1 Kings 18:23
Get two bulls for us. Let the prophets of Baal choose one bull for themselves, cut it into pieces, and place it on the wood, but not light the fire. And I will prepare the other bull and place it on the wood, but not light the fire.
Sermons
Elijah and the Prophets of BaalE. De Pressense 1 Kings 18:1-46
Elijah and the Prophets of BaalJ. H. Cadoux.1 Kings 18:19-40
Elijah and the Prophets of BaalC. J. Baldwin.1 Kings 18:19-40
The Priests of BaalMonday Club Sermons1 Kings 18:19-40
The Prophet of the LordH. M. Booth, D. D.1 Kings 18:19-40
The God that Answereth by FireJ. Urquhart 1 Kings 18:21-40
The Test of FireJ.A. Macdonald 1 Kings 18:22-24


Elijah had appealed to the people on their inconsistency in hesitating between services so widely different and so utterly irreconcilable as those of Jehovah and Baal. He got no response. "The people answered him not a word." Then he proposed the test of fire to determine which was worthy. The conclusiveness of such an appeal could not be challenged; so the people with one voice answered, "It is well spoken." L THE TEST WAS UNEXCEPTIONABLE.

1. For Baal was the fire god.

(1) His name designates him as the lord or ruler. It comes from the verb (בעל) to own or possess, to be master of. But the sun, from its splendour and central position, accounted the visible lord in the material heavens, was their Baal. Sanchoniathon says the Phoenicians thought the sun to be the only lord of heaven, calling him Beelsamen, which in their language is lord of heaven. In "Beelsamen" we at once recognize the Hebrew בעל שׁמים.

(2) Baal was the fire or body of the sun, rather than its light. So in 2 Kings 23:5 we find Baal (בעל) distinguished from (שמש) the solar light. (See Parkhurst under שמש.) Parkhurst points out that the Runic or Islandic BAAL signifies fire, the Saxon BAEL, and BAEL-FYR, a burning pile, a pyre, a bonfire. Probably our bonfire is simply a corruption of Bael-fyr.

(3) The image of this idol was a bull. This animal was by the ancients regarded as the emblem of fire. The similitude seems to have been in its red colour, in the curled hair upon its forehead giving the idea of flame, in the horns budding from its head suggesting the darting of rays of light from the sun. In Tobit (1:5) we read of "the heifer called Baal." We have the name of this god still preserved in our English bull.

2. The controversy was whether Baal was independent of Jehovah.

(1) His worshippers claimed this for him.

(2) Elijah maintained the opposite. And with cogent reason, for during three years and six months Jehovah made Baal punish his votaries.

(3) Now the prophet proposes the further test of a sudden miracle. If Baal be god, if he be independent of Jehovah, let him come down and consume the sacrifice offered to him. If he cannot, then why should he be worshipped? If Jehovah can send fire on his sacrifice, then is He manifestly Lord of Baal, and should be so acknowledged.

(4) That suitable acknowledgment of God which such a miracle demands, implies -

(a) Recognition of His almighty providence and lordship over the material and moral universe.

(b) The engagement of all our powers in His worship and service.

II. SO WAS THE MANNER OF THE TEST.

1. The prophets of Baal had precedence.

(1) Not because Baal was entitled to it, for that would be a concession of the argument, but because they were many. Elijah stood alone the prophet of the Lord, while the idolatrous prophets were 850 men.

(2) They were to provide the sacrifices. They were wealthy. Elijah was poor. They could not object to the test when the sacrifices were of their own selection.

2. The experiment was to be fair.

(1) Not only might the priests of Baal choose their bullock, cut it in pieces after their approved method, lay it on the wood of the altar; but they must "put no fire under." Else where would be the proof of the ability of Baal? Under some heathen altars holes were dug in which fire was concealed, which communicating with the alter set the wood on fire to make the simple people believe that the sacrifice was consumed by miraculous fire. This Elijah would not permit.

(2) Ordinarily the sacrifices offered to Baal were offered in fire; and sometimes human sacrifices were so offered. "They built the high places of Baal to burn their sons with fire, for burnt offerings" (Jeremiah 19:5). The Phoenician Baal seems to have been identical with the Ammonite Molech. "They built the high places of Baal which are in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire to Molech (Jeremiah 32:35).

(3) Ashtaroth also were virtually the same as Baalim," under which plural term are included diversified Baals, as Baal Peor, etc.; and so in ver. 25 the prophets of Baal are said to have (אלהים) "gods," in the plural

(4) These had their various images, in some of which the man and bull came into union. The Assyrian man bull so conspicuous in the Nineveh marbles, is probably one of these. Let us bless God for our Christianity. It is pure light. Compared with it other systems are dark with ignorance, superstition, and error. It is supreme benevolence. Happy is its contrast to the characteristic cruelties of idolatry. - J.A.M.







