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Elisha's request shows an enlightened understanding. He clearly apprehended the necessity and blessedness of this great gift.
The Spirit has been dispensed in every age of the church ; but the communications which distinguish the Christian economy are far more copious than those made in previous times. The gift of the Holy Ghost, in these larger effusions, is the result of our Saviour's completed and accepted sacrifice. “The Holy Ghost,” says St. John, “was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified.” (John vii. 39.) The tenor of our Lord's discourse upon this subject is, also, in point : “It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you ; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you.” “I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter,.........even the Spirit of truth,..........the Comforter, whom the Father will send in my name.” (xvi. 7; xiv. 16, 17, 26. See also xv. 26.) St. Peter accordingly recognises the pentecostal baptism as the fulfilment of our Lord's word: “Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, He hath shed forth this." (Acts ii. 33.) Christianity is thus the dispensation of life. It is “the ministration of the Spirit.” He attests the Gospel. Its doctrines are preached “ in demonstration of the Spirit, and of power.” The truth comes, “not in word only,” but also “in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance.” All who hear it receive “a manifestation of the Spirit, to profit withal,”—such a measure of light and grace as may lead to the spiritual apprehension of the truth. In a word, in concert with the other Persons of the Holy Trinity, He promotes the gracious purposes of redeeming love. In the execution of His blessed office, He directs the process of moral recovery; and especially, by the perpetuation of the ministry, and the hallowing of church-ordinances to the accomplishment of their glorious ends.
Elisha had already been called to the prophetic office. The mantle had been cast upon him. He therefore needed, for the discharge of his official duty, the gifts and graces of the Holy Ghost. The Spirit of the Prophets must maintain and sanctify the succession. The Spirit which consecrated Aaron to the priesthood, departed not when the incumbent “was gathered to his people,” but rested upon him who received the sacerdotal robes. Moses, before his solemn ascent of Nebo, laid his hands upon Joshua ; and “the son of Nun was ” now “full of the spirit of wisdom.” The spirit of Elijah revived in the forerunner of Christ. Jesus breathed on His disciples, saying, “Receive ye the Holy Ghost ;” and, after His ascension, dispensed the larger measures of His influence. Stephen was full of the Holy Ghost; and the Spirit which sustained the proto-martyr in his dying agony, rested from age to age upon the devoted men who welcomed the dungeon, or embraced the stake, or cheerfully resigned themselves to other modes of torture and death, “ for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus." The Apostles died; but the Spirit descended to their successors. Luther was called to his reward; but the Spirit, who had qualified him to begin the Reformation in Germany, per
petuated the work. Wesley died; but the Spirit still rests upon bis sons in the holy ministry. And, though the eminent men who now preside over our councils will be called away from the mourning church, their mantles will fall upon their successors, and their Spirit (O might it be in “double portion !") will be upon the “sons of the Prophets."
The degree in which Elisha sought to have this Spirit, claims attention. It is generally supposed that there is allusion, in his words, to the law which secured a “double portion” to the firstborn. (Deut. xxi. 17.) Elisha, as the chosen successor of the Prophet, claims to be regarded as his firstborn, and therefore asks his Spirit in the degree adapted to primogeniture. We will not presume to say, that there is Do allusion to the law in Deuteronomy; but, if it should seem probable that the “ double portion” has respect even to the degree in which Elijah himself possessed the Spirit, it may be safely argued that, in making such a request, Elisha was actuated by no selfish motive. He was not influenced by the ambition of renown. On the contrary, he manifested deep humility,—a felt inferiority to Elijah, and a sense of inability to prosecute the work which he had begun. If Elijah, with his great natural and acquired talents, needed the endowments of the Holy Spirit to qualify him for office, how much more does Elisha, with his inferior powers! If Elijah needed a portion, Elisha requires “a double portion.”
