Romans 11:1


Here the apostle, reflecting on the disobedience of the great majority of the Jewish people, and their consequent rejection, returns to the thought already expressed (Romans 9:27), that "a remnant shall be saved." He himself is a living proof, he says, that God hath not utterly cast away his people. "For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin" (ver. 1). But those who have been rejected have suffered the just and natural punishment of their own unbelief. Two practical lessons are here taught.

I. A WARNING TO THE UNCHARITABLE. Even in the most corrupt Churches there may be true believers. This lesson is practically illustrated by Elijah's mistaken or exaggerated view of the state of Israel in his time. "Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life. But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal" (vers. 3, 4). How little Elijah knew of the true state of affairs! There is always a great danger, even amongst those who are most zealous for the truth, of depreciating or under-estimating the good that is in others. Want of charity to others may sometimes be found even in good men. Their very zeal leads them to depreciate others. If others do not come up to our standard of Christian doctrine, or Christian character, or Christian work, we are apt to imagine that they are not Christians at all. No doubt these other seven thousand servants of God were to blame for not having declared themselves more openly on the Lord's side. Had they taken their proper place, and done their duty, they would have encouraged Elijah's heart and sustained his hands; they would have made him feel that he was not alone in his efforts for the true and right; and they might even have prevented his flight. But there was no excuse for Elijah's wholesale condemnation of every one in Israel except himself. "Man looketh on the outward appearance, but God looketh on the heart." Especially in these latter days, when there are so many divisions amongst Christians, we need to cultivate that charity "which thinketh no evil," which "beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things."

II. A WARNING TO THE CARELESS. One of the great dangers of our time is indifference. Many who regularly attend our churches do so as a mere matter of custom or respectability. They hear the Word of God, but it has no power on their hearts, no influence upon their lives. The fate of rejected Israel is a solemn warning to the careless and indifferent (vers. 7-10). If we do not use our privileges, they will one day be taken from us. The neglect of talents or opportunities is as much a sin as the abuse of them. Men very soon become gospel-hardened. Hence the "more convenient season" to which they look forward never comes. They cease to think seriously about their souls; they cease to have any desire for salvation. The spirit of slumber comes upon them - that fatal sleep of spiritual indifference. Their eyes are darkened, and they do not see how fast they are hurrying to their own destruction. Oh, how it becomes us to urge upon men the present acceptance of the present offer of salvation, the present performance of the duties that lie at their door! - C.H.I.







God hath not cast away His people.
This is proved by —

I. THE KNOWN FACTS OF THEIR HISTORY — Paul and his companions in the faith.

II. THE SECRET OPERATIONS OF THE SPIRIT OF GOD — as exemplified in the case of Elias.

III. THE RESULTS TO BE ACHIEVED IN THE NATIONAL REJECTION OF ISRAEL.

1. The conversion of the Gentiles.

2. The consequent conversion of the Jews.

3. The completion of the redeeming purpose on earth.

IV. THE ULTIMATE PURPOSE OF GOD'S JUDGMENTS — the demonstration of His own glory.

(J. Lyth, D.D.)

1. Distressed though the apostle was that anything should have caused the exclusion of his kinsmen from the benefits of Messiah's kingdom, yet the fact was patent that it was because of their unbelief, and that it had been predicted. Henceforth they should no longer be, as a people, the people of God. Even when admitted into the kingdom of God, which they still might be by "the obedience of faith," they should have no pre-eminence over their believing Gentile brethren (John 10:16).

2. Now all this might well fill the heart of the patriotic Jew with thoughtful sadness. For he had been accustomed to give to the glowing predictions of Israel's prospective glory an altogether national and literal interpretation. How sadly disappointing, then, to be now assured that the Israel there spoken of was, not Israel after the flesh, but after the spirit! He would ask, "How am I to understand the matter? Hath God cast away His people?" "God forbid!" exclaims the apostle. "As a nation, and because that they have rejected the Lord's Christ, He has rejected them, but this only so far, and so long, as they reject Him." Therefore —

I. HE HAS NOT CAST THEM AWAY INDISCRIMINATELY; they have not all been rejected; there is still a foreknown remnant.

1. Such a total rejection the apostle had never affirmed. Should any one assert that so he had taught, let him reflect that he also was "an Israelite," etc. But he was not therefore excluded from the benefit of Christ's salvation. No; not even though he had once been a "blasphemer," etc. (1 Timothy 1:16).