How long halt ye between two opinions?
I. FIRST, YOU WILL NOTE THAT THE PROPHET INSISTED UPON THE DISTINCTION WHICH EXISTED BETWEEN THE WORSHIP OF BAAL AND THE WORSHIP OF JEHOVAH.

II. IN THE SECOND PLACE, THE PROPHET CALLS THESE WAVERERS TO AN ACCOUNT NOR THE AMOUNT OF TIME WHICH THEY HAD CONSUMED IN MAKING THEIR CHOICE.

III. BUT THE PROPHET CHARGES THESE PEOPLE WITH THE ABSURDITY OF THEIR POSITION.

IV. THE MULTITUDE WHO HAD WORSHIPPED JEHOVAH AND BAAL, AND WHO WERE NOW UNDECIDED, MIGHT REPLY, "BUT HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT JEHOVAH IS GOD? HOW DO YOU KNOW WE ARE NOT DECIDED IN OPINION?"

V. And now the prophet cries, "If the Lord be God, follow Him; if Baal, then follow him"; and in so doing HE STATES THE GROUND OF HIS PRACTICAL CLAIM.

VI. And now I make MY APPEAL TO THE HALTERS AND WAVERERS, with some questions, which I pray the Lord to apply. Now I will put this question to them: "How long halt ye" When Elijah says, that "The God that answereth by fire let him be God," I fancy I hear some of them saying, "No; the God that answereth by water let him be God; we want rain badly enough." "No," said Elijah, "if rain should come, you would say that it was the common course of providence; and that would not decide you." I tell you all the providences that befall you undecided ones will not decide you. God may surround you with providences; He may surround you with frequent warnings from the deathbed of your fellows; but providences will never decide you. It is not the God of rain, but the God of fire that will do it. There are two ways in which you undecided ones will be decided by and by. You that are decided for God will want no decision; you that are decided for Satan will want no decision; you are on Satan's side, and must dwell for ever in eternal burning. But these undecided ones want something to decide them, and will have either one of the two things; they will either have the fire of God's Spirit to decide them, or else the fire of eternal judgment, and that will decide them.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

1. Now, from this stirring incident, I learn that we must be prepared like Elijah to stand alone for God. Examine the biographies of great men, and you will not find a brighter example of sanctified courage than that which shone in the man of God on Carmel. Think of it! One man against a whole nation! Here was a Reformer, who had the patience of the ox, the courage of the lion, the eye of the eagle, and the intelligence of the man. Prince Bismarck once said in a characteristic epigram, "We Germans fear God, and nothing else in the world." This was especially true of Elijah, the Whirlwind Prophet, who struck Ahab pale with fright. Fearing God so much, he feared man so little. He was as a mighty rock standing alone in the midst of a stormy sea, braving and outliving the tempest. Take your stand for God wherever you may be, either in the office, or the shop, the workroom, or the home. You, like Elijah, have a Carmel. See that you play the man, and quit yourself right bravely.

2. From the incident on Carmel I also learn that the most of men are desirous of worshipping God and Baal at the same time. This is what the Israelites wanted to do, for you must know that the worship of idols was not proposed as a substitute for, but an accompaniment to, the worship of Jehovah. They wanted to do an impossibility — to amalgamate opposites. This God would not have, and will not allow to-day. Men must be either one thing or the other. Religions diametrically opposed cannot both be right. Things which are contradictory cannot be reconciled. You cannot have an altar to Baal and an altar to Jehovah standing side by side. Mark Antony is said to have yoked two lions to his chariot, but there are two lions which can never be yoked — the Church and the world. Yet men everywhere are trying to win the smile of the world and the" well done" of Christ. They want to serve God and Baal at the same time.

3. From my text I gather the further lesson that all men are called upon to make a choice between God and Baal. "How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow Him; but if Baal, then follow him." This searching remonstrance uttered by the solitary witness on Carmel is perhaps still more impressive in the original, for one rendering gives, "How long limp ye on two knees?" He likens them to a cripple hobbling along, first on one knee and then on another. Another translation gives the quest!on thus, "How long hop ye on two sprays?" like a bird which keeps hopping from bough to bough and is never still, and consequently never builds a nest.

4. Our text also clearly shows that God has given to us the power of choice, which power involves tremendous responsibility. We are endowed with the power of will, and are not to be like those derelicts that go floating about in the Atlantic and never reach any port. God asks us to take the evidence for and against, and then deliberately decide whether or not He is to be our king.

