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for signs. They said in their hearts, Let us destroy them together; they have burned up all their synagogues in the land!' A violent opposition to the gospel, and to the professors of it, gives the people of God to realize the declining state of his cause.
Especially when they find,
4. That all external means of promoting religion fail of success. This has often been the case in the world. In seasons of declension, all the outward and ordinary means of reforming, convincing, and converting sinners, prove entirely ineffectual. In the days of Noah, Job, and Daniel, they could save only their own souls, while all their exertions to save others, were of no avail. In the context, David, in the name of the people of God, laments the inefficacy of the means of grace, as an awful token of the declining and dangerous state of religion. "We see not our signs; there is no more any prophet, neither is there among us any that knoweth how long, Ō God, how long shall the adversary reproach? shall the enemy blaspheme thy name forever?" When all the means used to reconcile sinners to God only serve to increase their enmity and opposition to him and to his cause, it is a sad token of the low and dangerous state of Zion; and the people of God cannot but realize that his cause is greatly declining. But,
III. When they realize this, they are in a proper situation to apply to God, and entreat him to rise and plead his own cause. For, 1. They are sensible of their own weakness. They are too apt to feel able to take care of themselves, and of the cause of God, and imagine that their exertions will avail much. This is especially the case after a revival of religion. The young converts are persuaded that they can bear down opposition, convince gainsayers, and keep the spirit of religion in their own hearts, and promote it effectually in the hearts of others. They are apt to think, that those who have been restrained, have lost their opposition to God, and will never dare to appear against God and his cause. And while they are exerting themselves to promote the salvation of sinners, they are apt to rely upon their own strength. But after all their exertions fail of success, and the cause of God languishes, they begin to realize their own weakness, and find that all success depends upon a divine influence. And this token of their own weakness, prepares them to apply to God, with more ardent desires, that he would arise, that he would exert his effectual grace, in subduing the hearts of his enemies.
2. In proportion as they realize the declining state of Zion, and their own insufficiency, they more sensibly realize the power of God, that he can work, and none can let it. They see and feel that all that has been done for themselves and others, has been done by God; and hence they believe that he can do every thing necessary to be done, to promote his own cause. They realize that God can overcome all the difficulties and obstacles which lie in the way of building up his kingdom in the hearts of men. And according to their faith in the divine power and grace, they are prepared to call upon him to
arise, and plead his own cause. Though they despair of all means and secondary causes, yet they confide in the power and faithfulness of God, to render means and secondary causes successful. This is what they ought to feel and express, in order to seek in a proper manner for the influence of the divine spirit, for the edification of saints, and the salvation of sinners. Besides,
3. When they realize the declining state of religion, they are prepared to look to God to promote it as his cause, and not as their own. Religion directly tends to the glory of God, and it ought to be desired for his sake. He is the being most deeply concerned in the prosperity of Zion: and though its prosperity tends to promote the happiness of his people, yet its greatest importance consists in its glorifying God, accomplishing his purposes, and affording him infinite satisfaction and delight. And when his people feel this impression, they are prepared to ask so as to receive.
HEADS OF IMPROVEMENT.
1. We learn from what has been said, why God so often suffers his cause to decline. It is not for want of power-or the want of instruments. These he can always provide. But to make it appear that the cause of religion depends supremely upon himselfthat Paul can plant and Apollos water, but he alone can give the increase.
2. We learn from what has been said, the great stupidity of saints, in not perceiving the cause of God to decline, when it does. They are often like Ephraim, who had grey hairs here and there, but perceived it not. They might see marks within-and marks without.
3. We learn from what has been said, that it is extremely criminal for the people of God to sink down in stupidity. This tends, more than any thing else to obstruct the cause of God. It is a cause for God to withdraw his presence and influence from them, and from others. The prophet told God's ancient people, "The Lord is with you, while ye be with him: but if ye forsake him, he will forsake you."
4. We learn from what has been said, that there is great ground to fear that the people of God are at this day in a state of great stupidity-and do not realize the declining state of his cause.Though they may make many exertions-they are not successfulbecause they do not feel their own weakness and God's sufficiency.
5. We learn from what has been said, that there is reason to fear still greater declensions in this land-Saints in general are not awake.
6. It appears from what has been said, that the more saints realize the declining state of religion, the less will they despair of its revival and final prevalence. When they properly realize the state of religion, they will realize the power and faithfulness of God to rise and plead his own cause.
7. We learn from what has been said, that it is not too late for the people of God to look to God to arise, and plead his own cause.
There are no difficulties now insurmountable.-Not their own weakness-not their past neglect-not the opposition of sinnersBut every thing calls upon them, to call upon God-And if they neglect, God will carry on his work without them. SENEX.
FOR THE HOPKINSIAN MAGAZINE
THE LYING SPIRIT.
Mr. Editor.-In the progress of the discussion between Enquirer and yourself on the subject of Divine Agency, in the last volume of the Magazine, frequent recourse is had to the passage in I Kings, Chap. XXII. respecting the lying spirit which the Lord put in the mouth of Ahab's prophets. In all the critical and acute remarks made by you and your correspondent upon this passage, it is uniformly taken for granted, if I mistake not, that the transaction therein mentioned, actually occurred in the heavenly mansions. This transaction is thus described, verses 19-23. I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by him, on his right hand and on his left. And the Lord said, Who shall persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead? And there came forth a spirit and stood before the Lord, and said I will persuade him. And the Lord said unto him wherewith? And he said, I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets, And he said, Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also: go forth and do so. Now therefore, behold, the Lord hath_put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets, and the Lord hath spoken evil concerning thee.
