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Leprosy: its Discobery and Treatment
Gathering into view the circumstantial and concise description of the malady here given; the directions concerning leprosy may be thus analysed and arranged: Symptoms of leprosy:
1. Their minuteness: small in their beginnings, trifling skin blemishes or hair defects, scarcely distinguishable at the outset, evasive therefore, and subtle.
2. Their intricacy: so resembling other ailments, in some cases rising out of other blemishes and wounds; complicate and interblending.
3. Their repulsiveness: all the descriptions are loathsome. Discrimination of the symptoms. The investigation had to be—
1. Cautious: lest that should be pronounced leprosy which was not; or that which was, be exempted.
2. Patient: the sufferer must be repeatedly examined where the signs were uncertain: no haste, no summary decision.
3. Thorough: searching to the very root: watching a wound to note its developments, shaving the hair that no symptom escape notice.
Treatment of the leper. When the malady was beyond doubt, the doom was—
1. Absolute: he was banished, there might be no concessions; he was excluded the camp.
2. Mournful: garments to be torn, the hair dishevelled, the lips covered, as for the dead.
3. Proclaimed: from the outlawed leper must rise the cry of warning to others, which was also the death knell of his own fate—“Unclean!”
Six various aspects under which leprosy may develop itself in man are here specified:
1. First appearance of the plague: the victim manifesting symptoms which excite suspicion (Leviticus 13:1-9.)
2. Return of the distemper (Leviticus 13:9-11). But two features of the malady are here exempted from the ban of uncleanness.
(1). The plague has exhausted itself upon the entire body of the sufferer (Leviticus 13:12-13).
(2). The plague spots have lost their virulence (Leviticus 13:16-17).
3. Leprosy developing from other sores or accidental wounds: seizing these blemishes in which to root itself (Leviticus 13:18-28).
4. The plague burying itself amid the hair: called the “dry scall” (Leviticus 13:29-37).
5. Harmless leprosy (Leviticus 13:38-39). It is still accounted harmless by the Arabs: causes no inconvenience, and lasts variously from two months to two years.
6. The baldness distemper: leading to the falling off of the hair from the back of the head (Leviticus 13:40-44).
Leviticus 13:45-46.—The leper in whom the plague is, etc. As the victim of a grievous calamity the poor leper must assume the melancholy aspects of mourning, he must tell out his woe in the doleful cry “Unclean,” and his doom must be to wander as an outcast from the society of Israel and from the sanctuary of God. This foul distemper has always been a parable of the loathsomeness of sin, and its dismal punishment vividly pourtrays the grievous penalties of moral and spiritual defilement—“a castaway.”
Leviticus 13:47-59.—The garment also that the plague of leprosy is in, etc. Equal minuteness of inspection, discrimination of taint were to be exercised upon garments affected with the plague, and if judged to be really contagious they were to be burned. Clothes were scarce, and not easily to be replaced in the desert, hence care that nothing be needlessly destroyed. But no unclean thing, nor “anything that defileth” could be allowed to abide within the camp. Evil must be rooted from our own persons, or we become outcasts; and evil must be shunned, contact therewith be scrupulously avoided, or the malady may return. Therefore, like leprous garments, we must “lay aside every weight and the sin that doth so easily beset us.” Within the fellowship of the redeemed Church on earth, and amid the blessedness of the ransomed society of heaven, God will allow no place for any unclean thing, “neither whatsoever worketh abomination or maketh a lie, but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Revelation 21:27).
Topic: MAN PHYSICALLY A VICTIM OF CRUEL MALADIES
How appalling this picture of physical misery! To what sickening and wearying distempers has the human frame become a prey! How humiliating to contemplate
“the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to!”
I. Fashioned after the divine image, HOW GRACEFUL AND DIGNIFIED IS THE HUMAN FORM!
Moving among all products of God’s creating skill, man is His “noblest work.”
1. As a tenement of the mind and spirit, the body is endowed with a natural comeliness.
It is no unfit abode for the higher nature within. Physically we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” Mark its symmetry, its erectness, its agility. Well says Hamlet, “What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals!”
2. As an intrustment of the mind and spirit, the body possesses finest aptitudes. Its motions, its senses, its abilities, afford admirable outlets for the impulses and aims of the inner being. The eyes for vision, the lips for speech, the hands for ministry and work, the limbs for movement—the physical form is a thing of marvellous suitableness to the necessities of intellectual life and spiritual sympathies. It is in itself no grim prison, no harsh machine, but a supple instrument, ready to all the requirements of the indwelling soul.
II. Assailed by foul diseases, HOW DESECRATED AND PITIABLE IS THE HUMAN FORM!
Look upon the mighty fallen! writhing in anguish, wasted by disease, distorted by maladies!
1. In bodily diseases we mark the traces of calamitous experiences having befallen man.
As in the geological strata the torn and disordered upheavals declare that violence has wrought harm, so in the sufferings and maladies of the human frame. Some dire disaster has come upon the serene world of human life. Diseases are evidences of ruinous activities having invaded man’s history. God made his noble creature for something better than to be the victim of sufferings and maladies. A foul hand has been laid upon his beauteous form. “An enemy hath done this.” Sin has done dire work. Every pang, disorder, disease, is therefore a warning cry against sin which brought death into the world and all our woes.
