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effect.-(3). Even upon believers themselves, the obscurity which rests upon certain portions of prophecy, must have exerted a more beneficial influence, than greater clearness Iwould have done. If, for example, the Old Testament believers, who lived before the coming of Christ, had known that his appearance would be so long delayed, how greatly would this have tended to cool their love and cripple their hopes! How could the Messianic expectations, in this case, have become the centre of their whole religious life? If the Christians of the first centuries had foreseen, that the second coming of Christ would not take place for 1800 years, how much weaker an impression would this doctrine have made upon them, than when they were expecting him every hour, and were told to watch, because he would come like a thief in the night, at an hour when they looked not for him? (4.) A considerable portion of the Messianic predictions were intended to produce an immediate effect upon the whole of the people, and to preserve at least its outward fidelity towards the Lord. But if prophecy had had all the clearness of history, this end would never have been realised. It was attained, on the other hand, by such an arrangement of the prophecies, as made even a wilful misunderstanding salutary in its results. The people laid hold of the shell and thought that they necessarily possessed the substance also. And this contributed to the maintenance of such outward conditions, as were adapted to give life to the actual substance of the prophecies. (5). If the question be asked, what end was answered by such of the prophecies, as were obscure in themselves, and not merely in consequence of the carnal minds of the readers, it is a sufficient reply that the prophets did not utter the predictions for their contemporaries alone, but for posterity also, and the Church of every age. Those portions which were clear, were amply sufficient for contemporaries.
V. A further consequence of the state, in which the prophets were at the time of their prophesying, was the dramatic character which so frequently distinguishes the prophecies. Events and persons are all presented to their inward sight: this is as it were the stage, on which the latter come forward, to act or to speak. Very frequently this takes place without any previous notice or introduction; as for example, in Is. xlix., where the
Messiah suddenly comes forward and speaks. The discourse also is often suddenly directed to those, whom the prophet beholds by his inward sight: for example, to Christ in Is. lii. 14, "as many were astonished at thee." The changes made without any further notice in the persons speaking or addressed, have frequently given rise to differences of interpretation, as, for example, in Nahum i. 9, " what think ye of the Lord," where many suppose Assyria to be addressed, though, according to the correct view, Judah is intended (ver. 11).
VI. From the state of the prophets we may prove the correctness of the assumption, that the symbolical actions, which they describe, took place for the most part inwardly, and not outwardly, an assumption which, as Maimonides says (chap. 46), is imperatively demanded by the nature of the actions themselves. For as the sphere of the prophets, as long as they were in an ecstatic state, was not the outward world, but the inward, every action performed by them in this state of ecstasy must have been an inward action also. The few instances, in which it can be proved that the symbolical actions were performed outwardly, are to be regarded as exceptional cases, in which the prophets passed away from their proper element.1
1 Prophetica scena, intra quam omnes peragebantur apparitiones, fuit ipsius prophetae phantasia, omniaque, quae deus ei revelata volebat dramatice in phantasia gerebantur, ita ut plures interdum inducerentur in scenam personae, inter quas propheta partes etiam suas agebat. Itaque prout dramaticus ille apparatus postulabat, oportuit eum, ut caeteros actores partes suas agere, aliquando verbis et narratione rerum gestarum, aut propositione quaestionum, aliquando eas partes ferentem, quas jussus erat per alios agere, adeoque eum non tantum sermone, sed etiam gestibus et actionibus locum suum inter alios obtinere.