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NAAMAN HEALED OF HIS LEPROSY
2 Kings 5:13. And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?
MEN universally claim a right to “do what they will with their own;” but they are extremely averse to concede that right to God. Indeed there is scarcely any doctrine against which the carnal heart rises with such acrimony, as against the sovereignty of God. Nevertheless we must maintain that the Governor of the universe ordereth every thing after the counsel of his own will, and dispenseth his gifts “according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself.” He once chose the Jews for his peculiar people, not for the sake of any righteousness of theirs, but because he had ordained that he would magnify his grace in them: and for the same reason has he now transferred his favours to the Gentiles. Our Lord, in his first sermon at Nazareth, warned his hearers, that, if they rejected his gracious overtures, the blessings of his Gospel should be transferred to the Gentile world: and, to shew them how futile all their objections were, and how delusive their hopes of impunity in sin, he reminded them, that God had in many instances vouchsafed mercy to Gentiles, not only in conjunction with his people, but even in opposition to them: for that there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha; but them had God overlooked, whilst he shewed mercy to Naaman the Syrian [Note: Luke 4:27.].
The history to which our Lord referred, is that which is contained in the chapter before us: which we propose to consider,
In a way of literal interpretation—
Under the pressure of a leprosy, which was an incurable disorder, Naaman, the Syrian, applied to Elisha for a cure. Doubtless every thing that the Syrian physicians could devise had been tried, but to no purpose. It happened however that an Israelitish maid, whom the Syrians had taken captive, was living in the service of Naaman; and that she, knowing what great miracles had been wrought by Elisha, suggested, that by an application to him her master might be restored to health. The idea being suggested to Naaman, he determined without delay to apply for a cure. This he did erroneously at first to the king of Israel; but afterwards to Elisha himself: but through his own folly and wickedness he nearly lost the benefit which he was so eager to obtain: for, instead of following the direction given him by the prophet, “he turned, and went away in a rage [Note: ver. 12.].” Here let us pause to inquire, what it was that so nearly robbed him of the desired blessing? It was,
His offended pride—
[He had come in great state, and with rich rewards in his hand, to the house of a poor prophet: and the prophet had not deigned to come out to him, but had only sent him word what he must do in order to a cure. This was considered by Naaman as an insufferable insult. In his own country he was regarded with the utmost deference; and was he now to be treated with such indignity by a contemptible Israelite? No: he would not listen for a moment to a message sent him in so rude a way.
Alas! what an enemy to human happiness is pride! How acute are its feelings! how hasty its judgment! how impetuous its actings! But thus it is with all who have high ideas of their own importance. They stop not to inquire whether any insult is intended; but construing every thing according to their own conceptions, they are as full of resentment on account of a fancied insult, as they would be if they had sustained the greatest injury: and in many instances do they sacrifice their most important interests to this self-applauding, but delusive, passion.]
His disappointed expectation—
[Naaman had formed an idea of the manner in which the prophet would effect the cure: nor do we at all condemn the notions he had formed. But what right had he to be offended because the cure was not wrought with all the formalities that he had pictured to himself? If he received the benefit, did it signify to him in what way he received it? or had he any right to dictate to the prophet and to God, in what way the cure should be wrought? Yet behold, because his own expectations were not realized, he breaks out into a passion, and will not accept the blessing in God’s appointed way.
This throws a great light on innumerable occasions of offence which are taken even among good people. We paint to ourselves the way in which we think others ought to act; and then, because they do not answer our expectations, we are offended. We forget that another person may not view every thing in precisely the same light that we do, or have exactly the same judgment about the best mode of acting under any given circumstances; and yet, as though we were infallible, and the other person were in full possession of our ideas, we are offended at him for not acting as we would have him; when most probably we ourselves, had we been in his situation, should not have followed the line of conduct which we had marked out for him. It is surprising how much disquietude this mistaken spirit occasions in men’s own minds, and how many disagreements it produces in the world.]
