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THE LEP'ERS OF SAMARIA,
RBV. J. SHERMAN,
POULTRY CHAPEL, MAY 7, 1835 *.
“ 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.”—2 Kings, vii. 9.
The circumstances which dictated this brief conversation were the following. Ben-hadad, the king of Syria, with a numerous army, had besieged Samaria, the capital of the kingdom of Israel. It appears that the siege was continued so long, and under such distressing circumstances, that the most awful consequences began to rage in the city. Such was the high price of all kinds of provisions, that as much as ten pounds were given for an ass's head, unwholesome, unsavoury food ; and a pint of corn, taken from the crops of doves collected from the neighbouring country, was sold at the rate of twelve shillings a pint. Hunger had so blunted the sympathies of nature, that mothers had killed and eaten their own children; and the resources of the city were now in such a dreadfully exhausted state, that an entire surrender, or total destruction, must be the necessary sad consequences.
Jehoram, instead of reproving himself for his own wickedness, and confessing to himself privately that he was the great cause of all the miseries which Samaria was now enduring, laid the fault upon Elisha, the most patriotic friend the country had; and he determined therefore to kill him. For this purpose he went to his house; and previous to the execution of that purpose he determined to hear the prophet for himself. Uttering some impioue, abominable, and blasphemous expression, he was induced to delay his design till the next morning, on account of a prophecy which Elisha delivered, contained in the two first verses of this chapter. “ Then Elisha said, Hear
ye the word of the Lord; Thus saith the Lord, To-morrow about this time shall a measure of fine flower be sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, in the gate of Samaria. Then a lord on whose hand the king leaned answered the man of God, and said, Behold, if the Lord would make windows in heaven, might this thing be? And he said, Behold, thou shalt see it with thine eyes, but shalt not eat thereof."
In the afternoon of the same day, four leprous men suggested to one another the expedient of going out to the camp of the Syrians, and seeing what had become of the army, or what was the state of the Syrian's force. They were
* Anniversary Sermon for the Home Missionary Society.
outcasts from society, they were devoured by the leprosy; they were under the ban and curse of God and man: and therefore any thing that happened to them, they thought could not make them worse. And, therefore, “ 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, ana let us tall unto the host of the Syrians: if they save us alive, we shall live; and if they kill us, we shall but die.” As soon as it began to grow dark they commenced their operations, proceeding on their journey; and, to their great astonishment, when they arrived at the camp, they found no man there: for the Lord had gone out before them, and caused the Syrians “ to hear a noise of chariots, and a noise of horses, even the noise of a great host: and they said "—that is the Syrians“ 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 arose and fied in the twilight, and left their tents, and their horses, and their asses, even the camp as it was, and fled for their life." When they had satisfied themselves, by going to the extreme end of the camp, that it was not a stratagem of the enemy, they then went, first into one tent, and partook of the luxuries of life that the Syrians had left behind; and entered another, and took of the gold and silver, and concealed it in the earth. And after they had thus satisfied theinselves, they began to think of their friends : “We have been into the Syrians' camp, and we have now got their money, and we have had their food; our spirits are refreshed, and our bodies are nourished, by that of which we have partaken; but there are our poor brethren in the city ; there are our wives, and our children there, and there are vast numbers there dying of hunger. We do not well to sit here: this day is a day of good tidings; we have reaped the advantage of coming out; we have partaken of the bounty of God in this extraordinary way: if we tarry until the morning light, and be so ungrateful to divine Providence for the blessings that are conferred upon us, some mischief will befall us. Come, let us rise up and go into the city, and tell the king's household the good things of which we have partaken."
