Sunday, February 28, 2010
I wish here to teach about an important thing that I believe God's people should know.
People are always asking what takes place at regeneration or the new birth.
Beloved, the following must take place before a person can be regenerated or born again. The Lord must send His Precious Holy Spirit to one of His elect chosen in Christ before the world began. The Lord of glory does not send His Holy Spirit to just anyone, but only His elect who are accepted in the beloved, Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 1:4)
The Holy Spirit is sent to quicken an elect person's soul and when He does, He implants spiritual life which is called a new creature, where the soul which was preciously dead in trespasses and sins is risen from spiritually dead state. (John 3:3-5 - Ephesians 2:4-5 - 1 John 3:9)
That is the first things that must happen.
The second thing that must happen when the Holy Spirit is sent into the soul is this: The power of Satan over the soul must be broken. (Romans 3:9-12 - Romans 6:1-22 - 2 Timothy 2:24-25)
Now, the third thing that must happen is this. The Holy Spirit must and does remove the hatred which natural man has for God from the soul and replace it with love. (Romans 1:18 - Romans 8:7-8)
The fourth things that must take place is the re-creation of the image of God within the soul. The new man within the flesh is re-created in holiness where the Holy Spirit dwells. (Ephesians 4:22-24 - Colossians 3:9-10)
The fifth thing that must take place by the quickening power of the Holy Spirit is this. The Holy Spirit must remove all satanic blindness and replace it with spiritual sight. (2 Corinthians 4:3-7)
None of these elements must be missing and if any of these elements are missing then there is no regeneration.
By Calvin Waller
Preached at Providence Chapel, London, August 10th, 1851 by J. C. Philpot
And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks?
Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock.
The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them.
And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered.
My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them.
Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD;
As I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely because my flock became a prey, and my flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock;
Therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD;
Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them.
For thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out.
As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day.
And I will bring them out from the people, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land, and feed them upon the mountains of Israel by the rivers, and in all the inhabited places of the country.
I will feed them in a good pasture, and upon the high mountains of Israel shall their fold be: there shall they lie in a good fold, and in a fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel.
I will feed my flock, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord GOD.
I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick: but I will destroy the fat and the strong; I will feed them with judgment.
The Lord in this chapter brings some heavy charges against the false shepherds of Israel. His accusations against them may be summed up under two leading heads:
1. Their sins of commission.
2. Their sins of omission.
Greediness, selfishness, cruelty, and violence were stamped on all their actions. They fed themselves – they ate the fat and clothed themselves with the wool – and with force and with cruelty they ruled the flock. These were their sins of commission.
And to them they added, sins of omission. The diseased they did not strengthen, neither did they heal those who were sick, neither did they bind up those who were broken, neither did they bring again those who were driven away, neither did they seek those who were lost.
And what was the consequence of these sins of commission and omission on the part of the shepherds? That the sheep were scattered – that they became prey to all the beasts of the field – that they wandered through all the mountains and upon every high hill – and that none did search or seek after them.
But the Lord does not confine himself to the false shepherds – he also files a bill of charges against a portion of the flock itself– "As for you, my flock, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will judge between one sheep and another, and between rams and goats. Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture? Must you also trample the rest of your pasture with your feet? Is it not enough for you to drink clear water? Must you also muddy the rest with your feet? Must my flock feed on what you have trampled and drink what you have muddied with your feet? Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says to them: See, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you shove with flank and shoulder, butting all the weak sheep with your horns until you have driven them away, I will save my flock, and they will no longer be plundered. I will judge between one sheep and another." Ezekiel 34:17-22
But because the shepherds have neglected their duty – and because the fat and the strong among the flock themselves have thrust with side and with shoulder, trodden down the good pastures, and polluted the streams, shall the sheep be mortally injured? Shall they perish through the neglect of the one and the violence of the other? True, they are scattered upon every high hill – true, they have no shepherds to take kindly notice of them – true, they are sometimes gored and sometimes starved. But when man forsakes, the Lord takes them up. No! they shall derive benefit from their very loss– they shall have God for their Shepherd instead of man. Blessed exchange of Creator power for creature weakness, of divine love and faithfulness for human neglect, cruelty, and worthlessness!
"I myself will feed my sheep and cause them to lie down in peace, says the Sovereign Lord. I will search for my lost ones who strayed away, and I will bring them safely home again. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak. But I will destroy those who are fat and powerful. I will feed them, yes—feed them judgment!" (verses 15,16).
Our text falls of itself, so to speak, under two leading divisions–
I. The promises that God makes to his people generally, and in an especial manner to the diseased portion of them.
II. His threatenings and denunciations against the fat and the strong.
I. The PROMISES that God makes to his people generally, and in an especial manner to the diseased portion of them. If we look at this cluster of promises made to the flock of slaughter, (for it is to the flock of slaughter that the Lord God here speaks), we shall find that the first two have a more general and comprehensive bearing than the rest: "I will feed my flock, and cause them to lie down, says the Lord." Food and rest are needful for every sheep and every lamb – indispensable for the sustentation of life itself – and therefore promised alike to all. "His divine power has given unto us all things that pertain to life and godliness;" and therefore food, without which there is neither life nor godliness.
The shepherds did not, or could not feed them. They feasted while the flock fasted – they ate the fat in the parlour, while the sheep could not get a nibble upon the mountain. Shall the sheep then die of malnutrition? Shall first wool, then fat, and then flesh waste off their bones, until at last they drop down dead under the hedge with nothing but their sunken eyes to feed the ravens? No, says the Lord, "I will feed them."
1. "I will FEED my flock." This implies that the flock is hungry – no more, that it hungers after that peculiar food which alone can satisfy it. Spiritual hunger is a sure mark of life. The Lord's own words are, "Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness" (Matt.5:6). Hunger, we may observe, has a peculiar relation to suitable food. The lion does not hunger for the food of the lamb, nor the dove for that of the eagle. "Feed me with food," prays Agur, "convenient for me" (Prov.30:8), literally, "appointed," that is, suitable to my appetite, ordained by yourself to satisfy it. Thus, a soul spiritually hungry cannot eat trash. God's own mark against "a deceived heart" is, that it "feeds upon ashes" (Isa.44:20).
A living soul cannot, then, feed upon the ashes of its own righteousness – for ashes indeed they will be found when the lightning stroke of God's righteous law has burnt up all creature loveliness. Nor can it feed upon superstitious ceremonies, or the mummeries of Popish Paganism, either in the full court dress of the Catholic chapel, or the undress of the Puseyite church. Nor can it feed upon the, "form of godliness"--upon the barren mountains of dead, dry Calvinism--any more than as it grows on the heaths and wilds of erroneous Arminianism. No, the Bible itself, that sweet and sacred record, that blessed revelation of the mind of God--even upon the letter of that the soul cannot feed unless God himself turns it into food. For the promise runs, "I will feed my flock."
The food, the only real food of the soul must be of God's own appointing, preparing, and communicating. The babe on the mother's lap must be fed spoonful by spoonful, and that by the hand of the parent. The food must be put into the mouth, and such food only as is suitable for the growth of the babe. You can never deceive a hungry child. You may give it a plaything to still its cries, it may serve for a few minutes – but the pains of hunger are not to be removed by a doll. A windmill or a horse will not allay the cravings after the mother's breast.