His reigning unbelief—
[Though Naaman came expecting that a miracle should be wrought by the prophet, yet would he not use the means which the prophet prescribed. He did not expect the effect to be produced by the power of God, but by the mere act of washing in a river; and then he concluded, that the rivers of his own country were as competent to the end desired, as any river in Israel. Thus, because he saw not the suitableness of the means to the end, he would not use the means in order to the end, notwithstanding they were so easy, and so safe.
It is thus that unbelief continually argues: ‘God, I am told, would do such and such things for me, if I would apply to him in the use of such and such particular means: but what can those means effect?’ This is an absurd mode of arguing: for, when God commanded Moses to smite the rock with his rod, did the promised effect not follow, because a stroke of his rod could not of itself produce it? God can work equally by means or without means; and whatever he prescribes, that it is our wisdom to do, in full expectation that what he promises shall surely be accomplished.
When Naaman was made sensible of his folly, and complied with the direction of the prophet, then his disorder vanished; and “his flesh became like the flesh of a little child.” And thus shall we find in relation to every thing which God has promised, that “according to our faith it will be unto us.”]
We now proceed to consider this history,
In a way of spiritual accommodation—
We are not in general disposed to take Scripture in any other than its true and primary sense: though, as the inspired writers occasionally take passages of Holy Writ in an accommodated sense, we feel it to be a liberty which on some particular occasions we are warranted to take. We think it would be too much to say that this history was intended to shew how the Gentiles are to be washed from the guilt of sin; but sure we are that it is well adapted for that end: and, as the leprosy was certainly a type of sin, and the mode of purification from it was certainly typical of our purification from sin by the Redeemer’s blood, we feel no impropriety in accommodating this history to elucidate the Gospel of Christ.
We have here, then, a lively representation of,
The character of the Gospel—
[Sin is absolutely incurable by any human means: but God has “opened a fountain for sin and for uncleanness;” and has bidden us to “wash in it and be clean:” he has even reasoned with us, as Naaman’s servants did with him, saying, “Come now, let us reason together; though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made white as snow; though they be red as crimson, they shall be as wool.” In all the word of God there is not a more beautiful illustration of the Gospel method of salvation than this. We are simply required to wash in the blood of Christ by faith; and in so doing we shall immediately be cleansed from all sin. And with this agrees the direction given to the jailer, (the only one that can with propriety be given to one who inquires after the way of salvation,) “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.”]
The treatment it meets with—
[Multitudes not only disregard it, but turn from it with disgust. In their eyes, the direction, “Wash and be clean,” “Believe and be saved,” is too simple, too free, too humiliating.
It is too simple. What! have I nothing to do, but to believe? Will this remove all my guilt? it cannot be — — —
It is too free. Surely some good works are necessary to prepare me for the Saviour, and to make me in some measure worthy of his favour. Must I receive every thing without money and without price, and acknowledge to all eternity that it is altogether the free gift of God in Christ Jesus, as free as the light I see, or the air I breathe? I cannot but regard such a proposal as subversive of all morality.
Lastly, It is too humiliating. Must I no more bring my good deeds than my bad ones, and no more hope for mercy on account of my past life than publicans and harlots can for theirs? This is a mode of righteousness which I never can, nor will, submit to [Note: Romans 10:3.].
Now persons who argue thus against the Gospel, are not unfrequently full of indignation against it, and against all who believe it. If called upon to do some great thing for the Gospel, they would engage in it gladly, and do it with all their might: but, if invited to accept its benefits by faith alone, they resent the offer as a wild conceit and an Antinomian delusion.]
From the striking resemblance which there is between the conduct of Naaman and that of those who reject the Gospel, we shall take occasion to add a few words of advice—
Bring not to the Gospel any pre-conceived notions of your own—
[Every man, of necessity, forms to himself some idea of the way in which he is to obtain acceptance with God: but when we come to the Holy Scriptures, we must lay aside all our own vain conceits, and sit at the feet of Jesus, to learn what he has spoken, and to do what he has commanded. We must not dictate to God what he shall say, but with the docility of little children receive instruction from him.]
