Brother Beebe: Please give your views on Luke xvii. 12-17.
Reply: The passage referred to is an account of the miraculous cleansing and healing of ten lepers. This gracious display of His divine power appears to have been made in a certain village of Samaria and one of the lepers which was healed was a Samaritan; the others may have all been Jews, and probably were. The leprosy was a very loathsome and infectious disease which was known in that eastern country, and which we are informed by travelers still exists in that part of the world. This disease is sometimes used as a figure of the pollution and loathsomeness of sin; especially when the quickened sinner is awakened to a sense of his guilty state as a transgressor of the law of God, he is like the lepers in our text, made to feel that they are polluted, unclean and loathsome, and that their only hope for deliverance is in the Lord Jesus Christ; that no human power can cleanse them; that they cannot cleanse themselves, but, like another leper of whom we read, they do believe that if Jesus will, he can cleanse them. But the anxious enquiry with them is, Will he? This is the last hope, if he will not, then I must die in my pollution, for vain is the help of man. Lepers were not allowed to mingle with the congregation of Israel; the law pronounced them unclean, and banished them from the camp. So the poor sinner, when he feels his malady, sees himself condemned by the law, and forbidden to mingle with the people of God. The ten stood afar off and cried to Jesus for mercy. Their uncleanness forbid that they should approach the Savior, like the convicted sinner, who feels in deed that he is very far from Jesus, far from mercy; yet from dire necessity they cry, they cannot refrain, as there is no possibility of deliverance from any other source, or any other way. Therefore they cry, “Oh Jesus, if thou wilt, thou canst cleanse me!” Or, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us”. In answer to the piteous cry of the ten lepers, Jesus commanded them to go and show themselves to the priest. This was in obedience to the ceremonial law. The priest was to judge and decide all cases of leprosy among the children of Israel, according to the thirteenth chapter of Leviticus. Therefore, they were sent to shew themselves to the priest. And so when Jesus cleanseth a poor guilt-stricken sinner from the defilement of sin, he bids him shew himself to the priest, or legal judge. The law examines him, and as the blood of Christ has cleansed him from all guilt, the law can no longer shut him up in despair, or hold him guilty. The cure is perfect. But a righteousness that will not meet the vigorous demands of the law of God can do the sinner no good. The righteousness of the law must be fulfilled in us, according to Rom. Viii. 1-4.
In our text, ten lepers were cleansed, but only one returned to give glory to God. The cure of leprosy in the flesh could be, and probably was often effected without effecting a deliverance from the leprosy of sin. This may have been the case with the nine who returned not to give glory to God. But the Samaritan was a subject of saving faith. Jesus said to him, “Thy faith hath made thee whole.” We are not informed whether the nine had any faith, except that natural faith which led them to believe that Jesus could cure their leprosy. The Samaritans were despised by the Jews, and were by regarded as abandoned characters, and less entitled to e favor of God than themselves. But Jesus often reproved
them the selfrighteousness of the Jews, as in this case; the one who returned with gratitude to the Savior was distinguished as a Samaritan.
There are many who sometimes appear to us to be deeply sensible of their lost and perishing state as sinners, and who profess to experience a deliverance from their burden, and to rejoice in Christ as their Savior, who never return to give God the glory of their deliverance, by espousing his cause, taking on them his yoke, and following them in the order and ordinances of his kingdom. May not the same enquiry be made concerning them? Were there not ten cleansed; but where are the nine? We cannot tell where they are, because we are not informed. Whether they are really subjects of saving grace, and living in disobedience or ingratitude, or whether their fleshly natures only have been affected. “If ye love me”, saith Jesus, “keep my commandments”
Middletown, N. Y.
June 1, 1861
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 4
Pages 506 - 508