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Christ; the first before the law, the second under the law, the third under the Gospel ; all three in a several form of translation. Our blessed Saviour raised himself to and above the heavens by his own immediate power; he ascended as the Son, they as servants: he as God, they as creatures. Elijah ascended by the visible ministry of angels: Enoch insensibly. Wherefore, O God, hast thou done this, but to give us a taste of what shall be ? to let us see that heaven was never shut to the faithful: to give us assurance of the future glorification of this mortal and corruptible part ?
Even thus, 0 Saviour, when thou shalt descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God, we that are alive and remain shall be caught up, together with the raised bodies of thy saints, into the clouds, to meet thee in the air, to dwell with thee in glory.
Many forms have those celestial spirits taken to themselves, in their apparitions to men; but of all other, most often hath the Almighty made his messengers “a flame of fire ;” never more properly than here. How had the Spirit of God kindled the hot fires of zeal in the breast of Elijah! How had this prophet thrice commanded fire from heaven to earth! How fitly now at last do these seraphical fires carry him from earth to heaven!
What do we see in this rapture of Elijah, but violence and terror, whirlwind and fire ? two of those fearful representations which the prophet had in the rock of Horeb. Never any man entered into glory with ease; even the most favourable change hath some equivalency to a natural dissolution. Although, doubtless, to Elijah this fire had a lightsomeness and resplendence, not terror; this whirlwind had speed, not violence. Thus hast thou, O Saviour, bidden us, when the elements shall be dissolved, and the heaven shall be flaming about our ears, to lift up our heads with joy, because our redemption draweth nigh. Come
death, come fire, come whirlwind, they are worthy to be welcome, that shall carry us to immortality!
This arreption was sudden, yet Elisha sees both the chariot and the horses, and the ascent; and cries to his now changed master, between heaven and earth,
My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof." Shaphat of Abel-meholah hath yielded this title to Elijah; the natural father of Elisha, to the spiritual: neither of them may
neglected; but after the yoke of oxen killed at the farewell, we hear of no more greetings, no more bewailings of his bodily parent: and now that Elijah is taken from him, he cries out like a distressed orphan, “My father, my father ;” and when he hath lost the sight of him, he rends his clothes in pieces, according to the fashion of the most passionate mourners.
That Elisha sees his master half-way in heaven, cannot take away the sorrow of his loss; the departure of a faithful prophet of God is worthy of our lamentation: neither is it private affection that must sway our grief, but respects to the public. Elisha says not only, “My father," but, “the chariot and horsemen of Israel.” That we have foregone a father should not so much trouble us, as that Israel hath lost his guard. Certainly the view of this heavenly chariot and horses that came for Elijah, puts Elisha in mind of that chariot and horsemen which Elijah was to Israel. These were God's chariots, Elijah was theirs : God's chariot and theirs are, upon the same wheels, mounted into heaven. No forces are so strong as the spiritual: the prayers of an Elijah are more powerful than all the armies of flesh. The first thing that this seer discerns, after the separation of his master, is the nakedness of Israel in his loss. If we muster soldiers, and lose zealous prophets, it is but a woful exchange.
Elijah's mantle falls from him in the rising; there was no use of that whither he was going ; there was whence he was taken. Elisha justly takes up this
dear monument of his glorified master; a good supply for his rent garments. This was it which, in presage of his future right, Elijah invested him withal upon the first sight, when he was ploughing with the twelve yoke of oxen: now it falls from heaven to his possession. I do not see him adore so precious a relic; I see him take it up, and cast it about him. Pensive and masterless doth he now come back to the banks of Jordan, whose stream he pass his return to the schools of the prophets. Erewhile he saw what way that river gave to the mantle of Elijah: he knew that power was not in the cloth, but in the spirit of him that wore it. To try therefore whether he were no less the heir of that spirit, than of that garment, he took the mantle of Elijah, and smote the waters, and said, “Where is the Lord God of Elijah ?" Elisha doth not expostulate and challenge, but pray: as if he had said, Lord God, it was thy promise to me by my departed master, that if I should see him in his last passage, a double portion of his spirit should be upon me: I followed him with my eyes in that fire and whirlwind; now, therefore, O God, make good thy gracious word to thy servant ; show some token upon me for good ; make this the first proof of the miraculous power wherewith thou shalt endue me: let Jordan give the same way to me, that it gave to my master. Immediately the stream, as acknowledging the same mantle, though in another hand, divides itself, and yields passage to the successor of Elijah.
The fifty sons of the prophets, having been afar-off witnesses of these admirable events, do well see that Elijah, though translated in body, hath yet left his spirit behind him : they meet Elisha, and bow themselves to the ground before him. It was not the outside of Elijah which they had wont to stoop unto with so much veneration, it was his spirit, which, since they now find in another subject, they entertain with equal reverence; no envy, no emulation raiseth
their stomachs against Elijah's servant, but where they see eminent graces, they are willingly prostrate. Those that are truly gracious, do no less rejoice in the riches of others' gifts, than humbly undervalue their own. These men were trained up in the schools of the prophets, Elisha at the plough and cart; yet now they stand not upon terms of their worth, and his meanness, but meekly fall down before him whom God will honour : it is not to be regarded who the man is, but whom God would make him. The more unlikely the means are, the more is the glory of the workman; it is the praise of a holy ingenuity to magnify the graces of God, wherever it finds them.
These young prophets are no less full of zeal, than reverence; zeal to Elijah, reverence to Elisha. They see Elijah carried up in the air ; they knew this was not the first time of his supernatural removal ; imagining it therefore possible, that the Spirit of God had cast him upon some remote mountain, or valley, they proffer the labour of their servants to seek him. In some things, even professed seers are blind : could they think God would send such a chariot and horses for a less voyage than heaven?
Elisha, knowing his master beyond all the sphere of mortality, forbids them; good-will makes them unmannerly, their importunity urges him till he i ashamed ; not his approbation, but their vehemence carries at last a condescent, else he might, perhaps, have seemed enviously unwilling to fetch back so admired a master, and loth to forego that mantle. Some things may be yielded for the redeeming of our own vexation, and avoidance of others' misconstruction, which out of true judgment, we see no cause to affect.
The messengers, tired with three days' search, turn back as wise as they went. Some men are best satisfied when they have wearied themselves in their own ways : nothing will teach them wit but disappointments. Their painful error leads them to a right conceit of Elijah's happier transportation. Those that would find Elijah, let them aspire to the heavenly paradise ; let them follow the high steps of his sincere faithfulness, strong patience, undaunted courage, fervent zeal; shortly, let them walk in the ways of his holy and constant obedience; at last, God shall send the fiery chariot of death to fetch them that heaven of heavens, where they shall triumph in everlasting joys.
ELISHA HEALING THE WATERS-CURSING THE CHILDREN
-RELIEVING THE KINGS.
It is good making use of a prophet while we have him. Elisha stayed some while at Jericho, the citizens resort to him with a common suit; their structure was not more pleasant than their waters unwholesome, and their soil by those corrupt waters ; they sue to Elisha for the remedy. Why had they not all this while made their moan to Elijah? Was it that they were more awed with his greater austerity? Or was it, that they met not with so fit an opportunity of his commoration amongst them? It was told them what power Elisha had exercised upon the waters of Jordan, and now they ply him for theirs. Examples of beneficence easily move us to a request and expectation of favours.
What ailed the waters of Jericho ? Surely originally they were not ill affected: no men could be so foolish as to build a city where neither earth nor water were useful : mere prospect could not carry men to the neglect of health and profit. Hiel the Bethelite would never have re-edified it with the danger of a curse, so lately as in the days of Ahab, if it had been of old notorious for so foul an annoyance: not therefore the ancient malediction of Joshua, not the neighbourhood of that noisome lake of Sodom, was guilty of this disease of the soil and waters, but