2. In our physical maladies we may note the inducements to watchfulness and virtue.
If diseases point to a historic disaster in man’s career—his fall through sin, they also quicken man to carefulness against repeating the follies and vices which engender physical maladies. They are a call—Beware! It is not altogether a melancholy fact that illnesses and sufferings assail us, if they warn us from indulgences end defilements which develop physical misery. The evil heart of man would urge him to unlimited vices if this penalty did not confront and restrain him.
“Just disease to luxury succeeds,
And every death its own avenger breeds” (Pope).
3 Amid all distresses of the body there are ameliorations and consolations offered in religion.
(1) A patient and devout spirit may “draw honey out of the rock,” and find solace in anguish; for those who love God have had to testify, “It was good for me to be afflicted.”
“Affliction is not sent in vain
From that good God who chastens whom He loves” (Southey).
(2). In suffering also there comes the consolation of Christ to those who are His. He knew affliction in bitterest degree, and is a “brother born for adversity.”
(3). And there opens in prospect to the child of God the blissful life of heaven, where “the inhabitants never say they are sick,” etc. (Revelation 21:4).
Trace the career of the malady: it does not complete itself at a stride: it has its outset and its goal. A pestilence in the land does not expand into its fatal proportions without antecedent incitements and advancing developments. In its germinal stage the peril may have been unsuspected or ignored, but its fructification proves that active energies have long and effectively operated. Harvest fields swept by the scythe once lay bare in ploughed furrows; the seed was sown, it grew, ripened, till the reapers entered, and the garners were filled. Good and bad products alike have their history of outset, advance and fruition. In man’s physical and moral life there are equally traceable the beginnings and progressions of evil, till the fatal end is reached. No fact for contemplation in the moral realm is more melancholy than this—the progress of corruption. Consider the—
I. SUBTLE HISTORY OF ITS ORIGIN.
Transmitted; mysteriously passed on from parent to child: or acquired by contact with the leper, or things infected with leprosy
1. For awhile the distemper lies concealed in the blood, assumes no visible symptoms; is latent, passive. Thus sin long secretes itself in the nature as a subtle tendency, slumbers in the heart as a hidden taint. Whence the beginnings of evil in a human life? Came it from parentage, a moral tendency in the affections, the will, the habits? Was it imparted by early whisperings, faulty examples, harmful influences?
2. Its first appearance was in a form of uncertainty, not manifestly leprous, a swelling, a spot. Wrong when beginning in a child is not glaringly wrong, there is a something suggestive of possible deviation from right, but it is not certainly so, not manifestly and determinately so. It startles suspicion in the observer; the word, though not false, was hardly true; the secret act was scarcely deceitful, yet lacking in thorough honesty; it is scarcely a “rift in the lute”; not yet a rot on the fruit, only a “little pitted speck.”
3. Thus starting, as evil does, in a kind of incertitude, as a slight dereliction, a wavering which creates suspicion, but is not yet sufficiently pronounced to be condemned, it only needs time in order to unfold and declare itself. Leave it to work its way out, and it quickly assumes more positive forms, and it becomes too manifest that the leprosy has a firm hold on the blood, the life. [Addenda to chap. xiii. Developments.]
II. APPALLING RAPIDITY OF ITS PROGRESS.
Having gained hold on its victim, and diffused itself through the blood, the infection hastens to spread over the system. Thought of sin, suggested from without, or awaking from within, grows into desire; desire into intention: intention into act.
Vital energy decays, good resolves droop, moral force and rectitude of purpose decline; then succeed estranged affections, a defiant will, an “evil heart of unbelief,” character corrupted, till “sin reigns in our mortal body that we obey it in the lusts thereof” (Romans 6:12).
III. LOATHSOME ASPECTS OF ITS DEVELOPMENT.
Whether looked at in its incipient stage (Leviticus 13:2-3), or in further advance (Leviticus 13:7), or full outburst (Leviticus 13:10), or in an inflamed state (Leviticus 13:24), etc., it is always repulsive.
Of all forms and degrees of sin God pleads, “O do not the abominable thing which I hate!”
IV. CONTAGIOUS PROPERTIES OF THE MALADY.
One leper could spread infection through a community; all who came near him, all he touched, became contaminated.
“By one man sin entered the world, and death by sin: and so death passed upon all men.” “One sinner destroyeth much good.”
“No man liveth to himself.” One sin suggests sin to others. The contagion of evil example! The destructive influence of impurity. “Evil communications corrupt good manners.” [Addenda to chap. xiii., Transmitted Effects.]
V. FATAL TERMINATION OF THE PLAGUE.
Disease, unless arrested, soon completes its ravages; and the victim sinks to death. And what are the issues of sin? “Wages of sin is death.”
“When lust is conceived it bringeth forth sin; and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.”
1. Outcast for his uncleanness, all his days (Leviticus 13:46).
2. If he “die in his sins,” rejected for evermore from the Heavenly Sanctuary and the Family of God. [Addenda to chap., Unclean].
Topic: THE LEPER BEFORE THE PRIEST (Leviticus 13:12-13)
“And if a leprosy break out abroad in the skin, and the leprosy cover all the skin of him that hath the plague from his head even to his foot, wheresoever the priest looketh; then the priest shall consider: and, behold, if the leprosy have covered all his flesh, he shall pronounce him clean that hath the plague; it is all turned white; he is clean.”
This is a singular paradox, but not to him who understands the gospel. Carry in your thoughts the one key, namely, that leprosy is the type of sin; and, first of all, see the leper, and in the leper the sinner. Then bring him before the priest and watch while the priest examines him.
I. Turn your eyes to the LOATHSOME AND GHASTLY SPECTACLE OF A LEPER.
1. A leper was extremely loathsome in his person. The leprosy broke out, at first almost imperceptibly, in certain red spots which appeared in the skin. The withering of the skin followed, and was an index of what was going on within; for in the very marrow of the bones there was a most frightful rottenness, which in due time would utterly consume the victim. When it came to its very worst phase the whole house of manhood would become a horrible mass of animated rubbish rather than the stately temple which God originally made it. It is a very poor portrait of the loathsomeness of sin. When once taught of God the Holy Ghost, we see that we are vile and full of sin, that there is no good thing whatsoever in us. Loathsome as was the leper, it was not more so in the type than is sin in the estimation of every enlightened mind.
2. The leper was defiled in all his acts. If he drank out of a vessel, the vessel was defiled. If he lay upon a bed, the bed became unclean, and whosoever sat upon the bed afterwards became unclean too. If he touched but the wall of a house the wall became unclean and must be purged. Wherever he went he tainted the atmosphere; his breath was as dangerous as the pestilence. He shot baneful glances from his eyes. All that he did was full of the same loathsomeness as was himself. The actions of the “natural man” are tainted with sin. Whether he eats or drinks, or whatsoever he does, he continues to sin against his God. Nay, if he should come up to God’s house and sing and pray, there is sin in his songs, for they are but hypocrisy; there is guilt in his prayers, for the prayers of the wicked are an abomination unto the Lord. Let him attempt to perform holy actions, he is like Uzziah who laid hold upon the censer of the priest while the leprosy was on his brow, till he was glad to retire from the sacred place lest he should be struck dead. If thou dost not confess that all thy actions before thou wast regenerate were full of sin and abominable in the sight of God, thou hast not yet learned what thou art, and it is not likely that thou wilt wish to know what a Saviour is.
3. Being thus the medium of contagion and defilement wherever he went, the Lord demanded that he should be shut out from the society of Israel. There was a spot outside the camp, barren, solitary, where lepers are confined. They were commanded to wear a covering over the mouth and upon the upper lip, and if any passed by they were compelled to cry “Unclean! unclean! unclean!” Some of the Rabbi translate the cry “Avoid! avoid! avoid!” One of the American poets has put it, “Room for the leper! room!” They were required never to drink of a running stream of water of which others might drink; nor might they sit down on any stone by the roadside upon which it was probable any other person might rest. They were dead to all the enjoyments of life, dead to all the endearments and society of their friends. Such is the case with the sinner with regard to the people of God. He can go and find such mirth as the company of his fellow-lepers can afford, but where God’s people are he is out of place, shut out from the communion of saints, cannot pray their prayer nor sing their hymns, know not their joys, never taste their perfect peace, never enter into the rest which remaineth for them.
4. The leper was wholly unable to come up to the house of God. Other men might offer sacrifices but not the leper; others had a share in the great high priest’s sacrifice, and when he went within the vail he appeared for all others, but the leper had neither part nor lot in this matter. He was shut out from God as well as shut out from man. He was no partaker of the sacred things of Israel, and all the ordinances of the tabernacle were as nothing to him. Think of that, sinner! As a sinner full of guilt, thou art shut out from all communion with God. Thou canst not stand in His presence, for He is a devouring fire and would consume thee. Thy prayers are shut out from Him, thy words are unheard; shut out utterly and entirely by sin from the presence and acceptance of God.
II. NOW BRING THE LEPER UP TO THE HIGH PRIEST.
Whenever a leper was cleansed under the Jewish law the leper did nothing, the priest did all. Previous to his being pronounced clean, the leper was passive—the priest did everything. The priest comes out from the sanctuary, comes to the place of the lepers, where no other man might go but he in his priestly office. He calls up one leper before him; he looks at him and there is a spot on that leper which is not leprous—quick, raw, healthy flesh. The priest puts him aside; he is an unclean leper. Here is another, and he has but one or two red spots appearing beneath the skin, all the rest of his body is perfectly sound; the priest puts him aside, he is an unclean leper. Here is another; he is from head to foot covered with a scaly whiteness of the filthy disease, the hair is all turned white, owing to the decay of the powers of nature which are unable now to nourish the roots of the hair. There is not a single speck of health in him from the crown of his head to the soul of his foot, but all is pollution and filth. But hark! the high priest says to him, “Thou art clean.” And after certain necessary ceremonies he is admitted into the camp, and afterwards into the very sanctuary of God. “If there was found any sound place in him, he was unclean.” But when the leprosy had covered him, wheresoever the priest looked, then the man became by sacrificial rights a clean leper.
