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nani, Gods seer, the herald of heaven, | for the mutual honour both of the father came to denounce war against him for these and the son ; Elijah, as if he had been a sins, Asa, instead of penitence, breaks into ) son of the earth, comes forth with the bare choler: fury sparkles in those eyes which mention of the place of his birth. Mean. should have gushed out with water; those ness of descent is no block in God's way lips that should have called for mercy, com- to the most honourable vocations: it matmand revenge. How ill do those two agree, ters not whose son he be, whom God will the heart of David, the tongue of Jeroboam! grace with his service. In the greatest That holy grandfather of his would not have honours that human nature is capable of, done so: when God's messenger reproved God forgets our parents; as, when we shall him for sin, he condemned it, and himself | be raised up to a glorious life, there shall for it: I see his tears; I do not hear his be no respect had to the loins whence we threats. It ill becomes a faithful heart to came; so it is, proportionally, in these spi. rage where it should sorrow, and, instead ritual advancements. of submission, to persecute. Sometimes no These times were fit for an Elijah; an difference appears betwixt a son of David Elijah was fit for them : the eminentest and the son of Nebat. Any man may do prophet is reserved for the corruptest age. ill; but to defend it, to outface it, is for Israel had never such a king as Ahab for rebels; yet even upright Asa imprisons the impiety; never so miraculous a prophet as prophet, and crusheth his gainsayers. It Elijah. This Elijah is addressed to this were pity that the best man should be judged | Ahab: the God of spirits knows how to by every of his actions, and not by all: the proportion nien to the occasions, and to course of our life must either allow or con- raise up to himself such witnesses as may demn us, not these sudden eruptions. be most able to convince the world. A
As the life, so the death-bed of Asa want-mild Moses was for the low estate of af. ed not infirmities : long and prosperous had flicted Israel; mild in spirit, but mighty in his reign been; now, after forty years' health wonders ; mild of spirit, because he had and happiness, he, that imprisoned the pro- to do with a persecuted, and yet a touchy phet, is imprisoned in his bed. - There is and perverse people; mighty in wonders, more pain in those fetters which God put because he had to do with a Pharaoh. A upon Asa, than those which Asa puts upon grave and holy Samuel was for the quiet Hanani; and now behold, he that in his war consistence of Israel; a fiery-spirited Elijah seeks to Benhadad, not to God, in his sick- was for the desperatest declination of Israel. ness seeks not to God, but to physicians. We And if, in the late times of the depraved cannot easily put upon God a greater wrong, condition of his church, God have raised than the alienation of our trust. Earthly up some spirits, that have been more warm means are for use, not for confidence: we and stirring than those of common mould, may, we must employ them, we may not we cannot censure the choice, when we see rely on them. Well may God challenge our the service. trust as his peculiar, which, if we cast upon | The first word that we hear from Elijah any creature, we deify it. Whence have is an oath, and a threat to Ahab, to Israel: herbs, and drugs, and physicians, their being “ As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before and efficacy, but from that divine hand? | whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor No marvel, then, if Asa's gout struck to rain, these years, but according to my word.” his heart, and his feet carried him to his He comes in like a tempest, who went out grave, since his heart was miscarried, for in a whirlwind: doubtless he had spoken the cure of his feet, to an injurious miscon- fair and peaceable invitations to Israel, fidence in the means, with neglect of his though we hear them not; this was but Maker.
the storm which followed his repulse, their obstinacy. After many solicitations and
warnings, Israel is stricken by the same CONTEMPLATION VI.- ELIJAH WITH THE tongue that had prayed for it; Elijah dares SAREPTAN.
