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safe : policy, without religion, is too subtile charge : “ Go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah to be good : their match makes themselves is here.” Obadiah finds this load too heavy; secure, and many happy.
neither is he more stricken with the bold. O degenerated estate of Israel! any thingness than with the unkindness of this was now lawful there, saving piety. It is command ; boldness in respect of Elijah, well if God's prophets can find an hole to unkindness in respect of himself; for thus hide their heads in ; they must needs be he thinks : “ If Elijah do come to Ahab, hard driven, when fifty of them are fain to he dies; if he do not come, I die: if it be crowd together into one cave: there they known that I met him, and brought him had both shade and repast. Good Obadiah not, it is death; if I say that he will come hazards his own life to preserve theirs, and voluntarily, and God shall alter his inten. spends himself in that extreme dearth, upon tions, it is death. How unhappy a man am their necessary diet : bread and water was I, that must be either Elijah's executioner, more now, than other wbiles wine and de- or my own! Were Ahab's displeasure but licates. Whether shall we wonder more at smoking, I might hope to quench it; but the mercy of God in reserving a hundred now that the flame of it hath broken forth prophets, or in thus sustaining them, being to the notice, to the search, of all the reserved ? When did God ever leave his kingdoms and nations round about, it may Israel unfurnished of some prophets? when consume me; I cannot extinguish it. This did he leave his prophets unprovided of message was for an enemy of Elijah, for a some Obadiah ? How worthy art thou, O client of Baal. As for me, I have well ap. Lord, to be trusted with thine own charge ! proved my true devotion to God, my love While there are men upon earth, or birds to his prophets : what have I done, that I in the air, or angels in heaven, thy messen. | should be singled out either to kill Elijah, gers cannot want provision.
or to be killed for him?" Many a hard Goodness carries away trust, where it plunge must that man needs be driven to, cannot have imitation. Alab divides with who would hold his conscience together Obadiah the survey of the whole land; with the service and favour of a tyrant. It they two set their own eyes on work, for is a happy thing to serve a just master; the search of water, of pasture, to preserve | there is no danger, no stain, in such obe. the horses and mules alive. O the poor and dience. vain cares of Ahab! he casts to kill the | But when the prophet binds his resolu. prophet, to save the cattle; he never seeks tion with an oath, and clears the heart of to save his own soul, to destroy idolatry; Obadiah from all fears, from all suspicions, he takes thought for grass, none for mercy. the good man dares be the messenger of Carnal hearts are ever either grovelling on that which he saw was decreed in heaven. the earth, or delving into it; no more re. Doubtless Ahab startled to hear of Elijah garding God or their souls, than if they coming to meet him, as one that did not either were not, or were worthless. more hate, than fear, the prophet. Well
Elijalı hears of the progress, and offers might he think, “ Thus long, thus far have himself to the view of them both. Here I sought Elijah; Elijah would not come to was wisdom in this courage: first, he pre-seek me, but under a sure guard, and with sents himself to Obadiah, ere he will be some strange commission : his coarse manseen of Ahab, that Ahab might, upon the tle hath the advantage of my robe and report of so discreet an informer, digest the sceptre; if I can command a piece of the expectation of his meeting ; then he takes earth, I see he can command heaven." The the opportunity of Ahab's presence, when edge of his revenge is taken off with a doubt. he might be sure Jezebel was away. ful expectation of the issue; and now, when
Obadiah meets the prophet,' knows him, Elijah offers himself to the eyes of Ahab, and, as if he had seen God in him, falls on he, who durst not strike, yet durst chalhis face to him, whom he knew his master lenge the prophet: “ Art thou he that persecuted: though a great peer, he had troubleth Israel?" Jeroboam's hand was learned to honour a prophet. No respect still in Ahab's thoughts; he holds it not so was too much for the president of that safe to smite, as to expostulate. He, that sacred college. To the poor boarder of the was the head of Israel, speaks out that Sareptan, here was no less than a prostra- which was in the heart of all his people, tion, and “ My lord Elijah," from the great | that Elijah was the cause of all their sor. high steward of Israel. Those that are truly row. Alas! what hath the righteous progracious cannot be niggardly of their ob. phet done? he taxed their sin, he foretold servances to the messengers of God. the judgment, le deserved it not, he in
Elijah receives the reverence, returns a | Alicted it not : yet he smarts, and they are
guilty : as if some fond people should ac- , heart of kings is in the hands of God, and cuse the herald or the trumpet as the cause he turns it which way soever he pleaseth." of their war; or as if some ignorant pea- Israel is met together. Elijah rates them, sant, when he sees bis fowls bathing in his not so much for their superstition, as for pond, should cry out of them as the causes their unsettledness and irresolution. One of foul weather.
