Muncie, Ind., March 17, 1858.
BROTHER BEEBE: - I find in the fifth number of the current volume of the SIGNS OF THE TIMES, a communication from sister Dutton, of Texas, in which she requests my views on the ten lepers who were cleansed, and of the one that returned to give glory to God. I consider myself a poor expositor, but perhaps that consideration should not exonerate me from giving such views as I may have. I do so the more readily through the SIGNS, because there are so many able communicators to overhaul them, and who I trust will be faithful enough to correct any mistakes that I may make, or detect and amend any error that I may advance, so that others may not be troubled with them.
The circumstances alluded to are found in the 17th chapter of the gospel recorded by Luke, 12-19 verses.
I consider, in the first place, that the case exhibits a notable miracle performed by our Lord, one that is calculated to display a most convincing proof of his eternal power and Godhead, and thereby to confirm and establish the truth and authenticity of his everlasting gospel. Perhaps there is no malady to which humanity is incident, that is more direful and appalling in its nature, or one that has more effectually baffled the skill of earthly physicians, than leprosy. In the progress of the disease the surface of the body becomes affected with grievous ulcers, the skin thickened and scaly, the features and voice changed, the ulcers not infrequently extending to the toes and fingers, which separate joint after joint, the breath becomes highly offensive, fetid virulent sores cover the body, which at length becomes a mass of corruption, wastes away, the hair falls off the head, and at last the wretched sufferer sinks under the weight of misery. The medical faculty have ransacked the Materia Medica to find an antidote, but all their researches have ended in disappointment, and yet a touch or a word from the divine Immanuel could check its malignity and perfect a cure.
"And it came to pass as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off; and they lifted up their voices and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us." This circumstance transpired no doubt according to the pre-arrangement of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will. This divine arrangement led him through the midst of Samaria. Samaria was the land of the Ephraimites. Ephraim was a conspicuous character in the scriptures, and a subject of much prophecy. At one time we hear it said, He is joined to idols; at another, He is a cake not turned. Yet the Lord says, "Is Ephraim my dear son? Is he a pleasant child? For since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still; therefore my bowels are troubled for him; I WILL SURELY HAVE MERCY UPON HIM." Here, in his unerring providence, is a fit opportunity for the exhibition of his mercy. Another, equally as well arranged and conducted, was when he left Judea and must needs go through Samaria, which lay between Judea and Galilee, to meet the woman at Jacob's well, who proved to be another of those vessels of mercy, together with others, who dwelt in the city of Sychar, in the country of Samaria. Perhaps these circumstances contributed no little in opening the way for the labors of Philip, and the reception of his brethren who were scattered in the great persecution which was against the church at Jerusalem, and Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them, and they received the word of the Lord. - Luke viii. 1, 5, 14.
The all-wise Savior always paves the way for his servants, the preachers of his gospel, before he sends them to their respective field of labor, as was exhibited when Abraham was about to procure a wife for Isaac, he told his servant that the Lord would send his angel before him.
All newly organized missionary machinations, aided by their ill-gotten earthly treasures, measures, means and instrumentalities, if combined to one effort, can never eject one Ephraimite from the temple of his idols, nor will it ever be done until the Lord bends Judah for him and fills his bow with Ephraim.- Zeh. ix. 13. While Ephraim was joined to idols, the Lord said, "Let him alone." He would have no means used. But the means-mechanics are not willing to do so. They would sooner take the lead themselves and have the Lord follow them to bless the means. They prefer to compass sea and land to make their own proselytes, for they will better subserve their interests. But when the Lord takes the "cake not turned" in hand, he cries, "Turn thou me, and I shall be turned, for thou art the Lord my God." When the Lord turns him he says, "Surely after that I was instructed I smote upon my thigh. I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth." The time had come, for an Ephraimite was to be turned, and they stood afar off, and lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.
