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"I WILL NOT LEAVE THEE."
As weeks and months pass on, a new year begins; and while a new year brings to the young, only new hopes and young expectations, it too often brings to those long familiar with life, the painful remembrance of enjoyments never to be renewed; thoughts of bereaved hearts refusing to be comforted; recollections of departed friends, whom no revolution either of sun or moon shall ever more
At such a season, the last moments of many a last interview steal across the memory, and while fond affection "drops some natural tears over the cherished past, faith smiles amid the grief; and the bow in the many colored cloud is not fairer than the light that thus irradiates the brow of an heir of promise.
But why should the last moments of a last interview with departed friends be prolific only of grief? Surely he who has been faithful unto death has no cause of reproach with which to afflict his soul; he who has been enabled to will and to perform the part of devoted friendship, has no cause of sorrow; he who has said not in word only but in very deed, "As the Lord liveth and as thy soul liveth I will not leave thee," need not grieve that his friend has gone to his happy home before him. But it may not be for the past that we sorrow, but for the future that we fear. It may not be because "one is not," but because one who is yet dear to us may be taken away-how shall we sustain the last moments of the last interview with such a friend?-I know no portion of scripture that gives a sweeter answer to this question than the passage from which our motto is taken. Think you that the friend of the prophet-the prophet whose empire seemed to extend over the elements of nature, to whose necessities the winged messengers of the air ministered-whose voice could call the rain from heaven, and the fragrant dews from the bosom of herbs and flowers on Carmel-think you that his friend parted from him in pain? Think you it was pain to him to repeat again and again those soothing asseverations of devoted affection-" As the Lord liveth and as thy soul liveth I will not leave thee?" Oh, no; doubtless there was more joy in that reiterated expression of his constant heart than ever he had felt even when sitting at the Master's feet a rapt and breathless auditor of words warm from heaven-of strains of VOL. VI. 3rd SERIES,
pathos such as angels speak, of lessons of wisdom such as God only imparts!
How different were these parting moments amid the breezy heights of Gilead, near the sacred fountains of Jordan, within the sound of the bleating of the flocks of his native province, to that death which the persecuted man so importunately desired when seated under the juniper-tree, alone in the deep solitude of the wilderness! How calm the preceding interview, how sacred, how consoling! From Gilgal we behold the two friends walking towards Bethel; there pausing amid its almond-trees and hazels, we may conceive the subject of their conversation. An allusion to Jacob would recall the memory of his wandering life, his love of Joseph; his loss of Rachel; his fear of Esau; his wrestlings on Peniel; the long history of his posterity; the pillar of fire and cloud; the wonders of the wilderness, and all the way the Lord had led them, and all the promised manifestations yet to come. And when the man reflected that he was himself the prophet-the insulted prophet of such a God, how would his indignation kindle afresh towards Ahab, and with what holy zeal would he repel the audacious reproach,-" Art thou he that troubleth Israel ?"
Tarry here, I pray thee, said the prophet to his friend; tarry here amid these sons of the seers, these hopes of years to come, for the Lord hath sent me to give my parting blessing to others before I go. But no, "I will not leave thee," is the response, and they continue their journey toward the city of palm-trees; and again the prophet urges him to abide, but again the asseveration, "I will not leave thee," gains him permission to accompany him to Jordan. The parting blessing follows--large as the affection and devotion of such a friend deserved, and as they still "went on and talked, Elijah went up into heaven!"
In perusing this beautiful, this sublime portion of Holy Writ, the splendid apotheosis of the prophet generally absorbs the whole mind of the pious reader. Those horses of fire-that chariot of fire, and that whirlwind-concentrate all our faculties, and the still small voice of unutterable tenderness that breathes from the heart of Elisha, is lost amid the blaze and the magnificence of the prophet's ascension. It is, however, with the reading of the word of God as it was with the miracles of our divine Saviour,-as the bread multiplied in the breaking, so each reiterated study of the
sacred text brings some new wonders to light. And what wonder greater, than that all the calmness, serenity, and sweetness of a summer walk, in the intimacy of confidential and holy friendship, should precede such a separation as this!