avouch these judgments to their head, to
Ahab. I do not so much wonder at the Who should be matched with Moses in boldness of Elijah, as at his power; vea, the hill of Tabor, but Elijah ? Surely, next whoso sees his power, can no whit wonder after Moses, there was never any prophet at his boldness: how could he but be bold of the Old Testament more glorious than to the face of a man, who was thus power. he; none more glorious, none more ob- ful with God? As if God had lent him the scure: the other prophets are not men- keys of heaven to shut it up, and open it Lioned without the name of their parent, at pleasure, he can say, “ There shall be neitlier dew nor rain these years, but ac. / to him. He, that could have fed Elijah by cording to my word.” O God, how far it angels, will feed him by ravens. There hath pleased thee to communicate thyself | was then in Israel a hospitable Obadiah, to a weak man! what angel could ever say that kept a secret table, in two several thus? Thy hand, O Lord, is not shor. caves, for a hundred prophets of God. tened; why art thou not thus marvellous There were seven thousand faithful Israel. in the ministers of thy gospel? Is it for that ites, in spite of the devil, who had never their miracles were ours? is it for that thou bowed knee to Baal: doubtless, any of these wouldst have us live by faith, not by sense ? would have had a trencher ready for Elijah, is it for that our task is spiritual, and there and have thought himself happy to have fore more abstracted from bodily helps ? defrauded his own belly for so noble a proWe cannot command the sun with Joshua, phet: God rather chooses to make use of nor the thunder with Samuel, nor the rain the most unlikely fowls of the air, than their with Elijah : it shall content us, if we can bounty, that he might give both to his fix the Sun of Righteousness in the soul, prophet, as a pregnant proof of his absoif we can thunder out the judgments of God lute command over all his creatures, and against sin, if we can water the earthen win our trust in all extremities. Who can hearts of men with the former and latter make question of the provisions of God, rain of heavenly doctrine.
when he sees the very ravens shall forget Elijah's mantle cannot make him forget their own hunger, and purvey for Elijah : his flesh; while he knows himself a pro. O God! thou that providest meat for the phet, he remembers to be a man; he doth fowls of the air, wilt make the fowls of the not therefore arrogate his power, as his air provide meat for man, rather than his own, but publisheth it as his master's : this dependence on thee shall be disappointed : restraint must be according to his word, let not our faith be wanting to thee; thy and that word was from a higher mouth care can never be wanting to us. than his. He spake from him by whom he | Elijah might have lived for the time with sware, whose word was as sure as his life ; bread and water; neither had his fare been and therefore he durst say, “ As the Lord worse than his fellows in the caves of Obaliveth, there shall be no rain." Man only diah ; but the munificence of God will have can denounce what God will execute, his meals better furnished. The ravens which, when it is once revealed, can no | shall bring him both bread and flesh twice more fail than the Almighty himself. in the day. It is not for a persecuted pro.
He that had this interest and power in phet to long after delicates : God gives or. heaven, what needed he fly from an earthly der for competency, not for wantonness; pursuit? Could his prayers restrain the not out of the dainty compositions in Jezeclouds, and not hold the hands of Aesh and bel's kitchen, not out of the pleasant wines blood ? yet, behold, Elijah must fly from in her cellar, would God provide for Elijah; Ahab, and hide him by the brook Cherith. but the ravens shall bring him plain and The wisdom of God doth not think fit so homely victuals, and the river shall afford to make a beaten path of miracles, as that him drink: if we have wherewith to sustain he will not walk beside it: he will have nature, though not to pamper it, we owe our own endeavours concur to our preser thanks to the giver. Those of God's family vation. Elijah wanted neither courage of may not be curious, not disdainful. Ni doth heart, nor strength of hand, and yet he it become a servant of the Highest to be a must trust to his feet for safety. How much slave to his palate. Doubtless, one bit from more lawful is it, for our impotence, to fly the mouth of the raven was more pleasing from persecution ! Even that God sends to Elijah, than a whole tableful of Ahab's. him to hide his head, who could as easily | Nothing is more comfortable to God's chilhave protected as nourished him. He that dren, than to see the sensible demonstra. wilfully stands still to catch dangers, tempt- tions of the divine care and providence. eth God, instead of trusting him.
