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XXIII.—THE GREAT REQUEST.
We come now to behold Elijah arrived just at the consummation of his life of faith, and anticipating the perfect enjoyment of that glorious liberty which is the future inheritance of all the children of God.
2 KINGS II. 9, 10.
“ And it came to pass, when they were gone over, that Elijah said unto
Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon
And he said, Thou hast asked a hard thing: nevertheless, if thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee; but if not, it shall not be so.”
The hour, in which the prophet is to be withdrawn from our view, is at hand. The sacred narrative has brought us to the boundary of his earthly course. We have here his last words and his last work; a work indeed less evident to the senses than his former acts; but not inferior, perhaps more astonishing than those. The several matters which at present require our attention are, I. Their position after crossing the river ; II. Elijah's proffer to Elisha ; and, III. The request of the latter, with the answer he received to it.
I. Elijah, whom we here behold beyond Jordan, may, spiritually considered, be regarded as now placed beyond the limits of sublunary evils and sorrows. These things, like the waters of Jordan, now lie behind him. His eternal sabbath of rest is just at hand, and the remaining few moments of his earthly sojourn are now only a blessed waiting for the heavenly chariot. What an enviable situation ! and yet it is in substance the same with that into which the gospel ought already to have brought us all ! Whatever depths or difficulties there be still lying before us, if we had but faith, we might easily surmount them all, and spiritually leave them behind us. For faith substantiates what is hoped for, and evidences the things which are not seen. What is it that makes us tremble ? Is it the waves of death ? Let us embark only in the sweet promise of the Saviour, “ I will come
again, and receive you to myself,” and we have already surmounted them. Is it the storm of temptation ? Let us commit the keeping of body, soul, and spirit to Him who has promised that he “ will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able, but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that we may be able to bear it ;” and the severest and most violent temptations will thus become powerless to us. Does the remainder of our innate corruptions dismay us, so that we are ready to ask, How shall we become perfectly holy? Let us reflect, that Christ is “ made of God unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” Are we disposed to entertain anxious presentiments of temporal and spiritual troubles ? Let us remember that each day is ordered by almighty and everlasting Love, and brings with it that measure of the bitter and the sweet which, according to the judgment of infinite Wisdom, is most conducive to our true peace and welfare.
Ye see then, brethren, what glorious prospects are placed before us by Divine revelation, and how real they are to every sincere member of Christ. So that all such may securely look beyond the Jordan of death, beyond all the intermediate wilderness, toils, and temptations of their way, as if they were already there. Yes, those whose hearts are set upon gaining, by Divine strength, a complete victory over their innate corruptions, may rest assured of their final triumph, and say with the psalmist, “ I will behold thy face in righteousness : I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness,” Psa. xvii. 15.
II. When the two men of God were gone over Jordan, “ Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee.” This was something more than an affectionate parting-word. He wished to communicate to him his last paternal blessing, and this no common one ;
- Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee.” These are great words ! But what kind of benefit did Elijah intend ? Was it some valuable temporal good ? Was it a large grant of worldly riches, honours, or gratifications? O no; he was thinking of good and perfect gifts that came down from above, from the Father of lights. Elisha is, therefore, invited to ask for blessings from the sanctuary; and here we discern a radiance of the glory of the New Testament in the Old. Bold as this expression is, “ Ask what I shall do for thee,” it was perfectly appropriate to the condition of the inspired prophet at the time, for he was evidently favoured with an extraordinary outpouring of prophetic grace.
The words, however, of this address to Elisha serve to remind us of the words of our Lord to his disciples : Verily, say unto you,
shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you : hitherto have
asked nothing in my name ; ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.” You know what is commonly understood by praying in the name of Jesus. People say they pray in his name, when they so present their requests before God as not to hope for acceptance on the ground of their own worthiness, but on that of the merits of Christ and from free grace. They say,
that to pray in the name of Jesus is to pray in humble acknowledgment of our own entire unworthiness of any claim on Divine help, but to hope for it from the tender mercy of God through the merits and blood of Jesus Christ. Is this explanation the true and correct one? It is not exactly incorrect, but it is defective and imperfect. A person may really pray with the state of heart just described, and yet not pray fully in the name of Jesus. For if this expression signified nothing more than to pray, confiding in the merits of the Surety, why did Christ say to his disciples,
“ Hitherto ye have asked nothing in my name ? If the Saviour would have had nothing more to be understood by praying in his name, than to pray as a contrite sinner, trusting in the merits of the Redeemer, then Abraham, Moses, Daniel, David, and others had certainly already prayed in the name of Jesus. But praying in the name of Jesus is here presented to us as something entirely new. The Saviour himself speaks of it as a thing which was not known previous to his appearing upon earth, and which must therefore be regarded as one of the chief privileges of the New Testament dispensation.
