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complaint, as if the wonders God had shown him had been forgotten. “I have been very jealous,” he answered, “ for the Lord God of hosts ; the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword ; and I, even I only, am left ; and they seek my life, to take it away.”
The manifestations of God's grace to Elijah had been suited to convince him that his labours in Israel had not been in vain; but though he might now be ready to say, “ Lord, I believe,' he had still reason to complain and cry, Help thou mine unbelief !” His anxious spirit would still gain further satisfaction, as to the manner how, the time when, and the means whereby the Lord's intimation would be fulfilled: and no sooner do his thoughts recur to the grievous and desperate state of things in Israel than a feeling of gloom returns, and he pours out his complaint as before.
Believing in darkness, on God's bare word, where nothing like a fulfilment of the promise is to be seen, is certainly a great and glorious thing, by which God is honoured ; and oh that such a faith were more frequently found amongst us! Alas, even where true faith really exists, it is but too generally in a state of conflict, and seldom triumphant and perfected! You find yourself, for instance, in a critical situation; the cares of this life and domestic embarrassments press you down; you can see no
human prospect of help is vanished. You now get an insight into the promises of God: “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. Fear thou not, I am with thee. Behold, I have graven
hands !” You know that He who thus speaks addresses you, and that his word is truth. You take the word, as a staff in your hand ; you hope the best where, to all outward appearance, there is nothing to hope ; you believe in the dark. This is believing on the word of God. But have we generally such a faith as this ? Oh that we had ! But is not our faith generally like a bark on the stormy ocean, which, but for the kind providence of God, would soon be dashed to pieces ?_And if at any time we are enabled to rejoice, and to say, “ The Lord will do all things well,” do we not too soon resume our doubting inquiry, “Alas, how shall it be performed ?”—or if we can exclaim with confidence, “Lord, let me come to thee on the sea,” yet no sooner do the wind and the waves rise against us, than our confidence is gone, and we begin to cry, “ Lord, save me, I perish.' Thus our faith is in continual conflict. Let us therefore watch and
pray, enter into temptation.
III. Elijah is told to depart in faith : “Go, return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus !”
He receives a threefold commission from the Lord, and with it strength to his faith, and provision for his journey. “When thou comest, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria. This is reply to Elijah's first complaint, “ The children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant.” “I will appoint them a rod of correction,” is the Divine answer. Hazael, the servant of the Syrian king, shall go through the briers and thorns for me. Go, and anoint him to be king over Syria !” Hazael afterwards became king, and a severe scourge to the children of Israel. He burned their fortified towns, slew their young men, and barbarously treated those whom nature in its most savage state might have pitied. He served the Lord as the staff of his indignation, and was one of the storms which were to go before Jehovah, overturning the mountains, and rending the rocks ; and, when he had finished his work, he was laid aside. Thus the Lord knows how to make use of the vessels of wrath ; at one time as channels, through which he pours forth his indignation upon those who have not known him, and upon
the kingdoms that have not called upon his name; at other times, he uses them as shepherds' dogs, that serve to keep his flock together, and to bring back the wandering sheep:
Brethren, who knows what our own churches have still to experience ? We are at present evidently under Divine forbearance ; can any one of us say how long it will last? It cannot be expressed, how much mercy has already been expended upon
Yet how many are there, who really thank God, and are heartily devoted to his service ? Suppose the Lord were suddenly to remove all his true children from the midst of us, and leave the impenitent to themselves—would our population suffer a very perceptible decrease ? Or is it not the case with ourselves, as it is every where else ; that the little flock of Israel amongst the canaanites is like a drop in the ocean, and like the little stars, which, in a tempestuous night, twinkle only here and there among the black and stormy clouds. Are not a great part of our people dead, though many of them hear the sound of the word of life? This is very awful! For years together they have assembled in our congregations, but they seem only less and less sensible of the value of revealed truth. They have no hunger and thirst after it; no relish for it. Neither the thunder of the law, nor the sound of its trumpet, has
them nor does the sweet melody of Divine grace, and of the promises of God, melt their hardened and worldly hearts. Many of our
people are lukewarm-neither for nor against-neither cold nor hot; they hear the words of Christ, but they do them not. Surely, if they continue in this state, he will reject them with abhorrence. A great part of our people praise Christ and the world with the same breath; they bow themselves before God and mammon in the same ceremony.
They desire to be merry with the children of this world, and to be blessed with the children of God; they wish to possess Christ, but will not, for his sake, part with the world. Such is by far the majority of persons amongst us; whether high or low, rich or poor. What will be the consequence of all this? May the Lord have mercy upon us ! For, if we go on in this way, nothing but evil can be prophesied concerning us! The patience of God has an object, but we are defeating it. Who knows, whether it may not soon be said to some angel in heaven, “Go now, and appoint this or that man for an Hazael ; and let this deceiver, or that son of deceit, be placed over such and such a church !” Who knows, whether the preachers, who now stand in your pulpits, may not be the last who shall ever offer the gospel of peace to our unthankful churches, and whether the destroyers are not already training under the hand of Satan, and only wait for our departure to take possession of our places with the torch of the false prophet in their hand, kindled from the bottomless pit! Perhaps, in a few years, all faithful preaching amongst you will be at an end ; the people will have become foolish and dissolute; the Lord's flock will be taken away, and his fire extinguished to the very last spark. And when the righteous are removed from amongst us, and no holy hands bear up the ark any longer, its overthrow and ruin must be the result. that thou hadst known, even thou in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace !" Yet forty years, and perhaps our Ninevehs will be overthrown; and wherever “ the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together!” Awake, therefore, and sit down in sackcloth and in ashes ; let every one turn himself from his evil way, and from the iniquity of his hands. Who can tell if God will not turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger that we perish not !
