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252 On the Char after of Naaman.

What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? What communion hath- light with darkness? What agreement hath' God with idols ? Repent therefore of this thy wickedness; and pray to God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee {h^i The commission of idolatry entered not" into the imagination of 'Naaman or Elisha. The office which Naaman held in his own country required that at certain seasons'he should attend his master to the Temple of the Syrian deity Rimmon. On those occasions the king leaned upon Naaman. This apparently trifling circumstance is recorded, we presume, as an explanation of the whole transaction. How could the king bow down before his Gcd, unless Naaman, on whom he leaned, should bend himself forward also? But when Naaman had discontinued his former sacrifice to Rimmon, and to every other idol; when he . publickly professed another faith, the exclusive belief of another God; when he publickly offered-up his sacrifices to Jehovah bri the altar constructed with the foil, which he had openly brought for that especial purpose from the land of Israel: was it possible that the act of his bending forward merely in avowed accommodation to his master, who

(h) Acts, viii. 21, 22.' 2Cor.vi. 14—16.

leaned

leaned upon him, could be deemed an act of homage to Rimmon, a participation in the crime of idolatry? Naaman, however was not without apprehensions that it might not be lawful on any account, and under any circumstances, to adopt in the temple of an idol a posture similar to that, which others employed as a sign of reverence. And while he expressed his hopes that the proceeding which he had described would not be offensive to God; he expressed them with enquiring solicitude, and with evident tokens of deference to the prophet's expected determination.

Whatsoever, faith the apostle, is not of faith, whatsoever is performed without a full persuasion of its lawfulness, is fin (/). If you are duly solicitous to preserve a conscience void of offence towards God and towards man; you will turn an inquisitive eye on your general conduct, and especially on those parts of your proceedings which may bear the appearance of evi^ The self-righteous feel no scruples: the careless examine none, The former have no diffidence; the latter no fpirk of investigation. But the man of the truly Christian temper is the man who feareth always > the man who, because he

(») Rom. xlv. 23.

feareth

feareth always, in the word of God is pronounced happy. {j): the man who,-because he feareth always the corruption of his own heart and the deceitfulnefs of sin, scrutinises his motives, his tempers, his actions, his objects: is suspicious of being biassed in his judgement of right and wrong by prepossessions, by inclination, by custom, by interest, by a desire to please men, by erroneous expectations of forwarding the glory of God: and being forewarned by the remembrance of past incautiousness, of past mistakes, of past transgressions, proceeds not with careless precipitation, decides not according to first appearances, but strictly examines his purposes on every side, weighs the'm in -the balance of the sanctuary, measures them by the standard of righteousness, notes every defect, every 'aberration; and changesdiis plans and desists from his undertakings, when he can no longer lay his hand on his bosom, and affirm according to the complete import of the apostolical injunction; "In my mind, O Lord, I am fully persuaded "of their rectitude (i)." Such, in proportion to the degree of knowledge attained by a convert just emerging from idolatry, was the spirit of Naaman. Thou, who hast

(j) Prov. xxviii. 14. (£) Rom. xiv. 5.

been

been nursed up from thy cradle in the arms of Ghriftantty! Is not such thy spirit? Then shall this Syrian rile up in the day of judgement, and shall condemn thee. They shall come from the Eafl and from the We/I, and from the North and from the South, and fthall fit doivn in the kingdom of God. But the children of the kingdom shall be cafl into outer darkness {I}. There are those, faith the Scripture, whose consciences are evil (m). There are those, whose consciences are defiled (»). There are those, whose consciences are seared with a bot iron (0). What is the first step towards a conscience that is evil, a conscience that is defiled, a conscience that is seared? A careless conscience. .f through faith in Chrifl thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments [ft). If thou wilt keep the commandments, exercise thyself to have always a conscience-void of offence [q\ Exerdse thy conscience in a scrupulous investigation of duty; train it to a quick perception and a lively ahhorrence of guilt; if thou wouldest walk in all the commandments andordinancerof the Lord blameless (r).

(/) Matt. viii. It. Lul:-, xiii. 29. (m) Hebr, x. 22.'

(a) Til. i. 15. (0) i Tim. iv. z. (/.) Matt. xlx. 17.

(y) Acts, xxiv. iC. (r) Luke, i. 6.

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