2. Nor had the apostle alone from amongst the Jews obtained mercy (Acts 21:20). Nor could he have anything like an adequate conception of the number of Jewish believers. These whom God had foreknown He had by no means cast away. Though perhaps unknown of men, they were "known of God" (Revelation 7:1-8). Such secret ones the Lord has always had (vers. 2-5; cf. 1 Kings 19:9-18; Isaiah 1:9, and Isaiah 10:22).

3. This remnant had obtained that salvation (Romans 9:27), which the rest refused to accept on the stipulated terms; while that rest, because of their self-righteous and obstinate unbelief, had been judicially blinded and hardened (Deuteronomy 29:4; Psalm 69:22, 23). Thus it is that God always deals with incorrigible sinners. They persist in loving darkness, and hating light, and He blinds them. They reject the sure foundation, and it becomes a stone of stumbling. Thus He dealt with Pharaoh and his hosts, with the unbelieving Israelites in the times of Moses, David, Solomon, and Isaiah. And thus He deals with them still (Acts 13:40, 41; Habakkuk 1:5). These unbelieving Jews are the cast away; but the believing Jews (a foreknown remnant) are elected and saved. But now —

II. WITH RESPECT TO THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN "CAST AWAY"; have they "stumbled" to a hopeless "fall"? Had God ordained that it should be so? "God forbid!" is the vigorous reply.

1. God did not purpose less mercy for them, but He did intend more for the Gentiles. Indeed, it was this very opening the door of faith to the Gentiles that chiefly caused the offence of the Jews. But by this, which occasioned their fall, salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.

2. And now the apostle turns to the Gentile Christians to admonish them against a spirit of exultation over the fallen and rejected Jews. The admonition was probably needed, the persecuting spirit of the Jews being calculated to provoke retaliation. It was still more needed in after times, when Christian rulers and Churches then acted towards that scattered people as though they had been deprived of all the rights of common humanity. But the God of Israel had given no right to any to add one stripe to their chastisement. His severity was intended not for destruction, but salvation; and how much more desirable the latter than the former result! (vers. 12-15).

3. And that their salvation is even yet possible is further evident (ver. 16). The "firstling" of the "dough" and "the root" of the tree — figures to designate the great progenitors of the whole Jewish nation — having believed in God, had obtained salvation, and had become holy to the Lord. Nay, Jehovah had so presented them to Himself that their descendants also were to be accounted a "holy nation." True, this did not insure their unconditional salvation. It had not prevented great numbers from forsaking the God of Israel (Isaiah 1:4); but for their fathers' sakes He would spare no pains to "renew them again unto repentance," and to give them hearty welcome on their return (Isaiah 54:6-8). Many individual Jews had already believed and been saved. These, therefore, might be regarded as, in a secondary sense, the first-fruits unto God, and served to prove that, on like terms, all Israel might be saved.

4. Nay, further, the apostle maintains that the Jews occupied a position more favourable to their salvation. If the Church be symbolised by the olive-tree the Jews were the natural branches as related to Abraham, the father of the faithful, and, as by solemn covenant, separated to fire service of Jehovah. Compared with them, the heathen are indeed but branches of the wild and uncultured tree (Ephesians 2:11, 12). And be it that "some of the branches were broken off," and that many from the wild olive have been grafted into the true olive, let them remember that this has been effected "contrary to nature," and therefore not exult over the off-broken branches: forasmuch as the state of neither the off-broken nor engrafted branches is irreversible. If the believing Gentile suffers the spirit of pride to displace that of humble trust in the Saviour, he, too, shall not be spared. And if the now reprobated Jew shall receive Him, then shall he also be re-engrafted into the ancient stock. "Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God" (vers. 22-24).

5. And not only so, but however improbable it might seem, the time would arrive when all Israel should acknowledge Christ as Lord, and be thereupon welcomed back into His fold (vers. 25-27). In the meantime, and as far "as concerns the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes." And that which has brought them into this position is the free grace of God, which resolved to include you also. But as touching "the election" the believing remnant, which continues from age to age (vers. 5, 6), "are beloved for the fathers' sakes." For God Himself has given a sure word of promise that, whithersoever they may be dispersed, when they shall make confession of their iniquity, then will He remember His covenant (Leviticus 26:40-45). "For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance." All alike are "by nature" unbelieving and disobedient. To the consciousness of this fact it is that God shuts them up, and that in order that they may be induced to seek and to secure salvation.