Israelite serves God, another Baal; yea, the O the heroical spirit of Elijah! he stands same Israelite, perhaps, serves both God alone amidst all the train of Ahab, and dares and Baal: “How long halt ye between two not only repel this charge, but retort it: opinions? If the Lord be God, follow him; “ I have not troubled Israel, but thou and but if Baal, then follow him.” Nothing is thy father's house, in that ye have forsaken more odious to God, than a profane neu. the commandments of the Lord, and thoutrality in main oppositions of religion: to go hast followed Baalim." No earthly glory upright in a wrong way, is a less eye-sore can daunt him, who hath the clear and to God, than to halt betwixt right and wrong. heartening visions of God: this holy seer The Spirit wished that the Loadicean were discerns the true cause of our sufferings to either hot or cold; either temper would be be our sins; foolish men are plagued for better borne than neither, than both. In their offences; and it is no small part of reconcileable differences, nothing is more their plague, that they see it not. The safe than indifferency both of practice and only common disturber of men, families, opinion; but in cases of so necessarily hoscities, kingdoms, worlds, is sin: there is no tility, as betwixt God and Baal, he that is such traitor to any state, as the wilfully on neither side is the deadliest enemy to wicked; the quietest and most plausible both : less hateful are they to God that offender is secretly seditious, and stirreth serve him not at all, than they that serve quarrels in heaven.
him with a rival. The true messengers of God carry autho | Whether out of guiltiness, or fear, or un. rity even where they are maligned: Elijah certainty, Israel is silent; yet, while their doth at once reprove the king, and require mouth was shut, their eyes were open. It of him the improvement of his power, in was a fair motion of Elijah: “ I am only gathering all Israel to Carmel, in fetching remaining a prophet of the Lord: Baal's thither all the prophets of Baal. Baal was prophets are four hundred and fifty: let rich in Israel, while God was poor; while them choose one bullock, let me choose God hath but one hundred prophets hid another; their devotion shall be combined, closely in Obadiah's caves, Baal hath eight mine single; the God that consumes the hundred and fifty; four hundred and fifty sacrifice by fire from heaven, let him be dispersed over the villages and towns of God.” Israel cannot but approve it; the Israel, four hundred at the court. God's prophets of Baal cannot refuse it: they had prophets are glad of bread and water, while the appearance of the advantage, in their the four hundred trencher-prophets of Je number, in the favour of king and people. zebel feed on her dainties: they lurk in O strange disputation, wherein the argicaves, while these lord it in the pleasantest ment, which must be used is fire; the place grores Outward prosperity is a false note whence it must be fetched, heaven; the of truth. All these, with all Israel, doth mood and figure, devotion; the conclusion, Elijah require Ahab to suinmon unto Car. death to be overcome! mel. It is in the power of kings to com- Had not Elijah, by divine instinct, been mand the assembly of the prophets; the assured of the event, he durst not have put prophet sues to the prince for the indiction religion upon such hazard: that God comof this synod. They are injurious to sove-manded him this trial, who meant confu. reignty, who arrogate this power to none sion to the authors of idolatry, victory to but spiritual hands. How is it that Ahab the truth. His terror shall be approved is as ready to perform this charge, as Eli- both by fire and by water: first by fire, then jah to move it? I dare answer for his heart, by water: there was no less terror in the that it was not drawn with love. Was it fire, than mercy in the rain. It was fit they out of the sense of one judgment, and fear should be first humbled by his terrors, that of another ? He smarted with the dearth they might be made capable of his mercy; and drought, and well thinks Elijah would and, by both, might be won to repentance. not be so round with him for nothing. Was Thus, still the fears of the law make way it out of an expectation of some miraculous for the influences of grace, neither do those exploit which the prophet would do in the sweet and heavenly dews descend upon thie sight of all Israel? or, was it out of the soul, till way be made for them by the ter. overruling power of the Almighty ? “ The Irible flashes of the law.
