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the letter of the law would often be the greatest injustice. But this divine dominion subsists under no such imperfections; for the Prince is intimately acquainted with the secrets of the heart. He also pervades every part of his empire by his presence, and can, consequently, make a specific and personal application to each individual; can impart his smiles and his favours, the expression of his kindness or of his displeasure to each individual soul, as distinctly as though it were the only subject of his empire.
In human government the law extends to outward actions only, but the good and the evil which are produced by it are almost entirely confined to sensible objects—to such objects as bear a relation to our corporeal state.
ON SPIRITUAL LEPROSY. Lev. xii. 45.- And the leper in whom the plague is, his clothes
shall be rent, and his head bare, and he shall put a covering upon his upper lip, and shall cry, Unclean, unclean.* By superficial thinkers, it has been objected to several parts of the Mosaic law, that its injunctions are frivolous and minute, and of a nature that ill comports with the majesty and wisdom
* Preached at Leicester, December, 1810.
of the Supreme Being. The exact specification of the different sorts of sacrifice, the enumeration of the different sorts of creatures, clean and unclean, and the various species of ceremonial defilement, have been adduced as examples of this kind. To this it may be replied, that, at this distance of time, we know too little of the superstitions among pagan nations, and consequently of the peculiar temptations to which the ancient Israelites were exposed, to enable us to form an accurate judgement respecting the expediency or necessity of those provisions. Many legal enactments, which appear unseasonable and unnecessary to a distant observer and a remote age, on close investigation of the actual circumstances in which they were, are discovered to be replete with propriety, and to be founded on the highest reason. But the most satisfactory answer to this, and to most other objections raised against the law of Moses, is derived from a consideration of the peculiar nature of that institute, which was throughout figurative and typical. In the infancy of revealed religion, and when the minds of men were but little accustomed to refined reflection, it became necessary to communicate moral and religious instruction by actions and observances, and to address their reason through the medium of their senses. The people of Israel, at the time they came out of the land of Egypt, having been long surrounded by idolatry, and in a state of depression and
slavery, were a people, we have the utmost reason to believe, of very gross conceptions, deeply sunk in carnality and ignorance; a nation peculiarly disqualified to receive any lasting impression from didactic discourses, or from any sublime system of instruction. Their minds were in an infantine state ; and divine wisdom was imparted to them, — not in that form which was best in itself, but in that in which they were best able to bear it: and being very much the creatures of sense, religious principles were communicated through the medium of sensible images. Thus they were reminded of the eternal difference betwixt right and wrong, betwixt actions innocent and criminal, by the distinction of animals and meats into clean and unclean. Their attention was called to a reflection on their guilt, on their just desert of destruction, and of the necessity of a real expiation of sin hereafter to be made in the person of the Saviour, by the institution of sacrifices, without the shedding of whose blood there was no remission. To convince them of the inherent defilement attached to sin, and of the necessity of being purified from it by a method of God's devising, it was enjoined that several incidents, such as touching a dead body, the disease of leprosy, and some others, should be considered as polluting the person whom they befell; in consequence of which, they were pronounced unclean, and separated from the camp
and the tabernacle. In allusion to the ceremonial uncleanness contracted by touching a dead body, St. Paul, that infallible interpreter of the import of the Mosaic law, styles evil dispositions “dead works.”—“For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God ?”*
To every instance of ceremonial defilement, there are two circumstances attached.
1. The forfeiture of certain privileges, especially that of approaching God in his sanctuary.
2. A representation of the defiling nature of sin.
But of all the various sorts of ceremonial uncleanness, there is none which appears to have had so much a typical import as the case of leprosy, which, accordingly, Occupies more room in the enactments of the Levitical law than all the others put together; and is treated of with a niceness of distinction, and a particularity of detail, peculiar to itself. Not less than two very long chapters of this bookt are devoted to the ascertaining of the signs of this disease, and prescribing the methods of legal purification ; so that no one, who believes there is any thing whatever of a typical nature in the laws of Moses, can doubt of the regulations respecting * Heb. ix. 13, 14.
† Lev. xiii. xiv.
leprosy being emphatically so. It is my full conviction of this which has induced me to make it the ground of this discourse. If we set ourselves to inquire for what reason the leprosy was selected in the Mosaic ritual, as the most eminent representation of moral defilement, we shall perceive there was something very singular in this affair. Besides its being fitted for this purpose as it was a very dreadful and loathsome disease, there is the utmost reason to believe it was supernatural. Those who have travelled into eastern countries make mention indeed of a distemper under the name of leprosy ; but there is much room to doubt of its being the same which is treated of in the books of Moses. If you read the rules prescribed there for ascertaining its existence, you will find certain circumstances to which there is nothing parallel in any disease now existing in the world : for it attached itself not only to the bodies of men, but to garments and to houses ; it affected the very stones of buildings, fretting and consuming them. * A considerable part of the laws on this subject respect its subsistence in houses, which in certain cases were ordered to be completely demolished, and the materials cast into an unclean place without the city. It seems to have been inflicted by the immediate hand of God:
* Read carefully Lev. xiv. 34–45. Michaelis, and others, have endeavoured to prove that the leprosy of the Old Testament is, in no case, supernatural ; but their reasonings are, in my judgement, far from satisfactory.-ED.