« PoprzedniaDalej »
God, will excite some sentiments of compassion, which may be profitable to so pious a design.
Elijah had Aed from two dreadful evils ; the approach of a famine, and the persecution of Ahaban enraged enemy : and, in obedience to the command of God, had hid himself in the brook Cherith that is before Jordan. In this safe and peaceful solitude, blessed with daily marks of God's providence, the holy man dwelt, free both from the cares and glories of the world : by miraculous impulse, “ the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening ; and he drank of the brook ;" till, by continuance of drought (the windows of heaven being shut up in those days for three years and six months, wliich was the natural cause likewise of the famine) it came to pass, after a while, that the brook, the great fountain of his support, dried up ; and he is again directed, by the word of the Lord, where to betake himself for shelter. He is commanded to arise and go to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, with an assurance that he had disposed the heart of a widowwoman there to sustain him.
The prophet follows the call of his God; the same hand which brought him to the gate of the city, had led also the poor widow out of her doors, oppressed with sorrow. She had come forth upon a melancholy errand, to make preparation to eat her last meal, and share it with her child.
No doubt, she had long fenced against this tragical event with all the thrifty management which self-preservation and parental love could inspire ; fuil, no doubt, of cares and many tender apprehensions, lest the slender stock should fail them before the return of plenty.
But as she was a widow, having lost the only faithful friend who would best have assisted her in this virtuous struggle, the present necessity of the times at length overcame her, and she was just falling down an easy prey to it, when Elijah came to the place where she was." And he called unto her, 6 and said, Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a “ vessel, that I may drink. And, as she was going “ to fetch it, he called unto her, and said, Bring me, " I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand. And “ she said, as the Lord thy God liveth, I have not a “ cake, but a handful of meal in a barrel, and a litu tle oil in a cruse : and behold, I am gathering "Lwo sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me 6 and my son, that we may eat it and die. And Eli“ jah said unto her, Fear not, but go, and do as thou " hast said ; but make me thereof a little cake first, " and bring it unto me ; and after, make for thee " and for thy son, For thus saith the Lord God of
Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither “ shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the " Lord sendeth rain upon the earth.”.
True charity is always unwilling to find excuses, -else here was a fair opportunity of pleading many : she might have insisted over again upon her situation, which necessarily tied up her hands ; she might have urged the unreasonableness of the request ;-that she was reduced to the lowest extremity already, and that it was contrary to justice and the first law of nature, to rob herself and child of their last morsel, and give it to a stranger.
But, in generous spirits, compassion is sometimes more than a balance for self-preservation; for, as God certainly interwove that friendly soft
ness in our nature to be a check upon too great a propensity towards self-love-so it seemed to op. erate here. For it is observable, that, though the prophet backed his request with the promise of an immediate recompense in multiplying her stockyet it is not evident she was influenced at all by that temptation ; for, if she had, doubtless it must have wrought such a mixture of self-interest into the motive of her compliance, as must greatly have allayed the merit of the action.
But this, I say, does not appear, but rather the contrary, from the reflection she makes upon the whole, in the last verse of the chapter: “ Now, by this, I know that " thou art a man of God, and that the word of the " Lord in thy mouth is truth."
Besides, as she was an inhabitant of Zarephath (or, as it is called by St. Luke, Sarepta, subject to Zidon, the metropolis of Phænicia, without the bounds of God's people) she had been brought up in gross darkness and idolatry, in utter ignorance of the Lord God of Israel: or, if she had heard of his name, which is all that seems probable, she had been taught to disbelieve the mighty wonders of his hand, and was still less likely to believe his prophet.
Moreover, she might argue, If this man, by some secret mystery of his own, or through the power of his God, is able to procure so preternatural a sup. ply for me, whence comes it to pass that he now stands in want himself, oppressed both with hunger and thirst?
It appears, therefore, that she must have been wrought upon by an unmixed principle of humanity-She looked upon him as a fellow-partner, al
most in the same affliction with herself ;-she considered he had come a weary pilgrimage, in a sultry climate, through an exhausted country, where seither bread nor water were to be had but by acts of liberality ;-that he had come an unknown traveller, and, as a hard heart never wants a pretence, that this circumstance, which should rather have befriended, might have helped to oppress him. -She considered, for charity is ever fruitful in kind reasons, that he was now far from his own country, and had strayed out of the reach of the tender offices of some one who affectionately mourned his absence ;-her heart was touched with pity ;--she turned in silence, and “ went and did according as " he had said. And behold, both she, and he, and “ her house, did eat many days;" or, as in the margin, one whole year.
16 And the barrel of meal « wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, until " the day that God sent rain upon the earth.”
Though it may not seem necessary to raise conjectures here upon this event, yet it is natural to suppose, the danger of the famine being thus unexpectedly got over, that the mother began to look hopefully forwards upon the rest of her days. There were many widows in Israel at that time, when the heavens were shut up for three years
and six months, yet, as St. Luke observes, “ to none of “them was the prophet sent, save to the widow of “ Sarepta.". In all likelihood, she would not be the last in making the same observation, and drawing from it some flattering conclusion in favour of her son.—Many a parent would build high upon a worse foundation. Since the God of Israel has thus sent ( his own messenger to us in our distress, to pass
by so many houses of his own pepole, and stop at mine, to save it in so miraculous a manner from destruction, doubtless, this is but an earnest of his • future kind intentions to us: at least his good• ness has decreed to comfort my old age by the • long life and health of my son :-but, perhaps, he • has something greater still in store for him ; and "I shall live to see the same hand hereafter crown « his head with glory and honour.' We may naturally suppose her innocently carried away with such thoughts, when she is called back by an unexpected distemper, which surprises her son, and, in one moment, brings down all her hopes; -“ for his « sickness was so sore, that there was no breath left s in him."
The expostulations of immoderate grief are seldom just.--For, though Elijah had already preserved her son, as well as herself, from immediate death, and was the last cause to be suspected of so sad an accident, yet the passionate mother, in the first transport, challenges him as the author of her misfortune ;-as if he had brought down sorrow upon a house which had so hospitably sheltered him. The prophet was too full of compassion to make reply to so unkind an accusation. . He takes the dead child “out of his mother's bosom, and laid him upon “ his own bed; and he cried unto the Lord, and " said, O Lord my God, hast thou brought evil upon " the widow with whom I sojourn, by slaying her
?”—Is this the reward of all her charity and • goodness? Thoy hast before this robbed her of o the dear partner of all her joys and all her cares ; " and now that she is a widow, and has most reason s to expect thy protection, behold thou hast with