Sermon 1903. Who Found It Out?
A SERMON DELIVERED ON LORD'S-DAY MORNING, JUNE 6, 1886,
BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"And there were four leprous men at the entrance of the gate and they said to one another, Why are we sitting here until wedie? If we say, We will enter into the city, then the famine is in the city, and we shall die there. And if we sithere, wedie also. Now therefore, come, let us surrender to the army of the Syrians. If they keep us alive, we shall live, and if theykill us, we shall only die. And they rose at twilight, to go to the camp of the Syrians: and when they had come to the outskirtsof the Syrian camp, to their surprise, no one was there. For the Lord had made the host of the Syrians to hear a noise ofchariots, and a noise of horses even the noise of a great host: and they said to one another, Look the king of Israel hashired against us the kings of the Hittites, and the kings of the Egyptians, to come upon us. Therefore they arose and fledin the twilight, and left their tents, and their horses, and their asses, even the camp as it was, and fled for their lives."2 Kings 7:3-7.
THE story of four leprous men inserted in the Book of the Kings of Israel-is it not amazing? No, it is not amazing for theBible. If you were to take out of the Scriptures all the stories that have to do with poor afflicted men and women, what avery small book the Bible would become, especially if together with the stories, you removed all the Psalms of the sorrowful,all the promises for the distressed and all the passages which belong to the children of grief! This Book, indeed, for themost part is made up of the annals of the poor and despised! Think for a minute what space is occupied with the life of theman who was separated from his brothers, sold for a slave and put in prison in Egypt! What a large part of the Bible is occupiedby the writings of one who was a babe exposed on the Nile and afterwards kept a flock for 40 years in the wilderness! We couldnot part with the account of the man who lost all his property and children in one day-and sat among the ashes, covered withsore boils. We could not spare the story of the two widows who came together empty-handed from the land of Moab, one of whomwent to glean in the fields of Boaz. Nor the history of that woman of a sorrowful spirit and her little boy, around whom thehope of Israel gathered in the dark days of Eli's feeble rule.
Page after page of Holy Writ is enriched with the experience of that youth who was taken from tending the flock to becomethe champion of his country and was afterwards hunted like a partridge upon the mountain by the envious king. We could notgive up the history of the Prophet of sorrow, nor of the fugitive who was cast into the sea, nor even the minor incidentsof the widow of Sarepta and her barrel of meal-and the Prophet's widow whose creditor was about to seize her children forher husband's debts. Nor do lepers fall behind. We have two stories of lepers close together- Naaman the Syrian and the fourin our text at Samaria's gate. They were wisely put forth from Israel, but they were not put forth from Israel's God!
It is clear enough that the poor and the needy are not only observed by our great King, but the pen of the Holy Spirit hasbeen much occupied in recording their affairs. You that are poor and needy, you that are sick and sorrowful, you whose livesare spent in mourning, listen to this discourse and may the Lord comfort your hearts! On a future day, when the great booksof history which, as yet, are only known to the recording angel, shall be read of all men, your story will appear and maybeit will be as memorable as that of Hannah or Joseph-and God will get as much Glory out of what He has done for you as fromany of the deeds of His love recorded in the Inspired pages. Remember that the New Testament runs in the same strain. Underthe economy of Grace, our Lord Jesus Christ is seen living among fishermen and peasants-and calling the poor to be His disciples!"God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and thingswhich are despised, has God chosen; yes, and things which are not, to bring to nothing things that are." It is worthwhileto be among the poor, the despised and the sad, to have your record on high and to magnify the condescension of the Lord!It is in the hope that some disconsolate ones may be cheered that I speak at this time. Oh, that some leprous ones may goforth today and make a grand discovery! I desire to preach, praying in the Holy Spirit that the Holy Spirit may bless theword and move many to rise out of their despair and say, "Why are we sitting here until we die?"