So with babes in grace. A hungry soul cannot feed upon playthings. Altars, robes, ceremonies, candlesticks, bowings, mutterings, painted windows, intoning priests, and singing men and women--these dolls and wooden horses--these toys and playthings of the religious babyhouse, cannot feed the soul that, like David, cries out after the living God (Psalm 42:23). Christ, the bread of life, the manna who came down from heaven, is the only food of the believing soul: "He who eats me," says the Lord, "even he shall live by me." "I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eats of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world" (John 6:51).
A living soul knows when it hungers as much as the babe in the mother's arms knows when it hungers – and knows also when it drinks down the pure milk of God's Word as sensibly and as truly as the natural child knows when its hunger is allayed by the mother's breast. The Lord says, "I will feed my flock." They shall indeed suffer first the pangs of hunger to teach them to value it – for "the full soul loaths a honey-comb" (Prov.27:7).
No more, generally speaking, a certain painful experience is required to produce this appetite. Look at the laborer. What an appetite he has! How he relishes his food, coarse though it is! What gives him this appetite? Why, hard work. He is not your 'delicate invalid', or your 'fine lady', that lolls upon the sofa all day long, and whispers at dinner, "I think I can just pick the wing of a chicken;" but he has well earned it, for he has been working while you have been sleeping. So with the spiritual laborer, for such there are in the kingdom of God. "Come unto me, all you who labor" (Matt 11:28) – "Labor not for the food which perishes, but for that food which endures unto everlasting life" (Jno.6:27)
"In all labor there is profit" (Prov.14:23). To labor under a burden of sin, against powerful temptations, a body of sin and death, and a whole host of lusts and corruptions, will make a man hunger after a righteousness better than his own. We rarely cry out for the living bread until brought down to the starving point. Then, when nothing will satisfy but Jesus, God steps in with this Word, "I will feed." Sometimes it shall be a promise – sometimes a glimpse of Jesus – sometimes a sweet assurance of a saving interest in his blood and righteousness – sometimes a smile – sometimes a sip or taste of his mercy, goodness, and love.
When any gospel truth is applied to the heart – when faith embraces it, hope anchors in it, and love flows toward it, then the soul is divinely fed. Hunger is then sensibly allayed--the Word of God tastes sweet – Jesus is received into the heart – and as the sheep lies and chews the cud, so the soul meditates and ruminates on the truth of God, and enjoys it over and over again.
Never be satisfied with the mere letter of truth. Seek to have fulfilled in your own individual and happy experience that declaration of Jesus, "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life" (Jno.6:63).
2. "I will cause them to lie down." Poor things! Restless indeed they were. Not a spot of soft tender grass was there on which they could repose their weary limbs. Did they seek the good pasture? The best was eaten up, and the rest trodden down. Did they long to lie down by the still waters? They were jostled away by the fat and the strong – and the little they could get was fouled. Thus were they ever on the drive, hurried to and fro, far from rest and peace. Lively emblem of a soul that, like Noah's dove, finds no rest for the sole of her foot on the floating carcases of a ruined world!
What a restless being is a tempted child of God! How unable he often is even to rest locally, to take his chair, and sit quietly by his fire-side! It is recorded of the prisoners, who in the first French revolution were awaiting in their dungeons the summons to the 'dread tribunal of blood', that some passed nearly all their whole time in walking up and down their cells. So sometimes under trials and temptations, we pace up and down the room as if we sought to dissipate the exercise of our minds by the exercise of our bodies – or rush into the streets and fields to pour the heart out in sighs and groans, the restless mind acting and reacting upon the body.
And as an exercised child of God often cannot rest physically, so cannot he rest spiritually. He cannot rest in his own righteousness, nor in a sound creed, nor in a form of godliness, nor in the opinions of men, nor in anything that springs from or centers in the creature. There always is something uneasy – either in himself or in the ground on which he would repose. Sometimes it is strewed with thorns and briars – sometimes beset with sharp and rugged rocks. Sometimes the barking dog or howling wolf – sometimes the sturdy ram or butting goat – sometimes the goad of the savage driver – and sometimes the fears and anxieties of his own timid heart, prevent it settling down to rest and sleep.
And yet, but for these restless, uneasy feelings, how many even of the Lord's own family would settle down short of gospel rest? Some would settle down in false religion – others in the world – some would make a god of their own righteousness – and others, like the foolish virgins, would securely sleep while their lamp was burning out.
But there is that restless, painful exercise where the life and grace of God are, that the soul cannot, if it would, settle down in any rest but that of God's own providing. "There remains therefore a rest for the people of God" (Heb.4:9). That rest is Christ – the blood, righteousness, love, and grace of the Lamb of God. The Lord says,"I will cause them to lie down." They cannot lie down then when they please. How everything is of grace! Every gracious movement is so from God, that they actually cannot lie down except he causes them. They are like the babe which cannot lay itself down in the cradle. The mother's arms are as needful to lay it down as to take it up. So the Lord is said to cause Israel to rest (Jer.31:2). And David says, "He makes me to lie down in green pastures" (Psalm.23:2). Thus the Lord sometimes leads his sheep in the green pastures and beside the still waters. Then he makes them to lie down.
"I will give you rest," says Jesus. This rest is himself. No more, it is God's rest. "My rest," he calls it. "If they shall enter into my rest" (Heb.4:5). Jesus is the true Sabbath, the rest of God and the rest of man. God rests in his love – when we can rest in that, we are of one mind with God. All rest short of this is a delusion. Now have you ever found any rest for your soul? If you have ever felt any measure of real rest, however short it may have been, it has only been in Jesus and his finished work, and by the blessed Spirit bringing into your soul some sweet testimony of your personal interest in it. Into this rest we enter only by faith, as the apostle speaks, "We who have believed do enter into rest" (Heb.4:3).
But this cannot be until we cease from self, as Paul speaks, "He who has entered into his rest has ceased from his own works" (Heb.4:10). As long as you are trying to get some comfort from your own works, you will never enter into rest. It is by believing, not by working – by the gospel, and not by the law – by Christ, and not by self, that rest and peace are entered into and enjoyed.
The two promises which we have been considering – food and rest, are applicable to all the flock, and to each individual member of it, food and rest being alike needful for all.
But we now come to a series of promises, which have a special relation to particular cases. The sheep, through neglect and cruelty, had fallen into a miserable condition. Some were "lost;" others "driven away" – some "broken" in limb, wind, and constitution – and some "sick" and half dead with malady and disease. Must all of these perish, and feed the vulture and the jackal? No! – says the Lord, "I will search for my lost ones who strayed away, and I will bring them safely home again. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak."
When they are abandoned by the shepherds, and in themselves helpless and hopeless, ready to perish, the Lord steps in with his own almighty arm.
1. "I will search for my LOST ones." In the figure of a lost sheep there is something singularly suitable and appropriate to a poor, erring, straying child of God. Of all animals the sheep is eminently the most silly – and it is usually not maliciousness, but silliness, that leads it astray. Often through mere folly, it wanders away and becomes lost. But now comes the difficulty. How shall it get home again? The dog, the ox, the very swine can find their way home. But the sheep has neither the scent of the hound, nor the sagacity of the hog. When it wanders, it loses its way altogether. But it rarely wanders without getting into some mischief.