In times when Divine influences are copiously dispensed to those who earnestly seek them, may we expect to realise “a double portion” of the Spirit which eminently rests upon the most saintly members of the church? There are Christians who have advanced to the higher walks of the spiritual life. On these the lineaments of the Divine image are deeply traced ; and their tempers, words, and works are refined and elevated by the Spirit of holiness. But may we not excel the majority of professing Christians ? And ought we not to emulate those who enjoy the perfect love of God? We may surely receive, in equal degree, the graces of the Holy Ghost. Our Lord intimated the abundance in which the Spirit would be given to true believers : “He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. But this spake he,” adds St. John, "of the Spirit which they that believe on Him should receive.” (John vii. 38, 39.) St. Paul exhorts the Corinthians to "desire earnestly” (3 nãoūTe *) “the best gifts.” (1 Cor. xii. 31.) He also prays the Ephesians "to be filled with the Spirit.” And, indeed, we need not fear that the highest conceivable blessings are beyond our reach, when we remember the Apostle's words,—“Unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.” + (Eph. iii. 20.)
* Macknight and others prefer the indicative ; but there appears to be no sufficient reason for departing from the common rendering. (Vid. Bloomfield in loc.)
+ That He is as willing as He is able, is evident from two considerations :1. That “able, when applied to God or to Christ, signifies able and willing." (Macknight, Prelim. Ess. iv.) 2. That the workings of His power are already realised in our experience, (Karà thy Súvaply thv dvepyovuévny év huiv,)—this expe. rience being incipient or preparatory to still mightier operations.
What benefits can we conceive, more glorious than those wlich be asks in the sublime and comprehensive prayer which precedes these words? (Eph. iii. 14--19.) And yet, after his inspired soul had grasped these transcendently great ideas of blessing, he leads us in adoration to “Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.”—God's greatest gift is His own Son ; and most animating is the inference which the Apostle hence deduces : “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Ilim also freely give us all things? (Rom. viii. 32.) Let us, then, "ask and receive,” that our “joy may be full.”
The reason of Elisha's request is the necessity of the donation,-a necessity existing in himself, as also in the church, the nation, and the world. Personally, he needed the Spirit, that he might realise the living consolations of religion. He had witnessed the graces
which adorned Elijah's character, and bad traced them to their one Divine source, And now, at the close of a long career, these appeared in calmest dignity. The Spirit had prepared the man of God for heaven; and hence, when the summons came, he stood ready to step into the triumphal car. Elisha sought the baptisms of the same Spirit, that for himself he might live to God's glory, and die in peace. He also needed this grace in his official course ; and the more so, as the successor of an extraordinary Prophet, called to prosecute the work of reformation in the most perilous times.
The necessary qualification for his arduous work could be derived only from the Spirit.—The state of the church suggested the same request. She was passing through a season of severe trial. Royal hands had marked her for persecution. Courtly eloquence had condemned her Prophets, and blasphemed her God; and the nation generally had caught the spirit of its rulers. Her services were proscribed, her altars were overtlırown, her Ministers had been martyred. In these circumstances, the “ seven thousand who had not bowed the knee to (the image of] Baal” were in imminent danger. She therefore required, in an especial manner, support and comfort,—the assurances of the Divine favour, and of restored prosperity. But Elisha was henceforth to be her chief Minister, and the appointed instrument by which she was to be blessed. From his lips she would receive the exposition and application of the truth. For her he was to draw lessons of instruction and encouragement from records of the past, and from the precious promises of Israel's Holy One. would inspirit her, and his hand direct her course. But the Spirit alone could sanctify and prosper his ministry.—The same plea must be admitted on behalf of the nation. It was an age of awful apostasy. Yet some salutary impression had been produced by Elijah's ministry; and, perhaps, if the church were enabled to follow up the advantage gained, Israel might be recovered. But her future movements would be determined by the success of Elisha ; and this, as we have seen, depended on his reception of the Spirit.—Once more, the condition of the world demanded a ministry, in Israel's Prophet, full
of power. The Jewish people were raised up to conserve and diffuse the truth. To them were committed the oracles of God. And if, among the tribes charged with their custody, these oracles were silenced, what hope could there be of the instruction of other nations? If the nominal people of God bowed down to Baal, there could be no reason to expect that professed idolaters would renounce their rites and worship the Lord. If the light of Israel were quenched, the world must be abandoned to hopeless gloom. The regeneration of the world seemed to depend, in some sense, upon the success of Elisha's ministry. How necessary that he should ask,“I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me!”