I. First, I call your attention to A GREAT WORK OF GOD WHICH WAS ENTIRELY UNKNOWN. The city of Samaria had been shut up forsome time by the Syrian army. Famine had fallen upon the people and driven them to horrible straits. One can hardly bear toread of mothers devouring their own babies through stress of hunger. God sent His servant Elisha to tell them that the nextday there should be a superabundance of food in the gates of Samaria, but the message was received with open ridicule. Nosooner was the promise given than the Lord began to carry it out. It is the way with Him, to be true to His Word. Howevergreat the promise, it is as sure as it is great! And so, before the sun went down, the Lord had caused Israel's enemies toflee and had opened magazines of food for hungry Samaria. Without human aid Jehovah had accomplished His promise and muchmore!
The siege was raised from around Samaria. Armed men had stood in their places and kept the way so that none could go in orout-but they were all gone-not one of them is left! The troopers had fled on foot and left their steeds tethered in rows!Captains and common soldiers had, alike, taken to their heels in hot haste, flying helter-skelter, like frightened sheep.No host threatened the city-it sat on its hill in the twilight, lonely and free. Yet in the city of Samaria they thought themselvescooped up and set their warders on the wall because of fear in the night. Everybody who went to bed that night felt that hewas still in that horrible den where grim death seemed actually present in the skeleton forms of the hunger-bitten. They wereas free as the harts of the wilderness had they known it, but their ignorance held them in vile durance.
The Lord had also defeated all their enemies. They had run for their lives! They had fled because of a noise in their earsas of horses and of chariots. He that could first get across the Jordan and place that stream between him and his supposedpursuers was the happiest man. Without aid from Hittite or Ethiopian, the God of Israel had driven the whole host of Syrialike chaff before the wind! Israel had not, now, this side of the Jordan, a single foe to attack her! And yet she knew notthat the Lord's right hand and His holy arm had gotten Him the victory. They set guards to protect them from a foe which wasno longer present and the sentinels paced up and down the walls and spoke to each other in the hoarse voice of starving men,guarding the walls against an imaginary foe! O Samaria, had you known the gift of God, your silent streets would have rungwith shouts of joy! Your children, instead of cowering down in hunger upon wretched pallets, would have kindled torches andlit up the night as they hastened to feast upon the plenty which their enemies had bequeathed them! God works and man perceivesit not-therefore is man unhappy and God is not praised as He should be.
God had provided plenty for them. The wretched Samaritans drew the hunger-belt more closely about them and each man hopedthat he might sleep for many an hour and forget his bitter pangs. Yet within a stone's throw there was more fine flour andbarley than they could possibly consume! They were starving in the midst of plenty! They were pining when they might havebeen feasting! They believed not God and looked not for relief.
Was not that a strange thing? A city besieged, and not besieged? A city girt with enemies, as they thought, and yet not anenemy left? A city starving and yet near to a feast? See, dear Friends, what unbelief can do? They had been promised plentyright speedily by God's own Prophet, but they did not believe the promise, nor look for its fulfillment. Had they been uponthe watch, they might have seen the unusual movement in the Syrian camp and noticed the absolute stillness which succeededit.
I know a sad parallel to this. The Lord Jesus Christ has come into the world and has put away the sin of His people and yetmany of them are complaining that their sin can never be put away! The Lord Jesus Christ has routed all the enemies of Hispeople and yet they are afraid of innumerable evils! None is left to harm them, but they do not remember that the Lord reigns!They are afraid of this and afraid of that-and yet in one tremendous battle the Champion of the Cross has routed all theirfoes! They are no longer shut up as prisoners. The Lord has brought them liberty, but they are not aware of it by reason oftheir unbelief! The Word of God has revealed all this very plainly and the ministers of Christ proclaim it from day to day-butthrough unbelief they are still sorrowful, desponding and despairing-in bondage and
woe. They will not believe and, therefore, they cannot he happy. How sad is this unbelief which renders even the Truth ofGod, itself, untrue to us and darkens our sun at midday! Our unbelief is our worst enemy!
