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far beyond the men of that time, and the saying is a true one, but let us be careful of giving it a wider application than it deserves. We have progressed; the Black Plagues and other pestilences which then decimated mankind so frequently no longer afflict us. They had their source in the ignorance of God's laws, which led them to leave their cities undrained, themselves uncleaned,--to ignore, in fact, the laws of physical health. They have been destroyed and conquered, by what? By a better scientific knowledge, by an earnest search after the laws which govern man's physical existence, and by careful attention thereto, freed from the prejudices which were based upon the ignorance of that old time.
We are, therefore, safe from the recurrence of those dreadful scourges. But are we free from the plague of fanaticism; are we as safe from the recurrence of the morbid moral phenomena of that time? We are not; nor does it need that the evidence should now be adduced, for all who are capable of learning aught from it are already but too well-acquainted with it. True, the disease spreads not so wide as in that old time, because the mental strength ensured by our progress
in other fields, stands in the way of its becoming so widespread ; but still the facts of our time bew its existence among us.
Nor will it be uprooted until we make our religion scientific; until with a freedom from prejudice equal to that with which the exact sciences are studied, we seek the laws of moral health ; until, in short, we destroy the source of fanaticism by uprooting Priestcraft; and dare to be as reasonable and active and free in urging on religious progress, as the wisest amongst us are in advancing scientific discovery.
JAS. L. GOODING.
SOUTH PLACE CHAPEL SUNDAY EVENING LECTURES.
BY P. W. PERFITT, PH.D.
THE LIFE AND CHARACTER OF ELIJAH.
(Continued from p. 80.) But returning to Elijah, we find that he bas gone on the way towards Samaria, and there he met Obadiah, a minister of Abab's. We are informed that so severe had been the pressure of famine, that the king resolved to search the land in one way, and ordered Obadiah to search in another, to see if there could any springs be found beside which the cattle could be kept alive. Obadiah was out on this mission when he met Elijah, and the following conversation ensued: “And as "Obadiah was on his way, behold Elijah met him; and Obadiah knew him, and “fell on his face, and said, Art thou that my lord Elijah ? And he answered him,
I am: go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here. And he said, What have Í "sinned, that thou wouldest deliver thy servant into the hands of Ahab, to slay "me? As the Lord thy God livetli, there is no nation or kingdom, whither my lord hath not sent to seek thee: and when they said, He is not there; he took "an oath of the kingdom and nation, that they found thee not. And now thou “sayest, Go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here. And it shall come to pass, as
soon as I am gone from thee, that the Spirit of the Lord shall carry thee whither “I know not; and so when I come and tell Ahab, and he cannot find thee, he “shall slay me: but I thy servant fear the Lord from my youth. Was it not told “my lord what I did when Jezebel slew the prophets of the Lord, how I hid an “ hundred men of the Lord's prophets by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread " and water? And now thou sayest, Go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here: and “ he shall slay me. And Elijah said, As the Lord of hosts liveth, before whom I (stand, I will surely shew myself unto him to-day. So Obadiah went to meet Ahab, and told him: and Ahab went to meet Elijah."*
That Ahab in his anger and misery had diligently sought after Elijah is perfectly consistent with the idea common to the age, and to which I alluded in my last week's lecture. It was generally supposed that the prophet had wickedly put a spell upon the land—the famine was believed to be the consequence of his supernatural arts. The idea is not represented as having entered the mind of Ahab or any of his people, that the famine, with all its horrors and miseries, had come as a punishment from God, else we may be sure there had been some change in his conduct, for man, as we know him to be constituted, is not capable of consciously fighting against the Divinity-he cannot knowingly take up arms to war with God. To the king it seemed perfectly clear that the famine was dependant upon Elijah'; the prophet was considered as the sole cause ; he had cursed, or placed the land under a ban, and that “the prophet's curse, or command, would be fulfilled, was the universally settled conviction in the mind of the king and people. Hence it was that when Ahab came into the presence of Elijah bis first question was, “ Art thou he that troubleth Israel ?” indicating, as clearly as language can indicate, that the thought which was then uppermost in his mind was that Elijah had been the sole cause, and was the only responsible instrument, of the agonies, the sufferings, and the deaths, which he as a monarch had been compelled to witness.
But the consequences of his interview were most memorable. According to the narrative Elijah" boldly told Ahab that it was the wickedness of himself and of his father's house which had troubled Israel, and then followed up his charge by demanding that the king should collect together the priests of Baal, and those who had their meat from the table of Jezebel. Bring them all together," said he, “to Mount Carmel.”
