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shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.” (John xiv. 1, 2, 27 ; xvi. 22.)
Do we profess the religion of the Bible—the religion of love? Let us imitate the example of Elijah,—nay, more, let us emulate the mind of Christ,—by cultivating a free and expansive mercy. Let us seek to do good. Whenever it is in our power to bless a saint of God, or a poor wanderer from the fold, let us hasten to execute the office of a heavenly charity.
The terms of Elijah's proposal are in keeping with his extraordinary character. They prescribe no limit. They seem to throw open to Elisha the Divine treasury, and bid him take the largest blessings. The words become such a Prophet; and they exhibit in the clearest light his intimate intercourse with God, the grasp of his faith, and the power of his prayer. For, of himself, Elijah could do nothing, and give nothing. But, as the servant of God,-instructed in His will, familiar with His designs, gifted with the grace of faithful supplication,-he could do all things. “Is anything too hard for the LORD?" But Elijah's God will not reject the petition of His servant. Prayer closes or opens the windows of heaven,-gives rain or drought, luxuriance or desolation, life or death. It brings down fire from heaven, sustains the widow in famine, raises the dead, divides the Jordan. In his solitude by the brook Cherith, in his sojourn at Zarephath, in the memorable scenes of Carmel, amid the fearful sights and sounds of Horeb,—in a word, in every stage of his eventful history,—arises the bold and commanding evidence of the power of his faith and prayer. And, in glorious harinony with preceding instances, the last proof occurs in the appeal to his disciple and successor, “ Ask what I shall do for thee.”
« The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man" still “ availeth much.” It procures blessings every hour for the world. We are laid under obligation to intercede for others by positive command ; but we have also blessed encouragement. Interceding Ministers have drawn down Divine influence upon their congregations. While they have confessed sin, deprecated merited wrath, and pleaded for mercy, the Spirit of God has moved upon their people. Many hearts have been broken, and many eyes have wept contrite tears.
Intercessions from the domestic sanctuary have secured the happiness and safety of our Christian homes. A cheerful hearth, a plentiful board, the ministry of angels that keep their vigils by our cradles and our beds; the blossomings of early piety,—those beautiful and fragrant promises of holy fruit; and, in brief, the multiplied tokens of Divine regard given to Christian families,—are all answers to prayer.
Christian patriots, pleading with God, secure the safety and prosperity of nations. The church is the safeguard of the state. Her earnest intercessions bring down fertilising rain, or restore unclouded skies ; preserve a land from pestilence, or arrest the course of the destroyer; influence the deliberations of councils, the legislation of senates, the decrees of Kings. Our sins are multiplied and aggra
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vated : but the prayer, “Spare Thy people, O Lord, and give not Thy heritage over to reproach," swells from the bosom of the suppliant church; and the shield of Divine protection is yet thrown over our land. The “wall of fire” still burns around us; and, upon all our institutions, “ the glory” is “ a defence.”
Such illustrations may well assure our faith in the promises, and encourage us to make “supplications, prayers, intercessions” “for all men.” How explicit is the charter of our evangelical privilege! “Whatsoever two of you shall agree to ask, as touching my kingdom, IT SHALL BE DONE.” And again, “Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, HE WILL GIVE IT YOU.” Could we thus ask, in the name of our Lord,-in such confidence as would' apprehend and appropriate His prevalent mediation, and thus fully interest us in His infinite merit, and enable us (in a sense) to pray in IIis person, we should never fail to realise the fulfilment of the promise, “IT SHALL BE DONE."
It is worthy of remark, too, that the Prophet's offer had respect to the present hour. “Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee.” Elijah's departure was at hand. Already the chariot and horses of fire were descending from the opening cloud, and the whirlwind only waited the Divine bidding. A little longer, and the Prophet will be seated in the flaming car, and the fiery coursers will carry him away with unearthly speed. If, then, there be any communication, it must be made at once. The offer, therefore, is present : it proposes a blessing to be given now.
Such characteristics, in their highest degree, distinguish the offers of the Gospel. These are free, full, and present. They are offers of grace, without limitation or reserve.
They are free.—Let us think of their origin, ground, tenor, and bestowment. They are made without our solicitation, and fulfilled without our deserving : for, although the blessings which they propose to our acceptance are conditional, yet the hearty approval and observance of the conditions do not merit the Divine gifts, but only prepare us to receive them. “By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves : it is the gift of God.”