It is said that drowning men catch at straws-would you not have thought that famishing men might have caught at the word ofElisha? I grant you the promise did seem too great to be true-that lord who scoffed at it was not the only one who judgedit to be impossible of fulfillment-and yet when men are brought so very low, they are apt to catch at any hope. How hardenedwas the unbelief which refused Jehovah's Word! Out of the whole population of Samaria, there was not one who had such faithin Elisha's promise as to drop over the wall from a window and go out to see whether the Lord was fulfilling His Word! Itwas solemnly promised; it was grievously needed and yet not a soul believed it! Another dreary night is closing in, Samariais in her pangs and yet, did she know it, her citizens might dance for joy! I do not know whether I have given you any ideaof the scene which rises so vividly before me, but it seems to me to be a very amazing sight-a multitude in the last stageof starvation, perishing with hunger, absolutely dropping dead as they tried to pace the streets-and yet food within sightand reach! They believed themselves to be prisoners, yet no birds could be more free! They regarded themselves as surroundedby deadly enemies, yet never was the land more clear of invaders!
Even thus are we constantly seeing the Lord's elect and redeemed ones counting themselves rejected and fearing that they shallperish! I see those for whom Christ has shed His blood still refusing to rest in His finished work and rejoice in His gloriousvictory! Still do I see those for whom there is laid up a crown of life that fades not away and who are inheritors of allCovenant blessings, wringing their hands in the destitution of unbelief and pining away in wretched fear where there shouldbe no fear! Their soul refuses to be comforted and yet all comfort is theirs. Alas, the case is common!
II. When you have realized the picture of the city abiding in sorrow though its deliverance had already come, I want, in thesecond place, to remark upon a VERY SINGULAR BAND OF DISCOVERERS. A choice group of four at last found out what the Lord haddone, proved it for themselves and made it known to their fellow townsmen. Is it not remarkable that these discoverers werelepers? These were the first to discover that Jehovah had gotten the victory, scattered the armies of Syria and brought helpto His people. These poor diseased beings were compelled to live in shanties outside the city gate and to keep themselvesapart from all others. Fed from day to day with food passed over the wall, so long as there was any to pass over, they rottedaway in horrible loathsomeness. What a wretched sight! I will not ask you to step into their hut. There are four living skeletonsand what flesh remains on them is foul with the hideous marks of leprosy. Their bodies are corrupting in life! They move about,poor sick things as they are, more than half dead. They have had no food sent to them of late and they must not go for relief.No man cares for them. The best thing that could possibly happen to them would be to die and yet are a clinging to life. Theywere outcasts, off casts. Israel had thrust them outside her gates. Their own friends and families were obliged to be separatedfrom them.
These were the discoverers of what God had done! It is a wonderful thing that those who are most conscious of sin, most despisedof men and least likely to be favored, are often those upon whom Jehovah has fixed the eyes of His electing love. The chariotof His Grace passes by the towers of haughty kings, but it stops at the hovel of poverty-even at the prison of despair! TheLord looks on the chief of sinners and says, "Here will I display My Grace. Here shall the wonders of My love be seen." Lepersare not the only ones whom men cast out, nor are they the only persons whom God full often stoops to bless. Some who feelloathsome, vile and self-abhorred may be before me now, dreaming that it is impossible for God to bless them-yet these arethe characters whom He delights to save! Ah, Grace-you are known to dwell in most unlikely places! You would have supposedthat, surely, the king would have gone forth to see, or that yonder great lord who had ridiculed the Prophet might have relentedand gone forth to observe!
But no, there are last that shall be first and the Lord, in His Providence and Grace, chose lepers to be the discoverers ofHis marvelous miracle! Even thus the keenest observers of Grace are those who have the deepest sense of sin. I always liketo address myself to the most hopeless grade of experience-to those who are most desponding and despairing-for these are thepeople who will welcome Free Grace, since they feel their need of it. Talk of charity to the rich and they will spurn you.Talk of it to the destitute and they will welcome you! Speak of Free Grace and dying love to self-righteous persons and theyare deaf to you. But those who are guilty and know it, welcome the promise of free pardon! I have to tell this morning ofpure, rich, free, undeserved favor which God displays to the guiltiest of the guilty! Those who are, in their own esteem,at the lowest ebb are always the first to understand the wonders of Grace!