My Christian brethren, the present state of the world is, in a spiritual sense, somewhat siinilar to that in which Samaria was placed when these lepers uttered these words. The armies of Satan and of sin surround it; the people, by millions, are perishing for lack of knowledge: God has blessed a variety of individuals by his rich providence, with a foretaste of the rich provision of grace and mercy, which makes happiness abound on earth, and fits souls for everlasting glory. Thousands are every day perishing for lack of knowledge ; and millions more must perish, if the bread of life be not sent. Now we, like the favoured lepers, have found out a plentiful supply to enrich ourselves, and feast the world. Thanks be to God that some few efforts have been made to supply the world with this provision ! But their wants are infinitely beyond all the supplies we have sent them. Millions are crying, and are praying for this bread of life : and not only millions of the heathen, whose case is constantly presented to our view, but millions of our own brethren, in villages, and hainlets, and towns of your own country, with your own blood running in their veins, where many of your relatives dweil ; where some of you have friends, servants, children, relations residing And these dark parts of the earth,
though not like the habitations of cruelty in the heathen world, are yet full of vice, and misery, and ignorance, to almost an unbounded extent and the object of my standing before you this evening, is to "provoke you to love and to good works;" and to endeavour to "stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance," to exhort you to" add to your faith virtue," and to your virtue still greater liberality than you have been accustomed to shew, to this great and necessitous cause which now presents its claims to your notice. And may I especially, in entering upon the subject this evening, beg the prayers of this congregation, that I may be so assisted in laying its claims before you, that your hearts may be opened and expanded, and Christ's name be honoured and glorified this evening.
The text, then, describes the times in which we live: "This day is a day of good tidings." The text reproves our indifference to the miseries of others:
We do not well." The text pronounces our punishment if we delay to send them help. And the text suggests the method which we ought immediately to pursue.
First, then, the text describes, THE TIMES IN WHICH WE LIVE. This day is a day of good tidings."
And is it not, my dear brethren and sisters, a day of good tidings? What are the peculiarities of the day in which we are called to live? There are these four peculiarities in it; the first of which I will now mention :-that Jesus Christ has obtained a complete conquest over all our enemies. And this is the great and especial truth which is published in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Sin, and the world, and Satan, like a mighty army, with all their leagued friends, were arrayed against us. The justice of God which we had offended, appeared in dreadful majesty against us; and until satisfaction was made to divine justice, mercy itself could not spare or pardon. The wrath of God was revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and all unrighteousness of men; and all our sad expectation consisted in tribulation and anguish, misery and woe, which were ready to fall upon our heads. Now we had to engage these hosts; we had to go out against them, these armies which surrounded us as they did Samaria. We had no champion, we had no individual who could protect our cause; no army went out against them. Like Samaria, beloved, when we beheld our condition, we were all alarm and all dismay : and, as in the case of Samaria, the victory was wholly of heaven, so it is in our case: Jesus, from the height of the throne of his majesty beheld us; pity moved him to compassionate our case; love, which had heights, and depths, and lengths, and breadths, unknown, and which passeth knowledge, brought him from heaven to earth in our flesh. In that flesh he dwelt for thirty-three years in our world, in the form of a servant; and as the Captain of our salvation, single-handed and alone, he entered the bloody field; and sin and hell opposed all its force against him. The wrath of God seized and fell upon him, in all its awful majesty: justice demanded of him the debt which we had contracted; and the law poured forth all its curs s upon his head. He engaged in the mighty conflict: and, as smoke is driven away, so he drove them away. Our God arose, and he scattered all his enemies. It is true that Christ in this conflic died; but in dying he "destroyed death, and him that had the power of death, and delivered us, who through fear of death were
all our life-time subject to bondage." It is true that he died; but in dying he “put away sin, by the sacrifice of himself." It is true that he died; but he proclaimed the victory with his dying breath—“It is finished :” “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." It is true, friends, that he died;
" But justice quenched its flaming sword,
In Jesu's vital blood;" and the law was magnified, justice was satisfied, God was well pleased, and sinners were saved. And now the host of heaven, and the Church of Christ, may sing "Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah! the work is done; the conquest is made, salvation is brought in; and the blessings which were so much needed for my soul, are already to be procured, to be bestowed, through his dying atonement." So that “this is a day of good tidings."
Moreover, “this is a day of good tidings,” because Jesus Christ has procured an ample provision for all our necessities. The spoil is ours; the glory is his. The conquest was made by himself, and through that conquest all the benefits of salvation are now amply provided and amply presented to our use. And what are these blessings ? My brethren, our enemies had robbed us of peace, of joy, of communion, of justification, of holiness, and of heaven : but this day is “ a day of good tidings ;" Jesus Christ has restored that which he took not away. Whatever scarlet and crimson sins have been committed, in the Gospel he has presented a full, and free, and everlasting pardon. If pride, and passion, and prejudice had corrupted the soul, and become its grief, in the Gospel is presented a fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness. If condemnation arise from the law, to terrify the spirit that knows not how to justify himself before God, Christ in the Gospel has presented him with a righteousness that is “unto all and upon all them that believe;" for there is no difference. If hostility to God and his service be the plague of the man's heart, and oppose the message he constantly hears, Christ has brought and has preached tracquillity; for “we have peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord." If heaven be desirable, and its glories be coveted, and the hope of attaining it be lost to any spirit here; “ this is a day of good tidings," my hearers, for the way to the holiest of all is made manifest, through the rent-veil of the Redeemer's flesh. Beloved, the Gospel is a table spread, where all the spiritual wants of sinners may be supplied : here, in abundance are found, the bread of life, the water of life, the fruits of the tree of life, and all other blessings connected with life eternal.
And may I ask this vast congregation this evening, Have you, dear hearers, satisfied yourselves at this table? Is there any unconverted spirit here, who yet convicted of its own guilt, is earnestly desirous of the blessings which the Gospel imparts ? This is a Home Missionary Society; and we are about to plead for home; and where can I better plead than here, dear hearers, and tell you the Gospel is for you, and the blessings of the Gospel are for you,
and the ample provisions of boundless grace do invite you, do welcome you, to come and partake of them largely?
“O all ye hungry, starring poor
Behold the royal feast,
The rich provision taste." " This day is a day of good tidings:" I am sent on a message from the bounti
ful Provider of this feast : “ Come, for all things are now ready.” See, my dear hearers, the Master is at the table; the provisions are spread ; the guests are seated; but Mary's place is empty; Lazarus is not one of them that sit at the table with him; John is not yet amongst his disciples. Have not you, my young friends, who hear me this evening, been the burthen of your inother 8 prayers and hopes, and your father's expectations for years that are passed ? Come to this blessed provision ; this is “ a day of good tidings" for you ; when you are heartily welcome to all the boundless grace of the great Provider.
But there is another point connected with this good tidings, and that is this · that Jesus Christ has led many of us who are present to participate in the provisions of his love. And this makes it “ a day of good tidings" to us. Blessed for ever be his holy name, that not a few of us have tasted that he is gracious, and that we can put our hands to our heart, and say, that the ample provisions of his love have not only satisfied, but done more for us than we could ask or think. We take up the language of Scripture: we delight to know that “ have passed from death unto lise, because we love the brethren." We know that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." “ We know whom we have believed, and are persuaded that he is able to keep that which we have committed unto him against that day." “ We know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true; and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ." We know that his “flesh is meat indeed, and his blood drink indeed." We “know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor, that we through his poverty might become rich." “ We know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is."
Now how came we in this happy state? How came we feelingly and experimentally to know these heavenly truths ? O “not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name be the glory, for thy mercy and for thy truth's sake."
Beloved, the four leprous men exemplify our condition. Like them, we were cast out of the congregation of the saints: like them we were loathsome in our own eyes : like them, we were infectious to our neighbours : like them, we were under the ban and curse of God; but, like these leprous men, he filled us with views of our own misery, made us discontented with the state in which we were, raised a spark of hope in our bosoms, that for us there might be hope, and that we might, as we could not be in a worse condition, be better, by application to his mercy and grace. And you who hear me this evening, recollect that the day in which we live must necessarily be a day of good tidings." Who brought you to London? Who placed you in such a situation ? Who fixed you, young man, in that counting-house, where the first sermon you heard should be made evidently the power of God to your salvation? O methinks I see your mother, taking her last farewell of you ; and as you went away from the door, she lifted up her voice and she said, “ God bless thee, my son, and make the God of thy father the God of thy life.” And God has answered that prayer; and this is
a day of good tidings” to you. O it was He, who by the operation of his Spirit, applied divinely to your heart: it was He who brought you to listen to its voice: it was He who ordered the visit of that friend; who put that book into your hand; who suggested the visit to such a house, or such a family a