5. And in this matter God has not left us without evidence of His superiority over Baal. Still the infallible test is "The God that answereth by fire let Him be God." If you will sit down and compare the claims of God and the claims of Baal, you will soon see which God has the sole right to your worship. If we translate Elijah's speech into nineteenth-century English, it simply means this, Will you have Christ or Barabbas; God or self?, God can do what Baal cannot! An eminent evangelist once declared in a newspaper controversy that he was prepared any day, at a few hours' notice, to summon five hundred witnesses, ready to declare upon oath, if need be, the truth of that Gospel of Salvation from the power of sin which every week he preached. To-day the cry rings forth, "The God that answereth by saved men, let Him be God." There can be no comparison between the claims of Christ and the claims of the world.

6. I beg you to observe that God calls for immediate decision. You are this day to decide between God and the devil. Some of you have been halting till your hair has grown grey. How much longer are you going to fly from bough to bough?

(W. C. Minifie, B. D.)

Christian Observer.
A more striking appeal is scarcely to be found in the whole volume of inspiration. It was delivered under circumstances peculiarly impressive, and by one of the most eminent and most honoured among the prophets.

I. AS TO THE NATURE OF THIS INDECISION IN RELIGION.

II. LET US THEN CONSIDER THE GROUNDS AND CAUSES OF THIS INDECISION. The source of all this evil is the deceitfulness of the human heart.

1. The love of the world. — The Apostle St. John has left it upon record, that this disposition is totally inconsistent with the love of God. "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world," etc.

2. The fear of the world. — Nothing is more certain, than that the disposition and habits of the great majority of mankind, even in a Christian country, are totally and radically opposed to the precepts of the Gospel; and the world loves its own: and if any are not of the world, it beholds them with aversion.

3. The fashion of the world. — Under this term, I include the example and authority of those with whom we are conversant; or to whom it is customary to appeal.

III. THE UNREASONABLENESS OF THIS PRINCIPLE.

1. It is unreasonable, on account of the great importance of the subject.

2. Something, perhaps, might be said in vindication of indifference and indecision, if these things were only obscurely revealed; but the fact is, that as we are more interested in the knowledge of salvation, than of all other things, so is the will of God most distinctly made known in respect to it.

(Christian Observer.)

I. AN ALTERNATIVE PRESENTED. The alternative lay between Jehovah and Baal, and the object of this national gathering was to decide which was to be Israel's God. Notice the different elements composing this gathering.

II. AN INCONSISTENCY EXPOSED. The inconsistency lay in blending the claims of Jehovah and Baal. Many, apparently, had no objection to divide their allegiance, their only concern being to keep on good terms with the ruling powers. The service of God is an exclusive service, it admits of no compromise. This truth is put in language of unmistakable clearness by lips that cannot err — "No man can serve two masters. Ye cannot serve God and Mammon."

1. A religious compromise, it is sometimes said, is surely better than no religion at all. However plausible this may sound, we are bound to say that, from the nature of the case, it is an absurd position. A compromise in religion is, to say the least, unmanly and hypocritical; it is an attempt to pass off for what you are not.

2. Such conduct yields no satisfaction to the waverer. The troubles arising from indecision are endless. The man who will not take a decided stand exposes himself to the constant banter of his companions, and there is no end of annoyance to the man who cannot say, No.

3. Divided service is dishonouring to God. Why? Because it puts Him on a level with Baal, and robs Him of the glory which is His sole due. If you worship two or more gods at the same time, you put them on an equal footing; and the God of heaven has told us, in a way not to be mistaken, that He will not share His glory with another. A divided heart will not satisfy the Maker of it.

III. A DECISION DEMANDED. The assemblage on Carmel was, for the most part, wavering between the claims of Jehovah and Baal, and Elijah urged them to take a side. The reasons for immediate decision are powerful and urgent. Time is short, the matter is of supreme moment, and there is no middle ground. You have to be either on the one side or on the other. Let no unmanly fears sway your choice. Be a Daniel, and if need be stand alone. Be an Elijah, a champion for God and the truth.

(D. Merson, M. A., B. D.)

I. HEAR THE TEXT, FOR IT SPEAKS SIMPLY OF —

1. Two opinions. Like others they tried to do both. Few like this in worldly matters. Some render this: "How long hop ye from twig to twig?" They were — uneasy: unhappy: unstable.

2. Two Gods. Baal. An ancient god: a spreading religion: a gaudy and costly religion: all this very attractive. God. The only God: The only God we need the only true God we can have.

3. Two positions. Halting and following: show the difference.

II. HEAR THE PROPHET, FOR HE SPEAKS POINTEDLY. Notice —

1. His manner. Firm: fearless: faithful.

2. His opportunity. Before all the people. How willingly he embraced it.

3. His question. "How long?" etc. They had already had time. They had time then. God did not want time. He could receive them at once.

