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The Lying Prophets.

The Lying Prophets.

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Published by GLENN DALE PEASE
BY THOMAS ARNOLD, D.D.


1 Kings xzii. 23.

New therefore, hehM, the Lord hath put a lying epirit m the mouth
of aU these thy prophets, and the Lord hath spoken evil concerning
thee,
BY THOMAS ARNOLD, D.D.


1 Kings xzii. 23.

New therefore, hehM, the Lord hath put a lying epirit m the mouth
of aU these thy prophets, and the Lord hath spoken evil concerning
thee,

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Published by: GLENN DALE PEASE on Oct 05, 2013
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THE LYIG PROPHETS.BY THOMAS AROLD, D.D.1 Kings xzii. 23.ew therefore, hehM, the Lord hath put a lying epirit m the mouthof aU these thy prophets, and the Lord hath spoken evil concerningthee,Wb have heard in this afternoon's service the chapterfrom which these words are taken, so that I need onlybriefly remind you of the circumstances to which theyrelate. Ahab, going to make war against Syria, consultsthe prophets as to the success of his enterprise. All pro-mised him victory, and encouraged him to go to war ; all,with one only exception, Micaiah the son of Imlah.Micaiah, on the contrary, told him that the prophets weredeceiving him with false hopes ; that the war would endin his death, and that God had put a Ijring spirit into themouths of all the prophets, because He had spoken evilconcerning him ; because the time of his judgment wasnow come. The fact is told in the language of a vision,which very much resembles the opening chapter of thebook of Job. There, as in the present instance, spiritsboth good and evil are represented as presenting them-selves before the throne of God, and the evil crave per-mission of Him to exercise their power upon mankind.It is added that the permission is granted, but so as thatit may appear from both stories that evil is made an86 THE LYIG PROPHETS.instrument of God's purposes, and that He suffers it to go
 
so far as He sees fit, and no farther.Again the multitude of considerations which thesepassages of Scripture suggest, can scarcely be confinedwithin the limits of a single sermon. Again there is roomfor explanation on the one hand, for practical improvementon the other ; and I shall try, as shortly as possible, togive something of either sort.First, in these visions, and in all other passages of Scripture which relate to things invisible, to the things,that is, of another world, it is of great consequence toremember that the descriptions are but the shadow of un-seen things, and not the very image of them ; that thelanguage is not to be taken as literally true, but as in-tended, like a parable or story, to convey a truth throughthe means of fiction. The very words, *the throne of God,' or, * God sitting on his throne,' which occur so oftenin Scripture, are seen, the moment that our attention isdrawn to them, to be merely figurative ; and * the spiritsstanding by on the right hand and on the left,' is animage of the same character. All that we can concludesafely from these visions is the general truth, that Godallows us to be tempted, allows us to be deceived ; andthat both the one and the other may serve for our trialor for our punishment: it is for us so to use themthat they may become the former only, and not thelatter.In the next place, in these stories, and in many othersin the Scripture, there is but one diflSculty, and this diffi-culty would not be lessened though the doctrine taughtby these passages were false instead of true. The difficultyis simply that great one, — I had well nigh said, that onlyone of our condition ; * Why there is an evil at all in theworld ? ' It is always right to say plainly on the one handthat this is a difficulty which no human understanding
 
THE LYIG PROPHETS. 87can explain ; and to show on the other hand, that, allowingthis one difficulty to be inexplicable, — as it must beequally, whether we believe the Scriptures or no, — andtrusting at the same time that it will be explained toGod's faithful children hereafter as one of the greatestrewards of those who believed though they did not see, — that then the truths in the Scripture which many cavil at,are not only true, but most profitable ; that we need notbe afraid of the passages which contain them, nor try toexplain away their meaning, but that we should considerthem and study them attentively, and that then we shallfind, if I may be allowed to repeat words which Ihave used before, that the deepest difficulties and themost blessed truths are to be found hard beside oneanother.Are we then offended to hear that the Lord hath put alying spirit into the mouth of any man ? Let us confessindeed, that how there should be such a thing as a lyingspirit in the universe, where the God of truth is Lord, passesall our comprehension ; but that this being so, — ^thoughhow or why wq know not, — and our own experience tellingus too certainly that it is so, it is no wonder that Grodshould not leave it utterly running wild ; that He shouldsubject it in some sort at least to His dominion, and makeit, evil as it is in its own proper nature, the instrument atleast to others, (since He sees fit not to destroy its nature,)of His own purposes of good.And if we say again. What purposes of good ? — forUiat this lying spirit was put into the mouth of the pro-phets not to benefit Ahab, but to help forward his ruin ;the answer is, — and we were all at once fit for heaven if we felt the truth, as well as expressed it with our lips, — the answer is, that the existence of evil is indeed a mys-tery, but that the punishment and destruction of evil isone of the greatest of goods. And if we laboured in this

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