These men could not hope for a welcome from the Syrians. Poor objects that they were, they would be hated as Israelites andalso abhorred as lepers-yet they went-and in that camp they found all that they needed and much more than they expected. AmI not speaking to some who are saying, "For me, to go to Christ would be all in vain. I can suppose His blessing my brother,or my friend, but He never will receive one so altogether unworthy as I am"? That was my imagination once. I believed in thesalvation of everybody except myself. It seemed to me as if a special plague and a peculiar curse had lighted upon my natureand withered my heart. It was not so, as I soon proved when once I went to Jesus. But how could I expect to be accepted? I,who had sinned against light and knowledge, and spurned the Grace of God when it came to me so lovingly? I speak to thoseof you who feel that you have no right to mercy-you are the very men who may come boldly for it, since it is not of right,but altogether of favor! You that have no claim to the mercy of God are the very people to come to Him through Jesus Christ,for where there is the least of anything that is good and meritorious, there, there is the most room for generous gifts andgracious pardons! Remember, the Lord Jesus did not come to sell salvation-He asks neither money nor price-but He came Himselfas the Gift of God and His own free gift is eternal life! Joseph Hart says rightly-
"Who rightly would his alms dispose Must give them to the poor."
Are you poor? Then the Lord has an alms for you! If you feel that you are the last person that deserves to be received, youshall be received at once-the deeper your sense of your unworthiness, the better! Even if you lament that you have not a propersense of need, this only proves your deeper poverty and shows that you are without claim of any kind. You are neither ableto plead Law nor Gospel in your favor and must cast yourself on Sovereign Grace. Do so and live! O poor Soul! I wish I couldtake you by the hand and go with you, again, to my dear Lord as I went to Him at first. I went to Him in the most despairingfashion. You have heard the story of the English king who was angry with the citizens of Calais and declared that he wouldhang six of them. They came to him with ropes about their necks, submitting to their doom. That is the way in which I cameto Jesus. I accepted my punishment, pleaded guilty and begged for pardon! Put your rope on your neck! Confess that you deserveto die and come to Jesus! Put no honeyed words into your mouth! Turn out that nonsense of self-righteousness from your heartand cry, "Save me, Lord, or I perish!" If thus you plead you shall never perish. You are the kind of man for whom Christ died-thesort of man whom He never did spurn and never will spurn while the world stands!
Another thing to be noticed about these discoverers of the Lord's work is that they were a people who dared not have joinedthemselves to God's people. They were not allowed inside the city walls-their wretched hospital was outside the gate. Theywere recognized in some sort of way as belonging to the congregation of Israel, for their place was near the city gates, butstill, Israel would have none of them-they must not enter one of her houses to take a meal. Some of you have been attendingthe Tabernacle for years, I know, but you dare not join the Church. You would not venture to Baptism, or to the Lord's Supperbecause you feel so unworthy. You hang on to us, after a sort-you would not like to quite give up all connection with thepeople of God-but yet you would not dare to say that you belong to them! In your secret hearts, your bitter cry is that ofthe leper, "Unclean, unclean, unclean!" Before God you cast ashes on your head and cover your lips and sometimes wish thatyou had never been born. But still you cannot leave the gate of the Lord's people, nor cease altogether from their company.
These poor creatures Israel would not acknowledge and yet they were the first to find out what the Lord had done for His people!How often does it happen that those who are rejected of men are accepted of God! Did I hear one ask- "Do you really mean it?"I do mean it! I mean that some of you who deem that you are destined to be lost and yet cannot give up hearing the Gospel,are sure to find out the Gospel! I hear you say, "The Gospel is not for me and yet I must hear it. I can never give up myBible though I only read my own condemnation in its pages." You are the sort of people to whom the Word of Salvation is sent-andyou are the most likely persons to discover what a Christ there is, what a salvation there is, what a deliverance there isin the Grace of God! You are the men that shall yet tell to the king's household the victories of eternal love and assurethose dull, cold Israelites inside the walls that, after all, there is bread enough and to spare-and treasure to be had ifthey will but come out and have it!
