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Heaven for recompence—all this is a kind of speaking, though without the use of words. And in this way many a pious departed person still speaks, though his tongue may have long been silent in the
and many a church and family is thus spoken to by the example of some departed member. What a cloud of such invisible witnesses encompasses us, my brethren! How many never-to-be-forgotten pilgrims of God, whose names still live in our hearts or memories, still preach to us, encourage and comfort us, by their still remembered words and examples ! Thus their influence on earth has not ceased with their earthly life. But here, it should seem, that the prophet Elijah did not speak merely by example to those he left behind : he spake by a writing.
We are not, however, to expect that many will believe this in the present age, which has for some time been endeavouring to cleanse every corner of the earth from the belief of whatever is miraculous and supernatural. But we cannot conceal our belief, that this is one scriptural instance which teaches us, that between the kingdom of the blessed and the dark vale of our pilgrimage, there is not such a vast distance as most persons are apt to imagine. And are there not several other instances in Scripture which support this belief? Did not Samuel personally appear after his decease, and speak to Saul in common human language? Did not Elijah and Moses, more than a thousand years after their departure, meet their Saviour and his disciples on the mount of transfiguration ? Did not the apostles, when they beheld their Divine Master walking on the sea, and again when he appeared after his resurrection, imagine they saw an apparition from the invisible world; and did not our Lord, instead of reproving them for this, as mere superstition, only appeal to their senses to convince them that he was not such an apparition as they supposed him to be ? Peter, too, after his deliverance from prison, was mistaken by the brethren for his spirit, as if they had thought he had died in prison ; and is there a word said in Scripture to contradict any such supposed erroneous notion, namely, of the possibility of departed saints re-appearing in this visible world ?
This awful writing comes to Jehoram, nearly eight years after Elijah's removal, and this is all we learn from the sacred text, for no explanation is given. How, then, is the fact to be explained ? There are three different answers given to this question. The first is twofold: either that the name Elijah is here put for Elisha, because the latter came in the spirit and power of the former ; or else that it is put for Elisha by a mistake of the transcribers. Now, neither part of this twofold answer is
by any means satisfactory. The former supposition is unsatisfactory, because it is contrary to the whole analogy and simplicity of Scripture, in plain historical narration, that one man should be called by the name of another. The latter is unsatisfactory, because we have no evidence whatever that
mistake has here been made by the copyists, but all the evidence lies on the other side. For instance, the Septuagint version, which was very early made, and very widely spread, has it Elias ; that is, according to its greek, Elijah, and not Elisha, which latter word in greek is Eliseus. Again, the jewish historian, Josephus, in his Antiquities, a work also very widely spread in the world for ages, referring to this event, has expressly the word Elias, or Elijah.
The second answer that has been given to account for this writing coming to Jehoram at that time is, that Elijah wrote it by prophetic prescience before he left the earth, and of course before Jehoram ascended the throne of his father, and either deposited it with the sons of the prophets, or committed it to the care of Elisha, and commissioned him to send it to Jehoram at a time prescribed. But as we have no evidence of such a fact, so we have no probable assumption for supposing it.
The third explanation remains to be considered ; namely, that this writing literally came from Elijah the prophet, after his ascension from the earth. And why not, as well as by the agency of an angel, if it thus pleased God to make use of the prophet Elijah? In what manner it was done, we attempt not to explain, any more than we attempt to explain how this prophet appeared unto Peter, and James, and John, at our Lord's transfiguration on the holy mount. We venture not to explain how far the
powers and sphere of action vouchsafed to the “ spirits of just men made perfect” are extended ; much less to assert that they bear no relation to the state of the church militant here on earth.
With this explanation we dismiss the discussion, and proceed to the particulars of the narrative.*
II. The awful writing which came to Jehoram contained unwonted language for a monarch's attention. Doubtless it must have occasioned momentary terror and alarm ; but we read of no contrition, much less of true repentance on his part. Alas, to what insensibility and obduracy can a man arrive by pride,
* Note by the Editor.—The most current opinion amongst commentators is, that the Spirit of prophecy directed Elijah to prepare this writing, before his translation, in the foresight of Jehoram's crímes; and that it was probably left with Elisha, to transmit it to him.
infidelity, and frivolity! Yet surely this warning was sent by a merciful God, in order to alarm and awaken him to true repentance and conversion. Had it produced such an effect, doubtless the awful threatening would have been averted, as in the case of Nineveh ; and, as in the case of his own father-inlaw, evil had been partially averted by Ahab's partial humiliation. For God is slow to anger, good, and ready to forgive. He hath no pleasure at all in the death of a sinner, but rather that he should turn from his wickedness and live, Ezek. xviii. 23. But, in case he repented not, the sentence announced in this writing was a judicial sentence; and this was awfully the case in the present instance. Jehoram, when this writing came to him from Elijah the prophet, had nearly filled up the measure of his iniquity; and yet two years elapsed, after the arrival of the Divine message to him, before the threat was fully accomplished in cutting him off from the earth. Such is the patience and long-suffering of God!
Let us now review the contents of the writing which came to him from Elijah. It commences with reminding him of his chief sins and provocations.
