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The law of the leper in the day of his cleansing.
Cleansing the leper
I. The disease.
1. Its peculiar designation. Leprosy the “plague of boils” (Deuteronomy 28:1-5.28.68.), which applies very forcibly to sin.
2. Its distinguishing characteristics. Small in appearance; so in a vicious course of life. It gradually spread, as does sin spread over all the powers and faculties of a man.
3. Its pernicious consequences. The malady was injurious to society, as being infectious and pernicious; to the person himself, excluding him from all society, civil and religions. So sinners corrupt others, while their abominable ways shut them from the communion of the faithful.
II. The cure of the disease.
1. No human means could be availing. The leper would gladly have cured himself. No art of man was effectual (2 Kings 5:7). We have no remedy of man’s devising for sin (Romans 7:19; Romans 7:24).
2. If the leper was cured, it was by God alone, without the intervention of human means (Luke 17:14; Isaiah 51:7). Nothing was prescribed or attempted for the removal of this distemper. And none but God can remove sin, &c. (Romans 7:10; Romans 7:18; Ephesians 5:9; 1 Peter 2:2).
3. But the cure was associated with blood and water. And to be cleansed from the leprosy of sin we must have applied the blood and spirit of Christ (1 John 1:7; Ezekiel 36:25).
III. The confirmation of the cure by the priest,
1. A person was not to be pronounced clean on a sudden. The priest was to use much caution and deliberation. Caution should be exercised by ministers and office-bearers in the Church towards those who are candidates for fellowship.
2. When it evidently appeared that soundness had been imparted to his disordered body, this was declared with due solemnity. Here we see the pre-eminence of our High Priest; for while the priest merely declared the leper healed, He most effectually heals. Let those infected with the leprosy apply to their souls the Divinely appointed remedy; and let those who have been cleansed from it carefully discharge the duty enjoined on them. (Leviticus 14:10, &c.). (W. Sleigh.)
1. How God is the Author of plagues and diseases. Not to hurt man, but to help him; for man being afflicted, is humbled; being humbled, he runs to Him who can raise him up.
2. That sin infects men’s bodies, garments, and houses.
3. Of the office of ministers, in visiting the sick (Leviticus 14:44).
4. Of our cleansing by the blood of Christ.
5. Of the honourable calling of physicians. They should be--
(2) Faithful to their patient.
(3) Religious, referring all to God’s glory.
(4) Not covetous. (A. Willet, D. D.)
1. Regeneration must be total in every part.
2. That vicious persons be not with too great facility reconciled.
3. God accepts of our obedience according to our heart.
4. To give thanks to God for our health. (A. Willet, D. D.)
The leper cleansed
Although leprosy was not curable by human remedies, it did not always continue for life. It was often sent as a special judgment, as in the eases of Miriam, Azariah, and Gehazi. The Jews generally looked upon it in this light. Its very name denotes a stroke of the Lord. This of itself rather implies that it may cease with the repentance and forgiveness of the smitten offender. It was the anticipation of the healing, of at least some persons leprously affected, that formed the basis of the provisions here laid down. They constitute “the law of the leper in the day of his cleansing”; and if there was no possibility of cure, there was no use of this law. You will observe, however, that these regulations were not for the cure of the leper, but for his ceremonial cleansing after the cure. The disease had first to be stayed, and then began this process of cleansing off all its lingering effects and disabilities. I therefore take the deepest intention of these rites to be to illustrate the nature of sanctification. Justification is also implied, but only as connected with sanctification.
1. In the first place, it is presupposed that the leper’s disease had been stayed. And this healing again points to some putting forth of Divine power and grace quite different from anything here brought to view, and far anterior to the commencement of these services. The first motion of our salvation is from God. It begins while we are yet in the very depths of our defilement and guilt. “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” A full and free forgiveness of all our sins is provided. And the only remaining requirement is to “go show thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing, according as Moses commanded.”
2. The leper, finding his leprosy stayed, was to go to the judge in the case and claim exemption from the sentence that was upon him. And to render this the more easy for him, the priest had to “go forth out of the camp” to meet him. The very moment the sinner believes in the healing proclaimed to him in the gospel, and sets himself to move for his cleansing, Christ meets him.
3. And when the healed leper thus presented himself to the priest, there was no alternative left. He had to be pronounced cured. And so Christ hath bound Himself to acquit and absolve every sinner who thus comes to Him in the strength of the gospel message. There is no further hindrance in the way. The man is justified. The sentence that was against him is rescinded and taken away. But the mere absolution of the priest did not fully restore the leper. Though his disease was stayed, there was a taint of it remaining to be purged off before he could join the camp or the holy services. And so our whole salvation must miscarry if it does not also take in an active holiness, purifying our hearts and lives, and transforming us into the image of our Redeemer. How this sanctification is effected is what we are now to consider.
I. To cleanse the recovered leper, the first thing to be done was the procurement of two clean birds, the one of which was to be slain, and the other to be dipped in its fellow’s blood and set at liberty. These two doves, the gentlest of all God’s creatures, at once carry our thoughts back to Christ and His wonderful history. The fate of the one shows us how He was mangled for human guilt, crushed to death for the sins of others, and brought down to the depths of the earth. The other, coming up out of the earthern vessel, out of the blood of its fellow, shows us how Jesus rose again from the rocky sepulchre, and ascended up out of the hand of His captor on strong and joyous pinions far into the high abodes of heaven, scattering as He went the gracious drops of cleansing and salvation. The introduction of these birds, in this connection, presents a great theological fact. As they typify Christ, they show that our sanctification, as well as our justification, proceeds from His Cross and resurrection.
II. The next thing to be done for the cleansing of the recovered leper was the arrangement and use of means to apply the cleansing of blood. Christ has appointed certain instruments and agencies to convey to us the purifying elements. First of all is the cedar stem of His Word, durable, fragrant, and instinct with celestial power and life, speaking through all the visible creation, but much more distinctly and powerfully in the written Scriptures. Along with this, and fastened to it, is the scarlet wool of the holy sacraments, absorbing, as it were, the whole substance of’ Christ crucified, and performing an important part in the impartation of the same to our souls. And along with this scarlet wool, and bound to the same stem, are the many little aromatic stems of prayer, with the sanctifying blood running out and hanging in drops on every point, ready to flow upon and cleanse the humble worshipper.
III. A third requirement for the leper’s cleansing was, that he should “wash his clothes, and shave off all his hair, and wash himself in water.” This was his own work. It was to be done by the leper himself. Its spiritual significance is easily understood. It refers to the sinner’s repentance and reformation. He must cleanse himself from all his old and base surroundings. He must separate between himself and everything suspicious.
IV. But there is another particular entering into this ritual cleansing. After everything else had been done, sacrifices were to be offered. We must wash, and repent, and reform; but it avails nought without blood. Water, the purest that ever dropped from mossy rock, or gushed from the mountain spring, is not able to cleanse a man for heaven. Tears of repentance, though pure as those which trickled down the Saviour’s cheeks, cannot wash out the stains of sin, except they be mingled with the blood that dripped from His wounds. And no moral improvements can entitle us to eternity’s honours if they are not connected with the suretyship and sacrifice of Jesus. The source of all sanctification is in His death and resurrection. All the glories of eternal life still refer us back to Calvary. Grace in Christ Jesus commenced the work, and grace in Christ Jesus must complete it. The only peculiarity which I notice here is that some of the blood and oil was to be touched to the cleansed leper, the same as in the consecration of the priests. It points to the very culmination and crown of Christian sanctity. The blood of the trespass-offering stands for the blood of Christ, and the holy oil for the Holy Spirit. These are the two great consecrating elements of Christianity. “With these our High Priest approaches us through the gospel, to complete our cleansing and ordain us to the dignities and duties of our spiritual calling.
