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waB the outcome of a loving heart, and He accepted her service. Real sorrow will not be tied up by mere conventional rules. Encouraged by the prophet's reception, she tells her errand, but cannot say "the child is dead." This was quite natural. We have difficulty in realizing that those we love are dead. We speak of them as if living. So this woman; but Elisha at once guesses the truth.
II. The Cure, (ver. 29-37.)—Elisha orders his servant to take his staff, and lay it on the face of the chili He was to go in haste. He was not to salute any one. Explain that in the East these salutations were very tedious affairs, and occupied much time. Hence Christ's command to the disciples, (Luke x. 4.) But the mother was not satisfied with this. She refuses to go unless the prophet go with her. She knew his power with God, and she would have the best assistance she could. The prophet accompanies her. Her importunity prevailed. See the value of this importunity. (Compare Luke xviii. 1-8.) Goa will be inquired of for His blessings. He gives liberally, but He likes to be asked. We cannot weary Him by our asking. Abraham wearied of asking for Sodom before God ceased to give. Gehazi reported that the child was dead. There was neither voice nor hearing. The voice was hushed, and the ear was deaf to all sound. He was not awaked. He seemed almost asleep, so calm and still he lay on the prophet's bed. Death is often thus compared to sleep. He fell on sleep, (Acts vii. 60.) Our friend Lazarus sleepeth, (John xi. 11.) But sleep implies an awakening. So shall there be an awakening from the sleep of death.
Note how the prophet acted. He conjoined prayer and pains, (ver. 33, 34.) These two should never be disjoined. Prayer, without corresponding effort, cannot do much good. Effort, without prayer, will be effort in vain. Note, also, how he laid himself alongside the child. This is the true way to gain the fallen —not to stand at a distance and speak to them, but to come in contact with them, and make them feel that we have an interest in them. Nor. did Elisha give up at once. He persevered. We ought not to be discouraged if our prayers are not answered at once. To try our faith God often keeps silence. It was only in the fourth watch that Jesus came to the wearied disciples, (Matt, xiv. 25.) It was on the night before his intended execution that God heard the Church's prayer for Peter, (Acts xii. 6.) Elisha's perseverance prevailed. The child was restored. Sooner or later true prayer will be answered. God is the hearer of prayer. Notice, lastly, the gratitude of this mother. She cannot speak. Her heart is too full for that. But her actions are more eloquent than words. She homed herself. Gratitude can be shewn by acts as well as by words. Memory Exercise—Shorter Catechism 74.—1 Corinthians xv. 22. Subject to be proved—The Young Die.
Golden Text—"For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive."—1 Cor. xv. 23.
Notes.—Death and life both are here. Death through Adam, life through Christ. All connected with Adam have died—died in sin; even so all connected with Christ live—live unto righteousness here, and in glory hereafter. Note carefully the condition of life—being in Christ—united to Him by a living faith —drawing life from Hira—planted with Him in the likeness of His death, and so planted with Him in the likeness of His resurrection.
Lesson 282.—May 28.
Naaman The Lepee.—2 Kings v. 1-14.
I. Naaman's Position, (ver. 1.)—He was commander-in-chief to the king of Syria—the highest post next to the king's. His master had a high regard for him, and he was a man of great renown. He had been a successful soldier, and had done good service to his country. Note, it was the Lord who had given deliverance. All captains are merely instruments in His hands. We should give all glory to God. Naaman was, besides, a man of great personal bravery. Surely this man is happy. What more can he wish? But notice the little word out: he had all this, but ho was a leper. There's a but in every one's history. Every one has a crook in his lot. Naaman's was a very serious one; for leprosy ■was a most loathsome disease. Naaman resembles all men. Leprosy is a type of sin; and however high, honoured, or successful we may be, the presence of sin will mar all. We may have all that this world can bestow, but if we have the leprosy of sin uncared, we are poor indeed.
