Page images

insensible to the voice of truth, continues a wretched slave to the father of lies. His heart was given to Jezebel, and her affection is the price to which every thing else was to be sacrificed. On her behaviour to him was all the happiness of his life suspended. He was the sport of her tempers, and she exercised over him unlimited control. Pliant, like clay on the potter's wheel, and capable of taking any form, he was always ready to be what she was pleased to make of him. Sold, by affection, under her influence, he soon lost the last remains of manly stedfastness, and before he was aware, his own individuality was so much sunk in that of his proud and imperious mistress, that he heard only with her ears, saw with her eyes, and felt and thought only with her.

A great many persons, in every age, are thus led blindfold by human influence. The chains with which the prince of darkness binds mankind to his yoke and banner, are not always the grosser vices and lusts: he secures thousands of souls to himself and to hell, by attaching them with the silken cords of a tender affection to persons who have taken a decided part with the enemies of the cross of Christ. Now, whatever the bond may be, whether paternal, filial, conjugal, or social, the effect is the same. The influential person or persons rule with irresistible power, and the poor captive soul thinks not for itself, has no firmness or independence; friends and party govern it altogether, and this in spite of the most distressing convictions. Nor is it by perverted human affection alone that men are kept back from the truth. There are others, and not a few, who are equally far from the kingdom of God, by reason of the homage they pay to human intellect, either in themselves or others. The corrective of all these different sorts of error would be a heartfelt belief of those plainest declarations of the gospel: "Ye are not your own, for ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's," 1 Cor. vi. 19, 20. "He that cometh from heaven is above all," John iii. 31. "I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life," John viii. 12. And again, "I am the way, the truth, and the life," John xiv. 6. And who exercise influence over you others, take heed that you prove not, in this respect, the agents of the great enemy of souls; for if through you any "weak brother perish," ," "his blood will be required at your hands." Remember, that whoso destroyeth a soul, "him will God destroy."

Woe then unto those men of talent and acquirements, who, with revolting ingratitude, transmute the gifts and abilities,

which God has vouchsafed them, into weapons of darkness; who, under the influence of the great deceiver, assault the most sacred things of God! Woe unto those much-admired rulers of literature, who, in wicked self-deification, use the power they possess over the minds of men, to rivet more firmly the bonds of infidelity and hostility to Christ upon the neck of the present generation, and who exert their genius in preparing those intoxicating notions and antichristian systems which delude themselves and others to their destruction! Woe to those laurelcrowned heads, that cover the kingdom of sin with fantastic enchantments, and overturning every sacred restraint, implant the horrible delusion in the mind, that he sinneth not who only contrives to sin poetically and elegantly! Woe to those whose voices give the tone to the world, who have sufficient talents for becoming the Ezras and Nehemiahs of their time, but who are a pestilence to the age they live in, by darting forth their wit in seductive and blasphemous falsehoods, and abuse the weak understandings of those who hang in admiration upon their lips, in order, imperceptibly, under the pretence of superior light, to scatter sparks of rebellion against Jehovah and his Anointed! Woe, woe unto these betrayers of mankind! Their part will soon be acted. A time is coming, when, from the very lips that now satiate them with their plaudits, only the dreadful thunder of furious execrations will meet their ears; and when the very hands, which now crown them with laurel, will be extended towards heaven against them, to draw down upon them the lightning of an eternal curse. Be not deceived! mistake not the present course of things for the final decision. That decision will be pronounced by Him, whose eyes are as a flame of fire, and who weighs with other scales than those of the deluded world, which only pays homage to external glitter. Your glory has its season and its period, like the flower of the grass. "All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away," 1 Pet. i. 24.

But to return to Jezebel. The fire of hell is kindled within her, James iii. 6, she thirsts to avenge the blood of the priests of Baal. In her judgment, better would it have been that the whole nation had perished with hunger and drought, than that such a triumph should have been prepared for the prophet and his God. The showers of blessing that now returned to soften the clods of the field, cannot soften her obdurate spirit. Well would it be for the world, if no such characters still remained in it but consider, my brethren, in how many places the triumph

of the gospel increases the opposition of unbelievers. What scoffing and ridicule at the outpouring of the Spirit, and what contempt of piety and conversion to God, are vented by many in their writings and discourse! The voice of Jezebel is virtually regarded by many as the voice of truth; and this in our accredited journals, in our refined circles and assemblies, in our poetry and philosophy, nay, in the chairs even of divinity professors, and in many, very many of our pulpits. But woe unto the spirit of Jezebel in every age! That woe has been pronounced by Christ himself, and is recorded in the last book of the sacred volume. "Behold, I will cast that woman Jezebel into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, and I will kill her children with death," Rev. ii. 22, 23. This is their end.