V. There is one point more in these ceremonies to which I will call your attention. I refer to the time which they required. A leper could by no possibility get through with his cleansing under seven days. One day was enough to admit him into the camp; but seven full days were requisite to admit him to his home. There was therefore a complete period of time necessary to the entireness of his cleansing. This arrangement was not accidental. It has its full typical significance. It refers to the fact that no one is completely sanctified in the present life; and that a complete period of time must ensue before we reach the rest to which our cleansing entitles us. We have attained unto very high honours. We have secured very exalted privileges. But everything has not yet been done, and all our disabilities are not yet removed. Great services yet remain to take place when the seven days have elapsed. And until then we must patiently wait. The influences of sin still linger about the old tenement, and we must suffer the consequences of it until the term of this present dispensation ends. Then shall our High Priest come forth again, and “change our vile bodies, and fashion them like unto His own glorious body.” The last lurking-places of defilement shall then be cut off. The last act of the leper’s cleansing was to shave off his hair. When that was done he entered upon all the high services of the Tabernacle, and went to his home a saved man. (J. A. Seiss, D. D.)
Ceremonies on recovery of the leper
First of all, “he shall be brought unto the priest; and the priest shall go forth out of the camp,” and see him; and then the priest, when he finds that he is clean, shall pronounce him clean. Next the priest was to take “two birds alive and clean, and cedar-wood and scarlet, and hyssop: and the priest shall command that one of the birds be killed in an earthern vessel over running water.” Now it seems absurd to speak of an earthern vessel, and water in it called “running water.” But all the absurdity is taken away when we recollect that the original is “living water.” It is the same expression that occurs in other parts of Scripture. “I will give unto him living water”--“It shall be in him a well of living water.” And the real meaning of this passage is “fresh water” from the fountain, and not stagnant, and unfit for physical, or for spiritual, or for ecclesiastical purposes. Then it has been supposed that the one bird that was slain was meant to describe the death of Christ; and the dismissal of the other bird, after being dipped in the blood of the slain bird, was meant to be a type and prefiguration of the resurrection. It is nowhere in Scripture said to be so, but it is obviously typical of sacrifice; and no one sacrifice, no one symbol, could set forth the completeness of the work of Christ; and therefore many symbols may have been employed and combined to set forth that great and blessed act. We read, then, that the person, after this, was still to present an offering of “two he-lambs, without blemish”; and to remain at the door of the Tabernacle of the congregation till the priest had offered these; and by this he was to have access to the congregation. We read that the priest was to sprinkle him seven times; that is, completely, the number meant to denote perfection. He was also to touch the tip of his right ear, to denote that that ear should be opened only to all that was pure. He was also to touch the thumb of the right hand, to teach that every act was to be consistent with his character. And upon the right foot, to show that he was to walk in God’s ways, which are ways of pleasantness and of peace. So that the man should feel--what is stated by the apostle in Romans 12:1-45.12.21.
that he was to present himself, soul and body, a living sacrifice, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Now the language employed here-the hyssop, and the cedar-wood, and the sprinkling--casts light upon many passages in the Psalms, and those passages, again, cast light upon the phraseology of the New Testament. “Ye are come unto the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus.” We read again, in another passage, of “the sprinkling of His blood,” the “blood of sprinkling.” The meaning of that is, just as the life of the turtledove, the lamb, or the bird, was sacrificed by the shedding of its blood, and typically and ecclesiastically, or Levitically, virtue or qualification was imparted to the person related to it; so the efficacy of Christ’s death, represented by His blood--that is, the atoning efficacy of it--is to be applied so to our hearts and consciences that we may have peace with God, free pardon of our sins, and the hope of an inheritance among all them that are sanctified. (J. Cumming, D. D.)
Do not forget the remedy
Cecil had been a great sufferer for years, and none of his medical friends had been able to ascertain the cause. At length Mrs. Cecil was told of a physician who was extremely skilful in intricate cases, and whom she entreated him to consult. On entering the physician’s room, he said, “Welcome, Mr. Cecil; I know you well by character, and as a preacher. We must have some conversation after I have given you my advice.” Mr. Cecil then described his sufferings. The physician considered a moment, and then said, “Dear sir, there is only one remedy in such a case as yours; do first try it; it is perfectly simple,” and then he mentioned the medicine. Mr. Cecil, fearing to occupy too much of his time, rose to leave, but the physician said, “No, sir, we must not part so soon, for I have long wished for an opportunity of conversing with you.” So they spent half an hour more, mutually delighted with each other’s society. On returning home, Mr. Cecil said to his wife, “You sent me to a most agreeable man--such a fund of anecdote, such originality of thought, such a command of language.” “Well, but what did he prescribe for you?” Mrs. Cecil anxiously inquired. There was a pause, and then Mr. Cecil exclaimed, “I have entirely forgotten the remedy; his charms of manner and conversation put everything else out of my mind.” “Now, young men,” said Mr. Cecil, “it will be very pleasant for you if your congregations go away saying, ‘ What eloquence! what original thought! and what an agreeable deliver!’ Take care they do not forget the remedy, the only remedy, Christ and His righteousness, Christ and His atonement, Christ and His advocacy.” (Memoir of Wm. Marston.)
The cured and uncured
Christ cared the demoniac, the paralytic, the leper. He took the most chronic and complicated diseases, and they could not stand before His fiat. To one He said, “Be thou clean”; to another He said, “Take up thy bed and walk”; to another, “Damsel, arise”; and all these were not only cured as to the body, but cured as to the sicknesses of the soul. A pastor went into the house where there was a young Christian dying in great triumph. He entered the room to congratulate her as she was about to enter heaven, and as he went into the room and began to talk cheerfully about the joys that were immediately before her, her sister left the room. A few weeks after the pastor was called to the same house, and this sister who had left the room was about to take her departure into the eternal world, but she was not ready. She said to the pastor, “You don’t remember me, do you?” “Oh, yes,” he replied, “I remember you.” “Do you remember when you were talking to my sister about heaven I left the room?” “Yes,” he said, “I remember that.” She said, “Do you know why I left?” “No,” he replied, “I don’t.” “Well,” she said, “I didn’t want to hear anything about my soul, or about heaven, and now I am dying. Oh, sir, it is a dreadful thing to die!” Now, what was the difference between those two sisters? The one was perfectly cured of the terrible disease of sin, the other was not. (T. De Witt Talmage.)
Christ the only Healer
Now, children, if my watch has lost its mainspring, where shall I go to get it mended? To the tailor’s? No. To the blacksmith’s? No. To the watchmaker’s? Yes. Why? Because he makes watches, and knows how to mend them. Now, if your hearts are bad, where will you go to have them healed? To your parents? No. To the priest? No. To Jesus Christ? Yes. Why? Because Be made the heart, and knows how to heal it. (The Church Scholars’ Magazine.)