Bring up the sinner before the Great High Priest. How many there are ready to confess that they have done many things which are wrong, but they say, “Though we have done much which we cannot justify, yet there have been many good actions which might almost counterbalance the sin; been charitable to the poor, sought to instruct the ignorant, to help those that are out of the way. We have some sins we do confess; but there is much which is still right and good, and we therefore hope that we shall be delivered.” I put you aside, in God’s name, by His authority, as unclean lepers. For you there is no hope and no promise of salvation whatever. A second comes. He admits a very great measure of guilt; not open immorality, but his thoughts and the imaginations of his heart have been evil, and evil frequently. “But still,” saith he, “though I have not one good work of which to boast, nor any righteousness in which to glory, yet I do hope that by repentance I may amend; I trust that by a resolute persistence in good works I may yet blot out my past life, and so may enter heaven.” I set him aside again, as being an unclean leper, for whom cleansing rites are not provided. He is one who must still be kept without the camp; he has not arrived at that stage in which it is possible for him to be made clean. But another comes. Probably he is a really better man than either of the other two, but not in his own opinion. With many a sigh and tear he confesses that he is utterly ruined and undone. “A month or two ago I would have claimed a righteousness with the very best, could have boasted of what I have done; but now I see my righteousness to be as filthy rags, and all my goodness is as an unclean thing. I count all these things but dross and dung. I tread upon them and despise them. I have done no good thing. I have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Lord, at Thy feet I fall, full of leprosy from head to foot; nothing have I to boast of, nothing to trust to except Thy mercy.” He is a clean leper; sins forgiven, iniquities put away. Through the blood of Jesus Christ, who died upon the tree, saved! As soon as ever the leprosy had come right out the man was clean, and as soon as ever your sin is fully manifest, so that in your conscience you feel yourself to be really a sinner, there is a way of salvation for you. As long as a man has anything to boast of, there is no Christ for him; but the moment he has nothing of his own, Christ is his.—C. H. Spurgeon, A.D. 1860.
Topic: “UNCLEAN, UNCLEAN” (Leviticus 13:45)
God’s mercy paints malady in hideous tints, that the sufferer may see his plague and hasten to the healer.
Leprosy showed, by a long train of emblem, the complex loathsomeness of sin, that evil might be the more abhorred.
I. THIS MALADY CREPT IN WITH STEALTHY STEPS.
Not easily discerned. Human skill was blind. Wisdom from on high was needed. The anointed priest must search.
Sin lurks within the veins. The world has no detecting eye. The self-pleased fancy boasts of health. Death is begun when all seems life. The plague devours, but ignorance sees not.
Only the Spirit can “convince of sin”: He only can reveal the inborn defilement. He sets the soul before the mirror of God’s Word; opens sightless eyes; and the sinner beholds a hideous mass of polluted self. The light from heaven shows leprosy throughout. [See Job 42:6; and Isaiah 6:5. Compare also Paul’s testimony. Romans 7:24.]
Sinners, bring heart, and thought, and ways, and life to the revealing Word. Consult not the world’s counsel. Call in the Faithful Witness. Shrink not. Self-knowledge is a step towards Christ. The malady perceived leads to the malady relieved.
II. THE SUFFERER HEARS THE PRIEST’S CODEMNING VOICE.
He is pronounced “Unclean.”
He goes forth; tastes no more the joys of social scenes; shunning and shunned he hides himself in solitude. His whole mien proclaims the misery of his dejected soul. Clothes rent, head bare, mouth covered; and when the hollow voice must speak it sounds the plaintive knell, “Unclean, unclean!”
1. The wretchedness of sin: The “clothes are rent”—symbol of bitterest grief (2 Samuel 3:31; Job 1:20). There is no woe like that of sin.
2. Lowly shame also: “Head uncovered.” [See Job 19:9.] In the leper thus despoiled we see how sin inflicts an ignominious brand. [Compare Ezra 9:6.]
3. Utterance stifled: “upper lip covered.” The sorrowful and shameful sinner finds speech muffled and choked. When God withdrew, “Then were the seers ashamed,” etc. (Micah 3:7). Sin should be mute. While faithful lips abound in prayer, and send forth songs of praise, and tell of redeeming grace; a sinner’s “throat is an open sepulchre.”
4. Pollution is bemoaned. If a passing step draws near, a piteous warning must be raised—“Unclean, unclean!” (Zechariah 3:3; Isaiah 64:6).
5. Outcast from social life. No home may welcome him. In loneliness he pines. No station gains exemption. Miriam (Numbers 12:14); King Uzziah (2 Kings 15:5).
What has sin done? Driven angels from heaven’s light. Excluded multitudes of men from communion with God, holy fellowship, the consecrated board: makes sinners exiles from the heaven bound host, lone “off-scourings” amid the miseries of desert life.
6. Shut without the gates. God and His people within, he “without.” The saved within heaven’s gates—barred; the lost “without” for ever. Thus the leper stands an emblem of sin’s dreadful plague.