The teeth of the dog, and the tusks of the wild boar protect them – but the sheep is utterly defenseless. Every beast is against her. Need we go far to find the parallel? Who is so foolish and silly as regards his best interests as a child of God? Who so apt to wander? Who so unable to return? Who so exposed to a thousand enemies? Who so defenseless against them all? And indeed, a sheep may wander far – I dare not say how far! The longer I live, the more I see and know of the evils of my own heart, the more tender I should be in limiting how far it may wander. But it will never roam beyond the bounds of covenant love, will never fall out of the arms of mercy into hell – will never get beyond the eye and hand of the Good Shepherd, for he has a piercing eye and an outstretched hand, a long arm and a strong arm.
But he says, "I will search for my lost ones." With the Lord, to seek is to find. The earthly shepherd may look, and look, and look in vain – down, down in some far away mountain cleft the sheep may lie. But the all-seeing eye of the heavenly Shepherd reaches the most secluded, distant spot – and one word from him finds the wandering sheep. The sheep know the voice of the Shepherd. He never speaks in vain – however far they may have wandered, one word recalls them. For, with all their folly, they have the distinguishing mark of a sheep – love of the Shepherd – and therefore, when he speaks, it drops into the heart, and brings them back.
Thus he finds his poor lost sheep, lays it upon his shoulder, and brings it home rejoicing – it may be mangled and torn – sadly scratched with thorns, bleeding in head and limbs, with its fleece ripped and soiled, perhaps its wool half pulled off – but still living, warm, panting, breathing, clinging close to the bosom of its almighty Deliverer.
What a mercy to be a sheep! To have any one mark of belonging to the flock of slaughter! To have one grain of grace – I say sometimes the hundredth part of a grain, how unspeakable the mercy! O, to have life in the soul – it may sometimes be at a low ebb, very low, but to have a spark of the life of God in the bosom! Worlds cannot purchase it, and worlds cannot destroy it.
Do not write yourself lost, because you are tempted on every hand. Despair is one of the strongholds of Satan. His first object is to draw you away, and then to tell you there is no hope, that by plunging you into despair, he may hurl you into greater depths of sin.
2. "And bring again those who were DRIVEN AWAY." Satan does not deal with all alike. He is a master of deception – he knows how to adapt his devices to everyone's constitution and disposition. He did not spread the same net for Peter and David – nor work in the same manner upon Solomon and Jonah. To some he is a serpent, and to others a lion – to this man a tempter, to that an accuser. He fires David's eyes, and swells Hezekiah's heart – sets Asaph in slippery places, and makes Job and Jeremiah curse the day of their birth. Thus some he allures into evil, and in its mazes they become for a time "lost;" others he "drives away." This he sometimes does by injecting blasphemous insinuations and suggestions – as if he would thereby drive them headlong into suicide or despair. Careless sinners he tempts to presumption – but where he sees a work of grace begun, there he tempts to despond of salvation altogether.
But besides these temptations of the enemy, some seem from the very tenderness of their consciences "driven away." Their feelings are so acute and sensitive – sin is laid upon them with such weight and power, and they see and feel themselves such monsters of iniquity, that it seems as though the very holiness and majesty of God drove them away from his presence. They dare scarcely speak lest they be cast and condemned under the Word – or pray – lest they add sin to sin. Thus, they are driven away, by the very majesty of God, by their own apprehension of him as a consuming fire, and by the terrors of his holy and righteous law. Thus it was in time of old. The children of Israel could not bear to hear "the awesome trumpet blast and a voice with a message so terrible that they begged God to stop speaking." (Heb.12:19). Bounds were set round that fiery mountain, and they were thus driven away from its precincts. So whenever the law comes with condemnation to the conscience, it drives the soul away. As guilt and wrath drove Adam away from the voice of the Lord, to hide himself among the trees of the garden, so a sense of guilt and wrath drives the soul away from the presence of God.
But, besides what takes place in the first work of grace in the soul, even afterwards, often, in after stages, a sense of guilt through having fallen into some sin, or in any way having wounded and defiled the conscience, will drive away the soul from God. Sensible of its guilt and shame, it fears to approach him, and by staying away makes the matter worse, and the breach harder to be healed. Sometimes these fears work so strong, as almost to make a man give up his very profession. He says to himself, "I cannot go among the people of God – they would shun me, if they knew what I was – I cannot, I must not go to hear the truth, for I shall only hear my own sentence – and therefore I had better stay away – nor will I ever open my mouth about religion again, lest my place be among the hypocrites." Thus, by their very doubts and fears and sensitiveness of conscience, they are driven away.
But the Lord has respect unto these also. He says, "I will bring again." This shows they were formerly in the enjoyment of his comfortable presence – that they had been embraced in the arms of mercy – that they had been enfolded to the bosom of love – but they were driven away. Guilt, temptation, Satan, doubts and fears had driven them away from the shelter of the tabernacle. Yet the promise runs, I will "bring again those who were driven away."
But how? By nothing but a sense of mercy. It is not by frowns, but by smiles. "I drew them," says the Lord, "with the cords of a man," (that is, the tender feelings that are bound up in the human heart,) "with the cords of love" (Hos.11:4). You may thunder, you may lightening, you may take the whip and flog a poor backslider. But you can never flog him home. He must be drawn by mercy, by the goodness of God, which leads to repentance. How was Peter brought back? By that look which Jesus gave him, as he stood in the hall of the high priest, that look of mingled love and reproach. It was this that made Peter go out and weep bitterly. A frown would have driven him into despair, and made him hang himself by the side of Judas – but that look of mingled reproof and love wounded and healed, filled heart and eyes with the deepest grief and sorrow – and yet poured such a healing balm into his mourning soul that when Jesus was risen from the dead, and by his angel sent him a special message that he would see him again in Galilee, he leaped into the sea to meet him, when he stood on the shore of the lake Tiberias. But for that look and for that message, he would rather have leaped to the bottom with self-reproach, than leaped to the shore with love and affection. Thus was brought again poor driven-away Peter.
And thus too, by the voice of pardon, was brought again poor driven-away David. For the Lord devises means that his banished be not expelled from him.
3. "And will bind up those who are BROKEN." Some then in the flock are broken, broken in wind, limb, and constitution.
1. Some are broken-winded, asthmatic and coughing all the day long, unable to travel, and lying down at every step, with gasping mouth and panting flank. There are spiritual asthmas and winter coughs among the Lord's family. Poor feeble ones that cannot step without a sigh or a groan, wheezing at the least exertion, and dying away up every little hill.
2. Others are broken in limb. They have slipped down a precipice, and broken a leg. And doubtless, there are many more limbs broken than you know of. It is not everybody that shows his broken leg. Many poor children of God have had their secret slips, that have broken all their bones, and yet known only to God and themselves. Who is there that is not, more or less, guilty of slips with the eye, with the tongue, with the hand, the foot, the ear, or the heart? Sometimes this breaks the arm, so that it is not lifted up as it should be in prayer, and is, from being crippled, unable to embrace the Son of God – sometimes the leg, so that it cannot readily run the race set before us.
3. Others are broken in constitution. Sickness and disease have gradually drained away their native strength. Their wisdom is broken, their righteousness, their strength, their resolutions, their false hopes, their creature religion – so that "the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint" (Isa.1:5). But the Lord says, I will "bind up that which was broken." He swathes up the tender chest, and heals the gasping, panting lung – he kindly sets the broken bone, and puts it into close alignment. It shall not be like many a limb that the doctors set which leaves a limping leg ever after, but it shall be stronger than before. And the broken constitution he renovates by the balm of Gilead, so that the soul renews its youth like the eagle.