II. The Captive Maid, (ver. 2-4.)—She had been carried from home during one of the invasions of Israel, and had been taken to his own home by Naaman. She waited on his wife, and she was grieved for her master. She had little cause, for he had made her a slave. But she will repay evil by good. Note this feature in her character. She resembled the Lord Jesus, who prayed for His murderers. She becomes a missionary too. She tells of God and His prophet. Every one can be such a missionary. It does not require a person to be a minister to become a missionary. Here was a young girl, a little maid, telling her mistress how her master could be cured. She preached healing for him. Very likely she was laughed at at first; but she knew the truth of the story, and kept telling it, until at last it reached Naaman's ear. Learn, like this little girl, to love those who may have done you evil, and to tell others of God.
III. The Proud General, (ver. 5-19.)—Naaman resolves to go to Israel, and obtains a letter from his master to the king of Israel. The king of Syria evidently thought that the king of Israel must know the prophet who could cure leprosy. But the poor king of Israel was more ignorant than the little maid. God had hid this knowledge from him, and had revealed it unto babes. He fancies that the king of Syria merely wishes to pick a quarrel with him, and gets into a regular fright. He was too busy with his idolatry to think of noticing such a man as Elisha; but Elisha stands him in good stead now. He orders the king to lend Naaman to him, who comes in great state, with his horses and chariots. Elisha knows his man. He knows the pride of his heart, and he knows that this pride must be broken before he can be cured. Humility is the first step to promotion. A man must come down in order to rise. So he does not go out himself, but simply sends his servant, who tells him to go and bathe seven times in Jordan, and he will be eured. Naaman was furious. He had expected some striking cure; that the prophet would come, and, after prayer and many ceremonies, would strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper. Note, like many men he had his own views of what the cure ought to be; and because it is different from what he supposed, he becomes angry. And then the simplicity of it is, to his proud mind, a proof of its foolishness. Bathe in Jordan! what's the Jordan? The rivers of my country are worth fifty Jordans, and may I not wash in them and be clean? So men reason still. "Believe and live," is the Gospel call; and its very simplicity keeps proud men away. So Naaman turned away. His servants were wiser. They knew the temper of the man. Their argument was complete. The simplicity of the cure is its crowning glory. At all events it is worth a trial; it can do you no harm. Now, so ought we to act in regard to the cure promised in the Gospel: "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" "Come and see," is always the best answer.
Though proud, Naaman was reasonable. He thought the cure worth trying. He went and bathed, and was at once cured. He was deeply grateful. He was not like the nine lepers cured by Jesus, who did not even so much as return to thank. Naaman returns, full of gratitude, and of praise to God. See, now, what a little maid could do. She has brought this distinguished officer to the knowledge of the true God. Elisha will receive no present from him, evidently because Elisha wishes him to give all the glory to God. He is satisfied if God is honoured. His glory was the first thing with him. Note Naaman's request, and the weakness, yet the reality of his faith. Note, also, that Elisha will not quench the smoking flax—he says, "Go in peace." He knows the difficulty of Naaman's position, and gives him his blessing as he departs.
Memory Exercise—Shorter Catechism 75.—Psalm li. 7.
Subject to be proved—Christ's Blood Cleanseth from all Sin.
Qolden Text—" Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." —Psalm li. 7.
Notes.—This was the cry of one who had fallen into deep sin, and had been brought to feel his sins. The language is borrowed from the ceremony used in cleansing the leper. (Compare Lev. xiv. 1-8.) When the leper was cleansed a bunch of hyssop was dipped in blood, which was then sprinkled upon him, and he had then to wash himself in pure water. This served to the cleansing of the flesh; but David knew that God alone could cleanse from sin, and so his language is to God, and is the same as that of the publican: "God be merciful to me, a sinner." Have you ever cried so to God? Such a cry is pleasing to Him, and He will hear it, and answer it.
Lesson 283.—June 4.
Gehazi's Deceit.—2 Kings v. 15-27.