Justly doth Elijah urge this trial. God's | usurpations of that wicked one, if his wissacrifices were used to none but heavenly dom and justice did not find the permission nres; whereas the base and earthly religion thereof useful to his holy purposes. of the heathen contented itself with gross These idolaters, now towards evening, and natural flames.
grew so much more vehement, as they were The prophets of Baal durst not, though more hopeless; and at last, when neither with faint and guilty hearts, but embrace their shrieks, nor their wounds, nor their the condition: they dress their bullock, and mad motions, could prevail, they sit down lay it ready upon the wood, and send out hoarse and weary, tormenting themselves their cries to Baal from morning until mid-afresh with their despairs, and with the day: “O Baal, hear us !" What a yelling fears of better success of their adversary; was here of four hundred and fifty throats when Elijah calls the people to him, the tearing the skies for an answer! What leap. witnesses of his sincere proceedings, and ing was here upon the altar, as if they would taking the opportunity, both of the time, have climbed up to fetch that fire, which just the hour of the evening sacrifice, and would not come down alone! Mount Car- of the place (a ruined altar of God, now mel might give an echo to their voice, heaven by him repaired), convinces Israel with his gave none: in vain do they roar out, and miracle, and more cuts these Baalites with weary themselves, in imploring a dumb and envy, than they had cut themselves with deaf deity. Grave and austere Elijah holds their lancets. it not too light to flout their zealous devo. O holy prophet, why didst thou not save tion; he laughs at their tears, and plays this labour? What needed these unseasonupon their earnest: “ Cry aloud, for he is able reparations ? was there not an altar, a god; either he is talking, or he is pur. was there not a sacrifice ready prepared to suing, or he is travelling, or he is sleeping, thine hand ? That, which the prophets of and must be awaked."
Baal had addressed, stood still waiting for Scorns and taunts are the best answers that fire from thee, which the founders for serious idolatry: holiness will bear us out threatened in vain : the stones were not in disdainful scoffs and bitterness against more impure, either for their touch or for wilful superstition. No less in the indig. their intentions. Yet such was thy detesnation at these insulting frumps, than zeal tation of idolatry, that thou abhorredst to of their own safety and reputation, do these meddle with aught which their wickedness idolatrous prophets now rend their throats had defiled : even that altar whose ruins with acclamations; and that they may as thou didst thus repair, was miserected, sure the beholders they were not in jest, though to the name of the true God; yet they cut and slash themselves with knives didst thou find it better to make up the and lancets, and solicit the fire with their breaches of that altar which was misconse. blood. How much painfulness is there in crated to the service of thy God, than to misreligion! I do not find that the true God make use of that pile which was idolatrously ever required or accepted the self-tortures devoted to a false god. It cannot be but of his servants; he loves true inward mor safe to keep aloof from participation with tification of our corruptions ; he loves the | idolaters, even in those things, which, not subduing of our spiritual insurrections, by | only in nature, but in use, are unclean. due exercises of severe restraint; he takes Elijah lays twelve stones in his repaired no pleasure in our blood, in our carcasses: altar, according to the number of the tribes they mistake God, that think to please him of the sons of Jacob. Alas! ten of these by destroying that nature which he hath were perverted to Baal. The prophet remade, and measure truth by rigour of out-gards not their present apostasy; he regards ward extremities: Elijah drew no blood the ancient covenant that was made with of himself, the priests of Baal did. How their father Israel; he regards their first fain would the devil, whom these idolaters station, to which he would reduce them : adored, have answered the suit of his sup- he knew, that the unworthiness of Israel pliants! What would that ambitious spirit could not make God forgetful; he would, have given, that, as he was cast down from by this monument, put Israel in mind of heaven like lightning, so now he might have their own degeneration and forgetfulness. fallen down in that form upon his altar! He employs those many hands for the ma
God forbids it: all the powers of dark- | king a large trench round about the altar, ness can no more show one flash of fire in and causes it to be filled with those precious the air, than avoid the unquenchable fire in remainders of water which the people would hell. How easy were it for the power of have grudged to their own mouths, neither the Almighty to cut short all the tyrannical would easily have parted with, but as those that pour down a pailful into a dry pump, tion, but allow the justice of such a sen. in the hope of fetching more. The altar, tence. Far be it from us to accuse God's the trench is full. A barrelful is poured out commands or executions of cruelty. It was for each of the tribes, that every tribe night the ancient and peremptory charge of God, be afterwards replenished. Ahab and Israel that the authors of idolatry and seduction are no less full of expectation; and now, should die the death; no eye, no hand, when God's appointed hour of the evening might spare them. The prophet doth but sacrifice was come, Elijah comes confidently move the performance of that law, which to his altar, and, looking up into heaven, Israel could not without sin have omitted. says, “ Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and It is a merciful and thankworthy severity, Israel, let it be known this day, that thou to rid the world of the ringleaders of wickart God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, | edness. 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 CONTEMPLATION VIII. -- ELIJAH RUNNING God, and that thou hast turned their hearts BEFORE AHAB, FLEEING FROM JEZEBEL. back again !"
