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person and business were made known, expecting that the man of God would soon appear, and with great solemnity perform the cure. But the prophet only sent to him a servant, with this simple prescription, "Go, wash seven times in Jordan, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean." The general thinking his dignity contemned, and his misfortune insulted by a ridiculous prescription, indignantly replied, "Behold, I thought, he will surely come out to me, and call upon the name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel?-May I not wash in them and be clean ?" So he turned and went away in a rage." His servants, reluctant to think that their hopes should be frustrated by his passionate resolution, expostulated with him, in the words, which have just been read." My father, if the prophet had bidden thee do some great thing, Wouldst thou not have done it? How much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash and be clean ?"
Their judicious expostulation recalled his reason. He applied the remedy, and obtained a cure. He immediately returned to the prophet, acknowledged the Supreme God, and professed his resolution to worship, from that time, no other deity,but the God of Israel.
This story will afford us several useful instructions. I. We see the dangerous consequences of a hasty judgment in matters of importance.
This had like to have proved fatal to Naaman. It has often proved fatal to others. He conducted with much discretion, until he had heard the prophet's advice. At this critical moment his prudence deserted him. He turned away in anger; and, if his passion had continued, he would have been a leper to the day of his death. From his rashness
and precipitance, let others learn wisdom and caution.
Judge not according to the appearance," says our divine Lord, "but judge righteous judgment." Let this rule guide your enquiries concerning the doctrines of religion. Reject not a doctrine, because it contradicts an opinion, which once you have formed, or opposes a design which now you are pursuing; but examine it coolly, and decide upon it impartially. If it appears, to be a doctrine agreeable to reason, founded in scripture, and tending to virtue, admit it as divine, however diverse it may be from your former conceptions, or presentinclinations.
When you meet with an unexpected reproof, suffer not your resentments to rise; but hear it calmly and apply it seriously. If you are not too good to offend, think not yourself too great to be admonished. "Let the righteous smite you; it will be a kindness: Let him reprove you; it will be an excellent oil, which shall not break your head." If you proudly presume that you have done no wrong, or, rashly deem him your enemy who reminds you of the wrong you have done, you are hardly capable of amendment. "Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit ;—there is more hope of a fool, than of him."
In the progress of the religious life, difficulties, unforeseen and unthought of, will probably occur. But how great soever they may be, hold on your way with constancy. You have felt a conviction of the importance of religion, and formed a resolution in its favour. You now attend on the appointed means of grace-you refrain from some of your past guilty practices-you seek God's mercy with an earnestness, which is new and unexperienced. Hopeful beginnings these. "Then shall you know, if you follow on to know the Lord." When the
leper of Syria came and waited at Elisha's door, there was a fair prospect of his recovery. Do not like him turn back in disgust. Perhaps you will not find the easy success, which you expected. Still wait on God, and maintain your hope. Say not, with the hypocrites of old, "It is vain to serve the Lord; and, What profit is it, that we walk mournfully before him ?" he has not said to you, "Seek me in vain."
What a hopeful disposition appeared in the young ruler mentioned by the evangelist? He came to Christ, and enquired, how he should enter into life. He treated his divine instructor with reverence. The advice first given him he received with approbation, professed a compliance, and asked, What more was to be done? Alas! How many are there, who never appear to go as far in religion as he did? But still, unhappy youth! he failed. When he heard, that a temper to renounce the world for heaven, was necessary to complete the religious character, he went away; not indeed, like the Syrian in a rage; but in sorrow, that religion would not comport with the love of riches.
Work out your salvation with fear and trembling Wait on God, and he will strengthen your heart. Look well to yourselves, that ye lose not the things, which have been wrought, but that ye receive a full reward.
II. We are here taught, that we are not to make our own humour the standard by which to form our judgment in matters of divine appointment.
This was Naaman's fault. If the prophet had come out to him, and, with the affected solemnity of a heathen inchanter, had invoked his God, and struck his hand over the distempered part, the leper would have expected a cure. But the simple advice to wash in Jordan, appeared too ridiculous to be regarded. His servants prudently suggest to
him, that this was the advice of an acknowledged prophet; and the propriety of it ought not to be disputed, even though it had been attended with the greatest difficulty.
The tempers of Naaman has often appeared in
The Jews groaned for deliverance from Egypt; and deliverance was granted. But because they were not led right on, by the shortest passage, to Canaan, they murmured against Moses, and against God, and wished themselves in their former bondage.
At the time of Christ's appearance, the people were in earnest expectation of their Messiah; but, because he appeared in a form different from that which their own fancy had described, they rejected him as an impostor; nor could they by all his reasoning and miracles, be convinced, that they had misunderstood the prophets.
Among the Gentiles, Christ crucified for the salvation of men was foolishness; For how should he save others, who himself suffered as a criminal? The plain and artless manner in which the apostles preached, disgusted their pride. They imagined, it would have been far more agrecable to the wisdom of God to employ, in reforming the world, some acute philosopher and subtile disputer. Thus, carried away with their own humour and prejudice, many despised the gospel of salvation.
In the christian world, the religion of Jesus, which, in its original institution, is rational and pure, has been cruelly tortured and deformed by the vain conceits of men. For some it is too simple, and they think it would be much beautified and improved by the addition of a few more ceremonies. Others can hardly be reconciled to the few ceremonies which really belong to it. The precept concerning the sabbath, they choose to throw among
the obsolete rites of Judaism; for they see no rea son for recess from labour, or application to the duties of piety, on one day more than another. They apprehend no advantage from a stated attendance on publick worship; for they can pray, and read the Bible, in private; and, if more is necessary, they can supply themselves with books well adapted to piety. They conceive not, what good it can do to apply a little water to a person's body, especially to the body of a child, with the invocation of a sacred name. The child knows not what is done; much less for what end it is done. Is salvation at all connected with such ceremonies ?-They imagine there can be no real benefit in eating bread and drinking wine for the remembrance of Christ: May he not as well be remembered by reading the history of his life and death?
By cavils, like these, many satisfy themselves in the neglect of the plainest institutions of the gospel; just as the Syrian leper, when he was ordered to wash in Jordan, objected, "Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel ?-May I not wash in them and be clean?
The same humour often opposes the doctrines, as well as institutions of God. Some hastily reject every doctrine, which contradicts their own temper and practice; as if nothing could be true, but what will justify them. Some pronounce every doctrine false or useless, which comes not within their comprehension; as if a doctrine too grand for the human mind to grasp, might not be so far understood, as to influence an honest heart. Some make light of every thing in scripture, for which they cannot assign a reason; as if there could be no reasons for God's appointments, but what lie obvious to them. So Naaman rejected Elisha's advice, because he could see no reason, why the waters of