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MATT. VIII. 1-4. MARK I. 40-45.
LUKE V. 12-16.
THERE was, and there still is, in the land of the East, a dreadful disease called Leprosy. It is very different from any thing we ever see in this country. No medicine, no skill of man has ever been known to cure it. It has been well called a living death, for while the spirit of life is in the leper's body, his flesh rots and decays away as though he were already in his grave. He moves about, and thinks and feels as other men, but he is a terror to himself, and a terror to every one who beholds him.
To this day, in those countries where the leprosy of the East is known, there is always some place given up to the unfortunate creatures who have it, and none who enter that place are ever allowed to leave it.
All cases of leprosy are not bad alike, and the taint is often long in a man's blood before it shows itself to any great degree; but one of the miseries of the disease is this, that it passes on from the parent to the child; so that the unhappy leper has to mourn, not only for himself, but for his children.
When God gave laws to his people Israel, He gave them also signs by which they might know his will; and He made choice
of leprosy to be the outward sign of the ruin sin has brought upon the body and soul of man.
Had there been no sin, there would have been no death; and the awful change that passes upon the dead is the very sign and seal of sin. None can look upon it without the solemn warning" See what sin hath done!" And therefore leprosy, that "living death," was an awful and fit sign of the state of those who give themselves up to open sin. Loathsome and horrible, it shewed what sin is in the sight of God, and what it should be in the sight of man--the terrible disease of the soul, that. by degrees eats into the very core of life, bringing on, inch by inch, that death which is for ever.
It is true that no sickness can befal us unless God permits; but we read in the books of the Old Testament, that He often sent leprosy as a direct punishment to those who rebelled against him; and in all cases, by his laws, the leper was cast out from among his fellow-men, as unclean, unfit to dwell among the people of God. He might not come to offer sacrifice in the temple-he might not even enter any city. He was commanded to dwell alone—to wear the same mourning for himself that men wore for the dead. Bare-headed, with his clothes rent, the lower part of his face covered, sick, suffering, and miserable, not a friend might come near him, for whoever touched the leper was himself, by God's law, unclean. He lived alone, and if he heard the voice or footsteps of some traveller passing by, he was commanded to lift up his voice and cry aloud, "Unclean, unclean!" that all might be warned to turn aside. What a terrible picture of the woes of unforgiven sin! Let the bold sinner think that whatever he may seem to men, this is his real state before God.
But the leper could be healed. All men knew that the power of God, and nothing else, could heal him. He who sent the disease, He alone could take it away; and in the book of Leviticus we read the affecting service that God commanded, and