Jezebel, the wife of Ahab, has now sworn by her gods that Elijah shall die. But Jehovah, who can bind the unicorn with his band, and put a hook into the jaws of the leviathan, will now interpose to preserve Elijah. "He who taketh the wise in their own craftiness," and "infatuates the counsel of princes," has only to leave Jezebel to the madness of her own evil passions, and lo! she so imprudently forgets herself, as to send and apprize the prophet of her murderous intention against him. This was, of course, the very way to defeat it. "Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by to-morrow about this time!" Elijah hears the What means it? message. Does it mean, indeed, that all his labours and conflicts are to issue in his own disappointment and death? Is this the conversion of Jezebel, and Ahab, and of Israel, which he had hoped for? Alas, what a bitter draught for the soul of this man of God! Who shall comfort him at this lamentable turn of affairs? Certainly he had never received a more painful stroke upon his spirit than this; and if his faith steers clear amid such rocks without shipwreck, it must be owing to the support and guidance of an Almighty hand. But doth the Lord take any pleasure in frustrating our hopes, and leading us to despondency and doubt ? O no; far be it from Him! "He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him." The hopes he raises in us he will fulfil; only we must not think to prescribe to him the time or the manner in which he shall do it. He will never suffer his servants really to "spend their strength for nought and in vain." When therefore they seem to be frustrated for a time, it is only that they may learn that their success is not "of him that willeth nor of him that runneth." He finishes all his works and

crowns them all, but he does it in his own mysterious way. He suffers discouragements and impediments to arise, that his wisdom and power may be hereby the more manifest, and that the creature may learn that "this is the Lord's doing." Nothing, therefore, which we engage in for his glory, shall be eventually unsuccessful; but then "the Lord alone must be exalted." Behold, my friends, such are the ways of God! Set then your minds at rest respecting all present difficulties; only keep in the way of duty, and commit yourselves to God. He will be able, at the proper time, to solve every difficulty. Reserve your judgment for the final issue, and remember that "The beauty of a thing," as a primitive father observes, " appears at the moment of its maturity, which God waits for. He that tastes the blossom instead of the fruit, will pass a wrong judgment upon it. He that would limit his idea of the beauties of vegetation to their appearance in the winter season, would judge very blindly." Yet how often do we conclude thus hastily as to the ends of God's providential government and disposal of human affairs!

II. Let us now follow Elijah in his proceedings upon receiving this alarming message. "When he saw that, he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beersheba, which belongeth to Judah." In this instance, Elijah's faith appears in some measure to have failed him. The very words of the sacred narrative seem to give us a significant hint respecting his state of mind at this period. For the words are, "When he saw that.” What did Elijah see? Not God's promises, aid, power, and faithfulness; these at least only dawned upon him in the background, with broken and feeble rays. But in the foreground very different things appeared; the infuriated Jezebel threatening his life, and all the horrors of a cruel death. Instead of soaring above these as on eagles' wings, and looking down upon them with sublime composure, as on former occasions, the pressure of human terror seems to have been too strong for his mind, especially as backed by the disappointment of his hopes on Israel's account. So "he arose, and went for his life;" or, as others have rendered it, "he arose and went whither he would;" which serves further to intimate the obscurity of his course and the uncertainty of his steps. He had at this time no express Divine direction, as to whither he should go. Hitherto his way had always been marked out for him most distinctly by his Lord; but not so now. There was no particular Divine word to serve him for a staff on this journey; no distinct commission: remove hither or thither; do this or that! shining before him like a

lamp, giving wings to his feet, and firmness to his steps. He went forth into the wide world in uncertainty, distracted by doubts, and unaccompanied by the consoling consciousness that he was taking this road for God; since he went it only for himself, and for the sake of his own life; and verily this thought was not at all calculated to relieve his oppressed mind.

How pleasant and comfortable is it to pursue those paths, however rough and thorny, in which we feel assured the Lord has commanded us to walk! How joyfully is every thing undertaken, begun, and accomplished, that comes to our hearts as a Divine commission! We then run, and are not weary; we walk, and are not faint. But to have put to sea without knowing if we had not better have remained at home-how painful is the thought! The mind of the prophet appears to have been in this painful state, when, perplexed about the ways of God, and grievously disappointed at present appearances, he left Jezreel without any consciousness of the Lord's direction. The strange circumstance that the queen had thus imprudently disclosed to him her murderous intentions, might indeed have led him to conclude that the Lord thus warned him to flee for his life; but this was only a human inference, and no clear Divine declaration.

But though the Lord may thus permit us, like Elijah, to go whither we will, without giving us any plain intimation by his providence, yet this is only a procedure of his wise and tender love. For hereby we come the better to learn what a blessed thing it is to know we are in the service of our God, and to walk at all times in the light of his guidance; like Israel, resting at his word, and at his word striking our tents and advancing. And the more we learn to appreciate this happy state by experience of its contrary, the easier to us is the petition, "Thy will be done!" and the more earnestly shall we hearken to what the Lord God will say concerning us, and ask beforehand his counsel and direction in every thing. Again, though God's children seem to go "whither they will," in uncertainty and doubt whether the Lord is pleased with them or not, still their faithful God accompanies them as before, even while he often keeps himself long concealed. He never leaves them, but he leads them, though by secret guidance, always to a happy end. This Elijah experienced. The Lord was with him on the way, however little the prophet was conscious of it. Let us only have patience, and before we are aware, the clouds will pass away, and it will be seen, as in the case of Elijah, that we have not gone in every respect whither we would, but that God has all along been leading us.

« PreviousContinue »