Christ is an Almighty Doctor
Christ is an Almighty Doctor. At midnight a sudden disease comes upon your little child. You hasten for a physician, or you telegraph for the doctor as soon as you can, and hour after hour there is a contest between science and the King of Terrors. And yet you stand there and you watch and you see the disease is conquering fortress of strength after fortress of strength, until after a while you stand over the lifeless form and have to confess that there is a limit beyond which human medicament cannot go. But I hail at this moment an Almighty Doctor, who never lost a patient. Why, a leper came out with a bandage over his mouth and utterly loathsome, so they drove him out from all society, and when he came out the people all ran, and Christ ran. But Christ ran in a different direction from the people. They all ran away from the poor man; Christ ran towards him. And then a second leper came out with a bandage over his mouth, and a third, and a fourth, and so on until there were ten lepers, and I see Christ standing among them. It is a dangerous experiment, you say. Why, if you caught the breath of one such man as that, it would be certain death. There, sublimely great in goodness, Christ stood among the ten lepers, and He cured the first, and the second, and the tenth. (T. De Witt Talmage.)
Christ can remove the root of the disease of sin
Some time ago a man wished to cut down a tree in his garden, and took it in hand to do it himself. Taking a spade, he cleared away the earth from the roots, and laid them bare for the axe. He hewed all the roots and suckers he saw, and then pushed and pulled at the tree, but it remained as firm as ever. Going to his gardener, he consulted him about it, and his reply was, “Ah, sir, you have not cut the tap-root. You may hack and cut away at all the rest of the roots, but unless you cut it the tree will never fall.” There are hundreds of sin-sick souls who persist in pruning away this sin and that sin, but they wilfully refuse to cut the tap-root of sin.
The two birds considered typically
I. In the first bird let us see the saviour.
1. The bird was to be “clean.” Christ perfectly holy.
2. A bird’s being chosen in this rite may point us whence our Saviour came--from heaven.
3. The bird was slain. Christ tasted death for us. This shows--
(1) The evil of sin.
(2) The certainty of its punishment.
(3) God’s unspeakable love.
4. As to what bird it was, we do not certainly know, but commentators tell us all the birds prescribed by Moses were common and accessible. So the Saviour is not far off, but near at hand.
5. The “earthern vessel” reminds us of the Saviour’s humanity. And the fact that it contained not only blood but also clear water, may remind us that He saves by His Spirit as well as by His blood--that His salvation includes sanctification as well as justification.
II. Let us see in the other bird the believer.
1. That the Christian is represented by a bird, just as the Saviour is, may teach us--
(1) That Jesus in some sense makes the Christian equal to Himself; and
(2) That every Christian should seek to be Christlike (see 1 John 3:4).
2. That the Christian is represented by a clean bird teaches--
(1) That the man who believes is justified from all things; and
(2) That the Christian’s effort should ever be after cleanness of character as well as of condition.
3. That this bird was dipped in the blood of the slain bird shows us plainly the way of salvation--by faith.
4. That the bird on being dipped was then let loose into the open field, teaches the blessed freedom, the glorious change which immediately takes place on a man’s believing.
5. May we not also learn that while the Christian is free, yet he will always use his liberty as the bird does, not to sink earthward, but to soar heavenward?
III. As the living bird seems to have been dipped into the blood of the dead by means of a cedar staff, to which, along with a bundle of hyssop, it was attached by a band of scarlet wool, we take this staff as a representation of the gospel, through the foolishness of preaching which it pleases God to save them who believe. Doing so, we learn from 1 Kings 4:30, that cedar-wood and hyssop were regarded as the two extremes of vegetable creation; and so the gospel is
(1) adapted to the two extremes of men;
(2) addressed to the highest and lowest;
(3) to the best and the worst. (D. Jamison, B. A.)
The two birds
As in all the Levitical types, so in this case, at the very entrance on the redeemed life stands the sacrifice of a life, and the service of a priest as mediator between God and man. Blood must be shed if the leper is to be admitted again into covenant standing with God; and the blood of the sacrifice in the law ever points to the sacrifice of Christ. But that great Sacrifice may be regarded in various aspects. Sin is a many-sided evil, and on every side it must be met. As often repeated, because sin as guilt requires expiation, hence the type of the sin-offering; in that it is a defrauding of God of His just rights from us, satisfaction is required, hence the type of the guilt-offering; as it is absence of consecration, life for self instead of life for God, hence the type of the burnt-offering. And yet the manifold aspects of sin are not all enumerated. For sin, again, is spiritual death; and, as death, it involves corruption and defilement. It is with special reference to this fact that the work of Christ is brought before us here. In the clean bird, slain that its blood may be applied to the leper for cleansing, we see typified Christ, as giving Himself, that His very life may be imparted to us for our life. In that the blood of the bird is mingled with water, the symbol of the Word of God, is symbolised the truth, that with the atoning blood is ever inseparably united the purifying energy of the Holy Ghost through the Word. Not the water without the blood, nor the blood without the water, saves, but the blood with the water, and the water with the blood (1 John 5:6). But the type yet lacks something for completeness; and for this reason we have the second bird, who, when by his means the blood has been sprinkled on the leper, and the man is now pronounced clean, is released and flies away heavenward. What a beautiful symbol of that other truth, without which even the atonement of the Lord were nought, that He who died, having by that death for us procured our life, was then released from the bonds of death, rising from the dead on the third day, and ascending to heaven, like the freed bird, in token that His life-giving, cleansing work was done. Thus the message which, as the liberated bird flies carolling away, sweet as a heavenly song, seems to fall upon the ear is this (Romans 4:25). (S. H. Kellogg, D. D.)
The two birds
There is nothing more suggestive than a caged bird. In the down of its breast you can see the glow of southern climes. In the sparkle of its eyes you can see the flash of distant seas. In its voice you can hear the song it learned in the wild wood. It is a child of the sky in captivity.
1. Now the dead bird of my text, captured in the air, suggests the Lord Jesus, who came down from the realms of light and glory. He once stood in the sunlight of heaven. He was the favoured of the land. He was the King’s Son. But one day there came word to the palace that an insignificant island was in rebellion, and was cutting itself to pieces with anarchy. I hear an angel say: “Let it perish. The King’s realm is vast enough without the island. The tributes to the King are large enough without that. We can spare it.” “Not so,” said the Prince, the King’s Son; and I see Him push out one day, under the protest of a great company. He starts for the rebellious island. He lands amid the execrations of the inhabitants, that grow in violence until the malice of earth has smitten Him, and the spirits of the lost world put their black wings over His dying head and shut the sun out. The hawks and vultures swooped down upon this dove of the text, until head and breast and feet ran blood--until, under the flocks and beaks of darkness the poor thing perished. No wonder it was a bird taken and slain over an earthern vessel of running water. It was a child of the skies. It typified Him who came down from heaven in agony and blood to save our souls.
2. I notice also in my text that the bird that was slain was a clean bird. The text demanded that it should be. The raven was never sacrificed, nor the cormorant, nor the vulture. It must be a clean bird, says the text, and it suggests the pure Jesus, the holy Jesus. Although He spent His boyhood in the worst village on earth, although blasphemies were poured into His ear enough to have poisoned any one else, He stands before the world a perfect Christ.