The Baalites' prayers were not more te I hear no news of the four hundred pro. dious than Elijah's was short, and yet more phets of the groves: they lie close under pithy than short, charging God with the the wing of Jezebel, under their pleasing care of his covenant, of his truth, of his shades; neither will be suffered to undergo glory. It was Elijah that spake loud. O the danger of this trial : the carcasses of strong cries of faith, that pierce the hea. | their fellows help to fill up the half-dry vens, and irresistibly make their way to the channel of Kishon. Justice is no sooner throne of grace! Israel shall well see, that done, than Ahab hears news of mercy from Elijah's God, whom they have forsaken, is | Elijah: “ Get thee up, eat and drink; for neither talking, nor pursuing, nor travelling, there is a sound of abundance of rain." nor sleeping. Instantly the fire of the Lord Their meeting was not more harsh than falls from heaven and consumes the burnt their parting was friendly. It seems Ahab sacrifice, the wood, the stones, the dust, and had spent all that day fasting, in an eager licks up the water that was in the trench. / attendance of those conflicting prophets. With what terror must Ahab and Israel It must needs be late ere the execution needs see this fire rolling down out of the could be done: Elijah's part began not till sky, and alighting with such fury so near the evening. So far must the king of Israel their heads, heads no less fit for this flame, be from taking thought of the massacre of than the sacrifice of Elijah! Well might those four hundred and fifty Baalites, that they have thought, how easily might this fire now “ he may go eat his bread with joy, have dilated itself, and have consumed our and drink his wine with a cheerful heart;" bodies, as well as the wood and stone, and for God accepteth this work, and testifies have licked up our blood as well as that it in the noise of much rain. Every drop water! I know not whether they had the of that idolatrous blood was answered with grace to acknowledge the mercy of God; a shower of rain, with a stream of water, they could do no less than confess his power: and plenty poured down in every shower, " The Lord is God, the Lord is God.” | A sensible blessing follows the impartial
The iron was now hot with this heavenly strokes of severe justice: nothing is more fire; Elijah stays not till it cool again, but cruel than an unjust pity. strikes immediately : “ Take the prophets! No ears but Elijah's could as yet perof Baal; let not one of them escape." Thisceive a sound of rain ; the clouds were not wager was for life: had they prevailed in yet gathered, the vapours were not yet procuring this fire, and Elijah failed of ef. risen, yet Elijah hears that which shall be. fect, his head had been forfeited to them : Those that are of God's counsel can disdow, in the contrary success, theirs are lost cern either favours or judgments afar off. to him. Let no man complain that those The slack apprehensions of carnal hearts holy hands were bloody: this sacrifice was make them hard to believe that as future, no less pleasing to God than that other. | which the quick and refined senses of the Both the man and the act were extraordi- faithful perceive as present. nary, and led by a peculiar instinct: neither Ahab goes up to his repast; Elijah goes doth the prophet this without the assent up to his prayers. That day had been pain. of the supreme magistrate, who was now ful to him ; the vehemency of his spirit so affected with this miraculous work, that draws him to a neylect of his body. The he could not, in the heat of that convic- | holy man climbs up to the top of Carmel. that now he may talk with his God alone; ters arisen! It is no otherwise in all the neither is he sooner ascended, than he casts gracious proceedings of God with the soul; himself down upon the earth. He bows scarce sensible are those first works of his his knees to God, and bows his face down spirit in the heart, which grow up at last to to his knees; by this humble posture, ac- the wonder of men, and applause of angels. knowledging his awful respects to that Well did Elijah know that God, who is Majesty which he implored. We cannot perfection itself, would not defile his hand prostrate our bodies or souls too low to that with an imperfect and scanted favour; as infinitely glorious Deity who is the Creator one, therefore, that foresaw the face of of both.
