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the body, for it is a component part of man; and, previous and preparatory to all this, we need a real change of heart, a renewal of the soul by the Spirit of God.
Such are some of those realities which our necessities require, and which alone can satisfy our hearts. I say we want these realities to remedy other realities which force themselves upon us in our actual experience. For too real is the wretchedness which all men naturally and morally experience in the present life; disease and death await us ; a body of sin oppresses and brings us low; conscious guilt confounds us ; and nothing can avail to remedy all this but what is actually opposed to it. A paper
shield gives no protection; the bread of dreams affords no support ; we want the solid and substantial realities of Divine revelation. There, and there alone are such realities to be discerned ; and the more they are realized by our faith the happier
In the ascension of Elijah, which we are about to contemplate, we meet with one such solid demonstration of immortality and the life of the world to come.
2 KINGS II. 11, “And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there
appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.”
of Scripture invites us as it were to a coronation, to witness an event most marvellous and most true.
The fact itself first requires our notice ; and then its meaning and signification.
I. We see Elijah and Elisha passing on together in the country beyond Jordan. It was comparatively a solitary region. God did not select the market-place of idlers for the scene of this wonder, but this secluded spot. While the two men of God thus walk on, engaged in holy conversation, “ behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder ; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it."
Well may we be astonished at beholding the glory and honour with which God thus crowns a poor sinner, for such is his best estate” in this world. Let us however remember, that it is not “ flesh and blood,” as such, that “ entereth the kingdom of God; neither can corruption inherit incorruption.” It is not Elijah as born after the flesh, it is not the son of Adam as such but it is Elijah as born again of the Spirit, and as united to the Second Adam, the Lord from heaven, that is thus exalted. The
grace of God towards sinners is that which reigns and triumphs here. What does this wonderful scene indicate, but that the Most High regards and treats as righteous all who “believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment ?” Behold here then the effect of the meritorious sacrifice of Christ ; behold the all-sufficient power of that blood, which speaketh better things than that of Abel; behold the glorious consequences of the obedience and sufferings of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. And oh ! learn also more impressively the exceeding sinfulness of sin ! Such honour, in substance, have all God's saints.
66 What is it for Him to send from on high to fetch me,” (may every true christian say,) seeing he is willing to take me to his bosom
the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort.' He has in infinite wisdom and grace so ordered things, that it shall glorify his own holy name thus to deal with his obedient children. Having conformed them to the image of the only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, it is a small thing with him thus to ratify their union with him for ever.
We need not curiously inquire how Elijah, without dying, could be fit to be conveyed away, inasmuch as flesh and blood, in its present mortal and corrupt state, cannot enter into the kingdom of God. We are told of the mighty working of Jehovah Jesus, " whereby he is able to subdue all things unto himself,” and whereby he will change this body of humiliation, that it
may be like unto his own glorious body; we are told that at the last day we shall not all sleep, but that we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye:” and we may be quite sure that such a change as this now passed upon the body of Elijah. This is enough for our faith at present. His mortality was swallowed up of life, and his corruptible nature had put on incorruption. It cannot further be described what his
eye afterwards began to see, his ear to hear, and his heart to conceive. God, however, has reserved the knowledge and experience of all this for them that love him.
Blessed servant of God, how unspeakable and incomprehensible is now thy everlasting felicity; made glad as thou art with the joy of God's countenance ! Here thou art gathered to thy fathers with honour ; and beholdest Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of God, and thyself numbered with them.
So then we have a patriarchal instance of complete triumph over death in the case of Enoch ; an israelitish instance of the same in the case of Elijah ; and, to crown the whole, the New Testament account of our Lord and Saviour's resurrection and
ascension ; all serving to raise our faith to the certainty of a similar triumph. Let nothing therefore relative to death depress
Let our faith in these truths become every day, by the grace of God, stronger and stronger ; let us grow in gratitude and love, in obedience and patience, until our own faith also shall be swallowed up in vision, and our hope in enjoyment.
II. The wonderful event here recorded is one of the most glorious, significant, and exhilarating facts which the world ever witnessed before the birth of Christ. It served to dispel much obscurity which might occasionally cloud the faith of dying saints under the Old Testament dispensation. It might serve to cheer the minds of many of the faithful but oppressed or afflicted servants of God, in those days, during the course of their earthly pilgrimage. For they would recollect that Elijah too had been thus oppressed and afflicted, and yet how gloriously did he triumph at last! Many a one, too, under deep conviction of sin, and whose faith could not always derive the comfort he needed from the typical sacrifices of the law, might have been preserved from despondency, by remembering this honour visibly put upon one of the penitent sons of Adam, as an encouragement to all who were like-minded with him.