(W. Tyson.)

I. NOT ABSOLUTE.

1. A remnant saved.

2. Exemplified in Paul and many known Jewish converts.

3. Confirmed by the history of Elijah.

4. This remnant is of grace (ver. 6).

II. NOT ARBITRARY.

1. The rest were blinded.

2. Because of their disobedience.

3. By the just visitation of God.

4. As announced beforehand by their own prophets.

(J. Lyth, D.D.)

I. CANNOT FAIL ON EARTH.

1. Individuals are still converted (ver. 1).

2. The purpose of God is unchangeable (ver. 2).

II. IS STILL SMALL.

1. But not so small that we should be discouraged.

2. Great enough to occasion joy and gratitude.

III. CONSISTS OF ALL TRUE BELIEVERS who —

1. Repudiate all human merit.

2. Receive God's mercy as a free gift.

3. Do not harden themselves against the truth.

(J. Lyth, D.D.)

I. THE CONSPICUOUSLY GOOD ARE THE FEW — NOT THE MANY. The many are the called; the few are the chosen who accept the call. God had not wholly cast away His people (ver. 1). It was then as it had been in the time of Elijah (ver. 4). And how is it now? Let us beware of uncharitable judgments. Nothing is easier than sweeping censures. God is tender in His judgments of men, often justifying many whom we in our severity should condemn. Still, would Christ acknowledge the majority in the churches, or would He have to turn to the minority? Certainly to only a small minority, whose faith is proved by their character and works. For, strip away from the profession of Christianity its accidental accompaniments, and what do you find? Nothing that is perfect, even in the loftiest; and nothing of unmixed evil in the meanest. But you will find in the few, in spite of great faults, a faith in Christ so genuine as to give a sure pledge that the goodness of the man will assuredly conquer the badness in the end. The man in whom the love of truth is a passion, in whom justice is a matter of greater concern than the falling of the heavens, and who burns with shame at the thought of an impure deed, and who has courage enough to suffer in the righteous cause like his Great Master; — why, that man forms part of God's elect remnant, who put to shame the majority of those who cry aloud the name of Christ, but who do not His deeds.

II. SOME OF THESE FEW ARE NOT FOUND WITHIN THE BOUNDARIES OF THE RECOGNISED CHURCH. They are in Christ's Church, but not in man's. And that is a cause of jealousy and anger to many of us. When Paul told the Jews that God was founding a Church outside their own nation, he knew that he was wounding their prejudices to the quick. So strongly did he feel this that he had to fortify himself by an appeal to Moses (Romans 10:19). But though fact and prophecy supported his statement, they would not admit that God was working upon lines outside their own. And yet the apostle insists upon it as the great revealed mystery which was to crush their pride and to precipitate their fall (ver. 25). And so now God is wider in His plans than our pride and prejudice think. We find it almost as hard to believe as the Jew did, that God has a Church outside the Church. And yet, are we not confronted by facts? I believe the Church is our right and natural place, and that it is its natural work to be foremost in doing whatever contributes to the highest welfare of men. But has it not been, and is it not so still, that God has other sheep which are not of this fold? Some of these have maintained an outward connection with the Church, though the Church has not identified itself with them. They have worked alongside the Church rather than with it. Wilberforce and Clarkson did not get the sympathy and support of the Church till their cause was triumphant. Who are the true prophets of this generation? For the most part men upon whom the Church looks askance. When we get to heaven we shall find men there whom we never expected to see, and miss others perhaps whom we expected to find in the foremost places.

