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Doubtless it was devotion that moved this suit. The Syrian saw God had a propriety in Israel, and imagines that he will be best pleased with his own. On the sudden was Naaman half a proselyte; still here was a weak knowledge with strong intentions : he will sacrifice to the Lord, but where? In Syria, not in Jerusalem : not the mould, but the altar is that which God respects, which he hath allowed nowhere but in his chosen Sion. This honest Syrian will be removing God home to his country; he should have resolved to remove his home to God: and though he vows to offer no sacrifice to any other god, yet he craves leave to offer an outward courtesy to Rimmon, though not for the idol's sake, yet for his master's. “In this thing the Lord pardon thy servant, that when my master goeth into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leaneth on my hand, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon thy servant in this thing” Naaman goes away resolute to profess himself an Israelite for religion ; all the Syrian court shall know that he sacrifices upon Israelitish earth to the God of Israel ; they shall hear him protest to have neither heart nor knee for Rimmon. If he must go into the house of that idol, it shall be as a servant, not as a supplicant ; his duty to his master shall carry him, not his devotion to his master's god; if his master go to worship there, not he; neither doth he say, “When I bow myself to the image of Rimmon, but, in the house:” he shall bow to be leaned upon, not to adore : yet had not Naaman thought this a fault, he had not craved a pardon: his heart told him, that a perfect convert should not have abided the roof, the sight, the air of Rimmon; that his observance of an earthly master should not draw him to the semblance of an act of outward observance to the rival of his Master in heaven; that a sincere detestation of idolatry could not stand with so unseasonable a courtesy.
Far therefore is Naaman from being a pattern, save of weakness ; since he is yet more than half a Syrian; since he willingly accuses himself, and, instead of defending, deprecates his offence. It is not for us to expect a full stature in the cradle of conversion. As nature, so grace rises, by many degrees, to perfection. Leprosy was in Naaman cured at once, not corruption.
The prophet, as glad to see him but thus forward, dismisses him with a civil valediction. Had an Israelite made this suit, he had been answered with a check. Thus much from a Syrian was worthy a kind farewell ; they are parted.
Gehazi cannot thus take his leave ; his heart is mailed up in the rich chests of Naaman, and now he goes to fetch it. The prophet and his man had not looked with the same eyes upon the Syrian treasure ; the one with the eye of contempt, the other with the eye
of admiration, and covetous desire. The disposition of the master may not be measured by the mind, by the act of his servant. Holy Elisha may be attended by a false Gehazi: no examples, no counsels will prevail with some hearts. Who would not have thought, that the follower of Elisha could be no other than a saint? Yet, after the view of all those miracles, this man is a mirror of worldliness. He thinks his master either too simple, or too kind, to refuse so just a present from a Syrian ; himself will be more wise, more frugal. Desire hastens his pace; he doth not go, but run after his booty: Naaman sees him, and, as true nobleness is ever courteous, alights from his chariot to meet him. The great Lord of Syria comes forth of his coach to salute a prophet's servant; not fearing that he can humble himself overmuch to one of Elisha's family. He greets Gehazi with the same word wherewith he was lately demitted by his master; " Is it peace ?” So sudden a messenger might seem to argue some change. He soon receives from the breathless bearer news of his master's health and request : "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.” Had Gehazi craved a reward in his own name, calling for the fee of the prophet's servant, as the gain, so the offence had been the less; now, reaching at a greater sum, he belies his master, robs Naaman, burdens his own soul. What a sound tale hath the craft of Gehazi devised of the number, the place, the quality, the age of his master's guests, that he might set a fair colour upon that pretended request; so proportioning the value of his demand, as might both enrich himself, and yet well stand with the moderation of his master! Love of money can never keep good quarter with honesty, with innocence. Covetousness never lodged in the heart alone; if it find not, it will breed wickedness. What a mint of fraud there is in a worldly breast ! how readily can it coin subtile falsehood for an advantage!
