« PreviousContinue »
to land, a Divine ratification, as it were, of his call to the ministry—such persons will be the first to sympathize with the unspeakable joy of Elisha, upon beholding the river divided at his word. In his wonderful passage across its bed, he must have experienced feelings something like those of Israel when passing through the Red sea; and of him also it mav be said, that he was baptized in Jordan. Filled with the consciousness of God's nearness to him, he must have felt every doubt and scruple vanish
like the mists before the morning sun. He now strikingly experienced that the Lord God of Elijah had caused a double portion of his spirit to rest upon him; God having given him the same power to exercise over the river, was an earnest of what he had granted him besides. How wonderfully also was his office as a prophet to Israel magnified by this miracle !
Upon his arrival on the other side Jordan, “when the sons of the prophets which were to view at Jericho saw him, they said, The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha; and they came to meet him, and bowed themselves to the ground before him.” This reverential homage had not so much reference to the man, as to the spirit that rested upon him, the Divine power
which showed itself in him. These sons of the prophets not only perceived what was Divine, but they viewed it with affection and veneration. This was a beautiful feature in their character; whereas “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God.” Happy is it also for us, if we are affectionately and reverently affected towards Divine. things, and towards those on whom the Spirit of the Lord rests. It is recorded of one of the most distinguished painters of former days, that when he was a mere boy, after viewing a painting, by Raphael, for some time, with silent transport, he suddenly broke out, with joy beaming in his countenance, as if he had found a great treasure, “I too am a painter !” He then left the picture gallery, mixed his colours, and afterwards produced works, not unlike that which had kindled in him such enthusiasm for his art. In like manner, it may be regarded as a happy sign in ourselves when the spiritual image of an Abraham, an Elijah, or a Paul, transports us with affection, and kindles the ardent wish within us, that our hearts were formed like theirs. And if the consoling thought suggests itself, (I am speaking to those who love and keep the words of Christ,) that we also are the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus, that in us there is something of the same spirit which animated those eminent saints, we ought not to reject such a thought. For he who knows how to understand and appreciate those men, in their peculiar character, and embraces them with affection on account of their spiritual excellences, certainly indicates that something of their mind exists within him ; for like is only understood and loved by its like. Hence the Lord says, “ He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet,” that is, in the character of a prophet, or because he is a prophet, “shall receive a prophet's reward;" for by this reception, he shows himself to be like-minded with him whom he receives.
IV. Elisha, with the spirit of his great predecessor, inherits also his office and his flock. Elijah had not commenced his prophetical course under such favourable circumstances. He had entered upon a waste moral wilderness; whereas his successor finds the fallow ground, as it were, broken up; nay, he even sees here and there a blooming plantation, whose fresh and vigorous shoots already bear the promise of future blessings to Israel.
A minister of the gospel of Christ ought to esteem it no small advantage to find, on entering upon the care of a church, a little flock of really believing souls already waiting to receive him. However small their number, he discerns among them a little leaven, as it were, which is easily capable of further extension, and an echo to his instructions, his prayers, and his praises, from the hearts of affectionate brethren. In this consists the prosperity of a church, and not in earthly property and endow
A church that is rich in the word of God, is rich indeed. It has then the keys of the invisible world ; the weapons against death and hell; the universal remedy for every evil; the wondrous staff that can divide every river ; the tree of life, whose leaves are for the healing of the nations; and the lamp which lights the way through time into eternity. And even should this precious treasure remain like an unemployed capital, still the church by which it is possessed has much cause for thankfulness. It lies at least within the territory of hope, and is like a field which has received the seed into its furrows, although it has not yet sprung up. The husbandman regards it with a hopeful eye, for it needs only that the gentle showers fall, and it may by and by appear clothed in the most beautiful verdure.
We have to congratulate the inhabitants of our own happy valley, that all its churches are more than such fields.* In many places the word has sprung up, and we have long had
* Referring to the valley of Barmen.
