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“Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are." JAMES v. 17.
“Of whom the world was not worthy."-HEB. xi. 38.
T needed an Apostle to give us this assurance. If
any saint ever seemed to rise above the infirmities of human nature, it was the Prophet Elijah. Elijah was a sort of anchorite or hermit, who dwelt apart from the haunts of men, except when some errand, on which God sent him, drew him for a time into their neighbourhood. He lived, as a rule, not by firesides, but in wildernesses and caverns; his costume was uncouth, his diet simple and austere. Then the power which he exerted over the elements clothes him in our eyes with a supernatural character. He shut up the windows of the sky by his prayers, and by his prayers re-opened them. And as he could call down the gracious rain, so could he bid the vengeful fire fall from heaven, and consume those who set themselves against
him. And at the close of his career, as if to place a still greater gulf between him and ourselves, his lot was not the common lot of all men. It is appointed unto men once to die;" but Elijah did not die. He was carried up to heaven by a whirlwind, a chariot of fire and horses of fire appearing as his escort. throughout a magnificent and superhuman career.
Yet what is given us of Elijah's history amply bears out the Apostle's assertion that he “ was a man of like passions as we are.” We read of his being weary of life, and requesting for himself that he might die; of his flying, in a sudden access of terror, from the wrath of Jezebel, though he had bravely confronted Ahab; and of his magnifying himself in prayer as being the only remaining witness for God in Israel, when there were seven thousand men who had not bowed the knee, nor given the kiss of homage, to the image of Baal.
But though the Apostle James instances only in Elias, the truth which he announces, like all truths of Holy Scripture, is one of broad and general import. We are apt to form mistaken notions of God's saints. We are apt to think of them as if they were beings of a different order from ourselves, raised above the level of human infirmity. And from this mistaken notion flows great practical mischief. Not to speak of the manifold evils of saint worship, which may be supposed to have passed away at the Reformation (though the tendency to it is always alive in the human heart), a wrong estimate of saintliness discourages us for the
pursuit of it, as seeming to put it entirely out of our reach.
I. It will be profitable to inquire, first, whence this wrong estimate comes,
It comes chiefly, I suppose, of our looking at the saints from a distance,--of our considering them as creatures of the past, not mixed up with the affairs and troubles of life. Whatever we look at from a distance is beautified by the perspective. It is so in bodily sight. A country which was dull, tame, or harsh, when it lay immediately around us, borrows soft and mellow tints from the atmosphere as we recede from it; the blue distance conceals its plain features. It is so with the mental retrospect, which we call memory. Memory has a notorious trick of dropping or smoothing over disagreeables. The days of our childhood, which had their rubs, and their tears, and their faults, like all other days, seem to us always beautiful and innocent in virtue of this trick of memory. The same law of the mind operates to throw round the saints a false and an imaginary lustre. We imagine that no man is or can be a saint who is mixed up in the daily intercourse of society, who is fighting hand to hand with us in the battle of life. Why not? What one sound reason can be assigned why there should not be now-adays men as zealous, as devoted, as simple-minded as the Apostles and saints of the primitive Church? It might perhaps be imagined that Christianity, when it came as a fresh force into human nature, when it pre