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instance of the same species of inspiration, in the eleventh chapter of this book. When the people murmured for want of meat, Moses assembled the seventy elders, whom he had selected to assist him in the government, and "set them round about the tabernacle. And the Lord came down in a cloud, and spake unto him, and took of the Spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy elders, and it came to pass, that, when the Spirit rested upon them, they prophesied 1."
Before the giving of the law, it would appear that the heads of families in general, and even of those unconnected with Abraham, were frequently endued with this limited inspiration, and the Almighty bestowed it, possibly, for the purpose of preserving a continual witness of himself upon the earth. Amongst the Israelites, in after times, there was a peculiar family of prophets, and a school of prophecy, where the children of the
1 Numbers xi. 24, 25. The whole passage is very remarkable.
prophets, and others also, were regularly trained and educated for the prophetic office; or to speak more accurately, for the office of public instruction; and though we have no certain information how the spiritual influence necessary for this work was imparted, or how far it extended, yet we know that they all possessed considerable, and many of them, singular powers, as a consequence of belonging to this school or family. From among this class of persons, as well as from the prophets of the patriarchal times, individuals were selected and gifted with extraordinary endowments, as extraordinary emergencies demanded their services. So that the privilege of looking into futurity seems rather to have been an accidental appendage to the prophetic office than to have constituted the essence of the office itself.
We may add, that those of more exalted station, under the Jewish theocracy, and particularly the high priests, enjoyed this privilege frequently, and even in some manner, officially. But neither in
this case, nor in the former, was it ever indispensably requisite that the person so enjoying it should himself be holy. Thus we read of the disobedient prophet, who was lured by the falsehood of his brother prophet to disobey the divine command, and was slain for his offence 1. An instance still more remarkable is furnished by Caiaphas, who, merely because he was high priest at the period of our Lord's crucifixion, was enabled to "prophesy, that Jesus should die for that nation; and not for that nation only, but that he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad 2" As a further confirmation of the view which I have now taken, St. Paul, in the passage above alluded to, makes the remarkable declaration, that though he should speak with the tongues of men and of angels-though he should have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge-nay, even though he should have all faith, so that he could
2 John xi. 51, 52.
remove mountains; yet this would avail nothing to his eternal salvation; it would not constitute him one of the elect of God. Thus we find that the possession of supernatural power was always distinct from that of spiritual grace; that the extraordinary gifts of God were never made the external symbols of inward righteousness; and that we are no more authorized to determine the degree of holiness of a prophet, from the clearness and sublimity of his prophecies, than we are to pronounce Samson righteous, on account of his wonderful strength. In fact, under both the patriarchal and the legal dispensation, as well as under that of the Gospel, it might have been observed as the disciples said unto Christ; "We saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not
Of those, then, called prophets in Scripture, some were prophets by reason of their station, as heads of their tribes and families-others were prophets by right
1 St. Mark ix. 38.
of their office as priests, or judges, or commanders-others as belonging to, or having been educated in a particular school or seminary established for the purposeothers again by birth, as being the sons of former prophets, and thus succeeding to their fathers' privileges and endowments, as it were by right of inheritance; whilst another, but the most illustrious class, was formed of persons eminent for holiness. and entire self-devotion to God, and were chosen occasionally from among each of these, as well as from the inferior and less influential grades of life 1.
Balaam may with some probability be placed in the first of these classes; but his station in life, as well as his general character, are involved in great obscurity. Belonging to an idolatrous people, apparently without being himself an idolater, living amidst the thickest darkness of ignorance, yet possessing, in a very consider
1 Amos mentions it as a subject worthy of remark, that he was neither a prophet, nor a prophet's son; but a herdsman, and a gatherer of sycamore fruit. Chap. vii. 14.