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that are thus smitten, “ Hast thou found me,
my enemy?" We are then regarded as disturbers of men's peace, and as taking a malicious pleasure in distressing their minds. As for charity, we are accused as strangers to it, and gloomy views of enthusiasm are the things we are charged with preaching and teaching. Our sermons are denounced as unsound and extravagant. Such are the heavy charges which we are obliged to put up with ; but sometimes mere hard words are not deemed sufficient, and the criticism becomes of a more active kind. These individuals seek to repay us for venturing to promote, in the only right way, their peace of mind, by resolving never to hear us again, but to go in future elsewhere. Go, then, ye stricken deer, whithersoever it pleases you. It is not we who have“ found” you, but it is God who has found you by our means, and from him you cannot escape. His word has pierced to the joints and marrow, and no endeavours of your own will avail to get rid of it, until the same Almighty hand which pierced you shall heal the wound. If he is leading you to repentance, spare yourselves the fruitless labour of kicking against the pricks. No means you resort to of this world's devising will be effectual to heal the wound that is rankling in your conscience. The burning in your
heart will only increase from day to day, till it is quenched in the blood of the Lamb. Oh that we might but “ find” you effectually, we would gladly submit for a while to be treated by you as enemies.
“ I have found thee!” said Elijah, serene and undaunted. How must the criminal have felt at these words ! Confused and oppressed by the dreadful accusations of his conscience, he saw himself utterly unable to offer the smallest defence against the denunciation of the prophet. And it came upon him with still greater force, since it had found him in Naboth's vineyard. itself, where the prophet could appeal to the very stones of the vineyard to cry out and awaken the king's conscience. Truly it was a pitiable position which the king of Samaria occupied at this moment. He had, probably, never before experienced such a disgraceful defeat. The glory of his regal crown has vanished in an instant. He stands before the messenger of God as a poor perplexed delinquent, out of whose hands every weapon has been wrested ; nothing now was left him but his own stifled and impotent rage; and it must have been painful to the Tishbite himself
, to see his sovereign thus overpowered, confused, and abased before him. Thus the Lord is able with a word to bring down the pride of the haughty.
Who can resist the appalling power of that word, “I have found thee,” when it comes as the language of the holy law, by
which is the knowledge of sin, but not of mercy ? May every one of us feel it, if we have not felt it hitherto; but may it be accompanied by the gracious tidings of forgiveness and justification by faith in the atonement of the Son of God! Yes : with the dreadful sentence,“ Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them,” may the blessed announcement be heard in our inmost souls, that Christ is “ the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth ;” and that “whosoever believeth in him hath eternal life.” If we hear believingly the one announcement, “ Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire;" may we hear believingly the other announcement,
Come unto me,
that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest!” Then shall the “fearful looking-for of judgment" be exchanged for that “godly sorrow which worketh repentance unto salvation not to be repented of;" and the terrors of the law shall give place to that inward contrition, which not only God will not despise, but which is the work of his own hands, the first sign of a new and endless life. It is not the terror of the Divine holiness, but the manifestation of the love of God towards us in Christ Jesus, which softens the heart and renews the soul. By this the believer is more and more divested of self, becomes the willing servant of the Lord, and finds his service perfect freedom. He now loves God, and serves him; not in the slavish bondage of fear, much less in the vain endeavour to serve two masters; but from the constraining influence of gratitude ; even as St. Paul could say, “ The love of Christ constraineth us." He performs that which is good, as it were spontaneously, from a vital principle within. Here is an instance wherein, as we may say, liberty and necessity are closely allied to each other. The true believer becomes a captive of love, and yet in this captivity he enjoys the only true liberty. Such are the happy effects of the gospel of peace. The law worketh no such wonders as these. Only where love and grace reign, are the true springs of life and salvation to be found. Only yield yourselves up to the influence of this grace and love, and you will inhale, with every breath, the powers of the world to come, and will be elevated in spirit above the love of the world, and of the things of the world as if a thousand hands were conducting and welcoming you into the beavenly places!
The Scripture repeatedly speaks of A BOOK OF LIFE; and St. Paul notices, Phil. iv. 3, the names of his fellow-labourer Clement and others, as inscribed in that book. It is, as its title imports, a book of life. No judgments are written in it; no sentences of death are recorded. It is full of the promise of life eternal ; and they whose names are written in it never die; they have already passed from death into life; everlasting youth awaits them beyond the grave; and thrones of never-fading glory and joy stand prepared for them in heaven. This book is, in other words, the paternal heart of our almighty and most merciful Father. In this book a number of names are inscribed; that is, a great multitude, which no man can number, are all individually and continually remembered before him; and every one of them is infinitely dear to him, and eternally beloved. They are the names of his people, his chosen, his children, his heirs, being joint-heirs with Christ; and redeemed to himself by the blood of the Lamb. By a mystical union with Christ their Surety, they are bound up in the bundle of life with the Lord their God.' In him, the Beloved, are they made accepted and glorious ; and because he lives, they also live for ever and ever. The book of life is open in heaven. There it is read again and again, and they who read it are never weary of so doing. The Son of man himself sees in it the “travail of his soul, and is satisfied.” This book indicates to the Shepherd his sheep, to the Bridegroom his bride, to the High Priest his redeemed, and to the Prince of peace the people in whose heart is his law. Even to the holy angels is this book opened. They are sent forth to minister unto them who shall be heirs of salvation; for which purpose they must know the names that are written in this book. And continually are they becoming more and more acquainted with it, and increasingly wonder and adore the God of all grace, as they behold the names of those whose sins have been many, and are forgiven.
