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house, in that
have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and thou hast followed Baalim.”
Such language as this is seldom heard upon earth. The world is full of flatterers and dissemblers, and such characters abound not only in palaces, but also in ordinary society; but faithful servants of God, who are dead to self-interest, wh love their brethren as to be unwilling to suffer sin upon themsuch men are rare indeed. Oye ministers of Christ, among high and low, let us not complain of the little fruit of our labours till we have first complained of our own too great love of the praise of men !.
We should see greater things, were not the salutary and awful, “ Thou art the man!" so entirely unknown amongst us.
It is not enough that we deal in general truths concerning human corruption, openly acknowledged in our church confessions. How far is all this below the faithfulness of prophets and apostles. If Elijah, or Paul, or John the Baptist, were here, you would hear the trumpet give a very different sound. To how Ahab of the present day would it then be said, “ I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father's house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the Lord.” How many a Jezebel would then be told to her face, “ The unclean shall not inherit the kingdom of God." How many a publican, “ Demand no more than is thy due.” How many a Herod, “ It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother's wife.” How many a Felix, how many a Drusilla, who at present hear only smooth words, would then be forced to submit to one closet sermon after another from plain and unsparing lips, upon righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come!
be given to your ministers, to make a better use of the liberty which is thus divinely committed to them as an awful and most responsible trust, “ to reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all long-suffering and doctrine.” And what is the nature of our commission ? We have a heaven to promise, and a hell to threaten. We stand forth as messengers in Christ's stead, as the stewards of the mysteries of God. We speak not from ourselves, but that which One who is greater than all commands us to speak. We go forward, surrounded by a cloud of witnesses, as the ambassadors of the King of all kings, and have the right to announce our message to sinners in the name of God, with “ Thus saith the Lord!” Oh the dignity of our calling! the holiness of our office! Oh that it more thoroughly pervaded us, and that we were more like Elijah, or Nathan, or the Baptist, or the apostle Paul. And were it so, that by the
unpleasant sound of truth, we lost a whole squadron of worldly friends, we should soon perhaps find the loss made good by others collected by the gospel trumpet from among publicans and sinners. Nay, were the measure of our trouble and reproach doubled, the fruit of our labour in God's field might be doubled likewise. We may
well humble ourselves one and all, for our insincerity and men-pleasing, in allowing ourselves to cry, “ Peace, peace, when there is no peace. This is not tenderness, though it assumes that name; it is the want of true love to our neighbour, and the indulgence of our own indolence and ease. May the Lord kindle a purer flame in our souls, and give us a better love, a love which, where truth, the honour of God, and the salvation of our brethren require it, can speak and act disinterestedly and self-denyingly; yet so, that no strange fire mingle with that which is holy, nor we ourselves, as is too often the case, break to pieces, in our zeal, both tables of the law.
“I have not troubled Israel ; but thou, and thy father's house, in that
have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and thou hast followed Baalim.” What was the special sin which Elijah here holds up to view as the chief cause of the whole calamity? Is it the interperance, or the covetousness, or the frivolity, or the unchaste life of Ahab, and of his father's house ? No; it is their departure from God's word and statutes. O brethren ! if sins of this sort be the greatest of all sins; if God has visited nations, countries, and cities with fire and sword on account of them; what must be his displeasure in these times, when infidelity is becoming the very
fashion in so many circles every where ; when the forsaking of the statutes of the Lord, and the following of a heathenish rationalism, has found its
even into the cottage and the workshop; when the declaration, “ We will not have this man to reign over us !” virtually becomes more and more general, and the very voice of Baal is, in this sense, to be heard from many a pulpit, many a professor's chair
, and many a schoolmaster's desk! when true religion, the belief of the forgiveness of sins through the blood of the Lamb, is not only slighted, but even branded as fanaticism; and the true life in the Holy Spirit, the life of love to Christ, and the following of his steps, is so often declaimed against as pietism and enthusiasm ! How will it at length fare with such a generation, if we do not betimes fall down weeping before the lifted rod of the great Preserver of men! And what kind of days have we to expect, sooner or later, in a country, where more than one Noah preaches the righteousness of God; where more than one Jonah calls to repentance; where more than one of Zion's watchmen sounds the
trumpet louder and louder, because he sees the sword approaching; and still but a small band is gathered of those who faithfully adhere to and take the cross ; while thousands
upon thousands treat the blood of the covenant as an unholy thing, scoff at the word of the Lord, presumptuously turn with disgust from the precepts of Christ, bow the knee to any or every shameful lust, and thus virtually bring their offerings to the abominations of the moabites and the amorites! What vials of wrath must at length be poured out upon this favoured region ! Will it have sufficed, that the Lord has afflicted us with lack of employment and want, with a stoppage of trade and business, and visited us with plague and pestilence? Will he not see it necessary to come with still severer judgments ? “ Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida ! for if the mighty works which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and in ashes. But Í say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell.” Oh that my people would turn from their evil ways, that the Lord God might repent of the evil concerning us, and turn from the fierceness of his anger, that we perish not !
