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and humble in our thoughts of ourselves; gentle and meek in our intercourse with others; faithful in the discharge of our relative duties; as attentive to the secret services as to the public offices of religion; whether, in one word, we are “ the living temples of the living God, in which the Deity is both resident and worshipped.”
May the Lord assist us in this examination; may he make us real Christians, whom he will openly acknowledge in the day of judgment, and on whom he will confer everlasting glory and felicity!
REPENTANCE OF AHAB.
1 Kings xxi. 28.
And the word of the Lord came unto Elijah, the Tishbite,
saying, Seest thou how Ahab humbleth himself before
To understand these words, it is necessary to attend to the history of which they form a part. Naboth, of Jezreel, had a vineyard near to the palace of Ahab, king of Israel. The king, desirous to possess it, offered either to purchase it, or to give him for it one more valuable. Naboth refused to sell or exchange it, not through want of respect to his prince, but because it was the inheritance of his fathers, which the Mosaic law forbade him to alienate. Ahab returned to his house, “ beavy and displeased” that his proffers had been rejected. Jezebel, his wife, having perceived his vexation, and learned the cause of it, corrupted the judges of Jezreel, caused Naboth to be brought before them as a criminal, suborned false witnesses, and procured the death of this pious Israelite. All obstacles being thus drowned in his blood, they took possession of his vineyard, and gave themselves up to joy. But the joys obtained by guilt are of short duration. Elijah was commissioned by God, to go to this sanguinary oppressor and his impious partner, and denounce against them the judgments of heaven. The prophet, fearless of danger, hastened to execute his commission; and finding these royal spoilers in the vineyard, which was the witness and the price of their iniquity, thundered in their ears the denunciations of the Lord.
66 Behold I will bring evil upon thee, and will take away thy posterity, and will cut off from Ahab every male, and him that is shut up, and left in Israel. And I will make thine house like the house of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha, the son of Ahijah, for the provocation wherewith thou hast provoked me to anger, and made Israel to sin; and the dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel.” What effect was produced upon Ahab by this address of Elijah ? Did he not cause the menacing prophet to share the fate of the innocent Naboth ? No; agitated by conscious guilt, smitten by the terrors of the Lord, he grows pale, and trembles at the words of the feeble and unarmed prophet. For “ it came to pass, that when Ahab heard these words, he rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth, and went softly." Though this humiliation was not founded on holy sentiments,' and proceeded not from a renewed heart, yet it nevertheless was effectual in averting, during his life, the miseries which had been threatened. “ Seest thou,” said God to Elijah, “ how Ahab humbleth himself before me?"
Such was the occasion of these words. They lead to a variety of interesting observations.
I. A person whose heart is unchanged, and who is totally
destitute of real piety, may perform many outward religious duties, and have inward sentiments and affections, somewhat resembling the Christian graces. Look at Ahab; he displayed external marks of the profoundest humiliation; and probably very few real penitents have felt greater horror and agitation of mind than he experienced. Yet his repentance was not a holy act, was not that grace which God requires, was unavailing for all spiritual purposes. This is evident, from a variety of considerations; true humiliation has, as its source, a sense of the odiousness of sin, and of the excellency of that God whom we have offended, and that law which we have broken : but the humiliation of Ahab proceeded from a hatred of misery, not of sin; from a fear of the judgments of God, not from a sorrow for having displeased him; from a sense of the strictness, not of the excellence of the law. True humiliation causes us to repair the injury done by our sins, “ to restore the pledge, and give again that we have robbed;" but Ahab thought not of restoring the vineyard acquired by crime. True humiliation is permanent; but Ahab returned again to his evil courses, despised the word of the Lord, uttered by Michaiah, and his black character is thus delineated in the inspired volume: “ There was none like unto Ahab, which did sell himself to work iniquity in the sight of the Lord.” It is then evident that, notwithstanding his fair semblances, his apparent repentance, his heart was unrenewed, and he a stranger to true religion.
And would to God, my brethren, that there were none besides Ahab, who, by an appearance of piety, and by counterfeit graces, deceive themselves, and deceive others into a belief that they are holy, while in the unerring estimation of God, they are the slaves
of sin, and the heirs of perdition. But, alas! persons of this character are to be found at all times, and in all places. Open your scriptures, or look around in the world, and you will perceive numberless proofs of the truth I am illustrating. In the holy volume, behold Jehu throwing down the altars and destroying the priests of Baal: would you not say he is a man zealous for the God of Israel? Behold the punctilious regard of the Pharisees to the rites and ceremonies of the law : would you not say they were true disciples of Moses? Behold Herod hearing John Baptist gladly, and doing many things; behold the moral and amiable young ruler, who came to Christ anxiously inquiring the way to salvation; behold the five virgins holding their lamps in their hands, openly professing the true religion: would you not say, that all these were not far from the kingdom of heaven? Behold Judas after his treachery: he is oppressed with the sense of his guilt; he cries in agony, “I have sinned, in that I have betrayed the innocent blood;" he throws from him with indignation, the wages of iniquity: would you not say he was a sincere penitent? Yet these persons, and numberless others that will readily occur to you, were in a state of alienation from God, were destitute of true religion, were exposed to the divine indignation. There are a thousand different causes which may produce these delusive semblances of piety. "In some they are the effect of restraining grace,
their corruptions, but does not destroy them; which chains up their sins, but does not crucify them; in others, by a hypocritical desire to be esteemed for their holiness, and obtain the reputation of piety; in some, a pious education, in which the duties of religion were enforced both by precept and example, has caused them