The brook Cherith cannot last always ; The prophet must be gone, not without that stream shall not, for Elijah's sake, be order taken for his purveyance: Othe exempted from the universal exsiccation : strange caterers for Elijah! “I have com. | yea, the prophet himself feels the smart of manded the ravens to feed thee there.” Ithis drought, which he had denounced. It know not whether it had been more mira. is no unusual thing with God to suffer his culous, to preserve him without meat, or to own dear children to be inwrapped in the provide meat by such mouths. The raven, common calamities of offenders. He makes a devouring and ravenous fowl, that uses difference in the use and issue of their to snatch away meat from others, brings it stripes, not in the infliction The corn is
cut down with the weeds, but to a better | Certainly, though she were without the purpose.
bounds of Israel, yet she was within the When the brook fails, God hath a Sa- borders: so much she had gained by her repta for Elijah; instead of the ravens, a neighbourhood to know an Israelite, a pro. widow shall there feed him, yea, herself by phet, by his habit ; to know the only living him. Who can enough wonder at the pitch God was the God of the prophet, the God of this selective providenceof the Almighty? of Israel; and if this had not been, yet it Sarepta was a town of Sidon, and therefore is no marvel if the widow knew Elijah, without the pale of the church: poverty since the ravens knew him. It was high was the best of this widow; she was a pa time for the prophet to visit the Sareptan: gan by birth, heathenishly superstitious by poor soul, she was now making her last institution. Many widows were in Israel in meal; after one mean morsel she was yield. the days of Elijah, when the heaven was ing herself over to death. How oppershut up three years and six months, when | tunely hath God provided succours to our great famine was throughout all the land; distresses ! It is his glory to help at a pinch, but unto none of them was Elijah sent, to begin where we have given over; that save unto this Sarepta, a city of Sidon, un our relief might be so much the more wel. to a woman that was a widow. He, that come, by how much it is less looked for. first fed the prophet by the mouth of un But O what a trial is this of the faith of clean fowls, will now feed him by the hand a weak proselyte, if she were so much! of a heathenish hostess; his only command “ Fear not, go, do as thou hast said ; but sanctifies those creatures, which, by a ge- / make me thereof a little cake first, and neral charge, were legally impure.
bring it to me; and after, make for thee There were other birds besides ravens, and thy son : for thus saith the God of other widows beside this Sareptan; none Israel, the barrel of meal shall not waste, but the ravens, none but the Sareptan, shall nor the cruse of oil fail, till the day that nourish Elijah. God's choice is not led in God send rain upon the earth.” She must the string of human reasons; bis holy will go spend upon, a stranger part of that little is the guide and the ground of all his elec. she hath, in hope of more which she hath tions : “ It is not in him that wills, nor not, which she may have; she must part in him that runs, but in God that shows with her present food which she saw, in mercy.
trust of future which she could not see ; The prophet follows the call of his God: she must rob her sense in the exercise of the same hand that brought him to the gate her belief, and shorten her life in being, of Sarepta, led also this poor widow out of upon the hope of a protraction of it in proher doors; she shall then go to seek her mise ; she must believe God will miracu. sticks, when she shall be found of Elijah: lously increase what she hath yielded to she thought of her hearth, she thought not consume; she must first feed the stranger of a prophet, when the man of God calls to with her last victuals, and then, after, her. her, “ Fetch me a little water, I pray thee, self and her son. Some sharp dame would in a vessel, that I may drink.” It was no have taken up the prophet, and have sent easy suit in so droughty a season ; and yet him away with an angry repulse: “Bold Isat the first sight, the prophet dares second raelite, there is no reason in this request; it with a greater, “ Bring me a morsel of wert thou a friend or a brother, with what bread in thine hand." That long drought face couldst thou require to pull my last had made every drop, every crumb, pre bite out of my mouth? Had I superfluity cious; yet the prophet is emboldened by of provision, thou mightest hope for this the charge of God to call for both water effect of my charity ; now, that I have but and bread: he had found the ravens so of. one morsel for myself and my son, this is ficious, that he cannot make doubt of the an injurious importunity. What can induce Sareptan. She sticks not at the water; thee to think thy life, an unknown travel. she would not stick at the bread, if necessi. ler, should be more dear to me than my ty had not pressed her: “ As the Lord thy l son's, than my own? How uncivil is this God liveth, I have not a cake, but a hand- | motion, that I should first make provision ful of meal in a barrel. and a little oil in for thee in this dying extremity! it had a cruse; and behold I am gathering two | been too much to have begged my last sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me scraps. Thou tellest me, the meal shall and my son, that we may eat and die." I not waste, nor the oil fail; how shall I be.
