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and lightning; or else he is not at home, but engaged in the chase ; or perbaps be bas laid himself down a little, and is asleep; cry aloud, and awake him!
Yes, just as there are doubts, which must be expelled, not by reasons and arguments, but, as one of the primitive fathers says, peremptorily with such an expression as "fie, tie,' which we should use to children ; 'and just as there are cares which are best removed by a smile; so there are absurdities and errors, to which a little well-timed irony is the best reply.
Where reasons no longer avail, and where proofs are no longer acknowledged, such irony may occasionally serve a useful purpose. Something like it is met with in the 44th chapter of Isaiah; and there, also, it is levelled at the sottish ness of idolatry. What can de done with obstinate, self-conceited people, who, perhaps, do not once give themselves the trouble to read the Gospel, and examine it? Why should we contend long with such about the truth, seeing that all men have not faith; or is it communicable, like an article of mer. chandize ? Perhaps it is better to advise such persons.to “stay at Jericho till their beards are grown ;” and to say no more. Human nature, in the obstinate, ignorant, and selfconceited, is sometimes more caught hold of by brevity like this, than by ever so long and serious an address. Are you disposed to blame Elijah for being able to mock and use irony during such a momentous scene? If so, you are wrong. He discovers here a free and unruffled state of mind; an inward confidence and cheerfulness about the truth and justice of his cause ; a certainty of success, and that the true and living God will not forsake him. If there had been the smallest doubt, the least uncertainty in bis soul, he would certainly have indulged no disposition to irony.
But what is the effect of it upon Baal's prophets and votaries ? It excites their vexation and impatience to the highest degree. Baal must hear now,-he must come forth, whether he will or no. Their cry to Baal is now intense: they draw out their knives and lancets, and lacerate their bodies, according to heatlien custom, until they stream with blood; as if they had still retained some remnant of the ancient maxim, that “ without shedding of blood there is no re. mission.” With their sinful blood they think to induce Baal to hear and answer them; and then they begin to prophesy, that is, to make all kinds of enthusiastic motions, and to rave and utter forth horrible incantations. But there was no voice, nor any that answered, wor any that regarded, -all was
in vain. And even with the living God himself, my brethren, such excitements of spirit, and forced ecstasies and devotions, are not the way to gain an answer to our prayers. However much you may excite yourselves, Jehovah has no pleasure in such sacrifices. Mere solemnity of countenance, bowing down our bodies, praying ourselves hoarse, spending whole hours in mere will worship, are not the things to propitiate God; and as long as you think them to be so, you receive no answer from him.
II. This unavailing cry of the idolaters was continued from the morning until the time of the evening sacrifice. Then Elijala stood forth in simplicity and uprightness, without pomp and shew, with a tranquil countenance, and a firm deportment; so that every one might well presume that he was a prophet of the true God. “And Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me. And all ihe people came near unto him." On the top of Carmel lay the ruins of an altar, here called the altar of Jehovah. It had probably been built there in better times, and had been thrown down by the idolaters. This altar Elijah now repaired; as if be meant to say,
May God restore thee, O Israel! may God restore thee, thou mournfully dilapidated sanctuary of the Lord!” For what Elijah now did, had a significant meaning. He took twelve stones, according to the number of the twelve tribes of Israel, in order to rebuild with them the altar, in the name of the Lord. This was figuratively to say, “God will perform his promise to Jacob, and will keep his covenant with him whom be surnamed by the name of Israel.” About the altar Elijah cast a trench, -and then prepared the wood, dressed the bullock, and laid it upon it. And might not he who afterwards spoke of Christ's decease, which he should accomplish at Jerusalem, now have sighed, “Oh that thou wouldest soon prepare thy sacrifice, thou Priest of God, that offering which perfects for ever them that are sanctified !" He commanded that water should be poured on the wood, and on the sacrifice, in order that the miracle might be the more unquestionable, and no one be able to object, as if tire had been secretly applied. “ Fill four barrels with water," said he, “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 le filled the trench also with water." : The preparations are now completed. A secret awe thrills
through the assembled multitude: deep silence prevails." And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice,” (which is with us about three o'clock in the afternoon, a solemn and important hour, the ninth hour, as it is called in the evangelists,) "That Elijah the prophet came near, (to the altar,) 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 servant; 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 beart back again !" Elijah calls God by his name, Jehovah God, which he bad given himself in the beginning, to denote his condescending and compassionate love to fallen man; he calls him, “ the god of Abrabam, Isaac, and of Israel," that he might excite in the hearts of this backslidden people a humbling remembrance of all the good which Jehovah had shewn to them and to their fathers from ancient times, by his own free grace. Elijah prays, “ Let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word.” The honour of God is his supreme desire. He would also have his own mission contirmed in the eyes of the people, and he added, “ bear me, O Lord, hear me;" expressive of the fervency and earnestness of his spirit,
6 that this people may know that thou art the Lord God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again." The glory of God, and the salvation of the people,—these two things formed the entire object of all that the prophet did and said. And what shall we admire the most in this prayer,-the prophet's zeal for God's glory, or the ardour of bis love for the degraded house of Israel,- bis boldness in asking such great things, or his firm confidence in not doubting that God would testify to his own cause ? wonder most at the unspeakable grace of God, wbich teaches a handful of dust and ashes, as man is, thus to believe, love, and pray. To him be the glory!
