Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

suit the modern mind, but it is involved in the text, and with all its inconsistencies it cannot be ignored. But taking its capacity as being smaller, it must still be spoken of as a deep trench, dug on all the four sides of an altar large enough to lay a bullock upon, and thus not less than twenty-four square yards. This is the smallest space allowable, and then the question arises, How, if Elijah began his work of building towards the time of evening sacrifice (say at 4 P.M.), could be in two hours have done so much, both in the way of al ar building and trench digging ?

The majority of readers never pause to ask such questions, any more than we in our boyhood time asked how the dwarfs and fairies did so much in a short time. It was the event we looked at-not the possibilities, but when older grown it was the latter which forced itself upon our attention. And so here; there is no hint of supernatural work, it is all stated as a plain matter of building and digging, and I do not hesitate to say it was utterly impossible for any man to have done the work, even in twenty-four hours, much less, thien, was it possible for it to have been done in two, or, at the most, three hours.

Unhappily, however, for the credit of the narrative, other wonders and impossibilities follow. When the whole was complete Elijah ordered some of the people to bring water to pour over the altar and wood, and bullock, which they did until all were drenched. They brought four barrels; of their size we cannot speak, but to make the narrative perfect they must have been very large, for they drenched the whole. When this was completed he ordered them to do it again, and again for the third time, after which he filled, or had the trench filled with water. How many scores of gallons were required for filling the trench must be decided by those who know its actual size; enough for us to know that the mere filling the comparatively small space I have allowed would take many hours, even if water were at hand, which it was not. Where did it come from? Water upon the top of Mount Carmel was not to be obtained at any time without great labour. Some ingenious gentlemen have supplied good springs from which they suppose it to have been drawn; but let the springs be granted, and let them be ever so good, still time is an element in the matter, which cannot be dispensed with. To do the work of inundation after the altar was built would require many hours, even sup. posing that there were many ready hands to render assistance.

But the gentlemen who have been so liberal as to supply good springs seem to have forgotten that even they run dry after a long drought. The narrative states that for above three years there had been no rain, so that all the wells and springs had gone dry. Can we suppose those on Mount Carmel to have remained open when those upon the plains were closed? Obviously, the mountain-springs would dry up first, and thus they who have so generously imagined the springs, must complete their work by imagining some means of supply.

Driven from this, there is no use in descending two thousand feet to the River Kishon, for that also must have been equally dry, and so there is no other assumiption than that, as Dr. Kitto suggests, the water was salt and brought from the sea. If so, then, as they had miles to carry it, how long were they in conveying the necessary quantity ? Men cannot jump over miles of mountains down to the sea-shore to obtain salt water, and then leap back in the same hurried manner. The narrative, like all others of a similar character, does not dwell upon such small matters, but hurries on to the end, as I must do, merely protesting that while so many impossibilities are crowded together, it lies beyond our power to say that it is true. Unless the water was supplied miraculously it could not have been thus used upon the top of Carmel.

But what of the results? What of the butcheries! The writer says: " And “ Elijalı said unto them, Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape. “And they took them: and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and « slew them there."* So that they were all butchered, and by the hand of the "Man of God." All slain without mercy and without regard to justice. Can we picture to our minds this man of blood while engaged in his fearful task ? To slay one man must be a fearful task, from which we all should start back

* 1 Kings, xviii. 40.

appalled, but what would be our feelings were we called upon to slay several hundreds ? And why slay them, when, if the narrative were but true, they would have been glad to join in the Jehovah worship? If they had failed with their own and then bad seen the success of Elijah, are we not bound to believe they would have turned to the most powerful Divinity ? Men never cleave to a dethroned God. While they can believe in His power a faithful worship is possible, but once prove His inferiority and all is done. So that in this case, if the narrative of these astounding events be true, then the certainty is that there was no need to slay the men. All that that they stood in need of was a fair chance to declare themselves to be on the side of the victor and his Divinity.

They who swear by the Biblical narrative have felt themselves somewhat hampered by this stroke of slaughter, and yet they have managed to escape from it rather easily. Dr. Kitto remarks that “the appeal of Elijah was to the “people. He called upon them to inflict, then and there, upon these ring leaders "of the people in idolatry—the punishment which the law denounced, and such as "would have been inflicted upon himself had the victory been on their side ; and the “king seems to have been too awe-stricken to interfere. From the character of “Elijah, we have no doubt that he executed this act of blood heartily and with “entire satisfaction. It is not for us to vindicate him. The only question is, “Was this in accordance with the law, and with the spirit of the times ? It "certainly was. And Britons, not so much as fifty years ago, performed under their "own laws, with perfect peace of mind, upon far less heinous offenders, the deadly "executions which we now regard with horror. If, then, in looking back upon the “last generation, we make allowance for this great change of law and sentiment “within so short a time, we must needs make the same allowance in surveying the “more remote, and less refined, age in which Elijah lived."* But I decline to make that allowance until it is conceded that we are dealing with the story of ordinary life. If God guided Elijah, then what the prophet did under such circumstances must be attributed to the Divinity. Dr Cox contends that "the “slaughter of the priests of Baal which followed, at the command of Elijah, was “not the indulgence of personal revenge, but an act of retributive justice for “the blood of the prophets, which they had caused to be shed; and of righteous “punishment for the guilt which they had incurred in seducing the Israelites from “ the worship of the true God; to whom also they owed allegiance as their special " protector, having been by Him separated from all other nations ”f Is it true that these priests had seduced the people to turn from Jehovah? Can it be said that they were ever true worshippers? And is it for any man to slay another upon matters of religion ?

