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or another our sin and weakness, that our own utter inability may never be lost sight of. Are we ready to value ourselves upon our courage? his providence unexpectedly suspends over us some danger or threatening storm, and we experience that we are but as a reed shaken with the wind. Do we feel complacency in the strength of our faith? a test of it is presently given us, and we are made conscious that we only dreamt of possessing its genuine power. Are we rich as we think in pious feelings? soon, very soon, alas! by some apparently trilling accident, do we find our whole stock of goodness exhausted; and we are obliged to confess that out of Christ's fulness alone do we receive. If we imagine that death is no terror to us, and that we shall be able to show the world how men ought to die; a slight glimpse of the king of terrors will easily dissolve our heroic courage. Are we become spiritually proud, thinking of the high advances we have made in holiness? we are soon made to learn the truth of the case. All our boasting now is at an end, and nothing remains for us but to cry, like every other child of God, "God be merciful to me a sinner!" "If I wash myself with snow-water," saith Job, "and make my hands never so clean, yet shalt thou plunge me in the ditch, and mine own clothes shall abhor me." And why does this happen to us, but that we may decrease, and Christ increase? The discipline, indeed, is painful to our fallen nature, but the consequences are most salutary.
"The end of the Lord" was now attained in this instance of Obadiah. Self-humiliation had been effected in him, and the
light was again suffered to shine upon him. Elijah said, "As the Lord of hosts liveth, before whom I stand, I will surely show myself unto Ahab to day." This composed the fears of his troubled heart; so Obadiah went to meet Ahab, and he had now sufficient boldness to tell the tyrant, "Behold, Elijah is here."
VI.-DELIVERANCE FROM THE MOUTH OF THE LION.
"TAKE heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad," was the injunction of Jehovah to Laban the syrian, when he so hotly pursued after" Jacob, as if he meditated revenge, Gen. xxxi. 24. His tongue was immediately tied, his hands bound, and his heart turned back again.
Happy are they who have the God of Jacob for their protector, who "hath cut Rahab and wounded the dragon, who shutteth up the sea with doors and bars, saying, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further; who stilleth the raging of the sea and the noise of his waves, and the madness of the people." A proof of this will be seen in that part of the history of our prophet which we are now about to consider.
1 KINGS XVIII. 17-20.
"And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel? And he 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, which eat at Jezebel's table. So Ahab sent unto all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together unto mount Carmel."
HERE is, I. The wonderful protection of the prophet; II. The unjust accusation brought against him; III. The bold language he uses; and, IV. The secret power he exercises.
I. Obadiah had gone at Elijah's bidding, and sought out the king, informed him that he had met with Elijah, and that he was still continuing at the place where Obadiah had found him. Ahab accordingly, with what feelings we may better imagine than express, went to meet Elijah. Instead, however, of any of that manifestation of royal anger which is as the roaring of a lion, not a stroke falls, not an arrow flies; nothing ensues but the feeble question: "Art thou he that troubleth Israel ?" Here is not even an outrageous curse or menace; just as if the volcano had been suddenly exhausted, and only emitted a little smoke.
Thus, the Lord our God can stop the mouths of lions, and enable his people to tread on serpents and scorpions, so that nothing shall by any means hurt them, when they are upon his errands. Yes: the same God who was thus a wall of fire round about Elijah, defeating the resentment of Ahab and Jezebel; who delivered Daniel and his three companions; who released Peter from prison; who also, in the case of Luther, the poor augustinian monk of Wittemberg, put to shame the power of the pope, and of other numerous and mighty persecutors-the same God still liveth in the great Head of the church, Christ Jesus; and he is with his people alway, even to the end of the world he is their succour and defence. Depend on it, christians, you would not pass your days and nights so quietly as you do, were it not for his continual interposition against those who would molest you. The enmity of the prince of this world, and of his servants the children of disobedience, is still unabated. Many an arm of strength, both in the higher and lower walks of life, would be stretched out against you, but that he stays it. For as many as have their heavenly Father's name written in their foreheads, as many as profess Christ sincerely and faithfully before men, as many as will live godly in Christ Jesus, must suffer molestation on that very account in this present world. And that we live so peacefully and quietly in our dwellings, and that our lives are so safe, though in the midst of dangers, is altogether owing to the protection of our almighty Saviour, who neither slumbereth nor sleepeth; who never remits his vigilance over us day or night; who with his mighty angels encamps about his people, and is himself their bulwark. In eternity we shall discover, to our great astonishment, how many enemies Jehovah prevented from injuring us, and from how many of the hands of men he has delivered us. "The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runneth into it, and is safe." Oh how safe, in such a tower of refuge! Thus Elijah experienced, and thus may we.
