« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the Lord; but Baal's prophets are four hundred and fifty men. Let them therefore give us two bullocks; 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 call on 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."
A GREAT and ever memorable scene is here to be unfolded. The ancient controversy, whether Jehovah be the one only and true God, is now to be decided by himself. The passage before us, however, shows only the preparation for this astonishing decision. Here we have, I. Elijah's expostulation; II. His challenge; and, III. His confidence of faith.
I. We are to transport our thoughts to the summit of mount Carmel. Below on one side roars the sea, and bounds the view; on the other, the eye stretches over the brook Kishon into the spacious plain of Esdraelon, where mount Tabor is seen in the distance, and still nearer the little town of Nazareth, while the lake of Gennesaret glimmers farther beyond in the blue horizon; to the north we behold the mountains of Lebanon with their cloud-capt summits. On the magnificent height of Carmel, so renowned of old for its fertility, there is at present a christian monastery, and a turkish mosque, beside many subterranean chapels, caverns, and grottoes, appropriated to religion. Hither, every year, on the supposed anniversary of the memorable day recorded in the text, multitudes of mohammedans and christians assemble, to pay in common religious homage to Elijah. How would Elijah himself deal again with these priests of Baal, if he could once more return to the ancient scene of his zeal and his conflict! You are to behold him then at present on the heights of Carmel, surrounded by the four hundred and fifty priests of Baal, the four hundred prophets of the groves, who ate at Jezebel's table, a lewd and profligate race, by the idolatrous king and his pompous court, and by multitudes of the poor, perishing, seduced people, awaiting with anxious curiosity the transactions about to transpire.
These being assembled, Elijah appears before them upon the rising ground, conspicuous to all; a plain man covered with a mantle. He looks around him with a cheerful and undaunted countenance, while all are silent to listen to his address. He then cries aloud to the whole assembly, "How long halt ye between two opinions? If Jehovah be God, follow him; but if Baal, follow him." The effect of this bold and serious address was a dead silence on the part of the assembled multitude. They
seem to have felt the power of his expostulation. With the court and the priesthood the case was different; they were decided idolaters, who had sold themselves to work wickedness in the service of Baal. But the people perhaps had not been able entirely to forget what great things Jehovah had done for their forefathers. They could not bring themselves to renounce entirely all allegiance to Him; therefore many of them probably sought to persuade themselves that they were not idolaters in reality, but worshippers of the true God, under the name of Baal. They confounded Jehovah and Baal together, and invented a religion, in which they gave themselves up to all the lusts and abominations of heathenism, but retained the selfcomplacent notion that they still walked in the way of their fathers; and that though the form of their worship might be a little different from that of their ancestors, the substance was the same. What awful self-delusion, what pitiful double-mindedness! Such were the people to whom Elijah addressed his remonstrance.
But if Elijah were now preaching amongst ourselves, would he not still have to deliver many a severe animadversion upon halting, wavering, and instability? Surely he would not long endure to witness the double-mindedness and indecision which prevails among professed christians. Certainly we see some decided characters on the one side, and on the other-on the path of death as well as on that of light and life—and as to the former sort, there is a decided sentence against them already pronounced in the word of God. They prefer the golden calf of the lusts and honour of this world to the Lamb of God suffering and dying; they offer incense to Satan, and yield entire obedience to the flesh. These are decided characters, who know what they are doing; they do not halt-no, they walk straightway toward the worm that never dies, and into the fire that is never quenched. And there is a great multitude of such, both old and young, and in all ranks and conditions of life, vessels of wrath, reserved for the manifestation of the justice of God on the great day. But will it eventually fare better with those who may be called borderers, who halt between two opinions, who practically at least doubt which master they shall serve. And oh that the generation of these halting ones did not constitute the majority amongst us! But, alas! is it not so? Decided living unto God is surely no common thing. Supreme happiness is to enjoy fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. This is the one thing needful. Let the Lord be your treasure; let him be your supreme love. 'Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world;"
until it can be demonstrated that these are your supreme good; that these can save and make you happy; that these can redeem and comfort you. Could they indeed do so, then the time spend on religion would be entirely lost time. Make sure therefore of your choice, and be decided as to how you mean to live and die. Oh woe unto thee, thou halting and lukewarm generation! Think ye that ye can divide your love between God and the world, between Jesus and Belial? Be not deceived, God is not mocked. Who is the supreme good? is it the Lord? Why then is he not also your supreme love? What means this accursed hunting after things that perish? what this idolatrous desire of vain honour and earthly glory? what this anxious care for riches and comforts and worldly pleasures, this heathenish mourning for temporal losses? If human existence be confined to this present life merely, and if we have nothing beyond it to look for, then "let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die!" then "walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes;" for why should we then lose time upon an imaginary thing, a nullity? But if this is not our rest; if there be a world to come, an eternity hereafter; what means our loitering upon the way, our settling down in the land of our pilgrimage? Be therefore pilgrims and strangers decidedly; lay aside every sin, every thing which would impede your progress; esteem all such things as dross and dung, that ye may enter in at the strait gate, and that the word "Eternity" may not at last be a word of thunder to you. Surely it is well worth while to sacrifice all other cares to this one—of escaping eternal punishment, and becoming partakers of everlasting happiness. To act half as children of time and half as children of eternity, brings with it entire death. If the word of God be true, submit yourselves to it in all things, even in those which are ever so opposed to our corrupt nature and wayward desires. Believe it heartily, both in its promises and its threatenings, both when it speaks of the glad tidings of salvation, and when it says, that we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, and that except a man be born again, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. But if ye are wiser than God, then show it decidedly; only do not halt, for that is irrational and absurd, and do not mix light and darkness together.
