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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."
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 imagination 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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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 the two Syrian attendants, hides the load, and blesses his good fortune; and looking demurely, "he went in and stood before his master." Elisha does not throw himself into a passion, but calmly convinces, and righteously punishes him." Gehazi," says he, "whence comest thou?" We are required to condemn the guilty-yet who does not pity the criminal in the hour of detection?-What a melancholy spectacle he exhibits-deprived of his innocency-his courage failing him-his countenance changing-incapable of defence -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?"
I. PERSONS MAY BE VERY WICKED UNDER RELIGIOUS ADVANTAGES. The means of grace, and the grace of the means are very dis tinguishable from each other, and are frequently found separate. Of the four portions of ground sowed with the same seed, by the same hand, and at the same season, one only was productive soil. Children trained up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord," have been known to turn aside into "the paths of the destroyer," and to "bring down a parent's gray hairs with sorrow to the grave."
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
By this question Elisha convinced him, not from him, while one that stood continually
But wherever such awful characters are 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."
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 it! This is the most dissuasive view we can 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?"
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. Óne 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.
IL. 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."
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,
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."
Do not say of such a discourse as this, it is not evangelical. We know the main thing is to make you acquainted with the Lord Jesus Christ, and to bring you to him. But there are various truths which we are required 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 necessity of an application to him, whose name is Jesus, because he saves his people from their sins; and is raised up to "bless us, by turning 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
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!"
In the First, we place your connexions in life. You reside in a family, the head of which, like Joshua, has said, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord:" and of 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, "My son, if thou be wise, my heart shall rejoice, even mine"-perhaps, after an example the most powerful, with his dying breath he said, "I go the way of all the earth: and 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
never discharged the duty their office requires, have you not had an instructer and a reprover in a brother? In a sister? In a wife? In a husband? If relations have all neglected you, have you met with no pious friend? No godly acquaintance? No religious neighbour?
In the Second, we place the Scriptures. These you have in your own language, and are not forbidden the use of them. You can read them; and by the perusal bring around you Moses, and David, and Isaiah, and Paul; the prophets and the apostles; with all their warnings and invitations. And I may apply to you the words that were originally addressed to Timothy: "From a child thou hast known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness."
In the Sixth, we place the dispensations of providence. All events have a voice, especially those of an afflictive kind. Hence we are commanded to hear the rod. And who has not been addressed by it? He has chastened you with sickness. You drew nigh unto the grave, and looked over the brink of life into an awful eternity. He has visited you with disappointments in your worldly affairs; and told you not to lay up treasure on earth, where moth and rust do corrupt, and thieves break through and steal. You have seen your neighbours carried to their long home. You have witnessed dying beds. Your own dwelling has been made the house of mourning-" lover and friend has he put far from you, and your acquaintance into silence." The very day in which you have lived has been full of awful admonitions. When his "judgments are abroad in the earth, the inhabitants of the world should learn righteousness."
In the Third, we place ministers. In the name of God, whose they are, and whom they serve, they place before you your duty in the various conditions of life, and alarm and allure you to the performance of it. They proclaim the threatenings of the Law, and the promises of the Gospel. They announce your danger, and call upon you to flee for refuge to the hope set before you. "Many prophets and righteous men have desired to see the things that you see, and have not seen them; and to hear the things that you hear, and have not heard them. But blessed are your eyes, for they see; and your ears, for they hear."
Yet now many are there who "regard not the work of the Lord, neither consider the operations of his hands!" How many are there who disregard all these instructers and reprovers! Let us turn from the subject, to II. The PERIOD of these regrets. It is a dying hour. It is "at the last, when thy flesh and thy body are consumed."
Such a period is unavoidable. There is no prevention of it, nor escape from it. However long life may be, it will have an end: the last breath will expire; the last Sabbath will elapse; the last sermon will be heard. The sparkling eye must be closed in darkness; In the Fourth, we place conscience. This the busy tongue must be silenced for ever; instructer and reprover you have always with the hands must forget their enterprizes; and you; always in you. How often has this di- those idolized frames, that exhausted so much vine messenger, when you have been ventur-time and attention in pampering and adorning on a sinful action, cried Forbear! How ing them, must be consigned to rottenness often has it arraigned and condemned your proceedings, and filled you with anguish and terror! How often has it told you that you are in the gall of bitterness, in the bond of iniquity; and that your heart is not right in the sight of God!