Why this picture of horror? That you may sink in despair? Far otherwise.
III. THE GREAT HIGH PRIEST IS NEAR.
1. He comes to the leper. With healing grace, He draws nigh the foulest, the hopeless.
2. His remedy is ready and sure. “Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean!” was a leper’s cry. Hear His reply, “I will, be thou clean.”
3. None need be an outcast from His fold. He opens grace and glory to the penitent and trustful soul. [Comp. “Christ is all.”]
Topic: LEPROSY, A PARABLE OF HUMAN DEPRAVITY
A. As it affects the Moral Constitution of Man (Leviticus 13:1-45).
Leprosy has always been regarded as a mysterious as well as a malignant disease. Unlike other diseases, it was to be detected and treated by the priests. Probably the disease was acquired by the Hebrews while badly fed and hardly worked in Egypt. Their skin would become liable to cutaneous diseases on account of exposure to the dust of brickfields and heat of the burning sun. In the whole range of Scripture is no other malady so fully described. Invested with such prominence and importance, the Hebrews would be (a) put on their guard against ceremonial defilement: (b) filled with the spirit of religious fear: (c) stimulated to desire spiritual purity. The patient, as he repaired to the priest, convicted of pollution, would be humbled, and have thoughts suggested to his mind of unworthiness and sin.
I. LEPROSY WAS MYSTERIOUS IN ITS ORIGIN. Neither the patient nor the priest could tell exactly how or when the disease originated; they had to attend to the symptoms, and concern themselves about the reality and removal. The priest could not look into the springs of life and analyse the seeds of the evil. So, moral evil, that affects our race, is mysterious in its origin; we can detect and trace its symptoms, prove its presence; it corrupts the springs of our moral nature, vitiates all the faculties of the soul. We know by history, observation, especially by experience, that we are children of a sin-smitten race, the taint is in our blood, and only requires favourable circumstances to assert its malignity and power.
II. LEPROSY WAS INSIDIOUS IN ITS PROGRESS. For a while the person affected might be unconscious of its presence; and even the priest might find difficulty in passing judgment after careful examination. It was liable to break out at any time, and assume various aspects. So, with depravity having its seat within, at any time, and under any circumstances, it may reveal its presence and power—develop the most alarming symptoms. Little spots, so-called sins of inadvertency, slight infirmities, may secretly develop into morally corrupt habits, and disfigure the whole life.
III. LEPROSY WAS DETESTABLE IN ITS SYMPTOMS. Every phase of it was associated with uncleanness. The patient not only became loathsome to himself, but offensive to society. Mental and moral anguish would accompany physical pain. The disease would disfigure and deform the frame, rendering life almost intolerable. So, sin produces moral disfigurement, induces all kinds of sorrow. Holiness is beautiful, but wickedness is hideous. Our moral sense puts its stigma upon vice. Moral impurity God loathes, and will ultimately destroy. Society has its lazar houses, where depravity may not only be checked, but where its hideous symptoms may be hidden from beholders. Such sins as those spoken of in Romans 1:21-32 justify the statement of Isaiah 1:5-6, concerning the offensive features of moral corruption.
IV. LEPROSY WAS INVETERATE IN ITS TENACITY. When once it asserted itself, the sufferer would have to be prompt and persevering in his efforts to get it eradicated. The priest had to make very close scrutiny, to re-examine, and put the leper under repeated probation. Any contact with contagion would suffice to revive the old evil in all its virulence. There was the pre-disposition in the blood, the secret of the trouble was there. So, with moral depravity, it has been transmitted in our blood, the springs of life are vitiated. Sin is indigenous, and defies complete eradiction in this life. Only one sinless Being has lived on our earth, He was immaculately conceived; we, are “born in sin, and shapen in iniquity.” Leprosy defied all human means to remove it; through the instrumentality of the divinely appointed priest alone it succumbed. Education, reform, etc., cannot cure the depravity of the heart, nothing short of “the fountain opened in the house of David for sin and for uncleanness.” Through the mercy of God we can be “abundantly pardoned” here, and become “without spot” hereafter.—F. W. B.
Topic: B. AS IT AFFECTS THE EARTHLY CIRCUMSTANCES OF MAN (Leviticus 13:45-59)
One of the first penalties the leper suffered was excommunication. No sooner did the priest detect disease, than he commanded withdrawal on the part of the sufferer from healthy society, in order that the infection might not spread.
I. HE WOULD BE SHUT OUT FROM THE DOMESTIC CIRCLE. So sin unsocializes, unfits men for the joys and purity of hearth and home; frequently the morally impure have to be excluded from the company of the virtuous.
II. HE WOULD BE SHUT OUT FROM THE SECULAR CIRCLE. Not permitted to return to his tent, he would be unfit to take his place in society, and fulfil his duties in the world. So wrong-doing and moral turpitude will render men unfit for society, and necessitate their incarceration for reformation and restraint.