And now, what ensues ? Mysterious moment! The whole revelation of God is at stake. If no answer follows, the whole fabric falls in, and the ground of our hope is gone." "Then all that Elijah bas testified, -all that the prophets have spoken before him, and which Elijah has confirmed, will be accounted a delusion; and the God of Abrabam, of Isaac, and of Israel, will be no longer regarded! The prayer is uttered. The silence of death reigos in the assembly,-every heart beats high,-in every face is the extreme of expectation; when, lo!
the answer comes ; the Amen is given; the fire of heaven descends in the sight of every one, directly upon the altar, consumes the burnt-offering, the wood, the stones, and the earth, and licks up the water in the trench. “ And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces : and they said, Jehovah, he is the God; Jehovab, be is the God.” Elijah's faith is crowned, the foolish priests are put to shame; and all the gods, which are not the God of the Bible, are confounded and annihilated.
Ah, what has not the merciful God, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Israel, performed, to bring us to the knowledge of himself, and to faith in bim! Has he not spoken to us without end, in nature and in the Scriptures; by creation, providence, and revelation; by arguments and figures; by prophets, apostles, and ministers; by signs and wonders of every kind, in the most intelligible manner, condescending to our weak capacities, as a most merciful father; and yet, how few are there that really know him! How few give him the glory! Oye untoward and perverse generation of this world, come near, come near! Behold not only the testimony by which the Lord answered Elijah upon Carmel, but likewise all the testimonies in which Jehovah has made himself known. We will place some of them before you, so that you may once more see and remember them. He has given living testimonies of himself, by thousands : and that which he gave in these last days, when he spake unto us by his Son, was not the last, Look at the altar of his Church built upon himself as its pil. lar and basis, and on the twelve living stones of the apostles. Look at the sanctuary of God, its stability, its age, its extent, where the life and light of the Holy Spirit, that fire of the Lord, never goes out day or night; is not this spiritual temple an abiding proof that Jehovah liveth ? Look at every stone of this building,-every converted sinner.
Here was a ruined altar, but see, it is restored : here was also a surrounding trench of thousandfold sins, insnarements, connexions, and obstacles, which closed the entrance against the Lord; but lo! his fire has penetrated. Here were also stones, heart and an unteachable mind; here was also wood and earth,- deadness, carnality, and darkness; but the fame of Jehovah has consumed the earth, the wood, and the stone, and dried up the floods of ungodliness ; and the desolated ruin is become a memorial of the glory of God. Yet how few believe our report ; and to how few is the arm of the Lord thus revealed in the present day! - Nevertheless, whether
men believe it or not, they shall be surrounded with the tes.. timonies of Israel as with a wall, so that only two things will remain to them, either to cry,“ The Lord he is the God!" or, as real children of Belial, to declare that they will have nothing to do with Jehovah. It will thus at least come to a decision. Whosoever this day returns home from Mount Carmel, without caring to have it said in bis heart,“ The Lord, he is the God !"? let him hesitate no longer to take his place in the ranks of those who are of their father the devil, the god of this world, who blindeth the eyes of them that believe not.
The people on Mount Carmel gave. glory to the God of Israel ; but the priests having hardened their hearts from his fear, and remaining still prophets of Baal, they were, there. fore, ripe for destruction. And Elijah said unto the people, “ Take the prophets of Baal, let not one of them escape.” The people are ready enough to do it; for they now perceive the abominable deception which these destroyers of souls had practised upon them. They fall upon them, drag them down, at Elijah's command, to the brook Kishon, and assist the man of God in destroying them. However painful this execution must have been to the tender and compassionate heart of the prophet, and how many thousand times soever he would have preferred being God's instrument of these men's conversion rather than of their destruction, yet, because the honour of God demanded it, he could deny his human feelings, and be obedient, notwithstanding natural tenderness and gracious compassion. say, obedient; for in the law of God, given by Moses, Deut. xiii. 6, 9, it is expressly said, " If any one will entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers, thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people." This express conimand of Jehovah the prophet was obliged unhesitatingly to obey, however much his feelings might rise against it; for be was appointed of God to contend zealously
. for the law, to re-establish the statutes of Jehovah in Israel, and to restore the tables of Mount Sinai to their ancient hon
And it is not fit that a servant of the Lord should in such a case confer with flesh and blood. “ Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth," is the language of the obedient spirit.
Christ has introduced another dispensation under the New Testament; and the summary punishments of the Old Testament have been exchanged for long-suffering. Hence the righteous and the wicked grow on together until the harvest;