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in their own strength, assembled themselves together to ask help of the Lord: and on this, as well as all other fitting occasions, they found their king at their head : " he stood in the congregation of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the Lord,”* and put up a solemn prayer to God in behalf of his people. His prayer was immediately answered by the descent of God's spirit of prophecy upon the Levite Jahaziel, who promised them that which soon afterwards came to pass, a complete victory over their enemies. These things, above the “riches and honour" of which he possessed abundantly, constitute the claim of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, to the admiration and respect of those who read his history : may we find always in our earthly rulers such watchful guardians of their people as was he; and may the care which they bestow on us produce a like return on our parts, in amended morals, and sounder faith, in a more constant attendance on public worship, and a firmer reliance on our God.
THE HISTORY OF ELISHA.-- PART I.
Ahaziah succeeded him upon the throne of Israel. This prince passed the short period of his reign, which did not exceed two years, in wicked and idolatrous courses. The whole bias of his mind, indeed, seems to have been so thoroughly perverted, that, when lying on his death-bed, to which an acci
2 Chron. xx. 5.
+ Ibid. xviii. 1.
dental fall through his palace-window had brought him, his thoughts were turned, not to the God of Israel, but to the idol of Ekron, whom the Philistines worshipped under the title of Baal-zebub; a title appropriated in the times of the gospel to the spiritual enemy of mankind, the prince of the demons who, by their possession of mortal bodies, produced in them infirmity and disease.
His supposed power over these calamities may possibly have been the reason which induced Ahaziah to apply to him upon occasion of his sickness: the king's messengers, however, were not allowed to reach their destination ; Elijah met them on their way, and sent them back to their master, with the stern assurance, that speedy death awaited him as the punishment of his infidelity, and of his many crimes. Certified by their description that it was indeed the ancient enemy of his house, (for the carnally-minded look upon all God's faithful servants as their enemies,) he sent successively two captains at the head of fifty men to seize him, who were both destroyed, at the call of Elijah, by fire from heaven : to the third, who came before him in a more humble and suppliant manner, the prophet willingly committed himself; and appearing before the king, repeated personally his former message, and left him to the torments of a guilty conscience, and the pangs of approaching death. Elijah was a man fitted, by the uncompromising boldness and severity of his character, for the troublesome times in which he lived: he was armed, for his own protection and for the chastisement of offenders, with miraculous powers, and he exercised them with unsparing zeal. We have, however, a warning, that in these points he is not to be considered as an object of imitation by the servants of Christ: they who, if any, would use means like these of punishing such as oppose themselves to the reception or the influence of the gospel,“ know not what spirit
they are of." The declaration of Christ to this effect, addressed to his disciples James and John, when, being refused admittance into a village of the Samaritans, they said, “Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven and destroy them, even as Elijah did ?” was a rebuke not to them only, but to all, who, having a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge, t act as if they had forgotten that his blessed Son came amongst men, not to destroy their lives, but to save them." Still, though the conduct of Elijah, on this or similar occasions, be no model for ours; though suffering rather than infliction of evil be the badge of our profession; we must not, indeed we cannot reasonably suppose that in so doing he acted without the sanction of God, who sent down the fire from heaven at his request. This, his last great act of authority in the exercise of his office, was speedily followed by his bodily removal from the scene of his earthly labours with glory into heaven : his re-appearance before the coming of the day of the Lord was foretold by the prophet Malachi, # and was verified, as far as relates to the first coming of Christ, by the preaching of John the Baptist, in his “spirit and power;"Ş and he it was who, in conjunction with Moses, was seen in attendance upon the blessed Jesus at his transfiguration on the Mount, and admitted to converse with him upon the great mystery of “his decease, which he should accomplish at Jerusalem.”ll
Looking, then, upon Elijah, for all these reasons, as a man especially favoured and dignified by God, let us consider a little more in detail the circumstances of his removal from the earth, which took place as follows:--Being made acquainted with the purpose of God concerning him, he took his way, accompanied by his faithful minister and friend Elisha, whom he vainly requested to remain behind, from Gilgal, first to Bethel, and from thence, by Jericho, to the banks of Jordan; the prophets of both which places, as it appears, had been similarly informed of that which was about to happen, though probably the exact manner of it was not revealed to them.* Arrived at Jordan, he performed a great miracle in their sight, by striking the waters with his mantle, and dividing them so as to admit of his passage, and that of Elisha, who alone was permitted to attend him. Then it was that the master, being now on the point of being separated from his disciple and faithful servant, and willing to give him a last proof of affection, said to him, “ Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken from thee. And Elisha said, Let, I pray thee, a double portion of thy spirit be upon me.”+ The prophet plainly supposed, that
* Luke ix. 55, 56.
$ Luke i. 17.
+ Rom. x. 2. I Mal. iv. 5,
|| Luke ix. 30, 31,
These schools of the prophets appear to have been originally instituted in the days of Samuel, perhaps by him. They are mentioned, 1 Sam. x. 5, 10; xix. 18-24; continued unto Ahab's time, 1 Kings xviii. 4; and seem to have had their principal establishments at Bethel and Jericho, 2 Kings ii. 2, 7.
There was also a college of them at Jerusalem, 2 Kings xxii. 14. From them God for the most part selected those whom he purposed to endow with special gifts of the Spirit, their education having fitted them to become recipients of his extraordinary graces, by improvement of their natural faculties, and advancement in piety, through diligent instruction in the law and celebration of his praises, to which the study of music was subservient.1 Sam. x. 5; and compare 1 Cor. xiv. 26. The more eminent prophets were sometimes chosen from among others, as, Amos vii. 14; but ordinarily the spirit of prophecy did not seize on any but such whose institution was in order to that end, so as to create surprise when it was otherwise. See 1 Sam. x. 12; xix. 24. Abridged from Stillingfleet's Orig. Sacr. b. ii. ch. iv.
We may recognise here the germ of those collegiate and scholastic establishments, which in our own country have heen the strongholds of religious learning, and have produced so many ornaments of the church of Christ.
+ 2 Kings ii. 9.
after he was taken away it would be too late either for Elisha to ask any thing, or for him to grant it ; reproving thereby the rashness of those who are in the habit of praying to the glorified saints, and of entreating their intercession, as is the dangerous practice in the Church of Rome. We should observe also upon this, that Elisha did not require a double portion of the Spirit, compared with that which his master had himself enjoyed, but only twice as much as was possessed by any of his remaining followers; and even this Elijah pronounced to be a hard thing, but told him that if he was permitted to see him when he departed hence, he might assure himself that his request was granted. Accordingly, a chariot and horses of fire appeared to both of them; and Elijah went up visibly in a whirlwind to heaven, leaving his mantle, with which he did his last mighty work, in the possession of Elisha, who forthwith, in the consciousness that God was with him, put it toʻthe same use as before, by dividing with it the waters of Jordan, on his return to Jericho. The prophets there assembled, when informed of the event, showed at first symptoms of distrust, and made a three days' fruitless search for Elijah in the neighbourhood; a search which Elisha had forewarned them would prove vain, though he permitted it to their importunity. Before quitting Jericho, Elisha performed a miracle of mercy, by healing its unwholesome waters; and whilst on his way to Samaria, by way of Bethel, he showed that, no less than his departed master, he possessed the formidable power of executing the wrath of God upon the doers of evil, by the effects which followed his curse upon certain insolent children, who took occasion as he passed by their city to come forth and revile him ; when no less than two-and-forty were destroyed by two fierce bears, which came upon them out of the forest.