If she knew not the man, how did she lieve thee? let me see that done before thou know his God? and if she knew not the eatest; in vain should I challenge thee, when God of Elijah, how did she swear by him? | the remainder of my poor store is consumed
If thou canst so easily multiply victuals, How ready are we to mistake the grounds how is it that thou wantest ? Do that be- of our afflictions, and to cast them upon fore-hand, which thou promisest shall be false causes. The passionate mother canafterwards performed, there will be no need not find whether to impute the death of of my little.” But this good Sareptan was her son but to the presence of Elijah, to wrought on by God not to mistrust a pro. whom she comes distracted with perplexity, phet: she will do what he bids, and hope not without an unkind challenge of him, for what he promises ; she will live by faith from whom she had received both that life rather than by sense, and give away the she had lost, and that she had : “ What present, in the confidence of a future re-have I to do with thee, O thou man of muneration. First she bakes Elijah's cake, God? art thou come to me to call my sin then her own, not grudging to see her last to remembrance, and to slay my son ?" as morsels go down another's throat, while if her son could not have died, if Elijah herself was famishing. How hard precepts had not been her guest; whereas her son doth God lay, where he intends bounty! had died but for him. Why should she Had not God meant her preservation, he think that the prophet had saved him from had suffered her to eat her last cake alone, the famine, to kill him with sickness? as if without any interpellation; now the mercy God had not been free in his actions, and of the Almighty, purposing as well this mi-must needs strike by the same hands by raculous favour to her as to his prophet, which he preserved. She had the grace requires of her this task, which Aesh and to know that her affliction was for her sin; blood would have thought unreasonable. yet was so unwise to imagine the arrearages So we are wont to put hard questions to of her iniquities had not been called for, if those scholars whom we would promote Elijah had not been the remembrancer : he, to higher forms. So in all achievements, who had appeased God towards her, is susthe difficulty of the enterprise makes way pected to have incensed him: this wrongfor the glory of the actor.
ful misconstruction was enough to move Happy was it for this widow, that she any patience. Elijah was of a hot spirit ; did not shut her hand to the man of God, yet his holiness kept him from fury: this that she was no niggard of her last handful: challenge rather increased the zeal of his never corn or oil did so increase in grow. I prayer, than stirred his choler to the offen. ing, as here in consuming. This barrel, this der. He takes the dead child out of his cruse of hers, had no bottom; the barrel of mother's bosom, and lays him upon his own meal wasted not, the cruse of oil failed not: bed, and cries unto the Lord, “ O Lord my behold, not getting, not saving, is the way God, hast thou brought evil also upon the to abundance, but giving. The mercy of widow, with whom I sojourn, by slaying God crowns our beneficence with the bless- her son ?" Instead of chiding the Sareptan, ing of store ; who can fear want by a mer out of the fervency of his soul, he humbly ciful liberality, when he sees the Sareptan expostulates with his God: his only remedy had famished, if she had not given, and, is in his prayer ; that which shut heaven by giving, abounded? With what thankful for rain, must open it for life. Every word devotion must this woman every day needs enforceth: first, he pleads his interest in look upon her barrel and cruse, wherein God, “ O Lord my God;" then the quality she saw the mercy of God renewed to her of the patient, “a widow," and therefore continually ? Doubtless her soul was no both most distressed with the loss, and most less fed by faith, than her body with this su- peculiar to the charge of the Almighty; pernatural provision. How welcome a guest then his interest, as in God, so in this must Elijah needs be to this widow, that patient, “ with whom I sojourn;" as if the gave her life and her son's to her for this stroke were given to himself, through her board ! yea that, in that woful famine, gave sides; and lastly, the quality of the punishher and her son their board for his house- ment, " by slaying her son,” the only comroom.
fort of her life : and in all these, implying The dearth thus overcome, the mother the scandal that must needs arise from this looks hopefully upon her only son, promising event, wherever it should be noised, to the herself much joy in his life and prosperity, name of his God, to his own; when it when an unexpected sickness surpriseth should be said, Lo! how Elijah's entertain. him, and doth that which the famine but | ment is rewarded : surely the prophet is threatened. When can we bold ourselves | either impotent, or unthankful. secure from evils ? no sooner is one of these Neither doth his tongue move thus only: sergeants compounded withal, than we are thrice doth he stretch himself upon the arrested by another.
| 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 CONTEMPLATION VII. — ELIJAH WITH THE soul. What can Elijah ask to be denied ?
