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THE DECISION AT MOUNT CARMEL.
(From " Elijah the Tishbite.") “ TO-DAY if ye will bear his voice, barden not your hearts.” So spake the Holy Ghost, by the mouth of David, to the thousands of Israel, (Psa. xcv. 7, 8;) and again, by the Apostle, to the Christian Church, (Heb. iii. 15;) and let us, dear brethren, seriously lay these words to heart.
What is this hardening of the heart? It is having minds unconcerned about God's testimonies ; it is allowing ourselves to live in practical unbelief. Judicial hardness arises from resisting one divine and gracious call after another, and overcoming one holy influence after another, through unbelief. The more favoured we are with means and ordinances, the more danger there is of becoming hardened. The greatest numbers of hardened, as well as of converted persons, are generally found under the most faithful preaching of the Gospel.
I'bere are those amongst us, who do not cleave with full purpose of heart unto the Lord. They have already succeeded in resisting many a gracious call which was made to them, and in again shaking off many a conviction which had fastened on them. Oh that the demonstration of the Spirit and of power may be now voucbsafed unto us, that we may become as surely convinced that Jehovah is our God, as the Israelites at Carmel, whose further circumstances we are now about to consider, were convinced, by the answer of fire from heaven, that “Jehovah, he is the God!"
1 KINGS xviii, 25-40. " And Elijab said unto the prophets of Baal, Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first ; for ye are many; and call on the pame of your gods, but put no fire under. And they look the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on tbe name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us! But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made. And it came to pass at noon, that Elijab mocked them, and said, Cry aloud : for he is a god ; either he is talking, or he is pursuing
or he is on a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked. And they cried aloud, and cut themselves, after their manner, with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them. And it came to pass, when mid-day was past, that they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that there was neither voice, nor any to an. swer, nor any that regarded. And Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me And all the people came near unto him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord that was broken down. And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the word of the Lord came, saying, Israel shall be thy name : and with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord : and he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two mea. sures of seed. And he put the wood in order, and cut the bullock in pieces, and laid him on the wood, and said, Fill four barrels with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice, and on the wood. And he said, Do it the second time. And they did it the second time. And he said, Do it the third time. And they did it the third time. And the water ran round about the altar; and he filled the trench also with water. And it came to pass, at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy serrant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the Lord God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again. Then the fire of the Lord fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces : and they said, The Lord, he is the God; the Lord, he is the God. And Elijah said unto them, Take the prophets of Baal ; let not one of them escape. And they took them: and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there."
What are our reflections after reading this wonderful narrative of sacred history? Is not the answer of Jehovah powerful and full of majesty ? Yea, the voice of Jehovah divideth the flames of fire : the voice of the Lord shaketh the wilderness. May we really feel its power and majesty! Here we see, 1. The god of the ignorant and the infatuated world ; and II. The God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob.
1. How poor a god is that of the ignorant and infatuated world! Elijah had made his proposal :-Both parties were to sacrifice a bullock; and each was to call on the name of his God. “And the God," said Elijahı, " that answereth by fire, let him be God.” And all the people agreed to it. “It is well spoken,” cried they, as with one voice; and thus the important moment was now come, which should once for all decide whether there be a God in heaven, and who he was. Elijah lost no time. He said unto the prophets of Baal, * Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first; for ye are many; and call on the name of your gods." He
gives them the precedency, on account of their numbers; “ye are many;" you have the majority on your side. Yes, my brethren, this has always been the case in the present evil world, that the majority have taken the wrong side; and they 80 outnumber the little flock of Christ on earth, that they could, as it were, swallow them up, if the safety of the latter depended on their numbers. “ Ye are many!" Yes, indeed ; numerous as the weeds of an uncultivated field ; ves. sels of wrath every where; all Israel, except seven thousand; a remnant only preserved ; all the rest in Samaria, and her towns and villages, alienated from the life of Gud. And is it not just the same in many Christian countries at present ? True it is; in this world they have the upper hand, and not without reason ; for the prince of this world is their monarch. Hence, they are honoured and looked up to, and we are the offscouring of the people: they are the great and the wise, and we the fools. They are the party that have the judgment of the public in their favour; and the voice of the greatest geniuses, and of the most brilliant talents, and the applause of the public journals,--and we ?--ah, if any one takes our part, he thinks he is doing a most condescending work of benevoleuce. We stand as a sort of criminals before the great public, and have no advocate but Him, who was in the form of a servant, and who, instead of defending our cause before the world, tells us that “ his kingdom is not of this world;" and bids us look to the future for our consolation. What wonder is it, that we appear utterly wretched and ridiculous to the world, when the very Judge to whom we appeal is one whom they bave long ago crucified. Well, be it so, ye sons and daughters of the father of lies ! be the first, and have the superiority; for ye are many. The Lord is at hand!
