Page images
PDF
EPUB

this new conviction he felt as Paul did when he said, “What things were dear to me, those I counted loss," &c.

VIIL. THE FORCE OF ASSOCIATES. Naaman had been in the habit of worshipping "in the house of Rimmon” with his master the king. This probably he had done for years with other officers of the state. The influence of this he now felt counteracting the new conviction of duty. He felt that whilst it would be wrong for him to go there any more, yet he could not but go. “In this thing the Lord pardon thy servant, that when my master goeth into the house of Rinmon to worship there, and, he leaneth on my hand, and I boro myself in the house of Rimmon : when I bow down myself in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon thy servant in this thing." Loyalty and gratitude towards the king contributed much to prevent him renouncing all connection with the house of Rimmon. How often do our associations prevent us from the full carrying out of our convictions ! It onght not to be so. :,"He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me."

It is somewhat remarkable that the prophet Elisha, instead of exhorting Naaman to avoid every appearance of idolatry, said to him, "Go in peace.” The prophet no doubt had faith in the power of Naaman's conviction to guard him from any moral mischief.

IX. THE FORCE OF SORDID AVARICE. Gehazi is the illus. tration of this in his conduct as described in verses 20 to 24. In his case we have avarice, First, eager in its pursuits. "But Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, the man of God, said, Behold, my master hath spared Naaman, this Syrian, in not receiving at his hands that which he brought; but, as the Lord liveth, I will run after him, and take somewhat of him. So Gehazi followed after Naaman." He saw, as he thought, a fine opportunity for his greed, and he eagerly seized it. “I will run after him.” Avarice is one of the most hungry passions of the soul. It is never satisfied. Had the avaricious man, like the fabled Briareus, a hundred hands, he would employ them all in ministering to himself. Dryden calls it

"A cursed hunger of pernicious gold.". It is that passion that makes all men like Gehazi “ run.” Men are everywhere out of breath in their race for wealth. Second: This avarice is in one, associated with the nrost generous of men. He was the servant of Elisha, who, when Naaman offered some acknowledgment of his gratitude to him, exclaimed, in the most solemn way, " As the Lord liveth, before whom I stand, I will receive none." One would bave thought that association with a generous soul like this would have consumed every base sentiment from Gehazi's heart. But when it once roots itself in the sonl, it is the most inveterate of lusts. The history of modern enterprises shows us numerous examples of men who from early life have been in association with ministers, churches, religious institutions, and in some cases have themselves been deacons, chairmen of religious societies, and whose avarice has so grown in spite of all those influences as to make them swindlers on a gigantic scale. Thirdly: This avarice sought its end by means of falsehood. When Gehazi came up to Naaman, he said, "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.” This was a flagrant falsehood. Avarice is always false. Its trades are full of tricks; its shops, of sophistries. All its enterprises employ the tongue of falsehood, and the hand of deceit.

X. THE FORCE OF RETRIBUTIVE JUSTICE. There is justice on this earth as well as remedial goodness, and Heaven often makes man the organ as well as the subject of both. Elisha, who had the remedial power, had also the retributive. Here we see retributive justice in

First : Detecting the wrongdoer. “And Elisha said unto him, Whence comest thou, Gehazi? And he said, Thy.ser

vant went no whither. And he said unto him, Went not my heart with thee, when the man turned again from his chariot to meet thee ?” Justice has the eyes of Argus; has more than the eyes of Argus-it sees in the dark. It penetrates through all fallacies. “The eyes of the Lord run to and fro, beholding the evil and the good.”

Secondly: Reproving the wrongdoer. "Is it a time to receive money, and to receive garments, and oliveyards, and vineyards, and sheep, and oxen, and man-servants, and maidservants ?” An old expositor has quaintly put it, “Couldest thou find no better way of getting money than by belying thy master, and laying a stumbling-block before a young convert ? ” His avarice was a thing bad in itself, and bad also in seizing an opportunity which should have been employed for other and higher ends.

Thirdly : It punishes the wrongdoer. “The leprosy therefore of Naaman shall eleave unto thee, and unto thy seed for ever. And he went out from his presence a leper as white as snow." He had money of the leper, but he had his disease too. In getting what he considered a blessing, he got a curse as well! Wealth avariciously gotten never fails to bring & curse in some form or other. If it does not bring leprosy to the body, it brings what is infinitely worse, the most deadly leprosy into the soul, and often entails injuries on posterity !

SUBJEOT : The Sounds and Sights of Life. “And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid ; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me."-Acts xxii. 9.

"And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man."-Acts ix. 7.

Analysis of Homily the Seven Hundred and fiftiety. THERE is a record of the supernatural in the life of Paul

and his travelling companions when approaching Damascus. The fact that these supernatural phenomena were at “mid-day," and that the apostle's fellow travellers were

H

deeply sensible of them as well as the apostle, demonstrate that “the voice” that thundered in the ear, and “the light" that flashed around them were objective realities. The little discrepancy between the occurrence as given by Luke in the ninth chapter, and as stated by the apostle himself in the twenty-second, instead of invalidating, confirms the authenticity of the accounts. Identity of statement concerning the same occurrence, by two different individuals, after an interval of about twenty-five years, might justly awaken serious suspicions of collusion. But here, indeed, the verbal discrepancy is capable of an easy solution. When Luke says that the men who journeyed with Paul heard “a voice,” and Paul says that they heard not “the voice," it may fairly be supposed that all that Paul means is that they heard not the articulate voice, but mere sound. The same sound which fell on the ear of his companions and communicated no idea, fell on Paul's ear, conveying a message from the Christ who was in heaven. And the same “light” also which revealed nothing to his companions, revealed the Son of God to him. So that you have here two things. First: A voice heard by all, but understood only by Paul. The voice produced, indeed, an impression on his companions. It vibrated on their ear, and so shocked their nervous system, that they fell “speechless;" but it conveyed no idea. Whereas, it conveyed a wonderful message deep into Paul's soul. “I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew tongue, &c." Second : A light seen by all, but revealing nothing except to Paul. The mystic light radiated about all with a brightness excelling that of “mid-day," and flooding them with feelings of alarm. But it revealed nothing. It was mere dazzling brightness; nothing more. But in that radiance what did Paul see? “The Lord, even Jesus appeared unto” him.

Now, this extraordinary circumstance indicates what is common in human life. Everywhere there are men, hearing the same voice, but receiving different impressions ; seeing the same lights, but observing different objects. A “voice” fraught with deep meaning to some, is mere empty sound to

[ocr errors]

others. A “light” revealing the grandest realities to some, discloses nothing to others. There is everywhere through human society, diverse subjectivity under identical eternalism; or different mental phenomena under identical circumstances.

I. Men's LIVES IN RELATION TO MATERIAL NATURE SHOW THIS. The lightsof nature, to the thoughtless multitude, reveal nothing but mere sensuous forms—just what they reveal to the brute, and nothing more. To the superstitious they reveal hosts of unearthly existences, presiding over the various operations of the world, dreaded as demons or worshipped as gods. To the sceptical philosopher they reveal nothing but a grand system of well-organised forces, moving and working by its own inherent impulse with all the resistlessness of an absolute fate. To the enlightened and devout Christian, they reveal a wise and loving Father, “Who is God over all, blessed for evermore." The " voices" of nature, too, which are boundlessly varied, and get in every key, convey different impressions to different minds. To some nothing but mere sensation, to others, superstitious awe; to others, scientific intelligence; to others, thoughts from God Himself. Thus it is that the same world is a different thing to different minds.

II. MEN'S LIVES IN RELATION TO HUMAN HISTORY SHOW THIS. The history of the world, from antediluvian days to this hour, is very differently regarded by different men, Its lights and voices reveal varied and almost opposite things. To some history, is without any governing law at all. Its social, mercantile, political movements, are ascribable only to blind impulse and capricious passions. All is chaos. There is no law seen shaping or systematizing the whole. To others, history has only the governing law of human might. Such explain all, on the principle that the strong preys upon the weak. The progress and decline of commerce, the rise and fall of empires, the fate of mighty battles,

VOL. XX,

« PreviousContinue »