This is precisely the reason why we should earnestly plead with God for the more copious effusions of the Holy Ghost. Our personal religion, our qualification for the faithful discharge of duty, the state of the church, the claims of the nation, the wants of the world,—all enforce the appeal. It must suffice, however, now to observe, that the hopes of the church and of the world centre in the ministry. This is the chosen instrumentality by which God will effect the regeneration of mankind. But the amount of its success will be measured by its tone and vigour; and these will always depend upon the degree in which it receives “the unction of the Holy One.” A ministry “ full of faith, and of the Holy Ghost,” will sooner or later yield the most glorious results. Its teaching and example will contribute to the higher sanctification of the church, and the unreserved consecration of her energies to the Master's cause. “ Now therefore arise, O LORD God, into Thy resting-place, Thou, and the ark of Thy strength : let Thy Priests, 0 LORD God, be clothed with salvation, and let Thy saints rejoice in goodness.” “Let Thy work appear unto Thy servants, and Thy glory unto their children. And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us : and establish Thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish Thou it.” (2 Chron. vi. 41 ; Psalm xc. 16, 17.)
EARLY ATTENDANCE IN THE HOUSE OF GOD. Op the incarnate Son of God it is recorded, by an Evangelist, that “in the day-time He was teaching in the temple ; and at night He went out, and abode in the mount that is called the mount of Olives. And all the people came early in the morning to Him in the temple, for to hear Him." (Luke xxi. 37, 38.) Every word of this passage tells on the disciplined reader,—who cannot forget that, at the date of these hallowed exercises, the Redeemer was just approaching the scene of His last mysterious agonies. It is obvious to remark on the rare happiness of the multitudes who, in these circumstances of matchless solemnity, were taught by One“ in whom are" for ever “hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” They
seem to have been awake to their privilege ; and it is the design of this paper to call a numerous class, after the lapse of eighteen hundred years, to profit by their example.
But some self-convicted remonstrant interposes,_" This is no better than a thrice-told tale.” Alas for the need of reiterating appeals, in the nineteenth century, on the subject of devout and punctual attendance on public worship! There is but one way of silencing this monitory voice. Allowance is willingly made for extreme cases,—those, namely, of sickness and infirmity ; to which may be added a few, of professional or otherwise uncontrollable duty. But who among us can plead, for the irregularity of which complaint is made, any reason that will bear to be examined in the light of God's countenance? Does this class include ten individuals in a large congregation? Does not conscience, awaking even at these preliminary inquiries, testify that this indecorum commonly arises from the want of religion, or from the most culpable inconsideration ?
Let us once more seriously look at the subject. All whom it concerns are besought to consider it, in reference to the honour of God's house, to their own highest interests, to the claims of their fellow-worshippers, and to the advancement of Christ's kingdom.
Zion of old was holy unto the Lord. And is the Christian sanctuary inferior? Why, then, did Kings and Prophets long for our dimmer light ? -For the opening of the present argument, it is enough to allege the engagements to which our temples are consecrated, and the spiritual glories by which they are enriched.
In regard to the preservation of TRUTH, the church may be viewed as the ark which braves the surges of a general food. Mysteries, which attract higher beings, are disclosed here. Angels fly hither, to look into these things. But what do those pure spirits think of us, when we are strangely willing to forfeit a large share of our privilege ?—It is not to be forgotten, however, that the public services of the church are especially hallowed to DEVOTION. Prayers and psalms are the very modes of our worship. “The sons of the stranger," says He whom we adore, “ that join themselves to the LORD, to serve Him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be His servants, every one that keepeth the Sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant; even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in MY HOUSE OF PRAYER : their burnt-offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for my HOUSE SUALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER FOR ALL PEOPLE.” (Isai. lvi. 6, 7.) It is the uttermost aggravation of our sin against the order and solemnity of that house, that by late and irregular attendance we neglect the public reading of the Scriptures, and the exercises which are strictly devotional. Have we no mercies to acknowledge, no sorrows to deprecate, and no blessings to implore? Are we quite prepared to say, with the unhappy Laodicean, “I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing ?” (Rev. iii. 17.)
If the preceding consideration implies all that is binding in duty, it is easy to show that the ordinances of public worship invest the obligation with all that is alluring in privilege. The blessings of the sanctuary centre in the presence of God, -in the residence of that Spirit who is the Vicar of Christ on earth. Jesus is thus in the midst of His disciples, as often as they meet in His name. The
eye of flesh no longer sees the cloud, and the mysterious effulgence; but the real privilege of the ancient church is not withdrawn. It is even heightened. The “ greater light” has arisen “to rule the day.” Yet, in reference to this glorious attribute of “common