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the days of our life. You should continue in the use of all the means of your establishment; and should carefully decline the snares that are dangerous to your virtue. If unawares you meet with them, and sinners entice you to evil, resolutely withhold your consent, and withstand their enticements and solicitations.
You need not to be told, that children of such parents, of so many prayers, of such hopes and expectations, cannot sin at so easy a rate as others. In every step you should take, in the way of folly and sin, you would meet with checks and rebukes. And if you should break through, and harden yourselves against all the remonstrances of your enlightened conscience and understanding, the issue would be unutterable remorse and anguish.
But this, I trust, shall not be your case. Your goodness, I hope, shall not be like a "morning cloud, or the early dew, that soon passeth away," Hos. vi. 4, but rather be as the" dawning light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day," Prov. iv. 18.
May you then willingly admit and entertain the wholesome instructions of those who wish you well: and may you in the way of virtue ever have countenance and encouragement. But if you should meet with obstacles, may you surmount them, and be faithful to God. And having experienced some good portion of peace in the way of God's commandments on earth, may you and yours partake with all the people of God in the full rewards and everlasting joys of religion and virtue, which are sure, and are reserved for the world to come.
THE VIRTUE AND BENEFIT OF EARLY PIETY, OR FEARING THE LORD FROM THE YOUTH.
-But I thy servant fear the Lord from my youth. 1 Kings xviii. 12.
THOUGH this good character be here given by the person himself, we are not immediately to admit the suspicion of pride and vanity. What he says is only for the sake of selfpreservation. If we never commend ourselves for a less
weighty reason, we shall not incur the just censure of boasting and vain-glory.
The person is Obadiah, whose history we have in the former part of this chapter. He is now speaking to the prophet Elijah: and the thing happened in the time of the long dearth in the reign of Ahab king of Israel.
At the beginning of the chapter it is said: "And it came to pass after many days, that the word of the Lord came to Elijah, in the third year, saying: Go, shew thyself unto Ahab, and I will send rain upon the earth. And Elijah went to shew himself unto Ahab: and there was a sore famine in Samaria. And Ahab called Obadiah, which was the governor of his house."
Some have put the question, whether this be the same as Obadiah the prophet. But it does not appear that this person had at all the prophetical character. And Obadiah, whose short book of prophecies we have among the lesser prophets near the end of the Old Testament, seems to have lived a good deal later than the reign of Ahab.
It follows in verse third and fourth: "Now Obadiah feared the Lord greatly. For it was so, when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the Lord, that Obadiah took an hundred prophets, and hid them by fifty in a cave, and gave them bread and water."
By prophets, as is generally supposed, we are not here to understand inspired persons, with a special commission from God; but men educated in the schools of the prophets. These Jezebel looked upon as her enemies, because they opposed her idolatrous worship, and taught the people the true religion. And, possibly, she suspected them of favouring the interests of the kingdom of Judah, where was the appointed place of worship for all the tribes of Israel.
It was therefore an act of great piety, and much resolution, in Obadiah, in a time of such danger, to protect those prophets. "He hid them by fifty in a cave, and gave them bread and water:" that is, all needful provisions, sending them meat and drink privately every day.
Ver. 5, 6," And Ahab said unto Obadiah: Go into the land, unto all fountains of water, and unto all brooks. Peradventure we may find grass to save the horses and mules alive, that we lose not all the beasts. So they divided the land between them, to pass through it. Ahab went one way by himself, and Obadiah went another way by himself."
Obadiah was the only person in the service of Ahab whom he could confide in upon this occasion. It is a proof of the
great regard which even this wicked prince had for him. And it affords good reason for us to suppose, that Obadiah had been wont to behave with singular fidelity, and uncommon discretion, in all affairs in which he was employed. Ver. 7-12," And as Obadiah was in the way, behold, Elijah met him. And he knew him, and fell on his face and said: Art thou my lord Elijah ?" He was not a little surprised to meet Elijah, who for some time had lived very privately out of the reach of Ahab. "And he answered him: I am. Go tell thy lord: Behold, Elijah is here. And he said: What have I sinned, that thou wouldest deliver thy servant into the hand of Ahab to slay me? As the Lord thy God liveth, there is no nation or kingdom, whither my lord has not sent to seek thee. And when they said, he is not here, he took an oath of the kingdom and nation, that they found thee not. And thou sayest: Go, tell thy lord, behold, Elijah is here. And it shall come to pass, as soon as I am gone from thee, that the Spirit of the Lord shall carry thee whither I know not. And so when I come, and tell Ahab, and he cannot find thee, he shall slay me."
The message, with which Elijah sent Obadiah, would be very grateful to king Ahab who had earnestly sought for him. But Obadiah, supposing that the prophet could not appear before Ahab with safety, feared, lest by divine direction, he should, when he was gone away, remove to some other place. He excuseth himself therefore from delivering this message. And he pleads with the prophet, that he should not expose him to so imminent danger of death, by provoking the displeasure of Ahab. Thus he speaks in the text, and the words following: ver. 12-16, "But, I thy servant, fear the Lord from my youth. Was it not told my lord what I did, when Jezebel slew the prophets of the Lord; how I hid an hundred men of the Lord's prophets, by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water? And now thou sayest, Go tell thy lord: behold, Elijah is here: and he shall slay me. And Elijah said: As the Lord liveth, before whom I stand," or whom I serve, "I will show myself to him this day. So Obadiah went to meet Ahab, and told him. And Ahab went to meet Elijah."
"But I thy servant fear the Lord from my youth." Or, "But thy servant feareth the Lord from his youth." Which is a more literal translation: for the word I is not in the original.
I. I now propose first to explain the words, and show what is implied" in fearing the Lord from the youth." II. Secondly, to show the virtue of so doing.
III. And thirdly, the benefit of it.
1. I would show, what is implied in "fearing the Lord from the youth."
It may include these four things, believing in God; worshipping him, and making an open profession of religion; observing the precepts of true religion, or making the will of God, so far as we are acquainted with it, the rule of our conduct; and doing this constantly from early age.
1. Fearing the Lord implies believing in God; or, that Jehovah, the Lord, is the one living and true God. "He that cometh to God," says the apostle to the Hebrews," must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him," Heb. xi. 6. So much Obadiah intends here to say of himself: that he always had a persuasion in his mind, that there is a God, and one God: which one God he believed to be the God of the patriarchs, the God who protected them, and whom they owned and served; the God that brought Israel out of Egypt, and delivered his laws and statutes to them by the hand of Moses.
He believed God to be the Creator of the heavens and the earth, the sea and all things that are therein. His own reason led him to conceive of God in this manner. The books of Moses, that great prophet of the people of Israel, and most eminent servant of the true God, confirmed the belief of this truth. The creation of the world is related at the beginning of the writings of that lawgiver. And this notion of God is inserted distinctly in one of the ten commandments, the fourth in order, delivered with so great solemnity. He therefore, who in the preface to those commandments says: "I am the Lord thy God, that brought thee out of the land of Egypt," is the Creator of the whole world, and consequently the rightful Lord and disposer of all things therein.
This one consideration of God, as Creator, would lead the thoughtful and pious person, here spoken of, to distinct apprehensions of every attribute and perfection, every notion and character, of the Deity, that renders him the proper object of worship, obedience, trust, and confidence. He was persuaded, that to God belongs power, and that he is able to do whatever he pleaseth in heaven and on earth. He knew what David inculcated upon his son Solomon, that God"searcheth all hearts, that if men seek him, he will be found of them, and that if they forsake him, he will cast them off for ever," 1 Chron. xxviii. 9; or, as the apostle in the words before cited," that God is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him."
2. In fearing God the Lord, is implied worshipping him,
or making an open profession of true religion. Obadiah so feared the Lord, as to worship him and no other. It was known to Ahab, and to all his people in general, especially those who were in the chief city, and at court, that he feared the Lord.
He worshipped and served God according to the rules of reason, and the directions of the law of Moses, the revelation that had been made to the people of Israel. It was the first of the principal commandments of that law. "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." The next commandment is: "Thou shalt not make unto thyself a graven image, the likeness of any thing. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, and serve them." And according to those laws, given to the people of Israel by Jehovah, as their king and governor, he who worshipped any other god was to be cut off from his people. This person respected those laws, and the sanctions by which they were enforced; and though many did not regard them, he did. He was persuaded, that God was able to reward the obedient and punish transgressors.
In the following chapter Elijah, lamenting his case, says, he" only was left," I Kings xix. 14. But God assures him, that he had left to him seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that had not bowed unto Baal, ver. 18. Obadiah was one of these, but more known as a worshipper and servant of the true God, than many of that number.
3. Fearing the Lord implies observing the precepts of true religion, or making the will of God, so far as we are acquainted with it, the rule of our conduct.
This is an ordinary meaning of the fear of the Lord in scripture. It includes all religion in general. At least obedience is represented as so connected with fearing God, as to be a necessary concomitant, or immediate effect of it. For it is said, that" the fear of the Lord is to depart from evil," Prov. viii. 13. Again, " By the fear of the Lord men depart from evil," ch. xvi. 6. And "Fear God and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty," or concern, "of man," Ecc. xii. 13.
So Moses instructed the people under his care: "Now these are the commandments, and statutes, and judgments, which the Lord your God commanded to teach you; that thou mightest fear the Lord thy God, to keep all his statutes and commandments, which I command thee," Deut. vi. 1, 2. For certain, religion, or the fear of God, is not a speculative science. It lies not barely in admiring thoughts and sublime conceptions of the Deity. God is not only a being