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SERMON XLIII.

ELEVENTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY.

2 KINGS, v. 26.

Went not my heart with thee, when the man turned again from his chariot to meet thee?

THE Occasion, on which these words were spoken, you have heard, in the First Lesson for this morning's service. Naaman, the chief captain of the armies of Syria, had received a miraculous cure of his leprosy, by following the directions of the prophet Elisha. Desirous of showing his thankfulness, he had earnestly pressed his deliverer to receive a present, or, as an offering of the kind is called by the Eastern people, a blessing, at his hands. The prophet, for reasons which will be hereafter explained, was fixed in his determination to accept of nothing: but his servant, Gehazi, was less scrupulous. He could not endure the thought of letting such an opportunity of obtaining wealth escape him: nor could he understand the delicacy of his master, in refusing such an offer from one, on whom his claims were so strong. "Gehazi, the

servant of Elisha the man of God, said, Behold, my master has spared Naaman, this Syrian, in not receiving at his hands that which he brought: but, as the LORD liveth, I will run after him, and take somewhat of him. So Gehazi followed after Naaman; and when Naaman saw him running after him, he lighted down from the chariot to meet him, and said, Is all well? And he said, All is well; my master hath sent me, saying, Behold, even now, there be come to me from Mount Ephraim two young men of the sons of the prophets; give them, I pray thee, a talent of silver, and two changes of garments. And Naaman said, Be content, take two talents. And he urged him, and bound two talents of silver in two bags, with two changes of garment, and laid them upon two of his servants, and they bare them before him. And when he came to the tower," (the gateway, that is, of his master's house)" he took them from their hand, and bestowed them in the house: and he let the men go, and they departed. But he went in and stood before his master."

A wise man he thought himself, no doubt, and a fortunate man! By an easy lie he had brought back two costly suits of clothes, (for mean apparel would never be sent by the general of Syria to a prophet, whom he so greatly honoured,) he had brought back two talents of silver, or little less than 500l.; and he had done

all so closely, and in so short a space of time, that Elisha, he hoped, could scarcely have missed him; far less could he suspect what a treasure he had hidden in the house. He went in and stood before his master. But though Elisha's bodily eyes might have seen him not, there was One, whose ever waking eye had seen him all the time, and whose Spirit was not slow to communicate to Elisha the falsehood and covetousness of his servant. That servant had

scarcely time to enjoy, in thought, the treasure which his deceit had purchased, when Elisha said unto him, "Whence comest thou, Gehazi?" Another lie was now necessary to save him from the consequence of the lie which he had already told; and he answered, "Thy servant went no whither.” "Went not my heart with thee," was Elisha's reply,—" went not my heart with thee, when the man turned again from his chariot to meet thee? Is this a time to receive money, and to receive garments, and olive-yards, and vine-yards, and sheep, and oxen, and men-servants, and maidservants? The leprosy, therefore, of Naaman shall cleave unto thee, and unto thy seed for ever! And he went out from his presence a leper as white as snow."

The severity of this punishment may be accounted for, by the following considerations, which prove both the greatness of Gehazi's guilt, and the necessity, under which the prophet lay,

to make him a public example. In refusing the presents of Naaman for himself, Elisha had been guided by a fitting sense of his dignity, as minister of the God of Israel, and of his total dependance on the immediate aid of God, for whatever spiritual gift he enjoyed or exercised. The pretended deities of the heathen were, all of them, supposed not to be above the influence of bribes and offerings; and whoever sought their aid was expected to pay largely both to the idol itself, in sacrifices, or in ornaments for its temple; and to the idol's priests, for their supposed influence with their deity. If, then, there had been any possible appearance, or suspicion, that Naaman had bought his cure, one of two things must have been supposed; either that the Lord of Hosts might be like Ashtaroth, and Baalim, influenced by the sordid views and avaricious expectations of his prophets; or that these prophets had some independent power of their own, which they could exercise at their own will and pleasure, to kill and make alive, without the help, or immediate authority, of the Almighty. It was fit, therefore, to show to this Naaman, and through him to all the nations of the world, that the only offering, which God required from the sick, was repentance and faith unfeigned; that Elisha had no power to point out the means of his recovery, save by the immediate direction and command of God; and

that it was a sin to apprehend, that the health, which was the gift of God, could possibly be purchased with money.

But, by how much the more Elisha's dignified and disinterested conduct was calculated to raise the character of the true religion, in the eyes of the Syrian chief, and of all his countrymen, so much the greater injury would the prophet and his creed receive from the contrary behaviour of Gehazi. What could Naaman possibly think of the teacher of religion, who, having publicly refused at his hands the smallest acknowledgment of his gratitude, throws aside this assumed delicacy so soon as his back was turned; and sends privately after him to ask for such a sum, as two hundred and fifty pounds? He pretends, indeed, that neither this, nor the garments, which he also requested, were for himself; but, even if that pretence were true, there was something mean and inconsistent in recommending his friends to a bounty which he had himself declined. And if Naaman heard, as he was not unlikely to hear, through his servants, in the course of his remaining journey through the territories of Israel, that no such travellers, as Elisha's servant spoke of, had really come to his master's house that day, would he not have thought, that the God of Israel might, indeed, be stronger than the gods of Damascus; but that his ministers were to the full as sordid

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