Now there were four men with leprosy at the entrance to the gate, and they said to one another, "Why just sit here until we die?
I. MEN INVOLVED IN THE MOST WRETCHED CONDITION. "There were four leprous men at the entering in of the gate." Of all the diseases which afflict mankind none is more painful, loathsome, and disastrous than leprosy. It was the scourge of the Hebrew race. Moses minutely describes the appearance of this malady, and gives clear and forcible rules to govern the medical treatment of it. Fat and blood and other particles of diet, which excite or aggravate constitutional tendencies to diseases of the skin, were strictly forbidden to the Jews. There are many points of analogy between leprosy and sin.
II. Men in the most wretched condition FORMING A RESOLUTION. "They said one to another, Why sit we here until we die? If we say, We will enter into the city, then the famine is in the city, and we shall die there: and if we sit still here we die also. Now therefore come, and let us fall unto the host of the Syrians: if they save us alive, we shall live; and if they kill us, we shall but die." Emaciated and wretched as might have been their bodily condition, their moral nature had sufficient stamina left to make a resolution. Mind is often more active in physical disease than in physical health. Pain whips all the faculties into action, marshals all the forces of the soul. Truly wonderful is the power of the human will. Let no man justify mental indolence and moral inertia by pleading his bodily troubles. But how often this is done! How often do you hear men say, "We can do nothing because of the circumstances in which we are placed"! The "cannot" of such is their "will not," and the "will not" is their own choice.
III. MEN ACTING OUT THE RESOLUTION formed in the most wretched condition. These four poor starving leprous men not only formed a resolution, but they worked it out. "And they rose up in the twilight, to go unto the camp of the Syrians." In giving practical effect to their resolution, two results followed.
1. Difficulties vanished. Their great dread was of the Syrians, but as they approached the Syrian camp, "Behold, there was no man there." Wherefore had they fled? Here is the answer: "For the Lord hath made the host of the Syrians to hear a noise of chariots, and a noise of horses, even the noise of a great host. And they said one to another, Lo, the King of Israel hath hired against us the kings of the Hittites, and the kings of the Egyptians, to come upon us. Wherefore they rose and fled in the twilight, and left their tents, and their horses and their asses, even the camp as it was, and fled for their life." By what force were these Syrians scared away? Not the force of the rough elements of nature, or the force of armies, but the force of terrible ideas - ideas that made them hear the noise of the rattling chariots and the tramping steeds of war, that had no existence. But these ideas, albeit, were ideas from God. "The Lord had made the host of the Syrians to hear a noise." God often frightens wicked men by ideas. "God can," says Matthew Henry, "when he pleases, dispirit the boldest and most brave, and make the stoutest heart to tremble. Those that will not fear God, he can make to fear at the shaking of a leaf." Before a strong resolution, apprehended difficulties frequently vanish into air. Where there's a will there's a way, even though it be over rugged mountains and surging floods. A man's "I will" has a power in it mighty as the forces of nature, ay, mightier, for it can subordinate them. "If thou hast faith as a grain of mustard seed, thou shalt say to this mountain, Be thou removed," etc.
2. The object was realized. What these poor starving leprous men deeply needed and sought was provisions to appease the cravings of hunger and to reinvigorate their waning life. And they got them. "And when these lepers came to the uttermost part of the camp, they went into one tent, and did eat and drink, and carried thence silver, and gold, and raiment, and went and hid it," etc. Thus they gained even more than they sought; they not only gained food, but wealth.
CONCLUSION. Learn here the wonderful moral force of the human mind. It possesses a power to make resolutions under the most trying external conditions, and the power to work them out successfully. The fiat "I'll try" has wrought wonders in human history, is working wonders now, and so it ever can. Well does Dr. Tulloch say, "Everything yields before the strong and earnest will. It grows by exercise. It excites confidence in others, while it takes to itself the lead. Difficulties before which mere cleverness fails, and which leave the irresolute prostrate and helpless, vanish before it. They not only do not impede its progress, but it often makes of them step-ping-stones to a higher and more enduring triumph." - D.T.
I. WHAT WAS THE STATE OF THE LEPERS, and what were their reflections? They were in a state of disease and want, perishing with hunger, and afflicted with a loathsome and grievous sickness. And what is our state by nature? The striking language of the prophet Isaiah well describes it: "The whole head is sick." Such are we naturally — we are spiritual lepers; and we have every reason to cry oat, when we view ourselves in the glass of God's Holy Word, and see what we really are, "Unclean, unclean." But these lepers were not merely afflicted with this sore disease, and had no whole part in their body, but they were also perishing with hunger — disease and famine were their portion. Sad state, you may exclaim. But our spiritual state by nature is in no wise better. The wholesome food of God's Word, which is the support and nourishment of the soul, lies untasted by our lips; it is food for which we have no relish or appetite; and yet, if we eat it not, we must languish and die. But herein lies a difference between us and the lepers. They longed for food, but could not get it: we can get it freely, "without money and without price," but we do not long for it. Let us turn next to the reflection of these men — "Why sit we hero until we die?" Oh, would that sinners perishing by spiritual famine would reason thus I — calmly consider their case, and see that if they remain unmoved — seek not for succour and support from Him who is able to save them from death — that death beyond a doubt will overtake them.
I. THE LEPERS SOUGHT DELIVERANCE FROM DEATH. "Why sit we here until we die?" (vers. 3, 4).
And there were four leprous men at the entering in of the gate.
I. THE MAN WHO FEELS HIS SIN THE KEENEST IS THE MOST LIKELY TO FIND SALVATION. Of all the people of Israel these four leprous men were in the most pitiable condition. Ordinarily, when there was plenty, food was let down over the wall to them; but when food became scarce, it was easy to forget the lepers on the outside. They decided to take their chances because they felt so keenly the extremity of their condition. This illustrates what Jesus meant when He said to certain people in His day that the publicans and the harlots would go into the kingdom of heaven before themselves.
II. INACTION IS OFTEN AS BAD AS POSITIVE WRONG-DOING. See in this case. These four lepers used good logic. They said one to another, "Why sit we here until we die?" They did not need to take poison in order to commit suicide; they did not need to do any violence on themselves in order to bring about death. They were far gone on the way of starvation. They could just stagger about a little. Let them only sit still a day or two more and there would not be any help for them, they would surely die. Their only hope was in immediate action, and if they were to act there was only one way open that had any promise of relief. So they decided to act in the one way open to them that had a chance of relief. I pray God that some of you who are without God and without hope in Christ may learn this great lesson. When you are wrong, when you are failing to do your duty, to sit still is to die. You do not have to do anything more in order to make sure that in the great judgment day you will be shut out of heaven and condemned. No, you have just to sit still to be lost. You do not need to get worse; you do not need that the stream of your evil thoughts or your wicked conduct shall grow wider and deeper and more soiled, as it undoubtedly will if you live longer unrepentant; you need only to sit still just as you are to have the gate of heaven closed before your sorrow-stricken eyes and to hear the awful words of doom from the tender lips of Jesus, "Depart from me, I never knew you." All you have to do is just to sit still, and in the very nature of things death must happen. But if you want to be saved, then you must awake, and arise, and act.
III. SALVATION CAN ONLY COME THROUGH DEFINITE DECISION. These men considered what was open to them and decided that there was just one way that had a ray of hope. It was by no means bright; but, if followed, there was a possibility that it might mean food and life. They made up their minds to take the one chance, and they followed that chance to safety. How much better is the outlook for you when I invite you to forsake your sins and come to the feast of Divine love. You do not have to come following such a forlorn hope as did these poor men.
IV. THE SPIRITUAL FEAST IS ALREADY SPREAD. The lepers found food in abundance in the Syrian tents. The Gospel feast is ready. The invitation is, "Come, for all things are now ready."
(L. A. Banks, D. D.)
1. They sought deliverance under very solemn feelings. They were perishing of hunger, and so were their friends whom they might never see again. Unless the Syrian granted immediate relief, they would die. The hour was dark and solemn. Solemn too are the feelings of a sinner when fleeing from the city of destruction he cries, "Life, life, eternal life!" He looks at the law, and feels, "I have broken that"; he looks towards heaven, and feels, "I have forfeited that"; he looks towards hell, and feels, "I have deserved that."
