Welcome once again to William Andrus Alcott, Ph.D, LL.D.

This is my sixth transcription, and I've come to use a few basic conventions.

The technology has gotten better, but working with any word processor, and then transporting/translating to HTML still tends lose a good bit of what I'd hoped to convey of the pagination, style, and leading. So, for this sixth attempt, I've decided to bag the word processor, and do the whole thing in BBEdit 5.0 (heartily recommended). I'll make concessions to HTML here, rather than continually having to reformat.

Only a few notes are in order here: I only add to the text on the following occasions: when Alcott's spelling contrasts markedly with 20th century spelling (in which case I add "[sic]", and on occasions when he made a footnote, which HTML as yet does not completely (or at least conveniently) allow.

Please enjoy. If you find any glaring errors, be they grammatical, spelling or formatting, (this was formatted for the 4.0 generation of browsers, but should degrade gracefully), please write to me and let me know their location. I'll check them against the book and if they are indeed errors, I'll fix them quickly.

If you came here directly from a library or a search engine, feel free to check out my other electronic texts, (I add about two a year) and the rest of my site, rebuilt in late April of 1998.



TRUST IN THE LORD;



OR

THE STORY

OF

ELIJAH AND THE RAVENS.




___
BY WILLIAM A. ALCOTT.
___


BOSTON:
STRONG AND BRODHEAD.
1848



Page 2 is blank.


PREFACE.


     The following story is less original, both
in matter and manner, than most other Sab-
bath school books which have been prepared
by the same writer. Nevertheless, it may
be not less striking or useful.
     For many of the thoughts which it con-
tains, no less than for several of its more
beautiful paragraphs, the public are indebted
to that excellent volume, by Krummacher,
issued by the American Tract Society, en-
titled "Elijah the Tishbite." In general,
however, when any thing has been taken,
verbatim, from that work, it has been marked,
in order to distinguish it from what is
original with this writer.
     Elijah was a reformer; and we see, in the
following story, that the reformer has some-
thing to do, even in solitude. Reformers are

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very apt to manifest anxiety to reform every
body else rather than themselves: whereas
the great work is with themselves, and for
this purpose solitude is very valuable. Many
a reformer in the Christian world would de-
rive infinite advantage by a year's exile by
some brook Cherith, before Jordan, if not by
drinking of the water of the brook, and being
fed in the humiliating manner of Elijah, by
ravens.

     The great moral lesson, however, which it
is hoped the young may derive from the pe-
rusal of this little book, is the importance and
blessedness of simple trust in the Divine fa-
vor. In all the trials of Elijah, whether in
one country or another, whether in times of
abundance or of scarcity, and whether in cir-
cumstances of trial or safety, but above all,
by the brook Cherith, he did not fail to
"trust in the Lord."


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ELIJAH AND THE RAVENS. --------------

The Bible does not inform us, with exact- ness, at what time Elijah was born. We are first introduced to him as a prophet, in the time of King Ahab, about 904 years before the birth of Christ. If we suppose he was then 36 years old, he must of course have been born 940 years before Christ. Nor are we informed who his parents or his other rel- atives were. How natural it is to desire to know something about the parents and friends of a great man; although we know full well that his own real greatness depends chiefly upon himself, and has very little to do with the condition or character of parents.