3. I remark also, in regard to this first bird, mentioned in the text, that it was a defenceless bird. When the eagle is assaulted, with its iron beak it strikes like a bolt against its adversary. This was a dove or a sparrow--most probably the former. Take the dove, or pigeon, in your hand, and the pecking of its beak upon your hand makes you laugh at the feebleness of its assault. The reindeer, after it is down, may fell you with its antlers. The ox, after you think it is dead, may break your leg in its death struggle. The harpooned whale, in its last agony, may crush you in the coil of the unwinding rope. But this was a dove--perfectly harmless, perfectly defenceless--type of Him who said, “I have trod the winepress alone, and there was none to help.” None to help! The murderers have it all their own way. Where was the soldier in the Roman regiment who swung his sword in the defence of the Divine Martyr? Did they put one drop of oil on His gashed feet? Was there one in all that crowd manly and generous enough to stand up for Him? Were the miscreants at the Cross any more interfered with in their work of spiking Him fast than the carpenter in his shop driving a nail through a pine board? The women cried, but there was no balm in their tears. None to help! none to help!
4. But I come now to speak of this second bird of the text. The priest took the second bird, tied it to the hyssop branch, and then plunged it in the blood of the first bird. Ah, that is my soul plunged for cleansing in the Saviour’s blood. There is net enough water in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans to wash away our smallest sin. Sin is such an outrage on God’s universe that nothing but blood can atone for it. You know the life is in the blood, and as the life had been forfeited, nothing could buy it back but blood. What was it that was sprinkled on the door-post when the destroying angel went through the land? Blood. What was it that went streaming from the altar of ancient sacrifice? Blood. What was it that the priest carried into the Holy of Holies, making intercession for the people? Blood. What was it that Jesus sweat in the Garden of Gethsemane? Great drops of blood. What does the wine in the sacramental cup signify? Blood. What makes the robes of the righteous in heaven so fair? “They are washed in the blood of the Lamb.” What is it that cleanses all our pollution? “The blood of Jesus Christ, which cleanses from all sin.”
5. I notice now that as soon as this second bird was dipped in the blood of the first bird, the priest unloosed it, and it was free--free of wing and free of foot. It could whet its beak on any tree-branch it chose; it could pick the grapes of any vineyard it chose. It was free. A type of our souls after we have been washed in the blood of the Lamb. We can go where we will. We can do what we will. You say, “Had you better not qualify that?” No; for I remember in conversion the will is changed, and the man will not will that which is wrong.
6. The next thing I noticed about this bird, when it was loosed--and that is the main idea--is, that it flow away. Which way did it go? When you let a bird loose from your grasp which way does it fly? Up. What are wings for? To fly with. We should be going heavenward. That is the suggestion. But I know that we have a great many drawbacks. You had them yesterday, or the day before; and although you want to be going heavenward, you are constantly discouraged. But, I suppose, when that bird went out of the priest’s hands it went by inflections--sometimes stooping. A bird does not shoot directly up--but this is the motion of a bird. So the soul soars towards God, rising up in love, and sometimes depressed by trial. It does not always go just in the direction it would like to go. But the main course is right. (T. De Witt Talmage.)
Freedom and exultation of the restored life
Alas for any poor beguiled soul that turns away in scorn of the glorious gospel of the blessed God! Ye mistake it who regard it as a summons to a slavish and sorrowful life. It is a great voice out of heaven crying, “Come up hither.” It is a call of the radiant dayspring as it bursts on the poor bird nestling in the withering grass, revealing the grandeurs of the everlasting firmament, that it may fly--fly--fly! Let me tell you again my old story of the eagle. For many months it pined and drooped in its cage, and seemed to have forgotten that it was of the lineage of the old plumed kings of the forest and the mountain; and its bright eye faded, and its strong wings drooped, and its kingly crest was bowed, and its plumes were torn and soiled amid the bars and dust of its prison-house. So in pity of its forlorn life we carried its cage out to the open air, and broke the iron wire and flung wide the lowly door; and slowly, falteringly, it crept forth to the sultry air of that cloudy summer noon and looked listlessly about it. But just then, from a rift in an overhanging cloud, a golden sunbeam flashed upon the scene. And it was enough. Then it lifted its royal crest, the dim eye blazed again, the soiled plumes unfolded and rustled, the strong wings moved themselves, with a rapturous cry it sprang heavenward. Higher, higher, in broader, braver circles it mounted toward the firmament, and we saw it no more as it rushed through the storm-clouds and soared to the sun. And would, O ye winged spirits! who dream and pine in this poor earthly bondage, that only one ray from the blessed Sun of Righteousness might fall on you this hour! for then would there be the flash of a glorious eye, and a cry of rapture, and a sway of exulting wings, as another redeemed and risen spirit sprang heavenward unto God! (C. Wadsworth, D. D.)
It is said in Germany, of one Prince Henry, when a little boy, that he had a great aversion to his bath. He didn’t like it, and cried and squealed every morning when the time for his ablutions came round. One morning, to his very great pleasure, the nurse said he need not have it, and he soon took to showing to the other children how he had conquered the nurse to his royal mother’s aggravation. He went out for a walk later in the day, and when he entered the palace gates on the return journey, the sentinel at that point offered him no salute, and that had never happened before. Being a prince he was greatly respected, and felt proud of the salute of the soldiers. Coming up to the palace door, there the soldier stood on guard, but no salute was given. The little boy went up to the stalwart sentinel quite angry, and said, “Do you know who I am?” . . . “Oh, yes, Prince Henry, but we never salute unwashed princes.” He never said anything in reply, but passed quietly into the palace, and the next morning he took his bath as required. They did not salute unwashed princes, and the world does not salute unwashed Christian:.. You are a royal blood-washed prince if you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and the world will take knowledge of you if you have been with Jesus, taking knowledge of Christ in you the hope of glory. (J. Spencer.)
Appropriate return for the Saviour’s blood-shedding
In an Italian hospital was a severely wounded soldier. A lady visitor spoke to him, dressed his wounds, smoothed his pillow, and made him all right for the day. When leaving she took a bouquet of flowers, and laid it beside his head. The soldier, with his pale face and eyes full of tears, looked up, and said: “That is too much kindness.” She was a lady with a true Italian heart, and looking back to the soldier, she quietly replied, “No, not too much for one drop of Italian blood.” Shall we not freely own that the consecration of all our powers of body and spirit is not too much to give in return for the shedding of our Emmanuel’s blood on our behalf? (S. S. Chronicle.)
Did you ever hear of Hedley Vicars, that good soldier? He was once reading the Bible, and accidentally--he was not religious then, I believe--accidentally he happened to come upon the verse--“The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.” Be thought, “Is that true? Is that true to me? Does the blood of Jesus Christ wash out all my sin? Then I resolve I will henceforth live as a man who has been washed in the blood of Jesus Christ.” A noble resolve! Remember it--” I will live as a man ought to live who has been washed in the blood of Jesus Christ.” How is a man to live who has been washed in the blood of Christ? That was a noble resolve! (John Vaughan.)
