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is the scene now opened before us. Dead silence reigns around, interrupted perhaps by the cry of the solitary bittern, while amongst the heath and the juniper bushes broods the ostrich, no hunter disturbing its repose. No pathway opens to the view —not a human footstep is seen-all is wilderness and solitude. Let us follow him, in imagination, towards the Jordan. Yonder lies our track, where the naked rocks rear their lofty heads, and the forests frown. Then, through one thicket and another, through one narrow pass and another, we come at length down into a deep and narrow glen, overhung with tangled wood, where a brook runs murmuring along, and finds its way between the rocky masses. Oh look! there sits the man of God! here is his appointed dwelling. The blue sky his roof, the bare rocks his walls, the stone his seat, the shady wood his bed-chamber, the grass his couch; his company, the purling brook and the hoarse ravens aloft among the trees. There he sits in his hairy mantle, silent and reflecting; and whenever solitude becomes wearisome, or the hissing of serpents, or the distant roar of the lion, would inject terror into his soul, he remembers, "I am imprisoned here for the Lord's sake, and his footsteps are among these rocks;" and thus by faith and hope he regains courage.
For twelve months did Elijah dwell there. This may seem to you incredible, and almost dreadful! But how would you be astonished, were Elijah to assure you, that the whole time never appeared tedious; that solitude daily became to him less solitary -nay, lively and cheerful! And doubtless this was the case. He needed neither books nor society; neither labour nor diversion to entertain him. Silent nature around him, and the treasure of his own experience, supplied him with an ample volume. Self-examination, prayer, and converse with Him who seeth in secret, were employment enough for him. His Lord and God, whose gentlest whispers and footsteps he could far more readily perceive in his solitude than amidst the noise of the busy world, was sufficient company for him. The works of creation which encompassed him, soon served as a living epistle, which he found it employment enough to study. The rock, by which he dwelt, preached to him of a Rock that ever liveth, and whereon he himself had built. The brook had something to say to him, and spoke many sweet and comfortable things to him of the truth and faithfulness of God, and told of other waters that were still to come-of waters that God would pour upon the dry ground, and of floods upon the thirsty land, and of springs which he would cause to break forth in the desert. At one time, the shady trees would preach to him, and suggest to him the comforts of
the tree of life, and of those heavenly palms from whose tops eternal peace would at length breathe upon him. At another, the cheerful songsters of the air, and the wild roses in the brakes, would sing to him, " Be calm, Elijah, and free from care. How can He who is so faithfully mindful of us in this wilderness, feeding the one and giving fragrance and beauty to the other, be forgetful of thee?" In short, every thing began to live, and breathe, and talk around him: the stars in the firmament, the flowers on the banks, the drops on the leaves, and the zephyrs among the shrubs; so that Elijah experienced what the apostle says, "There are so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification," 1 Cor. xiv. 10; and was able to sing with David, "The voice of the Lord is powerful. The voice of the Lord shaketh the wilderness," Psa. xxix. 4. 8.
After having thus pleased and delighted himself awhile in the exterior world and its speaking emblems, he would then return to another world within him, and be absorbed in listening to what was stirring and passing there. At one time a new insight was afforded him into his deep poverty of spirit and natural corruption; and then he would be led to weep, and mourn, and wrestle in prayerful conflict. At another time, he would contemplate the work of Divine grace within him, and the clear evidences of the indwelling and operation of the Holy Spirit in his soul; and now the cliffs of the wilderness would resound with psalms, like a temple of God, and with pious hymns of thanksgiving, which vibrated strangely with the mountain echo, far into the depths of his solitude.
Let no one be too much cast down, should the Lord ever direct him to the wilderness, by the river Jordan, and to the brook Cherith! For he still is accustomed to do so with his children in a variety of ways. If he visit us with sickness, so that we must be alone upon our bed and in our chamber; or if our friends forsake us, and forget us; if we become regarded as outcasts, having neither house nor heart opened to us any longer; or if we are called to sojourn in Mesech, and to dwell amongst those who are of a different mind from ourselves, who do not understand us, and who ridicule our way of life-in such situations we are shut in with Elijah, by the brook Cherith. But be not alarmed; rather be of good courage! Such seclusion, or exclusion, how blissful and salutary may it become! Numberless christians have been constrained to declare that it was in their imprisonment, or place of exile—in their lonely sick chamber, or in the days when they were forsaken by men, and cast out by the
world, that they entered really into their own hearts, and ascertained their true spiritual state. The leaven of the pharisees was then put away from them, and worship was no longer paid to an imaginary Saviour. They began to long in earnest for close communion with him; and the wrestling prayer of Jacob, lasting until day-break, which thay had only talked of before, now became a matter of reality and experience, an event in their own personal history. And a hundred other things pertaining to inward religion, which they had only in imagination appropriated hitherto, were then individually realized. They were then also first truly brought into the number of those sheep who hear His voice, and were never so conscious that he really lives and speaks to his children, and walks and dwells with them; nor did they ever experience his tender consolation and support, or ever feel his love so strongly, as at that very time, when their path was so solitary and through the wilderness; when they were obliged to be with their Lord alone. Therefore be of good cheer, ye who dwell by the brook Cherith in solitudes, for God's dew can drop upon the dwellings of the wilderness, as David sings, and the pastures in the wilderness do spring with blessings.
