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Secondly. It is only said that he will be with you "to old age, and to hoar hairs." He will be with you all through "the months of vanity; and the wearisome nights appointed you;" he will be with you even when " your heart and flesh fail you." This is implied. But it was not necessary to mention it-old age and death are so near each other-they touch. This subject displays
time of old age; forsake me not when my strength faileth. My mouth shall show forth thy righteousness and thy salvation all the day; for I know not the numbers thereof. I will go in the strength of the Lord God: I will make mention of thy righteousness, even of thine only. O God, thou hast taught me from my youth: and hitherto have I declared thy wondrous works. Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, forsake me not; In the First place, The patience of God. until I have showed thy strength unto this Ye aged, are you not a wonder to your-generation, and thy power to every one that selves? Are you not compelled to exclaim, is to come." "It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not?" What a number of provocations has he had to bear with from you in the course of sixty, seventy, eighty years! How soon would a fellow-creature, however kind and longsuffering have abandoned you! But he is God and not man. Even he has asked, "How long shall I be with you? How long shall I suffer you?" And his providence and grace have answered the question-" Even to your old age I am he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you."
The subject affords Secondly, Encouragement for those who are descended into the vale of years. Doubts may assail the mind of a believer to the last. And there are things that may peculiarly produce them at this period. Such as a consciousness of guilt arising from faithful reviews of life; and a sense of unworthiness resulting from present unprofitableness. They can now no longer actively serve God. The loss of animal spirits deprives them of those lively emotions they once enjoyed. The feeble body enervates the mind; trifles distract them; and they easily misjudge themselves.
But be of good comfort, ye aged servants of God. He will not turn you out of doors now your labour is over. He remembers "you, the kindness of your youth." He accepts of your desires and designs. He pities your infirmities. He is "the strength of your hearts, and your portion for ever." If the world is weary of you, he is not. If "lover and friend have been put far from you, and your acquaintances into darkness, the eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.
Your salvation is nearer than when you believed. "The night is far spent, the day is at hand." You are riding at anchor off the fair havens; and the next wind or tide will waft you in.
Thirdly. What shall I say to the hoary. headed sinner? I do not pretend to inform you that the world is vain: with this you must be already acquainted. But is it not strange that you continue to retain such a tenacious hold of it, "trembling at once with eagerness and age?" It seems less necessary to tell you that death is near-the young may die, the old must. But like Ephraim, gray hairs are here and there upon you, and you perceive it not. You promise yourselves time to come, when there is but a step between you and death. You have lived longer than thousands of your fellow-creatures: but to what purpose? The longsuffering of God was designed to lead you to repentance. Has it done so? Look back. What a scene! Time trifled and sinned away; faculties perverted; privileges neglected and abused! Nothing done for God or your generation!Thy gray hairs are only a fool's cap.-Thou art ripe for ruin. And would it not be righteous in God to cut thee down instantly as a cumberer of the ground? If there be an object of pity on earth, thou art the man. There is nothing at present that can afford thee comfort. But thou art not excluded from hope. "He yet waits to be gracious, and is exalted to have mercy upon you." Go to him, heavy laden with years and sins. Late repentance is seldom true, but true repentance is never too late. O that I could hear you saying, Lord, save, I perish!
Finally. What a motive is there here to induce us all to become the Lord's followers! "A friend is born for adversity:" yet very little of this friendship is to be found. How many who possess a warm regard in prosper ous and earlier life, east us off in affliction and declining years! But he will be princi pally with us when we principally need his aid. We may live upon him when we cannot live for him.
Here are two suppositions.
You may die; and you may die soon. In this case, you "will be for ever with the Lord."
And cannot you trust him, after all the proofs you have had of his power, faithfulness, You may live; and live to old age. In this and love? Cannot you make this language case, he will be continually with you. "And your own? "By thee have I been holden up even to your old age I am he; and even to from the womb: thou art he that took me out hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made, and of my mother's bowels: my praise shall be I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver continually of thee. Cast me not off in the ❘ you."
Let us enter a little into the history, and see what instructions it will afford.
What remains?-Let the best of all masters | more strikingly awful and improving than have the most dutiful of all servants. As he that of Gehazi." is never weary in doing us good, may we never be weary in well-doing. "But be steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, and, bringing forth fruit in old age, be fat and flourishing, to show that the Lord is upright. He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.”
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 And when Naaman saw him running after him, he lighted down from the chariot to meet him, and said, Is all well?
And he said, All is well. 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. And Naamun said, Be content, take two talents. And he urged him, and bound two talents of silver in two bags, with two changes of garments, and laid them upon two of his servants; and they bare them before him. And when he came to the tower, he took them from their hand, and bestowed them in the house: and he let the men go, and they departed. But he went in, and stood before his master. And Elisha said unto him, Whence comest thou, Gehazi? And he said, Thy servant went no whither. And he said unto him, Went not mine heart with thee, when the man turned again from his chariot to meet thee? Is it a time to receive money, and to receive garments, and olive yards, and vineyards, and sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and maidservants? The leprosy therefore of Naaman shall cleave unto thee, and unto thy seed for ever. And he went out from his presence a leper as white as snow.—2 Kings v. 20—27.
It is supposed that Gehazi had lived with Elijah, and that at the translation of his master, he was taken into the service of his successor. However this may be, we know that he was the servant of Elisha, who it is probable had been hitherto ignorant of his real character. For the prophetical spirit was given him by measure, and the exercise of it was limited by the will of God; and till this event occurred, the true character of the man was not developed.
A person may go a long time before he meets with his own proper trial, intended to show what "manner of man he is." Indeed none of us know much of ourselves till we are tried. While the water is calm and clear, we are not aware how much mud there is at the bottom; but the winds and waves throw up the mire and dirt. If the weather be unfavourable the ants are invisible, but let the sun shine forth and they appear. Undisturbed, we see nothing of them; but remove the stone, and stir the brood only with a straw, and swarms are in motion and all alive. When our prophet had predicted the future vileness of Hazael, Hazael shocked at the intelligence exclaimed, "Is thy servant a dog, that he should do this thing?" He was probably at the time sincere; but he knew not how differently he should feel in new and untried circumstances; he knew not the seducing corrupting power of wealth and dignity upon the human heart. Hence he soon became the monster he had abhorred. These things had not even budded in winter; but spring soon calleth them forth; summer saw the blossoms turned into fruit: and autumn ripened them. And it is probable that had all this wickedness of Gehazi been foretold a few months or weeks before, he would have been equally surprised. Pray we, therefore, as directed by Him who knows what is in man, " Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."
Elisha had healed Naaman, and Naaman in his gratitude for the blessing pressed the man of God to receive a present. "But he said, As the Lord liveth, before whom I stand, As the sun in nature enlightens valleys as I will receive none. And he urged him to well as hills, and so diffuses its influence that take it; but he refused." Not that he deemnothing is hid from the heat thereof-so it is ed the gold of the Syrian impure; or did not with the Scripture, the luminary of the moral stand in need of assistance, for he was poor; world. It does not confine its attention to or supposed it unlawful to take a gratuity: the great; but gives directions to all ranks he thankfully accepted the hospitality of the and degrees of men. It describes not only Shunamite, who furnished him with a room, the excellences and defects of kings but of with a table, a stool, and a candlestick. subjects. It represents not only the virtues he spared his purse in love to his soul; he and vices of masters but of servants. It gives would teach this new convert that true godus instances of good servants; such as Elea-liness can find its reward in its work. He zar, Joseph, Obadiah. And it gives us exam- would teach us to do good for its own sake; ples of bad ones of which number none is to use discretion in what is allowable; to dis
tinguish times and cases; to know when to adhere to general rules, and when to deviate from them. In all this, "wisdom is profitable to direct."
But the servant had not looked upon the offered treasure like his master. If Elisha dispensed with it, so would not Gehazi. He therefore resolves by some means to obtain a share. "Behold," says he," 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."-Naaman seeing him running, stops, descends from his chariot, and meets him with a question that shows he was fearful some evil had happened to his friend and benefactor; "Is all well! And he said, All is well. 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." What a falsehood was here!-It was not the effect of surprise, but framed deliberately for the purpose!
only that he was privy to this base action, but that he knew the very thoughts and purposes of his heart. Gehazi had already in imagina tion laid out the substance he had so unjustly acquired; such things he would purchase; in such a style he would live; he would improve and enlarge his means, till rising from a private to a splendid station, he could command the homage he had been accustomed to pay.
But punishment follows detection; "The leprosy therefore of Naaman shall cleave unto thee, and unto thy seed for ever. And he went out from his presence a leper as white as snow."-The punishment had three characters.
First. It was extensive: and took in his family as well as himself. He derived from his offspring probably, one of the motives that produced this fatal action; he would "lay up for the children; but instead of entailing a large estate, he has entailed a loathsome disease from generation to generation. If he had any affection for his offspring, how must he have been cut to the heart to see these innocent objects the victims of his vice!
Secondly. It was scandalous and obvious. He was thus excluded from the tabernacle, and carried with him marks of his fraud and sacrilege: wherever he went, his sin was read in his face and family.
The disposition of this Syrian was as noble as his rank. He was delighted to comply with this supposed desire, and to leave something behind him. "And Naaman said, Be content, take two talents. And he urged him, and bound two talents of silver in two bags, with two changes of garments, and laid Thirdly. It was immediate: and seizing them upon two of his servants; and they bare him in a moment, without any previous symp them before him. Thus he exceeds the de- toms or tendencies, proved that it was inflictmand; and makes some of his own train por-ed not by revenge, but by a supernatural ters to Gehazi. But where did he lodge the treasure? At It is hoped that in due time Naaman was "the tower" says the common translation; disabused, and informed of the vileness of the "the secret place," says the margin; some man, and the generosity of the master. But place separated from the dwelling-house of let us hasten to derive a few general and the man of God, and into which he could useful reflections from the whole narrative. enter without being seen. Here he dismisses I. PERSONS MAY BE VERY WICKED UNDER the two Syrian attendants, hides the load, and RELIGIOUS ADVANTAGES. The means of grace, blesses his good fortune; and looking demure- and the grace of the means are very dis ly, "he went in and stood before his master." tinguishable from each other, and are fre Elisha does not throw himself into a pas- quently found separate. Of the four portions sion, but calmly convinces, and righteously of ground sowed with the same seed, by punishes him.-"Gebazi," says he, "whence the same hand, and at the same season, one comest thou?" We are required to condemn only was productive soil. Children trained the guilty-yet who does not pity the crimi- up" in the nurture and admonition of the nal in the hour of detection?—What a me- Lord,” have been known to turn aside into lancholy spectacle he exhibits-deprived of "the paths of the destroyer," and to "bring his innocency-his courage failing him-his down a parent's gray hairs with sorrow to the countenance changing-incapable of defence grave." -and the lies he made his refuge leaving him speechless!"Thy servant went no whither. Then said he unto him, went not my heart with thee, when the man turned again from his chariot to meet thee?" Did he meet thee no where? Did he speak to thee no where? "Is this a time to receive money, and garments, and oliveyards, and vineyards, and sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and maidservants?"
By this question Elisha convinced him, not
There are servants who see good example, hear daily instruction, attend morning and evening worship, yet have no fear of God before their eyes; yea they can return from these exercises and treat them with contempt, and become ten-fold more the children of hell than others! Thus we here find a bad servant living with a godly master. Some of those who resided at a distance from the man of God honoured him, and derived advantage from him, while one that stood continually
before him, and heard his wisdom, and saw | none. Neither does "a man's life consist in his miracles, and witnessed his holy life, the abundance of the things that he posseems to have been only corrupted and hard-sesseth." But oh! the moral hazards-the ened by them! difficulties in the way of salvation attending
take of it. "How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!" Again I say, take heed, and beware of this insinuating, this detestable, this destructive passion. Meet every temptation to it with the question of our Saviour; "What is a man profited if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul; or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”
But wherever such awful characters are it! This is the most dissuasive view we can found, let them remember that they cannot sin so cheap as others; they will be left without excuse; they will have to answer for abused privileges; their guilt will be in proportion to their advantages, and their punishment in proportion to their guilt. For "to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin." "And that servant which knew his Lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more."
II. HERE IS A WARNING AGAINST THE LOVE OF MONEY. "Take heed and beware of covetousness."
What did Gehazi acquire by his wealth? His gain was loss. He lost his health. He lost his honour. He lost his peace. He lost his place. And without repentance, he lost his soul for ever. Was he not much happier before He has indeed increased his substance; but he enjoys it with the abhorrence of God; the scorn of men; disease of body; the affliction of his family; the scourges of his conscience; the foretastes of hell.
What a commentary is the history of this man, and of Balaam, and Achan, and Judas, and Demas, and full one half of the modern professors of religion on the following passages of Scripture! "The getting of treasures by a lying tongue, is a vanity tossed to and fro of them that seek death." "In the fulness of his sufficiency he shall be in straits: every hand of the wicked shall come upon him. When he is about to fill his belly, God shall cast the fury of his wrath upon him, and shall rain it upon him while he is eating. He shall flee from the iron weapon, and the bow of steel shall strike him through." "But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For 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."
"Let your conversation therefore be without covetousness. Be content with such things as you have." For, God has said, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee. You brought nothing with you into the world, and it is certain you can carry nothing out.”
III. SEE THE ENCROACHMENTS AND PROGRESS OF SIN, AND LEARN HOW DANGEROUS IT IS TO GIVE WAY TO ANY EVIL PROPENSITY. Here is avarice leading on to lying, and one lie followed up by two more. One transgression breaks down the fence, and then others like cattle go in more easily, and by a kind of licence. One sin often renders another necessary to its execution; one sin often renders another necessary to its concealment. The obligation the sinner lays himself under, in order to proceed in an evil course, is frequently endless; while every step of the progress he makes, blinds and hardens him still more. When a child leaves his house clean in his apparel, he is afraid to soil even his feet; but the first stain he contracts makes him less regardless of the second, and the second of the third; till he thinks himself so bad, that caution is needless, and he treads any where.