A sermon to children on hyssop
(Leviticus 14:4.) Text chosen to illustrate one simple truth. A very little and insignificant thing may be used for very important work. Of this “hyssop” the Jews were to make a sort of brush to sprinkle the door-posts with. It was but a little plant, for of Solomon it is said, “He spake of trees, from the cedar-tree even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall.” It is a short-stemmed plant, growing in crevices like the ferns in our walls. It is bristly, and so suitable for making into a brush. It is bitter, and so it was thought to have cleansing properties; and, therefore, the Psalmist prays, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean.”
1. God uses little things for His work. True He uses the great cedar for making His temple, and the acacia boards for His tabernacle; but He also uses the little hyssop. Children are but “little things,” and yet the Lord needs and uses them. Illustration: Naaman’s maid. Children at our Lord’s triumphal entry. The nurse who influenced the good Lord Shaftesbury.
2. God chooses the little things He wants to use. There are many little plants besides the hyssop; but only that one was chosen for this particular work. There are many sorts of grass, but only one, with specially interlacing roots, is used to keep up the great dams that hold back the sea in Holland. God will find out some particular work for each one of us; and all through life, as well as now, our joy will be to do what He finds for us to do.
3. God expects us to put something of our own into our service. The hyssop had something of its own. It put it into its work when it was used to soothe Christ’s pain on the Cross. It is not enough just to do right, we must try to do right earnestly, skilfully, cheerfully, prettily: putting our own best selves into the doing. We are to be God’s agents, but we must never forget this--He would have us put our love, our goodwill, our abilities, and our happy spirit, into all His work.
If he be poor.--
Provision for the poor
The poor man is often overlooked. There is always a strong tendency in the more favoured classes to pass him by, and to forget, if not to despise him. But God does not forget him. The directions for his particular case are just as special and authoritative as any contained in this ritual. The Lord would thus assure him of His care--that He feels for him the same deep interest as for others, and brings atonement equally within his reach. There is a common level in the Divine administrations, upon which “the rich and poor meet together, and the Lord is the Maker of them all.” The poor are His children, as well as the rich. He anointed His Son Jesus, to preach the gospel to them. And the most neglected and down-trodden child of want has just as good a right to cleansing and heaven, and may count as much upon the sympathy and grace of God, as his wealthy neighbour. If he cannot get three lambs, he is just as welcome and acceptable with one lamb and two doves. The poor widow’s mite cast into the treasury of the Lord receives a higher commendation than all the costly donations of the wealthy. Mary, with her two young pigeons is just as completely cleansed as she who could add thereto a lamb of a year old. But although the law favoured the leper who was poor it did not exempt him. It accommodated the burden to his strength, but it did not remove it. If he could not bring three lambs he was still bound to bring one lamb and two doves. If he could not get three deals of flour one deal had to be forthcoming. There are sore, people who make poverty a virtue, and claim exemption from everything because they are poor. But God’s commands are upon the poor as well as upon those more favoured in earthly possessions. He does not excuse them because they are indigent. They are sinners as well as other men, and must be cleansed by the same processes. There is no more merit in being poor than in being rich. Poverty cannot save a man. Beggars may go down to eternal death as well as millionaires. There is often as much crime in lags as in purple and fine linen. All classes are infected, and all classes must have recourse to the blood of the Lamb and receive upon them the same “blood of sprinkling,” and the same consecrating oil of the Spirit. (J. A. Seiss, D. D.)
Such as he can get.--
According to ability
He shalt “offer.” That is the law. But he shall offer only “such as he can get.” That is the mercy. But in mercy there is a law. Pity is not unruly, out of harmony with eternal righteousness and truth; tears are part of the Divine economy, as well as constellations. See how everywhere in the holy Book we find judgment and mercy, law and love, discipline and rest of soul. Christianity is a yoke, a burden, but light and easy. Here is the considerateness of God even in law. The law is not cast-iron; the law is not an expression of arbitrary will. The law rises high as heaven, and yet it stoops as lowly as human infirmity and need. The next verse is even more explicit in its tenderness; Leviticus 14:31 begins, “Even such as he is able to get.” The emphasis is on the word “able”; all the meaning is to be found in that word. Not, such as he can casually pick up; not, such as may happen to come in his way at the moment; that is not law, that is folly, h thought of that kind would wreck the order and unity of creation. How very different is the instruction or injunction, “Even such as he is able to get”--after he has walked ten miles, after he has done the very best in his power, after he has strained his thought to the agony of anxiety; then if his offering, how poor soever it be, shall prove to be the very best of his ability, it shall go right up into heaven and be accepted there as if it were a king’s offering, without spot or blemish, without infirmity of age, or without sign of unequal conflict. Here, then, is unity combined with diversity. If you bring a thousand pounds, it may be much, it may be nothing. If you bring the smallest coin of the realm, which indeed is no coin at all but a mere token, if it be all you can do, if it be such as you are able to get, it is a mountain of fine gold and there is hardly room for such a gift in heaven. What a variety of offering may be found on the Christian altar! There is a great offering of gold. Some men have nothing but gold to give, but they give it with both hands, they give it with a blessing; they send their love with it, and love doubles every gift. Here is a great offering of work; morning, noon, and night the offerer is wondering what he can do next. All his time is God’s; he will accept any position that may be given to him. He does not elect his own place, he simply tells what his faculty is, and he is willing to give the whole of that faculty twelve hours in the day to the service of Christ. Here is a great offering of music; here is a leading voice, here is a spiritual interest in that sweet department of public worship; the voice is given, all that the voice means is joyously contributed; the giver says, “I would give more if I could, but this is all I have been able to get, take it, O Christ, it is given in Thy name; receive it all.” Here is a great offering of home-service. That home-church has never had its history written. The history of the home-church never can be put into words. It is the great church, it is the church out of which all other churches are cut, like palaces out of the solid rocks. Palaces owe themselves to the great quarries of the earth; they are not select, dainty, specially-jewelled stone; the great cathedrals all came out of the quarry. And the home-church is, if it may be so expressed without roughness, the quarry, the stone bed, out of which all the other churches are built, though they be called minsters and temples and cathedrals. What a great offering there is of love. Love has no hours. Love never entered into a union or a federation for the purpose of seeing how little it could do and how much it could get. Love never begins, because it never ceases. “Such as he can get.” Nor is this the only phrase that indicates the tenderness of law. In Leviticus 14:21 of this very chapter we read, “And if he be poor, and cannot get so much; then,” &c. We need not ask if this book is an inspired book. The righteousness, the tenderness, meet so uniquely and cooperate so perfectly that there must be more than human thought in all these economic and considerate arrangements. Points of this kind are the true arguments for inspiration. “If he be poor, and cannot get so much; then,” &c. Thus God makes room at the altar for the poor man, and any altar that makes room for the poor, stands on earth, but reaches up to heaven. By this sign know ye that ye are in front of God’s altar. “Such as he can get” often means nothing more than, “Such as God has given him.” What have we that we have not received? God orders the business of men. If men would recognise this they would be quieter and more thankful. There is a sense in which we can all do more. What is that sense? It is only true in so far as it proceeds out of the deeper doctrine that we can all be more. This is a question of quality; this a question of moral capacity. The great thing in this Christian education and discipline is to make the man himself more, his quality finer, his sensitiveness more exquisite, his consciousness of indebtedness to God profounder and livelier. We shall never have any revival of hand-action that is worth anything until we have a revival of heart-life, heart-love, heart-faith. Let us pray for increase of heart. (J. Parker, D. D.)
