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He had also to oppose superiors, whose influence is peculiarly corrupting. He lived under the reign of the worst of all the bad kings of Israel. "For Ahab, the son of Omri, did evjl in the sight of the Lord, above all that were before him. And Ahab made a grove. And Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger, than all the kings of Israel that were before him."
He had also to oppose the established ministers of religion. Behold him encountering the whole priesthood of Baal. Behold him challenging to a public trial four hundred and fifty of his sycophant prophets—and with unparalleled firmness, ordering them all to be put to death—though he knew the altar was defended by the throne. "Elijah 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."
All this naturally drew upon him reproach. Ahab called him "the troubler of Israel." Jezebel abhorred him, and bound herself in an oath to slay him. But God often appeared for him: he gave him the keys of the clouds; he fed him with ravens; he commanded strangers and foreigners to entertain him; he destroyed captains and their men for his sake—and at last he made an exception in his favour, and took him to heaven without dying; carrying him more than a conqueror in a chariot of triumph through the air. And thereby said to a careless and depraved age, and to us also—upon whom the ends of the world are come—" Them that honour me I will honour, but they that despise me, shall be lightly esteemed. Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. Bear your faithful testimony to my cause by your words and actions. Contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints. Dare to be singular. Come out from among them, and be ye separate, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you; and ye shall bo my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. If you are losers in my service, you shall not be losers by it. Verily I say unto you, there is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God's sake, who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting. Verily, there is a reward for the righteous; verily, he is a God that judgeth in the earth."
II. Let us consider it as An Intimation
OP THE FUTURE HAPPINESS THAT IS RESERVED
Por The Servants Of God. Instances and facts strike the mind much more powerfully than abstract reasonings. By the example of Elijah's ascension it was seen that there was another state of being after this life— that there was another place of residence
and of happiness besides this earth—that it was to be obtained by leaving this world— and that even the body was to share in it.
This was a circumstance of importance. Nothing of the kind could be inferred from nature. Men were seen to perish by accidents and diseases and decays. They were laid in the grave: cold and silent they remained there. Wives had gone to the tombs of their husbands; children to the tombs of their mothers—but in vain had they implored their return. In time the body became a mass of putrefaction; and dissolving into its original element, could no longer be distinguished from other dust
But man is an incarnate being. The body is a constituent and an essential part of human nature. Man was embodied m his primeval state, and will be embodied in his final state. A state of separation, therefore, is a state of imperfection; and whatever happiness may be enjoyed in a disembodied state, it will not be, it cannot be complete before the morning of the resurrection. To this therefore the sacred writers lead us forward: and while they clearly allow an intermediate separate existence, they tell us that we " shall be recompensed at the resurrection of the just;" that "when the chief Shepherd shall appear, we shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away." When Paul would relieve the minds of bereaved Christians, he reminds them that their connexions will rise again: and in reference to himself he says, "If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead."
Yes, the body will be a partaker of endless happiness with the soul; and even "in our flesh shall we see God." And here was a specimen of it Here they saw a man carried up into heaven embodied. Here they saw what transformation of the body was capable of experiencing—it could become light, agile, unsusceptible of danger; it could retain identity, and yet drop those properties which render it a prison and a burden; and become a fit companion for the skies. This was a beaming forth of that glory which has been more fully revealed under the gospel dispensation, and especially in the glorification of the body of our Saviour, which is to be the model of our own. "For he shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised n spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body."
III. We may consider this translation as a Substitute For Death. In some such way
as this, it is probable, would men have passed from earth to heaven had they never sinned. In some such way as this will those living at the lastday be qualified for glory. "Behold, says the Apostle, I show you a mystery: we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed." Elijah died not, but he was changed. And in whatever way we pajs into heaven, a change analogous to death and the resurrection must pass upon us. The reason is obvious. "Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit iucorruption." Were the body removed with its present animal properties, it would require food and sleep and medicine even in heaven. The eye would be unequal to the splendour of the glory, the ear to the melody of the sounds, the taste to the exquisiteness of the joy, the powers to the constancy of the work. Our senses and organs are adapted to our present state, but not to our future condition. We now see how little we can bear. When an angel appeared to Daniel, he was instantly seized with a stupefaction which he could not resist When John in his exile saw Jesus, though he had been familiar with him, and had leaned on his bosom, he "fell at his feet as dead." And by the way, this regulates the dealings of God with his people, while they are in the body. Moses asked for a sight of God, which would have proved his death—" Thou canst not see my face; for there shall no man see me and live." The disciples, in the mount of transfiguration, "fell asleep." It was not so much a moral, as a natural infirmity: the animal frame was overpowered with the glory of the scene. Were He to afford to his people such discoveries and communications as they may sometimes desire, it would unhinge them from earth, indispose them for the duties of their stations, and disorder their whole frame.
