« FöregåendeFortsätt »
she will live by faith rather than by sense, and give away the present, in the confidence of a future remuneration : first, she bakes Elijah's cake, then her own, not grudging to see her last morsels go down another's throat, while herself was famishing. How hard precepts doth God lay, where he intends bounty ! Had not God meant her preservation, he had suffered her to eat her last cake alone, without any interpellation ; now the mercy of the Almighty purposing as well this miraculous favour to her, as to his prophet, requires of her this task, which flesh and blood would have thought unreasonable. So we are wont to put hard questions to those scholars, whom we would promote to higher forms. So, in all achievements, the difficulty of the enterprize makes way for the glory of the actor.
Happy was it for this widow, that she did not shut her hand to the man of God, that she was no niggard of her last handful: never or olive did so increase in growing, as here in consuming. This barrel, this cruse of her's had no bottom, the barrel of meal wasted not, the cruse of oil failed not : behold, not getting, not saving, is the way to abundance, but giving. The mercy
of God crowns our beneficence with the blessing of store; who can fear want by a merciful liberality, when he sees the Sareptan had famished, if she had not given, and by giving abounded? With what thankful devotion must this woman every day needs look
her barrel and cruse, wherein she saw the mercy of God renewed to her continually! Doubtless her soul was no less fed by faith, than her body with this supernatural provision. How welcome a guest must Elijah needs be to this widow, that gave her life and her son's to her for his board! yea that, in that woeful famine, gave her and her son their board for his house-room.
The dearth thus overcome, the mother looks hopefully on her only son, promising herself much
joy in his life and prosperity, when an unexpected sickness surpriseth him, and doth that which the famine but threatened. When can we hold ourselves secure from evils ? no sooner is one of these serjeants compounded withal, than we are arrested by another,
How ready are we to mistake the grounds of our afflictions, and to cast them upon false causes ! The passionate mother cannot find whether to impute the death of her son, but to the presence of Elijah, , to whom she comes distracted with perplexity, not without an unkind challenge of him, from whom she had received both that life she had lost, and that she had;
“What have I to do with thee, O thou man of God? art thou come to me to call my sin to remembrance, and to slay my son ?"
As if her son could not have died, if Elijah had not been her guest; whereas her son had died, but for him ; why should she think that the prophet had saved him from the famine to kill him with sickness? as if God had not been free in his actions, and must needs strike by the same hands by which he preserved. She had the grace to know that her affliction was for her sin; yet was so unwise, to imagine the arrearages of her iniquities had not been called for, if Elijah had not been the remembrancer; he, who had appeased God towards her, is suspected to have incensed him ; this wrongful misconstruction was enough to move any patience. Elijah was of a hot spirit; yet his holiness kept him from fury: this challenge rather increased the zeal of his prayer, than stirred his choler to the offendent. He takes the dead child out of his mother's bosom, and lays him upon his own bed, and cries unto the Lord, “O Lord my God, hast thou brought evil also upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by slaying her son ?” Instead of chiding the Sareptan, out of the fervency of his soul, he humbly expostulates with his God: his only remedy is in his
prayer; that which shut heaven for rain, must open it for life. Every word enforceth; first, he pleads his interest in God, “ O Lord my God;" then the quality of the patient, “a widow," and therefore both most distressed with the loss, and most peculiar to the charge of the Almighty. Then his interest, as in God, so in this patient, " with whom I sojourn;" as if the stroke were given to himself, through her sides; and lastly, the quality of the punishment, “ by slaying her son,” the only comfort of her life : and in all these implying the scandal that needs must arise from this event, wherever it should be noised, to the name of his God, to his own: when it should be said, Lo, how Elijah's entertainment is rewarded: surely the prophet is either impotent or unthankful.
Neither doth his tongue move thus only; thrice doth he stretch himself upon the dead body, as if he could wish to infuse of his own life into the child, and so often calls to his God for the restitution of his soul. What can Elijah ask to be denied ? The Lord heard the voice of the prophet, the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived. What miracle is impossible to faithful prayers? There cannot be more difference betwixt Elijah's devotion and ours, than betwixt supernatural and ordinary acts; if he therefore obtained miraculous favours by his prayers,
do doubt of those which are within the sphere of nature and use? What could we want, if we did not slack to ply heaven with our prayers ?
Čertainly Elijah had not been premonished of this sudden sickness and death of the child; he who knew the remote affairs of the world, might not know what God would do within his own roof. The greatest prophet must content himself with so much of God's counsel, as he will please to reveal ; and he will sometimes reveal the greater secrets, and conceal the less, to make good both his own liberty
and man's humiliation. So much more unexpected as the stroke was, so much more welcome is the cure. How joyfully doth the man of God take the revived child into his arms, and present him to his mother ! How doth his heart leap within him, at this proof of God's favour to him, mercy to the widow, power to the child!
What life and joy did now show itself in the face of that amazed mother, when she saw again the eyes of her son fixed upon her's: when she felt his flesh warm, his motions vital! Now she can say to Elijah,
By this I know that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in thy mouth is truth." Did she not till now know this? Had she not said before, - What have I to do with thee, O thou man of God ?" Were not her cruse and her barrel sufficient proofs of his divine commission? Doubtless what her meal and oil had assured her of, the death of her son made her to doubt; and now the reviving did re-ascertain. Even the strongest faith sometimes staggereth, and needeth new acts of heavenly supportation; the end of miracles is confirmation of truth. It seems, had this widow's son continued dead, her belief had been buried in his grave: notwithstanding her meal and her oil, her soul had languished. The mercy of God is fain to provide new helps for our infirmities, and graciously condescends to our own terms, that he may work out our faith and salvation.
ELIJAH WITH THE BAALITES.
THREE years and a half did Israel lie gasping under a parching drought and miserable famine. No creature was so odious to them as Elijah, to whom they
ascribed all their misery. Methinks I hear how they railed on, and cursed the prophet : how much envy must the servants of God undergo for their master! Nothing but the tongue was Elijah's, the hand was God's; the prophet did but say what God would do. I do not see them fall out with their sins, that had deserved the judgment, but with the messenger that denounced it. Baal had no fewer servants, than if there had been both rain and plenty. Elijah safely spends this storm under the lee of Zarephath ; some three years hath he lain close in that obscure corner, and lived upon the barrel and cruse which he had multiplied : at last, God calls him forth, “Go, show thyself to Ahab, and I will send rain upon the earth ;" no rain must fall till Elijah was seen of Ahab; he carried away the clouds with him, he must bring them again. The
The king, the people of Israel, shall be witnesses that God will make good the word, the oath of his prophet. Should the rain have fallen in Elijah's absence, who could have known it was by his procurement ? God holds the credit of his messengers precious, and neglects nothing that may grace them in the eyes of the world; not the necessity of seven thousand religious Israelites could crack the word of one Elijah. There is nothing wherein God is more tender, than in approving the veracity of himself in his ministers.
Lewd Ahab hath a holy steward; as his name was, so was he a servant of God, while his master was a slave to Baal. He, that reserved seven thousand in the kingdom of Israel, hath reserved an Obadiah in the court of Israel; and, by him, hath reserved them. Neither is it likely there had been so many free hearts in the country, if religion had not been secretly backed in the court: it is a great happiness when God gives favour and honour to the virtuous. Elijah did not lie more close in Zarephath, than Obadiah did in the court; he could not have done so much service to the church, if he had not