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you to disobedience. Seek not the praise of men; covet not an evil covetousness to your house. But let your treasure be in heaven, and prize that honour which cometh of God only.
Be thankful that the rule of your duty is plainly laid before you; and in simplicity and godly sincerity have your conversation in the world. If by walking in this straight path, you should be exposed to danger from the attack of man, look to God (as this prophet did) to bear you out in every thing; and at the same time be as ready as he was to return good for evil. Rejoice in no man's affliction; but “ Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust *.
But from this good man's fall, learn the necessity of continual watchfulness; learn to see your continual need of Christ to be your sanctification and your righteousness. Without Him you cannot stand upright for an instant: and even when He is with you, it is only by stirring you up to great diligence, that He enables you to persevere in your course of imperfect and tottering godliness. 6 Who can tell how oft he offendeth ?” pray to God to cleanse you from your secret faults.
If in any respect you differ from some careless sinners, give God the glory who hath made the difference. Remember your own ways, and be ashamed; and when you think of reward, consider that the wages of your own work is death: and rely altogether upon Christ; “ for He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him 5."
4 Matt. v.
5 2 Cor. v, 21.
ELIJAH ON MOUNT CARMEL.
1 Kings xviii. 21.
“ 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."
The necessity of decision in religion is repeatedly enforced in Holy Scripture. Our blessed Lord Himself tells us,
“ No man can serve two masters';" and his apostle James declares, “that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?.” God will admit of no rival in our affections. If we will reserve a place in our hearts for any thing that is contrary to Him, and serve Him upon conditions, and with exceptions, He is a jealous God, and will make us know that He is not so to be mocked. But,
. But, if we will “love the Lord our God with all our hearts,” and “ have respect unto all his commandments,” and eschew “every false way;" we honour Him, and He will honour us, and, for his tender mercy's sake in Christ, He will accept our offering, and water us abundantly with the dew of his blessing
These truths are illustrated by the sublime history which is contained in the chapter before us. My
Matt. vi. 24.
2 James iv. 4.
present discourse shall be employed in the explanation and application of it.
The kingdom of Israel was reduced to great distress. In resentment of the idolatries of Ahab, its wicked ruler, and for the multiplied transgressions with which the people had provoked Him to anger, Jehovah had commissioned his prophet Elijah to declare, “ As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my words.” The prophet, accordingly, was sent into a place of retirement, and the dearth came, as had been predicted. In his wrath, however, Jehovah still remembered mercy: “And it came to pass, after many days, that the word of the Lord came to Elijah in the third year, saying, Go, show thyself unto Ahab; and I will send rain upon the earth 4.”
But this was not to be done till such time as both the people and their king should be convinced of the error of their ways, and be made sensible that their own sins had brought all these calamities upon them. And it appears (especially with respect to the king) that this was by no means the case as yet:
- There was a sore famine in Samaria,” and he felt and deplored the grievance; but it never entered into his mind that he was himself the cause of it. This is evident from the manner of his address to Elijah, when, after having been long sought for to no purpose, the prophet voluntarily showed himself at last. “Art thou he,” saith Ahab, “that troubleth Israel ?” As if Elijah had occasioned the distress because he had foretold it, and, in the name of God, had commanded its coming. The prophet answered, “I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father's house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and thou hast followed Baalim. Now therefore 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, * 1 Kings xvii. 1.
* 1 Kings xviii. 1.
which eat at Jezebel's table. So Ahab sent unto all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together unto mount Carmel.” This done, Elijah appears on the behalf of God; and Jehovah condescends to put himself upon his trial before his people.
“ 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.” Two Supreme Beings, two Most High Gods there cannot be. This he takes for granted, as every wise man must. Therefore, the only question to be decided is, Who was the God: whether Baal, as his priests affirmed; or Jehovah, as Elijah himself was prepared to prove. Compromise there could be none; and for the people not to come to a decision would be worse than madness. The case ought in all reason to be immediately and fairly tried, that all might know how to regulate their practice in a matter of such weighty import, and might render their services, at once, to Him who was entitled to them.
Elijah therefore, as Jehovah's advocate, makes a fair proposal in his name. Let him be God, who, by a manifest act of direct "Almighty power, can prove himself to be so; and let him who can produce no such testimony, be counted for an idol. “Let them, therefore, give us two bullocks,” he says; "and let them
“ choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under. And I will dress the other bullock, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: and call ye on the name of your gods,and I will callon the name of the Lord : and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God. And all the people answered and said, It is well spoken.” It was a fair challenge, and, for their parts, they were content to abide by the issue of it: and the priests of Baal could not, for shame, refuse it. The two bullocks were, accordingly, assigned, as Elijah had demanded. And the priests of Baal, watched by their vigilant adversary, and surrounded by the jealous eyes of the attentive multitude, proceeded first, and (as we may well imagine),
with heavy hearts and mortifying forebodings, to prove the power of their god.
of their god. “They took the bullock which was given them,” (for how could they help themselves ?) " and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us.” Right glad would Satan have been to have wrought one of his lying wonders. But it might not be. “ There was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made. ... They cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner, with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them.” They strove hard to amuse the people with all the frantic ceremonies of a gross idolatry. But they had been surprised into a trial in the face of day, and could no more hide their shame than gain their end. “ There was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded.” It was as it always shall be with the children of the wicked one, their idol failed them in their extremity; and their cause was ruined by being brought to the light.
“And Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me:” for truth covets observation. “ And all the people came near unto him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord that was broken down." He had no new worship to establish, no new doctrine to promulgate. For “thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls”.” It is by repairing God's broken altar, by recurrence to his ancient neglected ordinances, that a people suffering for their wickedness are to have peace. This Elijah knew. So he "took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the word of the Lord came, saying, Israel shall be thy name: and with the stones," (thereby reminding them whose they were, and whom they had, to their cost, forsaken,) he restored Jehovah's altar. “ And he made a trench," the history proceeds,