It has been urged that if what is said were true that Ahab liad previously sought after the life of Elijah-he would not now have obeyed, but would have seized and bound him; but they who thus speak cannot have sufficiently studied human nature. Ahab thought, when Elijah was at a distance, that, could he but take him, he would compel him to remove the spell, but when standing in the presence of the prophet he discovered himself to be impotent. The terror of his power as a prophet bound both the band and tongue of the king, and he could neither injure nor order any injury to be inflicted upon him. And, indeed, were we to abandon the argument derived from the supernatural, still the superiority of Elijah's mental resources was enough to bind the weak king, and to render him powerless. The man of strong will must conquer the man whose will is weak, and hence the positive victory achieved upon this occasion.
But upon Mount Carmel it is arranged that the prophets shall be brought together, and in order to realise the whole scene we must enter fully into its spirit. Say that it is but a fancy piece, still
, the man who drew it was a master, and a finer dramatic scene was never got together. Mount Carmel stands upon the coast of Palestine, and rises nearly two thousand feet above the water, as the highest peak of a range of mountains of the same name. It resembles a flattened cone, and is certainly one of the finest and most beautiful mountains in that land. The base of the mountain was washed by the ancient river--the river Kishon, while the plain of Sharon spread out towards the south. We are told by enlightened travellers, that “the prospect from the summit over the gulf of Acre and its “ fertile shores, and over the blue heights of Lebanon, and the white cape, is
truly enchanting ;”-that "in front the view extends to the distant horizon, over the dark blue waters of the Mediterranean;”-that “behind stretches the great plain of Esdraelon, and the mountains of the Jordan and Judæa ;”—that “ below, on the right hand, settles the little city of Acre, diminished to a mere
eck; while in the far distance beyond, the eye rests upon the summits of Lebanon, and turning to track the coast on the left hand, takes in the ruins of " Cæsarea, the city of Herod and of the Roman sovereigns of Palestine.” It gave rise to a multitude of crystal brooks, and everywhere its olives and its laurel trees were plentifully watered. It was an enclosure of vineyards and of gardens, while the pine and the oak waved in majesty and beauty on its summit. We have it on the best authority, that while Lebanon raised to heaven a point of naked and barren rocks, which were covered during the greater part of the year with snow, the top of Carmel, how naked and sterile soever its present appearance, was clothed with perennial verdure.* Here, then, were they to gather themselves together, the priests of Baal, against Elijah, all standing fairly up upon the lofty slopes, so that the assembled people should be enabled to see what was going on. And, curiously enough, Ahab is reported to have sent to all the children of Israel to gather the prophets (of Baal) as if he had actually believed in them. The common theory is, that the descendants of Abraham could not believe in the Gods of neighbouring countries—could, in fact, only play false with Jehovah by pretending to believe them, but unless we abandon the knowledge which our fathers have accumulated, we shall be constrained to confess that the King really believed
* 1 Kings, xviii, 7.16,
- whether rightly or wrongly, it does not here matter-in the power of Baal. Men are not in the habit of risking much when they have not only no faith in the scheme but the certainty of defeat. And Ahab could hardly have called them together unless under the impression that they would be able to uphold the reputation of their tutelar deity.
But now the day has arrived, and the people are gathering. Onward they come from the country around, little doubting that the victory will be with the greater number. In fancy we see them ascending the mountain sides, until at length of Baal's priests there were four hundred and fifty, and it was in a tone of exultation that they asked—Where is Elijah now! He was not there; he had not arrived early, and many who joined the crowd to look on were not a bit surprised at his non-appearance. Doubtless in the motley assemblage of beholders were many who trembled lest he should not come, and thus, that a slight should be put upon the honour of their God. They were of the faithful but timorous class, men who do not dream of proving false to their early faith, and yet who have not courage or strength enough to believe in its final triumph! Their fears were unnecessary, for behold in the distance comes the man for whom all have been looking.. Elijah approached the people, and said: "How long halt ye between two opinions : if “the Lord be God, follow him, but if Baal, then follow him. And the people "answered him not a word.”+ How could they answer? Men halt between two opinions, because wishing to be on the side of truth, and having no certainty upon the point, they desired to have the weight of evidence which would turn the scales and give them the satisfaction they stood in need of. They were a waiting, wandering, and ignorant people, not knowing whether Baal or Jehovah were the true God, and after all, it perhaps did not matter. Baal and Jehovah are but two names for the one Supreme. These two parties believed in one absolute God, and it could not matter how that one was named. The writer of the narrative saw not that, but he saw that proof was required, and so goes on to furnish it :-"Then said
Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the Lord; but Baal's “propbets are four hundred and fifty men. Let them therefore give us two “bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, “and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: and I will dress the other bullock, “and lay it on wood, and put no fire under : and call ye on the name of your gods, “and I will call on the name of the Lord : and the God that answereth by fire, “ let him be God. And all the people answered and said, It is well spoken.” What else could they say? It was to be a mighty trial in the face of Israel, and granting the premises, as we must do in order to come at the spirit of the story, the conditions were fair enough. “And Elijah said unto the prophets of Baal, “Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first; for ye are many; and "call on the name of your gods, but put no fire under. And they took the bullock "which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from “morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us. But there was no voice, nor
* Consecrated Heights, 176, 177, + 1 Kings, xyiii. 21.