4. But, besides broken wind, limb, and constitution, the Lord's people have broken hearts – and a broken and a contrite heart is in God's eyes of great price. None but he who made the heart can first break it, and then bind it up – but he can do both effectually. To this man God looks – for he has promised to look "to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembles at my word" (Isa.66:2) – and with him he dwells. "For thus says the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy – I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones" (Isa.57:15). And where the Lord dwells, he binds up.
5. But the same blow which breaks their heart often breaks their confidence. So David found it. The same Psalm which says, "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit," breathes also the prayer, "Cast me not away from your presence" (Psalm 51:17, 11). There was perhaps a time when they could speak confidently of what God had done for their souls, and believed in their very hearts that the Lord loved them, and gave himself for them. But this true confidence (for there is a true as well as a false one) is often so sadly broken that they cannot put it together again. But the Lord has promised to "bind up that which was broken;" and this he can do by one look, one word, one smile, one beaming in of his presence and grace. Every scattered bone and joint now drops into its place – and the whole is then so firmly swathed round with love as to be as strong or stronger than before. You have come sometimes to hear, perhaps with scarcely a hope in your soul – you have been so knocked about by sin and Satan, and have got into such places, that you have dreaded and feared whether there was a spark of grace in you – and yet, when all seemed utterly gone, and you at your wit's end, a line of the hymn, or a word dropped in prayer, or something in the sermon, all of a sudden entered into your soul, and came with such overwhelming power, that your very heart was melted within you. This was binding up that which was broken – and the confidence which before was like a dislocated limb, or a foot out of joint, unable to bear any weight or pressure, leaps, like Naphtali, as a deer let loose.
4. "I will strengthen those who are SICK." Peculiar maladies require peculiar remedies – but here is a general remedy, a family medicine. The Lord not only has strong remedies for desperate diseases – but in the divine medicine chest he has his restoratives and cordials. "Oh, feed me with your love—your 'raisins' and your 'apples'—for I am utterly lovesick!" (Song of Sol.2:5). She was in a swoon, and needed a reviving cordial to restore her. So a poor fainting soul may come to hear the preached gospel, or may open his Bible, and say, "What is here for me? When I hear any deep experience described, that seems to cut me off as too deep – and when I hear great manifestations entered into, that cuts me off as too high. So I seem to be a strange being, a peculiar out-of-the-way creature, that can neither dive nor fly, sink nor rise."
Well, you are sick – you are like one in a hospital, ill of a malady that puzzles all the doctors. At last one more skilful than his brethren, says, "There is no peculiar disease. But the man, like many of our London patients, is suffering from lack of nourishment, dying from sheer exhaustion. He needs better blood put into him. He must have some good food, wine, and a nourishing diet to recruit his strength and put new life into his body." Thus acts the great Physician, Jehovah Rophi. I "will strengthen that which was sick!" The blood and righteousness of Jesus, that flesh which is food indeed, and that blood which is drink indeed, is given to the hunger-bitten wretch to revive him as with a heavenly cordial.
There is balm in Gilead – there is a Physician there – to that balm and to that Physician sin-sick souls seek. If you have a real case, you may depend upon it, there is a remedy in the family chest. It is not found out yet--at least you may not have found it, but there is a drawer, and in that drawer there is a draught devised by infinite wisdom and compounded by everlasting love. It is indeed a remedy such as no learned physician of the school of the Pharisees ever prescribed, or an apothecary wise in his own conceit ever compounded – but yet the very thing, the very thing. And when that drawer is opened, and the draught brought out, and you take it, you will be able to say with David in the joy of your heart, "Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name" (Psa.103:1).
II. God's threatenings and denunciations against the fat and the strong. But I pass on to the second part of our subject, where the Lord leaves his dear family, the sheep of his pasture and the flock of his hand, to utter a very sad and striking denunciation– "But I will destroy the fat and the strong – I will feed them with judgment." Hard words! Heavy tidings! I scarcely know heavier tidings through the whole Word of God. For, look at the two characters whom the Lord threatens to destroy. They are "the fat" and "the strong." A man, may be both this, though very, very consistent – religious, highly religious, in the common sense of the word. Let us, therefore, go a little beneath the surface, and examine its spiritual meaning.
1. One thing is very evident – that the people spoken of as "FAT" and "strong," are not afflicted with any disease – if they were, it would soon pull the fat off their bones. They are in very good case – and the reason is, they have no wasting malady. Is not this a description of many, too many in the professing church of Christ? "Surely," say they, "we are not such very great sinners – and if our heart is bad, we do not want to hear it spoken of." But if these people had a severe malady, they would be very glad to have the symptoms of that malady described. And if they found day after day they were losing flesh, and gradually wasting, they would want to know the cause, whether it sprang from a consumption, or a diseased liver, or some internal malady.
So when a child of God finds his strength and flesh going, and he is pining away for his iniquities, as the Scripture speaks (Ezek.34:23), let Pharisees speak as long as they please, he likes to hear the malady opened up as he feels it. But "the fat " and "the strong" cannot bear the sight of affliction. They are like healthy people going into the wards of an hospital. O how it disgusts them! Here is a man with an abscess – there a poor woman with a cancer – here one wretch coughing up his lungs, and there another in the very agonies of dissolution. How repugnant is every sight and smell! So it is in a religious sense. The whole, the stout, the fat, and the strong, never like to be amongst the sickly, the consumptive, and the cancered.
But the Lord says, he will "destroy the fat." There is no promise of mercy for them – no gracious intimation that the Lord will seek them, bring them again, bind up, or strengthen them. They need it not – are in good situation – are fat and strong – have neither ache nor sore – and therefore need no remedy from the Physician.
2. But hard labor will keep down fat. Where will you find a country laborer carrying much flesh upon his bones? Where will you find, to come lower still, a hard-worked horse carrying much fat and flesh? So in grace – labor with temptations, do a deal of hard work by fighting hand to hand against the flesh and the devil – and you will find that it will rub off your flesh. From this, therefore, we gather, that the people against whom the woe is pronounced do not know much of heartwork nor spiritual conflict. Free from sickness and labor, the two great wasters of flesh, "their eyes stand out with fatness" (Psalm 73:7).
But there are also "the STRONG." Such are those who know nothing of their own wickedness and sinfulness. "What have I to do with sin? Sin! I can keep it at arm's length – I can conquer it at once with a knock-down blow." Such is the spirit, if not the language, of many. As to Satan, his temptations, they fear not. Doubts and fears? They have gotten miles and miles, leagues and leagues beyond them. This is wide encampment ground. Many who bitterly anathematize each other, pitch their tents on the ground of creature confidence. Papist, Pharisee, Antinomian, have all room for their maneuvers, here.
Now, I do not say that even a child of God may not for a time be entangled in this snare – for we are poor fools, the best of us, and have all gone aside into some by-path or other. But if year after year a man goes on laying on fat and strength--ignorant of sickness, sin, and sorrow, needing no support of a heavenly arm, no remedy from an almighty Physician--God has in this portion of Scripture treasured up a very hard word against him, "I will destroy the fat and the strong." How? By cutting them off? – sending them to hell at a stroke? No. If he did, London would be at once depopulated – it would be like Lisbon after the earthquake. If the Lord struck down every presumptuous wretch, every ungodly sinner in the act of sinning, the metropolis would be a wasteland. Nay, I do not know how many corpses we might not have in this chapel.
