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spent in the remedy ; he sends his servant with all speed to lay his staff upon the face of the child, charging him to avoid all the delays of the way. Had not the prophet supposed that staff of his able to beat away death, why did he send it? And if upon that supposition he sent it, how was it that it failed of effect? Was this act done out of human conceit, not out of instinct from God? or did the want of the mother's faith hinder the success of that cure? She, not regarding the staff, or the man, holds fast to Elisha; no hopes of his message can loose her fingers : “ As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee." She imagined that the servant, the staff, might be severed from Elisha ; she knew that wherever the prophet was, there was power; it is good relying upon those helps that cannot
fail us. Merit and importunity have drawn Elisha from Carmel to Shunem; he finds his lodging taken up by that pale carcass, he shuts his door, and falls to his prayers; this staff of his, whatever became of the other, was long enough, he knew, to reach up to heaven, to knock at those gates, yea, to wrench them open: he applies his body to those cold and senseless limbs; by the fervour of his soul he reduces that soul, by the heat of his body he educeth warmth out of that
corpse: the child sneezeth seven times, and as if his spirit had been but hid for the time, not departed, it falls to work afresh; the
the lips and hands move. The mother is called in to receive a new life in her twice-given son; she comes in full of joy, full of wonder, and bows herself to the ground, and falls down before those feet which she had so boldly laid hold of in Carmel. Oh, strong faith of the Shunammite, that could not be discouraged with the seizure and continuance of death ; raising up her heart still to an expectation of that life, which to the eyes of nature had been impossible, irrevocable! Oh, infinite goodness of the Almighty, that would not suffer such faith to be frustrate, that would rather
reverse the laws of nature, in returning a guest from heaven, and raising a corpse from death, than the confidence of a believing heart should be disappointed!
How true an heir is Elisha of his master, not in his graces only, but in his actions ! both of them divided the waters of Jordan, the one as his last act, the other as his first ; Elijah's curse was the death of the captains and their troops, Elisha's curse was the death of the children ; Elijah rebuked Ahab to his face, Elisha Jehoram; Elijah supplied the drought of Israel by rain from heaven, Elisha supplied the drought of the three kings by waters gushing out of the earth ; Elijah increaseth the oil of the Sareptan, Elisha increased the oil of the prophet's widow ; Elijah raised from death the Sareptan's son, Elisha the Shunammite's; both of them had one mantle, one spirit ; both of them climbed up one Carmel, one heaven.
ELISHA WITH NAAMAN. Of the full showers of grace which fell upon Israel and Judah, yet some drops did light upon their neighbours. If Israel be the worse for her nearness to Syria, Syria is the better for the vicinity of Israel. Amongst the worst of God's enemies, some are singled out for mercy.
Naaman was a great warrior, an honourable courtier, yet a leper: no disease incident to the body is so nasty, so loathsome as leprosy. Greatness can secure no man from the most odious and wearisome condition. How little pleasure did this Syrian peer take to be stooped to by others, while he hated to see himself! Even those that honoured him avoided him, neither was he other than abhorred of those that flattered him ; yea, his hand could not move to his mouth without his own detestation; the basest slave of Syria would not change skins with him, if he might have his honour to boot : thus hath the wise God thought meet to sauce the valour, dignity, renown, victories of the famous general of the Syrians. Seldom ever was any man served with simple favours; these compositions make both our crosses tolerable, and our blessings wholesome.