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Of Elijah's birth-place, we know rather more than we do of his parentage, and early education and habits. He was born at Tish- be, a smal place among the mountains of Gilead, eastward of the river Jordan. It was because he was a native of Tishbe, that he so commonly went by the name, in his subse- quent life, of Elijah the Tishbite. Born among these mountains, more cele- brated for their plants, balms and spices, than for their schools or seminaries of learning, Elijah must, in all probability, in his early days, have led a quiet if not a solitary life. Surrounded as he must have been by the idolatry and the abominations of the Ammon- ites, he could not have been permitted by his parents, as good Israelites, to mingle much in general society. His eduction must there- fore must have been chiefly controlled by his pa- rents. Of books and schools, at all events, I am sure he could have known very little,
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except the books of Moses, and the school of his father's own family. Let his education have been conducted as it may have been, however, we find him, at length, standing before Ahab, the king of Is- rael, at his court in Samaria. Not to gratify his curiosity by beholding the glitter of wealth or the trappings of royalty, nor to bring him- self or his friends into notice; nor yet to ask any courtly favors for them or for himself. For what then? I will tell you. The people of the kingdom of Israel had become sadly given to idolatry, in which they were encouraged by their wicked King Ahab, and their still worse Queen Jezebel. The worship of Baal, as it was called, had, in fact, become the established religion of the coun- try. Gloomy idol temples were seen in every direction, and profane and unholy altars and sacrifices. Nor was this all. Had the idolaters done nothing more than follow their own idolatrous practices, and pursue their own
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abominations, their sin would not have been as mountain-high as it turned out to be. But, alas! they not only worshipped idols, and refused to worship the true God themselves, but they wanted to compel the people to do the same. If a person continued to worship the true God, in the proper manner, they were displeased with him: and at length their displeasures grew into hatred, and led to persecution, with fire and sword. Their idol altars, as it has been well said by another ex- cellent writer, were "stained with the blood of prophets and other holy men," to a degree which called for devine jealousy and ven- geance. It was under these circumstances the the Lord God of Elijah raised him up and commissioned him to stand before Ahab, and prophecy against him and his idolatrous country. But what was the nature of the prophecy he uttered? Was it a prediction of evil against the wicked king and queen? Or did
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it portend evil to their idolatrous subjects? --- AS they were all involved in one common guilt, so they were all alike involved in the punishment which Elijah foretold. "As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word." What a bold man Elijah must have been to utter such a prophecy in the hearing of the impious king! For though the country was subject to famines, yet it was seldom that one continued for whole years in succession. Be- sides, the idea that it was to come as a judg- ment upon his idolatrous countrymen, and the idolatrous king and queen among the rest, would be likely, was should naturally suppose, to give great offence, and subject the prophet to immediate persecution, if not to loss of life. We are not told, it is true, how Ahab re- ceived the prophecy; but we can judge a little from what followed. But let us first consider the case of Elijah.
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How was it that Elijah should dare to utter such a prediction? What authority had he to do it? We know, indeed, that it came to pass as he foretold; but could he be sure, at the time, that it would be so? The scripture gives us all needful informa- tion on this subject; not indeed the same part of it with that which contains the prophecy, but another. James tells us that "Elias" (or Elijah, for Elias and Elijah mean the same person,) "was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain, and his prayer was heard." True, you will say, but how could he know it would be heard? That is the question. And so it is. I can only answer it by saying, that from what we know if his holy character before God, his abhorrence of idolatry, his jealousy for the honor of god, and his bold- ness, as he stood before Ahab, we cannot doubt that he felt at least an inward assurance that such a punishment upon the guilty land
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and its inhabitants was necessary, in order to turn the hearts of the people; and that the known character of God would justify and make good his prediction. Perhaps, too, he had an immediate revelation from heaven, on the subject; but if he had, we are not informed of it. In any event, he uttered the prophecy, and began immediately to be fulfilled. "The heavens and the earth," as another writer has well said, immediately "changed their ap- pearance. The one became as iron, and the other as brass; and the dew of heaven was restrained. the word of hte prophet struck, like a fever, into the heart of the earth, with- ering and scorching' and all that was fresh and green faded and hung its head; every stream and rivulet dried up; and all that had breath lay gasping and languishing on the ground. Neither dew nor rain fell during three years and six months." But now, while the sun "glared upon the

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earth with its scorching beams;" while those rays which heretofore had diffused a smile over the whole face of nature, were now changed into arrows of destruction and death; while the sultry winds dried up, with their burning gusts, every rivulet from its bed, and every fountain from its source; while "the plants and trees dropped their leaves and withered away; while the living herds and bleating flocks explored every spot of the parched fields, and the wild beasts moaned in the forests;" while, in short, the whole country was becoming a scene of desolation, mourning and wo, where was Elijah himself? Did he share in the common suffering, or was he by some remarkable provision of the God whom he served, exempted from the common lot? At first he shared in the general calamity. No angel has come to carry him away, or to hint even at a place of safety. No chariot of fire has, as yet, come to take him up. "There he stood with the criminals, on the

