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The worthy men had not thought of consequences like these. Consternation came upon them like an armed man. The heroic zeal, which had carried them away in their pulpits, and in which they regarded God only and his cause, but not themselves or their own lives, had now so subsided under the pressure of these floods of affliction, that they were forced to say, "Had we foreseen the consequences, we would fain have held our peace." Nothing now remained to them but the conviction, that God had directed them; for their own prudence would have had it otherwise; and this assurance, that God would have it so, is the pilgrim-staff which has supported and comforted them in their banishment and wanderings to the present hour.
Now, that which happened to these worthy men upon a public scale, happens to thousands of christians in a more private way continually. One, under the influence of the Spirit of love, confidently intrusts his property to a brother in embarrassment, for Christ's sake; but subsequently he experiences the temporal inconveniences of such an act in his own privations or those of his children, and in other perplexing circumstances; then his joy departs, and his heart is terrified. Another, animated by holy zeal, stands up at length among his friends or relatives, with a confession of Christ crucified, or even with a serious call to repentance; but afterwards, when he finds what misunderstandings and wrong feelings he has thus raised against himself, his zeal subsides, and he is wretchedly cast down. What now must he do? Must he recall what he has uttered? This he cannot, this he dare not do, for his Lord's sake; no, he must let the fire burn. A third is constrained, from the fulness of his heart, to entreat the Lord to unite him more closely to himself; and if it cannot be done by gentle means, to effectuate it through affliction. The affliction comes-the waves of trouble roll over him; but alas! affliction, while he is under its chastening, no longer seemeth joyous, but grievous. The cheerful emotion, with which he once prayed respecting it, is gone; he is ready to repent of such a prayer; his heart can do nothing but mourn and complain.
Are we then to begin nothing without first calculating the consequences? I reply: Where it is possible previously to sit down and count the cost, do so. But as this is not always possible, it cannot be made a universal rule. The lion roars who can forbear to tremble? The Lord gives the word—who can forbear to publish it? The stream rushes along-who shall impede it? The love of Christ constrains-who shall The Spirit is as a fire in the bosom-who shall
quench it? What a man is bound to do-he must do; and if any evil result from it, he may then say, "I was bound to do it; it was God's command; it was not the dictate of flesh and blood:" and, with faith like this, much difficulty and perplexity may be overcome. And you may rely upon this, that if the arm of God is ready to assist any, it is those, who, upon his call to "Come hither!" confer not with flesh and blood, but with joyful alacrity venture upon the waves; and at his bidding, risk all consequences. This we may learn from the ex
ample of Elijah.
II. He did not remain long in this solitary condition, left to the musings of his heavy heart. When he knew not what to do, counsel was given him; and when he saw no way of escape, the gates were opened to him. Such is usually the case. that now "The word of the Lord came to him." cheering visitation in a land overspread with desolation and misery ! For when the word of the Lord comes to us, we are visited by nothing less than God's eternal love and compassion; for the word of the Lord is Christ. Nothing is so beatifying to the spirit of a man at any time as the visitation and manifestation of Christ. But this is especially blissful and desirable, when we have undertaken something in his name, and have thereby kindled a fire, which threatens to consume ourselves and others when, at his bidding, we have ventured upon a duty, the consequences of which are such as to perplex us, and make us doubt whether it was really the will of God, and at his bidding. Such a perplexity is indescribably painful, and raises our distress to the highest pitch. How gladly is He welcomed under such circumstances, when he unexpectedly knocks at our door, and permits us again to hear the sweetness of his voice; when he again, in some way of his own, gives us to understand that we have acted rightly; causing something to transpire which leaves us no longer in doubt as to his approval of our conduct, and either by some external help, or by some spiritual testimony and assurance of his grace, giving us an evidence that he regards us not with displeasure, but with complacency; and that what we have done has been well done, for he has pronounced it good. Oh! this surpasses all other joy in this world, and though our temporal burdens may remain as they were, we are wonderfully strengthened
to bear them!
"The word of the Lord came to Elijah." He had not to seek for it, but it came to him; and the Lord is kind indeed, thus to comfort his children uninvited, and to anticipate their
suit with his own counsel; for he does not always wait until they ask, any more than that saying is always true, that "Distress will compel men to pray." Oh how are men even at their wit's end, when the waves of trouble come suddenly upon them, and imminent dangers encompass them! They are confounded at the winds; they shrink at the waves; they seize the rudder of human strength; they cling to the brittle anchor of human hope; but, "Master, awake, we perish!" is forgotten, or, if the Lord is thought of, there is a want of faith, or filial courage and confidence, or something else; and scarcely one step is taken towards seeking the Lord. How justly might he be offended at this, and requite us accordingly! But, no! he rather prevents his children with the blessings of goodness, and heaps coals of fire on their heads. He often visits them uninvited, and breaks in with his light and salvation, where he was not only not sought after, but even affronted with misgivings. Such visits of the Lord are surely well suited to humble and abase us, to melt the heart and stop the mouth, so that we have not a word to say for shame and confusion of face. Free and unmerited grace then appears in all its brightness; the christian can find nothing in himself worthy to be thought of as a meritorious cause of the afforded aid-no prayer, no sigh, no looking up to the Lord; and this humbling acknowledgment of mere unmerited grace, which our proud nature is so unwilling to make, how salutary is it, how good, how conducive to our spiritual welfare !