IV. Elijah, having thus faithfully delivered his message, now begins to make preparations for a scene which has not its like it. sacred history. Jehovah is about to show, by signs, and won. ders, and mighty deeds, that he is God and none else ; and Baal is to be overthrown in one day. “ Now therefore,” said Elijah, authoritatively, like a representative of God; “ now therefore,” O king! “send, and gather to me all Israel unto mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the groves four hundred, which eat at Jezebel's table.” He speaks the word, and Ahab obeys, and collects the prophets unto mount Carmel. Behold how matters are reversed l the subject prescribes, and the king, yes, such a king, complies ! “ The thing is of the Lord.” The hearts of all are in his hands! The servants of God have, through faith, “ out of weakness been made strong, subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises.' If we, as lambs, are sent in the midst of wolves, yet we are clothed with a Divine panoply, and often with a Divine influence upon others, if we are Christ's faithful servants. We have not, and we need not, any carnal weapons, offensive fensive. When despised or reviled, we must neither despise nor revile again, much less must we have recourse to the swords with which the world is wont to fight. Instead of all this, there is something else given to the servants of God. “ This is the victory which overcometh the world, even our faith.” True faith is always accompanied by the illuminating light of the Holy Spirit, whose temples we are, and who always manifests himself as the Spirit of the mighty God. Here is a Divine something that can do wonders. With this something can babes and sucklings still the enemy and the avenger; and defenceless sheep have often with it disarmed their most violent persecutors. This is the true star of honour which gleams through the clothing of humility. As it is better than all the wisdom of the wise, and the cunning of the prudent, so it is of more value than all the honour of the noble, than all the power of the mighty. With it the most simple may remain stedfast against the most seductive subtleties of false philosophy, and put to shame the whole
array of abused talents and learning. This secret something, which christians carry about with them; this unction from the Holy One, which pervades their whole being; this sign of the Son of man, and seal of the Lamb upon their foreheads, is the supernatural armour in which the servants of God do exploits, carry on their conflict with the world, the flesh, and the devil, and, like their Saviour,“ bring forth judgment unto victory.”
Yet let them beware of being exalted above measure. Our safety lies in being ever lowly at the feet of Jesus, and the spirit of his precept to his disciples may well apply to us: “Rejoice not that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven." All other joy, nay, even the joy at the victories we gain, tends to darken the inward eye, and remove our poverty and dependence from our view. But if the prize of our high calling be continually kept before the
eye of faith, its brightness will make us see our own unworthiness. Joy in our present gifts and endowments is mutable and evanescent, for they may be wholly or in part withdrawn from us; but the joy of our fellowship with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ, is permanent; for we know that the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal—“The Lord knoweth them that are his, and he abideth faithful—he cannot deny himself.” Oh happy they whose names are written in the book of life ; and doubly happy they who rejoice in this, above their chief joy! Amen
VII.-ELIJAH AND THE PEOPLE ON MOUNT CARMEL,
It was a remarkable but wise decision that Solomon made in an extremely difficult case, which was once brought before him. Two women came to him with an infant, to which they each asserted a mother's claim : the one stating that the child of the other woman having died, she had taken hers from her before she was awake, and laid her own dead child in its place ; whilst the other asserted that the contrary was the truth, saying, “ The dead child is hers, and the living is mine ;” they therefore besought the king to determine the matter. But how was it to be done? The king calls for a sword, and on its being brought he said, “ Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other. Then spake the woman whose the living child was unto the king, for her bowels yearned over her son, and she said, O_my lord, give her the living child, and in no wise slay it ! But the other said, Let it be neither mine nor thine, but divide it.”. You are aware how the king, from these expressions of the two women, settled the dispute and decided the cause, 1 Kings iii. 24—27.
A better compassion than that of a woman for her suck ing child has God for his dear children. He too will have them entirely as a whole living sacrifice, or not at all. He will not consent to our being divided between himself and the world. The love he requires is that of all the heart, all the soul, all the mind, all the strength. Such likewise is the requirement of our Lord Jesus Christ. “ He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” We must be wholly the Lord's. Such was Elijah himself, and such he taught others to be ; as we shall see by attending to the portion of his history which is now to be considered.
1 KINGS XVIII. 21-24 “And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye
between two opinions ? if the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word. Then said