IV. We may regard it as A Mode Of TranSition Much To Be Desired. Death is not a pleasing subject of meditation. It is called "an enemy." It is said to be "the king of terrors." Even exclusive of the future consequences, there is much to render it formidable. Nature cannot be reconciled to its own dissolution. Who loves to be taken to pieces?
"The pains, the groans, the dying strife,
Its forerunners and its attendants are dismaying. I have heard of a very good man, who often said he was not afraid of death, butof dying—he was chilled with the thought of corruption and worms. If we saw a viper, and knew that the poisonous fang was ex
tracted, and that it was perfectly harmle»»who could put it into his bosom without shuddering?
Let it be remembered, that such feelingi as these do not argue an inferior degree of religion. Even the apostles themselves were not strangers to these sensations. "Forin this, said they, we groan earnestly; desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven. If so be that being clothed, we shall not be found naked. For we that are m this tabernacle do groan, being burdened; not for that we would be unclothed, hut clothed upon, that mortality might be mllowed up of life." They wished to enter heaven without dying.—Sut to us this is impossible. To death as an inevitable doom we all look forward. It is the way, and the onlj way to the city of habitation.
Let us not however blaspheme death. l.et us rather see what there is to reconcile us to it Let us compare Elijah's mode of remoral with our own, and see whether the difference be so marvellously great
You have to die. But consider the names attached to death by him who perfectly knows the nature of it He tells us, "If a man keep my sayings, he shall never see death"—it ought to be called something else—so qualified and softened is it with regard to him. Call it a departure—the departure of a prisoner from his prison, of a traveller from his inn. of a scholar from his school—" The time of my departure is at hand. I long to depart Call it a sleep—sleep is inviting to the wearied labourer, who has borne the burden and beat of the day.
*' They sleep in Jesus and are Meat:
"Our friend Lazarus sleepeth."
You have to die. But the sting of death is removed—for " the sting of death is sin'"— "and he bore our sins in his own body on the tree." Death stung him; but, as it is WW of the bee, left his sting in him. It is harmless now. It may terrify, but it cannot mjure.
You have to die. But God promises to he with you there. "For he hath said,I"^ Never leave thee nor forsake thee"—Mid therefore be assured he will not leave you a this time of need. To this the promise a peculiarly made: "I will be with him m trouble." Hence David triumphs, "le* though I walk through the valley"of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thon art with me; thy rod and thy staff they aw fort me."
You have to die. But the soul will be immediately disposed of infinitely to your advantage. Death will carry you from the same vain world, the same vexmg world, toe same defiling world—as Elijah's chariot car
ried him. Death will carry you to the same rest, to the same fulness of joy, to the same glorious company as Elijah's chariot carried nim. Absent from the body, you are present with the Lord.
You have to die. But the body will certainly follow. Though you do not take it along with you, but leave it in the grave, it shall not be lost there. He will come and inquire for your dust. It is redeemed. "If Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you."
You have to die. But by death you may glorify God, more than by such a removal as Elijah's. It affords opportunity to display the influence of divine grace under suffering, to bear witness to the goodness of the Master you serve; to commend the ways of godliness; to convince some, to encourage others. One dying Christian has often made many in love with death. While witnessing^ such a scene, they have been ready to say, "Let us go away that we may die with him."
It matters therefore little how the believer departs from this world to a better.
But the event is always worthy of our observation. "Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright; for the end of that man is peace."
And whether he ascend to heaven in a whirlwind, or be removed by a fever or a dropsy, " Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!"
THE PUNISHMENT OF ADONI-BEZEK IMPROVED.
But Adoni-bezek fled; and they pursued after him, and caught him, and cut off his thumbs and his great toes. And Adoni-bezek said, Threescore and ten kings, having their thumbs and their great toes cut off, gathered their meat under my table: as I have done, to God hath requited me.—Judges i. 6, 7.
Destruction had long been denounced apon the inhabitants of Canaan for their sins. At length the measure of their iniquity is full; and the Jews are appointed to be the executioners of the Divine vengeance. Moses dies before they enter on the dreadful task; but Joshua succeeds him, and becomes the scourge of this devoted race. But even he dies be
fore the complete reduction of the promised
enemy at Bezek, and gain a dreadful victory, driven out of Paradise. See the Flood sweep
They slew a bezek prison inflict a pur/ vere—" Th toes." Thi1 you have h score and their grea' under my requited
This passage „.
me hold it up to view, anu
mark the principal contents of the rc ation.
I. See in it The Instability And UncerTainty OF WORLDLY GREATNESS. Look at
this man—and behold in what slippery places God sets the mighty and noble. How great was he in the field—where armies fled before him! how great in the palace—where a number of vanquished princes fed under his table! But behold him now—dethroned, insulted, dismembered; and his present extremity of wretchedness imbittered by the recollection of the prosperity that once crowned his head. "And seekest thou great things to thyself? Seek them not Boast not thyself of to-morrow; for thou knowest not what a day will bring forth."
From the eagerness with which mankind pursue the distinctions of life, we should conclude, not only that they were very valuable in themselves, but that no kind of precariousness attached to them. We should suppose that they were able to ensure durable possession—and God, who in his word always gives language to actions, tells us, "Their inward thought is that their houses shall continue for ever, and their dwelling-places to all generations: they call their lands after their own names." But let not the strong be secure; let not the honourable be vain; let not the rich be high-minded. Connect certainty with the motion of the wind, or with the waves of the sea—but do not trust this treacherous, this changeable world. "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal." "Riches make to themselves wings and fly away." "Man being in honour abideth not; he is like the beasts that perish." What is all history but a narrative of the reverses to which all earthly things are liable, however firmly established they once appeared to be: of the revolutions of empires; the destruction of cities; of the mighty put down from their seats; of counsellors led away spoiled, of politicians disgraced, generals banished, and monarchs put to death!
II. See in it Iudgment Overtaking The Sinner In This LIFE. Nor does Adoni-bezek stand alone as an instance of the present
Behold Adam and Eve
lorld of the ungodly. See the Cities of the Plain. Remember looked back, contrary to the nmand, and "she became a pillar The servant of Elisha enters his fr's presence—tells a lie—and goes out :per as white as snow." Ananias and Ifapphira utter a known falsehood before the rApostle, and are both instantly numbered with the dead. And of such importance is truth to the welfare of the community—and so hateful is it to the Supreme Being—that not only are all liars to have their portion in the lake which burnetii with fire and brimstone, which is the second death—but in these instances we see "hell from beneath moved to meet them at their coming!"
It may however be necessary to observe that this is not always the case. The misery of the sinner is principally reserved for a future world, and we are now in a state of probation. But God would confirm our faith in his adorable providence. If all sin was punished here, we should look no further; if no sin, we should not easily believe in the power, the holiness, the truth of God. He therefore sometimes signally interposes; and will be known by the judgments which he executeth: "so that a man shall say, Verily there is a reward for the righteous; verily he is a God that judgeth in the earth."
Present punishment, too, is less frequently executed under the gospel than under the law; and the reason is—that a future state of retribution was not so clearly and fully revealed to them as to us. Hence their threatenings are often filled with expreasions of temporal evils, while ours only announce miseries beyond the grave. Then an adulterer was to be stoned; now he is to be— damned.
We may add that the punishment of sin in this world is sometimes unavoidable. Thus, if nations are punished at all, they must be punished in time—for they have no existence in eternity; there men exist only as individuals. And nearly the same may be said of a family. Hence we read "the curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked: but he blesseth the habitation of the just."
Yea, the present punishment of sin is in some measure natural. For how frequently do men's suflerings arise from the very sins they commit! Extravagance breeds ruin— indolence, poverty—intemperance, disease. u Who hath wo? Who hath sorrow! Who hath contentions? Who hath babbling? Who bath wounds without cause? Who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wme; they that go to seek mixed wine." Why are men so unhappy—but because they are unholy. They walk contrary to God, and God walks contrary to them. They transgress his commands, and expose themselves to his wrath; and then they are alarmed with
fear. They yield to vile passions and appetites, and then they groan by reason of bondage. They violate ail the rules which conduce to the welfare of the community, mi then they are expelled from the esteem ni regard of their fellow-creatures. And ik can hinder all this?
So that sin does not recompense or eva indemnify the sinner here. "The troy a well as the end of transgressors is hard." Ai the righteous here have some foretastes ci their future happiness, so the wicked hut here the beginnings of sorrows. As godllness has the promise of the life that now as well as of that which is to come, so sin hu the curse of this world, as well as of anothec
III. See in it Punishment Inflicted Afto Mwo Delay. Behold the career of this st ner!" Threescore and ten kings" be U thus inhumanly mangled. Thus he reponted his crime again and again—even until sevesty times! What a lengthened course of imquity was here!—" So long and so often id I done this, that I thought God had not sees, or did not remember. But he has found re out; and I live long enough to be a miserable instance of this awful truth—that however long punishment may be delayed, it will u last be inflicted—As I have done.soUodhtfa requited me."
The wonder is—not that he was overtakes so soon—but that he was spared so long; and seemed to be allowed to triumph in his imquity. The flourishing condition of Suims for a time, and especially for a long tone, unchecked by calamity, is an event winch t* often perplexed even pious minds. > Thus Jemmiah exclaims " Righteous 'art th'ou,0Ii«i when I plead with thee; yet let me tali thee of thy judgments: wherefore, doth lis way of the wicked prosper! Wherefore im all they happy that deal very treacherous!;r David also tells us: "As for me, mv W were almost gone; my steps had well np slipped; for I was envious at the foolish, whes I saw the prosperity of the wicked."