Such is the prophet's description of what he saw. I do not recollect what commentators have written on this passage, and I have not one at hand to consult; but the question arises in my mind whether this is to be viewed as a narrative of facts which actually occurred, or only a description of a vision presented to the imagination of the prophet, and designed to show him what God had done and was about to do? It seems to me, there are several reasons why we should suppose, that this is merely a description of what Micaiah saw in a vision, and not a narrative of what actually took place: As,
1. It was common for events to be represented to the minds of the ancient prophets, by symbols. In a kind of ecstacy or trance, objects were made to pass before the mental eye of the prophet, which were meant to be signs of things and events about to take place. These signs were not always understood by the prophet himself until the things signified by them had transpired. This obscurity it is supposed, was thrown over the prophecies, that they might not prevent their own fulfillment. The prophet, therefore, simply, told what he saw in vision; leaving it to his hearers and to the events of Providence, to give the interpretation. In this symbolical style, most of the prophecies of sacred scriptures are delivered, and particularly those of Ezekiel, Daniel and the Revelation.
2. It is evident that Micaiah had a vision on the occasion referred to; in which he saw what had not then taken place: for when the king of Israel adjured him to speak the truth, he said, v. 17. 1 saw all Israel scattered upon the hills, as sheep that have not a shepherd: and the Lord said, These have no master; let them return every man to his house in peace. This was said before the battle between Syria and Israel had been fought, and before Ahab had even gone up to Ramoth-gilead. This then being unquestionably a vision, it is natural to conclude that the scene described in the verses immediately following, was also a vision.
3. The supposition that what Micaiah describes, was literally said and done, seems inconsistent with rational and scriptural views of the world of spirits. Was He, whom no eye hath seen or can see, seen by the prophet silling on a throne? Were evil spirits permitted to leave their prisons, and mingle with the heavenly host? And was a familiar dialogue actually held between such a spirit and his Maker? The supposition looks to me monstrous and inadmissible.
4: The apparent inconsistency in this passage is removed by supposing it to be an account of a symbolical vision, instead of a hiteral narrative of facts. The spirit is represented as offering his services, and as voluntarily going by God's permission: and then it is said that God put a lying spirit in the mouth of the prophets. Here some think there is an apparent inconsistency. But if we suppose the account to be symbolical, and designed simply to teach that God, in order to accomplish his purpose respecting Ahab, and to induce him to go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead, so ordered it in his Providence, and brought it to pass by his agency, that Ahab's prophets, with one mouth, uttered what was false and deceived him to his ruin-all appearance of inconsistency is done away.
5. This passage, understood as the account of a vision, corresponds with another striking passage, Ez. xiv. 9. And if the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the Lord have deceived that prophet; and I will stretch out my hand upon him, and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel.
For the above reasons, I am led to think that a literal understanding of this passage cannot be correct, and that it teaches, in the usual prophetic style, the single fact, that God effected the deception. of the false prophets, or caused them to declare to Ahab what was not true. How God did this, is not explained. Perhaps he sent them strong delusion,' (II Thess. II. 11.) so that they believed a a lie, and really thought they uttered what they were inspired to foretel: or perhaps He 'hardened their hearts' and stir tha their spirits' (I Kings, xI. 14.) to utter what they know false, in order to flatter and please their Prince.
But whatever might have been the way in which God put a lying spirit or a spirit of falsehood in the mouths of all Ahab's prophets-He,who worketh all in all,did it, in just judgment upon the wicked king
of Israel, in perfect consistency with the voluntary agency and criminality of the false prophets, and for the glory of his own great PHILOBIBLOS.
Mr. Editor-I am induced to send you the following seasonable observations, extracted from a recent anonymous pamphlet, in consequence of seeing, in Dr. Wood's Letters to Dr. Taylor, the following expression, "I have an utter dislike to controversy," and hearing it said, that at the late Anniversary at Andover, an agreement was made between the New-Haven divines and their opponents, to suspend, for the present, all discussion of the points respecting which they differ. ALETHES.
Amidst all the unpleasant things, especially of religious controversy, there is one redeeming consideration. And that is, it greatly promotes the discovery of truth. However much favorite theories of human origin may suffer, the cause of truth has nothing to fear, but every thing to gain, by free and full investigation. And it is undeniable that thorough discussion, occasioned often by extravagant theories, has been a distinguished means in the hands of Providence, of preserving the knowledge of pure christian doctrine, and of giving it its appropriate influence in the world. Men are so averse to mental effort, particularly on religious subjects, that they are ready to take for granted, almost any thing that is plausible, and choose rather to depend on others to investigate for them, than be subjected to the labor of doing it for themselves. And were no special interest excited by diversity of opinions, there is danger that mankind, being all of one language in this respect, would unite in some Babel of error, and lose, through mere indolence, all knowledge of the truth.
How far this self-same danger may now threaten our religious community, is a question of great importance. The time was when such authors as Edwards and Bellamy, Flavel and Baxter, were more read by the body of ministers and professed christians in our land, than they are at present. And there is cause of serious apprehension for the consequences to the church, of substituting the ephemeral vehicles of religious news for the substantial productions of sound and discriminating writers; and especially of substituting them, as we fear is often the fact, for the diligent and prayerful study of the HOLY SCRIPTURES. The soul, any more than the body, will not gain vigor from the light sustenance of pastry or con