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mand of God, had hid himself by the brook Ches rith, that is before Jordan. In this safe and peaces ful solitude, blessed with daily marks of GOD'S providence, the holy man dwelt free, both from the cares and glories of the world: By miraculous impulse, the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening, and he drank of the brook; till by continuance of drought, (the windows of heaven being shut up in those days for three years and six months, which was the natural cause likewise of the famine,) it came to pass, after a while, that the brook, the great fountain of support, dried up; and he is again directed by the word of the Lord where to betake himself for shelter. He is commanded to arise and go to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, with an assurance that he had disposed the heart of a widow woman there to sustain him.
The prophet follows the call of his GOD: The same hand which brought him to the gate of the city, had led also the poor widow out of her doors, oppressed with sorrow. She had come forth upon a melancholy errand, to make preparation to eat her last meal, and share it with her child.
No doubt, she had long fenced against this trægical event, with all the thrifty management which self-preservation and parental love could inpire; full, no doubt, of cares, and many tender apprehensions, lest her tender stock should fail them before the return of plenty.
But as she was a widow, having lost the only faithful friend who would best have assisted her in this virtuous struggle, the present necessity of the times at length overcame her; and she was just falling down an easy prey to it, when Elijah came to the place where she was. And he called unto her, and said, Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink. And as she was going to fetch it, he called unto her, and said, Bring me, I pray
thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand. And she said, as the Lord thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but a handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse, and, behold I am gathering two sticks, that I may go and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it and die. And Elijah said unto her, Fear not, but go and do as thou hast said: But make me thereof a lit tle cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son. For thus saith the Lord God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth.
True charity is always unwilling to find excuses else here was a fair opportunity of pleading many: She might have insisted over again upon her situation, which necessarily tied up her hands; she might have urged the unreasonableness of the request that she was reduced to the lowest extremity already; and that it was contrary to justice, and the first law of nature, to rob herself and child of their last morsel, and give it to a stranger
But, in generous spirits, compassion is some times more than a balance for self preservation.
For, as GoD certainly interwove that friendly softness in our nature, to be a check upon too great a propensity towards self-love-so it seemed to operate here. For it is observable, that, tho' the prophet backed his request with the promise of an immediate recompense, in multiplying her stock; yet it is not evident she was influenced at all by that temptation. For if she had, doubtless it must have wrought such a mixture of self-interest into the motive of her compliance, as must greatly have allayed the merit of the action. But this, I say, does not appear, but rather the contrary, from the reflection she makes upon the whole, in the last verse of the chapter. Now by this I know that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the lord in thy mouth is truth.
Besides, as she was an inhabitant of Zarephath (or, as it is called by St. Luke, Sarepta, subject to Sidon, the metropolis of Phenicia, without the bounds of God's people), she had been brought up in gross darkness and idolatry, in utter ignorance of the LORD GOD of Israel: Or, if she had heard of his name, which is all that seems probable, she had been taught to misbelieve the mighty wonders of his hand, and was still less likely to believe his prophet.
Moreover, she might argue, if this man, by some secret mystery of his own, or through the power of his GOD, is able to procure so preternatural a supply for me, whence comes it to pass, that he now stands in want himself, oppressed both with hunger and thirst?
It appears, therefore, that she must have been wrought upon by an unmixed principle of humanity.She looked upon him as a fellow-partner almost in the same affliction with herself.She considered he had come a weary pilgrimage, in a sultry climate, through an exhausted country, where neither bread or water were to be had, but by acts of liberality.-That he had come an unknown traveller; and, as a hard heart never wants a pretence, that this circumstance, which should rather have befriended, might have helped to oppress him. She considered, (for charity is ever fruitful in kind reasons), that he was now far from his own country, and had strayed out of the reach of the tender offices of some one who affectionately mourned his absence-Her heart was touched with pity-She turned in silence, and went and did according as he had said. And behold, both she, and he, and her house, did eat many days; or, as in the margin, one whole year. And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, until the day that GOD sent rain upon the earth.
Though it may not seem necessary to raise con
jectures here upon this event, yet it is natural to suppose, the danger of the famine being thus unexpectedly got over, that the mother began to look hopefully forwards upon the rest of her days. There were many widows in Israel at that time, when the heavens were shut up for three years and six months; yet, as St. Luke observes, to none of them was the prophet sent, save to this widow of Sarepta. In all likelihood, she would not be the last in making the same observation, and drawing from it some flattering conclusion in favor of her son.m Many a parent would build high upon a worse foundation.. "Since the God of Israel "has thus sent his own messenger to us in our "s distress, to pass by so many houses of his own "people, and stop at mine, to save it, in so mira"culous a manner, from destruction,doubtless "this is but an earnest of his future kind inten"tions to us; at least, his goodness has decreed "to comfort my old age, by the long life and "health of my son :-But perhaps he has some"thing greater still in store for him, and I shall "live to see the same hand hereafter crown his "head with glory and honor." We may naturally suppose her innocently carried away with such thoughts, when she is called back by an unexpected distemper which surprizes her son, and, in one moment, brings down all her hopes-for his sickness was so sore, that there was no breath left in him.
The expostulations of immoderate grief are seldom just.For, though Elijah had already preserved her son, as well as herself, from immediate death, and was the last cause to be suspected of so sad an accident; yet the passionate mother, in the first transport, challenges him as the author of her misfortunes;as if he had brought down sorrow upon a house, which had so hospitably sheltered him. The prophet was too full
of compassion, to make reply to so unkind an acı cusation. He takes the dead child out of his mo ther's bosom, and laid him upon his own bed; and he cried unto the LORD, and said, O LORD my God! hast thou brought evil upon the widow with whom İ sojourn, by slaying her son ? "Is this the reward "of all her charity and goodness? Thou hast be "fore this robbed her of a dear partner of all her "joys, and all her cares; and now that she is a "widow, and has most reason to expect thy pro"tection, behold, thou hast withdrawn her last prop;thou hast taken away her child, the "only stay she had to rest on."—And Elijah cried unto GOD, and said, O LORD my GoD, I pray thee, let this child's soul come into him again.
The prayer was urgent, and bespoke the distress of an human mind, deeply suffering in the misfortunes of another.- Moreover his heart was rent with other passions ;-he was zealous for the name and honor of his GOD, and thought not only his omnipotence, but his glorious attribute of mercy concerned in the event For, oh! with what triumph would the prophets of Baal retort his own bitter taunt, and say, his God was either talking, or he was pursuing, or was in a journey; or, peradventure he slept, and should have been awaked.He was moreover involved in the success of his prayer himself ;—honest minds are most hurt by scandal:-And he was afraid, lest so foul an one, so unworthy of his character, might arise among the Heathen, who would report with pleasure, Lo, the widow of Zarephath, took the mes66 senger of the God of Israel under her roof, and "kindly entertained him, and see how she is re"warded! surely the prophet was ungrateful, he "wanted power, or, what is worse he wanted pity.
Besides all this, he pleaded not only the cause of the widow, it was the cause of charity itself, which had received a deep wound already, and