But the Lord has other means of executing vengeance. He says, "I will feed them." What! The Lord feed them? Yes, he will. "I will feed them." With wisdom? No! Mercy? No! The flesh of Christ? No! Gospel promises? No! "I will feed them with;" (what an awful word is coming!) "Judgment." I will leave them alone. That is the meaning of it. The way, then, in which the Lord destroys "the fat and "the strong" is to give them up to their own delusions, to their own errors, to their own follies. And this judicially. God does not tempt, nor is the author of sin – but as he judicially hardened Pharaoh's heart, so judicially he feeds these with "judgment," merely by leaving them in a way of sovereign righteousness to fill up the measure of their own iniquity, and to walk after the imaginations of their own evil hearts.
Now when is a man fed with "judgment?" When he is inaccessible to all reproof, beyond the reach of all admonition and of all warning – when he deliberately embraces error, and feeds upon it – when he wraps himself up in his own delusions, holds a lie in his right hand, and rejoices in it. We can scarcely credit there can be an individual professing great light and knowledge, who has arrived to that degree of presumption and confidence as to have no checks of conscience, no remorse for the past, no apprehensions for the future – no confession, no supplication, no prayer, no desire after God's manifested favor and mercy, but is satisfied with a form of religion, wrapped up in notions without the power, and rolled up in doctrine without the sweet application of God's truth to the soul.
Yet, you may depend upon it, there are many, very many, both in town and country, ministers and people, whom the Lord is feeding thus with judgment, abandoning them to their own devices and delusions, not taking pains to strip off the veil, but leaving them to settle quietly down in the belief of a lie, or in a notional faith and profession of the truth.
Examine yourselves on which side of the line you stand, if you would be honest with your own consciences. You are a professor, I presume, by your coming here. Now you must very well know in your soul whether you are hungering at times after food; restless, lost, driven away, broken, and sick. Now if there be any such experience in your heart, to you belong all these sweet promises. They are yours, really yours. The Lord that has made them will surely fulfill them.
But there is room, much room for holy jealousy on which side of the line we stand. Perhaps you may be one of "the fat and strong," and not one of the sick, or the broken, or the driven away. You way have no experience either of sorrow or joy, of trouble or deliverance – or, what is worse, may secretly despise God's tried and exercised family. But O, what a mercy to have some soul experience of the bitterness of sin, the evil of the heart, and the manifestations of Jesus! The worst of all cases, is to have no experience and no desire after any, but to be satisfied with the perishing things of time and sense, or the knowledge of the truth without the power, with the form without the reality.
Preached at Eden St. Chapel, London, August 21, 1844, by J. C. Philpot
"Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings."
The Scriptures were revealed for the instruction and consolation of the church of God in all time; and therefore, there cannot be any experience in the soul so deep, nor any so high, which may not be traced in them. But all God's people are not led into much of the experience we find recorded there; there are depths into which all do not descend; there are heights to which all do not mount. All the people of God, for instance, cannot adopt such language as we find in some of the Psalms. "My iniquities have gone over my head—as a heavy burden they are too heavy for me. My wounds stench and are corrupt because of my foolishness. For my loins are filled with a loathsome disease; and there is no soundness in my flesh. I am feeble and severely broken; I have roared by reason of the disturbance of my heart." (38:4-8.) I do not mean to say, they may not have some sensations similar to those here described; but all are not able to declare (at any rate, in some stages of their experience), that they have gone into all the depths of feeling therein expressed.
So again—"While I suffer your terrors I am in despair." (88:15.) "Deep calls unto deep at the noise of your waterfalls—all your waves and your billows are gone over me." (42:7.) I do not mean to say, that all the Lord's people do not enter into a measure of the feelings therein set forth; but all the children of God certainly do not go down into the same depths of soul trouble, that we find some of the saints experienced as set forth in the Scripture. And so likewise, we may find heights of joy, praise, and exultation experienced by the Bible saints of old, that do not find a present parallel in the hearts of many of God's people. I do not say, that the time will not come, when they may sink into those depths; or that the period will not arrive when they may rise up to those heights; I merely look at it as a matter of present observation, as an existing fact, that there are heights and depths of feeling recorded in the Scripture, to which all the children of God do not equally sink, and to which they do not all equally rise.
But there are experiences, or parts of experience, traced out in the Scriptures, which do meet, more or less, with a response in the bosom of every one taught of God—experience, which being the teaching of the Holy Spirit, is as real, as saving, and as complete as the other; and yet, not equally deep; nor equally high; but more upon a level with the average of God's people, and thus specially adapted (if I may use the expression), to "the middle classes" of God's family. There are many passages of holy writ which drop into the very heart and conscience of all who know something of divine teaching, and yet have not been plunged into the depths, nor raised up into the heights that others of God's saints are experimentally acquainted with.
Some parts, for instance, are clothed in the language of prayer; and how these express the feelings of a soul taught of God! How many of the Psalms are almost entirely taken up with breathing out the desires of the Psalmist! What a man of prayer David was! And how the Holy Spirit has seen fit to record in the Scriptures of truth the breathings of his soul, that we might, when we find similar breathings, have a testimony in our conscience that we are under the same teaching; and thus find a parallel in our hearts with what we there read as felt and experienced by one of God's saints. So that all the elect family, so far as they are living under the teachings of the Spirit, can come in, each in their own measure, with the petitions, the breathings, the longings, the sighings, the hungerings, the thirstings of the saints recorded in the Scriptures; though they cannot all mount up, or sink down, into the experience contained in other parts.
For instance, in the text, we have a petition breathed out from the soul of the Psalmist; and this petition divides itself into two branches—one, that the Lord would "keep" him; and the other, that the Lord would "hide" him. Everyone taught of God to know his own heart, and to feel his own weakness, let him have sunk into the lowest depths of conviction, or mounted up to the greatest heights of spiritual transport; or let him be weak and feeble, and know but little either of the bright side or of the dark—all the children of God, I say, who know the weakness of their own heart, and the awful sin that lurks and works there, and who feel that they have no power to keep themselves, can all come and join with one heart and one voice in these words—"Keep me as the apple of the eye." And if they know anything of the experience of being brought into a measure of nearness to God, they can also join in the latter part of the text—"Hide me under the shadow of your wings."
But you will observe, that the Psalmist not merely breathes forth a desire to be kept, and to be hidden, which is the leading branch of each petition, but he also (if I may use the expression) points out to the Lord the way in which he wishes these blessings to be communicated. He does not say simply, "Keep me;" but he adds, "as the apple of the eye;" he does not cry merely, "Hide me," but he also adds, "under the shadow of your wings;" feeling that it was not enough to be kept, unless he was kept "as the apple of the eye," and not sufficient to be hidden, unless he was hidden "under the shadow" of the divine "wings."
With God's blessing, then, I shall endeavor this evening to trace out the experience contained in these two petitions; and show, if the Holy Spirit enables me, what it is to be "kept as the apple of the eye," and what it is to be "hidden under the shadow of God's wings."
I. "Keep me as the apple of the eye." Now, before a man can sincerely and honestly breathe out this prayer, "Keep me," he must have had a certain divine work wrought in his conscience. There is nothing easier than to take scriptural language into our lips; but whenever God the Spirit makes a man honest, he strips away from him all prayers that do not spring out of a feeling heart. He not only beats out of our hands liturgies, collects, and all formal, man-made prayers; but he also strikes out of our lips the very petitions that we find in the word of God which do not correspond with the feeling of our soul. So that, if our hearts have been touched by God's Spirit, and thus made honest and sincere before him, we can no more use scriptural prayers, nor join in with the minister when he prays, for if we have not more or less of the feeling which he or they express, than we can use written prayers or dry and dusty forms.