To describe these discoverers yet more fully, they were men who, at last, were driven to give themselves up. They said, "Wewill fall unto the Syrians and if they kill us, we shall only die." Blessed is that man who has given himself up,
not to the Syrians, but to the Lord! As long as we can do something, we keep on doing that something to our ruin. But whenit is all over with us and we can do no more, then man's extremity is God's opportunity. The man who struggles as he sinksis hard to be rescued, but when the drowning man has gone down twice and is just going down for the third time-then is theopportunity for the strong swimmer to come in and grasp him firmly-and swim with him to shore. You that are going down a thirdtime, you lost ones, listen to this, "The Son of Man is come to save that which was lost." "Jesus Christ came into the worldto save sinners; of whom I am chief." O you self-righteous people, how can you talk about being saved? What saving do youneed? You are as full of good works as you can be and your pride shines on your brows-how can you be saved? They that shallbe saved by Jesus are those that are, in themselves, lost, ruined and undone. Until you know your ruin and confess your sin,it is not likely you will ever accept a Savior! While you feel that you can save yourselves, you will attempt it! But whenyou can do no more, then you will fall into the arms of your Savior and a blessed fall that will be!
These discoverers I would liken to Columbus, four times repeated, for they found out a new world for Samaria! These four leperswent to the Syrian camp and saw for themselves! Lepers as they were-they came, they saw, they conquered! I think I can seethem in the dim twilight, stealing along until they come to the first tent, expecting to be challenged by a picket and wonderingthat they are not. They hear no sound of human voice. The horses and mules were heard to stamp and draw their chains up anddown, but their riders were gone and no noise of human foot was heard. "There are no men about," cries one of them, "nor signsof men. Let us go into this tent." They step in. A supper was ready. He who had spread that table will never taste it again.The hungry men needed no persuasion, but immediately began to carve for themselves. They took possession of the spoils ofwar left on the field. After they had feasted, they said, "To whom does this gold and silver belong? The prey belongs to us,for our enemies have left the treasure behind them." They took as many of the valuables as they could carry, then went intoanother tent-still no living soul was seen. Where lately a host had rioted, not a soldier remained! There was no sound ofrevelry that night, nor tramp of guard, nor talk around the fire. The lepers tasted more of the forsaken dainties, drainedother goblets and took more gold and silver. "There is more than we shall know what to do with," they said. So they dug ahole and banked their gains after the Oriental fashion. Who can conceive the delirious joy of those four lepers in the midstof such abundance?
Do you see what these men did? First, they went and saw for themselves-and then they took possession for themselves. The wholefour of them did not own one penny, before, and now they are rich beyond a miser's dream! They have enjoyed the feast andthey are filled to the full. They are fully qualified to go and tell the starving city of their discovery because they areclear that they have made no mistake. They have satisfied their own hunger, gratified their own desire and tasted and handledfor themselves-and so they can speak as men who know and are sure.
Dear Friends, he knows the Grace of God best, who, in all his leprosy and defilement, in all his hunger, faintness and wearinesshas come to Christ and fed on the Bread of Heaven and drank the Water of Life-and taken the blessings of the Covenant-andmade himself rich with hidden treasure! Such a man will speak convincingly because he will bear a personal witness. This manhas no doubts upon the vital points, for Christ is his life-he does not argue, but testifies! He is not a special pleader,but a witness! The leper, fed and enriched, stands outside the city gate and calls to the porter and wakes him up at the deadof night, for he has news worth telling. The experienced Believer speaks with the accent of conviction and in it imitateshis Master who spoke with authority! "Why," says the porter, "I used to speak to you over the city wall! Are you the leperto whom I said that there was no more food for you? I have thrown you nothing for a week and thought you were dead-are youthe man?"
