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It is with benefits as with injuries in this respect, that we do not so much weigh the accidental good or evil they do as, as that which they were designed to do us. That is, we consider no part of them so much as their intention, and the prophet's behaviour consequent upon this, shews he beheld it through this medium, or in some fuch advantageous light as I have placed it.
There is no burthen so heavy to a grateful mind, as a debt of kindness unpaid;-and we may believe Elisha felt it so, from the earnest defire which he had upon the immediate receipt of this, to discharge himself of it, which he exprefses in the text in the warmeit manner; “ Behold, thou hast been careful for us with all this care? ----What shall be done for thee? Wouldest thou be spoken for to the king, or the captain of his hoft?”... There is a degree of honest impatience in the wors, such as was natural to a good man, who would not be behindhand with his benefactor. But there is one thing which may seem strange
at first sight, that as her station and con. dition in life was such, that she appeared father to have abounded already than stood in want of any thing in this world which such an application could supply, ----why the prophet should not rather have proposed some spiritual advantage, which, as it would better have become the sanctity of his character on the one hand, fo, on the other, it would have done a more real and lasting service to his friend.
But we are to reflect, that in returning favours, we act differently from what we do -in conferring them :----in the one case we finply consider what is best ----in the other, what is most acceptable.
The reason is, that we have a right to act according to our own ideas of what will do the party most good in the case where we bestow a favour; but where we return one, we lose this right, and act according to his conceptions who has obliged us, and endeavour to repay in such a manner as we think is most likely to be accepted in discharge of the obli
gation-So that, though we are not to imagine Elish, could be wanting in religious duties, as well as wishes to so hospitable a friend, we may yet suppose, he was directed here by this principle of equity,----and that, in reflecting in what manner he should requite his benefactress, he had considered, that to one of her affluent condition who had all the reasonable comforts of an independent life, if there was any passion yet unsatisfied, it must certainly be ambition: that though in general it was an irregular appetite, which in most cases 'twas dangerous to gratify, yet in effect, ’ewas only so far criminal, as the power which it acquired was perverted to bad and vicious purposes, which it was not likely to be here, 'from the specimen the had already given of her disposition, which shewed, that if the did wish for an increase of wealth or honour,' she wished it only, as it would enable her more generously to extend her arm in kind offices, and increase the power as well as the opportunities of doing good.
In justice to Elisha's motive, which must have been good, we must suppose, he considered his offer in this light; and what principally led him to propose it, was the great interest which he had with the king of Israel at that time, which he had merited by a signal service; and as he had no views for himself, he thought it could not be employed so well as in establishing the fortune of one whose virtue might be so safely trusted with it. It was a justifiable prepossession in her favour, though one, not always to be relied on; for there is many a one who in a moderate station, and with a leffer degree of power, who has behaved with honour and unblemished reputation, and who has even borne the buffetings of adverse fortune well, and manifested great presence and strength of mind under it, whom nevertheless a high exaltation has at once overcome, and so entirely changed, as if the party had lefe not only his virtue, but even himself behind him.
Whether the Shunamite dreaded to make this dangerous experiment of here felf,----or, which is more likely, that the had learned to fer bounds to her desires, and was too well satisfied with her prefent condition to be tempted out of it, the declines the offer in the close of the text:-“I dwell amongst my own people;" as if she had said, “ The intended kindness is far from being fmall, but it is not useful to me; I live here, as thou art a witness, in peace, in a contented ob. scurity ;-—not so high as to provoke envy, nor so low as to be trodden down and despised. In this safe and middle state, as I have lived ainongít my own people, fo let me die out of the reach, both of the cares and glories of the world.--"Tis fit, o holy man of God! that I learn some time or other to set bounds to my desires, and if I cannot fix them now, when I have already more than my wants require, when shall I hope to do it?-Or how should I expect, that even this increase of honour or fortune would fully satisfy and content my ambition, should I now give way to it?"