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CHAPTER V.

LITTLE ISRAELITISH MAID.-HULDAH.--INFLUENCE OF

WOMEN DURING THE MONARCHY.

THAT the Eternal often chooses the weakest and the feeblest, through whose unconscious influence to spread a knowledge of His ways and works amid the Gentiles, is proved by the mention of the little Israelitish maid (see 2 Kings v. 2, 3, &c.). In one of the predatory excursions of the Syrians into the north of Judea, they had carried off, amongst other booty, a little maid, who became the property of Naaman's wife. Naaman was the captain of the host of the king of Syria, a man of high rank and great valour, who had frequently been the means of deliverance to Syria; but he had become a leper, and was, of course, incapacitated from all public duties and domestic enjoyments. It must have been a sad change to the little maid of Israel; torn from the bosom of her affectionate family, and sold as a slave in the service of a heathen. But it is clear, from her recollection of Elisha, and her earnest wish that her master would go to him to be cured of his leprosy, that she was a child of one of the seven thousand faithful, and one who had been tenderly and spiritually brought up in the religion of her God; and, consequently, with firm faith in the power of His prophets. We can picture her child-like orisons, rising morning and evening in the language of her country to Israel's God, undisturbed by the heathen worship with which she was surrounded;

lingering with fond affection on the memory of her parents, cherishing their instructions in her heart of hearts, and praying to God, as they had taught her, to keep her undefiled, that she might bear witness to His glory.

The effect of true piety never fails to obtain the love and kindness of our fellow-creatures. The respectful deference of the young slave, her quiet discharge of her duties, her uncomplaining gentleness, though often visible sadness, had no doubt attracted the attention of her mistress, and called forth, not only kindness towards the child, but led her to confide in her her own affliction from her husband's disease. A peculiar sanctity ever surrounded the Hebrew, in the eyes even of many ignorant and heathen nations. They were not only the Firstborn of the Lord in spiritual privileges; but, in arts and sciences, and all that marked them, almost an age in advance, both in refinement and intellect. It is not improbable that the wife of Naaman was questioning her young slave as to the treatment of lepers in Judea, of which the child could give her but little information ; but all she had heard of Elisha, we may imagine, flashing on her mind, the power he had received from the Eternal, the miracles he had done, the tender kindness his character had so often evinced, caused the instant exclamation, “ Would God my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria; for he would recover him of his leprosy.” There is no hesitation, no doubt—the very faith of a child satisfied that it was in his power, and he would do it. And so completely did that simple faith enter into the hearts of those who heard, that we find, not only Naaman's domestics and Naaman himself,

but the king of Syria acting upon it, the very instant that it was reported, “ Thus, and thus, saith the maid, who is of the land of Israel.”

The story of Naaman's visit to Judea, and miraculous cure, does not enter into the plan of this history, much as we should delight in dwelling upon it, as so strikingly illustrative of the Eternal's loving-mercy over all His creatures. Naaman was a heathen, and often an enemy to Judea; yet, when he sought the prophet of the Lord, even he was accepted, and a miracle performed in his behalf. How powerfully should this rebuke us, when inclined to pronounce harsh judgment on the religion of a fellow-creature, or arrogate to ourselves alone, or to those who think exactly with us, the sole care and love of our Creator.

How happy must the little Maid of Israel have felt, when she beheld her master perfectly cured; and the God of her fathers acknowledged and worshipped, as the sole and only one, by those who had so lately been heathens and idolaters—“ Thy servant will henceforth offer neither burnt-offering, nor sacrifice, unto other gods, but unto the Lord,” Naaman had declared unto Elisha : and when she saw this change, how must the Hebrew child have rejoiced! That all had originated in her confident reference to the prophet, she probably never knew; but we see that she was the direct instrument in the Lord's hand, to bring about the revelation of His power; she had glorified Him by trusting in His prophet, and so made both her God and His servant venerated in a Gentile land. But this would not have been had she been ashamed to confess her religion and her country before men. A solitary exile in the house

hold of Naaman, young, and undirected by man, holier associations must have been powerful within her, to have prevented the adoption of the forms and customs, and even worship, of those around her. The childish aith which caused the exclamation and its consequences, as we have recorded, did not spring from the mere impulse of the moment, but from the education and subsequent thought of early years. That which springs from mere impulse would have been startled and terrified at the instant acting on the words; but to the child of Israel there was no fear or doubt.

If then even a child, a female child, was permitted to be the means of bringing a heathen household to a knowledge of the only God, shall we not do all we can to make the education of our children subservient to the same great end? Amongst heathens and idolaters, indeed, we do not dwell; but thrown, as we are so often, into terms of intimacy and kindness with those who worship God, though not as we do, it is more necessary than ever to infuse a national spirit amongst us; to inculcate into the very youngest of our families, who and what they are—that a solemn charge is entrusted to them, as witnesses of the Eternal-and that a denial or concealment of our true faith, and sacrifice of its ordinances, to assimilate with the world; is a denial of God Himself. Let us teach our children from earliest infancy to venerate and glory in their faith; and that faith will be respected in them by every Gentile with whom they associate. The law of God makes no distinction between the education of sons and daughters, and let us make none; both are equally children of Israel and both equally heirs of all the spiritual and temporal

privileges which that holy name includes. Let our daughters then feel and glory in their nationality; and by making the religion of their fathers the mainspring of their being, so serve the cause of God, and so elevate the character of Israel, that their very exile may hasten the day of our restoration, by bringing all the nations to a knowledge of the Lord. The youngest child may, like the little Maid of Israel, bear witness to the truth of her religion, and the power of her God. An infant of six years once had the moral courage, in the midst of an assemblage of Gentile children, and her mother was not present, to refuse touching some forbidden food, and with childish and most touching artlessness to say aloud that they were not allowed to eat it. And that infant upheld the sanctity of her religious ordinances, and inspired a feeling of respect and admiration, not only towards herself, but towards the religion she professed; and this is the practical nationality we should inculcate. Teach a child from the first that she is the depository of a solemn office—that she can, in her own proper person, either elevate or degrade the religion which her Father in Heaven Himself deigned to give—that she is not like the children of the soil, for whom it is enough to follow the multitude, and who have advantages of all kinds to teach them their religious duty, but one of a peculiar and holy faith, scattered in every land, exiled and often oppressed, yet still the firstborn of the Lord; and, therefore, that it depends upon her, even as if she stood alone, to do all she can to raise her faith, and its blessed ordinances, in the estimation of the whole Gentile world.

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