II. The protection which Elijah experienced was of the same kind as that which all the servants of God are wont to experience, and in like manner the accusation charged upon him, as if it were he who troubled Israel, was only another characteristic of the people of God. "Art thou he that troubleth Israel?" said the wrathful monarch, and thus cast upon the prophet the whole blame of God's heavy judgments upon the land. But, from the beginning of the world, this crying injustice on the part of men is one of those afflictions of the cross which believers are
called to bear after their Lord and Redeemer. Painful as this must ever be found to flesh and blood, it is one salutary means for purifying us from the remains of in-dwelling sin.
It indeed often appears as if faithful ministers were the stormbirds and messengers of misfortune, the disturbers of peace, and such as "turn the world upside down;" just as Elijah seemed to be, when, at his word, the season of famine overspread Samaria. Religion enters a family, and instead of peace comes division, unanimity is banished from the circle. A believing son or daughter may, to their great grief, excite against themselves their unbelieving parents; and a preacher in like manner, by his faithfulness, may offend the most influential of his congregation, and these may stir up a majority against him, in order to get rid of him. Faithful preaching of the gospel may sometimes be like the sinking of a burning mountain in the sea. Sleepers awake, and the dry bones are stirred. On such occasions, the thoughts of many hearts are revealed. Drunkards become sober, and the sober drunken. Oh what divisions of heart may we then witness! Congregations splitting, and parties forming! Then also, as in the apostle's time, it is always the case that the faithful and awakening preachers of the gospel are regarded as the offending parties, "the men who have turned the world upside down; whereas the whole blame rests with those whose hearts are alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in them, and who "love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil.” Nevertheless, we must be content to bear the blame of being the troublers of Israel. "The disciple is not above his Master, nor the servant above his Lord. It is enough that the disciple be as his Master, and the servant as his Lord. If they have called the Master of the house Beelzebub, how much more them of his household! Therefore fear them not; for there is nothing hidden that shall not be revealed, nor secret that shall not be known."
We are called, my brethren, to be the salt of the earth, by our life as well as by our testimony, our word and confession to be the salt amidst the corruption of the present age, every one in his own station, believing parents among their children, masters among their servants, and friends in their friendship. Now if all things remain as smooth and quiet as they were before, among the unconverted, with whom we live, this is an evil sign, and we have reason to inquire, whether the salt itself have not lost its But if there is great stir around us, one inquiring, "Sirs, what shall I do," or another crying in his wrath, "Ye are the troublers of Israel," then this may be a good sign to us
that we are indeed the salt of the earth, which has not lost its
Elijah was accused of troubling Israel, and certainly he was God's instrument for chastising that idolatrous and wicked kingdom. The children of God, though they are not of the world, even as Christ is not of the world, and though the world overlooks or despises them, have very much to do with the turn of its affairs; they are of no small account in the sublunary disposals of Providence. How many a potent adversary has been felled to the ground, how many a community has dwindled and decayed, because of their opposition to the people of God, who are continually praying, "Thy kingdom come!" How many a blaspheming tongue has been laid silent in the grave, because of that universal prayer of the church, "Hallowed be thy name!" Yes, if our adversaries knew how many things take place in the world on our account, whether for the strengthening of our faith, for our succour, or for the crowning of our prayers-if they knew what influence "the quiet of the land" exercise even here below, upon the fate, both of individuals and nations, and how often it is given into their hands to open heaven or to close it, to bring blessings upon a place or to take them away, to bind the arm of the mighty, and to bring to nought the counsels of the prudent-if they rightly understood in what sense the Prince of the host, whose banner we follow, has made us, not only priests but also " kings unto our God"-their rage would exceed all bounds and how would they then cry out, "Ye are they that trouble Israel!"
III. Let us now consider Elijah's answer to Ahab. The prophet stands before a mortal enemy, who is the despotic ruler of the land; and how does he meet his false accusation? Does he excuse himself, and cry for mercy? Does he have recourse to flattery or artifice? Does he, in order to save himself, begin to "prophesy smooth things?" Does he conceal from him the true cause of God's judgments upon the land? Does he even endeavour to moderate the king's displeasure, by announcing to him the good news of approaching rain? No; Elijah is a man only for the truth, and for such truth as the occasion calls for. His great and only concern was that the tyrant, together with his people, should judge themselves, humble themselves before the living God, and give him the glory. This was of more importance to him than his life. He knew whither he was going, and death had no terrors for him. His answer therefore is. "I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father's