But some one may be ready to say, I have no Elisha who will thus devotedly care for me-who will thus follow me from Gilgal to Bethel-from Bethel to Jericho-from Jericho to the waters of Jordan? I may not die in my lot,—on the border of my tribe, or in my native province. It is true, all this may not be ;- and you may be left to say, Where is the guide of my youth-where the guardian of my ripening years-where the friend of my heart? But, my beloved reader, if you be Christ's you will never be left to say-Where is the Lord of my life where is the God of Elijah ?
It is a singular question which St. Paul asks-Doth God take care for oxen? But it would be a still more singular question to ask; Doth God take care for children? Every argument that can be drawn either from analogy or reason makes such an enquiry equally unnecessary and absurd; and no stronger or more interesting proof need be produced from scripture of Jehovah's tender solicitude towards the young than the narrative of the last hours of Elijah. He goes from school to school on the very day when the greatest event of his life is about to be consummated. He visits the youth at Gilgal, and Bethel, and Jericho, on the morning that is to usher in his eternal day of glory. And who is this prophet who cannot leave the earth without a parting benediction to the young? It is the greatest of all the prophets-the man whose history is a series of wonders--the only man save one who never tasted death. We may imagine the interest with which the youth of Israel would listen to his words that day. The last moments of such an interview must have been fraught with intense, indelible, and heavenly sympathy-with pure, and high, and holy, emotion! Some young Isaiah, perhaps, was then among the children-some youthful Jeremiah was wondering at the words he spake-some infant Daniel was sitting at his feet. Oh, how would they receive his divine instructions? how would they listen to his reproofs ? what strong resolves would be formed in many a stripling's bosom; to what heights of lofty and hallowed emulation would they desire to soar !
My beloved readers, is there not among you some kindred
spirit? I ask not if you expect to wear the mantle of Elijahto speak with the sublimity of the son of Amos--or to melt the heart with the pathos of the man of tears-the man of Anathoth. But I inquire is there none of you like the sons of prophets ready to sit at the feet of Him who is greater than all the prophetsready to listen to and obey the voice of Him who spake, and in his word still speaks as never man spake? ready to consecrate your life to his service? to be his, and his only, and his for ever? Oh, if there be any such among you, need I tell you that one truer and more constant in his changeless love than even the friend of Elijah has already said in regard of you, “As the Lord liveth and as thy soul liveth I will not leave ye."
As a new era in our life brings with it new hopes, and new expectations, so ought it to bring new resolutions and new endeavors. Let your resolutions, my dear young friends, develop themselves in action—let action become habit, and may holy habits be persevered in till they become identified with your existence, and altogether form a part and portion of yourselves. It is thus that character is created—that genius is moulded into the form and pressure of individual excellence-that the boy becomes the young man- -the young man, the father in Christ; and that in the progress of time and increase of experience the child that sat at the feet of the master arrives at the stature of the man of God, and instead of receiving, bestows the blessing.
But is there not something reciprocal in friendship? "The man that hath friends must shew himself friendly," is not less true, because it is a common proverb. How selfish and unworthy of all kindness and affection would that person be who was only the recipient of benefits without a desire of returning them? It often happens, indeed, that we can be little more than the receivers of favors of such favors as the world with its influence, and affluence, and patronage, has to bestow. But even in this case, "The grateful heart by owing, owes not." And there is an exchange on our part of devoted attachment, and of fidelity to the interests, and of sympathy in the fortunes of our patron; and in such circumstances, so far as feeling and sentiment are concerned, a grateful mind virtually says in return, “I will not leave thee." In our relation to God indeed we can be but the recipients of his benefits; for who ever gave to Him, and it shall be rendered again?