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After Elijah had travelled for many days, and gone through a great part of Samaria and the whole of the land of Judea, he came at length to Beersheba, as it were by chance ; for he had as little to do at Beersheba as at any other place. Here however he could not remain ; his spirit was too afflicted for common society. Even the company of his faithful servant was burdensome to him. What could the servant do for him ? He could not enlighten the darkness of his afflicted spirit, nor explain the mysterious providence which had disquieted it. Therefore, leaving him at Beersheba, he went alone into the solitary wilderness, into the very heart of it, a whole day's journey, until the sun went down. He then threw himself upon the heath under a juniper tree, and sank down under the load of his melancholy thoughts.
III. Thick darkness hung over the prophet's soul. This is shown by his whole conduct. His close reserve, his desire for solitude, his planless wandering into the gloomy wilderness, all indicate a discouraged and dejected state of mind. Perplexed with regard to his vocation—nay, even with respect to God and his government—his soul lies in the midst of a thousand doubts and distressing thoughts. It seems tossed on a sea of troubles, without bottom or shore; and there appears but one step between him and utter despair.
There he sits, like an exile in the midst of the fearful solitude, as if cast out by God and the world; with his
full of gloomy and painful thoughts. In spirit he is in the land of Israel, and in the midst of idolaters, the children of better forefathers. Oh! the melancholy images which pass before him! the heart-rending scenes which are portrayed upon the tablet of his memory! He sees the people reeling on mount Carmel in their idolatrous orgies; in Samaria one idol temple rises up before him after another; the streets of Jezreel resound with blasphemies against the living God and his servants; and Jezebel is drunk with the blood of the few believers who fell as victims to her revenge. Such are the images which vividly and dreadfully present themselves to his mind. And wherever he turns his eyes amidst the horrible scene, there is no berald of
no voice of a single prophet is lifted up against it. Perhaps now he thinks, “Why did I not remain ? Why did I flee, and forsake my poor people ?” And if the distress of his spirit had not been already excited to the utmost, surely such thoughts as these must have tended to that effect.
The pious servant of God has had enough of this vale of
tears. He is heartily weary of painful conflicts and fruitless labours ; his soul longs for its rest. “It is enough!" sighs he to Heaven, his eyes glistening with tears. “ It is now enough, O Lord ! Take away my life ; for I am not better than my fathers.” Ah! who could have thought that Elijah could ever have become so weak and faint-hearted; the man, who seemed invincible in the armour of his faith, and superior to every storm! But to us it is consoling, that even such a one as Elijah sat under the juniper tree, and thought in his despondency that he was unable any longer to bear the burden of life. is enough, O Lord! Why should I remain longer in this land of travail ? My existence is useless. If my labours in Israel, in the midst of so many signs and wonders, have missed their aim, where shall they be of any service ? It is enough! Why should I remain here any longer to witness the decline of thy kingdom? Therefore take now, O Lord, my poor and troubled soul from me; for I am not better than
fathers. Certainly I hoped to see what many kings and prophets have desired to see; but I too have been disappointed. But who am I, that I should venture to desire such great things at thy hand; who am I, that with presumptuous hope could promise myself a preference, for which saints, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear, have longed in vain ? It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life !"
Thus spoke Elijah, distressingly excited in mind. It was from a strange mixture of feelings that his prayer
His soul was not in a state of harmony; and yet, in the midst of the discord, the sweetest tones arose which could be breathed from a human soul.
prayer was not like the peaceful and cheerful language of Simeon, “ Now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace !” nor like that clear, considerate, and calm expression of Paul, “ I have a desire to depart and to be with Christ!” But yet it was not the same as that of Jeremiah, “ Cursed be the day in which I was born !” nor as that of Job, “Let that day perish ; let not God regard it from above, neither let the light shine upon it !” Elijah's state of mind was more subdued, and gentle, and therefore not so wretched as theirs. The discordant groans of vexation at fruitless labour and disappointed hopes, certainly sound too audibly through his sighs ; but at the saine time his words breathe an affectionate sorrow for the poor people, and a holy grief at the apparent decline of the kingdom of God. It must be confessed that there is something in his prayer that looks like a complaint against the Lord himself; but, at the same time, tears of regret are already pouring out to quench it in his heart, and the very moment
when the complaint escapes him he feels the sinfulness of it, and on this very account is filled with grief. It cannot be denied, that in the expression “it is enough !” we behold the anguish of a soul which, disappointed in its fairest expectations, seems to despair of God and of the world, and is impatient and weary of the cross; a soul which, like Jonah, is dissatisfied with the dealings of the Almighty, and by desiring death, seeks, as it were, to give him to understand, that it is come to such an extremity, that nothing is left but the melancholy wish to escape by death from its sufferings. Nevertheless a Divine and believing longing accompanied even this carnal excitement in the soul of Elijah, which, thirsting after God, struck its pinions upwards to the eternal light; yes, the key-note of this mournful lamentation was the filial thought that the heart of his Father in heaven would be moved towards him, that his merciful God would again shine forth upon his darkness, and comfort the soul of his servant. Thus we see, in the prayer of our prophet, the elements of the natural and of the spiritual life fermenting together in strange intermixture. The sparks of nature and of grace, mutually opposing each other, blaze up together in one Hame. The metal is in the furnace, the heat of which brings impurity to light; but who does not forget the scum and the dross at the sight of the fine gold?