How thankfully liberal was this noble Syrian! Gehazi could not be more eager in taking, than he was in giving; as glad of so happy an occasion of leaving any piece of his treasure behind him, he forces two talents upon the servant of Elisha, and binds them in two bags, and lays them upon two of his own servants; his own train shall yield porters to Gehazi. Cheerfulness is the just praise of our beneficence. Bountiful minds are as zealous in overpaying good turns, as the niggardly are in scanting retributions.
What projects do we think Gehazi had all the way? how did he please himself with the waking dreams of purchases, of traffic, of jollity! and now when they are come to the tower, he gladly disburdens and dismisses his two Syrian attendants, and hides their load, and wipes his mouth, and stands boldly before that master whom he had so foully abused. O Gehazi, where didst thou think God was this while ? Couldst thou thus long pour water upon the hands of Elisha, and be either ignorant or regardless of that undeceivable eye of Providence, which was ever fixed upon thy hands, thy tongue, thy heart ? couldst thou thus hope to blind the eyes of a seer? Hear then thy indictment, thy sentence, from him whom thou thoughtest to have mocked with thy concealment; “Whence comest thou Gehazi ?” Thy servant went no whither." He that had begun a lie to Naaman, ends it to his master: whoso lets his tongue once loose to a wilful untruth, soon grows impudent in multiplying falsehoods. Of what metal is the forehead of that man, that dares lie to a prophet? what is this but to out-face the senses?
“Went not my heart with thee, when the man turned again from his chariot to meet thee ?” Didst thou not till now know, O Gehazi, that prophets have spiritual eyes, which are not confined to bodily prospects? didst thou not know that their hearts were often where they were not ? didst thou not know that thy secretest ways were overlooked by invisible witnesses ? Hear then and be convinced: hither thou wentest, thus thou saidst, thus thou didst, thus thou spedst. What answer was now here but confusion ? Miserable Gehazi! how didst thou stand pale and trembling before the dreadful tribunal of thy severe master, looking for the woful sentence of some grievous judgment for so heinous an offence! “Is this a time to receive money, and to receive garments, and (which thou hadst already purchased in thy conceit) olive-yards, and vineyards, and sheep, and oxen, and men-servants, and maid-servants?” Did my mouth refuse, that thy hands might take? Was I so careful to win honour to my God, and credit to my profession, by denying these Syrian presents, that thou mightest dash both in receiving them? Was there no way to enrich thyself but by belying thy master, by disparaging this holy function in the eyes of a new convert ? Since thou wouldst needs, therefore, take part of Naaman's treasure, take part with him in his leprosy ; “ The leprosy of Naaman shall cleave unto thee, and unto thy seed for ever.” Oh heavy talents of Gehazi! Oh the horror of this one unchangeable suit, which shall never be but loathsomely white, noisomely unclean ! How much better had been a light purse and a homely coat, with a sound body, a clear soul! Too late doth that wretched man now find that he hath loaded himself with a curse, that he hath clad himself with shame: his sin shall be read ever in his face, in his seed: all passengers, all posterities shall now say, Behold the characters of Gehazi's covetousness, fraud, sacrilege! The act overtakes the word: “He went out of his presence a leper as white as snow.” It is a woful exchange that Gehazi hath made with Naaman ; Naaman came a leper, returned a disciple; Gehazi came a disciple, returned a leper: Naaman left behind both his disease and his money ; Gehazi takes up both his money and his disease. Now shall Gehazi never look upon himself but he shall think of Naaman, whose skin is transferred upon him with those talents, and shall wear out the rest of his days in shame, and pain, and sorrow. His tears may wash off the guilt of his sin; shall not, like another Jordan, wash off his leprosy; that shall ever remain as an hereditary monument of Divine severity. This son of the prophet shall more loudly and lively preach the justice of God by his face, than others by their tongue. Happy was it for him, if, while his skin was snow-white with leprosy, his humbled soul was washed white as snow with the water of true repentance.