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ings of Christ? Which do
them—these short, sharp utterances that struck and stuck, mouthfuls from Him that were earfuls to them, which went down and, for a brief moment, compelled men and women to feel and think and see eternal realities—which do you think among the sayings of Christ, those bullet-like utterances, which went crashing through all the traditions with which they had stopped up their ears, and which found out the quick in a man if there was any quick in himwhich do you think among them would have told on you, if you had been that leper ? That is how to get at it, for faith comes by hearing; and I believe that this man had been listening, therefore faith came. That is indicated by his approach and by his prayer. There is the kind of scientific explanation needed. I think that he was there lying and listening, and Christ was lifting up His voice on the clear, crisp air; and suddenly He said—and I think that He looked the poor fellow's way when He said it“ You have heard this, and you have heard that, and you have heard the other thing” (quoting the traditions of the Jews); “ but I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given unto you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you”; and, again looking the poor fellow's way, with a keen eye and a voice of infinite encouragement, He said, “For every one that asketh receiveth."
When Christ said that “Every one that asketh receiveth," the leper caught at it; and I think I see his soul swelling and beginning to work and move with a new hope, as he says to himself, “ Now, I have heard about that man, and it has come to this with me—that the man who can stand up before my whelming misery, the man who can look towards my wretchedness, and utter these words of infinite largess
and hopefulness, is either more than he seems—is either The Prophet who was for to come, or he is the vilest impostor who ever trifled with human misery." Ah! if he thought thus, and heard thus, and acted thus, he was right.
What is your own verdict ? Impostor or Great Physician —which ? Say, from your own heart. What has He done for those leprous hands, for your brow, for your soul? Answer of your own knowledge, or not at all. Yes, that leper was listening. Lepers make good listeners. Faith comes by hearing; and that man began well. He was hearing well. That every way became him, did it not ? And if you are sitting here to - day consciously unwashed, consciously uncleansed, consciously unregenerated and unsaved, then, my friend, you are as you are, not so much because of poor preaching up here, as because of mighty poor listening down there. There is a great deal in the hearing. In fact, it all lies in the hearing. “Take heed how ye hear.” “ He that hath an ear to hear, let him hear what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Churches,” and in the Churches. “Let these sayings sink down into your ears.” There is a vast amount in the hearing; and I shall say this, that in the poorest, dullest, dreariest sermon that you ever heard from an orthodox pulpit or platform, there was enough in it, with all its faults, with all its dryness, and with all its “ divisions." to awaken your heart and save your soul, if you had listened to it as a rotting leper should. That is strong. I meant it to be so. Hear as you ought to hear. Listen for
life. « Hearken diligently unto Me," says God; “incline your ear unto Me; hear, and your soul shall live.” There is a vast amount in the hearing. I do believe, although we have
not a line, that we may read between the lines that this man heard what Christ was saying, and he very likely heard just that one utterance, “Every one that asketh receiveth"; and his already dead soul within his dying body leaped upon new feet, and he said, “As surely as I am a living leper, I will have more words with that Man before I let Him go. I will have it out with Him. If ever preacher was put into a corner by his own words, I will put Him into a corner. He said, ' Every one that asketh.' I will make Him busy. I will ask. That crowd may not have gripped at it, but it was a baited hook for me, and I have swallowed it." He took it in !
Now, we will look at the leper's prayer. Christ finished His sayings. That man had had enough. It does not need a sermon to save a soul; a saying will do it. Christ has finished His sermon. He is coming away down the hill into some town or village at the foot. The multitude buzzed, and hummed, and talked, and very likely praised Him, for He was popular then. They praised Him, and they said, “What manner of man is this? Never man spake like this man”; for He spoke with authority, and not as the dry-as-dust scribes. And then, busy and talking, they would keep coming down the hill after Him, and when the leper sees Him he rises up. He knows that he has only just a minute. If that crowd comes down upon him he must run, and the Master will be blamed for being in contact with him and breaking the law; and so he runs and cuts off a corner; and while the multitude come tumbling down following Him, the leper comes to Him. The multitude followed, and the leper came and cast himself down in intensity of feeling and of misery, and said, "Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean." A great deal more quickly than I am taking to tell it, Jesus said, “I will; be thou clean "; and immediately his leprosy was cleansed. It had to be done quickly, and quickly it was done on every account.
Now, let us look at his prayer, “ Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou caust make me clean.” First of all, I want to praise that prayer. I want to commend it. It was short. After all, with some deductions, it was to the point. It was not an "outer” or an “inner," if I may speak to my Volunteer friends. It was on the bull's-eye. “Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean." There was a secret in it which is in all true and all successful praying, and that secret seems to me to be this : In a very likely unconscious, but very skilful way, he put the responsibility of his condition upon the Man who had preached that sermon. He virtually said to Him, " Now, you are the Man who preached that word to me, and I have got a hold of it. If I remain above ground another five minutes, the loathsome spectacle to myself and to others that I am, Thou art responsible.” That is a free translation, and there is a vast deal more than that in it. “Lord, if Thou wilt. I believe that explains partly the immediateness. The crowd pressing on behind hurried things for him ; and that was a good thing; but the skilful way in which he had put his prayer helped the immediateness of the cure. That is a secret which God grant we may all learn, and God grant that we may all work it diligently until praying days are done. Especially let me say to any poor sinner here, whose spiritual condition is typified by this man's bodily condition, my dear friend, there is the secret, and it is an open secret. All God's saints know it. It was the beginning of our knowledge of Him and of ourselves. It is this—that all that you have to do is
to cast the responsibility of your case upon God in Christ Jesus. Trust Him. Believe in the love of God. If I might say so, presume upon His mercy. Take it for granted that He is inclined to do you good. Do not begin to storm and
and beseech, if to melt a reluctant Saviour into bending a pitying glance upon you and giving you salvation as you would toss a coin to a clamourous beggar. Do not try that, but come in before Him in the totality of your need and wretchedness, and presume upon His mercy. “If Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean." And the Lord acknowledged the skilfulness of his prayer, although again I say, very likely the man was unconscious of it. He was led to it by his desperate need. It reminds me of those stories that we used to read when we were boys, but we trust that now we have become men we have put away those childish things—those wonderful novels and things of that kind. There is usually a hero—is there not?and he is in great distress, and he is pursued for his life, and he has rushed into some apartment in some castle, or he is lodged there, and the assassins are coming to do him to death, and he hears the ringing of their feet along the lobby, and the door will soon be opened, and his life at an end; and he is in a dark dungeon, and he is rushing round madly trying to find a way of escape, when suddenly, in his madness and in his frenzy, all unconsciously to himself, his finger opportunely touches a secret spring, and the panels fly apart and discover a stairway. Very well, I think that if we may allow a somewhat familiar illustration, that is like what this man did. There he was, and death was sweeping down upon him-death temporal and death spiritual. As David would say, “The sorrows of death compassed him, and the pains of hell”—God help you I did you