III. HE WOULD BE SHUT OUT FROM THE SACRED CIRCLE. Although allowed to repair to the priest, he would not be allowed to mingle and take part in the services of the house of God, the priest shut him up in seclusion. So evil shuts men out from communion with God and His people. Those composing the Church are persons who become separate, and who touch not the unclean thing. The saddest aspect of sin is that it separates the soul from God; and, but for the intervention of our great High Priest, would shut us out from His presence for ever.
How circumspect, therefore, we ought to be! How anxious that the leprosy of our souls may be cleansed!—F. W. B.
Topic: SINFUL SURROUNDINGS (Leviticus 13:47-57)
Notice was to be taken of leprous garments and houses; and, no matter what their texture or value, if found to be incurably diseased, were to be unscrupulously destroyed. By these things we are taught—
I. THAT GREAT CARE SHOULD BE EXERCISED IN THE SELECTION OF OUR SURROUNDINGS.
We are not absolutely creatures of circumstances, but are marvellously affected by them. We are not responsible for our parentage, nor the early environments which give bias and tone to after life. These are circumstances unforeseen and uncontrollable, to which we are compelled resignedly to submit. But we have to make many of the influences that enwrap us like garments, as we go through life.
(a) The clothes we wear.
(b) The books we read.
(c) The company we keep.
(d) The places we frequent.
(e) The scenes we visit.
All these may have a pernicious and demoralising tendency; they may be leprous, and introduce sin through the gateways of the town of man’s soul. How suitable, then, the advice in Psalms 1:0 and in Proverbs of Solomon.
II. THAT PROMPT AND DECISIVE ACTION SHOULD BE TAKEN WHEN OUR SURROUNDINGS AWAKEN SUSPICION.
(a) Avail ourselves of judicious advice. The leper took anything he suspected to priest for scrutiny. Let us test our surroundings by the teaching of our Great High Priest; for there can be no high morality without His religion.
(b) Suspend the suspected thing till scrutiny has been made.
Suspected garments were shut up seven days; and repeated if needed. Let us be shy of suspicious books, places, etc. Have them fairly investigated.
(c) If the suspected thing be righteously condemned, let unconditional destruction of it immediately ensue.
The leprous garment was to be consumed with fire. So let us break off at once from bad company or vicious books. The converts at Ephesus burnt their wicked books; that ensured—
(1) That they should do the owners no more harm;
(2) That they should not corrupt others, and—
(3) Showed the reality of conversion.
Things that will not wash, that will not improve by washing, are not to be relied on. Sin is not an external deformity, a trifling irregularity, infirmity, or failing; but in the soul, degrading all its powers, which, if not cleansed, will ultimately get its desert, in everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord.—F. W. B.
Topic: THE WONDROUS WORKING OF GOD’S GRACE (Leviticus 13:12-13; Leviticus 13:45-46)
The God of Israel could bear with infirmity, blemish, failure, but the moment it became a case of defilement—in head, beard, forehead, or any part—it could not be tolerated in the holy assembly (Leviticus 13:45-46). Here was the leper’s condition, the leper’s occupation, the leper’s place. What more humiliating than this! Excluded from the only spot in all the world in which Jehovah’s presence was known or enjoyed. In that poor, solitary leper behold—
I. A VIVID TYPE OF ONE IN WHOM SIN IS WORKING.
It is not a helpless, convicted sinner who is here pourtrayed, whose guilt and misery have thoroughly come out—a fit subject, therefore, for God’s love and the Saviour’s blood—but one in whom sin is actually working, one in whom there is the positive energy of evil.
1. So long as sin is working there can be no fellowship with God or with His people. “He shall dwell alone; without the camp shall his habitation be.” How long? “All the days wherein the plague shall be in him.” This is a great practical truth: the energy of evil is the death blow to communion. It matters not what the amount of the evil be, if it were but a foolish thought, so long as it continues to work it must cause suspension of fellowship.
2. A suggestive paradox in God’s dealing with sinners. When the plague “break out abroad in the skin, and the leprosy cover all the skin of him,” etc., “he is clean” (Leviticus 13:12-13). The moment a sinner is in his true place before God, the matter is settled. Directly his real character is fully out, no difficulty remains. When the soul is before Him with the cry, “Just as I am!” the free grace of God flows down to him. “When I kept silence,” etc. (Psalms 32:3-4); but when “I acknowledged my sin,” etc. (Leviticus 13:5), “thou forgavest.” The moment a sinner takes his true place as one thoroughly lost, guilty, and undone, as one in whom there is not a single spot on which the eye of Infinite Holiness can rest with complacency, so bad that he cannot possibly be worse, that moment there is a perfect settlement of the entire matter.
II. THE GRACE OF GOD DEALS WITH ACKNOWLEDGED SINNERS.
1. The more evidently a man is a sinner the more clearly is established his title to the grace of God, and to the work of Christ, “for Christ also hath suffered for sins, the just for the unjust,” etc. (1 Peter 3:8). The gospel applies itself to all who are on the ground of being lost. It is there, and there alone, that grace can meet the guilty. “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.”
2. To have a hopeless view of one’s self is the beginning of salvation. So long as a sinner thinks there is a single spot which is not covered with the direful disease, he has not come to the end of himself. It is when his true condition is fully disclosed to view, and he sees himself “wretched, and poor, and miserable,” that there opens to him the meaning of salvation BY GRACE.—Evolved from “Notes on Leviticus” by C. H. M.