In the Fifth, we place irrational creatures. Can you hear the melody of the birds, and not be ashamed of your sinful silence? Can you see the heavenly bodies perform uner- Such a period may be very near. The ringly their appointed course, and not reflect general limitation of human life is threeon your own numberless departures from score years and ten; but few reach it, and duty! "Go to the ant, thou sluggard; con- come to the grave in full age. Indeed when sider her ways, and be wise; which having we consider of what a multiplicity of delicate no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her organs our system is composed, and how liable meat in the summer, and gathereth her food they are to injury; and add to this the numin the harvest." 66 Hear, O heavens, and berless diseases and accidents that lie amgive ear, O earth: for the Lord hath spoken, bushed in our path; the wonder is, that we I have nourished and brought up children, live a week, a day, an hour, to an end. and they have rebelled against me. The ox Such a period is sometimes prematurely knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's brought on by sin. Solomon here intimates crib but Israel doth not know, my people this; and it is a supposition illustrated and doth not consider." "Be ye wise as serpents, confirmed by facts. How many die by the and harmless as doves." hand of civil justice; and acknowledge at
Such a period cannot be far off." For what is our life? It is a vapour that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away." It is a flood. It is a flower. It is a tale that is told. It is a dream.-It is a hand's breadth. It is nothing before God"surely every man at his best estate is altogether vanity."
sets your most secret sins in the light of God's countenance. With what ingratitude, folly, madness, will you charge yourselves! What reflections on opportunities lost! on faculties perverted! What fear of mercy abused; and of judgment approaching! What anticipations of hell, where the worm dieth not, and where the fire is not quenched!— Many of the sinner's dying confessions and horrors are never made known. Relations and friends conceal them. They often indeed mistake them, and ascribe these exclamations to the phrensy of the disorder. And, perhaps, were it not for the composing draught, it would be impossible, in many cases, to secure the attendance of any in the room. "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God !"
Secondly. It is useless. I do not mean as to others-it may serve to convince them what "an evil and bitter thing it is to sin against God," and awaken in them a salutary, because a seasonable, fear. But with re
the place of execution, the disregard of instruction and reproof, in which the fatal career commenced! How many of those who die what is called a natural death, might have been now living, had not their "bones been filled with the sins of their youth, that lie down with them in the dust!" How many yet living, but diseased, emaciated figures, exhibiting the appearances of decay and age, might have been sound in constitution, and healthy and strong, had they listened to that wisdom which has "length of days in her right hand," as well as in "her left hand riches and honour!" How many reduced and worn down by hard labour and living, to which they had been unaccustomed, who have pined away in want, or dragged on a miserable being in prison, might have still enjoyed liberty and ease, had they followed that godliness which has the promise of the life that now is, as well as of that which is to come!" As to "bloody and deceitful men," they do not often "live out half their days." But such a period as this, if it be not pre-gard to the individuals themselves, says God maturely produced by irreligion, is always himself: "Because I have called, and ye reimbittered by it. "You will mourn at the fused; I have stretched out my hand, and no last, when your flesh and your body are con- man regarded; but ye have set at nought all sumed, and say, How have I hated instruc- my counsel, and would none of my reproof: tion, and my heart despised reproof!" Such I also will laugh at your calamity; Î will, self-reflection and condemnation are una- mock when your fear cometh; when your voidable-unless prevented, first, by your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction being cut off suddenly, and not having a mo- cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and ment given you for thought. Secondly, by anguish cometh upon you. Then shall they your being deprived of reason, and thus ren- call upon me, but I will not answer; they dered incapable of any mental exertion. Or, shall seek me early, but they shall not find thirdly, by your having annihilated all moral me: for that they hated knowledge, and did feeling, and completely subdued the power not choose the fear of the Lord: they would of conscience-and who can tell how far none of my counsel: they despised all my a man may be hardened "through the deceit- reproof. Therefore shall they eat of the fruit fulness of sin," and by trifling with the means of their own way, and be filled with their of grace, and die in peace, though he is sure own devices." What! Is this dying grief, to awake in torment! Would you desire always, and invariably unavailing ?-Iansuch preventions as these? Are they not swer; we are to describe, things according to more dreadful than the effect? Yet you their natural and common course, and not must hope-either for sudden death-or the according to occasional and very unusual suspension of reason-or the loss of con- exceptions. And in the case before us—are science; or you must expect a dying hour to not exceptions very unusual? Do not men be imbitterred with regrets. commonly die as they live? And with regard to those dying regrets, to which so many look forward as a final refuge, and from which so many instantaneous saints are furnished for our magazine-calendars-what degree of dependence is to be placed upon them? In reply to this, let the following remarks be examined.
III. Let us consider the NATURE of these regrets. "And thou mourn at the last, when thy flesh and thy body be consumed, and say, How have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof!" In other cases, "Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted." But this mourning has two attributes to distinguish it. First. It is dreadful. A dying hour has been called an honest hour. The world then recedes from your view, demonstrating its incapacity to succour; and acknowledging that it attracted you only to show its emptiness, and elevated only to depress. The delusions of imagination give way. Criminal excuses vanish. Memory goes back, and recalls the guilt of former life: and conscience
The First regard the Scripture. There we find one, and only one called at this hour. It was the dying thief. He implored and obtained mercy when the heaven was covered with blackness, and the earth trembled, and the rocks rent, and the graves were opened, and a suffering Saviour would crown the prodigies of nature with a miracle of grace -a case in all its circumstances so amaz
ingly peculiar, that were not men infatu