1. If then we would really take into our lips, with scriptural and experimental feelings in our hearts, this petition, "Keep me as the apple of the eye," there must be, as a preliminary to breathing forth this prayer, a certain, special, and particular work of grace wrought in our conscience; or we cannot say, as David does in the first verse of this Psalm, "Give ear unto my prayer, O Lord, that goes not out of deceitful lips."
1. Before then we can rightly breathe forth the prayer, "Keep me," we must have been taught spiritually something of our own helplessness to keep ourselves. We shall but mock God, if we ask him to keep us, and yet are not fully persuaded, that without his keeping we shall surely fall. Until, therefore, the Spirit of God has wrought in our conscience an experimental feeling of our complete helplessness, to use this petition, "Keep me," will but "come out of feigned lips."
But how does the Lord, for the most part, show us our helplessness? By allowing us from time to time to come into those circumstances, where we find temptation more than a match for us. The Lord is not the author of sin—God forbid; but he takes care that we shall know by painful experience we have no power to keep ourselves, except he specially interpose by his own miraculous hand. And thus, in his providence, he permits us to come into certain spots and states where we have to learn most keenly our inability to stand for a single hour, unless we are upheld by divine power. That was the way in which God dealt with Job. He had to teach him a certain lesson, his own helplessness; and to show him also the self-righteousness that was working naturally in his proud heart.
But O, what a way he took to teach Job this lesson! He permitted all those overwhelming circumstances to come upon him, which not only roused up the peevishness of his heart, of which he before was comparatively ignorant; but he showed him also how completely helpless he was to keep himself, and how unable to stand, except the Lord himself supported him by his own power. Now if we know anything of ourselves, we know this, that whenever the Lord has left us for a single moment to our own strength, we were unable to stand; that when any temptation presented itself suitable to our carnal mind, and God withheld his power to keep us, into that very temptation we fell headlong. I do not mean to say, that it was into some gross outward sin. We may learn what sin is, without falling headlong into the pit; we may draw near enough to the edge of the sewer to know its noisome smell, without tumbling into it; we may slip and stagger upon the brink, without falling actually into the filthy pool. But all God's people are made to know their natural proneness to evil; and seeing and feeling how infallibly they must fall, and how they always have fallen, when God did not specially preserve them, they come at length to learn their helplessness, not as a matter of doctrine merely, but as a truth in inward and heartfelt experience. It is thus wrought in them as a divine conviction, that they cannot stand a single day nor a single hour, except the Lord himself miraculously and supernaturally supports them. A spiritual knowledge, then, of our complete helplessness is one prerequisite, one needful preliminary, before we can breathe forth the first branch of the petition in the text—"Keep me."
2. Another prerequisite is, to know what a dreadful thing it is NOT to be kept; and to see and feel the horrible evil of those things from which we desire to be preserved. This is produced by the Lord's raising up his fear in our hearts, and making our conscience tender before him. And when he thus gives us to see the horrible nature of sin, he causes us to groan and sigh, and at times almost bleed under the painful sensations that the guilt of sin produces when it is charged home upon the conscience. Many speak of those who contend for the life and power of God in the soul, both ministers and hearers, as though they were always indulging in, and gloating over corruption; as though all their preaching and conversation, and all they love to hear and speak about, were but the internal workings of evil; and as though they considered him the greatest Christian who knew the most of nature's depravity.
Now I say boldly, that there is no man who knows anything of the evil of sin, who desires to be kept from the power of sin, who groans and sighs under the burden of sin, and who hates sin "with total hatred," except him who has that vital experience against which so many darts are thrown. The man who merely has the doctrines floating in his head, has no inward abhorrence of evil; he has no groaning of heart under the power of sin; nor has he any desire (except for the sake of his own reputation) to be kept from falling into it. Those only who, by seeing light in God's light, know the workings of inward corruption, feel what a horrible thing sin is; and they are the only people who desire to be kept from falling into it; for they alone experimentally possess that fear of God working in their hearts which makes them to "hate evil," and which is in them "a fountain of life to depart from the snares of death." I say, then, it is a libel upon those who preach experimentally, and set forth the work of God the Spirit in the soul, to say that they encourage and indulge sin. If they are taught of God, as they profess to be, they know inwardly and painfully what a horrible thing sin is; they groan and cry, as the greater part of their daily experience, under the weight and burden of sin; and they alone are constantly and continually sighing to the Lord to deliver them from the power and dominion of it, and to purge their consciences from dead works to serve the living God. No more, the experimentally taught people of God are the only ones who in any measure are delivered from the power of sin. A man, then, must know what a horrible and hateful thing sin is, before he will cry to the Lord to "keep" him from it.
3. Again. He must also know what it is to have experienced some putting forth of the Lord's power in his conscience, upholding him from falling into those sins into which he would have tumbled headlong had not grace interposed. There is a kind of despair which seizes hold of a man's heart who has never been manifestly kept by God. Sin has come before him—he has fallen into it, and has repented of it; sin has come before him again—he has again fallen into it, and again repented of it. This alternate sinning and repenting at last produces a feeling of despair; as we find the Prophet speaking—"You said there is no hope; for I have loved strangers, and after them will I go." (Jer. 2:25.) If a man keeps falling, falling, falling, and never finds the power of the Lord put forth to uphold him, it at lasts breeds in him a spirit of infidelity as to whether God is really willing to keep him; every such successive fall opens up the way for another; and every repeated instance of the Lord not keeping him makes him doubt whether he has the disposition to preserve him from sin.
But on the contrary, wherever the Lord has appeared, in any manifest way, to keep a man when he has been walking upon the very brink and edge of temptation, and some portion of Scripture has been sent home to his conscience, or some special help has come from the Lord in the hour of need, it raises up a sweet hope, and encourages his soul to plead with God that he would keep him more and more; so that he can say with Paul, "Having obtained help of God, I continue unto this day." (Acts 26:22.)
So that these three things at least, not to mention others, must be wrought by a divine power in the conscience, before we can ask the Lord to keep us–
1. We must know our own helplessness to keep ourselves.
2. We must feel the exceeding evil and bitter character of sin, so as to make us groan and cry from the very bottom of our heart to the Lord to keep us from it.
3. We must have found, from time to time, that the Lord has appeared, kept, preserved, and restrained us from falling into sin, when we would otherwise have rushed headlong into the foulest and basest crimes.
2. "Keep me." But WHAT did the Psalmist want the Lord to keep him from? In breathing forth this desire, he must have seen all the enemies of his soul arrayed against him. He must have viewed the number, craft, and strength of his foes, and felt himself a poor, weak, defenseless, helpless babe before them. It is this feeling of helplessness that makes us cry to the Lord for help. As long as we think we have a grain of strength of our own, as long as we can depend in the least degree upon any supposed wisdom or righteousness in ourselves, we never can, except with "false lips," cry, "Keep me." But the more thoroughly and completely we are emptied of self-confidence, self-dependence, self-wisdom, self-strength, and self-righteousness, the more singly and simply, the more sincerely and ceaselessly, will the prayer be breathed forth—"Keep me."
