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doubt the king was astonished to hear that Elijah was coming to meet him. He feared, though he hated, the prophet. He was aware that the man whom he had so long and so fruitlessly sought to destroy, would not feek his presence, but under a fure guard, and with fome high commission. He knew that Elijah was invested with no common powers from above—that the mantle of the prophet was niore honoured than his own royal purple. The withered arm of Jeroboam is now in the eye of his fancy. He dares not lift up his hand against the messenger of Jehovah.
BUT while he refrains from actual violence, he forbears not to inveigh against Elijah as the occasion of this general misery : “ Art thou he that trou“ bleth Ifrael ?” The prophet had reproved an adulterous generation-he had denounced the judgments of God on their disobedience but the true caufe
of their suffering was their sin. Foolish men are plagued for their offence, and because of their wickedness. Most juftly therefore does Elijah, in all the boldness of conscious innocence, repel, and retort the charge. “ I have not troubled Ifrael, a but thou and thy father's house, in “ that ye have forsaken the command“ ments of the Lord.” Standing alone amidst the train of Ahab, he shews him, that no earthly glory can appall that man who is blessed with revelations from God. He commands him, as one having authority, to gather together his idolatrous prophers to the top of Carmelhe bids him convene an assembly of the people. He speaks as if he were about to perforın some amazing miracle in the sight of all Ifrael. The heart of the tyrant is overawed by superiour virtue— he tiembles, and obeys.
The tribes are met together. Elijah reproves them, not merely for their ido
"latry, but for their inconstancy, and irresolution. “ How long halt ye be.“ tween two opinions? If the Lord “ be God, follow him—but if Baal, ! then follow him!” Indifference, and neutrality in religious matters is of itself a grievous crime--it is in fact the worst of all hostility against God.
Whether from guilt, or fear, or uncertainty, Ifrael is silent—and Elijah addresses them once more. “ I only am a
prophet of the Lord, while Baal's prophets are four hundred and fifty men. Let us each
prepare a sacrifice .“ their devotion shall be combined, mine
single—the God that answereth by « fire, let him be God.” The proposition is fair, and open, and incapable of evasion. Israel cannot but approve it. The prophets of Baal dare not signify disapprobation. The God who commanded this trial, prepared confusion
for the authors of idolatry, and triumph for his heavenly truth.
The prophets of Baal embrace the condition in all the terrour of guiltiness. They prepare the sacrifice-they lay the victim on the wood-they cry unto their idol from morning until noon, “ O Baal, “ hear us !” They rend the skies with clamour--they leap upon the altar, as if they would ascend to meet those fires which delayed to come down-mount Carmel echoes with their shrieks-but the heaven is silent. Elijah himself forgets his austerity, and derides their mockery of devotion. “ Cry aloud “ for he is a god-either he is talking,
or he is pursuing, or he is on a jour
ney, or peradventure he Neepeth, and 6 must be awakened.”
The idolaters renew their horrid cries--they seize in frantic rage on the instruments of sacrifice, and shed their own blood upon their altar. How cruel,
how tyrannous, is superstition! The true God abhors those self-inflicted tortures, He wills us rather to mortify our corruptions-to subdue our irregular desiresto worship Him in spirit and in truthto present our bodies a living facrifice, holy, acceptable to himself, which is our reafonable service.
How gladly would the apostate fpirit, who once fell like lightning from heaven, have now come down in that form on the altar of his votaries ! But God forbids it. All the powers of hell are unable to convey one spark of fire into the air. The evening draws on-the hope of idolatry is turned into confufion. The prophets of Baal, dismayed at the ill success of their shrieks and wounds, and frantic gesticulations, maintain the conteft no longer—they sit down, overwhelmed with shame, and weariness, and anguish tormenting themselves