2. They sought deliverance in the face of discouragements. They were the subjects of a disease the most repulsive. They had no promise of help. They knew that the Syrian was the avowed foe of Israel. What could have been more discouraging? Had they been sound in health, had they been going to a friend, or had they but one promise of relief, it would have been different. But notwithstanding all, they sought deliverance. Sinner, are your discouragements greater in relation to spiritual life than were those of the lepers in relation to temporal? What are your discouragements? Bring them forward. "I am defiled by sin"; but Jesus can cleanse you. "I am condemned by law"; but Jesus can justify you. "I am outside the fold"; but Jesus is the good Shepherd, and He is come to restore you.
II. THE LEPERS FOUND DELIVERANCE FROM DEATH. "And when these lepers came to the uttermost part of the camp, they went into one tent, and did eat and drink, and carried thence silver and gold," etc. (ver. 8).
1. They found a more abundant deliverance than they expected. What did they seek? Deliverance from famine. What did they find? Deliverance from famine, nakedness, and poverty. And such a deliverance! How great the surprise of the lepers to find the treasures of an army in their custody! How changed their condition now! Famine was now fled; poverty fled; fear fled; obscurity fled. So with the sinner when he comes for salvation to Jesus; he always finds more than he expected; — more mercy, more peace, more blessedness, and more glory. Bartimeus comes for bodily eyesight; he obtains that, and spiritual sight too. A paralytic is let down through a roof with the hope of receiving power to walk the ways of earth; and not only is that granted, but power also to walk the ways of heaven.
2. These men found a deliverance more divine than they expected (ver. 6). Whether this noise was in the air or in the imagination I know not. Evidently it was God that wrought this wonderful deliverance. Little did the lepers expect a deliverance so divine. So when a sinner is delivered from spiritual death he sees more of God in salvation than even he expected. If a man denies the divinity of the Christian redemption he only proves that he is a stranger to it.
3. These men found deliverance more easily than they expected. They counted on commending themselves to the favour of the Syrian by earnest appeals. They thought that, do what they might, possibly they could not awaken his compassion; they might, after all, be put to death. How great their mistake! Nothing was more necessary but to arise, go forth, and partake of the abundance which kind Providence had provided. When a man trusts in Jesus, he feels astonished that he should ever have made a difficulty of believing. "How strange," he feels, "that I could so long have closed my eyes to the truth." "By grace are ye saved through faith: and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast."
III. THE LEPERS ANNOUNCED DELIVERANCE FROM DEATH. They went and announced the "good tidings" to the king's household, and through that household to the city.
1. They announced deliverance under a sense of duty (ver. 9). They felt that silence would brand them with the charge of heartlessness and expose them to the lightnings of justice. If these men felt it their duty to announce deliverance to a perishing city, how much more should Christians feel this to be their duty as it respects a perishing world?
2. They announced deliverance without delay. Feeling, as they did, that solemnly on them was flung the duty of saving Samaria, and that to delay, even till the sun again reddened the forehead of the eastern sky, was to sacrifice life, they lost no time in heralding "the good tidings." Oh, ye that are at ease in Zion, is it enough that you have been blest with the Bread of Life? Does not Heaven solemnly call on you to announce without delay "the good tidings" to others? " If you tarry till the morning, some mischief will come upon you."
(F. Fox Thomas.)