OUTLINES ON VERSES OF CHAPTER 13
Leviticus 13:2—Theme: FIRST SYMPTOMS OF DEPRAVITY TO BE SUSPECTED.
As soon as a person had suspicion that leprosy was in the blood, before he was certain, or society had branded him, he was to repair to the appointed priest, and submit to a careful examination. If the priest pronounced the presence of disease, the sufferer was to acquiesce uncomplainingly to the decison. We have suggested—
I. BY WHAT SIGNS INDWELLING DEPRAVITY MAY BE DETECTED.
(a) Uprising of evil desire. “When a man shall have in the skin of his flesh a rising.” Inordinate cravings, sensual promptings, etc.
(b) Uprising of inflamed passions. “A scab or bright spot.” Evil, like leaven, soon spreads, and demonstrates its existence; though secret at first, it reveals its vitality and virulence in a palpable manner. Sin has its roots in lust, evil desire; and, when hidden lust hath conceived it bringeth forth sin; and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. In first transgression, the lustful looking preceded the tasting and fatal eating of the forbidden fruit. Let us check the looking and inward longing, and seek to arrest the uprisings of inward depravity, thus nip sin in the bud.
Indwelling depravity cannot always be detected by (a) personal feelings; or (b) personal inconvenience. Many diseases, at their beginning, are insidious and flattering: do not occasion pain, or seem to impair the strength.
II. BY WHAT TESTS THE EXISTENCE OF INDWELLING DEPRAVITY MAY BE PROVED.
(a) By comparing ourselves with divine descriptions of sin. Probably the Hebrews were furnished with directions to guide them in self-examination, to indicate when they had need to have recourse to the priest. God, in His great mercy, has given a description of sin in the Holy Scriptures: and, by comparing ourselves with the mirror of the Word, we may detect the uprisings of depravity, and see what ravages sin commits in our moral nature.
(b) By repairing to persons competent to guide us in our investigation
The leper was to be brought to the priest; who, under divine guidance and authority, would give needed counsel. So now—although there are no priests after the Aaronic patterns—persons anxious about their souls and the removal of sin do well to confer with the ambassadors of Christ, who have obtained healing of the plague of their own hearts, and seek help from heaven to direct anxious inquirers who ask, “What must I do to be saved?”—F. W. B.
Leviticus 13:5.—Theme: SCRUPULOUS CARE IN DEALING WITH DEPRAVITY.
The priest exercised great patience in examining every case brought before him; he did not cloak or cover, or seek only to slightly heal; the course adopted was searching and thorough; Sin is not to be treated as a slight moral indisposition, but as a serious radical disease.
I. DEPRAVITY, LIKE LEPROSY, MAY SOMETIMES APPEAR “AT A STAY.” This might be the outcome of—
(a) Heredity. Life healthy transmitted by parentage—ability to resist inroads of infection, development of disease. So, though piety does not run in the blood, yet propensities and dispositions are inherited, and check or quicken depravity.
(b) Organisation. The fires of lust will kindle quicker in some natures than in others. Some persons have animality so preponderating that Satan seems able easily to get the advantage over them.
(c) Environment. Pure surroundings help to repress tendencies to go wrong, to develop dispositions to virtue. The restraints of a godly home, refining influences of a good education may stay the tide of depravity that otherwise would break forth with great volume and power.
II. THOUGH APPARENTLY “AT A STAY,” DEPRAVITY, LIKE LEPROSY, MAY BE UNABATED IN ITS VIRULENCE.
Though the priest did not at first detect signs of disease, yet it may have been lurking dormant in the system, and waiting only for a favourable occasion to awaken into activity. This might occur from
(a) Inward irritation, or
(b) Outward influences.
We do not know what depths of depravity are within us, till some unexpected temptation stirs them, till the enemy comes in upon us as a flood.
III. THE ARREST OF SYMPTOMS OF DEPRAVITY MAY ISSUE IN THE REMOVAL OF THEIR CAUSE.
(a) When sinful habits are stayed, their fires may burn out.
(b) When sinful habits are stayed a new life is to be exhibited.
The healed leper was to “wash his clothes and be clean.” He was to appear among society as a new creature, both in conduct and character. The life of recovered lepers would be
(4) happy So of every saved and sanctified soul.—F. W. B.
Leviticus 13:9.—Theme: SIN NOT TO BE CONNIVED AT.
It was the duty of the leper to go to the priest; of society, to see that he went: “he shall be brought unto the priest.”
I. A MAN WITH LEPROSY NOT TO BE LEFT TO HIS MORBID FEELINGS.
He not at liberty to neglect means of recovery. No excuse, no willingness to commit his case to fate or chance to exonerate him from obligation to own his malady. Liberty in society is only lawful as it is compatible with the general good. The leper must go to priest, for—
(a) His own sake.
(b) Sake of others.
So sinners ought to repair to great High Priest for similar reasons.