1. We need to be kept from the WORLD; and we never need to be kept from it so much as when we fear it least. We need to be kept from the world daily and hourly; but we shall never ask the Lord to keep us from it until we have felt its ensnaring spirit. Now, it is not so much the society of the world, as the spirit of it, that defiles our conscience. A man may go into the midst of the world, if business or necessity calls him, and not be infected or contaminated with it; and at other times he may sit alone in his chimney-corner without speaking a word to a worldly person, and yet find the spirit of the world stealing upon and overpowering his heart. I have known, in times past, what it was to breathe out my soul to the Lord, with earnest desires after him, in the midst of worldly company.
Though we would not go needlessly into it (for who can touch pitch without being blackened?) yet it is not so much the society of the world, when we are thrown necessarily into it, as the spirit of it getting hold of a man's heart, that he has so much reason to dread. For when the spirit of the world gets within us, I am sure it will deaden our conscience, and harden our heart toward the things of eternity; it will make the Bible little else than a book which we have no interest to read; it will shorten all our prayers to God; it will put a damp upon all the pantings, breathings, and longings of our soul heavenward. Therefore, just in proportion as the spirit of the world acts upon and prevails over us, just so much is all spiritual feeling damped in the soul. These two spirits never can both be at the same time predominant; where the Spirit of the Lord reigns and rules, it overcomes the spirit of the world; and where the spirit of the world prevails, it damps, for a time, the actings of the Spirit of God.
When we feel, then, what the spirit of the world is; when we awake out of our dream, like Nabal of old from his drunkenness, and the fumes of intoxication have been dispelled, (for sometimes we get so intoxicated with it, and the spirit of the world has such possession of us, that we do not know we are under its influence,) we then see its mud and mire upon our clothes, and know painfully where we have been wallowing. Perhaps some heavy affliction, or cutting conviction, some moment of solemn meditation, or some awakening feeling created by God himself in our conscience, brings us out of that sad state of intoxication into which we have so heedlessly fallen.
We then begin to see what a dreadful, what a dreadful thing it is to be entangled with the love of the world. We perceive how insensibly its spirit has been creeping upon us; we feel how it has well near eaten out the life of God in our souls; what a crust of searedness, so to speak, it has brought over our conscience, and how it has deadened our heart to divine things. And when we get a little delivered from the spirit of the world, when the Lord indulges our souls with some sweet meditation, or some spiritual pantings and sighings after him, how we hate ourselves that we should ever have been so entangled in its spirit, and how we desire that that foul spirit should never regain possession of us!
2. But again. Of all opponents that we have most to fear, and of all enemies whose arts and arms we have most reason to dread, (I believe I shall find an echo in every God-taught bosom here) surely SELF is the greatest foe; and self is never so great a foe, as when it is most concealed. We can guard against the open enemy; it is the secret foe whose attacks we have most to dread, and against whom we have most reason to guard. We can defend ourselves against the soldier that wears the uniform of the enemy; but it is the traitor in the garrison whose insidious arts are most to be feared. So it is with respect to our own evil heart—that traitor within the camp, that secret renegade within the walls, who is continually plotting how to deliver our heart's garrison into the hands of the enemy.
For instance, this evil heart of ours will sometimes work in a way of PRESUMPTION; lifting us up to vain-confidence, inspiring proud and conceited thoughts of ourselves, damping all that humility, that godly fear, that lowliness of mind, that contrition of spirit which at times we have experienced, and lifting us up into a sort of careless, reckless, Antinomian vain-confidence. We get into this spirit of vain-confidence sometimes we scarcely know how, but it is very much connected usually with the spirit of the world; and if that spirit is working in a man's heart, if he has some sound and scriptural form of religion, some Calvinistic profession, no ground seems so good for him to take as that of vain-confidence. If he be exercised with doubts, fears, and misgivings, they will damp the spirit of the world within him; but if he takes the ground of vain-confidence, he has not a single check. The ground of eternal security in Christ, of the everlasting covenant ordered in all things and sure, of the certainty of the salvation of the elect, and of his own interest in Christ as one of the elect—a man may take all that high position, and have his heart filled with worldliness.
But when he comes to be exercised with doubts and fears and sinkings, they and the spirit of the world cannot work together; but the highest fleshly confidence will work well with the spirit of the world. The people of God sometimes begin to feel this spirit creeping over and stealing upon them. They have not had so many trials lately; things in providence have gone well with them; Satan has not thrown so many fiery darts into their minds; they have had a little ease; there has been a cessation of arms, a short truce with the enemy. Now this is the time for the soul to get lifted up into vain-confidence.
But when we awake from the dream, and see how, with this spirit, searedness of conscience came on, and how we no longer discovered the presence of evil in things wherein we saw it plainly before, we begin to feel what a dreadful enemy to our souls this vain-confidence and Antinomian presumption is, and to cry, "Keep me, Lord, from this empty religion." Whatever doubts and fears the soul is exercised with, these are felt to be better than a calm, easy, confident state without the shinings-in of God's countenance—a state of security not springing from any divine testimony within, but resting upon the bare letter of the word, or standing in mere notions and opinions, quite distinct from the work and witness of God the Spirit in the soul.
Oh! the deceitfulness of our heart! Who can fathom the depths of our native hypocrisy? What language can paint, what tongue can describe the workings of our base heart, or the treachery of our fallen nature? When a child of God begins to take a solemn review of the past, and sees how in a thousand instances his vile heart has deceived him; how it always has betrayed him whenever he trusted in it, and never did anything else but lie; how desirous he is to be kept from being entangled and overcome by the wickedness and treachery of his depraved nature! We begin at last to look upon our hearts just as a master does upon a servant whom he finds is perpetually telling him lies; he looks upon him as an unprincipled wretch, on whom he cannot place the least dependance, and of whom he will gladly get rid as soon as he possibly can.
So when we find our heart has made such strong resolutions of amendment, put such a good face upon matters, and yet, day after day, has been telling us such awful and abominable lies; we begin after a time to look upon it, as the master does upon the dishonest servant, with a feeling that it is only seeking an opportunity to deceive and pillage us, however it may use the language of truth and honesty. And like the master who has discovered that he has been under the power of this lying servant, as we get more and more acquainted with the lies and hypocrisy of our deceitful nature, we are anxious to be kept from the power of it, that this treacherous heart may not have the dominion over us.
Sometimes, on the other hand, we are afraid of the DESPAIR that springs out of these unbelieving hearts of ours. There are two vast shoals upon one of which many gallant barks make shipwreck—the shoal of presumption, and the shoal of despair. What a course have the vessels of mercy to steer between these rocks and how continually they are edging the very brink of these reefs! What a dexterous steersman it must be to guide them safely!—Aye, none can steer them through but the Lord himself sitting at the helm. How perpetually is the frail vessel nearing the shoal of presumption or of despair! How does a vain-confident spirit one day fill our mind, and the next day a desponding spirit sink our soul! How we are towering one hour on the wings of vain-confidence, and the next hour falling into almost the lowest pit of despondency! Now the soul taught of God dreads as much to be left to despair, as it dreads to be given up to presumption. It knows there are these two shoals, on which so many noble vessels have struck; and O how it fears lest it should one day or other be wrecked on one of these rocks!
But in fact, if my ability enabled me to enumerate all the evils by which we are surrounded, all the enemies that threaten our soul's peace, all the snares spread for our feet, all the entanglements Satan is laying in the way, all the dangers felt and feared, it would be to occupy the whole evening.
3. I shall therefore pass on to consider the WAY in which the Psalmist begs the Lord to keep him—"Keep me as the apple of the eye." If I may use the expression—and I do it with all reverence—he directs the Lord how to keep him; or rather, he points out to the Lord the way in which he wishes to be kept.