He answers, "I am! I do not need your wretched rations now! I am filled and where I have fed there is enough for you all.Come out and feast yourselves." "I do not know you," says the porter. All four join in saying, "No, you would not know us,we are new men since we have been to the camp. Believe the story and tell it to all in the city, for it is true! There isenough and to spare if they will but come out and have it." The Lord made a good choice when he selected these lepers to bediscoverers of His great work. He does wisely when He takes those who are saddest and fills their mouths with laughter andtheir tongues with singing, for these will command attention! These poor wretches could not have made up so amazing a story,nor feigned such joy-sorrowing castaways could not have invented the story of Free Grace! It must be true! Oh, that men wouldbelieve it!
How much I wish that through my poor words some gleam of hope would fall upon weary and heavy-laden souls to whom this sermoncome. You say, "Where are they?" I do not know. I know that such persons do come under my ministry in extraordinary numbers.I shall know that they are here before next Sunday, for I shall hear from some of them-"I thank God I was there on Sundaymorning. It just suited me-I was diseased with sin, my soul was starving and dying- but I went to Jesus as I was and I discoveredwhat I never dreamed could be true! He has done for me exceeding abundantly, above all that I asked or even thought."
III. We have come this far by the Lord's help. I now wish to spend a minute or two in noticing HOW THEY CAME TO MAKE THISDISCOVERY. These four lepers, how did they come to find out the flight of Syria? First, I suppose, they made the discoveryrather than anybody else because the famine was sorest with them. You see they were lepers outside the gate. In good timesthey received a daily portion from the town, but you may be pretty sure that the townsmen did not deny themselves on theiraccount! If anybody has to go short, it will probably be those who are dependent upon charity. Nobody in the East is excessivelyeager to feed lepers in times of famine. Probably the Samaritans thought and even said, "They are best dead-they are no goodto anybody. They are suffering and they cannot earn anything, let them die." Besides, when the supplies within the city wereexhausted, you could hardly blame the citizens if they sent nothing to the lepers, for those who were, themselves, withoutfood had nothing to give.
Yet the people within the walls could do something or other to palliate their hunger-they could even resort to horrible cannibalism-butthese four lepers were cut off from such desperate resources. They had nobody to kill and eat and they must, therefore, die.Then it was that they woke up. Truly, necessity is the mother of invention and the mother of that blessed invention whichfinds the Lord Jesus Christ and His finished salvation is the awful necessity of a perishing soul! Let but some men feel theburden of sin and they will never rest till they come to Jesus. John Bunyan says that he once thought harshly of Christ, butat last he came to such a pitch of misery that he felt he must come to Jesus, anyway, and he says that he verily believedthat if the Lord Jesus had stood before him with a drawn sword in His hand, he would have rushed upon the point of His swordrather than stay away from Him.
I understand that right well. I would to God that some of you were reduced to so great a necessity that you were driven tothe only One who can help you. Oh, that you were utterly bankrupt! Not a kind wish, you say? Yes, it is. Our complete emptinessconstrains us to seek the Divine fullness. Look at the prodigal son-so long as he had anything left he did not go home tohis Father-but when he had spent all his substance and had become so hungry that he envied the very hogs he fed, then he said,"I will arise, and go to my Father." Spiritual necessity is that which nerves the soul with courage to cast itself upon SovereignGrace in Jesus Christ!
These lepers were driven to go to make the discovery because they felt that they could not be any worse than they were. Theysaid, "If we sit here, we shall die; and if the Syrians kill us, we shall only die." That feeling has often driven souls toChrist-
"I can but perish if I go. I am resolved to try
For if I stay away,
I know I must forever die."