II. A MAN WITH LEPROSY TO BE DIRECTED TO MEANS OF CURE.
Friends would take and introduce him to priest, especially those who had obtained healing themselves. We have a right to interfere with the liberty of our fellows when it is for their real and unmistakable good. Let us take sinners to Christ, the Great Physician. He is able and willing to heal, as He healed the lepers in the days of His flesh. He removes leprosy of sin.
The leper was not to puzzle his brains about such questions as—
(a) Why was leprosy permitted?
(b) How is it generated?
(c) How is it cured?
Enough for him to own it: avail himself of means of recovery. Useless, absurd, dangerous to hide or disown it. So with leprosy of sin, it is a good sign when it is acknowledged, sorrowed over, taken to Him who alone can remove depravity, and make our souls as clean as spotless wool, as white as virgin snow.—F. W. B.
Leviticus 13:2; Leviticus 13:10; Leviticus 13:18; Leviticus 13:24; Leviticus 13:29; Leviticus 13:44.—Theme: DEGREES OF DEPRAVITY.
Obviously, in leprosy there were varieties in kind, as well as symptoms. So in depravity it assumes various forms, manifests itself in different ways, though all may be grouped under the denomination, sin. We have suggested—
I. INHERENT DEPRAVITY. “In the skin of the flesh a rising” (Leviticus 13:2).
II. QUICKENED DEPRAVITY. “Quick raw flesh in the rising” (Leviticus 13:10).
III. AGGRAVATED DEPRAVITY. “In sight, lower than the skin” (Leviticus 13:20).
IV. VIRULENT DEPRAVITY. “The quick flesh that burneth” (v 24).
V. HIDEOUS DEPRAVITY. “Plague upon the head, or the beard” (Leviticus 13:29).
VI. TOTAL DEPRAVITY. “The priest shall pronounce him utterly unclean; his plague is in his head” (Leviticus 13:44).
Thus depravity culminates in disfigurement of “the human face divine,” suggesting the fact that sin has marred the image of God in man, and deranged the whole of his intellectual and moral powers.
What an evidence of spiritual blindness, that men do not see the hideous nature of sin. No wonder that God—who sees every secret sin—should hate it, and provide for its removal. Those who voluntarily close their eyes to their sinful state, and die impenitent will be moral suicides.—F. W. B.
Leviticus 13:45-47—Theme: RESULTS OF UNREMOVED DEPRAVITY.
When the leper was pronounced “utterly unclean” by the priest, the case was regarded as desperate and hopeless. So, when sinners become exceedingly vile, and defy every effort made for their amendment, the following things ensue:
I. CHARACTER DESTROYED. The leper’s clothes were rent; so, sin ruins the character of its victims.
II. INTELLECT DETHRONED. The leper’s head was bare; so, the mind of the abandoned sinner becomes neglected, deformed, and unprotected.
III. INFLUENCE PERNICIOUS. The leper’s upper lip covered, to indicate that the breath had become exceedingly corrupt. So, sin changes the tongue from being a wholesome tree, to a pestilential stream of polluting influences.
IV. LIFE CORRUPTED. “He is unclean.” All the springs of life become impure, the whole man is corrupt. So, sin defiles the body, soul, and spirit; pollutes thought, word, and deed.
V. CONDITION SOLITARY. “He shall dwell alone.” Sin cuts men off from society with each other, from holy angels, from God. Religion unites men with the divine Father; and with each other, in the bonds of holy brotherhood.
VI. SELF-CONDEMNED. The poor leper cried “Unclean, unclean!” Wherever he went he proclaimed his complaint. So sinners—whether they know it or not—proclaim, wherever they go (by their character), the depravity that debases them; and, if at last excluded from the place of the holy they will own the justice of the sentence that excludes them.—F. W. B.
ILLUSTRATIVE ADDENDA TO CHAPTER 13
“The Present is the living sum-total of the whole Past.”—CARLYLE, Characteristics.
“Consequences are unpitying. Our deeds carry their terrible consequences, quite apart from any fluctuations that went before, consequences that are hardly ever confined to ourselves.”—GEORGE ELIOT, Adam Bede.
“Large streams from little fountains flow
Tall oaks from little acorns grow.”
“From little sparks may burst a mighty flame.”—DANTE.
“Things bad begun make strong themselves by ill.”—Macbeth, III. 2.
“And out of darkness came the hands
That reach through nature, moulding men.”
—TENNYSON, In Memoriam.
“The seed we sow another reaps;
The wealth we find another keeps;
The robes we weave another wears;
The arms we forge another bears.”
“The evil that men do lives after them.”
—Julius Cæsar, III. 2.
“No act of man nothing how much less the man himself! is extinguished when it disappears; through considerable time it still works, though done and vanished.”—CARLYLE.
“No action, whether foul or fair,
Is ever done, but it leaves somewhere
A record, written by fingers ghostly,
As a blessing or curse, and mostly
In the greater weakness or greater strength
Of the acts which follow it.”
“The seeds of all my sins are in my heart, and perhaps the more dangerous that I do not see them.”—M’CHEYNE.
“Great sins make great sufferers.”—ANNA K. GREEN.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Leviticus 13". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13