But to return to the narrative. The Lord interposed, not only to comfort the prophet, but to rescue him from extreme danger. This, however, was to be done in a way which should glorify the name of the Lord, as well as serve for a beneficial exercise of faith to Elijah. No fiery chariot was yet to bear him above his troubles; he was not yet to rise aloft amidst a convoy of angels. Here would have been little room for the exercise of faith. God, therefore, showed him another path. "Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan. And it shall be, that thou shalt drink of the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there." A singular direction; as it would seem, from a bad condition to a worse. But you remember it was said to Manoah, “ Why askest thou after my name, seeing it is wonderful!" Judg. xiii. 18. And as is his name, so is his way. "Thy way is in the sea, and thy paths in the deep waters, and thy footsteps are not known!" Psa. lxxvii. 19.
Do we inquire whether the Lord directs his children still, as thus in old time? Undoubtedly he does; though not by any
audible voice, yet with equal certainty and evidence; and this commonly by closing up, inwardly or outwardly, all other ways, and leaving only one open to us. And is not this equivalent to our hearing a voice behind us, saying, "This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left," Isa. xxx. 21. When he inwardly leads us- -he impresses a Scriptural conviction on the judgment as to what we ought to do, and it is scarcely possible for us any longer to hesitate Would our feelings lead us in a different course? Then peace immediately departs; and such disquietude arises within us, that we are compelled to retrace our steps. When he outwardly leads us-he brings us into such circumstances, connexions, and situations, that only one way remains open, for we see every other obstructed by visible providences. The ways which the Lord thus points out to us seem, therefore, like that to the brook Cherith, selected and appointed purely for the exercise of our faith, and the crucifixion of our old man. Only follow on courageously! Whenever the Lord says to any of his children, "Get thee hence, and hide thyself," he also adds, either expressly or by implication, "and the ravens shall feed thee there." Every duty which He commands has its promise appended to it; and we need be under no concern except to know that the Lord has directed our way.
III And how did Elijah obey this command of his God? There was doubtless in him, as well as in every other man, something that would oppose this Divine direction, and be dissatisfied with it. Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and therefore his nature would have much to say against it. How could it please him, that instead of an instantaneous and supernatural deliverance, he is obliged to make a long journey on foot, like any ordinary person? And why he should be directed to turn eastward into the land of Judea, which participated in the judgments of Samaria, he could not discover. To be directed into the lonely wilderness, and to the brook Cherith, amidst gloomy, uninhabited woodlands, was far from inviting. And even his security there, from the pursuit of Ahab, and from the general drought, was not warranted by any natural appearances; while the prospect of being fed by ravens, those unclean and voracious creatures, must have appeared as disagreeable as it was contrary to reason and experience. But, however much nature might oppose, or the old man murmur and recoil, these were silenced and crucified within him. For there was a Spirit imparted to Elijah, which taught him that his own nature was wrong, and that God's will was right.
Not, perhaps, that Elijah was able, with fervency of joy, to thank God for the command given him, and triumphantly to rejoice in it. Possibly, his mind was much tried and depressed by it; but it proved courageous in the faith by which he endured, as seeing Him that is invisible. "As it is the Divine command," he might think, "therefore it is holy, just, and good. God's commissions to his children, what are they but hidden promises? Since he saith to me, 'Get thee hence;' I am well assured that he will make a way for me, succour me, and preserve me on the way. Since he commands me to turn eastward, am certain, though I seem to be going towards the setting rather than the rising sun, still it will be morning over my head. Forasmuch as he bids me hide myself by the brook Cherith, which is before Jordan-that brook must be a safe place of refuge, though it were in the midst of Samaria itself. I am directed to drink of the brook; here then I have a pledge that the sun will not be permitted to affect this brook with his scorching rays." Thus might the prophet think, and then he would conclude further, that "God's promises are, virtually, obligations which he imposes upon himself. If he say, 'I will do this or that for thee,' he must necessarily bring it to pass for his own name's sake. Therefore the ravens will certainly come, and sooner will they themselves die of hunger, than I shall be suffered to starve." In this manner might Elijah have conversed with his own heart; and so, taking the word of the Lord into the hand of his faith, he made it the staff of his pilgrimage. Whenever he grew weary, he leaned upon this staff, and his courage revived. When danger appeared in his way, he feared not, while he had this staff to support him. And have you such a staff in your hands, dear brethren? Are you assured, with this prophet, that the path you tread has been pointed out to you of God, and has any Divine promise been applied to you, and become your own, either a particular promise, or a general one, like this, "Fear not: for I have redeemed thee. When thou passest through the waters, they shall not overflow thee?" Isa. xliii. 1, 2. Õh then of a truth, all is well, sure, and certain! But now look at Elijah as he takes his journey, a solitary traveller. It seems almost as if we heard the sound of his footsteps, while we read, that "He went and did according to the word of the Lord: for he went and dwelt by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan."
IV. Come, let us pay a visit to this man of God in his new dwelling-place. A dreary wild, near the banks of the Jordan,