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the sacrifice that was to be offered for the cleansing of the leper ; before he could be given back to his home and to all the happiness of returning health.
This service and this sacrifice, by the shedding of blood and the washing of water, solemnly shewed forth, before the time, that by the Saviour only even the pardoned sinner can be saved.
From all we have read we may guess with what feelings the lonely leper must have looked from afar on the busy crowds he dared not join.
There was one who had heard the words of the Lord Jesus, and had, perhaps, seen the wonderful things He had done. Hidden by some rock on the mountains of Galilee, he was, perhaps, nearer to his fellow-men than they supposed, and the words of the Saviour brought hope where there had been none before.
MATTHEW V. 4. “ Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
Must not these words of kindness have fallen like soft music on the leper's soul ? Who was a mourner like him ? Cast out from among men, the very picture and sign of sin! Yet he heard the words
MATTHEW vii. 7. Ask, and it shall be given you ; seek, and ye shall find.”
Perhaps they were spoken to him as well as to others, for it was said, every one that asketh, receiveth ; and, outcast as he was, had not God made him also ? His own father had loved him when he was a little child, though both were evil,— why should he not then believe that his Father, which is in heaven, would look on him with pity ? And who was it that the leper heard thus speak? One who, in the awful day of judgment, (Matt. vii. 21-23.) was to be that Lord who should open or shut the doors of heaven to welcome or refuse those who would enter therein. He had power, then, as well as kindness; and hope sprung up in the leper's soul.
It is written, that
MATTHEW viii. 1-3. “When Jesus was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him. And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, (and fell down on his face before him, and kneeling, said unto him,) Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And Jesus put forth his hand and touched him, saying, I will ; be thou clean.”
The Saviour and the leper! Though in a crowd, they were alone ; for not a man amongst that crowd but must have started back from the defiling touch even of his garment, when suddenly he stood among them. And in that cleared space the
. leper knelt, the Saviour's hand upon his brow, while distinct and solemn came the words—"I will; be thou clean." All men shrunk from the leper's touch, but THIS MAN laid his hand upon him, " And immediately his leprosy departed from him." (Mark i. 42.)
Surely Jesus had a right to the authority with which He had just spoken to the people on the mountain, and they need not now be “ astonished at his doctrine,” (Matt. vii. 28, 29.) when they saw his deeds.
He well might teach them a purity of heart, of which the Scribes and Pharisees had never dreamt, for here, before their eyes, one touch of his hand sent away that foulest sign of Satan's power, leprosy, the very type and seal of sin.
He stood among them in the form of man, but He was God; himself the source of life, and from his touch life passed into the decaying body,--and leprosy, “the living death," was gone.
And who may guess the feelings of the leper ? Leprous now no more!
Years perhaps had passed since he had felt the kindly touch of a human hand. All had shrunk affrighted from him ; but Jesus had no fear. The Leper felt his touch, and knew that he was cleansed.
MARK i. 44. “And Jesus saith unto him, See thou say nothing to any man, but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them." (Matthew and Luke.)
The Lord Jesus would not have a word spoken to any man, till the cleansed leper bad obeyed the command given by God through Moses. The sacrifice and the offering must be made, and the priests, whose duty it was in such a case to declare the cure, must see that the man was really cleansed. When they heard that he who had been not only a leper, but “full of leprosy," (Luke v. 12.) was cleansed by the simple word, “I will ” and one touch of Jesus' hand, it should indeed have been a testimony or a witness to them that He was no common man, but the Lord from heaven. They knew well that this terrible disease had never been reached by the skill of man, and that if ever cured, it was by God himself.
The sacrifice appointed was two birds; of which one was killed, and the other dipped in the blood of its companion, and then suffered to escape. When, two years after this, the Lord Jesus was slain upon the cross, having taught the people that He laid down his life for them that they might escape the punishment of sin, perhaps the meaning of the sacrifice the leper had been commanded to offer for his cleansing might become clear to his mind. He might then see in the slain bird the picture of the bleeding Saviour, and in the affrighted bird escaping to its home, his own saved soul, saved from the death of sin, of which his leprosy had been the emblem. We know not certainly whether his mind was ever so enlightened, but I think we may fairly believe that the kind Saviour who had cleansed his body,
would surely cleanse his soul; and we read that his gratitude for what Jesus had done, was such that
MARK i. 45. “He went out, and began to publish it much, and to blaze abroad the matter, insomuch that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city, but was without in desert places : and they came to him from every quarter."
LUKE v. 15. " And great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by him of their infirmities.'
What brought them there? Was it not that they had need of the things He had done, and of the words He had spoken ? And shall not this teach us that we should do all we can that others may hear the word of God in every place, in every land, that great multitudes may be continually coming to Christ to hear and to be healed of their infirmities.
Does not the history of the leper tell us never to keep back what we know of the Saviour's goodness? Some one may hear, who hides within his heart a sense of sin that makes him lonely and miserable, even though he dwells among his friends. The words of Christ may bring hope, perhaps he may seek him for himself, and so find pardon and peace.
And oh, if there is one who reads or hears these lines, whose soul is bowed down within him by the heavy grief of separation from God-one who feels the taint of sin, like leprosy, poison all the joy of life-let that unhappy one remember the leper and basten to carry his griefs to the Saviour's feet. Kneeling, let him say, “Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean."
Still, though now unseen, will the Holy Jesus, moved with compassion, stretch forth his hand to help, and say, “I will ; be thou clean.”
Prayer. O God, we were born with the taint of the leprosy of sin upon our souls, but there is “a fountain opened for our uncleanness, and sinful souls when washed by thee, lose all their guilty stains. We were brought to thee in baptism, and sprinkled with pure water, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, in sign that our sins are washed away, and that God the Saviour says to each one who comes to him, “I will; be thou clean.” Blessed Lord, let not this our baptism be a sign only, but let our souls daily be purified and renewed, for unless we are wholly cleansed, we are not fit to be called thine. We cannot dwell in thy presence, for without holiness none can enter the kingdom of heaven.
Sin is my plague and my grief, it taints my whole nature, and though I have been numbered among thy people, and though thy blood has been shed for me, still does sin, the sickness of my soul, appear within me. Oh, my Saviour, I bless thee that I have the leper's cure, that I have heard thy gracious words, “ Ask, and ye shall receive." I ask thy Holy Spirit to give me newness of life, and to grant to me that, since thou hast suffered death in my stead, my soul, washed in thy blood from all sin, may escape as a bird from the snare of the fowler. Amen.
MATT. IX. 1—6.
MARK II. 1,
LUKE v. 17-26.
It is not easy to follow the life of the Lord Jesus from day to day, or to be quite sure how the things He did and said follow each other, for the four Evangelists who wrote the history of the time He spent on earth, were more anxious to tell what