III. THIS OUTER CHURCH OF THE GENTILES WAS TO PROVOKE THE JEWS TO JEALOUSY AND EMULATION. The Jews fell that the Gentiles might rise, and the Gentiles had risen that they might stimulate the Jews to rise too. The Church is evermore in need of this constant renewal and reconstruction. At the time of the Reformation Christian truth had to be rediscovered, and a new Church formed outside the lines of the old Church. But the fundamental principle of the Reformation did not long preserve its supremacy — the right of every man to exercise his own judgment — for the Protestants soon began to persecute men like the Catholics. There is a great cry in our day that religion is in danger, and that the churches are failing; such a cry as must have gone forth among the Jews when Paul first preached, but has the cry any greater warrant now than it had then? Was not religion then really rooting itself in a richer soil, and preparing to bring forth better fruit? The devout Catholic thought that the Reformers were devils, and prophesied the overthrow of all religion. But was it not rather a fresh ploughing and sowing of the human soul, and a new opening of the heavens? And as to the cry in our day, if the Christianity depended on the Roman Syllabus, the Thirty-Nine Articles, the Westminster Confession, then we might tremble, but God forbid that we should be overcome by such an ignoble fear. We believe in the religion of Christ, and we can see before it a nobler future. As the Jews had to learn from the Gentiles in order to their recovery, so we have some things to learn from the outer boundaries of God's Church.

(C. Short, M.A.)

God hath not cast away His people
I. THEIR NATIONAL PRESERVATION THROUGH SO LONG A TRACT OF TIME WILL FURNISH A WONDERFUL ILLUSTRATION OF THE DIVINE POWER.

1. They can look back along a line of ancestry compared with which that of the Norman and the Saxon are but of yesterday. Nations which did not exist till long after the Jew had acquired a history, have long ago run their course; but he is unchanged.

2. Nor will any of the ordinary means of national preservation account for their continuance.(1) They have not, like the Chinese, been stationary, and built in from the rest of the human family. From about B.C. 740, till the destruction of Jerusalem, they suffered as many dispersions, partial or entire, as there were centuries.(2) Foreign alliances will not explain it. For, besides the fiercest commotions within, they have sustained a quick succession of the most sanguinary invasions from without.(3) Arms, climate, genius, politics, equally fail to explain it. For they have been crumbled and scattered over the face of the earth; and yet they exist. Old empires which oppressed them have fallen; but the Jew has lived on amidst their ruins. "Young nations have started into being, and he has been present to mingle with their elements, but never uniting. And, as if to complete the wonder, their number at this moment is very nearly the same as it was on their leaving Egypt.

3. Now, the only way to account for their preservation is the scriptural one, viz., to ascribe it to Divine power. "I am God, I change not; therefore, ye sons of Jacob are not consumed." When, then, they shall be turned to the Lord, with what new emphasis and enlarged meaning will they have to sing Psalm 124.

II. God shall be glorified when it shall be seen that THIS PRESERVATION HAS NOT BEEN EFFECTED BY MERE POWER, BUT THAT, FROM FIRST TO LAST, THAT POWER WAS UNDER THE GUIDANCE OF WISDOM, or was exercised according to a plan. A new light is dawning on the mind of men respecting this plan.

1. Formerly the historian only recorded facts. But now it has occurred to him that all the facts of history are connected; that could the principles of this connection be traced history would form one organic whole; and hence, to trace and to expound these principles is now the highest office of the historian — the philosophy of history.

2. Every lover of the Bible, however, should remember that its histories were never written in any other way. It both states the facts, and the principles which unite them. True, after sketching the early history of the race, it confines its history to the Jews. But in that you have, in effect, a type of the whole. And more; in that, you frequently catch glimpses of the others at the most eventful moments of their existence. And more still; the Bible is prophetic as well as historic. Before Herodotus had begun to amass his materials, Isaiah had sung the glory of the latter day; and Daniel had foretold the kingdoms which would arise to the end of time.

3. The Bible never speaks of the course of human events but as conducted on a great plan. And with this peculiarity, that from the time of the promise to Abraham, the entire plan was regulated in relation to his posterity. Nay, ages earlier than that the plan began to evolve (Deuteronomy 32:7, 8). The great principle on which the habitable part of the globe was mapped out was a principle of relation to the chosen people. And, as the great drama of Providence unfolded, the civilised world invariably found itself involved with that people. Read Psalm 78th, 105th, and 106th, and do you not hear Jehovah, as He leads them through the nations, saying, "Touch not Mine anointed, and do My prophets no harm"? Are they invaded and oppressed? "Who delivered up Jacob to be a spoil, and Israel to the plunderers? Was it not Jehovah?" Does the Assyrian afflict Israel? "The Assyrian, saith God, is the rod of My hand." Does the Persian deliver Israel? God calls Cyrus by name. Did nations change hands in consequence of the Persian movement? "I have given Egypt for thy ransom; Cush and Sheba for thee." Have the ancient persecutors of Israel perished? Their destruction was foretold! And when, at length, "the time shall have come, yea, the set time to favour Zion," what ground will there be for saying, "Ye know... that not one thing has failed of all that the Lord your God spake concerning you"!

