Here is, I. The cleansing of a leper, Luke 5:12-14. This narrative we had both in Matthew and Mark. It is here said to have been in a certain city (Luke 5:12); it was in Capernaum, but the evangelist would not name it, perhaps because it was a reflection upon the government of the city that a leper was suffered to be in it. This man is said to be full of leprosy; he had that distemper in a high degree, which the more fitly represents our natural pollution by sin; we are full of that leprosy, from the crown of the head to the sole of the foot there is no soundness in us. Now let us learn here,
1. What we must do in the sense of our spiritual leprosy. (1.) We must seek Jesus, enquire after him, acquaint ourselves with him, and reckon the discoveries made to us of Christ by the gospel the most acceptable and welcome discoveries that could be made to us. (2.) We must humble ourselves before him, as this leper, seeing Jesus, fell on his face. We must be ashamed of our pollution, and, in the sense of it, blush to lift up our faces before the holy Jesus. (3.) We must earnestly desire to be cleansed from the defilement, and cured of the disease, of sin, which renders us unfit for communion with God. (4.) We must firmly believe Christ’s ability and sufficiency to cleanse us: Lord, thou canst make me clean, though I be full of leprosy. No doubt is to be made of the merit and grace of Christ. (5.) We must be importunate in prayer for pardoning mercy and renewing grace: He fell on his face and besought him; they that would be cleansed must reckon it a favour worth wrestling for. (6.) We must refer ourselves to the good-will of Christ: Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst. This is not so much the language of his diffidence, or distrust of the good-will of Christ, as of his submission and reference of himself and his case to the will, to the good-will, of Jesus Christ.
2. What we may expect from Christ, if we thus apply ourselves to him. (1.) We shall find him very condescending and forward to take cognizance of our case (Luke 5:13): He put forth his hand and touched him. When Christ visited this leprous world, unasked, unsought unto, he showed how low he could stoop, to do good. His touching the leper was wonderful condescension; but it is much greater to us when he is himself touched with the feeling of our infirmities. (2.) We shall find him very compassionate, and ready to relieve us; he said, “I will, never doubt of that; whosoever comes to me to be healed, I will in no wise cast him out.” He is as willing to cleanse leprous souls as they can be to be cleansed. (3.) We shall find him all-sufficient, and able to heal and cleanse us, though we be ever so full of this loathsome leprosy. One word, one touch, from Christ, did the business: Immediately the leprosy departed from him. If Christ saith, “I will, be thou justified, be thou sanctified,” it is done; for he has power on earth to forgive sin, and power to give the Holy Spirit, 1 Cor. 6:11.
3. What he requires from those that are cleansed, Luke 5:14. Has Christ sent his word and healed us? (1.) We must be very humble (Luke 5:14): He charged him to tell no man. This, it should seem, did not forbid him telling it to the honour of Christ, but he must not tell it to his own honour. Those whom Christ hath healed and cleansed must know that he hath done it in such a way as for ever excludes boasting. (2.) We must be very thankful, and make a grateful acknowledgment of the divine grace: Go, and offer for thy cleansing. Christ did not require him to give him a fee, but to bring the sacrifice of praise to God; so far was he from using his power to the prejudice of the law of Moses. (3.) We must keep close to our duty; go to the priest, and those that attend him. The man whom Christ had made whole he found in the temple, John 5:14. Those who by any affliction have been detained from public ordinances should, when the affliction is removed, attend on them the more diligently, and adhere to them the more constantly.
4. Christ’s public serviceableness to men and his private communion with God; these are put together here, to give lustre to each other.
(1.) Though never any had so much pleasure in his retirements as Christ had, yet he was much in a crowd, to do good, Luke 5:15. Though the leper should altogether hold his peace, yet the thing could not be hid,so much the more went there a fame abroad of him. The more he sought to conceal himself under a veil of humility, the more notice did people take of him; for honour is like a shadow, which flees from those that pursue it (for a man to seek his own glory is not glory), but follows those that decline it, and draw from it. The less good men say of themselves, the more will others say of them. But Christ reckoned it a small honour to him that his fame went abroad; it was much more so that hereby multitudes were brought to receive benefit by him. [1.] By his preaching. They came together to hear him, and to receive instruction from him concerning the kingdom of God. [2.] By his miracles. They came to be healed by him of their infirmities; that invited them to come to hear him, confirmed his doctrine, and recommended it.
(2.) Though never any did so much good in public, yet he found time for pious and devout retirements (Luke 5:16): He withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed; not that he needed to avoid either distraction or ostentation, but he would set us an example, who need to order the circumstances of our devotion so as to guard against both. It is likewise our wisdom so to order our affairs as that our public work and our secret work may not intrench upon, nor interfere with, one another. Note, Secret prayer must be performed secretly; and those that have ever so much to do of the best business in this world must keep up constant stated times for it.
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