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was not merely the mighty, but no less the loving, Physician and Healer of the bodies as of the souls of men. The medical details concerning this sickness, and the differences between one kind and another, as between the white leprosy, (neúkn.) which among the Jews was the most frequent, and the yet more terrible elephantiasis, thought by many to have been that with which Job was visited, and so named because in it the feet swelled to an elephantine size, would be here out of place. It is time to return to the consideration of this particular act of healing.
The leper with whom we now have to do, came “and worshipped” Jesus—an act of profound reverence, as from an inferior to a superior, yet not in itself a recognition of any. thing specially divine in him to whom it was offered. The words with which he expresses what he would have from the Lord are remarkable as the utterance of a simple and an humble faith, which is willing to abide the issue, whatever that may be, and having declared its desire, to leave the complying with it or not to an higher wisdom and love: “ Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean*.” There is no questioning here of the power ; nothing of his unbelief who said, “If thou canst do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” (Mark ix. 22.) Whereupon the Lord “put forth his hand and touched him t,” ratifying and approving his utterance of faith, by making the concession of his request in the very words wherein the request itself had been embodied :
* Yet the Romanists in vain endeavour to draw from this passage an approval of the timor diffidentiæ in our prayers which have relation to the things of eternal life, such as the forgiveness of sins, the gift of the Spirit. These we are to ask, assuredly believing that we have them. There is this uncertainty in the leper's request, because he is asking a temporal benefit, which must always be asked under conditions, and which may be refused, though the refusing is indeed a granting of the petition in an higher form. (See Gerhard's Loc. Theoll., loc. 17, S 138.)
+ Tertullian (Adv. Marc., l. 4, c. 35): Quoniam ipse erat authenticus Pontifex Dei Patris, inspexit illos secundùm Legis arcanum, significantis Christum esse verum disceptatorem et climatorem humanaruin macularum.
“ I will, be thou clean *.” This touching of the unclean by Christ is itself remarkable, seeing that such contact had been forbidden in the Law. (Lev. xiv. 46.) The adversaries of the Law, the Gnostics of old, said that Christ did this to mark his contempt for its ordinances, and in witness that he did not recognize it as coming from the good Deity f. But Tertullian gives the true answer to this I. He first shews what was the deeper meaning of forbidding to touch the ceremonially unclean, namely, that we should not defile our souls through being partakers in other men's sins, as St. Paul, with allusion, no doubt, to these ceremonial prohibitions, and giving them their higher spiritual significance, exclaims, “Come out from among them, and be ye separate, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.” (2 Cor. vi. 17.) And these outer prohibitions held good for all, till the coming in of him who was incontaminable, in whom first the tide of this world's evil was arrested and rolled back.
---* Bengel: Echo prompta ad fidem leprosi maturam. Ipsa leprosi oratio continebat verba responsionis optatæ.
+ Tertullian (Adı. Marc., 1. 4, c. 9): It æmulus Legis tetigit leprosum nihil faciens præceptum legis, per contemptum inquinamenti.
# Ibid. : Non pigebit . . . figuratæ legis vim ostendere ; quæ in exemplo leprosi non contingendi, immo ab omni commercio submovendi, communicationem prohibebat hominis delictis commaculati; cum qualibus et apostolus cibum quoque vetat sumere; participari enim stigmata delictorum, quasi ex contagione, si quis se cum peccatore miscuerit. Itaque Dominus volens altius intelligi Legem, per carnalia spiritalia significantem; et hoc nomine non destruens sed magis exstruens quam pertinentius volebat agnosci, tetigit leprosum, à quo etsi homo inquinari potuisset, Deus utique non inquinaretur, incontaminabilis scilicet. Ita non præscribetur illi quod debuerit legem observare, et non contingere immundum, quem contactus immundi non erat inquinaturus. He is not so successful in his interpretation of the spiritual significance, when elsewhere (De Pudicit., c. 20,) he goes into more details in the matter. So Calvin (in loc.): Ea est in Christo puritas, quæ omnes sordes et inquinamenta absorbeat, neque se contaminat leprosum tangendo, neque Legem transgreditur; and he beautifully finds in his stretching forth the hand and touching, a symbol of the Incarnation : Nec tamen quidquam inde macule contraxit, sed integer manens, sordes omnes nostras exhausit, et nos perfudit suâ sanctitate. So II. de Sto. Victore: Lepram tetigit, et mundus permansit, quia verain humanitatis formam sumpsit, et culpam non contraxit.