II. THE EFFORT OF THESE LEPERS AND THEIR SUCCESS. "Now, therefore, come," said they, "and let us fall unto the host of the Syrians; if they save us alive, we shall live: and if they kill us, we shall but die." They resolved no longer to sit in misery and apathy beneath the comfortless and inhospitable walls of their beleaguered and impoverished city, but to go directly to the enemy's camp, and seek from their country's foes that which their own people could not give. And here, in a measure, is portrayed the course of the awakened sinner. He sees that if he remains as he is, death is certain, that his dwelling is the city of want and destruction. But oh, how different is, the prospect and hope set before him! He is not fleeing to the camp of an enemy, but to the shelter of an Almighty Friend. He need not flee in doubt of welcome, or in fear of death; and though unbelief and sin may cause him to tremble lest he should be rejected, yet if his faith be true, there is no real ground of danger, and he may adopt the language of the prodigal, "I will arise and go to my Father"; and he will find that welcome which a Heavenly Father rejoices to bestow. These lepers had no reason to regret the step they took; they exchanged poverty and famine for wealth and abundance surpassing their utmost conception or desire. Just so it is with sinners who flee from the city of destruction, and "go forth unto Jesus without the camp, bearing His reproach." When once they have made the effort, and advanced to the foot of the cross, and cast the burden of their sins on Him "who bare them in His own body on the tree," how great the change! how wonderful the deliverance! They were sitting like these lepers in darkness and the shadow of death; but, as our blessed Lord Himself declares, they have "passed from death unto life" (John 5:24).
III. THE CONDUCT OF THE LEPERS AND ITS HAPPY RESULTS. Having feasted in abundance, and satisfied themselves with spoil, "then they said one to another, We do not well; this day is a day of good tidings, and we hold our peace; if we tarry till the morning light some mischief will come upon us: now therefore come, that we may go and tell the king's household." So they went and announced the happy and unexpected news which at first appeared too good to be true. And are not far happier results brought about by the knowledge of the Gospel, and from other and higher motives? Selfishness appears to have chiefly dictated the lepers in their discovery. It does not seem that sympathy for their suffering brethren, anxiety to carry relief to those perishing by hunger within the city, urged them so speedily to the work of mercy as the thought that if they tarried till the morning light" some mischief would come upon them. But with the Christian it is altogether different. When he has had the burden of his sins removed, he is anxious to lead others to that Saviour he has found from the purest motives, — a zeal for the glory of God, a desire for the happiness of souls.
(C. A. Maginn, M. A.)
2. Illustration of strange instrumentalities which God uses to accomplish His purposes. Here lepers. In Elijah's case, ravens. "No restraint to save by many or few."
3. God's mercies must not be retained in a miserly or selfish spirit.
4. Unbelief will be confounded, while faith will be honoured. The case of these leprous men is, however, analogous to that of certain sinners. They are —
I. IN A POSITION OF PERIL. What was likely to prove a fatal disease: "Until we die."
1. Suffering from famine. Illustrate by Prodigal Son: "I perish with hunger." Soul needs feeding as well as the body: "My soul shall be satisfied," says the Psalmist.,
2. Isolated. from. the city and its supplies. Sin has separated from God the soul's true satisfaction.
3. Pursuing a policy of inaction which rendered them more hopeless: Law of degeneration that is unerring; "Evil men shall wax worse and worse." Nothing so inimical to spiritual interests as inertia. Illustrate by death of Professor Nettleship on Alps — powerless to move.
II. A GLIMMER OF HOPE. (ver. 4). Two ways were closed. One seems open — if it fail there is nothing to lose. The men were brought to this by reflection. Look where you are. Certain ways of deliverance are hedged in.
1. Self cannot save self.
2. By bitter experience many of you have proved the world is vain. Pleasure, riches, passion, have increased famine.
3. Christ may save. He professes to do so. At least He makes great claims. Will you try Him? Our duty is to examine probabilities. In discoveries men have followed this course. So in religion, "Then shall we know if we follow on to know." Look at the circumstantial evidence, it may furnish a clue. You may be like a drowning man with the last chance of life. Hope multiplies the chance.
III. THE UNEXPECTED SATISFACTION (vers. 5, 6, 7), Probable becomes possible, possible becomes actual. "Now none but Christ can satisfy."
1. God's way of deliverance is miraculous. "If He should make windows in heaven."
2. To the venturing soul there are constant surprises of blessing. Faith is a venture, but is honoured. The curtain rises on new scenes; we pass from famine to banquet.
IV. SONGS OF DELIVERANCE (ver. 9).
1. Gratitude prompted.
2. Despised instrumentality used to testify.
3. Testimony begets faith and action.It led the host to verification of the facts announced. Do we well to hold our peace? No. "I'll praise my Maker while I've breath."