They are full. They comprehend the largest blessings,—even infinite happiness and eternal life,—the perfection of our entire nature in perpetuity. This greatest good is not bounded by the circumference of earth, nor limited to the course of time. It fades not with the lapse of years. It is verdant in the wilderness, buoyant in the storm, immortal in the valley of death. It lightens our darkness, soothes our sorrow, dries our tears, strengthens our weakness, invigorates our hope. It makes life happy, and death triumphant. It scatters light and joy upon the tomb. It attends the disembodied spirit along the ascending “path of life.” It guides to “ the throne of God and of the Lamb." It constitutes the “fulness of joy” in His presence, and the pleasures" at His right hand “ for evermore.”
But these benefits are, in an animating sense, present. They comprise immediate deliverance from the guilt, dominion, and curse of
sin; the enjoyment of the Divine favour and image ; and, in a word, the possession of a gracious title, on the condition of continued faith in the Redeemer's sacrifice and intercession, to all the privileges which the Christian covenant secures to the redeemed in time and for ever. “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” “To-day if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts.” “Come, for all things are now ready.” “The Spirit and the Bride say, Come.” “Believe ou the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.”
We must not fail, however, to observe that the Prophet's offer was conditional : “ Ask what I shall do for thee.” And, had not Elisha observed the condition, he had received no blessing. The simple offer, though an evidence of Elijah's faith in God and love to his disciple and successor, could have secured no benefit. So the bestowment of the great Gospel blessings is contingent and conditional. The offer saves not: it is fulfilled only as it is heartily embraced, and as its terms are faithfully observed. The condition is personal prayer. “Ask, and receive.” “He that asketh receiveth.” “Whatsoever ve shall ask the Father in my name, He will give it you.”
The efficacy of intercessory prayer has been already suggested. But an Abraham's passionate appeal,—“O that Ishmael might live before Thee !”—a Jacob's earnest prayer, “ The Angel which redeemed me from all evil bless the lads !”—a Hannah's consecration of her first-born to the temple of God, —will all fail to secure for their children a personal interest in the covenant of grace, unless these will pray for themselves. The sentiment of Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, when Monica, the excellent mother of Augustine, besought him with many tears to reason with her gifted son on the errors of his belief, “Begone, good woman : it is impossible that the child of such tears should perish,”-—is not unfrequently expressed. But, if Augustine had not prayed himself, he would have perished in spite of even such a mother's tears. The eye of some prodigal may one day glance at this page. Will he listen to a monitory voice? Think of your childhood and your early home. Do you forget the Bible from which your father read the daily lesson, and the melting tones in which he prayed for you? Can you forget a mother's tears, and counsels, and intercessions? Never! But do not suppose that you cannot perish at last because you are the child of such parents. All they said, and did, and suffered,—their anxious thoughts, their faithful monitions, their sacred instructions, their precious tears, their importunate supplications,—will fail to insure your salvation, in the absence of personal contrition and prayer. O hasten to the throne of the heavenly grace. Let some attendant angel now take his flight to heaven with the joyous tidings, “ Behold, he prayeth !”
The circumstances in which Elijah's proposal was made to Elisha, next claim our attention. The principal of these are seclusion, place, and time.
They were alone. They had parted from the sons of the Propbets; and, passing through the Jordan, which had been divided by Elijah's folded mantle, had pursued their way into the silent wilderVOL. VI.-FOURTU SERIES.
