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he speaks as his heart dictates; and if he speaks foolishly-he does it in simplicity, and in faith ; and if he pleads too familiarly with God—he does so, encouraged by the blood of the Lamb and the promises of God. It is not for us to censure him, for his prayer was accepted of the Lord.
And what was its purport? “ Lord ! didst thou care to slay this child ? Impossible ! thy purpose was to lead the mother through affliction to repent
This, O Lord, having been accomplished, must the child continue dead? Look, O blessed God, upon this widow graciously, and remember thou that I am her guest. She has shown much kindness unto thy servant. I would gladly recompense her. Do thou recompense her, for I am poor and have nothing. And oh ! remember also, that I am thy prophet. I. I am reproached, thou art reproached also. Therefore that thy name may be hallowed, and thy praise magnified upon earth, now, O Lord, hear my prayer.” And having thus expostulated as it were with Jehovah, he arose, threw himself upon the dead child, and stretched himself upon it three times, as though he
“ I will not leave the child, but will await God's answer to my prayer ;” and he cried unto Jehovah and said, “ O Jehovah God! I thee let this child's soul come into him again."
A prayer you perceive quite positive and unconditional. And what followed upon this holy boldness in prayer ? “ The Lord heard the voice of Elijah, and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived."
But how does this agree with all our notions and maxims concerning acceptable prayer ? Here we have, as I have said, an unconditional prayer—a prayer too for something temporal—a prayer for a miracle
without limitations; yet the Lord heard and answered it. Yes, our gracious God does not bind himself to our maxims, nor suffer himself to be limited by our rules. This event in the life of Elijah at Zarephath, is similar to one recorded of Luther at Wittemberg. His friend Myconius lay on his death-bed, and wrote him a farewell letter. Luther, after reading the letter, immediately fell on his knees and began to pray. “O Lord my God; no! thou must not yet take our brother Myconius to thyself; thy cause will not prosper without him. Amen!” And, after praying thus, he rose up, and wrote to his sick brother, “ There is no cause for fear, dear Myconius; the Lord will not let me hear that thou art dead. You shall not and must not die. Amen." These words made a powerful impression on the heart of the dying Myconius, and aroused him in such a manner that the ulcer in his lungs discharged itself, and he recovered. “I wrote to you that it would be so ;'
answered Luther to the letter which announced the
of his friend.
Another little incident here occurs to me, which I can hardly withhold, on account of its simplicity and beauty. The mother of a little girl only four years of age had been for some time most dangerously ill. The physicians had given her up. When the little girl heard this, she went into an adjoining room, knelt down and said, “ Dear Lord Jesus, O make my mother well again !" and after she had thus prayed, she said, as though in God's name,
with as deep a voice as she could, “ Yes, my dear child, I will do it gladly.” This was the little girl's Amen. She rose up joyfully, ran to her mother's bed and said, “ Mother, you will get well.” And she recovered, and is in health to this day. Is it then ever permitted for me to pray thus unconditionally respecting temporal concerns ? No, thou must not venture to do so, because thou canst still ask and doubt. But shouldst thou ever be inclined by God's Spirit to pray thus, without doubt or scruple, in a filial temper, and with simplicity of heart, resting on the true foundation, and in genuine faith—then pray thus, by all means ! No one dare censure thee—God will accept it.
“O Lord my God !” cried Elijah, in his upper chamber, “ let this child's soul come into him again !” “ I will ;” was virtually the answer he received. And the soul of the child came back ; the child began to breathe, and lifted itself up
and left the couch of death. And Elijah-with what feelings you may readily imagine—took the child down from his chamber, and delivered him to his mother, and in one sentence short and sweet, as his manner was, said, “ See, thy son liveth !" He left it to the Holy Spirit to say to her the rest. But how shall I attempt to describe the feelings of the poor widow ? heaven as it were opened to her, and this not merely in the restoration of the child, who was now alive again in her arms, but also quite in another way. Indeed she cannot yet speak of her child. “ Now by this I know,” she exclaimed, “ that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in thy mouth is truth.” The word of the Lord! What word of the Lord was it that Elijah had spoken to her ? This may be easily conjectured. We find here at the close of the narrative a new key to the whole. It would seem that Elijah had said something to her, during their acquaintance, which she had hitherto been unable to comprehend or believe. It is not difficult to suppose what it may
have been. Elijah had probably soon perceived that the woman, with all her piety, was still not resting upon
the true foundation; and he had doubtless availed himself of the peaceful
days at Zarephath, to make her acquainted with the counsel of God for the salvation of sinners—with the doctrine of the
promised Messiah—with the merit of his redemption, which he should one day accomplish—with the necessity of faith in him, and with other matters of holy living and conversation connected with it. These were, it would seem, strange things to her ears, which she knew not how to appreciate, but put them aside, because she as yet felt no need of them. A sense of this need of a Mediator, and of an atonement, was now powerfully awakened in her heart, after she had become, through sanctified afflictions, convinced of her sinful and guilty condition ; and Elijah's word concerning the atonement, and par. don extended to sinners through the merits of the promised Surety, had now, by this renewed testimony to Elijah's prophetic commission, become unquestionably assured as Divine truth to her soul; so that she could heartily yield herself up to it, and rejoice and be glad in it. And this new faith, confidence, joy, and blissful hope she expressed in the words, “ Now I know that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in thy mouth is truth.” “I know, I feel, I see,
I taste the true and faithful saying.” Henceforth she stood upon other ground. From being a devout person, she was now evinced to be a daughter of Abraham's faith. And at the moment when Elijah said to her, “See, thy son liveth!” her heart was ready to say something greater still,—“I know that my Redeemer liveth !” Here was repose after a storm.
