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children, but you are not lamenting, you are not sorrowing, your grey hairs are not going down in dishonour to the grave. You are thinking of your children, but you are thinking of them hopefully, and praisingly, and rejoicingly,
are saying, "Well, bless God, we have hope in our children. Some of them are gone, we believe, to glory. Some of them are placed out in the world, but the Angel who redeemed us from all evil is blessing the lads"; and without fear, and without regret, you prepare yourselves to sleep together at the foot of the hill. You have no qualms or alarms about your children, for while they were about you, you loved them wisely; you led their footsteps right; and God has taken you and your seed after you according as He hath promised in His Holy Word.
Published on Thursday, 26th March, 1891, by JAMES NISBET & Co., 21 Berners Street, London, W. HEALING OF THE LEPER.
O glorious day! then shall we meet at length,
Henderson & Spalding, Printers, 3 & 5, Marylebone Lane, London, W.
PREACHED IN REGENT SQUARE CHURCH,
REV, JOHN MCNEILL.
When He was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him. And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped Him, saying, Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean, And Jesus put forth His hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; but go thy way, show thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.”—Matt. viii. 1-4. The story of the cleansing of the leper will occupy our thoughts now. May the Lord make it fresh and profitable to
you and me! This man is a type of sin. I almost wish that we could see him. The very sight of him would do more than a hundred very orthodox sermons to bring us down before God and wring out of us that agonizing cry which is the birth-pang of a new-born spirit, “God be merciful to me, for I, I am the leper: I am the sinner; I am guilty beyond all power of mind to conceive or tongue to tell.” That was the way, you know, in which God spoke to Old Testament people in bygone days. You remember how God took the common things that lay all around to impart truth
Vol. III.-No. 21,
on this great matter of sin and salvation. He took their animals, their lambs and rams and bullocks and sheep and goats, and, by means of the killing of them and the shedding of their blood and the burning of their bodies, He preached about sin and about vital experimental religion. And He set certain men apart, and He made the very clothes of the men and the things that these men did—the priests, I mean —to be preachments, sermons, to every Israelite who wore his head above his shoulders, and had his mind working behind his eyes. And He took, as our story shows, the very
. diseases of the people, and mainly this disease of leprosy ; and upon leprosy-its coming down upon a man and its being lifted from a man by Divine grace-He put great religious meanings, so that every Jew, when he saw a leper, saw a living epistle, a moving sermon about what sin is, and also as to the only quarter from whence saving grace and mercy can be expected.
Now, it was that kind of man who came on this occasion to Jesus Christ. Pardon this somewhat long introduction ; but I want to begin at the beginning. Matthew, when he is telling the story, just feels what I am trying to feel for myself and for you.
He puts the trumpet to his lips and says, “Behold! behold a leper !” When the Preacher had finished preaching, lo, a leper came and worshipped, and put forth this tremendous, this stupendous request, “ Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean.” Matthew blows the trumpet. This to him, a man like ourselves, brought up in the teaching of the Old Testament, was wonderful. I trust it is the same to us. Because my object this morning, dear friends, is just this—that we are to go to the same Christ on that leper's feet; and God grant that we may all of us, if we have not yet done it, speed as well as he sped, for, until we . begin here, we know nothing about religion, we know nothing about sin, and we know nothing about salvation.
Why do you think the leper came?—for it is remarkable that he came. Lepers were not coming every day to preachers after they had finished their sermons, and saying, “If thou wilt, thou canst made me clean.” It was a very, very wonderful eye-opening, heart-moving spectacle. Why did he come? According to the almost “ jargon" of the present day, the scientific method is, that in regard to nature we are to find a cause adequate to produce all phenomena. Is not that it ? Very well, in applying the scientific method to this incident we have to find a cause adequate to produce this phenomenon - a hopeless, heartless leper, plucking up hope and heart to this extent, that he comes before the Master and says, If Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean." How did that come about? The Master had been preaching in the open air. He had been delivering what we call “ The Sermon on the Mount," but what He never called any such thing, for Christ simply said, “These sayings of Mine.” He was standing on that hill-side, and a great company gathered round about Him, and He was ripping up things generally. Now, I believe that the leper was there.
I have got that into my head. Though it is not written, I think that it is between the lines. I am forced back for an explanation, at any rate, of this wonder:
Why did that leper come? and I have come to this solution of it that he was present when Christ was preaching on the hill-side. Do you not see that the Lord, just because He went into the open air, gave a good chance to lepers, did He not? Lepers dare not come into the synagogues, but the Lord did not confine Himself to temples made with hands. He went to streets and openings of gates where poured the busy crowd. He went to the hill-side. He spoke to the people gathered on the shore from a little boat moored off a little way, so that the water might be a grand medium for conveying the sound. It is a pity that we do not more follow His example. Poor hopeless, helpless, outcast sinners, come then ! Nicodemus comes slipping round in the dark. He would not come in here; and a leper could not come here.
Therefore I say that, far more than we do, we ought to have a free hand and a free step, and go, like our Master, outside. I do not say that the leper was in the crowd even ; I should rather think that he was not; he dare not go
there, These ceremonial rules were so strict that, if the leper had gone in among the people, he would have made them unclean; and he dare not even go to the windward of them, lest the wind, blowing from him to them, should pollute them. So I think that I see him there on the lee-side of the crowd, all by himself, perhaps lying down behind some knob or shoulder of the hill—some little mound or hillock i and there is Christ preaching to the crowd, and this man getting it all without running any risk either for himself or for them, poor people. Now, suppose—and it is no idle supposition-God strike it into us !—suppose you had been there in that leper's shoes, or sandals, or bare feet. What do you think would have struck