“ Lord, it is enough!” Ah, this little prayer is known also amongst us ! How many a workshop, how many a chamber and bed of sorrow do I know, from whence this aspiration is almost incessantly ascending to heaven, in the midst of many tears and pangs! Many of these supplicants are mistaken, just as Elijah
It is not enough yet. Many a faithful labourer has yet to learn, that his labour is by no means in vain in the Lord, although he thinks it is. Many a righteous one shall yet see the light arise here below, which, contrary to the express promises of God, he thinks is for ever extinguished. Many a broken instrument will the Lord use again for his work, before he takes it away into the land of rest ; and many a troubled sufferer, before he departs, shall again take his harp from the willows, and sing thanksgivings to Him, whose counsel is wonderful and his ways mysterious, but who doeth all things well. And then it will indeed be “ enough.” Ah, who is warranted yet in saying, “It is enough !" It is only enough, when the Lord saith it. And if you have still to remain for years in the furnace of affliction, be assured that you will eventually acknowledge, with joyful acclamations in heaven, that then only was it enough, and not a moment earlier, when the Lord stripped
If at any
you of the garments of your pilgrimage, and took you unto himself. One word more.
you feel disposed again to say, “ It is enough,” and that you can bear the burden of life no longer, do as Elijah did, flee into the silence of solitude, and sit under—not the juniper tree—but under that tree whereon the incarnate Son of God was made a curse for you. Here your soul will assuredly find sweet refreshment, from Christ's acceptable offering to God. He is a hiding-place from the storm, a covert from the tempest, a shadow from the heat, as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land. Whether it be true or not which is related of the juniper tree, that no serpent ventures near it, we can say this in a better sense of that “ tree of life,” under which we encourage you to take refuge. Here the viper of discontent will not fasten upon you, nor the “old serpent” inject the poison of murmuring against God into your soul. At the sight of the cross, you will no longer think of complaining of the greatness of your sufferings; for here you behold sufferings, in comparison with which yours must be accounted a light affliction, which is but for a moment: here the righteous One suffers for you—the just for the unjust. In the view of the cross, you will soon forget your distresses ; for the love of God in Christ Jesus, to you a poor sinner, will absorb all your thoughts. Under the cross you are prevented from supposing that some strange thing is happening
“the disciple is not above his Master, nor the servant above his Lord;" and as the kingdom has been bestowed upon the Head, so will it also be upon the members. At the foot of the cross you are preserved from impatience ; for you cannot but rejoice exceedingly that what you are enduring is only a temporal suffering, and not the curse which fell so dreadfully upon your Surety. At the foot of the cross, your grief will soon be lost in that joy and peace of God, which drops from this tree of life into the ground of your heart, and the foretaste you will here obtain of heaven will sweeten the troubles of this life as with the breath of the morning, and before you are aware, will bring over you, as over Elijah, the feelings of a heavenly repose ; yea, the cross itself will be transformed into such a medium between heaven and earth, that the most comforting thoughts shall descend into your soul, and the most grateful thoughts shall ascend from your soul to heaven, like those angels of God seen in a vision on the plains of Bethel by the solitary and benighted patriarch Jacob
XI.–VISIT UNDER THE JUNIPER TREE
“ JERUSALEM is the city of the great King," saith the Lord, Matt. v. 35. Where is Jerusalem ? Where the overflows with tears of mourning after God; where the knee and the heart are bowed at the throne of grace; where the hands of faith are lifted to the cross, and lips of sincerity utter their prayers and praise—there is Jerusalem.
Jerusalem, O thou lovely city of God, on whose towering heights the banner of the cross waves ; thou art the joy of the earth, and thou alone. There is nothing beautiful, nothing noble, nothing worthy of regard but Jerusalem. Who would like to dwell in the wilderness of this world, if Jerusalem with its peaceful tabernacles did not stand in the midst of it? What is it makes this life of banishment tolerable, yea delightful? It is Jerusalem !
Jerusalem! O it is good to be within thy walls, to sit together as fellow-citizens, according to the privilege of the new birth ; to sing together in the ways of the Lord, that great is the glory of the Lord in the midst of us ; to speak often one with another upon faith's bright prospects that lie before us, to number up our joys with which the “ stranger intermeddleth not,” or to place ourselves at the windows toward the east, and breathe the morning air of everlasting day, and refresh ourselves with thoughts of the blissful futurity that awaits us. “ O Jerusalem, if I forget thee, let my right hand forget her cunning !”.
Where are the treasures of God displayed, and the jewels of heaven exhibited ? Where burn the torches of eternal light? and where springs up the fountain of peace and joy, which is inexhaustible? Where does the soul look into the opened books of life ? Where does the true israelite obtain the oil of joy from the flinty rocks ? Where drops the balm which heals every wound?' Where, but in Jerusalem! They shall prosper that love thee, O Jerusalem! They shall go from strength to strength who set their heart
of Zion ! But if all this is true of the spiritual Jerusalem on earth, what