« PreviousContinue »
Yes, he has scattered them like grains of wheat, in all the world that from them, under the dew of the Divine blessing, a wondrous harvest might spring. Therefore every place and every family, where such living seed is deposited, though it be only a single grain, may, on that account, be already counted happy. Who knows to what increase such a single grain may yet arrive ! Certainly, it often fares with this seed, as our Lord says, cept a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone,” John xii. 24. It is true, that believing parents, friends, or teachers, must often themselves previously descend into the grave, and then it is that their prayer is found to have been heard; their example is remembered with powerful influence, and their admonitions recalled and laid to heart; it is only from their ashes that vigorous plants spring forth, and it is on their tombs that the first penitential tears fall of those they leave behind. Their labour is never in vain in the Lord, but sooner or later its fruit is found. “They that were sown,” saith the Lord, “ shall live with their children ; and turn again,” they shall increase and be multiplied.
We may well rejoice at such a prospect. Let us give up all narrow notions of the kingdom of God. Moreover, as the Lord knoweth them that are his, and we do not always know them, let us not presume to judge of their number by our own knowledge. They may not be made and fashioned according to our own preconceived pattern; they may not wear the garb and cut of our own preference, and yet they may be citizens of heaven. Only let it be remembered, that the seal to which every such citizen is conformed, is this: “Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” Wherefore lay apart all gloomy and dejected thoughts that would discourage you from being “ stedfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord." The everlasting preservation, final victory, and future glory of every true member of Christ's holy church, should fill us with joy and rejoicing. “God hath set his King upon his holy hill of Zion.' The Lord Jesus Christ shall receive the nations for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession. “Behold, the Lord God will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him. He shall build the temple of the Lord, and give himself no rest, until he has made Jerusalem a praise in the earth. The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea; and they shall come from the east and from the west, and sit down in the kingdom of God,” Isa. xl 10; lxii. 7 ; xi. 9; Matt. viii. 11. Seeing, then, that we know these things, we rejoice greatly, and look upon the world, not in the gloomy colouring of our own pusillanimity, but in the dawning light of the sun of revelation. Christ must reign, and the “ mountain of the Lord's house shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations flee unto it,” Isa. ii. 2. Let not, then, our eyes be dimmed, nor our hearts be distressed by the mists of the present day. Faith already plants the standard of victory upon the scene of conflict ; for it has respect to the time of the end ;” and, although the trophies of Satan be exalted on high, still faith is not daunted. It sings of the triumph of the Lord; and bears inscribed on its banner that nighty word of the Almighty: “I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear, and say, In the Lord have I righteousness and strength," Isa. xlv. 23, 24. Amen.
XVI.-THE CALLING OF ELISHA.
The manifold wisdom of our blessed Saviour appears perhaps no where more admirable and striking, than in his intercourse with sinners; the consideration he showed for different shades of character, and the peculiar readiness and propriety with which he met every one's disposition and situation, are sufficient of themselves to evince from whence he came. have striking instances of this in Luke ix. 54–62. In this passage we have the four principal temperaments of the human mind before us: the choleric, the sanguine, the phlegmatic, and the melancholy: and we behold Christ treating each of them with consummate wisdom. The inhabitants of a samaritan village, where Jesus on his journey to Jerusalem intended to sojourn, refused to receive him. When his disciples, James and John, heard this, they were filled with indignation, and said to their Master, “Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, even as Elias did?" Here we have a choleric disposition.. And the Lord, in the most admirable manner, turned and rebuked them, and said, “ Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.” He presents his own spirit as a contrast to theirs, and unfolds to them a humbling insight into his love to sinners, and his compassionate intention in coming into the world. The Son of says, is not come to destroy, but to save them. Nothing could have been more appropriate to allay the irritation of their feelings, and to give them an entirely different tone, than these gracious and gentle words of the most compassionate Friend of sinners.
Shortly after this, a man comes up to him on the road, saying to him, “Lord, I will follow thee, whithersoever thou goest !” Here was a sanguine disposition. The man appears to have been carried away with the brilliant actions and Divine loving-kindness of Jesus ; and it was necessary that this flighty and enthusiastic mind should be brought to sit down and count the cost. Hence, the answer of the great Master, “ Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head."
