MOST of the people who were before Elijah thought that Jehovah was God, and that Baal was god too; and that for this reason the worship of both was quite consistent. The great mass of them did not reject the God of their fathers wholly, nor did they bow before Baal wholly; but as polytheists, believing in many gods, they thought both Gods might be worshipped, and each of them have a share in their hearts. “No,” said the prophet when he began, “this will not do, these are two opinions; you can never make them one, they are two contradictory things which cannot be combined. I tell you that instead of combining the two, which is impossible, you are halting between the two, which makes a vast difference.” “I will build in my house,” said one of them, “an altar for Jehovah here, and an altar for Baal there. I am of one opinion; I believe them both to be God.” “No, no,” said Elijah, “it cannot be so; they are two, and must be two. These things are not one but two opinions. No, you cannot unite them.” Many say, “I am worldly, but I am religious too; I can go to worship God on Sunday; I went to the Derby the other day: I go, on the one hand, to the place where I can serve my lusts; I am to be met within every dancing room of every description, and yet at the same time I say my prayers most devoutly. May I not be a good Churchman, or a right good Dissenter, and a man of the world too? May I not, after all, hold with the hounds as well as run with the hare? May I not love God and serve the devil too — take the pleasure of each of them, and give my heart to neither?” We answer, “Not so, they are two opinions; you cannot do it, they are distinct and separate.”
Mark Antony yoked two lions to his chariot; but there are two lions no man ever yoked together yet — the Lion of the tribe of Judah and the lion of the pit. These can never go together. Two opinions you may hold in politics, perhaps, but then you will be despised by everybody, unless you are of one opinion or the other, and act as an independent man. But two opinions in the matter of soul-religion you cannot hold. If God be God, serve Him, and do it thoroughly; but if this world be God, serve it, and make no profession of religion. If you think the things of the world the best, serve them; devote yourself to them, spite your conscience, and run into sin. But remember, if the Lord be your God, you cannot have Baal too; you must have one thing or else the other. “No man can serve two masters .” If God be served, He will be a master; and if the devil be served he will not be long before he will be a master; and “ye cannot serve two masters .”
Oh! be wise, and think not that the two can be mingled together. How many a respectable deacon thinks that he can be covetous, and grasping in business, and grind the faces of the poor, and yet be a saint! Oh! liar to God and to man! He is no saint; he is the very chief of sinners! How many a very excellent woman, who is received into Church fellowship amongst the people of God, and thinks herself one of the elect, is to be found full of wrath and bitterness — a slave of mischief and of sin, a tattler, a slanderer, a busybody; entering into other people’s houses, and turning everything like comfort out of the minds of those with whom she comes in contact — and yet she is the servant of God and of the devil too! Nay, my lady, this will never answer; the two never can be served thoroughly. Serve your master, whoever he be. If you do profess to be religious, be so thoroughly; if you make any profession to be a Christian be one; but if you are no Christian, do not pretend to be. If you love the world, then love it; but cast off the mask, and do not be a hypocrite.
The double-minded man is of all men the most despicable; the follower of Janus, who wears two faces, and who can look with one eye upon the (socalled) Christian world with great delight, and give his subscription to the Tract Society, the Bible Society, and the Missionary Society, but who has another eye over there, with which he looks at the Casino, the Cole-hole, and other pleasures, which I do not care to mention, but which some may know more of than I wish to know. Such a man is worse than the most reprobate in the opinion of anyone who knows how to judge. Not worse in his open character, but worse really, because he is not honest enough to go through with that he professes.
Tom Loker, in “Uncle Tom,” was pretty near the mark when he shut the mouth of Haley, the slaveholder, who professed religion, with the following common sense remark: — “I can stand most any talk of yours, but your pious talk — that kills me right up. After all, what’s the odds between me and you? ‘Tain’t that you care one bit more or have a bit more feelin’ — its clean, sheer, dog meanness, wanting to cheat the devil and save your own skin; don’t I see through it? And your getting religious, as you call it, after all, is a deal too mean for me, run up a bill with the devil all your life, and then sneak out when pay time comes.” And how many do the same everyday in London, in England; everywhere else! They try to serve both masters; but it cannot be; the two things cannot be reconciled; God and Mammon, Christ and Belial, these never can meet; there never can be an agreement between them, they never can be brought into unity, and why should you seek to do it? “Two opinions ,” said the prophet. He would not allow any of his hearers to profess to worship both. “No,” said he, “these are two opinions, and you are halting between the two.”
It was a day to be remembered when the multitudes of Israel were assembled at the foot of Carmel, and when the solitary prophet of the Lord came forth to defy the four hundred and fifty priests of the false god. We might look upon that scene with the eye of historical curiosity, and we should find it rich with interest. Instead of so doing, however, we shall look upon it with the eye of attentive consideration, and see whether we cannot improve by its teachings. We have upon that hill of Carmel and along the plain three kinds of persons. We have first the devoted servant of Jehovah, a solitary prophet; we have, on the other hand, the decided servants of the evil one, the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal; but the vast mass of that day belonged to a third class — they were those who had not fully determined whether fully to worship Jehovah, the God of their fathers, or Baal, the god of Jezebel. On the one hand, their ancient traditions led them to fear Jehovah, and on the other hand, their interest at court led them to bow before Baal. Many of them, therefore, were secret and half-hearted followers of Jehovah, while they were the public worshippers of Baal. The whole of them at this juncture were halting between two opinions. Elijah does not address his sermon to the priests of Baal; he will have something to say to them by-and-by, he will preach them horrible sermons in deeds of blood. Nor has he aught to say to those who are the thorough servants of Jehovah, for they are not there; but his discourse is alone directed to those who are halting between two opinions. “Now,” says the prophet, “if the Lord be God, follow Him. Let your conduct be consistent with your opinions; if you believe the Lord to be God, carry it out in your daily life; be holy, be prayerful, trust in Christ, be faithful, be upright, be loving; give your whole heart to God and follow Him. If Baal be God, then follow him; but do not pretend to follow the other.” Let your conduct back up your opinion; if you really think that the follies of this world are the best, and believe that a fine fashionable life, a life of frivolity and gaiety, flying from flower to flower, getting honey from none, is the most desirable, carry it out. If you think the life of the debauchee is so very desirable, if you think his end is to be much wished for, if you think his pleasures are right, follow them. Go the whole way with them. If you believe that to cheat in business is right, put it up over your door — “I sell trickery goods here;” or if you do not say it to the public, tell your conscience so; but do not deceive the public. If you mean to be religious, follow out your determination thoroughly; but if you mean to be worldly, go the whole way with the world. Let your conduct follow out your opinions. Make your life tally with your profession. Carry out your opinions whatever they be. But you dare not; you are too cowardly to sin as others do, honestly before God’s sun; your conscience will not let you. “How long halt ye between two opinions?” Ye middle aged men, ye said when ye were youths, “When we are out of our apprenticeship we will become religious; let us sow our wild oats in our youth, and let us then begin to be diligent servants of the Lord.” Lo! ye have come to middle age, and are waiting till that quiet villa shall be built, and ye shall retire from business, and then ye think ye will serve God. Sirs, ye said the same when ye came of age, and when your business began to increase. I therefore solemnly demand of you, “How long halt ye between two opinions?” How much time do you want? Oh! young man, thou saidst in thine early childhood, when a mother’s prayer followed thee, “I will seek God when I come to manhood;” and thou hast passed that day; thou art a man, and more than that, and yet thou art halting still. “How long halt ye between two opinions?” How many of you have been churchgoers and chapel-goers for years! Ye have been impressed, too, many a time; but ye have wiped the tears from your eyes, and have said, “I will seek God and turn to Him with full purpose of heart;” and you are now just where you were. How many more sermons do you want? How many more Sundays must roll away wasted? How many warnings, how many sicknesses, how many tollings of the bell to warn you that you must die? How many graves must be dug for your family before you will be impressed? How many plagues and pestilences must ravage this city before you will turn to God in truth? “How long halt ye between two opinions?” Would God you could answer this question, and not allow the sands of life to drop, drop, drop from the glass, saying, “When the next goes I will repent,” and yet that next one findeth you impenitent. You say, “When the glass is just so low, I will turn to God.” No; it will not answer to talk so; for thou mayest find thy glass empty before thou thoughtest it had begun to run low, and thou mayest find thyself in eternity when thou didst but think of repenting and turning to God.
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. There is another objection raised by the crowd. “Prophet,” says one, “thou comest to demand a practical proof of our affection; thou sayest, Follow God. Now, if I believe God to be God, and that is my opinion, yet I do not see what claim He has to my opinions.” Now, mark how the prophet puts it: he says, “If God be God follow Him.” The reason why I claim that you should follow out your opinion concerning God is, that God is God! God has a claim upon you, as creatures, for your devout obedience. One person replies, “What profit should I have, if I served God thoroughly? Should I be more happy?
Should I get on better in this world? Should I have more peace of mind?”
Nay, nay, that is a secondary consideration. The only question for you is, “If God be God follow Him.” Not if it be more advantageous to you; but “if God be God follow Him.” The Secularist would plead for religion on the ground that religion might be the best for this world, and best for the world to come. Not so with the prophet; he says, “I do not put it on that ground, I insist that it is your bounden duty, if you believe in God, simply because He is God, to serve Him and obey Him. I do not tell you it is for your advantage — it may be, I believe it is — but that I put aside from the question; I demand of you that you follow God, if you believe Him to be God. If you do not think He is God; if you really think that the devil is God, then follow him; his pretended godhead shall be your plea, and you shall be consistent; but if God be God, if He made you, I demand that you serve Him; if it is He who puts the breath into your nostrils, I demand that you obey him. If God be really worthy of worship, and you really think so, I demand that you either follow Him, or else deny that He is God at all.” “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. Fire was not what these poor people wanted that were assembled there. 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 forever 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.