Let not passion dictate in matters of religion—
[Many who hear perhaps a single sermon, or even a single expression, are offended, and shut their ears against the truth from that time. But, if candid investigation be ever called for, surely it is required in the concerns of religion; where the truths proposed must of necessity be offensive to the carnal mind, and where the consequences of admitting or rejecting them must so deeply affect our everlasting welfare.]
Be willing to take advice even from your inferiors—
[Naaman, under the influence of pride and passion, thought himself right in rejecting the proposals of the prophet: but his servants saw how erroneously he judged, and how absurdly he acted. Thus many who are our inferiors in station or learning may see how unreasonably we act in the concerns of our souls, and especially in rejecting the Gospel of Christ. The Lord grant that we may be willing to listen to those who see more clearly than ourselves, and be as ready to use God’s method of cleansing for our souls, as Naaman was for the healing of his body!]
Make trial of the method proposed for your salvation—
[No sooner did Naaman submit to use the means prescribed, than he derived from them all the benefit that he could desire. And shall any one go to Christ in vain? Shall any one wash in the fountain of his blood in vain? No: the most leprous of mankind shall be healed of his disorders; and the wonders of Bethesda’s pool be renewed in all that will descend into it. Only remember that you must wash there seven times. You must not go to any other fountain to begin or perfect your cure: in Christ, and in Christ alone, you must seek all that your souls can stand in need of.]
NAAMAN BOWING IN THE HOUSE OF RIMMON
2 Kings 5:18-19. In this thing the Lord pardon thy servant, that when my master goeth into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leaneth on my hand, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon: when I bow down myself in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon thy servant in this thing. And he said unto him, Go in peace.
THE operation of divine grace is uniform in every age and place: it makes a total revolution in the views and habits of the person in whom it dwells. See how it wrought on Naaman! Before he felt its influence he was full of pride and unbelief; and notwithstanding his request for the healing of his leprosy was granted, yet because it was not granted in the precise way that he expected, he would not comply with the directions of the prophet, but “turned, and went away in a rage.” But, when his leprosy was healed, and in conjunction with that mercy the grace of God wrought powerfully upon his soul, he returned with most heartfelt gratitude to the prophet, renounced his idol-worship, and devoted himself altogether to the God of Israel. At the same time however that he embraced the true religion, he made a request, which has been differently interpreted by different commentators; some vindicating it as illustrative of a tender conscience, and others condemning it as an indication of an unsound mind.
We think that great and learned men are apt to judge of particular passages, according as their own general views and habits of life incline them: those who are lax in their own conduct, leaning too much to a laxity of interpretation; and those who are strict in their principles, not daring, as it were, to concede to men the liberty which God has given them [Note: We conceive that few Christians in the world would have approved of the statement in Romans 14:0 if it had not been contained in the inspired volume.]. But we should neither abridge the Christian’s liberty, nor extend it beyond its just bounds: and we apprehend that the passage before us will assist us materially in assigning to it its proper limits, and will itself receive the most satisfactory interpretation when viewed according to its plain and obvious import.
We propose then to consider,
The concession here made—
We do not hesitate to call Elisha’s answer a concession. To regard it as an evasion of the question is to dishonour the prophet exceedingly, and to contradict the plainest import of his words. His answer is precisely the same as that of Jethro to Moses [Note: Exodus 4:18.]; and must be interpreted as an approbation of the plan proposed to him. Let us consider then the true import of Naaman’s question—
[Naaman proposed to continue in the king of Syria’s service, and to attend him as usual to the house of Rimmon, the god whom his master worshipped: and as his master always leaned upon his arm on those occasions, (a practice common with kings at that time, even with the kings of Israel, as well as others [Note: 2 Kings 7:2; 2 Kings 7:17.],) he must of necessity accommodate himself to his master’s motion, and bow forward when he did, in order not to obstruct him in his worship. This he proposed to do; and his communication of his intentions to the prophet must be understood in a two-fold view; namely, As an inquiry for the regulation of his judgment, and as a guard against a misconstruction of his conduct.
