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Of the parentage, the birth, or the education of Elias, as of Melchisedec, nothing is told us. We only hear of him as a native of Tishbi, a small village in Gilead; as a person of coarse dress; of humble appearance; and of habits retired, and melancholy; like John the Baptist, who was, in after times, compared to him,- a dweller in the wilderness, a hairy man, and girded with a leathern girdle. Yet, of this man, so mean in his outward show, and, in his worldly enjoyments, so little to be envied, we also read such actions, as would almost tempt us to suppose him more than human. His curse could call down fire from Heaven, on his enemies; and "make a fruitful land barren, for the wickedness of them that dwelt therein." His prayers could bring down rain and fertility on the same parched soil, on which, for three years, no dew had rested; the ravenous birds of the wilderness were employed by God to bring him bread and flesh; and the oil and flour of his Sidonian hostess knew no decay, while she shared them with Elijah. His voice and touch restored the dead to life; his mantle, waved over the waters of the river Jordan, divided the deep and rapid stream, and made a dry tract for the prophet's journey. Like Moses, and like Christ, he fasted forty days; an angel ministered unto him, as unto Christ, in the wilderness; like Moses, he
1 Psalm cvii. 34.
heard the voice of God; and spake with Him in Horeb, face to face; though he cast his mantle over his eyes, and adventured not to gaze on His glory; and, like Enoch, distinguished in this from all others who have borne our nature, he did not sleep the sleep of death; but was changed, as at the last day, in the twinkling of an eye, and caught up to Heaven, by a whirlwind, in a fiery chariot.
Such was the man, of whom King Ahab said, that he "troubled Israel;" the cause of which accusation it will now be useful to explain to you. Of the general wickedness and weakness of Ahab's character, I shall take another occasion to speak; it is now sufficient to observe that, by the persuasion of his wicked queen, he had set up the altars of the idol Baal; and had raised a bitter persecution against the worshippers of the true God; destroying all the prophets, or preachers of the word, whom he could apprehend; and driving the rest for shelter to wildernesses and caves, where a few good men, like Obadiah, the king's steward, supported them, in silence, and in secrecy.
It was in consequence, as it should seem, of this apostacy and cruelty, that Elijah pronounced, on the part of God, and by His authority, that dreadful threat, which occasioned Ahab's charge against him: namely, that no rain should fall, during three years, on all the land of Israel.
Where he spake this, does not appear: in public, and very solemnly, it must have been spoken; and that GOD, who sent him with such a message, could easily, and doubtless did, protect him, for the time, by some Divine terror and dignity of appearance, from the violence of Ahab and Jezebel.
But, his message once delivered, he was commanded by God, as you may read in the 17th chapter, to fly into the desert, first; and into the border country of Zidon, afterwards, where he was miraculously nourished, till the three years had passed away, and the period of God's curse was completed. He then returned to the neighbourhood of Samaria: where he made himself known, first to Obadiah; afterwards, to the king; and lastly, to all the people of Israel; in that memorable trial of the different claims of Baal and of Jehovah, to the worship and faith of mankind, which has been read to you in the proper lesson for this morning. Of that trial, in which the True God so remarkably showed forth His power, by consuming the sacrifice with fire from Heaven, and, afterwards, by sending rain on the land, which had so long continued waterless, and desolate, it is unnecessary to renew your recollection. What I now mean chiefly to enlarge on, is the accusation brought by Ahab, in the words of my text, against Elijah; and the answer, which Elijah returned to
"When Ahab saw Elijah, he said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel? And he said, I have not troubled Israel; but thou and thy father's house; in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and thou hast followed Baalim!" How was it, that Ahab supposed Elijah to have troubled Israel? Could Ahab be weak enough to believe, that the drought, which had, for three years, afflicted the land, was Elijah's doing? Could he dream, that a mortal man had the windows of heaven in his keeping? that the clouds were his to give, or to withhold; that he could bring the rain out of his treasures? No, but Elijah, as the minister of God, had reproved the prince and people of Israel, for their manifold provocations; he had spoken, with honest plainness, of their sins, and of their dangers; he had, lastly, as God's herald and messenger, given warning of the calamity, which, except on their speedy repentance, the Almighty was about to bring on them; and, for these actions, which, so far from being injurious, were deserving of their best honour and thankfulness, for these public services of the most inestimable kind, was Elijah regarded as a public enemy, as one that "troubleth Israel." Nor was Elijah, in this respect, more unfortunate than the greater number of the other prophets, whom the Almighty sent to preach righteousness to His
chosen tribes; since all, or nearly all, were received with anger and murmuring, by those, whose lives they came to reform, and whose ignorance they sought to enlighten.
The lives of almost all were a series of afflictions and persecutions; the deaths of almost all were martyrdoms. They, "of whom the world was not worthy ',"-" wandered in sheepskins, and goat-skins, desolate, tormented, afflicted:" 66 they were stoned; they were killed with the sword; they were sawn asunder;" and, from the first messenger, whom the Lord of the vineyard sent to His husbandmen, down to the only beloved Son, whom they slew, that they might seize his inheritance, hatred or contempt, neglect or persecution, was the almost uniform portion of the preachers of righteousness, the ambassadors of the King of kings.
On all this, two important observations may be grounded. First, of how small estimation is worldly prosperity, in the eyes of Infinite Wisdom; when God has thought fit to allot so small a share to those, in whom He has been most pleased. Secondly, that we must seek the cause of this uniform ill-treatment of God's most faithful servants, in some pervading and general principle of that human nature, which it was their endeavour to reclaim, and to make
1 Heb. xi. 37, 38.