Lev_14:4-9. Then shall the priest command to take for him that is to be cleansed, two birds alive and clean, and cedarwood, and scarlet, and hyssop. And the priest shall command that one of the birds be killed in an earthen vessel, over running water. As for the living bird, he shall take it, and the cedar-wood, and the scarlet, and the hyssop, and shall dip them and the living bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the running water: and he shall sprinkle upon him that is to be cleansed from the leprosy seven times, and shall pronounce him clean, and shall let the living bird loose into the open field. And he that is to be cleansed shall wash his clothes, and shave off all his hair, and wash himself in water, that he may be clean: and after that he shall come into the camp, and shall tarry abroad out of his tent seven days. But it shall be on the seventh day, that he shall shave all his hair off his head, and his beard, and his eye-brows, even all his hair he shall shave off: and he shall wash his clothes; also he shall wash his flesh in water, and he shall be clean.
THERE is an indissoluble connexion between duty and privilege, though that connexion is, for the most part, but little understood. Our privileges are in general supposed to arise out of the performance of our duties; whereas the reverse of this is more generally true: privileges are freely bestowed upon us by God according to his own sovereign will and pleasure; and these operate as incentives to love and serve him. The blessings of election and vocation are not vouchsafed to us on account of our antecedent merit, but in order that we may shew forth the praises of Him that hath called us.
We see this exemplified in the laws relating to the leprosy. Nothing was prescribed whereby people should first of all heal themselves: but, when God of his infinite mercy had first healed them, then were they to come and offer their acknowledgments in the way appointed.
The ordinances to be observed by them are here laid down: and from them we see, that the purification of the leper was two-fold;
[Two birds were to be taken; one of which was to be killed over a vessel of spring-water; and the other, dipped in the bloody water, was to be let loose. Some interpret this as signifying, that Christ should die for us, and that the sinner, dipped as it were in his blood, should be liberated from sin and death, and be enabled to soar above this lower world, both in heart and life. But we apprehend that both the birds equally designate Christ. And, inasmuch as the living bird was dipped in the blood of that which was killed, this intimated, that all that Christ should do for us after his resurrection, was founded upon the atonement which he had offered; by which he obtained a right to justify us, and to send us his Holy Spirit, and to save us with an everlasting salvation [Note: Heb_9:12; Rom_5:10.]. As for the cedar-wood, the scarlet wool, and the hyssop, which were also dipped in the bloody water, and used in sprinkling the leper, we forbear to specify the spiritual import of each, because it must rest on mere conjecture, and will not prove satisfactory after all. But the circumstance of the blood being mixed with living water, most assuredly was designed to teach us, that Christ saves us no less by his Spirit than by his blood; by his Spirit, from the power of sin; and by his blood, from its guilt. Moreover, these are never separated. When his side was pierced, “there came out (as John, who was an eye-witness, testifies) both blood and water [Note: Joh_19:34-35.].” On which circumstance he lays great stress; assuring us, that “Christ came not by water only, but by water and blood [Note: 1Jn_5:6.].” These two then being sprinkled upon the sinner, “the priest of God is fully authorized to pronounce him clean” — — —
In confirmation of this statement we need only to refer to the two goats offered on the great day of annual expiation: that which was slain, and that which carried the sins of the people into the wilderness, equally prefigured Christ [Note: Lev_16:21-22.] ; the one, as “dying for our sins; and the other, as rising again for our justification [Note: Rom_4:25.].” The two birds presented by the leper were in this respect precisely similar: and equally point us to that blessed Jesus, who says, “I am He that liveth, and was dead; and behold I am alive for evermore [Note: Rev_1:18.] ”
We only add further on this point, that it was the “sprinkling” of this blood and water upon the leper, that rendered the ceremony effectual for his good. In vain would the one bird shed his blood, or the other be dipped in it and let loose, unless there were an application of that blood and water to the leper himself. But being “sprinkled seven times,” he was perfectly clean; so far at least as to be brought into the camp, and put into a train for that sanctification which was,]
[The leper was to wash both himself and his clothes, and to shave off all his hair, and then to come into the camp. But he was not fully restored to his place in society at once: he was not admitted into his tent, but was to live in some place alone for seven days more; and then, after again washing his body and his clothes, and shaving off all his hair, even to his eyebrows, he was reinstated in all his former privileges and comforts.