The love of money is the root of all evil. Gehazi was covetous. Covetousnesa must have been in his very soul. It had never shewn itself before, because the opportunity was lacking; but now the occasion occurs, and it proves Gehazi's ruin. Secret sin, cherished in the heart, may remain long hidden, but it will sooner or later manifest itself. What need have we to watch over our hearts, and not secretly to cherish any lust? We do not know when the moment of temptation may come. An ancient proverb says, "No one becomes very wicked all at once." Read James i. 14, 15, and you have the natural history of sin,—its beginning, its growth, its end. An apple may be seen to-day ripening against the wall, all fair and beautiful; to-morrow it may be seen lying in the mire. On examination, it will be found that on the unseen side it was thoroughly rotten; and the fall was not accidental, but the result of long antecedent causes. So with Gehazi. Temptation comes, and he falls. Note the circumstances. Elisha, anxious that God should have all the glory of Naaman's cure, refuses all his offers of a present. Had he taken one, he would have been no better than the heathen pretended prophets, who did everything for money. His aims were higher—he sought only the honour of his God. Gehazi cannot understand this. He does not see how Naaman should be let off in this easy way, and so he resolves to rob him—for it was equal to robbery. His plan is a cunning one. Elisha will take nothing for himself, but he has had a visit from two young prophets, and he wishes something for them. Note here, that Naaman himself leaps from his chariot to meet Gehazi. He shews him all deference; this is another proof of the change wrought in this man. Note further, that Gehazi's story was a very plausible one. Nothing more likely than that the generous Elisha, though he refused a present to himself, would like to shew kindness to the sons of the prophets. Note, also, how glad Naaman is of the opportunity of shewing his gratitude, by pressing Gehazi to take double what he had asked, and by sending one of his own servants to carry the present to the house. This generous conduct of Naaman's makes Gehazi's all the more dastardly. It may be noticed, also, how one sin leads to another. Gehazi began with covetousness, and he soon reaches barefaced deliberate falsehood. When a man once quits the straight path, there is no sayiDg where he will end.
Gehazi laid the gold and the garments carefully aside, and went into his master's presence as if nothing had occurred. When questioned where he had been, he answers with another deliberate falsehood.
"He that does one fault at first,
And there is this peculiarity about lies, that one lie always needs another to buttress it. It would have been far better for Gehazi to have confessed at once. There can be no safety in trying to hide one's sin. It will not be hidden. "Be sure your sin will find you out." Elisha soon convinces him that he knew the whole, and sternly rebukes him for his sin. Israel had need, at that time, of honest, fearless men, who would stand up for God and His truth. Too many were setting their hearts upon this world's possessions; and if the remnant become faithless, all hope for the nation is at an end. Sin, in one who has made a profession of religion, does more harm than in one who has made no such profession. It gives the enemy cause to blaspheme, and to believe that God's professing people are no better than their neighbours. Thus religion is evil spoken of, and God is wounded in the house of His friends. Note, now, the punishment. Compare the punishment inflicted on Achan, and on Ananias and Sapphira. Learn the great lesson, that, even in a worldly point of view, honesty is the best policy, and that godliness with contentment is great gain.
Memory Exercise—Shorter Catechism 76, 77.—Proverbs xii. 22. Subject to be proved—God Hates Lying. Golden Tent—"Lying lips are abomination to the Lord: but they that deal truly are His delight."—Proverbs xii. 22.
Notes.—The Bible is full of warning against lying, and of God's abhorrence of it. Lies come from Satan, (John viii. 44,) and he is God's great adversary. He ruined our first parents by a lie, and it seems his chief delight still to deceive men by lies. No wonder though lying lips are an abomination to the Lord. On the other hand, notice what is said of those who speak the truth—they are God's delight—He has pleasure in them, because they are like himself, for He is truth itself. See what is said of the portion of liars in Bevelation xxii. 15.
OR, ILLUSTRATIONS OF THE LESSONS.
Lesson 280.—The Widow's Ckuse Op Oil.—2 Kings iv. 1-17.
37. God "relieveth tlie Fatherless and Widow," (verses 1-7.)—A poor widow was weeping in the room where lay the body of her husband. Their only child came in and said, "Why do you weep so, mother?" The mother told him of their loss, and specially referred to their poverty. Looking into her face, the little fellow said, "Is God dead, mother? The mother felt the reproof, dried her tears, and, in due time, found that God was indeed "A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widow." So was it with the widow in the Lesson. And God " is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever."
38. We should "owe no man anything," (verse 7.)—A king of Persia, hunting one day, became desirous of eating some venison in the field. Some df his attendants went to a neighbouring village, and seized a quantity of salt to season it; but the king, on learning how they had obtained the salt, ordered them to return immediately and pay for it. Then, turning to his attendants, he said, "This is a small matter in itself, but a great one as regards me; for a king ought ever to be just, as he is an example to his subjects; and if he swerve in trifles, so will they." So, here, Elisha tells the widow to go at once and pay her debt, then live on what is left.
