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THE HISTORY OF NAAMAN THE SYRIAN.
2 Kings v. 9, 10.
So Naaman came with his horses and with his
chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha. And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean.
In the history of Naaman we have a lively blem of man's refusal and acceptance of that great offer of God's mercy which is contained in the gospel. From the temper that led Naaman to refuse the offer of divine interposition for the removal of his malady, and from the arguments by which he was afterwards persuaded to accept the benefit proposed, we may learn what are those evil principles which must be subdued within us, and what are those truths which must be suffered to exert their influence upon our hearts, in order that we may become thankful partakers of the blessings of salvation.
I. Pride and self-will, my Christian brethren, are two great fountains of moral evil,—two chief sources of spiritual sin, --within the heart of man. And the gospel of our Saviour tends to counteract these two bad principles, and to supplant them by those sources of godliness and goodness, those foundations of faith, and hope, and love,-humility and self-renunciation. We may
discover both pride and self-will at the ground of Naaman's refusal of the prophet's message.
1. Look first at his pride or haughtiness of spirit.
“ Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go, and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean. But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought he will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper.” The first impression upon Naaman's mind was evidently this — that the prophet did not treat him with the respect or honour which he deserved. He had come with his horses and his chariot, and he stood at the door of Elisha. He had brought with him rich presents, and the letter of his royal master. He thought, doubtless, that his rank entitled him to the utmost degree of attention on the part of the man of God. And perhaps he thought that he was even conferring an honour on Elisha and Elisha's God, by coming from a far country, and condescending to solicit their assistance. Now, why did he not perceive the truth of the whole matter? It was pride that hid it from his view. He was not standing at Elisha’s door as a nobleman, but as a leper; and of this he ought to have been mindful. But pride is a film which the great father of lies spreads over the understanding and the heart of man. And as it was this which made the Syrian regard the message of Elisha as an indignity and affront, so also it is to this that we may often trace the unwelcome reception which the gospel meets with in the world. The gospel says, Wash and be clean. «Wash
defiled conscience in the blood of the crucified Redeemer, and be clean from the guilt of sin. Yield your corrupt heart to the purifying influences of the Holy Spirit, and be clean from the pollution of sin.' But this message is unwelcome to the pride of human nature. It does not accord with the dignity of man! • Surely, this creature of God's hand,—this rational and immortal being,—this master-piece of creation in the lower world,-is entitled to some more respectful message! His own repentance, it is thought, may merit the forgiveness of his sins; or, at least, it may render it fitting and expedient, and so, in fact, needful, for the Almighty to vouchsafe it. It is essential to God's glory, as the Father of all mercy, that if his rational creature return to him after having offended, he should be favourably received. His very repentance and return are an acknowledgment of God's sovereignty and holiness ; and this humiliation and prostration of a noble mind before his throne is an act of worship and a tribute of honour in the
eyes of all intelligent creatures. It is right, indeed, than an offender should repent; but it is right also that God should forgive him when he does repent.
It is expedient, says proud reason and the proud heart, for the well-being and good order of the whole rational creation,-it is conducive to the divine honour, and to the praise of divine mercy,—that all who return to their duty should be received into the favour of the Supreme; and therefore, according to the eternal fitness of things, our repentance is of itself a title and claim for pardon !' And a like train of rea
soning is pursued with regard to future obedience and godliness of living. Why cannot man himself, it is asked,-man with his reason enlightened, with the experience he has gained, with the resolutions he has formed, and the plans he has devised,—why cannot this rational being, and this well-meaning penitent, reform himself ? Why must he be told to come with the simplicity of a child, to yield to the grace of God, to distrust his own powers, to look beyond himself for guidance and support ?' Here is the folly of the highminded Syrian on a larger scale! He came to the prophet as a nobleman instead of coming as a leper ; and you come before God simply as the creatures of his hand, instead of coming as those who have been rebels against his authority, and transgressors of his law. You would prescribe to the Most High the manner in which he ought to receive you, and the way in which it is right that your recovery should be effected!
2. Consider, secondly, the self-will of Naaman, as it appears in the history before us.
He seems to have reasoned or felt in some such manner as the following - Supposing it right that the prophet should treat him as he did, and that himself should choose to submit to the indignity; and supposing also that washing in a river should be prescribed as the method of his cure; yet why