Thus we read that men "proceed from evil to evil;" that "they wax worse and worse;" that these "things eat as do a canker;" that when "lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin, and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death."
And is it only in the Scripture that this truth is asserted? Do we not see it confirmed in actual instances every day? Over how many of late years have we had to mourn! But which of these unhappy characters became either infidel or vicious at once? They endured evil company, and then chose it. They trifled with the Sabbath, and then profaned it. One thing after another was given up, till they "said unto God, Depart from us; we desire not the knowledge of thy ways."
Can we then be too early in our precautions? Can we be too much afraid of our beginnings? Is it not better to crush the egg before it breaks förth into a fiery flying serpent?
IV. HOW ABSURD IS IT TO SIN WITH AN EXPECTATION OF SECRECY ! "There is no darkness nor shadow of death where the workers of iniquity can hide themselves." When going forth to commit iniquity, goes not your own conscience with you? Goes Money implies no excellence, and confers not the eye of God with you? Does not He
"Man wants but little here below,
Nor wants that little long."
see all, and record all, and with a view to bring all into judgment? But even with regard to others it may generally be said, "Be sure your sin will find you out." There are often eye and ear witnesses of whom you have no suspicion. Strange circumstances frequently occur to awaken inquiry, and lead to detection. You may divulge your iniquity by inadvertency in conversation; by dreams when asleep; by delirium when distracted. You may be compelled to acknowledge it by the anguish of a guilty mind. Men have sometimes turned their own accusers long after the fact, and when no suspicion attached to them, and have sought shelter in a legal death.
Lastly. ABHOR AND FORSAKE LYING. It is in common peculiarly easy to detect falsehood. Hence it is said that every liar should have a good memory. And what an odious character is a liar! How shunned and detested when discovered! To every mortal upon earth, the appellation of a liar is the most detestable. A liar is the emblem of "the devil, who was a liar from the beginning, and abode not in the truth."
God, of such importance is it that we should speak the truth one to another, has sometimes remarkably interposed, not only to detect, but to punish lying. Did Ananias and Sapphira escape? Did Gehazi?
The mouth of them that speak lies shall be stopped. Lies may be their refuge now. But "all liars, it is said, shall have their portion in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death." For "without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and
maketh a lie."
I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof!-Proverbs v. 11, 12.
RELIGION has one undeniable advantage to recommend it-whatever it calls us to sacrifice, or to suffer, it always ends well. "Mark the perfect man," says David, “and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace," And even Balaam exclaims, "Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his !"
On the other hand, sin has one undeniable evil to excite our aversion and horror. Whatever sensual pleasures and imaginary profit attend its course, it always ends dreadfully, We are far from allowing that the sinner has present happiness; for Scripture and history, observation and experience, unite to prove that "the way of transgressors is hard." But if it were not so-if it were easy and smooth and flowery-yet, who would walk in itsince "the end of these things is death!"
Behold the representation of a sinner clos ing his sad career." He mourns at the last, when his flesh and his body are consumed, and says, How have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof!" Let us consi der,
I. The SUBJECT of these regrets.-II. The PERIOD of these regrets.-III. The NATURE of these regrets.
I. The SUBJECT of these regrets. It is a man who has disregarded through life the means employed to preserve or reclaim him: it is one who has "hated instruction, and whose heart has despised reproof."-What instructers and reprovers has man! I mean, a man living in a country like this; I mean, a man possessing advantages like ours. These instructers and reprovers may be ranked in six classes.
whom God has testified, as he did of Abraham, “I know him that he will command his household and his children after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment."-You have had a pious father, who has often with tears said,
Do not say of such a discourse as this, it is not evangelical. We know the main thing In the First, we place your connexions in is to make you acquainted with the Lord life.-You reside in a family, the head of Jesus Christ, and to bring you to him. But which, like Joshua, has said, "As for me and there are various truths which we are re-my house, we will serve the Lord:" and of quired to lay open; and which we find in the book of God for this purpose; they are written for our admonition, and are to be improved. And nothing can be done till men are convinced of sin. But by instances of sin, we may be led to a sinful course; from a sinful life, to a sinful nature-and so feel the necesMy son, if thou be wise, my heart shall resity of an application to him, whose name is joice, even mine"-perhaps, after an examJesus, because he saves his people from their ple the most powerful, with his dying breath sins; and is raised up to "bless us, by turn-he said, "I go the way of all the earth: and ing every one of us away from our iniquities."
And thou mourn at the last, when thy flesh and thy body are consumed, and say, How have
thou, Solomon, my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and a willing mind; for if thou seek him he will be found of thee, but if thou forsake him he will cast thee off for ever."Has not she who bore thee sometimes taken thee aside; and in eloquence, such as can only come from the heart of a woman and a mother, addressed every feeling of thy nature! "What, my son! and the son of my womb! and the son of my vows!"-If parents have