Leprosy in a house.
Leprosy of house and garments
(see also Leviticus 13:49):--Few subjects have proved more perplexing to the student of Scripture than this. That human dwellings and garments should exhibit a similar disease to that which infects the human body seems at first sight to be highly improbable. We are indebted to the recent discoveries of the microscope for the first intimation of the true nature of the leprosy of house and garments. A careful examination of the Levitical narrative in the light of modern science leaves no room to doubt that the conclusions of Sommer, Kmtz, and other recent authors, who attribute a vegetable origin to this plague, are correct. ‘The characteristics mentioned are such as can belong only to plants. There are some species of fungi which could have produced all the effects described, and whose form and colour answer admirably to the appearances presented by the leprosy. We are therefore safe in believing that the phenomena in question were caused by fungi. The language of Moses is evidently popular, not scientific, and may therefore be supposed to include not only different species, but even different genera and orders of fungi as concerned in the production of the effects described. The leprosy of the house consisted of reddish and greenish patches. The reddish patches on the wall were in all likelihood caused by the presence of a fungus well known under the common name of dry-rot, and called by botanists Merulius lachrymans. Builders have often painful evidence of the virulent and destructive nature of this scourge. It is frequent all the year round, being in this respect different from other fungi, which are usually confined to the season of decay. If once established dry-rot spreads with amazing rapidity, destroying the best houses in a very short time. The law regarding it in Leviticus is founded upon this property; seven days only were allowed for its development, so that its true nature might be placed beyond doubt. The precautions here adopted are in entire accordance with the nature and habits of fungi. By emptying the house of its furniture, shutting the doors and windows, and excluding the air and light, the very conditions were provided in which the dry-rot would luxuriate and come to maturity. If the walls were completely impregnated with its seed and spawn, this short period of trial would amply suffice to show the fact, and the building might then safely be condemned to undergo a process of purification. There are no means of restoring rotten timber to a sound condition, and the dry-rot can only be eradicated by removing the decayed and affected parts, clearing away all the spawn and destroying the germs with which the plaster and the other materials of the walls may have been impregnated. For this purpose the process of kyanising and burnetising have been recommended--that is, washing the walls or the woodwork with a strong solution of corrosive sublimate or chloride of zinc. If the dry-rot is not fairly established in a house it may be removed with tolerable ease by these processes; should the disease, however, have become widespread and deep-seated, no means of dealing with the evil can be depended upon, except that of removing altogether the corrupted and contagious matter and admitting a free circulation of air. This was exactly what the Jewish priest was commanded to do (verses 40-42). It often happens, however, that even this severe operation proves ineffectual; and after repeated repairs of the same nature, it is found that the building is so hopelessly ruined that it must be abandoned and dismantled (verses 43-45). Dr. Thomson, in “The Land and the Book,” mentions that the upper rooms of the houses in Palestine, if not constantly ventilated, become quickly covered with mould and are unfit to live in. In many cases the roofs of the houses are little better than earth rolled hard, and it is by no means uncommon to see grass springing into a short-lived existence upon them. Such habitations must be damp and peculiarly subject to the infection of fungi. During the months of November and December especially, fungi make their appearance in the wretched ephemeral abodes of the poorer classes; and in the walls of many a dwelling at the present day may be seen the same leprous appearances described by Moses three thousand years ago. When the Israelites entered Palestine they occupied the dwellings of the dispossessed aboriginal inhabitants instead of building new houses for themselves. And in these dwellings, as the Canaanites lived in the midst of moral and physical impurity, and were, moreover, ignorant of all sanitary conditions, the plague of leprosy would be very apt to manifest itself. The Bible speaks of it as sent expressly by God Himself: “When ye be come into the land of Canaan, which I give to you for a possession, and I put the plague of leprosy in a house of the land of your possession.” It was so sent in mercy and not in judgment, to show to them, by a palpable proof appealing to the eye, what could not be so well revealed by other evidence. It was the visible manifestation of a hidden insidious unwholesomeness--the breaking out, as it were, of an internal and universal disease. It directed attention to the unhealthy character of the house, and stimulated inquiry as to how it could be remedied. Whereas if no such abnormal appearance presented itself, the inhabitants might remain unconsciously in the midst of conditions which would slowly but surely undermine their health, and in the end prove fatal. In the Levitical narrative we read that in the walls of the affected houses there were greenish as well as reddish streaks. These greenish streaks were caused by a much humbler kind of fungus than the tile Merulius lachrymans, or dry-rot, concerned in the production of tim reddish streaks. Every one is familiar with the common green mould, or Penicillium glaucum, of botanists. This fungus is extremely abundant everywhere, and seems to have been no less general in the ancient world, for we find traces of it pretty frequently in amber, mixed with fragments of lichens and mosses. It grows on all kinds of decaying substances, and is very protean in its appearance, assuming different forms according to the nature of the body or situation which it affects. Common mould grows on every substance, whether animal or vegetable, in a state of decay. It grows even upon the human body when it is in an enfeebled or disordered condition; and many diseases of the skin are owing to its efforts to develop and spread itself. The thrush in children, the muscardine so destructive to silkworms, the fungoid growth which so often causes the death of the common house-fly in autumn, are all different forms of the common mould. Its germs or spores are constantly floating in the air or swimming in the water in incalculable myriads, so that it is difficult to conceive how any place can be free from their presence. The atmosphere of our houses is loaded with them; and were we endowed with microscopic vision, we should see them dancing about in the draughts and currents of our rooms, or shining among the motes in the pencilled rays of sunshine. The ubiquity of mould has given rise to the theory of spontaneous generation, still held by a certain class of naturalists; but the immense profusion of its seeds, and their wonderful powers of adaptability under varying circumstances, and of entering through the finest conceivable apertures, will easily account for its presence in every situation, without being under the necessity of admitting what has never yet been proved--that substances in a particular state of decay can, without seeds or germs of any kind, generate low forms of life. Many medical men are of opinion that various zymotic diseases, if not originated, are increased by the presence of these minute cellules in the blood, and by their deleterious action in developing themselves. The injuries inflicted by fungi are indeed incalculable. But we have nevertheless a grand compensation in the benefits which they confer in accelerating, by their unparalleled rapidity of growth, the process of decay, and removing frown the atmosphere into their own tissues, where they arc innocuous, the putrescent effluvia of dead substances. They also economise the stock of organised material which has been slowly and tediously gained from the earth, air, and water, by preventing it from going back through decomposition to the mineral state, and preserving it in an organic form to be at once made available for the purposes of higher animal and plant life. Mould, for these reasons, is not so much an evil in itself as an indication of evil conditions in the World, and by minimising these it renders an all-important service in the economy of nature. Its great purpose is purely benevolent; but, like the storm intended to purify the atmosphere, it sometimes oversteps its limits, and proves injurious in particular cases. The minute regulations for inspecting and cleansing those houses where symptoms of leprosy appeared, indicate how complete was the sanitary system under which the ancient Israelites lived. God considered no part of their domestic and social economy, however humble, beneath His notice. Cleanliness in person, in dress, in