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his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight. And this is his commandment, that we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.”
What shall we say to these things ? Alas! how little account do we make of such exceedingly great and precious proinises ! How lamentably is this shown by the low state of spiritual advancement in which most are contented to live! Were it otherwise, things would wear a very different appearance amongst us. The heavens would not so often be as brass over our heads, nor the earth beneath us as iron. The church would soon flourish like the lily; there would be more shaking among the dry bones, and a gracious rain would oftener refresh God's inheritance. Our poverty in spiritual things is our shame and our condemnation. It is still but too true of many among ourselves, “ Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name.
But much as these mighty words reprove us, they also serve to encourage us ; for they unfold a glorious prospect of better days to the true church of Christ, whenever they shall generally unite in asking for a new and pentecostal season, a general outpouring of the Spirit of grace and of supplications upon the professing church at large. This good work, we acknowledge, has begun to be engaged in by many a company of devout persons, in various places. But as yet, comparatively speaking, such union of prayer in the name of Jesus is but partial. As soon as it shall be full, and general, and fervent among all real christians, then will the fulness of the desired blessing be poured out.
The same kind of observation applies to individual blessings desired by us. Is it the conversion of a child, or a beloved relative? We too often lament over the condition of such, without ever fervently praying in the name of Jesus on their behalf. It is well worth while, also, to be reminded of the duty of commending to God, in the name of Jesus, all our private cares. This is alike neglected by unbelief on the one hand, and spiritual pride on the other. " What is the use of it?”
the former ;
“God can hardly be supposed to concern himself about my private matters.” And it is the notion of the latter, “ That because God does concern himself about them, therefore I need not do it; neither need I make such things a subject of prayer to him.” But be it remembered, that he has ordained prayer in the name of Jesus as the means of obtaining and receiving our blessings. This is evident from Scripture, and from the experience of all ages of the church. If we are
truly alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord, we shall feel that we can never enough value the inestimable privilege of being thus permitted to ask and to receive. If we do not value such a privilege as this, it must be because we are still unrenewed and dead in spirit; or because we have backslidden or sunk into a lamentable state of sloth and lukewarmness.
Lastly, it may be observed, that such boldness and access, given us in prayer through the faith of Jesus Christ, throws light and evidence on that great truth, “ that when we were enemies, we were reconciled unto God by the death of his Son; and that, being reconciled, we are made the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus." For God, in thus answering our prayers, dealeth with us as with sons; hence the Saviour calls him
his Father, and our Father ;” and he says, " As the Father hath loved me, even so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.”
III. The bold invitation to Elisha to ask what he would from the departing prophet, indicates a state of heart towards God, which was substantially the same with that we have now attempted to describe. Elijah rises high in making such an offer; and Elisha seems to rise still higher in his expectation from it. “I pray thee,” says he, “ let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me;" that is, “I desire to be twice as much baptized with the Holy Spirit, and enriched with his gifts, as thou hast been.” Let us not mistake the worthy Elisha in his request; however lofty it may sound, it proceeds from a humble and holy spirit. I do not believe that Elisha was here referring, as many expositors suppose, to the birth-right of the first-born son, who inherited twice as much as his brothers and sisters, and that he only meant, “ If others inherit a portion of thy spiritual gifts, let this portion be doubled to me, to whom thou hast been more especially a father.” Surely, he rather had his
eye upon the loss which the church would sustain by his departure. This appeared to him immense! he thought that the earth contained no man at all comparable with Elijah. The idea that he, the inconsiderable husbandman of Abel Meholah, should fill up such a breach, or carry on the work of Elijah to its completion, was overwhelming to him. Therefore, if Elijah must depart, his successor would humbly implore sufficient help for his conscious inability. It seems then a feeling of the purest humility and self-diffidence which dictated this request. Perhaps, also, he foresaw by Divine revelation, that his own future labours in Israel would be essentially different from
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those of his great predecessor, and would bear a more evangelical character. After the mighty wind, the earthquake, and the fire, the still small voice of Jehovah's
grace and loving-kindness was to succeed, and be conveyed through Elisha to Israel; and for such a vocation he needed very peculiar endowments. As he was to stand forth in the character of a messenger of the Divine benignity, it was necessary that this peculiarity of his vocation should reflect itself in his whole conduct, and beam as it were in his countenance. Perhaps he felt this also, and therefore said, “ Let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me!”
But, however this may have been, he desired this blessing only in order the more effectually to glorify Jehovah's name. The more any servant of God is humbled within himself, and lives by faith upon Divine grace alone, the higher will his wishes for the glory of God naturally rise.
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IV. To Elisha’s request Elijah answered, “ 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
As if he had said, “ It is no common favour that you ask; neither is it a favour that can be conferred on you by the will of man; it is a rare vouchsafement, and such as few prophets ever have been, or ever will be distinguished with.”
The condition upon which Elijah, by Divine inspiration, made the grant to depend, is also remarkable.
“ If thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee; but if not, it shall not be so.” “If thou see me at my departure, or in the act of departing ;” as much as to say, “Do not expect the gift from me, but from Him, who is taking me away: moreover take notice of the sign which he appoints thee for ascertaining his will in this matter; for by this sign thou shalt understand that the gift is purely of God's bestowal.”
Let us conclude, with noticing the superlative bounty of the New Testament dispensation. You know how frequently, in the first age of the church, the Holy Ghost fell on all them that heard the word, and they spake with tongues and prophesied; and how the common members of the New Testament church were often gifted with power to perform the most stupendous miracles. And thus, as St. Peter tells us, has commenced the fulfilment of “that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh; and on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: and I will show wonders
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in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath,” Acts ü. 16–19. How highly then should we value our privileges, as members of Christ, and partakers of the new dispensation, the heavenly calling ! for behold how the glory of the gospel surpasses every thing that has preceded it ! What are we that we should be thus favoured! and “what manner of persons ought we to be in all holy conversation and godliness !” 2 Pet. iii. Il
THERE can be no doubt, my brethren, that the false and fashionable theology of the present day would not have occasioned half the mischief it has done, had it not assumed so specious an appearance of adhering to the doctrines of the church. The bulk of the people were unable to see through such delusion, and thus the adversary transformed into an angel of light, has, through his subtlety, corrupted their minds from the simplicity that is in Christ. It is true, there is scarcely any of the articles of Scripture doctrine, which is entirely suppressed; but they are not taught in the power and beauty of the Bible, but mutilated and divided, so that the form only is retained, without the substance and power
of the doctrine. Thus a Supreme Being is indeed set forth by them, but one with whom they would forbid us to hold communion. The revealed Son of God is refined into a personified idea, an - unsubstantial image. Immortality and eternal life are spoken of also, but only so long as men are not in earnest in pressing after them. Alas, how is the apostolical warning forgotten,“ Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit,” Col. ii. 8.
But let us have the realities of the Bible, for the human heart needs realities, and the more palpable and substantial to our faith they are, the better. We want the knowledge of an intelligible God; and God is only intelligible to sinful man by the gospel, and by that manifestation of himself in our human nature which is revealed in the Scriptures. We want just such a knowledge of Divine providence as is taught by him who said, “ The very hairs of your head are all numbered.” We want a Divine Surety, who having obeyed, suffered, been judged and punished in our stead, has made a perfect and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world. We need a heavenly home into which we may be received, a kingdom which cannot be moved, a world more substantial than the present, which has become subject to vanity. We need a re-union of the soul with the body, changed indeed and glorified, but still