But what is more to be lamented is, that hereby the unhappy creature himself is quently deluded. He is apt to mistake fabearance for connivance; and what God dws not immediately punish, he concludes that he entirely neglects. "He hath said hi hs heart, I shall not be moved; for I ahaUnera be in adversity." "Because sentenceatrairtf an evil work is not executed speedily, there. fore the heart of the sons of men is fully *t in them to do evil." But we should romember the end of providence in such a dispffl* tion. He frequently spares the ungodly tor the sake of the godly: the extraction oMae tares would injure the wheat By forte*1' ing the blow, he would give space tor repen' ance: "the longsuffering of our God is saltation." He has therefore ends to answer worthy of himself . But be convinced ol» that he never designed to cherish in you a
I! ope of impunity. His patience is not forgiveness. "Be sure your sins will find you out He that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy." He is patient; but he is faithful, and the Scripture cannot be broken, i !'' is patient: but patience has its limits; and the year of trial granted to the barren figtree will expire, and then, if unfruitful, it shall be cut down, and cast into the fire. He is patient: but if his patience end not in your* conversion, it will be glorified in your destruction. "These things hast thou done, and I kept silence: thou thotightest that I was altogether such an one as thyself; but I will reprove thee, and set them m order before thine eyes. Now consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver.
IV. See in it A Correspondence Between Sin And 8UFrERiNO. "What I have inflicted upon others, is now inflicted upon me: and in my very punishment I read my crime— as I have done, so God hatth requited me!" Our Saviour has said, " With the same measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you atrain." And Eliphaz tells us, that he had particularly remarked this even in his days. "I have seen they that plough iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same." From the nature of their suffering, men may often learn the character of their sin. God sometimes sends our troubles with a label upon them— it seems impossible to mistake their design. We are commanded to "hear the rod;" it says many things—but it frequently tells us the very sin for which we smart: it thunders or whispers, " this is the duty you have neglected. This is the idol you have adored. Hast thou not procured this unto thyself!"
Between sin and punishment there is sometimes a comparative conformity. This is the case when we suffer things which have some resemblance to our crimes. Thus the Jews, for serving strange gods, were compelled to serve strange masters. Forty days the spies were employed in exploring the land of promise, and forty years the people are condemned to wander in the wilderness for believing them.
Sometimes there is also between them a direct conformity. This is the case when we sutler in the same way and in the same things in which we sin. Thus it is said of the Chaldeans, "Because thou hast spoiled many nations, all the remnant of the people shall spoil thee." Thus it is said of the Church of Rome. "For they have shed the blood of Mints and prophets , and thou hast given them Wood to drink; for they are worthy." What was the subject of David's sin? The numbering of his people. In this he suffers: a pestilence carries off seventy thousand of his subjects. What was the design of wicked
Haman 1 "Then said Zeresh his wife and all his friends unto him, Let a gallows be made of fifty cubits high, and to-morrow speak thou unto the king that Mordecai may be hanged thereon; then gb thou in merrily with the king unto the banquet And the thing pleased Haman, and he caused the gallows to be made." What was his doom? "And Harbonah, one of the chamberlains, said before the king, Behold also the gallows, fifty cubits high, which Haman had made for Mordecai, who had spoken good for the king, standeth in the house of Haman. Then the king said, Hang him thereon. So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he toad prepared for Mordecai. And to mention no more, in the very place where Jezebel caused the dogs to lick the blood of Naboth, the dogs licked her blood!
But there is a future conformity still more dreadful; and of which the Apostle speaks when he says, "Be not deceived ; God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting." The man who sowed thistles, and expected to reap wheat, would be deemed a fool. But are we not equally foolish! What are the principles we imbibe, the dispositions we cultivate,' the pursuits in which we are engaged, that we are concluding they will issue in glory, honour, and immortality? Is there any relation between these? Do not the stepsofthe road we travel take hold on hell? Misery is not only the reward of our works, hut the very tendency of our sin. Hear this, ye covetous and unfeeling. Your hard-heartedness is not punishable by any human tribunal—but see your crime meeting you at the bar of God: "he shall have judgment without mercy, that showed no mercy." Think of this, ye despisers of the Gospel—he now addresses you in vain; "Because I have called, and ye refused: I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof."—And hereafter you shall address him in vain: "I will also laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; when your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you: then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek rne early, but they shall not find me."
Finally. See in this Scripture The Hand Of God Acknowleged, While Men Only Are Employed—" God hath requited me." But who saw any thing of him? Did not the sons of Judah and of Simeon cut off his thumbs and his great toes? Yes—but " is there an evil in the city, and the Lord hath not done it?" "I form the light, and create