# Ibid. 22-24,
“any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made. And it
came to pass at noon, that Elijah moeked them, and said, Cry aloud : for he is a “god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradven
ture he sleepeth, and must be awakened. And they cried aloud, and cut themrselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon "them."*
All this seems to indicate their belief in Baal. But Elijah had bis course open. "And it came to pass, when midday was past, and they propliesied until the time “of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that there was neither voice, nor any to "answer, nor any that regarded. And Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me.
And all the people came near unto him. And he repaired the altar “of the Lord that was broken down. And Elijah took twelve stones, according “ to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the word of the “Lord came, saying, Israel shall be thy name: and with the stones be built an “altar in the name of the Lord: and he made a trench about the altar, as great “as would contain two measures of seed. And he put the wood in order, and cut “ihe bullock in pieces, and laid him on the wood, and said, Fill four barrels with
water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice, and on the wood. And he said, Do it “the second time. And they did it the second time. And he said, Do it the “third time. And they did it the third time. And the water ran round about “the altar; and he filled the trench also with water. And it came to pass at the “time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, " and said, Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day " that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all “these things at thy word. Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may “know that thou art the Lord God, and that thou hast turned their heart back
again. Then the fire of the Lord fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the “wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the “trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces : and they said, “ The Lord, he is the God; the Lord, he is the God.”+
A modern critic, astonished at the sceptical spirit prevailing in this age, quotes this mighty miracle," and triumphantly asks
what any reasonable man can require more than this to satisfy his mind that the Bible is an inspired record, and that all its narratives are true. Probably he was at a loss for some sentences wherewith to conclude his paragraph, else we can hardly believe he would be so absurd as to overlook that it is proof of the historical truth of stories which men are so eagerly enquiring after. They cannot accept marvellous stories until their source is proven to be beyond the bounds of mistake or misrepresentation.
LONDON: PUBLISHED BY M. PatTIE, 31, PATERNOSTER Row, AND GEORGE
GLAISHER, 470, New OXFORD STREET.
OUT OF THE CLOUD;
A TALE; BY P. W. P.
BEER, PIETY, AND SCANDAL AT THE FLYING DUTCHMAN.” THERE are but few topics of conversation upon which residents in country towns love more to enter than upon that of the orthodoxy of their minister; they are delighted to criticise his sermons, to modify or repair his doctrines, and very gravely to declare how much he stands in need of in order to elevate him to their standard of perfection. It is a favourite theory of the
that the pulpit exerts great authority in moulding the character of the people; neither does it seem prudent for a man who desires to enjoy the smiles of society totally to deny that assertion, but at the same time it may be familiarly or confidentially whispered that its authority is far more theoretical than practical. There was a time when it accomplished its purposes, and stood as the great centre of hope and progress ; but it has become a servant, and no longer wields the baton of the master ; its occupants are bound down and circumscribed by the views of a few “ leading” men, who form part of the congregations—men who, as a rule, undertake to solve all religious problems, to fix the estimate of every member's character, and to determine the question whether the minister is sound in his doctrines. Especially in small country towns, it frequently happens that the tongues of both dissenting and clerical preachers are tied upon various subjects about which they desire to speak—they are watched and criticised, approved or condemned, by wretched cliques, who possess neither judgment nor moral feeling, and they dare not utter their convictions lest . peradventure offence should be taken by their richer and more influential supporters. One clergyman is prohibited from speaking against the miserable system of cottage accommodation, now so common in England, because, if he set forth the truth, that it is the scandal of our modern civilisation, he cannot avoid giving unpardonable offence to the knights and squires, who honour God and compliment the preacher by giving Vol. VI. NEW SERIES, VOL. IL