Now, if there be any one object in the world more worthy of our curiosity than another, I think we shall all agree in saying what it is: surely it is the sight of our own names inscribed there. On the fact whether our names shall be found there or not, is suspended our peace and happiness throughout eternity. If they are, then Halleluiah! from henceforth all generations shall call us blessed ;-if they are not, then woe is unto us, for we are undone! But can this fact be ascertained here on earth? I answer, that even here on earth we may know from Scripture the characteristics of those whose names are in the book of life. The chief of these is a contrite heart, longing after God. It must never be forgotten that there are two ways of crying for mercy, and it is not every kind of humiliation before the Lord which will justify us in concluding that our names are inscribed in his book. Therefore deceive not your ownselves ! But if you seriously desire to know what it is which distinguishes true and gracious humiliation from that which is only the working of natural feelings, you may learn it from the portion of sacred history which we are now about to consider.
I KINGS XXI. 21-29.
“And I will cut off from Ahab every male, and him that is shut up and
left in Israel, and will make thine house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of A hijah, for the provocation wherewith thou hast provoked me to anger, and made Israel to sin. And of Jezebel also spake the Lord, saying, The dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel. Him that dieth of Ahab in the city the dogs shall eat; and him that dieth in the field shall the fowls of the air eat. But there was none like unto Ahab, which did sell himself to work wickedness in the sight of the Lord, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up. And he did very abominably in following idols, according to all things as did the Amorites, whom the Lord cast out before the children of Israel. And it came to pass, when Ahab heard those words, that he rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth, and went softly. And the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, Seest thou how Ahab humbleth himself before me? because he humbleth himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days: but in his son's days will I bring the evil upon his house.”
The prophet delivers his message in Naboth's vineyard, and announces to the trembling tyrant, with all boldness, the dreadful punishments which should come upon himself and his family. Here then let us consider the impression which this announcement made
upon the guilty monarch ; noticing, I. How Ahab's repentance was called forth ; II. What kind of repentance it was; and, III. What were its consequences.
I. Elijah's address evidently produced unusual terror in Ahab's mind, and induced him to humble himself in some degree before
God. Nor does this surprise us : for it contained not only an awful accusation which Ahab could not deny, but likewise an awful sentence upon himself and his posterity, pronounced, as from the mouth of God himself, with singular impressiveness
A threefold crime is here laid to the charge of the king of Israel; That he had provoked God to anger—that he had made Israel to sin—and that he had sold himself to work wickedness in the sight of the Lord. It was for this cause that the sword of the Almighty had been whetted for the destruction of himself and his liouse.
Observe, then, how Jehovah is represented in the first part of the accusation, as a God who may be so provoked by continued insults and rebellions, that his long-suffering is like a bended bow, which needs only to be drawn to a certain tension in order to break. This certainly sounds very human; but faith is far from stumbling at such language; for it stands in need of such representations of God. We need to be told of God in an intelligible manner, and to be addressed by him in the language of our nature; in expressions of mercy, sympathy, and displeasure; as caring for us; as taking cognizance of our very thoughts; as loving us; not as inaccessible to us, or unconcerned about
Now just such is the God of the Scriptures. Ahab is further accused of having made Israel to sin. This he had done by his impious example, and by those infamous decrees which had made the worship of Baal the religion of the state, and exposed the true worshippers of Jehovah to the most cruel persecutions. Woe unto those, who, like Ahab, not satisfied with destroying themselves, seek to infect others with their pestilential errors, and to carry them along with them in their own fall! Such men will not only have to bear the burden of their own iniquity, but the guilt besides of all those unhappy victims who were led away by them, and who will pursue
them for ever with their vindictive execrations. Such men will have hereafter the horrid distinction which their lives seem to be aiming at in this world—the distinction of being more like their father the devil, in whose works they have been so preeminent.
The remaining point of crimination which Elijah alleged against Ahab was, that he had sold himself “to work evil in the sight of the Lord.” And “there was none,
says the sacred historian, in another place, “ like unto Ahab, who did sell himself to work wickedness in the sight of the Lord, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up.” “ Sold himself to work evil !” What a dread