Neither attempt to compromise between God and the world. If christianity be of God, decide for it with body and soul: embrace the cross; be willing to suffer affliction with the despised people of God; forsake the pomps, pleasures, and vanities of the world, and employ all your endeavours to pro
mote the kingdom and glory of Christ. Again, do not halt and waver between the righteousness of Christ and your own. Which of the two will avail you in the judgment? If it be only the righteousness of Christ, then value yourselves no longer on your own supposed virtues, as many do, with whom we cannot be long in company without hearing of the good works they have done and are doing, both of humanity and religion. Neither be undecided as to the choice of your friends and associates: for "he that is not with me," saith Christ, "is against me; and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth.” And the Holy Ghost by his apostle saith, "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? and what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty," 2 Cor. vi. 14-18.
"And the people," it is said, "answered Elijah not a word;" they perceived, no doubt, that his remonstrance was wellfounded, and his expostulation just. And does not our remonstrance, made to you upon it, commend itself to your consciences?
II. Whether Jehovah be God, or Baal be God, rests not now with Elijah to determine. Jehovah himself will answer that question. Elijah proceeds, " I, even I only, remain a prophet of Jehovah; but Baal's prophets are four hundred and fifty men !" God be thanked, that he was not the only man of God then living in Israel; he however was the only one at that time who stood up publicly to maintain Jehovah's cause against his adversaries; the rest were either slain, or banished, or concealed in dens and caves of the earth.
Imagine then Elijah's situation at this time. Among the whole concourse at Carmel he knew not a single brother in the land, except Obadiah; not one besides, who was like-minded with himself, not one who made common cause with him, or kept him in countenance. Think what it must be for a man thus to stand alone in the midst of a host of strangers. What an overwhelming power is there in the sight of such a multitude
of opponents to abash and discourage! But our prophet blooms in this moral desert, like the rose. The peace of God is within
him; his heart is at ease; he breathes freely; his tongue does not falter. He is cheerfully bold to testify the name of Jehovah his God before this untractable and deluded multitude, because he is zealous only for the honour of God, and simply devoted to that one thing. We, my brethren, should not be so easily daunted and confounded in our confession of Christ before men, were we simply and unreservedly devoted to him, and not secretly concerned also for our own credit and reputation. But, alas, we have too little love to the God of our life, to the God of all grace, who hath "called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus." Were we but wholly given up to the simplicity of love, we should prove invincible; for " many waters cannot quench love; neither can the floods drown it."
"Baal's prophets are four hundred and fifty men." aware, brethren, how much there is in the feeling of being overpowered by numbers, to inject the doubt, "Am I then the only person in the right, and all these in the wrong?" How easily are we thus induced to make the gate of the kingdom of heaven somewhat wider, and the narrow way somewhat broader; to give up this or that particular portion of the truth, and not to be so very precise and exact in the cause of the gospel. But Elijah was above the influence and operation of circumstances like these. He was sure of the justice of his cause, and though the whole world had thought differently from himself, he had no mind to compromise, or to give place; no, not for an hour; and why? Because he was able to say, "I know in whom I have believed." He was an experimental believer, whose faith was interwoven with his existence and happiness.
"Baal's prophets are four hundred and fifty men." As if he would say, "This maketh no matter to me; no, nor even though they were as many thousands; for we shall soon decide the point with them." He had faith to behold more engaged for him than all that could be against him. And we, my brethren, might also enjoy this holy boldness, if we had more faith and confidence in God. If He is for us, who can be against us? We may rejoice and say, with St. Paul, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? Thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory, through Jesus Christ our Lord."
III. The people on mount Carmel are all on the full stretch of expectation, while Elijah addresses them upon the preparations to be made, and the purpose to be answered by them. "Let