This was designed to shew, that the defiling effects of sin yet remain, even after that we are cleansed in the blood of Christ, and renewed by the Spirit. We need still to be renewed, both in our outward and inward man, day by day. Sin cleaves to us, yea, it spontaneously rises up in us: so that though we be washed ever so clean, we shall need to be washed again: and though we be shaved ever so close, we shall not be many days without manifesting that the work of sanctification is not yet perfect. Besides, there are higher degrees of holiness to which the regenerate are to be constantly aspiring. They are “not to account themselves to have yet attained; but, forgetting the things which are behind, they are to press forward for that which is before [Note: Php_3:12-14.].” They are to be continually “putting off the old man, and putting on the new, even till they be renewed after the very image of their God in righteousness and true holiness [Note: Eph_4:22-24.].” Instead of regarding their restoration to the divine favour as a reason for resting satisfied with their attainments, they are to make their interest in the promises an occasion, and a stimulus, to “cleanse themselves from all filthiness both of flesh and spirit, and to perfect holiness in the fear of God [Note: 2Co_7:1].” “Having this hope in them,” they are to stop short of nothing that can be attained in this life, but to “purify themselves even as God is pure [Note: 1Jn_3:3.].”]
Amongst Israel of old, the great mass of the population had never been infected with the leprosy at all: but that is not the case with us: the leprosy of sin has infected every human being: and there are now but two classes, under the one or the other of which we must all be arranged.
We will therefore address ourselves,
To those who are yet infected with the leprosy—
[What was done at the time of pronouncing the lepers clean, is the very thing which must be done to make you clean. You must be sprinkled with the blood and Spirit of Christ, even of “Him who died for you and rose again.” This is necessary; nor can any human being be saved without it: and it shall be effectual; so that no human being shall ever perish, provided he apply to his soul this divinely appointed remedy: “The blood of Jesus Christ shall cleanse him from all sin [Note: Joh_1:7.] ;” and the Spirit of Christ shall “cleanse him from all his filthiness and uncleanness [Note: Eze_36:25.].” The priests of old could not heal the leper, but only declare him healed: but our High-Priest can heal us. Only cry to him, as the lepers did in the days of his flesh, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” and God himself shall acknowledge and pronounce you clean. The hyssop is even now at hand, wherewith you may sprinkle your own souls. Use it now by faith, and you shall experience with David both its incipient and progressive efficacy: “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow [Note: Psa_51:7.].” But sprinkle not yourselves once or twice only, but “seven times;” then shall you be “washed thoroughly from your iniquity, and be cleansed from your sin [Note: Psa_51:2.].”]
To those who have been cleansed from it—
[Your state is beautifully represented by that of the healed leper. You are not yet admitted to your home, where your more perfect brethren enjoy without any intermission their Father’s smiles: but you are brought into the camp; you are acknowledged as clean, notwithstanding your remaining imperfections: and there is yet only a single week before you will be brought into the full “liberty of the children of God.” True, the intervening time must be spent in humiliating and painful exercises: but those exercises are all preparing you for the richer enjoyment of the promised bliss: “they are rendering you meet for the inheritance of the saints in light [Note: Col_1:12.].” Look forward then to the happiness that awaits you: and carefully attend to every thing that God has enjoined; lest, when the appointed time shall arrive, you shall be found to hare neglected the duties of the present moment. Labour then to the uttermost to get rid of sin: “Wash ye, make you clean [Note: Isa_1:16.].” As for the deep-rooted evils that spring up within you from time to time, if they cannot be eradicated, let them be shaved off the very moment that they appear. And let the time now appropriated to mortification and self-denial, be sweetened by the anticipation of that blessed hour, when you shall enter into the joy of your Lord, and rest for ever in the bosom of your God.]