Another would have defiled himself by touching the leper; but he, himself remaining undefiled, cleansed him whom he touched; for in him life overcame death,--and health, sickness,—and purity, defilement. In him, in its most absolute sense, that word was fulfilled, “ Unto the pure all things are pure.”
Ambrose and many others suppose that the Lord's injunction to the man that he should not divulge his cure, was intended to teach his followers that they too should avoid ostentation in their acts of mercy, lest, as he says, they should be themselves taken with a worse leprosy than any which they healed * But if the motive to this prohibition was external, and had not reference to the inner moral condition of the receiver of the benefit, I should think that our Lord's purpose was more likely this, that his stiller ministry might not be hindered or disturbed by the inopportune flowing to him of multitudes, who should be drawn to him merely by the hope of sharing the same worldly benefits, as we see was the case on this very occasion, (Mark i. 45,) nor yet by the premature violence of his enemies, roused to a more active and keener hate by the great things which were published of him. (John xi. 46, 47 f.) But there has been already occasion to observe, that probably a deeper purpose lay at the root of this injunction to silence, as of the opposite command to go and proclaim the great things of God's mercy. The precepts to tell or to conceal were interchangeably given according to the different moral conditions of the different persons whom Christ healed. On the present occasion it seems very probable, according to the suggestion of Grotius and Bengel, that the words,“ See thou tell no man,” are to be taken with
• Exp. in Luc., I. 5, c. 5: Sed ne lepra transire possit in medicum, unusquisque Dominicæ humilitatis exemplo jactantiam vitet. Cur enim præcipitur nemini dicere, nisi ut doceret non vulganda nostra beneficia, sed premenda ? So Chrysostom: 'Atúpous rjpas Tilpaskeváčwv vai ikevoðóçous.
po See a good note by Hammond on Matt. viii. 4. Calvin : Tanta erat vulgi opportunitas in flagitandis miraculis, ut non restaret doctrinæ locus.
this limitation,—“till thou hast shewn thyself to the priests; lest if a rumour of these things go before thee, the priests at Jerusalem, out of envy, out of a desire to depreciate my work, may deny either that thou wast before a leper, or else that thou art now truly cleansed *.” We may find perhaps indications of something of this kind in the words of St. Mark, "he forthwith sent him away,” or, put him forth t; he would allow no lingering, but required him to hasten on his errand, lest the report of what had been done should outrun him.
Some understand the words, “ for a testimony unto them," as meaning “for a testimony even to these gainsayers that I am come, not to destroy the Law, but to fulfil it, to remove nothing, not even a shadow, till I have brought in the substance in its room 1. These Levitical offerings I still allow and uphold, since that to which they point is not yet fully given g.” But I cannot doubt that the true meaning of the words is " for a testimony against them ll; for a witness against their unbelief, who are refusing to give credence to me, even while I am attesting myself to be all which I claim to be, by
• Thus the Auct. Oper. Imperf. (IIom. 21): Ideo eum jubet offerre munera, ut si postmodum vellent eum expellere, diceret eis : Munera quasi à mundato suscepistis, et quomodo me quasi leprosum expellitis ? Si leprosus adhuc fui, munera accipere non debuistis quasi à mundato : si autem mundus factus sum, repellere non debetis quasi leprosum. Witsius (De Nirac. Jesu. I. 1, p. 32): Idcirco addidit Jesus hæc à se ita juberi eis hap. Túplov autois, ne deinceps ullâ specie negari miraculum possit, et ut, dum eorum judicio approbatus, munus obtulisset, testimonium contra se haberent, impiè se facere, quod Christo obluctarentur.
t 'Egibalev autóv.