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place of execution, apparently himself a sacri- fice to the wrath he had drawn down, and exposed with the ungodly to famine and death. There he stood, panting and groaning like the rest, exposed to the same dangers, and over and above, execrated by a whole nation, and devoted to ruin by the infuriated populace." He seems likely, ere long, to suffer a fate not unlike that of Samson, who pulled down upon himself the pillars of Da- gon's temple roof, and was buried in the com- mon ruin of his enemies. But Elijah has trust, or faith, --strong faith too. He has no fears but momentary ones. He knows that all will yet be right. True, he knows not what to do, exactly, but he trusts that a way of escape will yet be opened to him. And as he trusted it would be, so it came to pass. The word of the Lord came to him. But what was the word of the Lord? We are

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not told how it came to him; but we are informed what it was. Let us consider the wholepassage. It contained a command and a promise. The command was to leave the region of Samaria forthwith, and to go eastward to the region of the river Jordan, and hide himself there by the brook Cherith. We have no means of knowing exactly where this brook Cherith was, but it seems to have been a considerable distance from Samaria; and, as some suppose, within the province of Judea. It was must evidently a wild and unfrequented place; such a place as no one would be likely to select as a resi- cence; and one to which he would not be likely to be pursued. The promise he received from the Lord was, that notwithstanding the famine, he should have food and drink, if he complied with the command. If all else starved during

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the long calamitous season of drought which was before him, he would not. The Lord was to provide for him. But how? Was he to cultivate some little secluded garden or field, which, watered per- haps in a miraculous may, would continue to yeild its accustomed produce, even amid the horrors of many long years of famine? Or was he to be sustained almost without food, as during the forty days' journey to Mount Horeb, some time afterward? Or was there some other way to be provided? The Lord had prepared a way for his sus- tenance, and a most remarkable way it was, too. His drink was natural enough; he was to drink from the brook itself! The only miracle about this consisted in its not drying up with the rest of the streams. Water in all probability had been the prophet's only drink all his life long. To drink from the brook Cherith was, therefore, no self denial, but rather a favor. The promise was equiva-

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lent to a pledge that his life should be pre- served; for he could barely perish in the neighborhood of an ever living stream of water. However, he was not to be confined to water. He was to have a supply of food, such as would sustain him in a natural, or at least not a miraculous manner. The only thing miraculous about it was the manner in which it was to be furnished. He was not to cultivate some particular piece of land with the promise that it should yield its accustomed produce. He was not directed to depend on the fruit of certain fig trees and other trees, which should be verdant and fruitful in spite of the general dearth and distress. Perhaps this would not have made the prophet feel his dependence on God as much as was desirable. Or perhaps the effect would not have been good in some other way. In selecting the most appropriate means of sustaining him in his lonely retreat, God looked not at things

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with a short or narrow-sighted human eye, but with an eye that takes in everything, and sees things, from beginning to end, in all their consequences. Why cannot we see and believe that this is so? Every one knows, or may know, that there are a thousand things which he is in- clined to do, or forbear to do, in youth, which, hed he not been restrained from doing, simply because the wise parent saw farther than he into the consequences, and extended a re- straining hand, might have brought him into serious difficulty. Now we are all children in knowledge in general; and especially as regards the ability to look into the future and discover consequences; and why should we not believe in a God who sees the end from the beginning, and obey his commands, whatever may become of the consequences? I have said that Elijah was to be supplied with food, but have not spoken very particu- larly of the manner in which he was supplied.

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The ravens were to feed him. Singular ser- vants as they may seem to us, or as they have even seemed to Elijah, they were the only servants, stewards, or cooks he was to have in his employ. But what is a raven? Half my readers, I am sure, do not know. Perhaps they know it is some sort of a bird, but they do not know what sort. In fact there may be some who do not know whether is was a bird of any sort. There has been quite a learned dispute whether the word raven did not mean some- thing else rather than a bird, of which dispute some of you may be apprised. I be- lieve, however, that the question is now chiefly settled; if not, I think it ought to be. There can be no reasonable doubt that it was a bird, and the only bird which still goes by the same name. The raven is a bird of prey, nearly as large as a hen, of a remarkably black color, with a harsh, unpleasant voice. I do not know that

