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admitted of modification. Idolatry was not only a sin against religion, but a contravention of the fundamental principles of the constitution. A prophet might oppose an earthly sovereign, but in doing so be loyal to the true King of Israel.

Perhaps the fullest and most complete representative of the Hebrew prophet was Elijah, on whose life we would to-day offer some comments. He is presented to us abruptly in the first words of this Sunday's evening lesson: “And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.” We know nothing of his parentage and education. It is hard to make out why he is called the Tishbite. His belonging to Gilead has been thought to shew that he belonged to a wilder race than the Israelites on the west of Jordano, and the sudden way in which he bursts on us has been felt to harmonize with the startling messages he had to deliver, lighting down on men when they least expected or wished to see him, and arresting the sinner red-handed from his crime.

* See a Tract in this series on St. John Baptist,

p. 187.

But though the arrangement, by which the seventeenth chapter of this Book of Kings is made to begin where it does, happily serves the purpose of introducing to us Elijah on the sudden, without warning or note of preparation, yet it is worth noticing that one or two statements in the previous chapter go far to account for his

appearance. The nation was sinking deeper and deeper into sin. The Prophet was not raised up

before he was wanted. Omri, the father of King Ahab, had done "worse than all that were before him." But his son went even farther, for besides continuing the idolatrous policy of the kings of Israel, in maintaining the worship which Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, had introduced, Ahab “took to wife Jezebel, the daughter of Ethbaal King of the Zidonians, and went and served Baal, and worshipped him.”

The worship of the golden calves, though most culpable, was probably combined with an outward observance of much of the Mosaic system, so that some of the ignorant poor in distant parts of the land may not have been fully aware how much their rulers had innovated, or in what a position the nation stood before the jealous God. But now Ahab himself, and still more his wife, were importing from the Phænicians the worship of Baal, the religion of those accursed races whom the Israelites had been bidden to extirpate, on account of the vices which their form of idolatry promoted or sanctioned. No wonder that « Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him.”

It is an indication of the national corruption, which was now fast extending, that a man was found daring enough to venture to rebuild the accursed city Jericho, and to persevere in defying God's judgments, though the word of the Lord came literally true, and one after another of his sons dropped off, as the unblessed work proceeded, till what he deemed the accidental coincidence of his first-born's death at the time that the foundation was laid, was found

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to have begun a series of disasters which only terminated in another coincidence, the decease of his youngest just as all was completed. That audacious, hardened Bethelite, was only too clear a result of the practices of Bethel, and too faithful a representative of what ordinary Israelites were fast becoming. The faith of the Hebrews and their national existence, which was bound up with their religion, were in peril. An extraordinary crisis needed an extraordinary instrument, and the Lord had prepared one for Himself in Elijah the Tishbite, to whom, under God, we perhaps partly owe not only Elisha and the prophets of his own day, but Hezekiah and Isaiah, Josiah and Jeremiah, and those influences which, though they did not avail to prevent a punishment and temporary ruin, when the tribes were carried into captivity, yet gave us Daniel and his companions, Ezekiel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Mor decai, and Esther, and those many unknown and unnamed faithful Jews who, in trying days, preserved the torch of truth alight, and made the return from the captivity possible.

Great results did ultimately follow, but Elijah toiled and strove and suffered on, not knowing that any success would attend him. His was, for a long time, a very solitary career. He announces to his sovereign what was tantamount to a sentence of universal ruin, that for years there should be neither dew nor rain till he, the prophet, gave the word. Ahab was sentenced for his sin. His gods might help him if they could, or he might repent and turn to the Lord God of Israel, and beseech the prayers of His Prophet; but, except on this condition, an interdict was laid on his realm. The rivers, brooks, and wells should not indeed instantly be dried up, but no rain or dew should fall to replenish them.

Cattle might perish, flocks and herds dwindle away, weary landowners see crops denied them, an exhausted population besiege the king's gates clamouring for food, but rain there should be none till King and people put away their sin.

The judgment was served personally on the King by the bold Prophet, who delivered his message and disappeared. Immediately the consequences were seen to

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