Perhaps they were not permitted to approach the company, for the Jewish law forbade the lepers to mingle with the multitude, to guard against the spread of the disease by infection or contagion. And when he saw them he said unto them, Go, shew yourselves to the priests.
But why shew themselves to the priests? Not that they might be the means of cleansing them, for, As they went they were cleansed. Doubtless, then, it was for the purpose of stopping their mouths. Christ and his apostles did not fail on all proper occasions, both by morals and examples; but when his servants pursue that course they are denounced as fighters by Arminians, and sometimes by their tender-toed or weak-eyed brethren, who will often cry PEACE, where war is absolutely necessary.
And one of them, when he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at his feet, giving thanks, and he was a Samaritan. Where the other nine were, is not said. This one, however, was a Samaritan, or in other words, a true Ephraimite. Now perhaps one of the most prominent ideas and necessary lessons conveyed and taught in the whole connection, is the fact that whatever judgments or mercies may be visited upon the depraved sons of Adam, nothing short of the inward work of the life-giving Spirit of God, and the gift in faith of the Son of God, will ever cause them to give glory to God.
"And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God save this stranger." And he said unto him, "Arise, go thy way, thy faith hath made thee whole."
Men often cry to God for mercy when afflicted with pain or misery, or when terrified with the fear of torment, and not infrequently make great pretensions to reverence, and often "get religion," ["our religion"] in that way; but when their sufferings are removed or their fears subsided, where are they? Like the nine, none returned to give glory to God, who removes, their diseases; but it happens to them, according to the true proverb, The dog is returned to his vomit again, and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire. The Lord asks, Where are the nine? Not intending that we should attempt to trace their steps and ascertain their particular abodes, but evidently to impress upon our minds that they did not return to glorify him, although he had cleansed them in removing one of the most foul, appalling, and (save by him) incurable diseases.
Many of us no doubt recollect in our former lives passing through scenes of sickness and pain, when our bodily sufferings and mental agony would extort cries for mercy in the time of our affliction, and when, too, we have been liberal with our promises to reform; but how soon are our promises as well as our Deliverer forgotten when our maladies are removed.
My sister, can we not say with the poet, even now, when we trust that the Lord has blessed us with sensibilities to appreciate his mercy:
"Thy judgments too, unmoved I hear,
(Amazing thought) which devils fear;
Goodness and wrath in vain combine,
To stir this stupid heart of mine?"
Then it takes something more than mortal diseases or their miraculous cures to bring us to the feet of Jesus, and cause us to give him glory. His Spirit, the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, must rouse as from the slumbers of death, and thereby make us feel the malady of sin, worse than leprosy, and also give us faith to behold the Lamb of God who hung upon the blood-stained cross, groaning under the ponderous weight of our sins, and writhing beneath the withering curse of the righteous law that we had transgressed, until his quivering lips were sealed in death for our sins, and thereby an eternal redemption obtained for us. Was ever love like this?
"O, love divine, all love excelling,
Joy from heaven to earth come down;
Fix in us thine humble dwelling,
All thy faithful mercies crown!"
Imbecile and powerless as we are by nature to give thanks and glory to God, prone as we are to forget his mercies and wander heedlessly from him, HIS divine power will raise a revenue of eternal glory to his worthy name, by giving unto us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of HIM that hath called us to glory and virtue. Those gifts brought the returning leper to his Deliverer's feet and caused him to thank and glorify him, while the nine (as I conclude) only had a temporal care performed, and therefore were not careful to return for that purpose.
Brother Beebe, if you think the foregoing remarks are calculated to be of any service to sister Dutton, or others, you can publish them, otherwise dispose of them in any way you may think best. They are the best I have, and should they prove beneficial in any degree to any of our Father's family, I shall be fully remunerated for the time that I have spent in thus hastily penning them. In conclusion, accept of the special regard and best desires for yourself and for all the household of faith.
Most truly, your brother,
J. F. JOHNSON.