Verse 21. "He returned back" - He went home to his house; probably he yet lived with his parents, for it appears he was a single man: and he slew a yoke of the oxen-he made a feast for his household, having boiled the flesh of the oxen with his agricultural implements, probably in token that he had abandoned secular life: then, having bidden them an affectionate farewell, he arose, went after Elijah, who probably still awaited his coming in the field or its vicinity, and ministered unto him.
ON the call of Elisha, I may make a few remarks.
1. Elijah is commanded, ver. 16, to anoint Elisha prophet in his room. Though it is generally believed that kings, priests, and prophets, were inaugurated into their respective offices by the right of unction, and this I have elsewhere supposed; yet this is the only instance on record where a prophet is commanded to be anointed; and even this case is problematical, for it does not appear that Elijah did anoint Elisha. Nothing is mentioned in his call to the prophetic office, but the casting the mantle of Elijah upon him; wherefore it is probable that the word anoint, here signifies no more than the call to the office, accompanied by the simple rite of having the prophet's mantle thrown over his shoulders.
2. A call to the ministerial office, though it completely sever from all secular occupations, yet never supersedes the duties of filial affection.
Though Elisha must leave his oxen, and become a prophet to Israel: yet he may first go home, eat and drink with his parents and relatives, and bid them an affectionate farewell.
3. We do not find any attempt on the part of his parents to hinder him from obeying the Divine call: they had too much respect for the authority of God, and they left their son to the dictates of his conscience. Wo to those parents who strive, for filthy lucre's sake, to prevent their sons from embracing a call to preach Jesus to their perishing countrymen, or to the heathen, because they see that the life of a true evangelist is a life of comparative poverty, and they had rather he should gain money than save souls.
4. The cloak, we have already observed, was the prophet's peculiar habit; it was probably in imitation of this that the Greek philosophers wore a sort of mantle, that distinguished them from the common people; and by which they were at once as easily known as certain academical characters are by their gowns and square caps. The pallium was as common among the Greeks as the toga was among the Romans. Each of these was so peculiar to those nations, that Palliatus is used to signify a Greek, as Togatus is to signify a Roman.
5. Was it from this act of Elijah, conveying the prophetic office and its authority to Elisha by throwing his mantle upon him, that the popes of Rome borrowed the ceremony of collating an archbishop to the spiritualities and temporalities of his see, and investing him with plenary sacerdotal authority, by sending him what is well known in ecclesiastical history by the name pallium, pall, or cloak? I think this is likely; for as we learn from Zechariah xiii. 4, and 2 Kings i. 8, that this mantle was a rough or hairy garment, so we learn from Durandus that the pallium or pall was made of white wool, after the following manner:-
The nuns of St. Agnes, annually on the festival of their patroness, offer two white lambs on the altar of their church, during the time they sing Agnus Dei, in a solemn mass; which lambs are afterwards taken by two of the canons of the Lateran church, and by them given to the pope's sub-deacons, who send them to pasture till shearing time; and then they are shorn, and the pall is made of their wool, mixed with other white wool.
The pall is then carried to the Lateran church, and there placed on the high altar by the deacons, on the bodies of St. Peter and St. Paul; and, after a usual watching or vigil, it is carried away in the night, and delivered to the sub- deacons, who lay it up safely. Now, because it was taken from the body of St. Peter, it signifies the plenitude of ecclesiastical power: and, therefore, the popes assume it as their prerogative, being the professed successors of this apostle, to invest other prelates with it. This was at first confined to Rome, but afterwards it was sent to popish prelates in different parts of the world.
6. It seems, from the place in Zechariah, quoted above, that this rough cloak or garment became the covering of hypocrites and deceivers; and that persons assumed the prophetic dress without the prophetic call, and God threatens to unmask them. We know that this became general in the popish Church in the beginning of the 16th century; and God stripped those false prophets of their false and wicked pretensions, and exposed them to the people. Many of them profited by this exposure, and became reformed; and the whole community became at least more cautious. The Romish Church should be thankful to the Reformation for the moral purity which is now found in it; for, had not its vices, and usurpations, and super-scandalous sales of indulgences, been thus checked, the whole fabric had by this time been probably dissolved. Should it carry its reformation still farther, it would have a more legitimate pretension to the title of apostolic. Let them compare their ritual with the Bible and common sense, and they will find cause to lop many cumbrous and rotten branches from a good tree.