III. God's glory shall be enhanced when it shall appear that THE ENTIRE PLAN OF HIS CONDUCT TOWARDS ISRAEL HAS DIRECTLY TENDED TO PROMOTE THEIR HIGHEST WELFARE BY ILLUSTRATING THE GREAT PRINCIPLES OF HIS MORAL GOVERNMENT.

1. The principle of mediation — of making the conduct or relationship of one a reason for blessing others. "God hath not cast away His people." They are still beloved "for the fathers' sakes," and their conversion will, at length, establish this fact. It will show them that they have never been absolutely renounced, and why Abraham himself was beloved, and that there never was but "one Mediator between God and man," the day of whose coming Abraham saw and was glad.

2. Justice (ver. 22). Looking back on their history they will behold it covered with the memorials of the Divine displeasure against sin, and learn that every stroke of His fatherly chastisement was intended to bring them in penitence to His feet.

3. The bringing of good out of evil. It will be seen that God has made the mutual jealousy of the Jew and Gentile an occasion of good to each. The apostacy of the human race was the occasion of Israel's election at the first. And when, after repeated apostacies, Israel was abandoned, that became the occasion of salvation to the Gentiles (ver. 15). Their slavery in Egypt was a time of merciful visitation for that country. Their seventy years' captivity in Babylon were calculated to enlighten and to bless the people of that empire. And at their conversion they will see with amazement that the very act which completed their guilt — the crucifixion of Christ — has become the means of their own salvation.

4. The timing and distribution of God's judgments and mercies so as to make us feel our entire dependence on Him. Would you know, e.g., why it was that Israel, when brought out of Egypt, was not led straight to Canaan? (Deuteronomy 8:2, 3). Would you know why it was that the coming of Christ was so long delayed; and why the conversion of the Jews did not take place at the commencement of the Christian dispensation? (ver. 32). God waited for the Gentiles till they had proved that the world by wisdom would never know God. And He is now waiting for the Jews till it shall be evident that all ground for self-dependence has utterly perished.

IV. BUT WHAT IF THIS GREAT SYSTEM OF DISCIPLINE SHOULD LEAVE THEM WORSE THAN IT FOUND THEM? Would not their conversion redound, to a degree inconceivable, to the glory of God? The strength of a mechanical power is estimated by the resistance which it overcomes. And the honour which will accrue to the grace of God in the conversion of the Jews is to be estimated partly by the amount and the duration of their previous resistance to that grace.

1. Viewed in this light their conversion will reflect transcendent honour on the power of the grace which effects it. For we are not now speaking of the conversion of a people who had never before enjoyed the light of revelation, but of a people who, in this sense, have never been in darkness. Nor are we speaking of a people who were merely indifferent to Christianity, but of a people who have ever been actively hostile to all spiritual religion. Nor are we speaking of this people as nominally converted merely, as many of the European nations were. To exchange the form of godliness for the power proclaims the presence of a Divine agent; but to worship the very Being on whom the heart had hitherto vented its bitterest execrations, implies a change so great that it might almost excuse unbelief for saying, "If the Lord would open windows in heaven, might this thing be?" But unbelief itself is silenced by the declaration, "I will pour My Spirit upon thy seed, and My blessing upon thine offspring."

2. Associated with this display of omnipotent energy there will be the exercise of unlimited grace in forgiveness. When it is remembered that the Jews of that future day will be the descendants and approvers of those who shouted, "Away with Him; crucify Him; His blood be upon us and upon our children!" and that, by their persevering unbelief, generation after generation have virtually crucified the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame, how amazing appears that exercise of mercy which is to cancel such an accumulation of guilt! When they shall see that they owe their forgiveness to that blood which they invoked in guilty imprecations on their own heads, what all-subduing views will they obtain of the prevalence of His intercession, of the unchangeableness and riches of His grace!

3. This change will take place at such a period as shall still further redound to the glory of God. There is a fulness of time for it. As the coming of Christ took place at a crisis when the state of the world demonstrated the necessity for it, and displayed its grace, so doubtless will be His coming in the conversion of the Jews. Probably they will have reached the last stage of guilty unbelief; or they will be sorely pressed by evils from without; or, abandoning all expectation of ever beholding their Messiah, they will have given themselves up to despair; or all these forms of evil will have combined in one. This we know, that the design of the whole gospel constitution is that no flesh should glory in His presence; that the inscription on the topstone of the fabric will be, "To the praise of the glory of His grace."

4. In harmony with the spiritual and Divine character of this event will be the means or manner of its accomplishment. Not that all means will be dispensed with. But these shall be of so humble a character, and their success shall so far exceed all human calculation as to furnish the most glorious exposition of the words, "Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord."

V. Another element of the glory which will redound to God will be found in THE NUMBER OF THE CONVERTED. A few here and there will doubtless be renewed, from time to time, prior to that period. But then the change will be so general as to satisfy the large prediction that "all Israel shall be saved." They shall come from the east and from the west, etc., to swear allegiance to the Cross of Christ. And what joy will seize the Gentile Church when it shall be announced, "Then hath God also to the Jews granted repentance unto life"! And if there is joy in heaven among the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth, who can conceive the rapture when it shall be there proclaimed, "All Israel is saved!"

VI. This reminds us of the further accession of glory to God from the conversion of the Jews, resulting from THE EFFECTS OF THE EVENT UPON OTHERS.

1. For what an unsurpassable proof will it furnish of the Divinity of the whole scheme of revelation! As the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost was reserved by God for the crowning proof of the new economy, so the greater effusion of the same Spirit, upon the same people, is reserved to complete the proof of its claims as it draws towards a close.

2. What an unsurpassable proof will that event display of the all-sufficiency of the grace of God! At the opening of the Christian economy in the conversion of Saul Christ showed forth all long-suffering for a pattern, etc. In a similar manner God appears to be reserving the richest display of His saving grace till towards the last.

3. What an impulse, too, will be given to the piety of every part of the Christian Church l (ver. 12). The newly-converted Jews will probably exhibit a measure of self-denying zeal for the glory of God, which the Church had come to consider absolutely impracticable, For "he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David; and the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of the Lord before them."

4. How eminently will this increase of the Church tend to the union of all its parts! That most ancient of all schisms between Jew and Gentile shall then be healed. Every minor distinction in the Church shall cease. And thus it will be seen that an important step has been gained towards the attainment of that "which God hath purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation,, of the fulness of times" He might gather together in one all things in Christ.

5. And will not — must not all this inconceivably augment the joy of the Church?

(J. Harris, D.D.)

1. We are living in a time when the reigning influences of society tempt or drive from integrity and purity; and some who were venerated shock the confidence reposed in them by grievous falls. There are dangers in such times that touch conscience and try faith. But God is not changed; moral virtue is not unreal; there are still men good and true. God hath not cast away His people. There are seven thousand reserved amid the general degeneracy.

2. Baal was the idea of prolific reproduction in nature. His was a popular worship ever, and set up its accursed altars in the Holy Land. Pouring light upon the faith of the new kingdom of redeeming grace from ancient history, as was his wont, Paul goes back to that dark spot. He is showing that no matter how many fall away faith lives on. The times are never so bad that they can corrupt utterly the immortal grace that lies hidden in the heart of the Church. Mammon may establish its worship, but there is still a holy place, and an ark of the covenant, sacraments and ministry, and heavenly grace. God does not cast away His people.

3. The apostle recalls the old prophet Elijah, and makes a strong case. Matters in Church and State had come to the worst. Two tottering thrones, on soil soaked with family blood, frowned at one another in anger, but upheld no just law and protected no personal rights. Over one of the fragments of the schism ruled a tyrant — Ahab — consistent in cruelty and persevering in appetite, with Jezebel, who made royalty contemptible and womanhood shameful. Ahab and Jezebel are names of vices almost as much as of persons, and have been for nearly three thousand years. After his victory at Carmel, Elijah's splendid dream of the reformation of God's kingdom was broken. When men animated by great purposes fail, they seem smaller to themselves than ever. It was like the hiding of the face of God. But now there comes a magnificent revelation which shows that true greatness does not stand in great results that can be seen. Success does not lie in the numbers counted. Power is stored up in hidden places and in lonely consciences. Have done with measuring God's power with your geometry, or estimating His army by arithmetic. Do the duty that lies nearest thee. It scatters doubt; overcomes opposition; breaks up despair. The Almighty takes care of His reserves. We want the inspiration of this better faith. Consider two facts —

I. THE INROADS OF A SUBTLE AND POPULAR WORLDLY-MINDEDNESS, WEAKENING THE CHURCH DEPLORABLY IN ITS CONSCIENCE AND ITS HEART. There is a power attacking Christianity from without, and corrupting it within. What are the foremost among the objects of the people in business and social life? Duty and righteousness? Do the young enter social life to carry there the influence of Christ? What spirit is in the ascendant in our populations? Is there not here "the man of sin" who is "anti-Christ"? Worldliness is a false god; lying, because it makes promises which are never kept; cruel, because it kills the better life; impious, because it defeats the glorious end for which God put His image in every man. This impious secularism creeps into the Church. It is charged that its converts do not come up to its standard, and that concessions are made of principle, and mercenary treacheries adopted to crowd its seats. Retribution cannot but follow if these things be true. But spiritual power is not to be judged by outward achievements. Granted that the world is as worldly, unbelief as prevalent, inconsistency as widespread, the Church as timid and supple as prophets fear or sceptics declare. "What saith the answer of God? I have reserved," etc. This opens to us the opposite fact —

II. THE IMMORTAL SURVIVAL OF THE SECRET LIFE OF THE CHURCH AND OF PERSONAL PIETY, ALTHOUGH IT IS IN A MINORITY, AND COMETH NOT WITH OBSERVATION. God makes much out of little, and saves by a handful of heroes, calling up His reserves out of obscurity, and never letting His altar fires die out. Seven thousand a slight proportion. They were out of sight, scattered saints crouching in corners. Elijah was looking on things on their earthly side. Not so the All-seeing. There was an unreckoned hope in obscure men and women Elijah did not know. Always a light left burning in Switzerland, in Germany, in England, in Scotland. The gates of hell do not prevail.

III. HERE IS, THEN, A LAW FOR PRACTICAL USE. What God requires of us is personal fidelity, or the earnest training of private Christian character in each one by himself, irrespective of any visible results or any possible discouragements. For this there are the clearest grounds.

1. It follows straight on in the way of the beginnings of the Church under the hand of the Lord. Get one man brave enough to do right against any maxims of a majority; one woman brave enough to lift others into her own pathway of light, and you are working precisely in the line of Him who knows what is in man, and redeems the race.

2. The doctrine is strong in that it is practicable. Every individual has one realm all his own — his conscience. Disappointed, baffled, elsewhere, he can make that all Christian. Pagan pleasures may allure others. You may not know where others — helpers — are. But your own place is in "the munitions of rocks." And the Master will always be there with you.

3. This sphere of personal Christian character touches others wonderfully, but never depends upon them so as to surrender to them if they go over to Baal. Your knees are your own to bend to whom you will. The apostles called no convention. Great reforms are in single souls before they are in parliaments, synods, or constitutions. God's harvests spring from single, solitary seeds. It is not miracle but law. The patient power of the Lord reserves His remnant of faithful hearts. His work is done first by single, then by united hands. Character, steadfast, pure, holy, is at once its force and its fruit.

(Bp. Huntington.)

Wot ye not what the Scripture saith of Elias
I.ARE NOT SUPERSEDED.

II.OUGHT TO BE CAREFULLY STUDIED.

III.ILLUSTRATE THE PRINCIPLES OF THE NEW.

(J. Lyth, D.D.)

I. THE COMPLAINT OF THE PROPHET.

1. Hasty.

2. Erring.

3. Desponding.

II. THE ANSWER OF GOD.

1. Exact.

2. Reproving.

3. Inspiring.

(J. Lyth, D.D.)

