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place of happiness, as he had conducted the Israelitos to the land of Canaan. · Elijah being pleased with the constancy of Elisha's affection and attendance, permitted him to ask what he should do for him. Elisha, knowing that he was anointed to succeed his master as chief or FATHER of the ProPHETS, earnestly desired to be eminently qualified for the important services he might be required to perform. He well knew that the Holy Spirit, which inspired Elijah, was the gift of God, but begged for this prophet's intercession with the LORD, that he might have a double portion of it; for as Elijah had in those intervals wherein he was left to himself, committed errors, Elisha wished to be at all times under the guidance of DIVINE DIRECTION, from an humble sense of the infirmities of his nature, and the expectation he had of great opposition from the impious king who at that time reigned over Israel. Elijah could not give his friend immediate satisfaction, but advised him to continue his attendance, that he might be prepared, and in a proper disposition of mind, to receive this distinguishing honour. He had asked a hard thing, what was indeed beyond this great prophet's power to bestow as his own right ; all he could do was to entreat the LORD to transfer to his successor the inestimable gift he himself had so long enjoyed, in such a degree as should seem good to infinite wisdom. We may suppose, that Elijah spake prophetically when he told Elisha, that if he should see him when he was taken from him, he might consider this circumstance as a sign that the LORD would grant his desire. The event happened agreeably to his wishes. He saw his dear master taken up triumphantly to heaven: yet,“notwithstanding* he received the appointed token, that his request would be granted, he could not refrain his sorrow for his own and Israel's loss, but brake forth into pathetic lamentations : My father ! My father! the chariot of Israel, und the horsemen thereof! Elisha considered himself as a fatherless child, thrown on the 'wide world, for Elijah had been the guide of his youth. The people of Israel had lost their best guard; for this prophet, by his counsel, reproofs, and prayers, had kept off the judgments of God, which their wickedness would otherwise have provoked; and was, on this account, better to them than the strongest force of horses and chariots : the departure therefore of this holy, man was like the rooting of an army, an irreparable loss."
* Henry's Annotations,
The miraculous mamer in which Elijah was taken from earth is very astonishing; and it is impossible to give a more satisfactory explanation of it than that which we find in the scriptures; because there is no accounting for it by natural means, as it was an extraordinary act of ALMIGHTY Power, exerted for a peculiar purpose.
Numbers of the propliets had been permitted of God to come to untimely ends, which had given occasion to wicked men to exult over their survivors, and to dispute the power and goodness of the Lord, as he had not interposed to preserve his servants from the rage of their enemies. That remaining prophets might not be intimidated from discharging their duty, by the miserable fate of their predecessors, it pleased God to convince them, that there was another world, in which they would be secure from the persecutions of their enemies, and receive a recompense for all the sufferings they should endure on earth. Nothing could more effectually answer this purpose than the visible translation of Elijah; as it pointed out to the faithful, that those holy men, who went bio fore, were exalted to a state of happiness, though their exaltation was not apparent to mortal eyes, because they
left their bodies behind them; but we may reasonably conjecture, (from many texts in scripture that their deaths had been made easy to them by the comforts of the Holy Spirit, and that their souls were honoured in the sight of angels, who conducted them to that paradise ofrest, appointed by the SUPREME Being, for those who by patient continuance in well-doing, seek for glory and immortality. If any one amongst the prophets deserved to be exenipted from death as a reward, surely it was Elijah, wlio bad so often boldly exposed his life in the discharge of the duties of his office. How his body was changed, and rendered fit for a celestial existence, is a vain enquiry, for it is impossible for us to know.
Elisha, when his transport of grief was over, clad himself in Elijah's mantle, which he received as a token of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon him; and, willing to try whether he was also invested with the power of Elijah, he smote the waters of Jordan, carnestly seeking the aid of the Lord, and received the same favour as had been lately granted to his master. This miracle was a convincing proof to the sons of the prophets, who were spectators of it, that the Spirit which inspired Elijah did rest upon Elisha, and that he was entitled to the same respect as they had been accnstomed to pay to his predecessor : and they readily submitted to him as their chief or father, which no doubt was a great encouragement to Elisha.
The proposal which the prophets made to search for Elijah, might proceed from their affection for him, which inclined them to hope that he would yet be restored to them; or they might think it necessary to make this search, in order to justify to the people their acceptance of Elisha in his stead. Elisha was at last ashamed to oppose them, lest he should be thought wanting in respect to his old master, or reluctant to resign his mantle.
think, that they had received intimation of Elisha's approach, and regarding him as their professed adversary, resolved to treat him with derision and contempt. For this purpose they sent their children, or young wen*, to insult him, not merely as an old man, but as the servant of the LORD JEHOVAH. The indignity was not intendo ed against Elisha alone: they did not only reflect upon his age, person, and character, by calling him BALD HEAD, but upon his master Elijah, and in him
the service and servants of God, and even upon God Himself. For when they said Elisha, Go Up, and repeated it, they meant to bid him ascend, as his master had done before him, who went up by a whirlwind into heaven. It is very likely, that these impious youths, who came forth out of the city and inocked, would have gone
farther, and might have killed the good old man. We can. not wonder that Elisha was commanded to curse (or doom them to destruction) by the authority of the LORD; nor that so dreadful a judgment was inflicted on them; for the honour of God was concerned in the preservation of his holy prophet, and the punishment of such open
insulters of his chosen servant. Elisha, from every instance of his life which is recorded, appears to have been of a mild, benevolent disposition ; from whence there is reason to conclude, that he would have forgiven any personal affront to himself : and we
* These comments on the death of the children of Bethelare taken from the vindication of Elisha's conduct towards them, which may be found in Dr.Gregory Sharpe': Second Argument in Defence of Chrisa tianity, fc. This learned author informs us, that the Ilebrew word, here rendered LITTLE, is a general term for quantity or quality ; which were applied to the offspring of men, does not always imply little or small in stature, but is oftentimes used to distinguish them from the more advanced in years, as the young from the old. The other word children is in very many places used for young men and strvants.
cannot suppose that he would have been so severe as to have cursed a number of little boys and girls, who were playing innocently in the streets, merely for observing the naked appearance of his head, and desiring him to pass on, and not disturb their mirthful sport: though even little children would have been deserving of rebuke and chastisement, for such an expression, if thuir parents had taught them the reverence due to the aged ; but if the inhabitants of Bethel brought up their children from their early infancy, to despise and scoff at the ministers of the Lord, they certainly provoked God to send judge ment upon themselves : and no circumstance could have afflicted these sinners more than having their little ones torn to pieces by a furious wild beast, since even wicked persons usually love their offspring. As for the poor children, death could not be an evil to them in such a case, but a mercy, since it did but remove them from a world where they were devoted to vice and impiety, into a state of perfect happiness. So that, whether those who were slain by the bears were young men or little children, the justice of God clearly appears, and the prophet is vindicated from the imputation of cruelty. May the history of this dreadful visitation influence children and youths to regulate their own conduct by it, both in relation to the respect which it becomes them to pay to persons grown venerable by experience, and a good life; and to the reverence which is due towards the ministers of Gud!
THE BEGINNING OF THE REIGN OF JEHORAM (CALLED
ALSO JORAM) KING OF ISRAEL.
From 2 Kings, Chap. iii. Now Jehoram the son of Ahab began to reign over