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DISCOURSE XXI.

THE ASCENSION OF ELIJAH.

And it came to pass as they still went on, and talked, that behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.-2 Kings. ii. 11.

BY one man sin entered into the world, and death by "sin, and so death hath passed upon all men, because "all have sinned." Death is called the way of all the earth and the grave the house appointed for all living. No distinction of age, of rank, of character, has secured the possessor from the stroke of mortality. The young as well as the old, the rich as well as the poor, the honorable as well as the obscure, the learned as well the illiterate, have successively gone down to the dust, and seen corruption. Yea, the righteous themselves die. Though infinitely dear to God, and distinguished by inestimable privileges, they are not exempted from the afflictions of life, or the necessity of dissolution.

This invariable law of mortality, has, however been dispensed with in two cases. Enoch lived before the flood. "By faith Enoch was translated, that he should "not see death; and was not found, because God had "translated him; for before his translation he had this "testimony, that he pleased God." Two thousand one hundred and twenty-one years after, we behold in like manner, Elijah the Tishbite received up into glory. "And it came to pass as they still went on, and talked, "that behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and

horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and "Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.”

Observe First, how he was employed at the time of his removal: they were going on and talking. Without this information, many would have concluded, that after he had received the intimation of his speedy departure, he was engaged alone in meditation and prayer. But it is a mistaken sentiment, that a preparation for heaven is to be carried on only by abstraction, contemplation, devotion. No inconsiderable part of it consists in diligence in our stations, and endeavors to be useful to our fellow creatures to the last. "Blessed is "that servant whom his Lord when he cometh shall "find so doing." It is observable that our Saviour ascended while he was addressing his disciples. "And "he led them out as far as to Bethany; and he lifted 66 up his hands, and blessed them. And it came to

"pass while he blessed them, he was parted from them, ❝and carried up into heaven.'

A little of the conversation is recorded. "And it "came to pass when they were gone over, that Elijah “said unto Elisha, ask what shall I do for thee, before "I be taken away from thee. And Elisha said, I pray "thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me. "And he said, thou hast asked a hard thing; never"theless, if thou see me when I am taken from thee, "it shall be so unto thee: but if not, it shall not be so." A veil is thrown over the remainder of this interesting discourse. Perhaps it turned upon the heavenly world; perhaps it respected the state of the church he was going to leave; perhaps it furnished instruction and consolation to his successor in office. However this may be, the conversation was doubtless such as became the solemnity of the occasion. For what could be more awful, and impressive? He new that he was standing on the verge of eternity, and expected every moment the signal of his leaving this world-and could he be vain? Could he trifle? And since "you know "not the day, nor the hour in which the Son of man

"cometh, what manner of persons ought you to be in "all holy conversation and godliness! let no corrupt "communication proceed out of your mouth, but that "which is good to the use of edifying, that it may min"ister grace unto the hearers. If any man offend not "in word, he is a perfect man, and able also to bridle "the whole body."

Secondly. Observe how he was conveyed from earth to heaven." There appeared a chariot of fire, "and horses of fire, and parted them asunder; and "Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven." Was he removed by the instrumentality of a luminous cloud approaching and enclosing him, and then rising with a rapid curling motion? Or was he removed by the ministry of angels disguised under these forms? This seems more probable. For "are they not all minis"tering spirits, sent forth to minister unto them that "shall be heirs of salvation ?" Is it not said that "he shall send forth his angels and gather together "his elect from the four winds, from the one end of "heaven to the other!" Is it not said that Lazarus died," and was carried by angels into Abraham's "bosom ?"

Though these glorious beings "excel in strength, "they do his commandments, hearkening unto the "voice of his word." And we know that they have been often held forth under the allusions here employed. "And of the angels he saith, who maketh his angels "spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire. The char"iots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of "angels: the Lord is among them as in Sinai, in the "holy place."

But let us hasten to something less questionable, and more important. Let us take several views of this wonderful transaction.

I. Let us consider it as a gracious recompence of singular piety. Not that Elijah was perfect. We are expressly told that he was a man of like passions with us. And we read that once he was afraid, and fled, and

wished in himself to die. But in judging fairly of a person, you are to bring forward the whole of his character, and to remember that casual infirmities no more destroy the effect of general excellency, than the hills and vallies of the earth destroy its globosity, or a few motes or clouds, a solar day. The circumstances also in which he lives should be fairly weighed; for the power and degree of religion, are to be often estimated by the unfavorableness of our situation, and the diffi culties we have to overcome.

Elijah was a man whose religion was uncommon. "He was jealous for the Lord of Hosts :" and faithful and stedfast in his adherence to the true worship of God in times of peculiar defection and degeneracy. He was indeed mistaken when he said, I am left alone: there were seven thousand men who had not bowed the knee to the image of Baal, and whose lips had not kissed him. But though this was a considerable number, compared with his conclusion, it was nothing compared with the bulk of the country. The nation was gone astray from God: idolatry universally prevailed; all clases pleaded for Baal.

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He had therefore to oppose numbers. bers take off the two common restraints of fear, and shame: and constantly present to the eye, familiar and seducing examples. It is no easy thing to avoid following a multitude to do evil.

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 evil in the sight of the Lord, above "all that went 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 state. 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

VOL. II.

unparallelled firmness, ordering them all to be put to death-when he knew the altar was defended by the throne: " and Elijah said unto them, take the proph"ets 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 favor, 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 honor me, I will honor, 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 62 you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the "Lord Almighty. If you are losers in my service,

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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 ever"lasting. 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 of the future happiness that is reserved for the servants of God. Instances and facts strike the mind much more power

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