Another comes to our Lord, and thus addresses him, “ Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father;" by which he appears to mean,
“ Allow me to remain in the house of my parents till my father dies ; I will then reflect further on the subject.” This man then was of a phlegmatic temperament; a person slowly excited, quiet, even, and inclined to indifference. Our Lord again treats this person in a wonderful manner, entirely appropriate to such a disposition. He speaks strongly, seriously, and awakingly, in order to produce an immediate and firm resolution in this procrastinating spirit, and says, “Let the dead bury their dead; but
go thou and preach the kingdom of God.” The Lord meets with a fourth, whom he had anticipated by saying to him, “ Follow me.” But he replied, “ Lord, I will follow thee, but let me first go bid them farewell which are at home at my house.” Can we doubt what is the temperament of this individual? It is the melancholy, the slowly roused, but deeply and durably susceptible; which is seldom taken by sudden surprise, but is oftener stolen upon by slow but strong affections, which is more inclined to care and sorrow, than to mirth and joy; which does not shun labour, but is wont to pursue its objects energetically. These characteristics are conspicuous in his very language to our Lord. The thing which first
presents itself to his mind, is the dark and fearful consequences of following Christ. Therefore he desires to embrace his family once more, and perhaps, as it seems to him, for the last time. To meet such a disposition there was need of encouraging and firm language, which might disperse the clouds of melancholy, and give the resolution to break through a host of
The man needed an arousing call to the standard, and such a call the Lord addresses to him, “ No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God." Here then we may well admire the penetrating eye of the Searcher of hearts; the skill of the great Physician; the infinite condescension of the Prince of
peace. In the last of these occurrences, a scene of Old Testament history seems evidently referred to. What the person whom Jesus called here requests for himself, is the same which Elisha requested of Elijah before he undertook to follow him; and our Lord, in the words, “ He that putteth his hand to the plough," &c.
appears to have intended to refer the man to the example of Elisha, in order to excite him to a quick and cheerful determination. This example is about to come under our consideration, in the portion of Elijah's history at which we are now arrived.
1 KINGS XIX. 19-21. “ So he departed thence, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth : and Elijah passed by him, and cast his mantle upon him. And he left the oxen, and ran after Elijah, and said, Let me, I pray thee, kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow thee. And he said unto him, Go back again: for what have I done to thee? And he returned back from him, and took a yoke of oxen, and slew them, and boiled their flesh with the instruments of the oxen, and gave unto the people, and they did eat. Then he arose, and went after Elijah, and minister
ed unto him." We find Elijah, after he had departed from Horeb, arrived at Abel-meholah, in Palestine, near the river Jordan, on the estate of Elisha the son of Shaphat, commencing the accomplishment of what the Lord had commissioned him to do. He calls Elisha, and Elisha obeys the call; these are the two points which require our attention for the
I. From the solitary desert of mount Sinai, we are now to follow the prophet back to the smiling low-lands of Jordan, and to walk upon the fruitful plains which surround the little town of Abel-meholah. We there meet with twelve husbandmen behind their ploughs ; eleven of them are servants, but the twelfth is the son of a substantial landed proprietor. He is called Elisha, and his father Shaphat. He does not esteem it beneath his dignity to put his own hand to the work; he drives, in the sweat of his brow, his yoke of oxen before him, in the company
of his servants. The plentiful rains, which had lately descended, had made it delightful to be out in the fields, and to follow the plough. The blessing of God sensibly perfumed the air ; and the fields, which for three years and a half had been a barren wilderness, seemed now, after the refreshing showers, impatient for the seed-time, to unfold their newly derived powers. How often, perhaps, had this husbandman, as he broke up the furrows, conversed with his servants of the mighty wonders with which Jehovah had of late visited their native land! How often, perhaps, was the name of Elijah mentioned, and the fiery sign on Carmel made the subject of discussion! For they had probably been eye-witnesses of that miracle; and might belong to those seven thousand who had not bowed the knee to Baal. Perhaps it was at the very time when they were thus conversing of those wonderful days, that hehold! a man draws near to them, of venerable aspect, covered with a mantle, and having his loins girded as a traveller ; and, as he comes nearer, the oxen stand still
, and the husbandmen look at each other, as if they would say, “ Who can this stranger