Lesson 281.—The Shunammite's Son.—2 Kings iv. 18-37.
39. " We spend our Tears as a Tale that is told," (verse 20.)—A little daughter of Chalres I. died when only four years old. When on her death-bed, she was asked by one of the servants to pray. She said she was too weak to say her long prayer, meaning the "Lord's Prayer;" but that she would try to say her short one. "Lighten my darkness, 0 Lord God, and let me not sleep the sleep of death." As she said this she laid her little head on the pillow, and fell asleep in Jesus.
40. God doeth all things well, (verse 26.)—Miss Dinah Dowdney, of Portsea, who died at nine years of age, one day in her illness said to her aunt, with whom she lived, "When I am dead I should like Mr. Griffin to preach a sermon to children to persuade them to love Jesus Christ, to obey their parents, not to tell lies, but to think of dying and going to heaven. I have been thinking that I would like him to preach from 2 Kings iv. 26. Ton are the Shunammite, Mr. Griffin is the Prophet, and I am the Shunammite's child. When I am dead, I daresay you will be grieved; but you need not. The Prophet will come to sea you; and when he says,' How is it with the child P'—you will say,' It is welL' I am sure it will then be well with me, for I shall be in heaven singing the praises of God. You ought to think it well too." Mr. Griffin accordingly fulfilled the wish of the dying child.
Lesson 282.—Naaman The Lepee.—2 Kings v. 1-14.
41. Boys and Qirls may be the means of saving Men and Women, (ver. 3,14.)— A Sabbath school girl once gave a tract to a man whom she met in the street. The man took it in a surly manner, saying, "I want something better than that." "You couldn't have anything better than that," said the child, and passed on. Shortly afterwards, on taking her father's dinner to the factory where he was employed, a man said to her, "You don't know me, Miss?"—"No," said the girl. He then reminded her about the tract. "You didn't thank me for it," said the child.—" No," said he, "but I thank you now." On a Sabbath evening, shortly afterwards, the man was dying. He sent for the little girl, and spoke to her of his faith in Christ, and his thankfulness for the tract that had pointed his troubled soul to the way of peace. He insisted that she should sing the hymn quoted in the tract,
"Rock of Ages, cleft for me." AVhen she had suug a verse, he stated, in broken sentences, that he was trusting for forgiveness and acceptance to the merit of Christ. He died the next day. 42. "There is a fountain filled with blood, Drawn from Immanuel's veins, And sinners plunged beneath That flood Lose all their guilty stains," (verse 14.) ■—A soldier at Gibraltar, who had recently been brought to know Jesus, was challenged one night for the watchword. Unconsciously and absently he answered, "The precious blood of Christ." Instantly recollecting himself, in some confusion he gave the right answer. But these words, spoken by seeming accident, sank down into the heart of a companion. It was just the instruction he needed, "The precious blood of Christ." Oh, how he longed to have it applied to his soul! He prayed for it long and earnestly, and the blessing was given. Soon after, this companion was sent to Ceylon, got his discharge, became a successful missionary, and translated the Bible into the language of the people.
Lesson 283.—Gehazi's Deceit.—2 Kings v. 15-27.
43. "The love of Money is the root of all evil; which, while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows,'' (verses 20,27.)—Two gentlemen were riding past a beautiful park. The one said to the other, "How much do you think this estate is worth ?"—"I don't know how much it is worth," was the answer; "but I know what it cost the late owner of it." "How much?"—"His soul," was the startling reply. "The owner of it died a wretched death, stating on his death-bed that all his misery was due to his love of money, which had often led him into fraud and sin."
44. Liars forget that God sees them, (ver. 26.)—It would be well for all liars like Gehazi and Ananias to remember a remark once made by a little boy to his father, who was meditating a theft of potatoes out of a field. The father looked east, west, north, and south, and, seeing no one, began to pull up the roots. "Father," said the boy, "there is one way you forgot to look." "Where?" asked the alarmed man.—" You forgot to look Up, father." The fathsr felt the reproof, lifted the bag he had brought, and left the field.