The case was certainly one of great difficulty, and especially to a young convert, to whom such considerations were altogether new. On the one hand, he felt in his own mind that he should not participate in the worship of his master; and yet he felt that his conduct would be open to such a construction. Having therefore access to an inspired prophet, he was glad to have his difficulty solved, that so he might act as became a servant of Jehovah, and enjoy the testimony of a good conscience.
Being determined, if the prophet should approve of it, so to act, he desired to cut off all occasion for blame from others. He knew how ready people are to view things in an unfavourable light; and that, if he should do this thing of himself, he might appear to be unfaithful to his convictions, and to have relapsed into idolatry: he therefore entered, as it were, a protest against any such surmises, and gave a public pledge that he would do nothing that should be inconsistent with his professed attachment to Jehovah.
In this view of the subject, his question was every way right and proper. The honour of God and the salvation of his own soul depended on his not doing any thing that should be inconsistent with his profession; and therefore he did right to ask advice: and lest he should by any means cast a stumbling-block before others, he did well in explaining his views and intentions beforehand. What terrible evils had well nigh arisen from the neglect of such a precaution, when the tribes of Reuben and of Gad erected an altar on the banks of Jordan [Note: Joshua 22:9-34.]! — — — On the other hand, what evils were avoided, when Paul explained his sentiments in the first instance privately to the elders of Jerusalem, instead of exciting prejudice and clamour by a hasty and indiscriminate avowal of them in public [Note: Galatians 2:2.]! It is thus that we should act with all possible circumspection, not only avoiding evil, but “abstaining as much as possible from the very appearance of it [Note: 1 Thessalonians 5:22.];” and not only doing good, but endeavouring to prevent “our good from being evil spoken of [Note: Romans 14:16.].”]
The import of the answer given to it—
[This answer is not to be understood as a connivance at what was evil, but as an acknowledgment that Naaman might expect the divine blessing whilst pursuing the conduct he had proposed. Can we imagine that Naaman at that moment saw the thing to be evil, and yet desired a dispensation to commit it? Did he, at the very moment that he was rejecting all false gods, and acknowledging Jehovah as the only true God, and determining to build an altar to Jehovah in his own country, and desiring earth from Jehovah’s land to build it upon, did he then, I say, at that moment ask for a licence to play the hypocrite? and can we suppose that he would confess such an intention to Elisha, and ask his sanction to it? or can we imagine that Elisha, knowing this, would approve of it, or give an evasive answer, instead of reprobating such impiety? Assuredly not: the request itself, as made on that occasion, must of necessity have proceeded from an upright mind; and the prophet’s concession is an indisputable proof, that the request, made under those particular circumstances, was approved by him. Elisha saw that Naaman was upright: he knew that the bowing or not bowing was a matter of indifference in itself; and that, where it was not done as an act of dissimulation, nor was likely to be mistaken by others as an act of worship, it might be done with a good conscience; more especially as it was accompanied with a public disavowal of all regard for idols; and arose only out of the accidental circumstance of the king leaning on his hand at those seasons. In this view of the subject, the prophet did not hesitate to say to him, “Go in peace.”]
Such, we are persuaded, was the concession made. Let us now proceed to consider,
The instruction to be gathered from it—
The more carefully we examine this concession, the more instructive will it be found. We may learn from it,
How to determine the quality of doubtful actions—
[Many actions, such as observing of holy days, or eating meats offered to idols, are indifferent in themselves, and may be good or evil, according to circumstances. Two things, then, are to be inquired into, namely, The circumstances under which they are done; and, the principles from which they flow.
Had Naaman acted from a love to the world, or from a fear of man, his conduct would have been highly criminal: or, if by accommodating himself to the notions of the king he would have cast a stumbling-block before others, he would have sinned in doing it: but with his views, and under his circumstances, his conduct was wholly unexceptionable.