The body of Naaman was not more tainted with his leprosy, than his soul was tainted with Rimmon, and, besides his idolatry, he was a professed enemy to Israel, and successful in his enmity. How far doth God fetch about his purposes! The leprosy, the hostility of Naaman, shall be the occasions of his salvation ; that leprosy shall make his soul sound, that hostility shall adopt him a son of God: in some prosperous inroads that the Syrians, under Naaman's conduct, have made into the land of Israel, a little maid is taken captive, she shall attend on Naaman's wife, and shall suggest to her mistress the miraculous cures of Elisha. A small chink may serve to let in much light; her report finds credit in the court, and begets both a letter from the king, and a journey of his peer. While the Syrians thought of nothing but their booty, they bring happiness to the house of Naaman: the captivity of a poor Hebrew girl is a means to make the greatest lord of Syria a subject to God: it is good to acquaint our children with the works of God, with the praises of his prophets. Little do we know how they may improve this knowledge, and whither they may carry it: perhaps the remotest nations may light their candle at their coal: even the weakest intimations may not be neglected ; a child, a servant, a stranger may say that which we may bless God to have heard. How well did it become the mouth of an Israelite to extol a prophet, to wish the cure of her master, though an Aramite, to advise that journey unto the man of God, by whom both body and soul might be cured! True religion teacheth us pious and charitable respects to our governors, though aliens from the commonwealth of God.
No man that I hear blames the credulity of Naaman; upon no other ground doth the king of Syria send his chief peer, with his letters to the king of Israel, from his hands requiring the cure: the Syrian supposed that whatever a subject could do, a sovereign might command; that such a prophet could neither be out of the knowledge, nor out of the obedience of his prince; never did he dream of any exemption, but imagining Jehoram to be no less a king of prophets than of people, and Elisha no less a subject than a seer, he writes, “Now when this letter is come to thee, behold, I have herewith sent Naaman my servant to thee, that thou mayest recover him of his leprosy." Great is the power of princes ; every man's hand is theirs, whether for skill or for strength; besides the eminency of their own gifts, all the subordinate excellences of their subjects are no less at their service, than if they were inherent in their persons. Great men are wanting to their own perfections, if they do not both know and exercise the graces of their inferiors.
The king of Israel cannot read the letter without amazement of heart, without rending of garments, and says, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man sends to me, to recover a man of his leprosy? Wherefore consider, and see, I pray you, how he seeketh a quarrel against me!" If God have vouchsafed to call kings gods, it well becomes kings to call themselves men; and to confess the distance wherein they stand to their Maker. Man may kill, man cannot kill and make alive; yea, of himself he can do neither; with God, a worm or a fly may kill
without God, no potentate can do it: much less can any created power both kill and revive; since to restore life is more than to bereave it, more than to continue it, more than to give it; and if leprosy be a death, what human power can either inflict or cure it? It is a trouble to a well-affected heart to receive impossible commands; to require that of an inferior which is proper to the highest, is a derogation from that
supreme power whose property it is. Had Jehoram been truly religious, the injury done to his Maker in this motion, as he took it, had more afflicted him than the danger of his own quarrel. Belike, Elisha was not in the thoughts of the king of Israel: he might have heard that this prophet had made alive one whom he killed not. Himself, with the two other kings, had been eye-witnesses of what Elisha could do; yet now the calves of Dan and Bethel have so often taken
up his heart, that there is no room for the memory of Elisha : whom he sued to in his extremity, now his prosperity hath forgotten. Carnal hearts, when need drives them, can think of God and his prophet; when their turn is served, can as utterly neglect them, as if they were not.
Yet cannot good Elisha repay neglect and forgetfulness. He listens what is done at the court, and finding the distress of his sovereign, proffers that service which should have been required; “Wherefore hast thou rent thy clothes ? Let him come now to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel.” It was no small fright from which Elisha delivers his king. Jehoram was in awe of the Syrians ever since their late victory, wherein his father Ahab was slain, Israel and Judah discomfited: nothing was more dreadful to him than the frowns of these Aramites. The quarrel which he suspected to be hatched by them, is cleared by Elisha; their leper shall be healed; both they and Israel shall know they have neglected a God whose prophet can do wonders. Many eyes, doubtless, are fastened upon the issue of this message. But what state is this that Elisha takes upon him ? he doth not say, “I will come to him ;" but, “ Let him come now to me." The three kings came down once to his tent; it is no marvel if he
prevent not the journey of a Syrian courtier. It well beseems him that will be a suitor for favour, to be obsequious: we may not stand upon terms of our labour or dignity, where we expect a benefit. Naaman