s cave receives its guest!
Sublime on nature’s awful face impress’d
Appear the footsteps of that Power whose tread
Is on the mountain’s height, the coral bed
Of the deep sea, the dark and dashing swell
Of billows, tempest heaved, or, terrible,
On the wild whirlwind’s wing; whose voice on high
Reverberates in thundering majesty
‘Midst sulphurous clouds, his dark and awful seat,
Or rending rocks that cleave beneath his feet.
But not the rushing whirlwind’s dreadful sweep,
Nor earthquake, heaving mountains to the deep,
Nor flame that kindles on the melting hills,
Announce him now; a gentle whisper fills
The prophet’s listening ear: absorb’d he stands,
And waits in wondering awe while Heaven demands
His secret purpose; while that voice, so still,
Unfolds the counsels of Jehovah’s will,
With sounds of hope revives his pensive breast,
And gives sweet earnest of approaching rest.
His work was done: all, save his generous care
For Zion’s future weal: Elijah’s prayer
According Heaven received: its answer came
By seraph coursers, who in car of flame,
Undying, bore him to the realms of light,
To talk with Enoch of that wondrous flight,
Wing’d by themselves alone; for all beside
To Adam’s suffering, mortal race allied,
Death’s gloomy portals ever open stand,
Sole avenue to glory’s blissful land.
It was a solemn hour, when, side by side,
Walk’d the young prophet, and his sainted guide
From Gilgal, Bethel, Jericho, to where,
Through palmy plains, flow Jordan’s waters fair;
When, fill’d with Heaven, in plenitude of might,
Elijah smote its gliding current bright,
Bade the full stream disparted stand, and led
Amazed Elisha through its oozy bed.
It was a solemn hour, as on they pass’d,
Conscious alike that converse was the last
Allow’d to friendship here. ‘Twas nobly spent,
Each burning breast, on sacred themes intent,
Glow’d with a seraph’s zeal. The Spirit came;
On either kindled the baptismal flame,
Inspired the large request, the prompt reply,
Vouchsafed the token.
On Elisha’s eye
The glistering car as tenfold lightnings shone.
He gazed: his father and his friend was gone!
The seraph’s wing had sever’d from his side
His loved companion, his paternal guide:
Around him, as he stood, the whirlwind swept,
His burning eye no tear of parting wept,
But upward still pursued the dazzling sight,
And long’d to follow in that wondrous flight.
Onward, still onward, lo, Elijah rode!
Heaven’s cleaving arch as liquid amber glow’d,
And spirits bright around his radiant head,
As gorgeous beams in orient heaven outspread,
Expanded each his plumy wings, and bent
From every star that gilds the firmament,
To hail with hallow’d songs the favour’d guest,
Thus early usher’d to their blissful rest.
These earthly vision saw not; but the sign
Of prayer accepted at the eternal shrine
Elisha’s eye beheld; he felt the power;
The prophet’s spirit in that awful hour
Baptiz’d his burning breast. Let Jordan tell,
Which saw him catch the mantle as it fell,
Where was Elijah’s God! — as present there
To own Elisha’s as Elijah’s prayer,
To testify the seven-fold gift transferr’d,
To consecrate the herald of his word,
To kindle, ‘midst apostate Israel’s night,
Another glorious guiding star of light,
Continuous blessings on his Church to pour,
To teach the world to wonder and adore.
Book IVTable of Contents