ness of Jericho. No human eye saw the reverend Prophet, and no human ear heard his proposal, save the eye and the ear of the son of Shaphat. Thus we have a beautiful illustration of deep humility. Had Elijah desired to attract admiration for extraordinary faith and prophetic authority, he would have addressed his offer to Elisha in the presence of the fifty sons of the Prophets. But he had no such design. His motive had no taint of selfishness. It was simple love to God, to Elisha, to the church, to the nation. Thoughts of self were lost in this living, all-absorbing principle.—Happy, if we imitate the example. It is our wisdom and safety to guard against the influence of spiritual pride; to dismiss exaggerated ideas of our religious attainments; to abstain from high-sounding professions, and from every disposition to exhibit the catalogue of our good works. Spiritual pride is the most odious species of pride ; and, if it find lodgment in the heart, our religion—though abounding in the forms of religious verbiage—will be only “as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.” It is, indeed, the duty of all Christians to testify the saving power of grace. “Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what He hath done for my soul.” “Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another.” But we must be careful to discharge this duty with humility and modesty. Our motive must be holy; and our end, not the exaltation of self, but the glory of God. “Let nothing be done through strife or vain-glory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.” “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think ; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” We are commanded to “ let our light shine before men;" but it is evident, from the tenor of the verse, that this “light” is the steady lustre of a holy life. Our “good works,” moreover, are to be exhibited, not that men may extol ns, but that all around may “glorify our Father which is in heaven.”
It will be remarked, as to the place, that the voice which spoke to Elisha fell not from heaven. His sire was still on earth, and any appeal to him must be made and answered before his departure. A little longer, and, having joined the ranks of heavenly worshippers in the immediate presence of God, he would be unable to receive any petition. The Prophet knew nothing of the doctrine which represents departed saints as intercessors. This is one of the “fond conceits” of the apostate Church, whose ritual contains vain forms of prayer to be addressed to tutelary saints and angels. On earth we are commanded to "pray one for another;" but in heaven there is only ONE who can plead our cause. Is it our privilege to know some saintly man who is more than ordinarily distinguished by the love and practice of prayer,--a “ wrestling Jacob,” a suppliant Moses, or a pleading Elijah ? It will be wise to seek a place in his heart, and an interest in his prayers. But let the application be immediate ; for the summons of his Saviour may soon call him to stand with the heavenly choir, and mingle in their harmonies of praise.
The time is also significant. It was just before the Prophet's departure. The hour of the setting sun is often the most magnificent, and his dying radiance the most glorious. So the final hour of the holy man is a time of more than common light and blessing. His last looks and words glow and burn with the intensity of perfect love.- From the day when Elijah cast his mantle on the son of Shaphat, as he ploughed the fields of Abel-Meholah, he had faithfully loved him; but never had he felt such an affection, or conceived such a desire to bless him, as now in the parting scene. The day of his ascension found him more abundantly imbued with the inspirations of Divine charity. Nor is this a solitary instance. Isaac, in advanced life, and under the impression that he might soon depart, blessed his sons; and dying Israel scattered precious benedictions on his more numerous household. “The blessing wherewith Moses, the man of God, blessed the children of Israel before his death,” is another fine example. Elisha, on his death-bed, promised a triple victory to Joash, and longed to assure him of yet greater triumphs. The second catholic Epistle of St. Peter, written under the consciousness that he would « shortly put off" his “tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ” had “ showed ” him, manifests the deepest concern for the spiritual prosperity of the church. But 0! who can estimate the blessings which the Saviour promised to His disciples in His last discourse,-the depth of the peace He bequeathed,—the value of the gift of the Holy Ghost? Who can characterise His last prayer? And what is the Gospel, in its entire scheme and scope, but the will and testament in which He has made over to us the infinite blessings of eternal life?
Elisha's request is now to be considered : “I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me."--It is worthy of one who had received the instructions of such a teacher. In fervour of love, and prevalence of faith, the offer seems to have been in advance of even the prophetic dispensation ; and the response, also, was expressed in terms breathing the mind of Christ. Both were great and comprehensive. Elisha names no simple gift, no solitary good. His request rises above separate beatitudes, and even above any imagined combination of graces. It seeks, at once, the bestowment of numberless and invaluable blessings upon the church and the nation, as well as upon the suppliant; and comprises, in a word, “grace and glory,” in ceaseless increase, and in perpetuity.
We cannot entertain the idea, that Elisha referred to the natural spirit and courage of the Prophet. The allusion is, doubtless, to the Spirit of God, with which he was so eminently gifted. The Spirit that preserved the Tishbite from apostasy, consecrated him to his office, and enriched him with graces essential to the execution of his commission,—the Spirit that inspired his soul with intense love to God, indignation against Baal-worship, and commiseration with the persecuted church,—the Spirit that directed and sustained his attack apon idolatry, and prompted him, amid terrible signs of Jehovah's anger, to call the nation to repentance, was The Spirit of God.