Elijah was to anoint Hazael, a stranger and foreigner, to be king over Syria, that he might become a scourge to Israel. This was his first commission; and the second was, to anoint Jehu the son of Nimshi, to be king over Israel. This was an answer to the prophet's second complaint, “ They have thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets.” As if God had said, “I will vindicate mine own glory; the house of Ahab shall be desolate,
and Jehu shall be the axe to its roots !” And so it came to pass. Jehu was the man that rooted out the house of Ahab from the earth, so that neither stump nor stalk was left. He caused Jezebel to be thrown from the window of her palace, and suffered her carcase to be trodden down as mire in the streets. He slew the seventy sons of Ahab in one day, caused their heads to be displayed in two heaps at the gates of the town of Jezreel, destroyed the priests of Baal in their own temple, cast the holy vessels belonging to it into the flames, and made an end of the worship of Baal in Israel.
Such was the end of Ahab's house; and similar instances have been seen in modern times. Even in our days, there is no want of examples of the rooting out of entire houses and families, because they hardened their hearts against the Lord, and bitterly opposed his children and servants. Though these ungodly men may flourish for a season, like a green bay tree, and though they be permitted for a while to gratify their enmity against the people of God, who have done them no harm; yet, before they are aware, the scene is reversed, some destroyer brandishes the sword of vengeance. One fails in business, and comes to beggary, with his whole house. Another, given up to the will of his flesh, sinks miserably into the filth of sin. One must flee
away branded with ignominy; and another is brought, by degenerate children, with sorrow to the grave. One is smitten with madness; another is delivered unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, or, overwhelmed with despair, with his impious right hand destroys himself. The babel of worldly prosperity cracks to its very foundations; and, where the Lord breaks down, there is no building up. An evil impenitent death that awful finishing of temporal judgments—is only the first step to that sequence of terrors, upon which no grave can close. The castaways go with Judas to their place, and their names are mentioned no more upon earth, or mentioned only with abhor
Has any thing of this kind ever happened amongst us ? Answer this question for yourselves, my friends! One thing I know, that still many a house of Jezebel exists among us, which must one day have to give an account for their mockery at true piety, and their opposition to the children of God: and that, except they repent, they will in that day judge it better for them to have been bound to a millstone, and drowned in the depths of the sea, than thus to have offended the little ones of Christ's flock.
The third commission, which was given to Elijah, must have been to him the most pleasing of all. It contained the answer
to his third complaint, that he was left alone, and they sought his life; and it was as if God had said, “Be not cast down, Elijah, thou art not the only one that is left ; and, if thou wert the only one on the field of battle, thinkest thou not, that I can raise up prophets, when I need them ?” “ Go, and anoint Elisha the son of Shaphat, of Abel-meholah, to be prophet in thy room. And it shall come to pass, that him that escapeth from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay: and him that escapeth from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay.” Thus, a great and strong wind, that should rend the mountains and break in pieces the rocks before the Lord, is announced against backsliding Israel in the person of Hazael ; an earthquake in the person of Jehu; and, in the person of Elisha, a fire of the wrath as well as of the love of Jehovah. Elijah now sees that the Keeper of Israel has not forsaken his vineyard. This instruction invigorates him in body and soul; and when, in addition to this, he hears from the Lord's mouth the surprising information, that there are still seven thousand who had not bowed their knees to Baal, the gloomy cloud upon his mind is entirely dissipated, and nothing prevents him from joyfully setting out in faith to give glory to God.
My brethren, if a sword of the Lord be to pass through this congregation—and a sword will surely come-oh that it may not be Hazael's or Jehu's sword, but the sword of Elisha—the two-edged sword of the Spirit, which is the word of the living God! This good sword, with which he takes the prey
from the mighty,
may the Lord sharpen more and more, that it may better do its office amongst us, and pierce, and divide, and penetrate in a greater degree than it has hitherto done! May it cast down the proud into the dust—drive the carnally secure from their refuges of lies—cut away self-righteousness, and so wound them that are whole, that they may resort only to Jesus for healing!
“Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, 0 Most Mighty, with thy glory and thy majesty; and in thy majesty ride prosperously because of truth and meekness and righteousness; and by thine arrows let the people fall under thee !" Psalm xlv. 3—5. “ And may the people which are left of the sword find
in the wilderness ; even Israel, when thou goest to cause him to rest !” Amen. Jer. xxxi. 2.