They could but die and they were sure to die if they sat where they were. Poor Soul, are you within reach of my voice? Isyour case desperate? Well, then, try faith! You cannot be any worse and you may be better. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.If He should reject you, you cannot be any worse, but then, He cannot reject you, for He says, "Him that comes to Me, I willin no wise cast out." I would pray for mercy if I were you! Suppose you are not heard-you cannot be the worse for praying.I would cast myself on Jesus if I were you! You could not be the worse for doing so. Every day I say to myself-
"Though my eye of faith is dim,
I'll hold on Jesus, sink or swim." I cannot be blamed for trusting to One who has saved so many! O my Hearer, there is norisk in the matter! You must be infinitely better for coming to the appointed Savior! Come and try Him! Come at this moment!
Again, these people saw that there was no reason why they should not go, for they said, one to the other-"Why are we sittinghere until we die?" They could not find a justification for inaction. They could not say, "We sit here because the king commandsus to stay where we are." You cannot say, my dear Hearer, that you remain ungodly and unbelieving
because the Lord bids you do so. Far from it! He bids you forsake your way and your thoughts and turn unto Him and live! Hepromises that He will receive you and, therefore, He cries, "Turn you, turn you, why will you die?" The lepers could not saythat they sat there because they were chained, or locked in, and so were compelled to starve in their hut. They could moveto the Syrian camp and this was their one liberty. You, also, are not compelled to be as you are. Is there any reason whyyou should not pray? Is there any barrier to your trusting the Lord except in your own heart? You are not compelled to remainungodly, thoughtless, prayerless, faithless. You are not compelled to be lost! There is no compulsion put upon you to forceyou away from Jesus and eternal life! Oh, that you would pluck up heart and say, "Why should we sit here until we die?" Ihope there is no deadly despair upon you yet-certainly there should not be. These men did not feel that it was certain thatthey would die if they went to the Syrian camp. They had a little hope and on that hope they acted like sensible men.
You remember how the people of Nineveh humbled themselves before God with nothing to encourage them but, "Who can tell?" Jonahsaid, "Forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown!" And they could get no more comfort than the question, "Who can tell ifGod will turn and repent and turn away from His fierce anger, that we perish not?" Oh, poor troubled Heart, who can tell?There may be mercy for you and not a little mercy, either. The full, rich, eternal mercy of the Lord may be enjoyed by youbefore the sun goes down! That head of yours will yet wear the starry crown! About your naked loins there shall yet be girtthe fair linen of Christ's righteousness! Do not believe the devil if he says you must die. You need not die! Have confidenceand venture, now, to Christ and you shall find relief. I speak what I know and know what I speak!
These lepers went to the camp of the Syrians because they were shut up to that one course-"If we say, we will enter into thecity, then the famine is in the city and we shall die there. And if we sit here, we die also." Only one road was open. I amalways glad when I am in that condition. If many courses are open to me, I may make a mistake. But when I see only one road,I know which way to go. It is a blessed thing to be shut up to faith in Christ-to be compelled to look to Grace, alone. Ispoke to a friend this week who is sorely sick and I said, "You are resting in Christ, my Brother." He replied, "I have nothingelse to rest in." I said, "Your hope is in the atoning Sacrifice of Christ," and he answered, "What other hope could I have?"While we have 50 ways of salvation, we shall be lost. But when we see that "other foundation can no man lay than that whichis laid, even Jesus Christ the Righteous," then we shall build upon it and be safe!
These lepers were not the men to theorize. They were in such a plight that they must come to prompt action. Many ladies andgentlemen treat religion as a science and, therefore, they never know its real powers. Many professors and learned doctorsspeculate upon theology as if it were part of a liberal education, but by no means a practical matter. People who have nosin to wash away and no great spiritual trouble to bear, play at religion-but those who are ready to perish look on mattersin another light! We are not chemists analyzing the Bread of Life-we are fainting men and women who feed on it with eagerness!Our resolve is-
"I'll go to Jesus, though my sin
Has, like a mountain, rose.
I know His courts, I'll enter in,
Whatever may oppose.
Perhaps He wiil admit my plea,
Perhaps will hear my prayer.