Sometimes we make them from —

I. THE PECULIAR STATE OF OUR OWN MINDS. This seems to have been the condition of Elijah. His language betrays —

1. Severity.

2. Petulance.

3. Despair.

II. OBSERVING MULTIPLIED INSTANCES OF FALSE PROFESSION. The apostasy of one pretender excites more attention than the lives of solid, steady Christians.

III. THE RIGHTEOUS THEMSELVES. Because of. —

1. The obscurity of their stations.

2. The diffidence of their dispositions.

3. The manner of their conversion.

4. The diversity of their opinions.

5. The imperfection of their character.Application:

1. The use which the apostle makes of his subject.

2. Are you among the number of the saved?

3. Let all true Christians consider the Author and end of their salvation.

4. Remember also for whom you have been saved.

(W. Jay.)

I. LOOKS AT THE THINGS WHICH ARE SEEN.

II. OVERLOOKS THOSE WHICH ARE UNSEEN.

(J. Lyth, D.D.)

But what saith the answer of God? —
I. ALL DOUBTS IN MATTERS OF RELIGION ARE TO BE DECIDED BY THE WORD OF GOD (John 5:39; Mark 12:24). Elijah erred because he spake without his book. Remember this —

1. In all matters controverted. When it is questioned whether images are to be worshipped, angels and saints prayed to, etc., who shall resolve us? We are to take no man's word, not even the word of Elijah for a matter of faith. What saith the Scripture? Men may err, but the answer of God is according to truth.

2. In matters of practice. If it be questioned whether thou shalt break the Sabbath, deceive thy neighbour, etc. Thy companions, it may be, and thine own heart will entice thee to do such things, but what saith the Scripture? They which do such things shall be damned.

II. THE CHURCH OF GOD SHALL NEVER BE BROUGHT TO SUCH AN EXIGENT IN THE MOST DIFFICULT TIMES, BUT THAT THERE SHALL BE MANY THOUSANDS WHICH SHALL WORSHIP GOD IN SPIRIT AND TRUTH.

1. The best on earth do err, as Elijah who erred by a passion of anger and fear. Order your passions by the law of grace, for if they be ungoverned they blind the mind, and as unruly horses draw the chariot of our judgment into the bye-paths of error.

2. Elijah erred in his censure concerning true worshippers; be not, then, rash in censuring. It is rashness to censure particular men, much more whole Churches to be antichristian. How darest thou refuse communion with them who have communion with Christ?

3. Neither multitude nor visibility are certain notes of the true Church, for then there had been no Church in Elijah's time, for the multitude was with Ahab and Jezebel, and Elijah could not discern one beside himself. The Papists say the Church was always visible, but the creed confuteth them, for we believe in the holy Catholic Church. But holiness is invisible and so is Catholicity. We may grant that particular Churches are visible, and yet here some cautions are to be remembered. They may be invisible in respect —(1) Of place. As the sun is always visible, but to us only when it ariseth in our hemisphere. So at Jerusalem the Church was not to be seen when it removed to Pella.(2) Of the time, as in Elijah's and Queen Mary's days. As the sun behind a cloud in some respect is invisible, so may it be said of a Church.(3) Of persons which should discern it. A Church is sometimes invisible through the fault of men's eyes, which are either weak as of Elijah, or blind as of them which hate the Church.

III. THOSE WHO IN DANGEROUS TIMES ARE PRESERVED IN GRACE ARE SO PRESERVED MERELY BY THE POWER AND GOODNESS OF GOD (1 Samuel 25:39; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; 2 Timothy 4:18; Jude 1:24).

1. Though Jezebel search every corner of the land, yet God reserveth seven thousand which bow not the knees to Baal. God can keep us from our enemies; let persecutors cease their malicious practices, and let us serve God without fear.

2. In regard to the preaching of the gospel these are golden days, but in regard of the overflowing of iniquity these are perilous times. Art thou preserved? glorify God. It is not thy goodness that thou dost not as others, but the goodness of God.

3. Be admonished of two things.(1) Presume not of thine own strength. Peter bragged of his courage, and yet played the coward. Hazael thought great scorn ever to do as Elisha foretold to him, and yet afterwards he did such things.(2) Be not secure and careless. God reserveth some, but those which use the means to persevere in well doing.

(Elnathan Parr, B.D.)

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