"Thou shalt drink of the brook, and the ravens shall feed thee there." Thus said the Lord; and, however marvellous and unheard of it might sound, Elijah bowed himself and believed, and his faith did not deceive him. All that the Lord had promised was 66 yea, and amen," and nothing remained unfulfilled. It was not long before the whole country was like a heath, and fields and woods became scorched as by fire. One spot alone continued green and cool; that spot was the prophet's rocky vale. Every fountain was exhausted, and every forest stream dried up by the sultry heat; one brook alone continued to flow -the brook Cherith-that remained as fresh and as full as if nothing had happened. And the ravens also fulfilled their office. How wonderful! those ravenous carrion birds, impure according to the law, and so voracious and unfeeling, that they would leave their own young to starve, did not God interpose, as we read in the book of Job, " Who provideth for the raven his food? when his young ones cry unto God, they wander for lack of meat," Job xxxviii. 41-these creatures we find employed here in an occupation of disinterested kindness, dead as it were to the natural voracity of their species, coming and going at God's bidding, denying their own appetites, and performing a most beneficent office. No sooner does the morning dawn in Cherith's rocky vale, than their cry is heard aloft in the trees, and when Elijah wakes, he beholds the provision for the day lying before
him. And when the evening shades advance, these black livery servants again appear, laden with meat and bread. And this takes place not merely once, but a whole year round, without intermission. O wisdom of God, which carnal reason would account foolishness, how precious art thou! Let the world imagine to itself a magnificent Deity whose government is only general: we adhere to the Lord God of Elijah, and rejoice in his providential superintendence of the smallest matters.
And this God still liveth, a living Saviour, who is always to be found of them that seek him, and is nigh unto them that call upon them; and whose delights are with the sons of men. About his servants and handmaids is encamped a mighty host: and when he saith, "Come !" they come; or, "Go !" they go; and there has been no end to his wonders, even to this day. Who else was it but the God of Elijah, who, only a short time ago, in our neighbourhood, so kindly delivered a poor man out of his distress; not indeed by a raven, but by a poor singingbird? You are acquainted with the circumstance. The man was sitting, early in the morning, at his house-door; his eyes were red with weeping, and his heart cried to Heaven-for he was expecting an officer to come and distrain him for a small debt. And whilst sitting thus with his heavy heart, a little bird flew through the street, fluttering up and down, as if in distress, until at length, quick as an arrow, it flew over the good man's head into his cottage, and perched itself on an empty cupboard. The good man, who little imagined who had sent him the bird, closed the door, caught the bird, and placed it in a cage, where it immediately began to sing very sweetly, and it seemed to the man as if it were the tune of a favourite hymn, "Fear thou not when darkness reigns ;" and as he listened to it, he found it soothe and comfort his mind. Suddenly some one knocked at his door. Ah, it is the officer," thought the man, and was sore afraid. But no, it was the servant of a respectable lady, who said, that the neighbours had seen a bird fly into his house, and she wished to know if he had caught it. "O yes," answered man, "and here it is;" and the bird was carried away. A few minutes after, the servant came again. "You have done my mistress a great service," said he; "she sets a high value upon the bird, which had escaped from her. She is much obliged to you, and requests you to accept this trifle, with her thanks." The poor man received it thankfully, and it proved to be neither more nor less than the sum he owed! And when the officer came, he said, "Here is the amount of the debt; now leave me in peace, for God has sent it me."
The God of Elijah still lives! and under this truth I may rank your own experience also, my dear friends, which some of you have related to me; that, in distressing necessities and perplexities, help has often come to you in a wonderful manner, from persons who were not only indifferent to you, but even disaffected towards you, and bore you some ill-will; from unbelievers, who, in general, cannot endure them that are "quiet in the land," Psa. xxxv. 20. But, all at once, it suddenly occurred to one, he himself. knew not how, that he must bring you some particular thing; or another could not sleep for the thought of not having done something for you, and however much he strove to drive the idea from his mind, he could not succeed in kicking against the pricks. Yes, He who turneth men's hearts as the rivers of water, sent them to your aid; and his purpose who shall defeat? What they did for you, was not done because they intended it, but because they were constrained by conscience, that is, by the God of conscience; and thus you experience that the God of Elijah, who can provide for his servants even by the ravens, still lives.
Therefore let every child of God be strong and of good courage! Only believe, ye who are at the brook Cherith and in the wilderness! for faith can supply the want of every thing temporal, and faith is the grave of care. And remember, dear friends, that it is in vain for you to rise early and sit up late, and eat the bread of sorrows; for as David says, "He giveth it to his beloved sleeping," Psa. cxxvii. 2. May He who giveth songs in the night, teach us all the song of the royal psalmist, "I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep; for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety!" Psa. iv. 8.