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XI.

(Lecture III., page 91.)

NATIONAL IMPORTANCE OF THE HEBREW PROPHETS.

“Their [the Jewish] religion, gave existence to an inestimably precious unorganised institution, the Order (if it may be so termed) of Prophets. Under the protection, generally though not always effectual, of their sacred character, the prophets were a power in the nation often more than a match for kings and priests, and kept up in that little corner of the earth the antagonism of influences which is the only real security for continued progress. Religion, consequently, was not there—what it has been in so many other places—a consecration of all that was once established, and a barrier against further improvement. The remark of a distinguished Hebrew, that the Prophets 227were in Church and State the equivalent of the modern liberty of the press, gives a just but not an adequate conception of the part fulfilled in national and universal history by this great element of Jewish life; by means of which, the canon of inspiration never being complete, the persons most eminent in genius and moral feeling could not only denounce and reprobate, with the direct authority of the Almighty, whatever appeared to them deserving of such treatment, but could give forth better and higher interpretations of the national religion, which thenceforth became part of the religion. Accordingly, whoever can divest himself of the habit of reading the Bible as if it was one book, which until lately was equally inveterate in Christians and in unbelievers, sees with admiration the vast interval between the morality and religion of the Pentateuch, or even of the historical books, and the morality and religion of the Prophecies,—a distance as wide as between these last and the Gospels. Conditions more favorable to progress could not easily exist; accordingly the Jews, instead of being stationary, like other Asiatics, were, next to the Greeks, the most progressive people of antiquity, and, jointly with them, have been the starting-point and main propelling agency of modern cultivation.”—J. S. Mill’s ‘Representative Government,’ p. 41.

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