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1 KINGS xviii. 21.
“And the people answered him not a word.”
YOU have often noticed, I dare say, before the coming on of a thunder-storm, how still and quiet nature seems, as if awe-struck by the frown of heaven. The lowing of cattle, the song of birds, the hum of life, have ceased; a lurid light has palled the landscape ; what an awful and significant silence !
The chapter which formed the First Lesson this morning, and from which I have taken my text, gives à strange picture of events, that once stirred to a terrible storm the varied emotions of multitudes of people. But what I desire principally to set before you now, is the significant silence described in the words of the text.
The king and the prophet of Israel have disagreed about the course of certain political events that have troubled the country.
Each one charges the other
with being the author of these troubles.
« Art thou he that troubleth Israel ?” said Ahab. “ I have not troubled Israel, but thou, and thy father's house," said Elijah. To bring the matter to an issue, the Tishbite proposes that all the prophets of Baal should be gathered together on one side, and that he, as the prophet of the Lord, would take his stand on the other; that they should have an altar and sacrifice prepared, and that whosoever answered by fire should be the true God. To this proposal the monarch assented; what induced him we cannot tell; whether he hoped that thus an end would be put to the terrible famine that desolated his country; or whether he would like to behold some wonderful exhibition; or that he really wished to test the power of the prophets of Baal ; or, again, that he regarded the proposition as so fair and simple, that to decline it would be a sign of conscious cowardice and weakness; whatever might have been the motives that actuated him, Ahab summoned the prophets of Baal together, and in the midst of the solemn assembly Elijah stood up, and addressing himself to all the people, said—“How long halt ye between two opinions ? if the Lord be God, follow Him; but if Baal, then follow him." This simple, straightforward appeal to their common-sense of right and propriety, struck them dumb.—The people answered him not a word !”
What a wonderful power is conscience ! At his command, the will, the understanding, the affections, the
memory, the powers many, that inhabit our human nature, will busy themselves in constant ministry. Think now, for a moment, what must have been the work of conscience in this strange assembly, that for a strange purpose had gathered together around the heights of Mount Carmel.
Fifty or sixty years had rolled by since Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, had made Israel to sin. The breach was widened rather than repaired between truth and
The children had no mind to mend the sins of their fathers. The golden calves of Dan and Bethel had done their work, and idolatry had slided from a sinful act to a habit, and was now well nigh the law of the land. Ahab exceeded in wickedness all that went before him ; and taking to wife Jezebel, daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Zidonians, he went and served Baal and worshipped him. He built a house to Baal, and reared an altar, and made a grove, and did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him.
Court favour was all on the side of Baal ; whatever leanings or prejudices towards truth still lingered (if any lingered) in the mind of Ahab, they were stoutly and constantly assailed by Jezebel his wife. If any deeds of violence, that might seem to promise selfish recompence, wanted doing, she would stir him up to work. How Obadiah escaped his wrath we may well wonder. That Elijah could find no rest for the sole of his foot in the realms of Ahab we are not sur