heaven overspread with this cloudy spot, he His thoughts were more high than his sends to Ahab to hasten his chariot, that body was low. What he said we know not; the rain stop him not. It is long since we know that what he said opened the Ahab feared this let; never was the news heavens, that for three years and a half of a danger more welcome. Doubtless the had been shut up. God had said before, king of Israel, while he was at bis diet, “ I will send rain upon the earth; yet I looked long for Elijah's promised showers. Elijah must pray for what God did promise." Where is the rain whose sound the proThe promises of the Almighty do not dis- phet heard? how is it that his ears were so charge our prayers, but suppose them : he much quicker than our eyes? We saw his will do what he undertakes; but we must fire to our terror; how gladly would we see sue for that which we would have him do. his waters !" When now the servant of EliOur petitions are included in the decrees, jah brings bim news from heaven, that the in the engagements of God.
clouds were setting forward, and if he hasThe prophet had newly seen, and caused tened not, would be before him; the wind the fire to descend immediately out of hea | arises, the clouds gather, the sky thickens; ven : he doth not look the water should | Ahab betakes him to his chariot ; Elijah do so; he knew that the rain niust come girds up his loins, and runs before him. from the clouds, and that the clouds must Surely the prophet could not want the offer arise from vapours, and those vapours from of more ease in his passage; but he will be the sea, thence doth he expect them: but for the time Ahab's lackey, that the king as not willing that the thoughts of his fixed and all Israel may see his humility no less devotion should be distracted, he doth not than his power, and may confess that the go himself, only sends his servant to bring glory of those miracles bath not made hini him the news of his success. At the first insolent. He knew that his very sight was sight, nothing appears ; seven times must | monitory ; neither could Ahab's mind be he walk to that prospect, and not till his beside the miraculous works of God, while last view can discern aught.
his eye was upon Elijah ; neither could the All that while is the prophet in his pray. king's heart be otherwise than well affected ers, neither is any whit undaunted with that towards the prophet, while he saw that delay. Hope holds up the head of our holy himself and all Israel had received a new desires, and perseverance crowns it. If we life by his procurement. But what news receive not an answer to our suits at the was here for Jezebel! Certainly Ahab sixth motion, we may not be out of coun- minced nothing of the report of all those tenance, but must try the seventh. At last | astonishing accidents : if but to salve up his a little cloud arises out of the sea, of a hand own honour, in the death of those Baalites, breadth. So many, so fervent prayers can- | he made the best of Elijah's merits; he told not but pull water out of heaven as well as of his challenge, conflict, victory; of the fire fire: those sighs reflect upon the earth, and that fell down from heaven, of the convic. from the earth reflect upon heaven, from tion of Israel, of the unavoidable execution heaven rebound upon the sea, and raise of the prophets, of the prediction and fall vapours up thence to heaven again. If we of those happy slowers, and lastly, of Eli. find that our prayers are heard for the sub- jah's officious attendance. Who would not stance, we may not cavil at the quantity. have suspected that Jezebel should have Even a hand-broad cloud contents Elijah, | said, It is no striving, no dallving with the and fills his heart full of joy and thankful. Almighty? No reasonable creature can ness. He knew well this meteor was not doubt, after so prodigious a decision : God at the biggest; it was newly born of the hath won us to heaven; he must possess womb of the waters, and in some minutes us. Justly are our seducers perished: none of age must grow to a large stature : stay but the God that can command fire and but awhile, and heaven is covered with it. water shall be ours; there is no prophet but From how small beginnings have great mat- | his. But she, contrarily, instead of relent