But if I perish, I will pray
And perish only there."
These lepers discovered what the Lord had done because they did not give themselves up to dreams and guesses, but came todownright matters of fact. May God drive every unconverted sinner into a corner and so compel him to yield to Divine Grace!May He bring you to act in earnest! May He drive you by the extreme necessities of your case to seek and to find, to searchand to discover!
IV. I ask your patience for a minute while I say, in the fourth place-MAY NOT SOME SAD HEARTS IMITATE THOSE LEPERS and makethe same discovery? "I am afraid to believe in Christ," says one, "for my sins, my many sins, prevent me." Look at the lepersand see how much better the Lord was to them than their fears. It is twilight and they steal into the camp, trembling. Onecries, "Softly there, Simeon! Your heavy tread will bring the guard upon us." Eleazar gently whispers to the other, "Makeno noise! If they sleep, let us not awaken them." They might tread as heavily
as they pleased and talk as loudly as they wished, for there was no man there! Do you know it? If you believe in the LordJesus, your sins, which are many, are all forgiven-there is no sin left to accuse you! You are afraid they will ruin you?They have ceased to be! The depths have covered them! There is not one of them left! "The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son,cleanses us from all sin." Your sins were numbered on the scapegoat's head of old. Jesus bore your sins in His own body onthe Cross. If you come to Christ, confessing and believing, no sin shall destroy you, for it is blotted out!
Perhaps these men feared when they were going into the tent-"A Syrian will meet us at the tent door and cry, 'Back, what businesshave you here? Lepers, be gone! Back to your dens and die.'" They entered into tent after tent- nobody forbade them-they hadthe entry of every pavilion! They were also possessors of all they saw. When I came to Christ, I could not believe that Imight take the promises, but I did, and nobody said to me, no! I have gone on appropriating promises ever since-exceedinglygreat and precious promises-and nobody has said to me, no. I find I can make myself most free in Christ's house and, the morefree I am, the better He is pleased! His rule is-ask what you will and it shall be done unto you! The Lord gives us full libertyto come into his secret place, even to His Throne of Grace! Oh, that some poor heart would come at this moment! Instead ofbeing repulsed, you shall find a hearty welcome, even into the most holy places!
Perhaps the leper felt some little question when he saw a golden cup, or a silver flagon, or a well-fashioned cruet. Whathave lepers to do with golden cups? But he overcame his scruples. No law could hinder his sharing the leavings of a runawayenemy! Nobody was there to stop him and the valuables were set before him-and, therefore, he took what was provided for him.The lepers grew more and more bold till they carried off as much of the booty as they were able to hide away. I take up myparable and, without scruple, invite you to deal thus with salvation! When I came to Jesus, I hardly dared to appropriatea promise-it looked like stealing! I did not, could not believe that I had a right to any of the good things provided forthe Lord's people! But I took Gospel leave and enjoyed them. I find it written, "No good thing will be withheld from themthat walk uprightly" and, therefore, I feel that nothing is withheld from me. I venture to take what Grace has put in my way!
I take possession of everything that I can find in Christ! I have never yet found either conscience, or the Word of God, orthe Lord, Himself, upbraid me for appropriating the precious things laid up in the Covenant for Believers! Therefore I growbolder and yet more bold! One of these days I, who am the least of all saints, expect to stand among the bright ones nearthe Throne of God and sing, "Hallelujah to God and the Lamb." I do not think that I shall be ashamed to stand there. I amashamed of myself for 10,000 reasons, but I shall not be ashamed at the Lord's coming-
"Bold shall I stand in that great day." You poor lepers, you poor lost and ruined ones, come to my Lord Jesus! Believe it,the whole land is before you-the land that flows with milk and honey is for you! This world is yours and worlds to come. Christis yours! Yes, God, Himself is yours! Everything is to be had for nothing. Heaven and all its joys are to be had for believing!God make you the discoverers, this day, of His wondrous Grace and to Him shall be praise forever and ever! Amen.