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them therefore give us,” he added, “ two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under : and I will dress the other bullock and lay it on wood, and put no fire under ; and call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of Jehovah : and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God. And all the people answered and said, It is well spoken.” They agreed to the proposal ; some from curiosity, to see what would happen; others, in the hope that Baal would gain the victory; but some few, perhaps, from a real desire to be certain whether Jehovah was the true God. What a hazardous proposal this appears on the part of Elijah! He ventured the whole credit of Jehovah's worship upon the issue of it. But he acted really at no hazard ; he was assured that his gracious God would not leave nor forsake him.
The world has already received more than one answer by fire ; so that it ought not to require another : but one more such answer awaits this evil world ; " the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up,” 2 Pet. iii
. 10. God answered by fire the first transgressions, when cherubim and a flaming sword were planted at the gate of Paradise. God answered Sodom and Gomorrah by fire, and the shores of the Dead sea retain the traces of it at this day. By a fiery vision confirmed his promises to Abraham, when a smoking furnace and a burning lamp passed between the pieces of the sacrifice. From the flame of fire in the bush God spake unto Moses ; and out of the fire, clouds, and thick darkness, he spake to Israel on mount Sinai. By fire He answered the transgression of Nadab and Abihu, the two elder sons of Aaron, who in their priestly capacity offered strange fire unto the Lord; for “there went out fire from Jehovah, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord.” By fire as well as earthquake, God answered Israel in the matter of Korah; for " there came out a fire from the Lord, and consumed the two hundred and fifty men that offered incense." By fire God answered Solomon's prayer at the dedication of the temple; for the fire came down and the glory of the Lord filled the house, 2 Chron. vii. 2, 3. God likewise answered the waiting apostles at pentecost, by cloven tongues as of fire.
“ And the God that answereth by fire, let him be God." Let us spiritually apply this to ourselves. The fire of the Holy Spirit
, with which Messiah baptizes every true believer, is the witness of God in every such believer. This fire consumes the dross of his corruptions, and warms, cheers, and enlightens his soul. He that is insensible to the testimony of this witness, is still dead in trespasses and sins. Let us show then that our hearts burn within us, by the spirit of our life and conversation before God and man. May the Lord thus inscribe his name on our hearts in the flaming letters of his love, that he may not see it necessary to write it in our ashes in the eternally glowing characters of his just displeasure. For he will answer and declare his name to the adversaries, by the fire that is prepared for the devil and his angels; in order that every creature, either with the voice of rejoicing or in the language of self-condemnation, may give him the glory. Jehovah, he is God, and his name endureth for ever.
VIII.-THE DECISION AT MOUNT CARMEL.
“ TO-DAY if ye will hear his voice, harden 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.
There 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 vouchsafed 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 Elijah 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, but put no fire under. And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the 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 Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud : for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in 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, and they prophesied until the time of the
offering of the evening sacrifice, that there was neither voice, nor any to answer, 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 measures 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 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 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, I. The god of the ignorant and 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 Elijah, “ 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 so 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; vessels 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 God. 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 most condescending work of benevolence. 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 have 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 “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, “O Baal, hear us !” One fixes his eyes on the clouds ; a second looks down into the depths, to see whether the