I COME now to the second group of miracles, those granted to
the prayers of the sufferers...
I take now the cure of the ten lepers, done apparently in a village
of Galilee towards Samaria. They stood afar off in a group, probably afraid
of offending him by any nearer approach, and cried aloud, "Jesus, Master,
have mercy on us." Instead of at once uttering their cure, he desired them
to go and show themselves to the priests. This may have been partly for
the sake of the priests, partly perhaps for the justification of his own
mission, but more certainly for the sake of the men themselves, that he
might, in accordance with his frequent practice, give them something wherein
to be obedient. It served also, as the sequel shows, to individualize their
relation to him. The relation as a group was not sufficient for the men.
Between him and them it must be the relation of man to man. Individual
faith must, as it were, break up the group-to favour a far deeper reunion.
Its bond was now a common suffering; it must be changed to a common faith
in the healer of it. His intention wrought in them-at first with but small
apparent result. They obeyed, and went to go to the priests, probably wondering
whether they would be healed or not, for the beginnings of faith are so
small that they can hardly be recognized as such. Going, they found themselves
cured. Nine of them held on their way, obedient; while the tenth, forgetting
for the moment in his gratitude the word of the Master, turned back and
fell at his feet. A moral martinet, a scribe, or a Pharisee, might have
said "The nine were right, the tenth was wrong: he ought to have kept to
the letter of the command." Not so the Master: he accepted the gratitude
as the germ of an infinite obedience. Real love is obedience and all things
beside. The Lord's own devotion was that which burns up the letter with
the consuming fire of love, fulfilling and setting it aside. High love
needs no letter to guide it. Doubtless the letter is all that weak faith
is capable of, and it is well for those who keep it! But it is ill for
those who do not outgrow and forget it! Forget it, I say, by outgrowing
it. The Lord cared little for the letter of his own commands; he cared
all for the spirit, for that was life.
This man was a stranger, as the Jews called him, a Samaritan. Therefore
the Lord praised him to his followers. It was as if he had said, "See,
Jews, who think yourselves the great praisers of God! here are ten lepers
cleansed: where are the nine? One comes back to glorify God-a Samaritan!"
To the man himself he says, "Arise, go thy way; thy faith hath made thee
whole." Again this commending of individual faith! "Was it not the faith
of the others too that had healed them?" Doubtless. If they had had enough
to bring them back, he would have told them that their faith had saved
them. But they were content to be healed, and until their love, which is
the deeper faith, brought them to the Master's feet, their faith was not
ripe for praise. But it was not for their blame, it was for the Samaritan's
praise that he spoke. Probably this man's faith had caused the cry of all
the ten; probably he was the salt of the little group of outcasts-the tenth,
the righteous man. Hence they were contented, for the time, with their
cure: he forgot the cure itself in his gratitude. A moment more, and with
obedient feet he would overtake them on their way to the priest.
I may not find a better place for remarking on the variety of our Lord's
treatment of those whom he cured; that is, the variety of the form in which
he conveyed the cure. In the record I do not think we find two cases treated
in the same manner. There is no massing of the people with him. In his
behaviour to men, just as in their relation to his Father, every man is
alone with him. In this case of the ten, as I have said, I think he sent
them away, partly, that this individuality might have an opportunity of
asserting itself. They had stood afar off, therefore he could not lay the
hand of love on each. But now one left the group and brought his gratitude
to the Master's feet, and with a loud voice glorified God the Healer.
In reflecting then on the details of the various cures we must seek
the causes of their diversity mainly in the individual differences of the
persons cured, not forgetting, at the same time, that all the accounts
are brief, and that our capacity is poor for the task. The whole divine
treatment of man is that of a father to his children-only a father infinitely
more a father than any man can be. Before him stands each, as much an individual
child as if there were no one but him. The relation is awful in its singleness.
Even when God deals with a nation as a nation, it is only as by this dealing
the individual is aroused to a sense of his own wrong, that he can understand
how the nation has sinned, or can turn himself to work a change. The nation
cannot change save as its members change; and the few who begin the change
are the elect of that nation. Ten righteous individuals would have been
just enough to restore life to the festering masses of Sodom-festering
masses because individual life had ceased, and the nation or community
was nowhere. Even nine could not do it: Sodom must perish. The individuals
must perish now; the nation had perished long since. All communities are
for the divine sake of individual life, for the sake of the love and truth
that is in each heart, and is not cumulative-cannot be in two as one result.
But all that is precious in the individual heart depends for existence
on the relation the individual bears to other individuals: alone-how can
he love? alone-where is his truth? It is for and by the individuals that
the individual lives. A community is the true development of individual
relations. Its very possibility lies in the conscience of its men and women.
No setting right can be done in the mass. There are no masses save in corruption.
Vital organizations result alone from individualities and consequent necessities,
which fitting the one into the other, and working for each other, make
combination not only possible but unavoidable. Then the truth which has
informed in the community reacts on the individual to perfect his individuality.
In a word, the man, in virtue of standing alone in God, stands with his
fellows, and receives from them divine influences without which he cannot
be made perfect. It is in virtue of the living consciences of its individuals
that a common conscience is possible to a nation.
I cannot work this out here, but I would avoid being misunderstood.
Although I say, every man stands alone in God, I yet say two or many can
meet in God as they cannot meet save in God; nay, that only in God can
two or many truly meet; only as they recognize their oneness with God can
they become one with each other.
In the variety then of his individual treatment of the sick, Jesus
did the works of his Father as his Father does them. For the Spirit of
God speaks to the spirit of the man, and the Providence of God arranges
everything for the best good of the individual-counting the very hairs
of his head. Every man had a cure of his own; every woman had a cure of
her own-all one and the same in principle, each individual in the application
of the principle. This was the foundation of the true church. And yet the
members of that church will try to separate upon individual and unavoidable
But once more the question recurs: Why say so often that this and that
one's faith had saved him? Was it not enough that he had saved them?-Our
Lord would knit the bond between him and each man by arousing the man's
individuality, which is, in deepest fact, his conscience. The cure of a
man depended upon no uncertain or arbitrary movement of the feelings of
Jesus. He was always ready to heal. No one was ever refused who asked him.
It rested with the man: the healing could not have its way and enter in,
save the man would open his door. It was there for him if he would take
it, or rather when he would allow him to bestow it. Hence the question
and the praise of the patient's faith. There was no danger then of that
diseased self-consciousness which nowadays is always asking, "Have I faith?
Have I faith?" searching, in fact, for grounds of self-confidence, and
turning away the eyes in the search from the only source whence confidence
can flow-the natal home of power and love. How shall faith be born but
of the beholding of the faithful? This diseased self-contemplation was
not indeed a Jewish complaint at all, nor possible in the bodily presence
of the Master. Hence the praise given to a man's faith could not hurt him;
it only made him glad and more faithful still. This disease itself is in
more need of his curing hand than all the leprosies of Judæa and