BAALITES. The Lord heard the voice of the prophet; the soul of the child came into him again, Three years and a half did Israel lie and he revived. What miracle is impossible gasping under a parching drought and mito faithful prayers? There cannot be more serable famine. No creature was so odious difference betwixt Elijah's devotion and to them as Elijah, to whom they ascribed ours, than betwixt supernatural and ordi- all their misery. Methinks I hear how they nary acts; if he therefore obtained miracu- railed on, and cursed the prophet: how lous favours by his prayers, do we doubt of much envy must the servants of God un. those which are within the sphere of nature dergo for their master! Nothing but the and use? What could we want, if we did tongue was Elijah's, the hand was God's; not slack to ply heaven with our prayers? the prophet did but say what God would
Certainly Elijah had not been premonish- do. I do not see them fall out with their ed of this sudden sickness and death of the sins, that had deserved the judgment, but child; he, who knew the remote affairs of with the messenger, that denounced it. the world, might not know what God would Baal had no fewer servants, than if there do within his own roof. The greatest pro- had been both rain and plenty. Elijah phet must content himself with so much of safely spends this storm under the lee of God's counsel as he will please to reveal ; Sarepta; some three years had he lain close and he will sometimes reveal the greater in that obscure corner, and lived upon the secrets, and conceal the less, to make good barrel and cruse which he had multiplied : both his own liberty, and man's humiliation. at last God calls him forth,“ Go, shew thySo much more unexpected as the stroke self to Ahab, and I will send rain upon the was, so much more welcome is the cure. earth.” No rain must fall till Elijah was How joyfully doth the man of God take seen of Ahab: he carried away the clouds the revived child into his arms, and present with him ; he must bring them again. The him to his mother! How doth his heart king, the people of Israel, shall be witnesses leap within him, at this proof of God's that God will make good the word, the oath favour to him, mercy to the widow, power of his prophet. Should the rain have fallen to the child !
in Elijah's absence, who could have known What life and joy did now show itself in it was by his procurement ? God holds the face of that amazed mother, when she the credit of his messengers precious, and saw again the eyes of her son fixed upon neglects nothing that may grace them in her's! when she felt his flesh warm, his the eyes of the world ; not the necessity of motions vital ! Now she can say to Elijah, seven thousand religious Israelites could “ By this I know that thou art a man of crack the word of one Elijah. There is God, and that the word of the Lord in thy nothing wherein God is more tender, than mouth is truth.” Did she not till now know in approving the veracity of himself in his this? had she not said before, “ What have ministers. I to do with thee, O thou man of God ?" Lewd Ahab hath a holy steward; as his Were not her cruse and her barrel suffi- name was, so was he a servant of God, cient proofs of his divine commission ? while his master was a slave to Baal. He, Doubtless, what her meal and oil had as that reserved seven thousand in the kingsured her of, the death of her son made her dom of Israel, hath reserved an Obadiah to doubt; and now the reviving did re- in the court of Israel, and by him hath re. ascertain. Even the strongest faith some served them. Neither is it likely there had times staggereth, and needeth new acts of been so many free hearts in the country, heavenly supportation : the end of miracles if religion had not been secretly backed in is confirmation of truth. It seems, had this the court : it is a great happiness when widow's son continued dead, her belief had God gives favour and honour to the vir. been buried in his grave: notwithstand-tuous. Elijah did not lie more close in Saing her meal and her oil, her soul had lan-repta, than Obadiah did in the court; he guished. The mercy of God is fain to could not have done so much service to provide new helps for our infirmities, and the church, if he had not been as secret as graciously condescends to our own terms, | goud. Policy and religion do as well to. that he may work out our faith and salva gether, as they do ill asunder. The dove, tion.
without the serpent, is easily caught ; the serpent, without the dove, stings deadly. | Religion, without policy, is too simple to be