In this sentiment we are confirmed by the conduct of St. Paul. St. Paul, when taking Timothy with him as a fellow-labourer, circumcised him in order to remove the prejudices of the Jews, who would not otherwise have received him on account of his father being a Greek: but, when required to circumcise Titus, he refused, and would on no account give way; because a compliance in that case was demanded as a necessary conformity with the Mosaic law, which was now abolished. In both these cases he acted right, because of the difference of the circumstances under which he acted. So, when he “became all things to all men,” he acted right, as well in conforming to legal observances as in abstaining from them, because his principle was right [Note: Act 21:22-26 and 1 Corinthians 9:19-22.]: whilst Peter, on the contrary, sinned in a very grievous manner by conforming to the Jewish prejudices, because he acted from fear, and not from love. We do not mean to say, that every action which proceeds from a good principle, is therefore right; for, no principle, however good, can sanctify a bad action, though a bad principle will vitiate the best of actions [Note: See Haggai 2:12-13.]: but an investigation of the principle from which an action flows, accompanied with an attention to the circumstances under which it is done, will serve as the best clew whereby to find what is really good, and to distinguish it from all specious and delusive appearances.]
How to act in doubtful cases—
[Circumstances must sometimes arise, wherein it is difficult to draw the precise line between good and evil: and in all such cases we shall do well to consult those, whose deeper knowledge, and exalted piety, and more enlarged experience qualify them for the office of guiding others. We are ourselves liable to be biased by passion or interest; and are therefore oftentimes too partial judges in our own cause. Another person, divested of all such feelings, can generally see more clearly where the path of duty lies. We shall always therefore do well to distrust ourselves, and to take advice of others [Note: See how the Church of old acted, Acts 15:1-2.]: but, above all, we should take counsel of the Lord. He has promised, that “the meek he will guide in judgment, the meek he will teach his way:” and, though we are not to expect a voice from heaven to instruct us, or a pillar of fire to go before us, yet may we hope for such an influence of his Spirit as shall rectify our views, and be, in effect, an accomplishment of that promise, “Thou shalt hear a voice behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left [Note: Isaiah 30:21.].”
If, after much deliberation we cannot make up our minds, it is best to pause, till we see our way more clear. The commandments given us by God himself on this point, are very express: “Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind:” “Happy is the man who condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth; for he that doubteth is damned (condemned) if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith, is sin [Note: Romans 14:5; Romans 14:22-23.].” But, if we are upright in our minds, and inquire of others, not to get a sanction to our own wishes, but to obtain direction from the Lord, we shall certainly not be left materially to err; and for the most part, we shall at all events enjoy the “testimony of our own consciences, that with simplicity and godly sincerity we have had our conversation in the world [Note: 2 Corinthians 1:12.].”]
How to deal with tender consciences—
[The prophet did not begin to perplex the mind of Naaman with nice distinctions; but, seeing the integrity of his heart, encouraged him to proceed; not doubting but that, as occasions arose, God himself would “guide him into all truth.” Thus should we also deal with young converts [Note: Romans 14:1.]: we should feed them with milk, and not with meat, which, on account of their unskilfulness in the word of righteousness, they would not be able to digest [Note: John 16:12; 1 Corinthians 3:2; Hebrews 5:11-14.]. There may be many things proper for them both to know and do at a future period, which, under their present circumstances, need not be imparted, and are not required. We should therefore deal tenderly towards them, being careful not to lay upon them any unnecessary burthen, or exact of them any unnecessary labours; lest we “break the bruised reed, and quench the smoking flax:” our endeavour rather must be to “lift up the hands that hang down, and to strengthen the feeble knees, and to make straight paths for their feet, that the lame may not be turned out of the way, but may rather be healed [Note: Hebrews 12:12-13.].” This was our Lord’s method [Note: Matthew 9:14-17.] — — — and an attention to it is of infinite importance in all who would be truly serviceable in the Church of Christ.]
Lest this subject be misunderstood, we shall conclude with answering the following questions:
May we ever do evil that good may come?