(J. E. Wakerley.)
I. A great work of god, which was entirely unknown.
1. The siege was raised from around Samaria. Armed men had stood in their places and kept the way, so that none could go in or out; but they are all gone, not one of them is left. Yet in the city of Samaria they thought themselves cooped up, and set their warders on the wall because of fear in the night. They were as free as the harts of the wilderness had they known it: but their ignorance held them in durance vile.
2. The Lord had also defeated all their enemies. They had run for their lives; they had fled because of a noise in their ears as of horses and of chariots. He that could first get across the Jordan, and interpose that stream between him and his supposed pursuers was the happiest man. Without aid from Hittite or Ethiopian, the God of Israel had driven the whole host of Syria like chaff before the wind.
3. God has provided plenty for them. The wretched Samaritans drew the hungerbelt more closely about them, and each man hoped that he might sleep for many an hour, and for-act his bitter pangs; yet within a stone's throw there was more fine flour and barley than they could possibly consume. Was not that a strange thing? A city besieged, and not besieged; girt with enemies, as they thought, and yet not an enemy left; starving, and yet near to a feast! See, what unbelief ,can do. They had been promised plenty right speedily, by God's own prophet; but they did not believe the promise, nor look out for its fulfilment. Had they been upon the watch, they might have seen the unusual movement in the Syrian camp, and noticed the absolute stillness which succeeded it. I know a sad parallel to this. The Lord Jesus Christ has come into the world, and has put away the sin of His people; and yet many of them are complaining that their sin can never be put away. The Lord Jesus Christ has routed all the enemies of His people, and yet they are afraid of innumerable evils. It is said that drowning men catch at straws: would you not have thought that famishing men might have caught at the word of Elisha? I grant you the promise did seem too great to be true: that lord who scoffed at it was not the only one who judged it to be impossible of fulfilment; and yet when men are brought so very low, they are apt to catch at any hope. How hardened was the unbelief which refused Jehovah's word!
II. When you have realised the picture of the city abiding in sorrow. though its deliverance had already come, I want to remark upon A VERY SINGULAR BAND OF DISCOVERERS. A choice quaternion at last found out what the Lord had done, proved it for themselves, and made it known to their fellow-townsmen. Is it not remarkable that these discoverers were lepers? Ah, grace! it is thy wont to dwell in most unlikely places! You would have supposed that surely the king would have gone forth to see, or that yonder great lord who had ridiculed the prophet might have relented, and gone forth to observe. But no; there are last that shall be first, and the Lord in His providence and grace pitched upon lepers to be the discoverers of His marvellous miracle. Even thus the keenest observers of grace are those who have the deepest sense of sin. These men could not hope for a welcome from the Syrians, poor objects that they were, they would be hated as Israelites, and abhorred as lepers; yet they went, and in that camp they found all that they wanted, and much more than they expected. Am I not speaking to some who are saying, "For me to go to Christ would be all in vain: I can suppose His blessing my brother, or my friend, but He never will receive one so altogether unworthy as I am"? I speak to those of you who feel that you have no right to mercy: you are the very men who may come boldly for it; since it is not of right, but altogether of favour. You that have no claim to the mercy of God, you are the very people to come to Him through Jesus Christ; for where there is the least of anything that is good .and meritorious, there there is the most room for generous gifts and gracious pardons.
1. These discoverers of the Lord's work were a people who dared not have joined themselves to God's people. They were not allowed inside the city walls: their wretched hospital was without the gate. How often does it happen that those who are rejected of men are accepted of God!
2. To describe these discoverers yet more fully, they were men who at last were driven to give themselves up. They said, "We will fall unto the Syrians; and if they kill us we shall but die. Blessed m that man who has given himself up, not to the Syrians, but to the Lord!
3. These discoverers I would liken to Columbus, four times repeated; for they found out a new world for Samaria. These four lepers went to the Syrian camp, and saw for themselves: lepers as they were, they came, they saw, they conquered. I think I can see them in the dim twilight, stealing along until they come to the first tent, expecting to be challenged by a picket, and wondering that they are not. They heard no sound of human voice. The horses and mules were heard to stamp, and draw their chains up and down, but their riders were gone, and no noise of human foot was heard. "There are no men about," cried one of them, "nor signs of men! Let us go into this tent." They stepped in. A supper was ready. He who had spread that table will never taste it again. The hungry men needed no persuasion, but immediately began to carve for themselves. They took possession of the spoils of war left on the field. After they had feasted they said, "To whom does this gold and silver belong? The prey belongs to us, for our enemies have left the treasure behind them." They took as many of the valuables as they could carry, then went into another tent: still no living soul was seen. Where lately a host had rioted, not a soldier remained. There was no sound of revelry that night, nor tramp of guard, nor talk around the watch-fire. The lepers tasted more of the forsaken dainties, drained other goblets, and took more gold and silver. "There is more than we shall know what to do with," they said; so they dug a hole, and banked their gains after the Oriental fashion. Who can conceive the delirious joy of those four lepers in the midst of such abundance? Do you see what these men did? First, they went and saw for themselves, and then they took possession for themselves. The whole four of them did not own a penny before, and now they are rich beyond a miser's dream. They have enjoyed the feast, and they are filled to the full. They are fully qualified to go and tell the starving city of their discovery, because they are clear that they have made no mistake. They have satisfied their own hunger, gratified their own desire, and tasted and handled for themselves, and so they can speak as men who know and are sure. He knows the grace of God best who, in all his leprosy and defilement, in all his hunger, and faintness, and weariness, has come to Christ, and fed on the bread of heaven, and drank the water of life, and taken the blessings of the covenants, and made himself rich with hidden treasure. Such a man will speak convincingly, because he will bear a personal witness. The leper, fed and enriched, stands outside the city gate, and calls to the porter, and wakes him up at the dead of night, for he has news worth telling. The experienced believer speaks with the accent of conviction, and therein imitates his Master, who spake with authority. "Why," says the porter, "I used to speak to you over the city wall; are you the leper to whom I said that there was no more food for you? I have thrown you nothing for a week, and thought you were dead — are you the man?" He answers, "I am: I do want your wretched rations now; I am filled, and where I have fed there is enough for you all. Come out, and feast yourselves." "I should not know you!" says the porter. All four join in saying, "No, you would not know us; we are new men since we have been to the camp. Believe the story, and tell it to all in the city, for it is true. There is enough and to spare, if they will but come out and have it."
III. HOW THEY CAME TO MAKE THIS DISCOVERY. These four lepers, how did they come to find out the flight of Syria? First, I suppose, they made the discovery rather than anybody else because the famine was sorest with them. Let but some men feel the burden of sin, and they will never rest till they come to Jesus. John Bunyan says that he once thought hardly of Christ, but at last he came to such a pitch of misery that he felt he must come to Jesus anyhow; and he says that he verily believed that, if the Lord Jesus had stood before him with a drawn sword in His hand, he would have rushed upon the point of His sword rather than stay away from Him. These lepers were driven to go to make the discovery because they felt that they could not be any worse than they were. They said, "If we sit here we shall die; and if the Syrians kill us, we shall but die." That feeling has often driven souls to Christ.
1. These people saw that there was no reason why they should not go, for they said one to the other — "Why sit we here until we die?" They could not find a justification for inaction. They could not say, "We sit here because the king commands us to stop where we are." He promises that He will receive you, and therefore He cries, "Turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die?"
2. These lepers went to the camp of the Syrians because they were shut up to that one course — "If we say, We will enter into the city, then the famine is in the city, and we shall die there: and if we sit still here, we die also." Only one road was open. I am always glad when I am in that condition. If many courses are open to me I may make a mistake; but when I see only one road I know which way to go. It is a blessed thing to be shut up to faith in Christ — to be compelled to look to grace alone.
IV. MAY NOT SOME SAD HEARTS IMITATE THESE LEPERS, and make the same discovery? "I am afraid to believe in Christ," says one, "for my sins, my many sins, prevent me." Look at the lepers, and see how much better the Lord was to them than their fears. It is twilight, and they steal into the camp trembling. One cries, "Softly there, Simeon! Your heavy tread will bring the guard upon us." Eleazar gently whispers to the other, Make no noise. If they sleep, let us not arouse them. They might tread as heavily as they pleased, and talk as loudly as they wished, for there was no man there. Do you know it? If you believe in the Lord Jesus, your sins, which are many, are all forgiven — there is no sin left to accuse you. You are afraid they will ruin you? They have ceased to be: the depths have covered them; there is not one of them left. "The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin." Your sins were numbered on the scape-goat's head of old. Jesus bore your sins in His own body on the tree. If you come to Christ, confessing and believing, no sin shall destroy you, for it is blotted out. Perhaps these men feared when they were going into the tent — "A Syrian will meet us at the tent door, and cry, 'Back, what business have you here? Lepers, begone! Back to your dens and die!'" They entered into tent after tent: nobody forbade them: they had the entry of every pavilion. They were also possessors of all they saw. When I came to Christ, I could not believe that I might take the promises; but I did, and nobody said me nay. Perhaps the leper felt some little question when he saw a golden cup, or a silver flagon, or a wellfashioned cruet. What have lepers to do with golden cups? But he overcame his scruples. No law could hinder his sharing the leavings of a runaway enemy. Nobody was there to stop him, and the valuables were set before him, and therefore he took what was provided for him. The lepers grew more and more bold, till they carried off as much of the booty as they were able to hide away. I take up my parable, and without scruple invite you to deal thus with salvation. When I came to Jesus, I hardly dared to appropriate a promise; it looked like stealing.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
(J. M'Neill.)I. SOME HAVE AN ALTERNATIVE PRESENTED TO YOUR CONSCIENCES. Time was when you were careless about eternal things. That time has passed. You can look back but a few weeks and remember when the Sabbath was to you a day of revelry, when the house of God was utterly neglected, when the Bible was a book which you would not have read if you had not been flogged to it, and when prayer was a duty which you utterly despised. But now your conscience has been somewhat awakened. Though not thoroughly, still partially, roused up, you begin to perceive that the Scripture is true, that we have gone astray like lost sheep, that our iniquities do prevail against us, and that our righteousnesses are filthy rags. Well, now, you perceive that you are in just this particular state, that you have a choice of two things before you; you can sit still, but then you must perish; you can go to Christ, and your fears tell you that you, will perish then. This, however, at any rate, your conscience may say to you, You can but die, whereas if you go not to Christ you must die. Even should you believe in Him, you think you might, after all, perish; but if you do not believe in Him, then there is no hope. Should you repair now to Him in prayer your fears tell you that He may repel you, that He may say: "Get you gone! You that once cursed Me, what right have you to expect My favour? You who have scorned My grace a hundred times, and defied My law, what do you here on your knees seeking My mercy? Begone, thou ungrateful wretch, and perish in thy sins." But still there is this presented to your mind, that if you perish there you do but perish, for it is quite certain that you must perish where you are. You believe — you must believe even if you reject the Word of God, you must believe that God is just. If there be a God, He must punish men for sin. How can there exist a moral government if sin shall go unpunished, if virtue and vice shall bring the same end to men? On the other hand, look at the other side of the alternative. There is, at least, some hope; even your poor, trembling heart admits that there is some hope — that if you seek mercy you may obtain it. I know that there is not only hope, but certainty. Jesus casts out none that come to Him, and He is willing to receive the vilest of the vile. But I put the question now as your unbelief puts it; it is not even to you an absolute certainty that Christ will reject you — is it? It is not quite certain that if you pray to Him He will refuse to hear your prayer. At least, it does not admit of positive proof that if you were to trust the blood of Christ you would perish. Look at the question for a moment in another light. It is certain that if you perish as you now are, you will perish without pity and without mercy. The law under which you are convicted knows nothing about forgiveness. Condemned already because you are under the law, the law provides no sacrifice for sin. But now, do you not feel that even if you could perish after coming to God through Christ, yet you would not perish without having some ray of pity? Would there not be at least this consolation for you — "I did what God counselled me; I did come to Him and ask for mercy; I did plead the precious blood of Christ, and yet He rejected me"; and do you not think that this would be a balm to you? Yet further, you ought to remember that all those who have continued in a state of nature have, without exception, perished.
II. THE COGITATION OF THESE MEN ENDED IN ACTION. I wish the like were true of all of you. How many resolves have been strangled in this house of prayer! How many good thoughts have been murdered in those pews! Look, see, can you not find their blood upon your own skirts? Many a time that tear which betokens the first rising emotion has been wiped away, and the emotion with it. May it not be so to-night, but oh! may God grant that, like the lepers, we may put into action that which we shall think over, and accomplish that which, by the help of God the Holy Spirit, we shall be enabled to resolve upon.
1. Undoubtedly the action of the lepers was bold. Cowardice would have sat still. Cowardice would have said, "Well, it is true we shall perish if we sit here, but still we will not go just yet; we are very hungry, but we may bear it another hour," and thus only an extreme pinch would have driven them out. Now, it seems a very bold thing to you, my unknown but trembling hearer, to think of going to Christ by faith. "Why," say you, "I have not the impudence to do it: look at what I have been."
2. But while these lepers did a bold thing, I pass on to notice that they did it unanimously. It is not said that three of them went, but that the other said, "No, I will not go yet." It does not say that two said, "When we have a more convenient season we will go." It was a mercy for them that they were all hungry, for if they had not been they would not have gone. It was, probably, a great mercy for them that they were all lepers, or else they would not have been decided, and would never have dared to go. What a mercy it is for you, sinner, to know that you are a sinner! No, no; we sow much, but we reap little, compared with what our hearts desire. Where stands there the man or the woman here who intends to sit down and die? Well, if you do choose it, choose it deliberately.
3. Bear with me while I remind you again that the action of the lepers was also instantaneous. They said, "We will go," and at once they went. Many say, " I go, sir," but they go not. We can all of us remember times before our conversion to God when we have been impressed under solemn sermons, and some of you can recollect how you have made haste home, and have gone upstairs, and have shut the door and prayed; but idle conversation dissipated the serious impression. And how many more there are who, while their hearts have been searched under the Word. have said, "Please God to spare me another day, I'll think over those things." But where are you now?
4. How well they were all of them rewarded for what they did. Not one of them perished. They were all saved; not one came back empty-handed; they were all enriched. Nor shall one of you — my life for yours — not one of you seeking mercy through Christ shall be refused it. You shall all be blessed, all adopted, all saved, who are by the Spirit of God led to put your trust in Christ at this welcome moment.
III. These lepers no sooner found what was good for themselves than they STRAIGHTWAY WENT OFF TO TELL IT TO OTHERS. And if you have found Christ, after you are sure you have received Him, and have rejoiced in Him for a little season, and fed upon Him, and enriched yourselves by Him as your hidden treasure, it behoves yon to go and tell to others of His grace, and your joy. This Gospel is not to be stifled.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
1. It is so in the ordinary business affairs of this life. Thousands are ruined by inactivity — by, lack of incisive, heroic resolution and effort in the crisis of their affairs. They "sit still" till the opportunity to retrieve themselves is lost; till the tide of irresistible fate sets in against them.
2. It is so in the formation of character. There are critical periods when to "sit still" and let things take their course, is to forfeit all self-control, to put yourself, soul and body, at the mercy of evil associates, demoralising principles, and ruinous habits — in a word, to make shipwreck of character.
3. It is so with the awakened sinner. It is the most critical period of his life. Decide now he must the most momentous question that ever trembled on human lips, "What must I do to be saved?" He cannot evade it. He cannot postpone it, without infinite peril.
4. It is so with every sinner living under the Gospel. To "sit still" is certain death. To do nothing, absolutely nothing, in the way of inquiring after truth, repenting of sin, seeking Christ, obeying the Gospel, is to make our "damnation sure"! It is a great mistake which many fall into, that positive hostility and active resistance to the Gospel are necessary to ensure condemnation. The negative position and conduct is amply sufficient. Not to believe — not to accept Christ in the relations offered: not to possess the character and bear the fruit of the Christian life — is to render one's salvation impossible. "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?"
(J. M. Sherwood.)
(T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)
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