But, to return to the narrative. The priests of Baal make preparation for the sacrifice. This they were obliged to do, on account of the people. Probably they would rather have let it alone. If they taught the people to worship Baal against their own better knowledge, how wretched must they now have felt, while they cut up, and dressed their bullock ! so that they would have been glad to be themselves placed in the victim's stead, to escape the shame and disgrace which they were now bringing upon themselves. But such a season of the most horrible confusion in the face of their own congregations, shall eventually seize upon all hypocritical and lying priests, however they may now. deceive and mislead the people at their altars, or from their pulpits. The sacrifice being prepared,
they begin to cry aloud, “O) Baal, hear us !” and when one of them is hoarse and exhausted, another begins, and cries, “ O Baal, hear us !” and if his confidence fail him, a third rallies his drooping spirits, and shrieks out, “Baal, hear
One fixes luis eyes on the clouds ; a second looks down into the depths, to see whether the longed-for flame will not burst forth; and another hearkens intently to hear it rumble in the ground beneath him. But tbough they wait, with desponding countenances, from morning until noon, and from noon until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, it is all in vain, the cry of their frenzy dies in the echoes of the mountains. “There was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded.” There lies the sacrifice on Baal's altar, still unconsumed ! At last they begin to be desperate, and to act like madmen. They leap upon the sacrifice, as if to provoke Baal to anger, and to call forth fire from him in consequence of it. Or else the meaning is, that they perform a frantic religious dance about the altar, after the manner of Baal's orgies. Be this as it may, there is no notice preternaturally signified of it, either in heaven or in earth.
A miserable deity indeed,-a mere nonentity was their idol; for «
an idol is nothing in the world.” And does the favour. ite deity of this enlightened age deserve any better name? Is the god of the Bible-bating and froward generation of the present day- is the god of most of our philosophers and poets, of our politicians and journalists,- is the god of very many of our seminaries and universities, professors and students, is the god of our modern scientific institutions,- is the god of our polished circles, and our fashionable assemblies, in which it is regarded as disreputable to have even the appearance of adhering to the God of the Bible,- is such a God any better, any thing more real, than the deity of Baal of old ? What mean those fashionable expressions which we hear every where substituted for the name of God, the revealed Jehovah ? I mean the expressions “heaven,” “fortune,” and such like. How came these expressions to be so in use, except as a flimsy veil to hide the aversion men have to the name and the Word of God ? How do they hate to hear of any thing like Divine communication and manifestation, of answers to prayer, of Divine influence on the heart, of communion with God, of experience of his presence! These are mere fabulous and absurd notions to them; these they esteem as mere delusion, -proof enough that, with their god, there is neither voice, nor answer, nor attention,-proof enough that what they call
heaven, and fortune, and fate, denotes a mere nonentity. And is this, indeed, the god of our rationalists, and so many of our literary men, and illuminated dreamers ? It is; and the belief of no better a god than this spreads from them through all ranks; and no marvel ; for a god such as this, that cannot concern himself about the affairs of men, of course, will-suffer a thousand sins and excesses to take place without being offended. " And this is the very thing they want : that the service of the flesh may be a thing allowed ; that falsehood, deceit, and flattery may stand as commendable prudence, and - the most voluptuous dance be regarded as an innocent amusement: they wish for a god, to whom it is indifferent what a man thinks and believes, god, by whose name any one may, with impunity, swear falsely; a god, in whose presence a man need not be ashamed of any loose discourse, nor blush at any impure lust. Behold, such is the god of this perverse generation! I speak not of all, but of the majority. Such is their Universal Father, as they would gladly conceive him to be; yes, thine, conceited, Bible-hating, and falsely rational generation ! Woe unto you! for what will you
do in the end thereof, in that day when your fear cometh, wben distress and anguish cometh upon you ?
Then your cry will be no better than that of “ Baal, hear us !” and such will your pretended prayers to God be found to have been all your life long. For the god whom you now profess to serve is no God, but only an imagination of your own. For true is that which the Holy Ghost saith, by the Apostle John,-“He that abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, bath nut God.” (2 John ix.) Tremble, then, at this word of the Lord, all ye who have not the God of the Bible, who have not God in Christ; tor ye are “ without hope, and without God in the world;" ye are practical Atheists.
But to return to Carmel. There is no end, at present, to the outery and idolatrous noise. Elijah stands by, and surveys the tumult. How must his heart bave been ready to break with compassion; yet what a holy indignation must he have felt within him; then, again, how foolish and ludicrous must the scene have appeared !
“ And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud : forasmuch as he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing. or be is on a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked.” Perhaps he has his head and bis bands so full, that he neither hears nor sees you.
Perhaps he is engaged in meditating some undertaking; or arranging the thunder