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it is found any where on our own western continent, or, at least, in the United States. We have two birds, it is true, which strongly resemble it in color and appearance; the crow and the turkey buzzard. The former of these is found almost every where, and the latter chiefly in the Southern States. But while the turkey buzzard is frequent among the habitations of men, and even in the crowded city, and the crow does not wholly forsake human society, the raven delights in solitude. He loves to frequent the ruined tower, or the deserted habitations. In Isaiah is is accordingly foretold that the raven, to- gether with other birds of similar character and habits, should take up his abode in the desolate houses of Edom: "The cormorant and the bittern," said the prophet, "shall possess it. The owl and the raven shall dwell in it." It has also been said of the raven, that when it sees its young newly hatched, and

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covered with a white down or pin feathers, it has at once such a dislike to them that it for- sakes them, and does not return to the nest till it is covered with black feathers. But this is prabably untrue; for how could the young, in such a case, be kept alive till the black feathers were grown? The most which can probably be said against the raven in this respect, is that it sometimes seems to forget its young, or, per- haps, drives them out of the nest while quite young, and thus compels them early to pro- cure their own sustaenance. To this fact, Job perhaps alludes when he says, "Who provi- deth for the raven his food, when his young ones cry unto God, wandering for lack of meat?" The psalmist, too, has an allusion of the same kind: "The Lord giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry." Perhaps one reason why the raven was selected to bring food to Elijah, was to make

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him feel, still more forcibly, his daily depend- ence on God. For if the raven, which was accustomed to neglect or ill treat her own young, took the kind care of him from day to day, how great must be the goodness --- to say nothing of the power --- of that God who employed them in this signal service! One thing, at any rate, we learn from the fact that the raven was employed to feed Eli- jah; which is, that the place selected for his retreat was a very solitary place; for that such, above all others, were the places which the raven delighted to frequent, we have the most abundant and conclusive testimony. But what was the kind of food which his servants brought him? Was it flesh, fish, fruits, or roots? or was it some of each? Was it prepared or unprepared? or, in other words, was it left for Elijah to cook it, or was it furnished already miraculously cooked? The Bible gives us all the necessary information on the subject. It tells us

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that "the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening." It does not indeed settle the ques- tion in regard to cooking; nor it it very im= portant. Calmet says it was grain which they brought, instead of bread; but it is impossible for us to know this with certainty. Either would sustain him, bread or grain; but per- haps bread would have been the most palate- able. It was plain food, whether it was bread or grain; but we do not hear that he grew tired of it, even when he had used it for sever or eight hundred meals in succes- sion. Come, let us pay a visit to this man of God, in his new dwelling place. A dreary wild, near the banks of the Jordan, is the scene now opened before us. Dead silence reigns around; interrupted, perhaps, by the cry of the solitary bittern, while amongst the heath and the juniper bushed broods the ostrich;

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no hunter disturbing its repose; no pathway opens to the view; not a human footstep is seen; all is wilderness and solitude. "Let us follow him, in imagination, toward the Jordan. Yonder lies our track, where the naked rocks rear their lofty heads and the forests frown. Then, through on thicket and another, through one narrow pass and another, we come at length down into a deep and narrow glen, overhung with tangled wood, where a brook runs murmuring along, and finds its way between the rocky masses. There sits the man of God! Here is his appointed dwelling: the blue sky his roof, the bare rocks his walls, the stone his seat, the shady wood his bed chamber, the grass his couch, his company the purling and the hoarse ravens among the trees. There he sits, in his hairy mantle, silent and reflect- ing" -- his solitude unbroken, except by the hiss of the serpent or the roar of the lion. In this place of exile did Elijah spend

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twelve months of his life. But how did he pass his time? Had he books or papers with which to beguile the tedious hours? Had he labor or play? Opportunities for conversa- tion, of course he had none. What, then, could he do? He was a man of prayer; and a man of prayer can never want employment. The ear, like the eye, of our Father in heaven is always open. The 800,000,000 of people on the earth's surface, might all be praying at once, and God could yet hear them all. More than even this; he could attend to and answer all their cries, and supply all their wants. Elijah, I say again, could never want for employment, because he could always pray. Perhaps you will way that he was a good man and needed not to pray all the while. I do not undertake to say that any body ought to pray continually, though they should always be in the spirit of prayer. I only say that