This event also served to prepare the faith of true israelites for the wonders of the New Testament dispensation. That prophetic invocation, “ Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive," would thus be rendered more susceptible of its grandest import in the minds of those who should afterwards wait from age to age for the consolation of Israel. The ascension of Elijah was surely intended to prefigure that of our blessed Saviour. Yet, it became him, as Lord of all, to ascend, not in a fiery chariot waiting upon him, but by a visible manifestation of his own Divine power. Hence it is only said, that “ he was received up into heaven,” that “ while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven :" and that while the disciples “ beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.” Thus his ascension took place before the eyes of men in majestic simplicity and tranquillity, which may doubtless be ascribed to its superior glory, as compared with that of Elijah. For it was the ascension of the Lord from heaven, the Son of God.
In all generations of mankind, the present world has been too narrow for the capacious desires of the human soul. Hence men in every nation, however barbarous, have endeavoured, by one way and another, to pierce the veil that conceals from us
the invisible world and a future state. But whar are the results of all these efforts of human speculation ? They show, that the spirit of man feels as it were its own immortal nature, though they show at the same time our universal need of Divine rivelation. For let us see to what uncertain knowledge of a future state even those men only attained, who stood, as it were, on the very summit of philosophical learning. Cyrus, who had been educated in the schools of the most illustrious persian sages, said at the approach of death, to his children, “I imagine that the soul lives only while it remains in this mortal body. I am rather inclined to think, that when separated from this body, it will possess more understanding and greater purity !” Socrates, the prince of heathen philosophers, when his last hour was at hand, could only say to his judges, “We are about to part; I am going to die, and you to live. Which of us goes the best way is known to God alone !” All that Cicero, the great and polished Roman, could say upon this subject, was,
" I do not wish that what I am about to write of a duration of existence beyond the present life, should be regarded as certain, like a Divine oracle. Upon this subject I entertain no more than conjectures.” Neither have the wise of this world in our own day any better staff to lean upon, while they refuse to rest their hopes on the truths of Divine revelation. Their belief in a future state, if they believe in it at all, is in most cases so barren and comfortless, that death is viewed by them in their reflecting moments as a formidable foe.
But while these wise men can show us nothing more, as the fruit of their deep and laborious speculations, than a poor and barren conjecture, that there is perhaps a future state and an eternal existence of the soul, it is the privilege of the christian to exclaim, in his severest sufferings, “ O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” “We know,” says the apostle, (and how many have been able since to adopt his words as their own !) “ that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” And if
ask the believer the source of this knowledge, he can refer you, not to an empty dream of his own imagination, but to the word of him in whose mouth men and devils endeavoured in vain to find deceit; who confirmed his words by deeds of majesty and power ; who, in proof that death cannot retain its
ever, approached the tombs of the dead, and called them to life by a word; yea, who in his own person rose again and ascended visibly into heaven. Listen to him, when he saith, “In my
Father's house are many mansions : if it were not so, I would have told
go to prepare a place for you: and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also.” Here then is the veil that hides the other world from the eye of sense removed entirely to the eye of faith, and we have only to behold, rejoice, and be glad, at the glorious prospect thus opened before us by the Lord from heaven. And what he has thus revealed is plain and definite ; which if we believe, we know in what we have believed. He shows us a house, a home, a heavenly paternal home ; a real habitation, where we shall know one another, and be with one another upon terms of the most intimate fellowship and the dearest friendship. For the expression “My Father's house,” indicates fainily community, familiar intercourse, living with and in the presence of the Father. Oh how invaluable is the possession of such sure intelligence respecting our eternal habitation in the celestial world ! and how quieting to the heart thus to know of a better country, that is, an heavenly, where peace for ever reigns, where all is perfect harmony and love ! How cheerfully do we continue our pilgrimage in this vale of tears, when we have had a glorious view of the world to come! However stormy the
however high the waves, there is a haven beyond the skies, where we shall certainly arrive and anchor in peace.
Thus we see that a reflected image of the christian's future glory is presented to us in the triumphant exaltation of Elijah, who was originally “a man of like passions as we are.” They who are Christ's, who having crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts, are seeking those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God, who set their affection on things above, not on things on the earth, and whose life is hid with Christ in God—have in themselves an earnest and pledge of their future union with their Lord in glory.
But woe unto the impenitent and unbelieving, for it shall as certainly be ill with them! and this because the great salvation has been neglected, and the riches of Divine grace, and longsuffering, and goodness, and forbearance have been despised. Where this is the case, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin, for it is to Christ's one sacrifice that Elijah and all the saints owe their triumph. God having “made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” “ Worthy,” then, “is the Lamb that was slain, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing!" Amen