If, in the painful consciousness of my desert of condemnation, I approach the eternal Father in prayer, and set Christ before me as my Mediator and Surety, regarding God only as a consuming fire, and considering that without Christ's mediation I should certainly be consumed before Him—have I not then learnt the full import of praying in the name of Jesus ? No, not if I consider the Father as still strange and distant with respect to me, and that I am protected only by Christ from his wrath; for then I am in the bondage of fear before the God of all grace. I ought to approach the Father with a firm belief that I am welcome to come to him in Jesus Christ, and that if I truly loathe myself for all my transgressions, and thus make confession to him, then my sins and iniquities are remembered
Here then may very suitably be applied to me the spirit and import of those words which he spake to his disciples:
“ And I say not, that I will pray the Father for you ; for the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God." Let me then learn to cast all my care upon Him, fully assured, that in Christ I am not merely saved from wrath, through him, but am also num
“ the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” Surely, to pray in the knowledge and belief of all this, is something more than to pray to an offended God with a cold reliance, from necessity, on the merits of Jesus. We all know, that to do any thing in the name of another person is, in some sense, to represent that person ; so that if you
offer a request in my name, and you are refused, this would amount to a disparagement of me. For it is not in reality so much you that ask, as 1. If the request be granted, it is from the respect belonging to and paid to me, that any such request is granted to you. This precisely is the case with respect to asking in Christ's name. Every answer to our prayers is primarily an answer to the intercession of Christ for us, and in him it is that we are accepted, answered, and blessed. Behold then, my brethren, what a blessed privilege the_Saviour imparts to us, when he encourages us to pray to the Father in his name !
Now, he that is enabled, by faith of the operation of the Holy Ghost, to bring his requests before God with holy, filial boldness ; not doubting that if he ask any thing according to his will, he heareth him—such a one prays in the name of Jesus. And in this wise the saints of the Old Testament and the disciples themselves had not yet prayed. Their insight into the mediatorship of Christ had never yet reached so far as to enable them to draw nigh to God in “full assurance of faith.” Indeed the condition of most of the Old Testament saints, in relation to God, though the same in substance, appears to have come far short of this in degree. They knew that, for the Messiah's sake, they should not be condemned; yea, they knew much more than this, and in so far they rejoiced in their redemption. But not many of them appear to have anticipated that fellowship with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ, which was brought fully to light by the gospel. They had not come to “mount Sion, the heavenly Jerusalem,” but had come rather to “the mountain that might be touched, and that burned with fire.” Even of the most eminent of them it is written, that though they died in faith, “having obtained a good report through faith,” as yet “ they received not the promise," Heb. xi. 39. We have seen and heard what they only longed for from afar ;-an infinitely blessed reality has taken the place of “ Ask,
promises and types, and the Lord saith, that “the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than John the Baptist.” We are therefore privileged to appear before God, as children before their kind and loving Father; and we need not wonder, that our Lord mentions the praying in his name as a new thing, which was unknown until
came into the world. Nor ought we here to overlook the largeness of the promise which our blessed Saviour makes to his true disciples. and ye shall receive ; that your joy may be full.” And again, “ Whatsoever
shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.” “ Ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” Brethren, what can we desire more? Nothing in the world is so great, nothing so small, that we might not every moment be receiving from the Father, if we only asked it in the name of Jesus. Say, what would ye desire to have granted you? Is it to be freed from any domestic trouble ; as, for instance, that
sick child should recover ? Would you gladly see your whole household converted to God? Draw nigh unto the Father, and ask for it in Jesus' name, and verily! he will grant it you.
But does not experience seem to contradict this? We answer, it does not really do so. The deceit lies within ourselves, through not really asking in Jesus' name. For let us again call to mind what this asking in his name implies. You might wish very ardently, it is true, for some peculiar interposition of God; and you might express this wish in prayer, and, as you think, in Jesus' name. But in this it is possible that you may be mistaken. A petition is offered in his name, when it is offered in that faith which is of the operation of God, and when that which we ask is according to his will. Luther was enabled to pray in Jesus' name for the lives of his friends, Melancthon and Myconius, who were sick unto death, and already given over; and, lo! he received the petitions which he desired of God: and whatever we pray for, even if it be only gold or silver, it may be granted us when asked for according to his will. Thus the pious professor Franke prayed for means to erect his orphan house ; and immediately the silver and the gold flowed in upon him, and he who on commencing was scarcely able to command a few pence, had soon enough to found that abode of orphan charity and education, whose praise has been in all the churches. The Lord had granted what his servant desired. It is to this effect that St. John addresses us, in his Ist Epistle, chap. iii. ver. 21–23, “ Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep