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THE eighth chapter of St. Matthew, å
1. part of which will be the subject of this Lecture, begins with the miraculous curė of the leper, which is related in the following manner:
“ When our Lord was come down from the mountain great multitudes followed him, and behold there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt thou canst make me clean. And Jesus put forth his hand and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean : and immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus saith unto him, see thou tell no man; but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.”
The leprosy is a disorder of the most malignant and disgusting nature. It was once
common in Europe. Those infected with it were called Lazars, who were separated from all human society (the disease being highly contagious) and were confined in hospitals called Lazarettos, of which it is said there were no less than nịne thousand at one time in Europe. For the last two hundred years this distemper has almost entirely vanished from this and other countries of Europe, and an instance of it is now but seldom to be met with. In the East it still exists to a certain degree; and there in former ages it had its source and origin, and raged for a great length of time with extraordinary violence.
In the law of Moses there are very particuļar directions given concerning the treatment of lepers, and a ceremonial appointed for the examination of them by the priest when they were supposed to be cured. But no natural remedy is prescribed by Moses for the cure of it. It was considered by the Jews as a disease sent by God, and to be cured only by his in, terposition. There could not therefore be a stronger proof of our Saviour's divine power than his curing this most loathsome disease, of which many instances besides this occur in the Gospels. The manner too in which he performed this cure was equally an evidence that all the fullness of the Godhead dwelt in him *; it was instantaneous, with a touch, and a few words, and those words the most sublime and dignified that can be imagined: I WILL; BE THOU CLEAN; and immediately the leprosy departed from him. This was plainly the language as well as the act of a God. I WILL; BE THOU CLEAN.
Yet with all this supernatural power there was no ostentation or parade, no arrogant contempt of ancient ceremonies and institutions (which an enthusiast always tramples under foot); but on the contrary a perfect submission
to the established laws and usages of his coun✓ try. He said to the man who was healed,
► See thou tell no man; but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.” Here he gave at once a striking example both of humility and obedience. He enjoined the man to keep secret the astonishing miracle he had wrought, and he com* Coloss. ii. 9.
manded him to comply with the injunctions of Moses; to shew himself to the priest, to undergo the examination, and to offer the sacrifice prescribed by the law*; which at the same time that it shewed his disposition to fulfill all righteousness, established the truth of the miracle beyond all controversy, by making the priest himself the judge of the reality of the cure. This was not the mode which an impostor would have chosen.
After this miracle, the next incident that occurs is the remarkable and interesting story of the centurion, whose servant was cured of the palsy by our Saviour. The relation of this miracle is as follows: 6 When Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him and saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented-tAnd Jesus saith unto
..!him, · * Ley, xiv.
* In the parallel passage of St. Luke, chap. vii. it is said that the centurion sent messengers to Jesus; but no mention is made of his coming to him in person. This difficulty may be cleared up by observing, that in Scripture what any person does by his messengers he is frequently represented as doing by himself. Thus Christ, who preached to the Ephesians by his apostles, is said to have
him, I will come and heal him. The centution answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof, but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me; and I say unto this man go, and he goeth ; and to another come, and he cometh; and to a third do this, and he doeth it. When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed him, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. And Jesus said unto the centurion, go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee; and his servant was healed in the self-same hour.” .
preached to them himself. Eph. ii. 17. But it seems to me not at all improbable, that the centurion may both have sent messengers to Jesus, and afterwards gone to him in person. “ Not thinking himself worthy” (as he himself expresses it) to go to Christ in the first instance, he sent probably the elders of the Jews, and then some of his friends, to implore our Lord to heal his servant, not meaning to give him the trouble of coining to his house. But when he found that Jesus was actually on his way to him, what was more natural for him than to hasten out of his house to meet him, and to make his acknowledgments to him in person?