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every body has spiritual wants enough, at all times, to be supplied; and that God is, at all times, quite ready to supply them. I speak of his spiritual wants. James tells us that Elias, that is, Elijah, was a man of like pas- sions with ourselves; but if so, he certainly needed to pray for the ability to govern them. This is one of the greatest tasks to which we can be called. Paul spoke of being com- pelled to labor hard to keep even his body in subjection; but how much greater the work of keeping in subjection body and soul both! Socrates, who was a man of much plain practical wisdom, held that he who gov- erns himself does more than he who com- mands armies. Elijah had enough to pray for, I say then, if he prayed all the while. But, not only could he employ himself at prayer, it was much to examine himself, his thoughts, his feelings, and his affections --- to see that all was right in the sight of God.

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Again, he could think. What though he had no person to converse with? Could he not hold conversation -- sweet conversation, too -- with the brook of Cherith, with the plants and herbs that had as yet out lived the drought, with the visiting ravens, and with Him who sent them? I mean, of course, he could think of them, and have his own re- flections concerning them. He could con- verse with the past and the present; with the world around him and the world within him; with earth and heaven; with time and with eternity; with the throne of God, and with him who sitteth thereon. No sooner does the morning dawn in Cherith's rocky, lonely vale, than the hoarse cry of his black feathered servants is heard aloft among the trees; and scarcely is Eli- jah awaked, than his bread and meat are laid before him. And when the evening shades begin to appear, the same services are again rendered him. And this takes place, not

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merely for one day or one week, but, as I have elesewhere said for a whole year, without omission of a single meal. The Bible, indeed, says, "it came to pass, after a while, that the brook dried up." From this circumstance some have supposed that Elijah was in the wilderness only a very short time; but this opinion is not well found- ed. It has been shown by good men that the phrase, after a while, as used in the Bible, sometimes means several years. And in the history of Elijah, must denote at least a whole year, for so long, at least, did Elijah continue in the wilderness. For we find from the fourth chapter of Luke's gospel -- from the very words of the Saviour himself, -- as well as from the words of James the Apostle, in his Epistle or letter, that the famine in the time of Elijah prevailed three years and six months. But we find from the first book of Kings, at the eighteenth chapter, that the

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time when it ceased was in the third year of the prophet's residence at Zarephath. Al- lowing, therefore that he was at the latter place two years and a half -- and I do not think he was there longer -- where was he the rest of the time, unless at the brook Cherith? I have told you that after a while the brook Cherith dried up. Not, in all probability, in a day, or even a week. But it begins at first to dminish slowly; the stones in its bed begin to appear; at length its flow is scarce- ly perceptible; and finally the channel is quite dry. The ravens, it is true, continued to perform their office. He had food enough; but what could he do for drink? For though he might dispense with drink for a few days in ordinary circumstances, yet at this time under the in- fluence of a burning sun, and with no food but bread and flesh, it would be difficult to do so for a very long period. Elijah's faith, strong as it was, might very

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naturally be sorely tried now. What can it mean, h e may have said to himself, that this brook, so long miraculously sustained, should now be permitted to perish? Why have I been perserved for so long, if I am now to be forsaken? Where is the promise of the Lord God of Israel? Am I no longer his prophet? Have I so sinned against him that he has deserted me? Such thoughts as these, I say, and a thousand more, of the same general kind, may have distressed him, and put his faith to the most severe trial. But his faith overcame. Instead of de- sponding, his courage held out, even to the end. He continued to dwell in his wonted retreat, and though the brook was disappear- ing, so that he could no longer hold conver- sation with, or derive lessons form it, he could still keep up his intercourses with other objects. The ravens still supplied him with his needful sustenance, and he still enjoyed a