[No: to entertain such a thought were horrible impiety: and if any man impute it to us, we say with St. Paul, that “his damnation is just [Note: Romans 3:8.].” But still we must repeat what we said before, that things which would be evil under some circumstances, may not be so under others; and that whilst the question itself can admit of no doubt, the application of it may: and we ought not either to judge our stronger, or despise our weaker, brethren, because they do not see every thing with our eyes [Note: Romans 14:3-6.]; for both the one and the other may be accepted before God, whilst we for our uncharitableness are hateful in his sight [Note: Romans 14:10; Romans 14:18.].]
May we from regard to any considerations of ease or interest act contrary to our conscience?
[No: conscience is God’s vicegerent in the soul, and we must at all events obey its voice. We must rather die than violate its dictates. Like Daniel and the Hebrew youths, we must be firm and immovable. If a man err, it will never be imputed to him as evil that he followed his conscience, but that he did not take care to have his conscience better informed. We must use all possible means to get clear views of God’s mind and will; and, having done that, must then act according to our convictions, omitting nothing that conscience requires, and allowing nothing that conscience condemns. The one endeavour of our lives must be to “walk in all good conscience before God,” and to “keep a conscience void of offence towards God and man.”]
May we on any account forbear to confess Christ?
[No: we must shew, before all, our love to the God of Israel, and our communion with his people. In every place where we go, we must erect an altar to our God and Saviour. “If on any account we are ashamed of him, he will be ashamed of us;” and, “if we deny him, he will deny us.” Nevertheless we are not called to throw up our situations in life, because there is some difficulty in filling them aright: we are rather called to approve ourselves to God in those situations, and to fill them to the glory of his name. We must indeed take care that we are not led into any sinful compliances in order to retain our honours or emoluments; but we must avail ourselves of our situations to honour God, and to benefit mankind.]
THE HYPOCRISY OF GEHAZI
2 Kings 5:21-22. So Gehazi followed after Naaman. 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.
IN the preceding chapter we have seen a similar inquiry made by Gehazi himself; and a similar reply from the Shunamite, who came in quest of Elisha [Note: 2 Kings 4:26.]. The answer as made by her, under her most afflictive circumstances, justly fills us with admiration: but the answer as here given, calls forth our severest indignation. Naaman, when he saw Elisha’s servant running after him, was afraid that something was amiss; and therefore asked with great anxiety, Is all well? The hardened villain, one might have hoped, should have relented at the sight of Naaman’s simplicity: but that same wicked spirit who put the evil into his heart, furnished him with a ready answer, “All is well.” Now this answer is of considerable importance;
As illustrating the character of Gehazi—
[Previous to this we have nothing that gives us any particular insight into the character of Gehazi. He lived with a pious master, enjoyed the benefit of his instructions and example, and was an eye-witness of the miracles he wrought. One might have hoped therefore that he was impressed with a sense of true religion. But in this answer we see that he was a subtle, self-deluding hypocrite.
As far as related to the general scope of Naaman’s inquiry, the answer was true: but was it true, as conveying all that Gehazi intended to convey? or would Naaman have thought it true, if he could have seen all that was in the heart of this vile impostor? Was all well, when thou wast coming on so base an errand? when thou hadst fabricated such a falsehood? and wast making it an occasion of such dishonest gain? Was all well, when thou wast so belying thy master, so dishonouring religion, casting such a stumbling-block before Naaman, and bringing such guilt upon thine own soul? Did not thine own conscience reprove thee, when thou thus confidently daredst to assert, All is well?
From thy composure on the occasion it was evident, that thou expectedst to reap the fruit of thine iniquity in peace; and that, when thou repliedst, “All is well,” thou apprehendedst no evil. But didst thou forget that God saw thee? Didst thou forget that he noteth down every thing in the book of his remembrance, and will bring it forth at the last day in order to a final retribution? Didst thou forget that even now God could reveal thy wickedness to his prophet, and punish it by some heavy judgment? Hadst thou known at that moment that thy master’s eye was upon thee, and that in less than an hour afterwards the leprosy of Naaman would cleave to thee, and that it would be the wretched inheritance of thy children to their latest posterity, wouldst thou then have said, that All was well? Above all, if thou couldst have realized thine appearance at the bar of judgment, and the sentence that there awaited thee, wouldst thou then have said, All is well?