# So Tertullian in his controversy with the Gnostics (Adv. Marc., l. 4, C. 9): Quantùm enim ad gloriæ humanæ aversionem pertinebat, vetuit eum divulgare, quantùm autem ad tutelam Legis, jussit ordinem impleri. Bengel: Ut testimonium illis exhibeatur, de Messià præsente, Legi non deroganti.
$ Augustine (Quast. Evang., l. 2, qu. 3): Quia nonduin esse cæperat sacrificium sanctum sanctorum, quod corpus ejus est.
|| Cf. Mark vi. 11, where the same phrase, els Map Túplov autois, occurs with the parallel Luke ix. 5, where it appears eis naptópiové autous, and where the context, even without this additional proof, would shew beyond a doubt what the meaning was.
such mighty works as these ; works of which they themselves shall have ratified the reality by the acceptance of thy gift, by thy re-admission, as one truly cleansed, into the congregation of the people*.” (John y. 36.) For the purpose of his going to the priest was this, that the priest might ascertain the fact, if really his leprosy had left him, (Lev. xiv. 3,) and, if so, might accept his gift t, and offer it as an atonement for him ; and might then, when all was duly accomplished, pronounce him clean and admit him anew into the congregation of Israel 1.
• Maldonatus: Ut inexcusabiles essent sacerdotes, si in ipsum non crederent, cujus miracula probâssent.
+ Awpov is used for a bloody offering by the LXX., as Gen. iv. 4; Lev. i. 2, 3, 10. So also several times in the Epistle to the Hebrews, as viii. 4, where the owpa is evidently equivalent to the owpa te kai Quoías of the verse preceding, therefore also of v. 1. Cf. Matt. v. 23. Tertullian (Adv. Marc., 1. 4, c. 9) brings out too much the idea of a thank-offering in this gift which the man is bidden to offer, which properly it was not, though the words were admirable, applied to such : Argumenta enim figurata utpote prophetatie legis adhuc in suis imaginibus tuebantur, quâ significabant hominem quondam peccatorem, verbo mox Dei emaculatum, offerre debere munus Deo apud templum, orationem scilicet et actionem gratiarum apud Ecclesiam, per Christum Jesum, catholicum Patris Sacerdotem.
+ All the circumstances of the leper's cleansing yielded themselves so aptly to the theory of Church satisfactions, as it gradually formed itself in the middle ages, that it is not to be wondered at that it was used at least as an illustration, often as an argument. Yet even then we find the great truth, of Christ the alone Cleanser, often brought out as the most prominent. Thus by Gratian (De Pænitentiâ, Dist. i.): Ut Dominus ostenderet quod non sacerdotali judicio, sed largitate divinæ gratiæ peccato emundatur, leprosum tangendo mundavit, et postea sacerdoti sacrificium ex lege offerre præcepit. Leprosus enim tangitur, cùm respectu divinæ pietatis mens peccatoris illustrata compungitur. ... Leprosus semetipsum sacerdoti repræsentat, dum peccatum suum sacerdoti pænitens confitetur. Sacrificium ex lege offert, dum satisfactionem Ecclesiæ judicio sibi impositam factis exsequitur. Sed antequam ad sacerdotem perveniat, emundatur, dum per contritionem cordis ante confessionem oris peccati veniâ indulgetur. Cf. Pet. Lombard (Sent., l. 4, dist. 18): Dominus leprosum sanitate prius per se restituit, deinde ad sacerdotes misit, quorum judicio ostenderetur mundatus. ... Quia etsi aliquis apud Deum sit solutus, non tamen in facie Ecclesiæ solutus habetur, nisi per judicium sacerdotis. In solvendis ergo culpis vel retinendis ita operatur sacerdos evangelicus et judicat, sicut olim legalis in illis, qui contaminati erant leprâ, quæ peccatum cignat.