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good appetite and sound and refreshing sleep. He yet retained all his wonted powers of mind; all his ardent love for his brethren of the great family of man, and for his Father in heaven. He could still observe and re- flect. He could engage in self-examination and prayer. Employed in this holy, heavenly manner, he could not surely have occasion for de- spondency. His Lord God, whose gentlest whispers and footsteps he could perceive even more readily in this solitude than amid the noise of the busy world, was company enough for him. "Silent nature around him -- the handy work of the same Creator -- was a suffi- cient book to him, at least, in the absence of all other books. The works of creation which encompassed him, still served as a lovely epistle, and a most delighful study. The rocks and hills, perhaps, by which he dwelt, reminded him of a Rock higher than they, whereon he himself had built, as a

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never failing foundation. The sturdy trees still preached to him, as it were, and suggest- ed to his mind the comforts of the tree of life, and of those heavenly palms from whose tops eternal peace would at length breath upon him. The cheerful songsters in the air and even the wild roses in the brakes and hedges would sing to him, bidding him to be free from anxious and corroding care. In short, every thing would conspire to keep up his trust and to console him in his solitude. But he is not long required to stay in a dreary land where no water is. Another place of retirement is provided for him. The ravens, too, are to be relieved from their long, laborious but faithful service. Elijah again hears the voice of his Father in heaven. "Arise," says the voice, "get thee to Zare- phath, with belongeth to Zidon; behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee." Elijah's dependence upon the ravens as the

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appointed instruments of Heaven was now at an end. On the strength of his last morn- int's meal, he might almost reach Zarephath; or if not, the God who had commanded him to go there would be likely to furnish him with all needful supplies on the road. It might be about one hundred miles thither. But what was this to that journey of forty days on the miraculous strength of a single meal to which he was subsequently called? Elijah's dependence on the brook Cherith, had it not dried up, even, was now at an end. No doubt the little stream resumed its wonted course when the drought was at an end, but not that we know of, for Elijah. There is no particular reaons for believing that he ever again witnessed it, or visited the place of his exile. And yet men form attachments even to a place of exile or prison. Strange as it may seem to us, there have been those who have left the darkest and narrowest dungeon with

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regret, and have even chosen to return to it, and make it their permanent abode. Such a case was that of the aged French prisoner, who, after having been confined in the Bastile, during the reign of Louis XV., and having been in the closest and darkest confinement forty-seven years, was, on the ac- cession of Louis XVI. to the throne, liber- ated. The world, indeed, into which he emerged, was peopled --- full of people --- but what were they to him? He knew nobody, and nobody knew him, not even an aged servant, the only individual whom he cared to know that was still living. In consequence of his loneliness in the world, he beged to be restored to the dungeon whence he had been taken, and in which, though a solitary prisoner, he had been and could still be comparatively happy. We cannot suppose that Elijah, in a single year, became thus attached to his prison, by the brook Cherith. Very far from. Yet

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we can hardly think of him as leaving it with- out regret. There wer bonds of attachment; and I have already alluded to them. But they could be broken and must be broken when the Lord his God so commanded. But Elijah is already on his way. The bed of the brook Cherith, with the trees, shrubs, &c., on its banks, is already out of sight, and even the beautiful vale of the Jor- dan is beginning to be lost in the distance. His course is north-westward. He heeds not to expose himself to the danger of being found by Ahab or any of his servants, because he can pass through Galilee, without going through any part of Samaria. Besides, those who had been sworn by Ahab to search him out had probably finished their search long before, and he was now given up. Perhaps they thought he was dead. At any rate, there is no evidence the they had a thought of his being still living. Elijah, however, is alive, and is soon with

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the widow at Zarephath. Here new trials indeed await him; new sorrows and new joys; new rewards too, the rewards of obedi- ence. No ravens, indeed, are found here to wait upon him by God's holy appointment. But he has other servants and other sources of supply and sustenance. He was a never failing Friend, Protector, and Preserver. Reader, may this Friend, Protector, and Preserver -- the Lord God and friend of Elijah -- be yours. May he take care of you, in solitude and in society. May you yield to all his requirements, and delight to do so. And when you have done loving and serving him here below, may you be taken, not as Elijah was, indeed, but in God's own way and time, to the same final home, to a man- sion not made with hands, "eternal in the Heavens." . . . .



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