dwellings, and in all outward appointments, was enforced by statutes of a peculiarly solemn character. All these ceremonial enactments were in the first instance intended for sanitary purposes. God had respect to the physical health and well-being of His people. He wished them to be patterns of purity, models of beauty, their bodies to be perfectly developed in the midst of the most favourable circumstances; and therefore the most admirable arrangements were made for securing cleanly, orderly, and healthy habitations. But not for purely physical purposes alone were the Levitical laws regarding the leprosy of the house enforced. They had also a spiritual significance. All experience tells us of the mysterious connection, founded upon the constitution of our twofold nature, between physical and moral evil--between external and internal impurity. The proverb, “Cleanliness is next to godliness,” is truer even than it is admitted to be. Physical filth has in innumerable instances been the means of turning away the Lord from the homes of those who endure it. For want of a little more room and a little more purity in their dwellings, the sublimest truths fall dead upon the ears of thousands. The salvation of the poor, though to them the gospel is preached, is in very many cases rendered impossible, humanly speaking, on account of the degrading conditions amid which they live, and the deadening, hardening influence which familiarity with noxious sights and smells produces. How often are the spiritual instructions of the district visitor thrown away on account of the unhallowed effects of filthy surroundings! Sad it is to think of the leprosy of the house being the type of the leprosy of sin which infects the earthly tabernacle of this body. We bear about with us this plague in all our members. From the crown of the head to the sole of the foot there is no soundness in us. Be it ours to put our natures entirely under the purifying power of God’s Spirit, so that they may be cleansed from all impure desires, &c. So much for the leprosy of the house. The leprosy of garments may have been caused by the same fungi. Precisely the same appearances manifested themselves in the one case as in the other. I am disposed to attribute the greenish streaks on the garments to the common green mould; for, as I have observed, it is ubiquitous, and grows as readily on clothes as on house walls, when left in damp, ill-ventilated, ill-lighted places. The reddish patches, however, seem to me to have been produced by the growth of the Sporendonema, or red mould, very common on cheese; or of the Palmella prodigiosa. This last-mentioned plant is occasionally found on damp walls in shady places, and on various articles of dress and food, sometimes extending itself over a considerable area. It is usually a gelatinous mass of the colour and general appearance of coagulated blood, whence it has received the famous name of Gory-dew. Though formerly ranked with the algae, or seaweed family, it is now ascertained by more accurate physiological researches to be a species of mould; so that, under whatever names we may class them, the plants which occasioned the strange appearances on houses and garments belong to the same tribe. Instances of reddish patches suddenly investing linen and woollen clothes are by no means confined to the Levitical narrative. A whole volume might be filled with similar examples. Along with other marvellous prodigies they abound in the mediaeval chronicles; and were they not authenticated by the most trustworthy evidence, we should hesitate--from their very extraordinary character--to accept them as true. It was by no means rare to find, in the Middle Ages, consecrated wafers and priestly vestments sprinkled with a minute red substance like blood. Such abnormal appearances were called Signacula, as tokens of the Saviour’s living body; and pilgrimages were not unfrequently made to witness them. In several cases the Jews were suspected, on account of their abhorrence of Christianity, of having caused sacramental hosts to bleed, and were, therefore, ruthlessly tormented and put to death in large numbers. Upwards of ten thousand were slaughtered at Rotil, near Frankfort, in 1296, for this reason. The bleeding of the host, produced in consequence of the scepticism of the officiating priest, gave rise to the miracle of Bolsena in 1264; the priest’s garment stained with this bloody-looking substance being preserved until recent times as a relic. This gave rise to the festival of the Corpus Christi founded by Urban
IV. Before the potato-blight broke out in 1846, red mould spots appeared on wet linen surfaces exposed to the air in bleaching-greens, as well as on household linen kept in damp places, in Ireland. In September, 1848, Dr. Eckard, of Berlin, while attending a cholera patient, observed the same production on a plate of potatoes which had been placed in a cupboard in the patient’s house. All these instances-and hundreds more might be enumerated--though somewhat exaggerated by the dilated eye of fear, were found by microscopic investigation to be caused by the extraordinary development in abnormal circumstances of the red mould. Occurring, as most of them did, before the outbreak of epidemics, which they were supposed to herald, they obviously point to the conclusion that they were developed by unhealthy conditions of the atmosphere. In ordinary times but few of the fungi which caused these alarming appearances are produced, and then only in obscure and isolated localities; but their seeds lie around us in immense profusion, waiting but the recurrence of similar atmospheric conditions as existed in former times, to exhibit as extraordinary a development. “O Lord, how manifold are Thy works; in wisdom hast Thou made them all!” is the thought that arises in the devout soul at the contemplation of the wonderful structure and history of these minute existences, which live and die unknown to the great majority of mankind. Even a mould, requiring the highest powers of the microscope for its examination, can become in His hands a mighty scourge or a transcendent benefit. (H. Macmillan, D. D.)
The particular nature of this affection I cannot very certainly determine. Michaelis thinks it was a sort of mural efflorescence, which often appears in damp situations, cellars, and ground-floors, and so corrodes walls and plastering as to affect and damage everything near it, and sometimes quite destroying the entire building. Calmet thinks it was a disorder caused by animal-eulse which eroded the walls, and finally destroyed them, if left undisturbed. But perhaps we cannot do better than to agree with the Rabbins and early Christian Fathers, who believed that this leprosy was not natural, but sent of God as an extraordinary judgment, to compel men to the public acknowledgment and expiation of some undetected negligence or crime. It was the stone crying out of the wall against the sinner, and the beam out of the timber answering it (Habakkuk 2:11). It came like a great domestic affliction, saying, “This is not your rest, because it is polluted.” It was the hand of God upon the forgetters of His law. It was “the curse of the Lord, in the house of the wicked.” Its typical significance will at once suggest itself. It plainly points to the fact that not only man, and his surroundings in life, but his very dwelling-place--the earth itself--is infected. The whole surface and framework of the world bespeaks infection, disobedience, and disorder. We must tear it with instruments of iron, and mix its mould with tears and sweat, before it will yield us bread. Walls and houses must be built to shelter us from its angry blasts. And with all that we can do, the sea will now and then engulf the proudest navies, and the hailstones blast the budding harvests, and famine and pestilence cut down the strength of empires, and earthquakes bury up great cities in a common tomb, and the sun and the moon flash down death in their rays, and the very winds come laden with destruction. And even in a moral aspect, the material world, though meant for spiritual as well as other good, has often been to man a source of defilement. Creation is a standing miracle to show us eternal power and Godhead. Every ray of light is an electric cord let down from the unknown heavens to lift our hearts into communion with “the Father of light.” Every night puts us into the midst of a sublime temple in which the tapers burn around the everlasting altar, and through which rolls the vesper anthem of the heavenly spheres, to inspire us with adoration. And the innumerable changes that pass before our eyes are but so many letters to spell out to us the name of the unknown God, in whom we live and have our being. But, how often have these very things tended to establish men in unbelief, and tempted them from the ways of piety and peace? How often have persons looked up into the starry sky, and reasoned, until they were led to say the gospel is a forgery?--or dug into the earth, and insisted that Moses was mistaken in its age?--or cut among the arteries and tissues of organic life, and denied man’s immortality?--or watched the uniformity of God’s common laws, and pronounced a miracle impossible?