66 Thus saith the Lord God of David thy father, Because thou hast not walked in the ways of Jehoshaphat thy father, nor in the ways of Asa king of Judah, but hast walked in the way of the kings of Israel, and hast made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to go a whoring, like to the whoredoms of the house of Ahab, and also hast slain thy brethren of thy father's house, which were better than thyself." How terrible this accusation ! how abominable the sins here noticed! But be not deceived, as if the Holy Spirit of God can be vexed and grieved only with such sins as these of Jeho
God can say to many among us, “I have given you the good word of life, and ye have heard it and read it; and yet have gone on in sin and vanity. I have sent you one messenger after another, but ye have not hearkened to them; one affliction after another, but ye heard not the rod, nor Him who appointed it: I reminded you of one commandment after another, but ye have not laid them to heart !”
Elijah addresses Jehoram, “ Thus saith the Lord God of David thy father !” This was to recall to his memory what God had done for his family in times past, and therefore to remind him the more forcibly of his own ingratitude. It was also thus intimated to him, that he only sat on the throne because it had been promised to David, that his house should continue to the coming of the Messiah ; and, further, that he might have learnt even from David's own history and language, that
with the Lord there abundant forgiveness and plenteous redemption.
“Because,” continues the writing, “ thou hast not walked in the ways of Jehoshaphat thy father, nor in the ways
of Asa king of Judah, but hast walked in the way of the kings of Israel.'
ere, therefore, is a remembrance of his own pious father and grandfather; and, consequently, an intimation of the so much greater heinousness of his guilt. Asa, his grandfather, had reigned forty-one years at Jerusalem, and had set an excellent example. “He had done that which was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God, even as his father David had done: for he took away the altars of the strange gods, and the high places, and brake down the images, and cut down the groves. As a true shepherd of his people, he was not less anxious for their spiritual and eternal welfare, than for their temporal prosperity. By his own conduct and ordinances, he had called upon Judah to “ seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, and to do the law and the commandment ;” and the Lord had crowned these pious endeavours with the happiest results. Asa, as a thorough reformer, determined not to rest until the last idol in his land was burnt, and every heathenish altar thrown down. He had called his subjects back, from the groves and high places, to the altars of Jehovah; and the people had obeyed the call, “ and entered into a covenant to seek the Lord God of their fathers, with all their heart and with all their soul.” As a vigi• lant and indefatigable ruler, he laboured to promote the social
welfare of his people and the external security of his kingdom ; and, as a valiant general, he obtained many a triumph over mighty foes, because he trusted in the God of Israel, and marched out with the watchword, “ Lord, it is nothing with thee to help, whether with many, or with them that have no power,” 2 Chron. xiv. 11. Towards the end of his life, indeed, he on one occasion resorted to the vain hope of man, instead of looking supremely to the Lord, 2 Chron. xvi. 12; and he had to repent of it bitterly. But he slept in God, and the people consecrated his ashes with tears of gratitude and affection.
A still more illustrious king than Asa was Jehoram's father, the excellent Jehoshaphat. His example shines to this day as worthy the imitation of all rulers. The sacred historian records of him, that the Lord was with him because he walked in the first ways of his father David, and sought not unto Baalim, but sought to the Lord God of his father, and walked in his commandments,” 2 Chron. xvii. 3, 4. He continued and completed the reformation which his father Asa had begun. The well-being
of his people, in the highest and holiest sense of the term, was the great object which he kept continually before him. He, more than once, travelled through the land, from Beersheba to the mountains of Ephraim, to strengthen his people in the faith, and to bring back many to Jehovah, the God of their fathers ; and the Lord gave great success to the labours of his royal missionary. He sent also priests and levites about the country, with the book of God's law in their hands, to instruct the ignorant, and to establish the better informed. And we read that “the fear of God was upon all the kingdom bordering upon Judah, when they had heard that the Lord fought against the enemies of Israel. So the realm of Jehoshaphat was quiet : for his God gave him rest round about,” 2 Chron. xx. 29, 30. “ Also some of the philistines brought Jehoshaphat presents and tribute silver, and the arabians brought him flocks, and Jehoshaphat waxed great exceedingly,” 2 Chron. xvii. 10–12. “ And he set judges in the land throughout all the fenced cities of Judah," to watch over right and justice, and to determine individual disputes. “And he said to the judges, Take heed what
do; for ye judge not for man, but for the Lord, who is with
you in the judgment. Wherefore now let the fear of the Lord be upon you,” 2 Chron. xix. 5—7. If he went to war, his first preparation was by fasting and prayer, 2 Chron. xx. 3. His army, distinguished both for discipline and courage, amounted to one million and eighty thousand strong, 2 Chron. xvii. 14, &c. Yet his wars were entirely defensive. He gladly remained at peace whenever the foe left him at leisure, to improve his country and to give fresh impulse to its prosperity by founding new cities, and by promoting education and commerce. Thus did this worthy descendant of David reign. Happy the country which is blest with such a governor! Let us not meddle with those that are given to change, but rather pray that the “ powers that be ” may ever be disposed to rule like Jehoshaphat. This is one of our plainest christian duties. See 1 Tim. ii. 1, 2.
Such were the honourable ancestors of Jehoram. He had been trained up in the very beams of such excellent examples. Nevertheless he had wilfully yielded to his own natural vanity and pride, and by thus neglecting to hearken to instructors, and listening probably to flatterers, he gradually waxed worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived, till he became such a monster of iniquity that a worse monarch never sat on the throne of David. It seems as if he had made it his aim openly to set at nought the example of his excellent predecessors, by the disgusting contrast of his own; nay, as if he had made it his chief