But so it is that sin blinds the eyes of men, and hardens their hearts: nor is there any passion in the human mind, which, if suffered to gain an ascendant over us, may not produce in us the very same effect. The ambition of Absalom, the envy of Cain, the malice of Esau, the revenge of Jacob’s sons, the covetousness of Judas, the lewdness of Herod, sufficiently shew, that, where there is some professed regard for religion, a predominant lust will soon break down the barriers of conscience, and bring into subjection every better principle — — —]
Let us now contemplate the answer,
As affording some valuable lessons to the world at large—
The great improvement which we are to make of Scripture history, is, to deduce from every part of it lessons for our own instruction. Now from the conduct of Gehazi we learn,
That such characters must be expected to exist—
[If in the house of Elisha, his only servant was such an impostor; if even among the Apostles of our Lord there was a Judas; yea, and if among the very first Christians immediately after the day of Pentecost such a deceiver as Ananias was found; what reason have we to be surprised, if such characters exist in our day? Is not human nature now the same as ever it was? And has not our Lord taught us to expect, that, wherever the seed of his word is sown, the enemy will sow tares; and that no effectual separation of the tares can be made till the last day? Doubtless it is most distressing when any are found to act unworthy of their Christian profession; but the wonder is rather that so few hypocrites are found, than that some occasionally are detected in the Church of Christ.]
That the existence of such characters is no argument against true religion—
[People are apt to impute the misconduct of hypocrites to the doctrine they profess. But is there any thing in the Gospel that tends to encourage hypocrisy? Is not every branch of morality carried to its utmost height in the Gospel, and required as an evidence of our faith in Christ? Are all who embrace the Gospel hypocrites? Was Elisha a hypocrite because his servant was so? What would Naaman have said, if he had been dissuaded from embracing Judaism because he had been imposed upon by a Jew? Would he not have said, ‘ The man’s wickedness must rest on his own head: religion does not stand or fall with him: I am myself a monument of Jehovah’s power and grace, and am under the most unspeakable obligations to him; and, if all that profess his religion were hypocrites, it would be no reason why I should not worship him in spirit and in truth?’ Thus then must we say, “Offences will come; and woe be to those by whom they come:” but whilst I know myself to have been a leper, and feel that the Lord Jesus Christ has healed me of my leprosy, I must love him as my Benefactor, and serve him in the presence of the whole world.]
That in whatever light men now appear, they will ere long be seen in their true colours—
[Gehazi little thought that his master’s eye was upon him during the whole transaction: but his iniquity was soon exposed, and fearfully punished. Thus, in whatever place we be, God’s eye is upon us. In vain do we say, “Tush, God shall not see;” for he does see even the most secret recesses of our hearts: and the time is quickly coming, when, he “will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and make manifest the counsels of the heart.”
Let not any of us then deceive our own souls. Let those who declaim against hypocrites remember, that, if they seek not after God, the hypocrisy of others will be no justification of their neglect: there is but one rule of judgment for all, and by that shall every man be justified or condemned [Note: Isaiah 3:10-11.].
But let those in whom hypocrisy, of any kind is found, tremble for themselves; for their guilt is heinous, and their condemnation will be proportionably severe. “If there be woe to the world because of offences, much more will there be to him by whom the offence cometh.” Against every sin therefore I would most earnestly caution you, but more especially against that which ensnared Gehazi. “The love of money is the root of all evil, and drowns many in destruction and perdition [Note: 1 Timothy 6:9-10; 2Ti 4:10; 2 Peter 2:14-15.].” This is most particularly the sin to which persons professing godliness are apt to be addicted, and under which they are most satisfied with their own state [Note: Ezekiel 33:31.]: but, whatever profession they may make, they deceive themselves to their eternal ruin.]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on 2 Kings 5". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany