Get Below Appearances

From “Elijah,” Sermons on Bible Subjects (1855)

Elijah’s apparent success was in the shouts of Mount Carmel. His real success was in the unostentatious, unsurmised obedience of the seven thousand who had taken his God for their God.

A lesson for all. For teachers who lay their heads down at night sickening over their thankless task. Remember the power of indirect influences; those which distil from a life, not from a sudden, brilliant effort. The former never fail; the latter often. There is good done of which we can never predicate the when or where. Not in the flushing of a pupil’s cheek, or the glistening of an attentive eye; not in the shining results of an examination does your real success lie. It lies in that invisible influence on character which he alone can read who counted the seven thousand nameless ones in Israel.

For ministers again — what is ministerial success? Crowded churches — full aisles — attentive congregations — the approval of the religious world — much impression produced? Elijah thought so; and when he found out his mistake, and discovered that the applause on Carmel subsided into hideous stillness, his heart well-nigh broke with disappointment. Ministerial success lies in altered lives and obedient humble hearts; unseen work recognized in the judgment-day.

What is a public man’s success? That which can be measured by feast-days and the number of journals which espouse his cause? Deeper, deeper far must he work who works for eternity. In the eye of that, nothing stands but gold. Real work — all else perishes.

Get below appearances, below glitter and show. Plant your foot upon reality. Not in the jubilee of the myriads on Carmel, but in the humble silence of the hearts of the seven thousand, lay the proof that Elijah had not lived in vain.

Frederick W. Robertson (1816-1853) was an English Anglican priest, one of the most famous preachers of his age. After serving parishes in Winchester and Cheltenham, he served for the final six years of his short life at Holy Trinity Church, Brighton, where he attracted great crowds with sermons famed for their deep insight into the spiritual life. Many were published after his death, including Sermons on Bible Subjects, first published in 1855.

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