V.-ELIJAH AND OBADIAH.
“He must increase, but I must decrease,” said John the Baptist to his disciples, when he perceived with regret that their mistaken partiality would have placed him above Jesus, whom John had preceded only as a harbinger and herald, proclaiming repentance. He assured them that he himself was only the friend of the bridegroom; that his office was only to awaken the attention of the spiritual bride to the coming of her Beloved, and that having done this, his work was ended. He added, “ The friend of the bridegroom, who standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease, John iii. 29, 30. The Baptist, in using these two last expressions, compares his Lord to the great luminary of day; but himself to its harbinger or morning star, whose light gradually decreases as the sun arises, till at length it vanishes altogether. Nor has he a wish to be any thing more.
He would gladly see himself forsaken by his own disciples, if they will only betake themselves to the Chief Shepherd, to participate in that salvation which is to be found only with him. “He must increase, but I must decrease.” The Baptist meant, that he must decrease, not only in personal reputation but also in office. His own office was only to bring men to Christ, by ushering in the sweet sound of the gospel.
That the Messiah would come with help and salvation to sinners, John's disciples knew; but some of them seemed erroneously to imagine that the repentance in which they were exercised, and the life of poverty and austerity which they led, that their fastings, self-denials, and prayers, if they did not possess some atoning power, had in them, at least, something which was to outweigh sin, and the curse belonging to it. Rigid followers, as they were, of John the Baptist, they had not yet been baptized unto Jesus Christ; baptized unto his death. But John, their master, would teach them, that they must die more completely—that they must plunge themselves deeper into free grace. * I," said he, “must decrease.” “ All that I have enjoined upon you—repentance, self-denial, fasting, and prayer—must lose all credit with you as any ground of God's reconciliation to you. You must seek this in Jesus alone.” “ He must increase.”
Now in this declaration of the Baptist is comprised the whole mystery of practical religion. Does any one ask what he must do to be saved? The answer is, “ Thou must decrease, and Christ must increase;" comply with this, and thou shalt be saved. Does any one inquire wherein consists the christian's sanctification ? It consists in this, that Christ increases in us, and we decrease. Does any one desire to know whether he is advancing in the way of salvation ? Observe whether Christ increases, while
you decrease, in your own estimation. By nature we are great—Jesus little; we are strong-Jesus weak. We cannot allow Jesus to be the only Saviour, the Alpha and Omega. The excellency of the power is ours--not his; we take carnal reasoning for our guide, instead of the simple word and Spirit of God; salvation is looked for in self-love, not in the Saviour alone. But when the word of the truth of the gospel effectually penetrates the darkness of our understandings and the blindness of our hearts, the case is reversed. The “ strong man armed” is now become weak; and what appeared so weak before, is felt to be strong, yea, irresistible. The Sun of righteousness now arises upon us with healing in his wings, and we learn more and more to rejoice in his light alone. Our own strength, virtue, and excellency, are things we can no longer bear to hear of. We love to lie humbled before the throne of
grace, and to wait for a renewed sense of Divine love, even as they that watch for the morning.” We now decrease, and Jesus has increased with us.
It would be natural to suppose that those who have been thoroughly humbled in repentance and faith, are not likely any more to be puffed up with self-righteousness and vanity. But experience shows that this is a mistaken notion. For the “old Adam” is never entirely dead; though dying as a crucified malefactor, he can still revive and do unutterable mischief. Yea, many a one, even after his conversion, has built anew the things which had been destroyed : he has permitted himself to increase, and Christ to decrease. To mention only a few examples of this falling away—one increases by his ascetic exercises; another, by the enlargement of his knowledge ; another, in self-complacency, borrowed from his own influential popularity, or the extent of his beneficent exertions ; another thinks much of his own devotional feelings, and