It is true,
amongst us many living men of God. If we look around us in our church meetings, how many a brother and sister's face beams upon us there! If we pass through our streets, where is there one in which we might not somewhere or other greet a tabernacle of God with men ? Yea, there are quarters of the town in which house after house is a pavilion of the Lord, and where we meet with groups of humble and consistent christians. And oh, how many a beautiful flower, how many a lily of our valley, blooms in modest concealment, known only to the heavenly Husbandman who refreshes it with his dew, or perhaps to one or two amongst us by whom it has been accidentally discovered! How many a holy soul walks in the midst of us unobserved, and without talking or boasting; while few know the rich treasures of grace it carries within, and the ardent love with which it is attached to its Saviour! Yes, were all who fear the Lord' amongst us to come together into one place, I believe we should be astonished to see how numerous they are. they are of various forms and complexions in outward respects; but they are of one spirit, one faith, and one hope. Oh, how we rejoice in being able to call such husbandry ours! Blessed inheritance, which our never-to-be-forgotten predecessors have left us! To Divine grace alone belongs the praise, honour, and glory.
But to return to Elisha, we left him on his way to Jericho, richly laden with the fruits of the Spirit, to become a blessing to the land ; his own mind sparkling like the starry heavens with a thousand stupendous thoughts and hopes. Elijah's legacy to him may serve to remind us of the better legacy which is bequeathed to every faithful disciple of Christ. The mantle which our Saviour has left to every one of his followers is the robe of his own righteousness, a festal robe indeed! It answers the purpose of armour here, and of priestly glory also, for our entrance into the holiest. It is so interwoven with personal holiness, that the two are always joined together; so that it constitutes the wedding garment of the soul, and sanctifies the members of the body for the service of God.
The God whom we serve is " a just God and a Saviour,” who “ carries the lambs in his bosom,” who deems not the angels too high for our ministering attendants, who combines his own glory and our happiness in one and the same everlasting love. The Spirit of holiness which he imparts to us, though he does not divide the waves of the sea, yet quells in us the troubled conscience; and though he does not act in us as a spirit of prophetic vision, yet “ witnesses with our spirit that we are the children of God." He does not excite us to call down fire from heaven, but he enables us to cry, “ Abba, Father !” and though he does not make us workers of miracles, yet he makes us temples of the living God. Yea, and the office of ministers of the Spirit, as all true christian ministers are, far transcends the office of any prophet of the Old Testament. For our ministry is that of reconciliation, which cries to men, “ye are complete in Him;" and that “ there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit ;” and that “ he will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax." We are not only Christ's messengers, but are commissioned to “beseech men in Christ's stead, to be reconciled to God.” We are sent by him, even as he was sent by the Father. We act in the name of the Son of God, and carry not only the standard, but the keys of the kingdom of heaven, John xx. 23. Behold, beloved brethren in the Lord, thus have we been remembered, in the will of Him who hung upon the cross.
What a glorious legacy! What an unspeakably precious bequest! Let us rejoice always in these superior blessings of Divine grace; and, accounting that “the lines are fallen to us in pleasant places, yea, that we have a goodly heritage,” let us pray and labour, and labour and pray, that we may live accordingly. Amen.
XXVII.-GROWTH IN GRACE.
We know how much depends upon the hands into which a newborn infant comes, and how greatly its health and vigour in after life is influenced by the treatment it receives in its tenderest age. This is true also of new-born babes in a spiritual sense.
It is no unimportant consideration to whose care they are intrusted. How many go haltingly all their days, through being placed under perverted guidance !
There is a religious party existing in the midst of us, which, because it does not receive the doctrine of sin and atonement in the apostolic sense, has no part in the blessed privilege of serving the Lord in gathering and bringing home the sheep of his fold. No icy heart melts under their teaching; no resurrection of the dry-bones takes place under their ministry; yet is that party remarkable for its zeal to extend and increase itself
, although it can only do so by building its wood, hay, and stubble on another man's foundation. The important work of awakening, and of conversion, it leaves to others. It does not begin its labours amongst the dry-bones, but only where the stream of new life has already found its way; neither can it exculpate itself
, with St. Paul, from the charge of entering upon other men's labours, 2 Cor. x. 15. Under its withering influence many a tender plant has pined away, and many a young and hopeful tree has been blasted.
In connexion with this subject, we intend, in the course of our present meditation, to notice the character of genuine practical christianity.
2 KINGS II. 16–18.
“And they said unto him, Behold now, there be with thy servants fifty
strong men; let them go, we pray thee, and seek thy master: lest peradventure the Spirit of the Lord hath taken him up, and cast him upon some mountain, or into some valley. And he said, Ye shall not send. And when they urged him till he was ashamed, he said, Send. They sent therefore fifty men; and they sought three days, but found him not. And when they came again to him, (for he tarried at Jericho,) he said unto them, Did I not say unto you, Go not ?"