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ever feel them?_"the pains of hell got hold upon him"; when in his terror and alarm his finger, unconsciously to himselfthat is to say his prayer, for that is his finger-touched the secret spring which evermore makes the heart of God to fly open and the blessing of heaven to fly out. "Lord, if Thou art willing, Thou canst make me clean.” Jesus said-let it stand to His praise for ever—“I am willing to save.” Although you never heard of Him till this hour-although you have trampled His love under your feet till this hourstill, I ask you to believe the kindness and love of God
Now, after saying so much in favour of his prayer, I Ι would like to discount it a little—to speak a little in dispraise of it. Of course, cavilling critics will say that that is inconsistent. Never mind. I want to speak in dispraise of the prayer. “Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean." There is something wrong with that. What is wrong? Well, I should like to say that what is wrong is this : it is too long. There is in that prayer what is in our prayers. It is too wordy. It could be reduced still further. It was good enough for him in the dimness and darkness in which he was. We ought to do it better. The road for him was a little roundabout. We can make it as straight as straight can be. For example, there is the - if.” Now, that might go away. Dear sinner, poor soul, wretched backslider--for there is very little differencecome back to God to-day. I will come with you. Come back to God to-day in Jesus Christ. Come to this incarnate Saviour's feet, and just fling yourself down, and never mind the “if.” “ If thou wilt ?" There is no need for “if.” Let the incarnation, let His life of goodness, let the agonies of His death, let the resurrection glory and the out
pouring of the Holy Ghost, be sufficient to blot out that “if.” Blessed be God, it is gone. There is no “ if” -not on that side. It is never there. It is not if He will, but if thou wilt. If there is a condition, it is with thee, not with Him. Lord, Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean."
Blot out the “if." " Lord, Thou wilt, Thou canst cleanse me.” And even yet it is too roundabout. What is the use of all this—“If Thou wilt, Thou canst "? You remember that there was in your school-books—there was in mine, anyway-an amusing story of a Dutchman who was over here trying to learn English, and in order to get hold of our language, whenever he came across a verb he began to conjugate it. Well, this leper seems to be a kind of conjugating Dutchman in his way. He goes through the conjugation of the verb " to cleanse." It is not worth while. Never mind parsing, and grammar, and steering your way so carefully. Come, as beggars should come-boldly. Let us come freely, urgently, and present ourselves swiftly in all our need: “Lord, cleanse me.” David prayed better. I think that it is Augustine-is it not ?--who says, “One prayer like this is plenty. It should never be prayed again." David prayed better hundreds of years before, when, standing in what we call the dimness of the Old Testament Church, with no visible Christ before him as an objective to give point and focus to his prayer-he had this man's same trouble on his soul, the leprosy of sin—he shot up into heaven a prayer, in which there is not a wasted syllable : • Create in me a clean heart, O God: renew a right spirit within me.” That is how to pray-short, and sharp, and piercing. So the publican prayed. So the leper prayed. So Peter prayed. So all of us pray when we come to the reality of that exercise for the first time.
Surely, some soul needs this
“Venture on Him ; venture wholly.'
Do not stand afar off. God is inclined to be good to you. Believe it on the testimony of the Book. Believe it on my testimony. Believe it on the word of the man sitting next to you, who could tell you if you would only ask him. God does love sinners, fully and freely, without merit and without desert. You have only to come as you are.
That is how the man gets on with us who is a beggar. The man who comes to my door and wants something, and begins to tell a long story, the gist of which is that he is a brokendown gentleman or a nobleman in disguise—that man does not get much. I have not time to bother listening to that man and his long story. From the mere fact that he is unpacking his heart with wordsthat he is so wordy and polite. I shut the door and go away. But the man who gets help, if any man gets it, is the man who comes without all this. There he was, last night, reeking and revelling in debauch, and he comes to me and says, “ Yes, I am a bad fellow; I have broken my
I father's heart, my mother's heart, and my wife's heart. I know, sir, that I have no excuse to plead, but I am starving.” What do I do? What can I do? " Blood is thicker than water.”
I give that man something—do I not ?—just because he was honest, and came as he was, and had no long story, and did not beat round about the bush, but virtually flung himself at my head, and he could not miss. Well, that is how to get salvation. That is how to get healing. Come as you are.
There is a mother here. You know how your children
deal with you. Suppose your boy came home from school to-morrow, and stood before you and said, “Mother, if thou wilt, thou canst give me bread,” how would you look ? I think you would put up your hand in a weary way, and say, “ Dear me ! My boy has got grammar on the brain.” You are not on such terms with your boy, and your boy is not on such terms with you, that he needs to come in that way. Many a grand “piece" (as we call a slice of bread and butter across the border) was got yesterday for “Give me"; "I want so and so"; and it was got without polished speech, without circumlocution. “Lord, cleanse me!"let every honest soul send up that prayer.
What was the answer? Immediately Jesus put fort His hand, and touched him, and said, “I will; be thou made clean.” Just a last word upon this “immediately.
.” Keeping in mind the background or the foreground of the picture that we have had all along, it seems to have come about in this way: If you had been there, you would have seen a man coming as I have described, casting himself down, presenting himself, and putting up his prayer. He gets it answered; he rises, and walks away. If you and I
: had been there, we should very likely have gone to him and said, “Well, poor fellow, we saw that thought rising in your breast, that this
could cleanse you but of course it was a wild delusion, born in you because of the agony of your condition, and because of the unguarded way in which that preacher spoke to you about asking and receiving"; for, oh ! it was difficult for a Jew to believe that leprosy could be cured. Do you remember the sad condition of mind, the “pickle," into which a king was put in the Old Testament, when the King of Syria sent to him the leper Naaman. He stuck the
wrong ticket on the poor fellow, and, instead of sending him to the prophet, he misdirected him and sent him to the King of Israel, and the King tore his clothes and said, “ Am I a god, to kill and to make alive, that he should send the leper to me? Wherefore, consider, I pray you, and see
I how he seeketh a quarrel against me.” And all that would have been in our minds, perhaps, and we should have said to the poor fellow, “Well, we saw you going in, and you put your prayer; but of course nothing has come of it.” He came away so quickly that we should have just said, “ It was nothing but a mere spasm of emotion that led him to pray, and there is no result.” But he would have held out those hands which before were rotting, and said, “ Clean!” and he would have pulled back the tangled hair from his brow, and torn off the rag that covered his lip, and he would have said, “Clean! O God of Abraham, I am clean!” Yes; “ his dry palms grew moist, and the blood coursed with delicious coolness through his veins, and on his brow the dewy softness of an infant stole. His leprosy was cleansed, and he fell down at Jesus' feet and worshipped Him."
How often there come in these stories of gracious healing in our Lord's ministry, "straightway,” “immediately," to bring out this, that the Lord Jesus Christ is so quick, so filled with healing power, and you are so needy, that all that He wants is to be asked. Every one that asketh receiveth."
Of course, speaking to Christians, I know that there are many things which we ask which we shall not get for a good while, and many things we ask which we shall get by having them refused to us. may be answered by not being answered at all. But this