But after all this the king was to be won over. Rain was promised. Elijah, after the butchery returned to the top of Carmel, “and said to his servant, Go “up now, look towards the sea. And he went up, and looked, and said, There is “nothing. And he said, Go again seven times. And it came to pass at the " seventh time, that he said, Behold there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea, like “a man's hand. And he said, Go up, say unto Ahab, Prepare thy chariot, and get “ thee down, that the rain stop thee not. And it came to pass in the meanwhile, “that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain, “ and Ahab rode, and went to Jezreel. And the hand of the Lord was on Elijah; “ and he girded up his loins, and rau before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.” I Fancy the prophet bounding before the chariot of Ahab! A more pitiful sight cannot be conceived, unless it be Crammer flattering Henry the Eighth.

And now Ahab informed his wife, Jezebel, of what had been done. “And “ Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had slain all the " prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, “ So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one “of them by to-morrow about this time. And when he saw that, he arose, and "went for his life, and came to Beer-sheba, which belongeth to Judab, and left his

Kitto. Daily Bible Illustrations, vol. iv. p. 244. + Sacred History and Biography, p. 244,

+ 1 Kings, xviii, 43-46.

"servant there. But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and “came and sat down under a juniper tree : and he requested for himself that he "might die ; and said, It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am “not better than my fathers.”* So that the selfsame man who could mercilessly slaughter with his own hand all these priests could not remain to be tried in the fire of persecution. Take the picture as painted by the author, and we must say that Elijah, too, was a man, and how often it is seen that he who is readiest to create the stake and bind the victims, and set fire to the faggot, is the first to say “hold, enough, I cannot ! I cannot !” when it comes to his own turn to be tried in the fire.

Elijah fled, and went away from his servant a full day's journey into the wilderness, where the thought, as he sat beneath the tree, arose in his mind, “Oh that I “could die! Oh that I now could die!” The reaction had commenced, for even, according to the narrative, this man was not a murderer by profession, but kindly hearted and generous. Roused to a lofty pitch of bitter religious fanaticism, he could sieze the priests of Baal and immolate them upon the altar of God; but when the hour of reaction came, once more the man emerged from the fanatic, and then he looked with inexpressible horror upon his work. And to what had it all led? How had the nation been profited by the sacrifice ? He had conquered, and now in the hour of victory it is as an exilc he sits beneath the juniper tree, to review the horrible past. Let us read what follows, and see what lurks beneath the curious story. He lay down and slept, and “behold an angel roused him to " eat and refresh himself for a long journey,” a journey of forty days, to Mount Horeb, was before him. The journey was made. Horeb was reached, and then follows this relation. “The word of the Lord came unto him, and said, What doest “thou here, Elijah ? And he said, I have been very jealous for the Lord God of “hosts : for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine “altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left; and “they seek my life, to take it away.”+ Does it not seem strange to you that such an answer should be given by one who is represented as one of the greatest of Religious heroes ? Where was the heroism of thus flying from the battle at the time his presence was most needful? Nor was this the first time that this "pro“phet” had shown himself thus wanting. Very different to this has ever been the conduct of the real heroes of the Past-the men to whom, apart from foregone conclusions and priestly teachings, the suffrages of the world are most willingly given. Often has it been that the witnesses of the truth might also have said, *I only am left, and the evil ones seek my life to destroy it, but still they remained and fought the good fight, and, uvlike Elijah, - priest-made hero though he be-never thought of deserting their posts because danger pressed. But the story proceeds : and the Lord said, “Go forth, and stand upon the mount before “the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent “the mountains, and break in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord “ was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not “ in the earthquake.”

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

LONDON: PUBLISHED BY M. PATTIE, 31, PATERNOSTER Row, AND GEORGE

GLAISHER, 470, New OXFORD STREET,
Printed by W. Ostell, Hart-street, Bloomsbury.

THE PATHFINDER,

A JOURNAL OF PURE THEISM AND RELIGIOUS FREETHOUGHT,

THE ORGAN OF INDEPENDENT RELIGIOUS REFORM.

CONDUCTED BY P. W. PERFITT.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

OUT OF THE CLOUD;
OR AN ENGLISH RECTOR IN SEARCH OF A CREED.

A TALE; BY P. W. P.

CHAPTER XIV.

A TALK ABOUT THE CLERGY AND THE DEVIL. SITTING at breakfast one morning, not a great while after the events recorded in the previous chapters, Lester appeared to be inuch depressed, and Ella had evidently descended without her usual flow of spirits and good humour. Few ladies were of a more cheerful disposition, and generally, the morning meal was enlivened by a genial conversation, in which she took no unimportant part. There was something to tell of her flowers, or feathered domestics, of which she was particularly fond, and equally curious in watching and commenting upon their habits. According to custom, Lester and Ella had been out in the grounds, she to gather a few flowers, for the breakfast-table, he to enjoy his reflections and plan the business of the day ; but this morning there was moodiness-a heaviness upon their spirits, and both had failed in their objects, the flower's pleased her not, although many of them were among the finest specimens which could be produced ; and his thoughts were confused and moody. A few letters lying upon the table were hastily opened and passed over without comment. Neither spoke of their contents, and it appeared as if the meal were to end in perfect silence. Had they been two lovers who had had words on tlie previous evening, they could not have been more politely cold, or lovingly formal to each other. This, however, was a condition of things that coulil only be temporary, for neither of them had any cause of alienation or coldness. Ella was the first to break through the barrier by asking

“How is it, George, that I have such a strange distaste for talking or moving this morning? I feel as if it would be a relief for me if I could get into some dark quiet corner to shed tears; it seems as if something fearful, or especially unpleasant were about to happen. I have no pricking of my thumbs' to tell me that something evil this way comes,' and yet, at or

VOL. VI. NEW SERIES, VOL. II.

[ocr errors]

moment, I am in a state of indescribable apprehension ; while, in the next, I feel a sudden joy, which is equally overwhelming and inexplicable.”

Lester confessed to sharing the same indefinable dread, still, without being able to account for it. It was only when rallied by his sister, who, none the less, continued “ill at ease,” and pressed to endeavour an explanation of such phenomena, that he roused himself sufficiently to observe, in answer to her questions, that probably what they felt depended upon the unpleasant situation of their affairs in Crosswood, and upon the growing distaste to his ministerial efforts.

That situation was anything but enviable. With the best and purest intentions, Lester had commenced his official life with dealing in the plainest and most straightforward manner with his parishioners. He was gentle in reproof, but especially firm in maintaining his opinions. He invariably called both things and actions by their right names, and would not pretend to be what he was not. In all his sermons he avoided historical and prophetical discussions, and bluntly assumed Christianity to be a well-defined religious and moral system, having, on the one hand, a set of promises relating to the future, for the joy of all believers, which were sure to be fulfilled, and a series of duties to be performed in the present by those who would be at peace here and hereafter.

l'pon one occasion, preaching before the Dean, he chose for his text the command given by Jesus to his disciples, “Swear not at all," and after exposing, in a few plain sentences, the fallacies which crowd the pages of those divines who attempt to soften down its obvious meaning, he proceeded to argue that all Christians—that all who take the name of Jesus-are bound to refuse to make oath in public courts quite as much so as in private life. After the congregation had dispersed, the Dean endeavoured to persuade him that the sermon was based upon a fallacy.

"I shall not,” said he, “insult you by using the arguments commonly employed to satisfy the ignorant and vulgar crowd upon this point, for, of course, you know, that, more or less distinctly, they are sophistical. They suit the crowd and satisfy it, therefore, I do not hesitate about using them in ordinary sermons. But, of course, there can be no doubt of Jesus having meant his command to be binding upon all Christian men, none that he meant swearing in the ordinary meaning of that term. All that I freely concede, just as you stated it; but still, I would impress this upon your mind, that we must use our own discretion in regard to the times and seasons. We are not to cast pearls before swine. It is not wise at all times to preach the entire doctrines and duties of Christianity. Men would take alarm, and leave us altogether, so that it becomes our duty to give them no more than they can bear. And this is not an age in which to preach against public oaths,' for they constitute part of the law of the land, and, as such, we must respect them.”

Lester warmly contended that either we should preach Christianity as a whole, or cease to call ourselves Christians, and that if Jesus were the Christ. then he thought it presumptuous on our parts to alter or hide up any part of his teaching.

The Dean declined to continue the discussion, but kindly intimated his admiration of Lester's genius and earnestness. “But, beware," said he, in conclusion, “lest the latter lead you into those bold courses of preaching and denunciation, through which the power of the former will be deprived of its due weight and influence upon society."

« AnteriorContinuar »