--or dipped a little into physical science, and controverted the very existence of a deity? How often have earth’s products proven to be mere baits and lures to unguarded souls to lead them down to death? How have its wines tempted men to intemperance, and its beautiful groves to the licentiousness of the idolater? How frequently the very gold or silver of its rocks have taken the place of God Himself, and fastened everlasting condemnation on the worshipper? And what scene of beauty contained in this world, but has served to draw the heart of some one from the Lord? But it shall not always be so. The leprosy in our dwelling-place may pass away as well as leprosy in our persons, or in our clothing. God has appointed rites for its cleansing. The time is coming when “there shall be no more curse.” But it is to be the last thing cleansed. Regeneration begins first in the spirit. From the spirit it extends to the outward life, then to the redemption of the body. And after that comes the grand deliverance, when “the creature (or creation) itself shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption, into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” Not only our personal nature is to be renewed, but the very world in which we live. And it is only upon the theory of the ultimate and complete recovery of the world from all damage of sin, that the prescriptions now before us can be explained. The first thing to be done to a house found to be leprous, was to have the affected stones removed, the walls scraped, and the plastering renewed. This done, all parties were to wait to see what the effect would be upon the disorder. This evidently recalls the flood, and God’s dealings with the earth at that time. It was then that He broke up the old and tainted foundations, swept away the scum of its surface, and overcast it with a new order of things. All is therefore in waiting now, till our great High Priest and Judge shall come forth again to inspect the earth. After the lapse of an appropriate time of trial, which is left indefinite in the record, the priest was again to examine the house that had been thus dealt with; and if the plague had broken out again, and had spread in the house, he was to break it down, “the stones of it, and the timber thereof, and all the mortar of the house, and carry them forth out of the city into an unclean place.” If the leprous symptoms were not stayed, it was to be completely and for ever demolished. There was no further hope for it. It perished in its uncleanness. I take this as a type, not of what is to befall the world, but of what would have befallen it without the redemption that has come in to stay its corruption and save it from ruin. How, then, was a leprous house to be cleansed? We have seen what was to be done to it upon the first appearance of the plague. We accordingly read that, after the lapse of a suitable time to test whether the infection was stayed, “the priest shall come in,” &c. (Leviticus 14:48-3.14.53). All this refers us back to the blood-shedding, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and holds forth the great fact that the world is made clean to us now, and will be entirely cleansed hereafter, by virtue of the redemptive work of our great High Priest. Because Jesus was slain, and has redeemed us to God by His blood, the saints may take it as their song, “We shall reign on the earth.” Some suppose that this dwelling-place of man is some day to fall to pieces, and pass away, and be no more. Had Christ not died, or having died, not risen again, it might be so; but now a light of glory rises upon its futurity. It shall not die, but live. Great changes may yet pass upon it, but it shall survive unharmed. This world was Heaven’s gift to man. It was his patrimonial estate. It was his sin that blighted it. And just so far as he is redeemed, he shall get his own again, and hold it by a charter written in his Saviour’s blood. (J. A. Seiss, D. D.)
The plague in the house
I fancy you have heard words like these before, though you might never have known that they were in the Bible. But you have heard mother or father, when worried and vexed, often say, “It almost seems as if there was a plague in the house!”
I. The kind of plague the text speaks about was a strange one. It first appeared in a little green or reddish spot, growing on the wall of the house. When that was noticed, the person who lived in the house had to go to the priest and say to him, “It seemeth to me there is as it were a plague in the house.” Then the priest came and looked at the spot, and ordered the house to be locked up for a week. At the end of that time, if the spot had not grown any larger, it was simply cut out, and the house was declared to be quite safe to dwell in. But if the spot had increased, then they knew that it was the plague, and all the stones round about it were taken out and new ones put in their places, and the old ones were carried away to a distance. But if, after all this care had been taken, the spot appeared again, then they knew it was no use trying further that way. This was a “fretting leprosy,” as it was called; so the house was ordered to be pulled down, and all its stones carried far away, and a new house built in its stead with entirely new stones.
II. Haven’t we plagues in the house now, something different from that perhaps, and yet something like too?
1. There is a bad temper. What a plague that is in the house! There is a sulky temper and a quick temper. The sulky one is when a boy or girl goes moping, moping, and won’t speak or do anything cheerfully. It is a very hurtful plague in the house. Then there is the quick temper, up in a moment, over in a moment! Perhaps this is better than the other, if we are to make any distinction; but better be rid of bad temper altogether.
2. Selfishness is another plague in the house.
3. Disobedience is another plague in the house. No boy or girl ever yet came to good who did not try to obey father and mother.
III. Where the plague breaks out.
1. Where ventilation is bad. Now what fresh air is to the body, God’s Spirit is to the soul--that which keeps it fresh and free from plague. Maintain that Spirit in the house, prayer and love for God, and--striving to obey Him--no plague shall come nigh thy dwelling.
2. The plague also breaks out where sunshine never comes. What a healing thing is the sunshine! How glorious it can make even the dingiest street! The plague never comes where the sunshine is, and cheerfulness is the sunshine of the home. There was a great scholar once, Dr. Dwight, a big man with a great broad chest. Once when the students in the college were not getting on well, he said to them, “Gentlemen, I see there is something wrong; you are becoming too melancholy. You must learn to laugh, that’s the way to cure the plague.” So he broadened his own chest, took a big breath, and burst into such a hearty laugh that all the others laughed too. “That’s very good,” he said, “very good for a beginning; but see that you keep it up!” And it is good practice in the house to have a hearty laugh. Keep cheerfulness there, and the plague won’t trouble you. (J. Reid Howatt.)
The way to remove the plague
When plague, or pestilence, or war, or famine, come on a land, there are two classes of persons who act in opposite ways. One class will pray only that God may remove them, and do nothing more; another class will set about sanitary reform--a most precious and important thing--but they will do nothing more. Now, we are taught in this chapter that the two are to be combined. The priest not only applied to God, and offered sacrifices that the plague might be removed from the house, but he set to work and pulled down the stones, and broke the timbers, and scraped the house, and had it plastered and cleansed; and thus there was the most effective sanitary process, accompanied with the most sacred and Christian appeal to Him who is the Lord and the Giver of life; and who alone healeth, and when He healeth none can make ill. Now, it is the happy combination of these that constitutes in all things the perfection of Christian conduct. If we so think of means as to think of nothing else, we shall have no blessing; if we so think of, or engage in prayer, as to exclude means, we shall have no blessing. If we suppose that by attending to all that is just, and proper, and obligatory in sanitary measures, we may defy God, we blaspheme; but on the other hand, if we act as some, pray, and appoint days of fasting and of prayer, but do nothing to lift the poor from their degradation, to improve their dwellings, to increase their comforts, to give raiment to the naked, food to the hungry, a shelter and a home to them that have none, then that is downright hypocrisy. But if we can combine the two, by using all the means that God in His providence has given us, as vigorously as if all depended upon the means, and yet, while we do so, look up to God as if the means were worthless, and He must do all, then we shall combine the blessed heavenly benediction with the use of the most effective earthly means, and God, our own God, shall crown us with His blessing. (J. Cumming, D. D.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Leviticus 14". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent