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“When ye be come into the land of Canaan, which I give to you for a possession,” the Lord is introduced as saying, “and I put the plague of leprosy in a house of the land of your possession; and he that owneth the house shall come and tell the priest, saying, It seemeth to me there is as it were a plague in the house."* In various periods of the Old Testament history, we find it inflicted as an immediate judgement of God, as in the case of Moses, Miriam, Gehazi, and Uzziah. After it was cured, it was suffered sometimes to spread again. By this awful visitation, the inhabitants of the house were forcibly reminded and admonished of their sins : and is it possible to conceive of a ceremony more adapted to strike a stupid and insensible people with awe ?
The typical import of this kind of ceremonial defilement leads us to consider sin in the following lights
I. As an alarming, dreadful disease, for such the leprosy unquestionably was. There are spiritual diseases, as well as bodily, and the former much more to be dreaded. These diseases may all be resolved into sin. As the human frame consists not merely in a number of parts put together in the same place, but of parts vitally united, all with their separate functions and due subserviency to each other, which gives us the idea of a system; so the mind consists of faculties and powers designed to act under due subordination to each
* Lev. xiv. 34, 35.
other. Sin disturbs this harmony, confounds this order, and consequently is truly and properly in the mind what disease is in the body. In the Holy Scriptures it is compared to the most afflicting disorders ; — to blindness, deafness, lethargy; and the removal of it is expressed by healing. “ Lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.”* Sin is a fretting leprosy; it spreads itself throughout all the principles and powers; and (wherever it spreads imparts its own malignity.]
II. It defiles as well as disorders. — Like the leprosy it is a most loathsome disease ; it is filthiness of flesh and of spirit. " Cleanse thou me from secret faults.”+ Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.” I
III. It cuts off those in whom it prevails from communion with God, both penally and naturally; that is, by the force of judicial sentence, and by its natural influence.
IV. To those who have just apprehensions of it, it will be productive of that sorrowful sense of guilt and unworthiness, so forcibly expressed in the words of the text.
† Psalm xix. 12.
* Isaiah vi. 10. John xii. 40.
* Psalm li. 2.
ON SPIRITUAL LEPROSY.
Lev. xii. 45.–And the leper in whom the plague is, his clothes
shall be rent, and his head bare, and he shall put a covering upon his upper lip, and shall cry, Unclean, unclean.*
In this discourse, we propose to make an improvement of the two former, which treated of the spiritual import of the Mosaical law concerning lepers. Having shewn that the ceremonial defilement, incurred by leprosy, was designed as a standing representation of the polluting nature of sin, and the legal method of purification,-a type of the manner in which the power and pollution of sin are removed under the gospel,--I shall proceed to attempt applying the whole doctrine to the character and circumstances of my hearers.
I. Let the doctrine be improved into an occasion of inquiring whether we are healed, or are yet under the leprosy of sin. When we hear of the ravages of so dreadful a disorder, supposing we give any sort of credit to the report, it is natural to inquire into our own situation, and to consider how far we are in danger of being overtaken with it. During the prevalence of an epidemic disorder, accompanied especially with symptoms of danger, prudent men are wont to manifest great solicitude to avoid the places and occasions of infection. In the case before us there is ground for much serious inquiry peculiar to itself. The leprosy of sin is not like some other disorders which affect some individuals alone, while others escape; it is a universal malady,--no child of Adam escapes it; it attaches to the whole human race; and the only persons who are not now involved in that calamity, are such as are cured, saved, redeemed from among men ;—terms which in their most obvious import imply the former prevalence of disease. The bitter fruits of human apostasy extend to each individual of the human race, as may be sufficiently inferred from the very appellation of Christ, the Saviour of the world," he shall be for salvation unto the ends of the earth,”*—as well as from the most express declarations of scripture respecting the universal prevalence of guilt and corruption, in all instances where it has not been counteracted and controlled by divine grace :
* Preached at Leicester, December, 1810.
Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.”
Since this is the case, if you are not now in a state of sin, yet, as you were so formerly, you have undergone a great change, and must consequently have some recollection of the circumstances attending it; and though you may not perhaps be able to specify the precise moment of your conversion, some traces must remain upon * Acts xii. 47.
† Eph. ii. 3.
your memory of the circumstances connected with an event so replete with important consequences. In the course of our discussion on this subject, we have observed, that the cure of sin must be preceded with a sense of the malady, with a humiliating conviction of defilement, urging us to cry with the leper, “Unclean, unclean.” Did any ever witness in you this appearance of concern for sin, this apprehension of your misery as a guilty creature before God? Were you ever heard, we will not say to cry out in a public assembly, as did the three thousand that were converted by Peter, but in the most private intercourse with a christian friend, and inquire what you must do to be saved ? Are you conscious to yourselves of having ever felt serious and lasting solicitude on that head ? Did it ever rest with a weight upon your mind at all proportioned to what you have felt on other occasions of distress? Was it ever allowed to put a check to your worldly amusements, to your gay diversions, or to the pursuit of any scheme whatever, from which you could promise yourselves profit or pleasure ?
We will take occasion, in treating on the subject before us, to observe that the only method of deliverance from the malady of sin is a devout and humble application to the Lord Jesus; for he, and he only, “ shall save his people from their sins ;"* and now, not less than in the days of his flesh, it is his prerogative to say, “ I will ; be thou clean.” +
t Matt. vii. 3.
* Matt. i. 21.