III. HEAR THE PREACHER, FOR HE SPEAKS EARNESTLY. Enlarge upon the theme, and address those who halt concerning —

1. God's ordinances.

2. God's service.

3. God's people — i.e., joining them.

4. God Himself.

(W J. Mayers.)

I. THIS INDECISION IS JUSTLY CONDEMNED.

1. It is not honest. It exists rather in appearance than in reality. It is an attempt to accomplish an utter impossibility. No man can have two objects of supreme affection. So long as their hearts are not fixed supremely on God, they are the servants of mammon. In all that they seem to do for God, nothing is truly done for Him.

2. They derive no full enjoyment from religion or the world. They resort to two opposite sources of enjoyment. What they derive from one is embittered by what flows from the other.

3. They have no peace of conscience,

4. This state of mind is attended more or less with a sense of shame. Few things are more wounding to the pride of man, than conscious imbecility of purpose and character. And in no case, perhaps, is this consciousness more inevitable than in a state of indecision with respect to religion.

5. This state of mind is full of danger. If such are not sooner or later discouraged, and led to abandon all thoughts of becoming religious, nothing will be effected, as the result of such a course. Indecision never did anything to the purpose in worldly pursuits, much less in religion. Analyse this state of mind, and you will see that it must be so. An undecided purpose is the want of all purpose. At the same time it has an awfully deceptive influence. The openly profligate can hardly admit that he is either right or safe. He can at least be more easily shown his danger. But the man who imagines himself but at a little distance from the path of rectitude and safety, who supposes at most but a few steps need be taken to reach it, and who perhaps persuades himself that he is fast approaching it, has of all men most cause for alarm. While the real danger of his condition is as great as that of any other, he is blind to the fact.

6. This state of mind is highly criminal. Whether Jehovah or Baal be God, he is the supreme good, the being who has a right to command; he ought to be obeyed. These obligations exist somewhere. We cannot annul or lessen them. We are created, we are upheld, we are blessed in this world, we are capable of joy and blessedness through eternity. There is one to whom we owe all that we are and possess. This being is Jehovah or Baal; there cannot be more than one supreme God. There must be one. There car, be no conflicting claims, no compromise of services.

II. THE TEXT ENFORCES THE DUTY OF DECIDING WHO IS TRULY GOD, and of serving him, whether Jehovah or mammon, God or the world. This may be done by considering what they are in themselves, what they have done for you, and what they can and will do for you.

1. What they are in themselves.

2. Consider what they have done for you.

3. What can the world, what can God do for you?

(N. W. Taylor, D. D.)

I. THIS WORD OF GOD DOES NOT COME TO THE DULL, THE DEAD, THE SLEEPING SINNER. There are some of whom you cannot say that they are halting between two opinions. That awful stillness — I dare not call it a calm — that awful stillness which pervades their spiritual being has not been broken. They are led, blindfolded, by the devil; and there does not seem even to be a wish — not to say an effort — there does not seem even to be a wish to shake off that fold which is over their eyes. One opinion they are quite settled in; and that is, that sin is sweet, that the world is sweet, that self is sweet, and that sin, the world, and self are all satisfying objects. To them the word cannot be said to come — "How long halt ye between two opinions?" But it is not so with all. Besides those who have no care for their souls and those who have learned to prize Jesus Christ as a Saviour, there is a third class — the class of awakened, interested, inquiring, anxious souls; and unto them does this word come, "How long halt ye?" Their stillness has been broken; their eyes, as it were, have been opened a little; a few dashes of light have broken in upon them; a fresh opinion has forced itself upon them now and then. As yet, indecision is their great Characteristic.

II. Let us notice, in the next place, THE OBJECTS BETWEEN WHICH THEY HALT. What were those objects in Israel's case? Baal and Jehovah the great God of Israel! What is there on the one side? On the one side there are objects, of which you have proved, and even confess, that they are unsatisfying. There are things which you know are empty things. There are courses which you know, which conscience tells you too plainly, must end in disappointment, and in sorrow and death. There are habits which only strengthen the cords of corruption, and draw you more and more into sin. There are pleasures which, alas! you know too often end in pain. There are sweets which, alas! you know crumble to very gall and bitterness when a man puts them in his mouth. There is that upon the one side; and what on the other? God. God, who is the source of all life; God, who is the fountain of all joy; God, who is the giver of every good and perfect gift; God, who is the perfection of every thing which the really enlightened soul can long for and enjoy; God is upon the other side, God the Father calls you.

III. LET US CONSIDER THE REASONS WHY THEY HALT. One reason I would venture to speak of is ignorance. But I can say that there is ignorance of the danger of indecision. But besides this there is ignorance of the blessedness of following God. Then again, besides this ignorance there is unbelief, from which indeed ignorance springs. Then another reason is this — unbelief and ignorance spring from the carnal corruption of man's fallen nature.

(C. D. Marston.)

Our first inquiry will be: —

I. WHO ARE THEY THAT HALT BETWEEN TWO OPINIONS? They are not far to seek, nor difficult to describe. They may differ widely among themselves, but there are some points in which they all agree. We may say concerning all such that they are more or less enlightened in things divine. Moreover, the knowledge they possess makes them dissatisfied with their present condition. Their consciences tell them that if Christianity be true — and of this they have not the slightest doubt — their state is far from satisfactory. They know the destructive influence of sin here, and the terrible consequences of sin hereafter, and yet they remain in its power. They know that those who believe the Gospel enjoy liberty, are set free from condemnation, are made heirs of glory; and yet they are not believers, they have not obeyed the truth, and consequently they cannot claim these privileges — their position is that of men longing for something which they have not determined to seek. Our next inquiry will be: —

II. WHY DO MEN HALT BETWEEN TWO OPINIONS? Some halt because they have never given the subject of religion that earnest, thoughtful, prayerful consideration which it deserves. Others halt because the interests of this life occupy too large a share of their attention. Others halt because they have not sufficient courage to abandon their present course of life. Others halt because they look forward to a time when it will be easier to decide. This leads me to call your attention to

III. THE IMMENSE DANGER OF HALTING BETWEEN TWO OPINIONS. The longer you halt, the harder it will be to decide. Thus your chief object in halting is effectually defeated. Whatever may be your difficulties now, depend upon it, time will only increase their strength and add to their number. We know how speedily habits are formed, and how difficult it is to cast them off. They throw around us cords and fetters which we endeavour in vain to break through. Again, our time is very uncertain. Though the future were quite as advantageous as the present, though it were quite as easy to seek God's peace next year as this, it would be the height of imprudence to put the matter off until then; for the future is so very doubtful that you cannot reasonably build the slightest hope upon it. "Boast not thyself of to-morrow, for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth." Finally, the loss you may incur by halting will be irreparable.

(D. Rowlands, B. A.)

In regard to the state of things existing at that time in Israel, we may remark —(1) That a large portion of the nation was decidedly inclined to the worship of Baal.(2) There were some who were as decidedly the friends of Jehovah. They were indeed few in number.(3) There was another, and evidently a large class, that was undecided. This was the class which Elijah particularly addressed in the text. The doctrine which is, therefore, taught in this passage, is the unreasonableness of indecision on the subject of religion. In discoursing on it, my object will be,

I. TO CLASSIFY THOSE WHO ARE THUS UNDECIDED.

1. Those who are thus undecided may be regarded as comprising the following classes.(1) Those who are undecided about the truth or reality of religion at all, or of any system of religion. They embrace no system; they make no pretensions to any religion. They are lookers-on in the world, and observers of the various forms and systems of worship, professing liberality to all, and manifesting a preference for none.(2) A second class is composed of those who hesitate between Christianity and infidelity.(3) There are those, as a third class, who are awakened to see their guilt, and who are hesitating about giving up their hearts to God. They see that they are sinners.(4) A fourth class is made up of those who are constantly forming resolutions to attend to the subject of religion, and to become decided Christians.(5) A fifth class is made up of those who are undecided about making a profession of religion. That it is a duty they feel and admit; and it is a duty which they often purpose to perform.

II. REASONS WHY A DECISION SHOULD BE MADE WITHOUT DELAY.(1) The first is, that our great interests, if we have any great interests, or any that are much worth regarding, are on the subject of religion. If this be so, then religion is the last thing that should remain unsettled anti undetermined.(2) You would suffer no other matter to remain undecided as this does. If you are sick, you leave no means untried to secure returning health. If you were in as much danger of becoming a bankrupt as you are of losing the soul, you would give yourself no rest until, if possible, you should feel yourself safe.(3) It is possible to come to a decision on this subject; and if possible, an affair of so much importance should not remain undecided.(4) The things about which a man is to decide are few in number, and may easily be determined. In our text, it was a simple choice which was to be made. There were but two objects before the mind, and the call was to determine which of them was to be acknowledged as God. So it is still.(5) This state of mind must be one that is infinitely displeasing to God.(6) You will never be in circumstances more favourable for a decision than the present.(7) I add but one other consideration. The present is the only time which you may have to decide this point. To-morrow may find you in another world. Tomorrow God may have decided the question for ever.

(D. Barnes, D. D.)

I. WHAT ARE WE TO UNDERSTAND BY HALTING BETWEEN TWO OPINIONS? Literally, how long hop ye about on two boughs? This is a metaphor taken from birds hopping about from bough to bough, not knowing on which to settle — balanced between opposing claims. To halt is to stop, to hesitate between opposite interests. Paul was balanced between a life of usefulness on earth and a life of enjoyment in heaven. The people, in the days of Elijah, were balanced between the worship of an idol and the worship of the God of heaven. Multitudes in our day are balanced between heaven and hell; two contrary influences acting upon them, as though God and heaven and holy beings were pulling one way, and the fiends of darkness and hell pulling the other, and they halt between the two claims.

II. WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF THIS HALTING?

1. The influence of the Spirit of God on the mind. This may seem strange, but we think it will be evident to you. The Spirit of God is not directly, but indirectly, the cause. He produces such effects on the head and heart, by the doctrines of the Bible, that the sinner is made to see his position, to see the awful future, to see the consequences of moving on in that direction, to see hell at the end of the path. He halts, stops to ponder whether to go backward or forward. Man is a free agent. "What is that?" says one. I answer, a power to choose or reject. There is a consciousness within you that you possess this power, and all the reasoning in the world cannot make a thing more clear to you than consciousness.

2. Secondly, heart weights. Many of you know something about these heart weights. You have had considerable experience in these matters. You have many a time been troubled by abstractions of mind, vacancy of thought, secret uneasiness. Sometimes that unbidden tear has stolen down your cheeks, and you could scarcely tell why — some unaccountable alarm about the future — some undefined dread of some all-pervading spirit fixing a searching gaze upon you.

3. You are unwilling to pay the price.

(J. Caughey.)

1. For different reasons, unconverted persons postpone deciding this question. They await a more convenient season — until after they get married, settled down, make money, grow old. I would not limit the mercy of God.

2. Reasons why the unconverted should make an immediate decision: —

(1)You have the power to decide. Not independent of God. But aided by the power that God is ever ready to bestow, you can decide.

(2)Decide, because in no other way can you be happy.

(3)Decide, because your present example is injurious.

(4)Decide, because God has the first claim upon you.

(5)Decide, because the time is short.I wish the unconverted to remember —

1. That, if they neglect —neglect, that's all — this salvation, they have no Scriptural warrant whatever for believing that they will be saved.

2. That they have almost to force their way to perdition.

3. Remember, there is nothing that stands between the sinner and salvation but sin, and that comes from himself.

(Silas Henn.)

I. THE GREAT ALTERNATIVE.

II. DISTRACTION WITHIN THE KINGDOM. Within this spiritual realm are opposing forces which contend with one another, and there is deep unsettlement, a harassing and restless indecision.

1. Conscience insists that we ought to live unto Him from whom we came.

2. The heavenly voices and the best human voices summon us to consecrate our powers to duty and holy service.

3. Prudence, wisdom, exhorts us to seek God while He may be found (Isaiah 55:6).

III. THE ONE WISE COURSE. Why halt and hesitate?

1. Indecision is(1) unmanly: we have our mental faculties that we may conclude and act. A man should know his mind and use his strength. It is(2) guilty: God has a right to require immediate obedience. Jesus Christ has a right to require acceptance and the service of a whole life. We have no right to keep Him waiting.(3) It is wasteful: for while we are halting and choosing life is passing; and with the passage of our life there are left behind us opportunities that are unemployed and that will not recur. Delay is death, in part if not indeed altogether; for(4) it is perilous in a very high degree. Duty seems less imperative and service less inviting the longer it is neglected. And(5) it is miserable.

(William Clarkson, B. A.)

I. THE CONDITION OF THOSE WHO TRY TO SERVE THE WORLD AND CHRIST AT THE SAME TIME, BY COMPROMISING THE MATTER.

II. THE CONDITION OF THOSE WHO HAVE GRACE IN THEIR HEART, BUT HAVE NOT DECIDED TO MAKE PROFESSION OF IT.

III. THE INDECISION OF THOSE WHO DO NOT KNOW WHAT IS THE TIME TO ATTEND TO RELIGION. There are two clarion voices in that man's soul. The one says, "Now." The other says, "Tomorrow."

(T. De Witt Talmage.)

Generally speaking, a strict consistency is maintained betwixt the character of a man and the object of his pursuit. His actions bear a conclusive testimony as to the nature of his individual purpose. There is a oneness of his whole being with the matter at issue. As his companion, you are left to no uncertain guess-work in determining the uppermost thing which engrosses his thoughts, concentrates his affections, quickens his desires, or invigorates his endeavours. The worldling is ever true to the worldling's creed; his god will not allow of any dereliction of duty, of any miserness of service, of any neglects or deficiencies in the homage required. Let thus ambition be the ruling idol — and the devotedness of his powers proves the sincerity of his affiance. Let wealth be the ruling idol — and his "rising up early, and sitting up late, and eating the bread of carefulness," show how perfect is the agreement betwixt him and the influence which presides.

I. FIRST, INDECISION IN ITS NATURE AND PREVALENCE.

1. In its nature. The mass of society does not consist of only two descriptions of persons — those who are eminently pious and those who are flagrantly wicked — but there is also an intermediate class, the victims of indecision; bespeaking that state of the mind and the heart which, instead of cleaving wholly to God, or yielding altogether to the world, alternates with both; an indecision which, as if passive to the influence of opposite claims, bends now to the one and now to the other, as accident or circumstances shall determine — now governed by the human, now by the Divine claims; an indecision that in seeking to couple the allegiance of two masters is a traitor to both — admitting, more or less, the force of Gospel statements, the powerful appeals of "the truth as it is in Jesus," while the occasion lasts, so that there is a sort of turning to Him, and being again open to the seductions of sensual objects, so that there is a turning to them; an equi-ponderant weight, having no settled place, but shifting to this side or that, as the case may be — the opponents pitching and pulling the man now hither and now thither, as if in contention for his whole captivity — the voice of the one saying "You are mine," and that of the other saying "You are mine," and the man is neither's.

2. The prevalence of indecision. By far the larger mass of all our congregations is composed of the undecided. Thousands say their prayers, who do not pray; thousands verbally assent to the truths of Christ, where there is nothing but the dead letter, where there is no spirit, no demonstration, no power.

II. INDECISION IN ITS CAUSES. And these are multiform.

1. One is pride. This is ever lingering within us, checking the fulness of our reliance upon God.

2. Indecision, again, arises from ignorance — ignorance of the relative value and comparative importance of things.

3. Indecision springs-from our sloth. It is the reverse of the effort to maintain "a good confession." Decision in being "on the Lord's side," involves the necessity of great and painful self-denial.

4. Indecision proceeds from the love of the world. Whilst the heart is buried there, how can it be given to another? The affections cannot be placed upon two objects diametrically opposed to each other.

5. Indecision sometimes arises from the fear of man. It partakes of that moral cowardice which shrinks from the names that the malicious may invent to stigmatise, or the oppressions which the powerful may bear down upon an honest profession; though perhaps the fear of ridicule may tend morE to prevent religious decision than the edicts of the sternest persecution.

6. Indecision has another cause in presumption.

7. Indecision has a cause in the neglect of prayer — of prayer for the assistance of that Holy Spirit, who being the "Guide into all truth," enables us to apprehend all the mysteries of godliness.

III. INDECISION IN ITS CONSEQUENCES. And these are full of evil.

1. Indecision, in the first place, is an insult to the authority and the character of God.

2. Indecision works evil upon others. Every man, whether he thinks it or not, is surrounded by witnesses; and the world is sharp sighted in observing those flaws of inconsistency which bring so many professions of religion into contempt; where such as attend its ordinances, only leave them to exhibit the selfishness, the covetousness, and the earthly-mindedness of the natural man.

3. The undecided am the self-deceived. A hope is begotten which will never be realised; their daydream of good, as a dream, cheats them with its images and all passes away in air.

4. The undecided, again, are criminal. "Whatsoever," it is said, "is not of faith is sin."

5. The undecided man is the unrecompensed man; self excluded from the privileges to be enjoyed within the Christian pale. "A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways; let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord."

6. The undecided man is the unsafe man. Hanging doubtfully, as betwixt two worlds, he has two worlds around him; he neither belongs to this world, nor to that kingdom which Christ said "is not of this world."

7. The undecided man is a condemned man. He being "neither hot nor cold," presents a state of Divine rejection. To die is to die under the ban of utter retribution. It is said that "the fearful and unbelieving shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone."

(T. J. Judkin, M. A.)

I. FIRST, YOU WILL NOTE THAT THE PROPHET INSISTED UPON THE DISTINCTION WHICH EXISTED BETWEEN THE WORSHIP OF BAAL AND THE WORSHIP OF JEHOVAH.

II. In the second place, THE PROPHET CALLS THESE WAVERERS TO AN ACCOUNT FOR THE AMOUNT OF TIME WHICH THEY HAD CONSUMED IN MAKING THEIR CHOICE. Some of them might have replied, "We have not yet had an opportunity of judging between God and Baal, we have not yet had time enough to make up our minds"; but the prophet puts away that objection, and he says, "How long halt ye between two opinions? How long? For three years and a half not a drop of rain has fallen at the command of Jehovah; is not that proof enough? Ye have been all this time, three years and a half, expecting till I should come, Jehovah's servant, and give you rain; and yet, though you yourselves are starving, your cattle dead, your fields parched, and your meadows covered with dust, like the very deserts, yet all this time of judgment, and trial, and affliction, has not been enough for you to make up your minds. How long, then," said he, "halt ye between two opinions?"

III. BUT THE PROPHET CHARGES THESE PEOPLE WITH THE ABSURDITY OF THEIR POSITION. Some of them said, "What! prophet, may we not continue to halt between two opinions? We are not desperately irreligious, so we are better than the profane; certainly we are not thoroughly pious; but, at any rate, a little piety is better than none, and the mere profession of it keeps us decent, let us try both!" "Now," says the prophet, "how long halt ye?" or, if you like to read it so, "how long limp ye between two opinions?" (how long wriggle ye between two opinions? would be a good word if I might employ it.) He represents them as like a man whose legs are entirely out of joint; he first goes on one side, and then on the other, and cannot go far either way.

IV. THE ABSURDITY OF THIS HALTING. The multitude who had worshipped Jehovah and Baal, and who were now undecided, might reply, "But how do you know that we do not believe that Jehovah is God? How do you know we are not decided in opinion?" The prophet meets this objection by saying, "I know you are not decided in opinion, because you are not decided in practice. If God be God, follow Him; if Baal, follow him."

V. And now the prophet cries, "If the Lord be God, follow Him; if Baal, then follow him," and in so doing HE STATES THE GROUND OF HIS PRACTICAL CLAIM. Let your conduct be consistent with your opinions.

VI. Now I will put this question: "HOW LONG HALT YE?" I will tell them; ye will halt between two opinions, all of you who are undecided, until God shall answer by fire.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

I. GIVES A STATEMENT OF OPPOSITE CLAIMS. There are many Baals in our land. What are they? Examine them. Hear their claims. We shall mention four:

1. Worldly gain.

2. Sensual pleasures. Nothing is more deceptive than the pleasures of the world; and the young have the greatest need to guard against indulging in them.

3. Vain speculation. In every age there have beer, those who have set up their own feeble reason in opposition to the word of God. We live in a day when knowledge is more extensively diffused, and there is in many, who once lived in ignorance, a thirst for information; and this tends to prepare the way for the increased progress and success of the Gospel.

4. Pharisaic pride.

II. REQUIRES A SPIRIT OF FIXED DECISION.

1. It is important in its nature.

2. It is uncompromising in its demands.

3. It is satisfactory in its evidence.

4. It is beneficial in its results.

5. It is urgent in its claims. It is to be done without delay.

(Ebenezer Temple.)

Against this impulse [to act and end suspense] we have the dread of the irrevocable, which often engenders a type of character incapable of prompt and vigorous resolve, except perhaps when surprised into sudden activity. These two opposing motives twine round whatever other motives may be present at the moment when decision is imminent, and tend to precipitate or retard it. The conflict of these motives so far as they alone affect the matter of decision is a conflict as to when it shall occur. One says "now," the other says "not yet."

(James, "Psychology.")

I believe, for my part, that the most of the life of the bulk of men is lived without any adequate exercise of their own deliberate volition and determination. Sadly, too, many of us seem to think that Nansen's way of getting to the North Pole is the best way of getting through the world — to put ourselves into a current and let it carry us. We drift. We do not decide, or, if we do, we let deliberate choice be coerced by inclination, and let wishes put their claws into the scale, and drag it down. Or we allow our environment to settle a large part of our beliefs and of our practices. It must settle a great deal of both for all of us, and none of us can get rid of the pressure of the surrounding atmosphere, but we are meant to be hammers and not anvils; to mould circumstances, not to be battered and moulded by them; to exercise a deliberate choice, and not to be like dead fish in the river, who are carried by the stream, or like derelicts in the Atlantic that go floating about for years, and never reach any port at all, but are caught by the currents, and are slaves of every wind that blows.

(Alexander Maclaren, D. D.)

Another hindrance of conversion is unresolvedness, and half-purposes; when men will hang wavering between God and the world, and though the light be never so clear to convince them, yet they will not be persuaded to resolve... If you would be converted and saved, do not stand wavering, but resolve, and presently turn to God. If it were a doubtful business, I would not persuade you to do it rashly, or if there were any danger to your souls in resolving, then I would say no more. But when it is a case that should be beyond all dispute with men of reason, why should you stand staggering as if it were a doubtful case? What a horrible shame is it to be unresolved whether God or the world should have your hearts? Were it not a disgrace to that man's understanding that were unresolved whether gold or dung were better? Or whether a bed of thorns or a feather bed were the easier? Or whether the sun or a clod of earth were the more light and glorious? It is a far greater shame for a man to be unresolved whether it be God or the world that must make him happy, and that should have his heart, and whether a life of sin or holiness be the better.

( R. Baxter.)

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