But what is meant by the expression—"the apple of the eye?" I am not very fond of 'opening up what a word is in the original', whether Greek or Hebrew, because it often springs from nothing else but pride and vanity in the speaker; and after all, those who indulge in it most are usually least acquainted with the subject. But I cannot, in this instance, forbear mentioning its original meaning. It is, literally, "the little man of the eye;" and there is something very significant in the expression. If you look into the eye of a person speaking to you, you will see your own image reflected in it in miniature; and the Hebrews, from that circumstance, call the seeing part of the eye "the little man" of the eye. "The apple of the eye" then, in the original, means, not the white, but the pupil, the seeing part of the eye. The white of the eye is, I understand, nearly insensible to pain. A person was telling me the other day, that on being operated on for cataract, he suffered scarcely any pain when the knife was passed through the white of the eye. But "the little man of the eye," the seeing part of that wonderful organ, we know, is most sensitive. Now David asked the Lord to "keep him as the apple of the eye;" that is, with all that tenderness and care which the Creator has displayed in preserving this most important organ.
In order to illustrate this figure, let me direct your attention to a few particulars connected with the structure of the natural eye; not that I am well acquainted with its anatomy; but I wish to point out how the God of nature has PROTECTED this delicate organ, that I may show from it some of his dealings in grace. Look, for instance, at the bony orbit, in which the eye is lodged. If our eye had not been lodged in a deep and bony cavity, how exposed it would have been to every blow! I myself am a standing instance of it. When I was at school, one of my school-fellows threw a clothes-brush at me with great violence, which struck me just in the corner of the eye. Had it not been for this bony arch, which received the stroke, my eye would probably have been destroyed by the violence of the blow. The God of nature, then, has lodged this important and tender organ in this strong and deep bony cavity, in order to preserve it from injury. Here we see something of being "kept as the apple of the eye."
Look also at the noble, projecting pent-house over our eye that the God of creation has constructed—how our forehead, with the jutting eyebrow, preserves the eye from injury by a downward blow, and prevents the sweat of our brow, (for "in the sweat of our face" we have to eat our bread,) from running into and annoying it. And look at the eyebrow, that to serve the same purpose the Lord has set over the eye; and observe the delicate curtain of the eye-lid, that drops over it, to preserve it from dust and other annoyances; which also keeps it moist and sensitive, and wipes away, as if instinctively, any film which might gather over it. How fringed too it is with the eyelash, which breaks the violence of the light, and acts as a network against dust and bugs! I trust to be excused hinting at these natural things, as in order to catch the beauty of the figure, it is necessary thus to see for a moment how the Lord has protected our natural eye with such a wonderful apparatus. What skill has the Architect of our frame displayed in preserving this tender and important organ.
And observe also how SENSITIVE he has made the eye! How immediately the curtain drops when danger threatens! and how, when sleep falls upon us, and we lie at rest upon our pillow, the wise Constructor of our bodies has caused that close-fitting lid to fold over the eye, that no injury may befall it in the unguarded hours of the night! Now I do not mean to say, that the Psalmist was an anatomist; for my remarks have all been connected with the outward defenses of the eye, which are open to any person's observation, and not with the inward structure, which to understand requires dissection; but, no doubt, he had a view of the carefulness and wisdom with which the Maker of the eye had preserved it, that made him breathe forth this petition—"Keep me as the apple of the eye." That is, "Lord show to me spiritually the same protection, the same tenderness, the same wisdom which you have displayed in preserving my natural eye-sight."
In what sense, then, does the Lord "keep us as the apple of the eye?"
1. Do you not observe how this bony arch that the Lord has made preserves the eye from accidents and blows that might fall upon it? This is an EXTERNAL defense. And do we not see how the Lord is perpetually hedging up our way in providence, in order to preserve our souls from being entangled in the snares into which we would otherwise fall? The Lord keeps us most wonderfully. Sometimes, when temptation comes, we have not the will; sometimes, when the will comes, we have not the opportunity. The Lord guards us specially by his providence. As in his wisdom he has guarded our eye naturally by this bony orbit, so in his providential care he has kept us from a thousand evils. If all the Lord's people could speak, and tell honestly what they had passed through, how they would trace their preservation even from open sin to some unexpected circumstance in providence! Perhaps, a knock at the door, a child coming into the room, or an unexpected visit from a friend, has broken a snare, into which they would have fallen headlong, had not that circumstance intervened.
Just as the Lord in his wisdom has preserved the eye by this bony arch, which you will observe is an outward protection, and quite distinct from the sensitiveness of that organ, so does he from time to time keep us from falling into sin by his providential dealings with us. And it is a mercy to be kept at any rate, and in any way; it is a mercy to be kept from falling, though it be as a child is kept from falling into the fire by the tall iron guard-rail; it is a mercy to be kept from falling, even though it be as a lunatic by a strait-jacket, or by the iron bars before his windows. Open sin is so dreadful a thing, that it is a mercy to be kept from it in any way, or by any means, however severe, that the Lord may employ.
2. But what the Psalmist seems chiefly to point to, is the sensitiveness of the organ. This is an INTERNAL defense. How sensitive our eye is! Directly danger threatens it, how immediately the fringed curtain drops over it! And if dust, sand, or any foreign matter gets into our eye, how uneasy, how miserable, how troubled we are until it is dislodged! So spiritually. David seems here to refer to the conscience; for as our eye is sensitive naturally, so a conscience made tender by God's Spirit is sensitive spiritually. Does a foreign body—sand or dust—annoy and irritate the eye naturally?—He would ask the Lord to keep his conscience so sensitive, that sin, temptation, and evil might distress it, just as much as any foreign body distresses the eye when it flies into it. "Keep me as the apple of the eye," let my conscience be made and kept as tender, as sensitive, as fearful of the approach of evil, as circumspect, as watchful—and if evil does come, if sin does enter, let it be as distressed, as uneasy, until the guilt of it be removed, as ever "the apple of the eye" is, under the intrusion of a foreign substance.
In being "kept as the apple of the eye," then, he desires not only to be kept with all the care that God has bestowed upon the eye—not only with all the wisdom that he has displayed in preserving it externally—but also with all that wonderful apparatus of internal sensitive tenderness, which he has endowed it with, that it may be "the light of the body."
3. If our natural eye be darkened or impaired we stumble. We have lost that which directs our feet—that light which guides us in the road wherein we are to walk. So if our conscience, which is the eye of the soul, becomes hardened, darkened, crusted over, dimmed by cataract, we are unable to walk spiritually in the path pleasing to God; we stumble headlong into sin, mistake the course, and wander out of the way, just the same as we should if we had lost the important organ of sight naturally. Therefore, when the Psalmist said, "Keep me as the apple of the eye," it is as though he said, "Lord, show forth all that power, all that wisdom, all that tenderness, which you display in keeping my natural organ of sight; for if my soul be darkened, I must go astray."
Now will not this find a responsive echo in our bosom, if our conscience be made tender in God's fear? Shall we go recklessly on, if we know anything of the prayer, "Keep me as the apple of the eye?" Shall we say "Sin cannot harm us, sin cannot damn us, sin cannot cut us out of the covenant; it does not matter what we do, think, or say, for we belong to 'the election of grace;' there is no harm in this indulgence; there is no evil in that gratification; good men have done this or that?" Will there be in our hearts or lips any such reckless, hardened language, if we know anything of the meaning of the Psalmist's prayer? Who would expose his natural eye to a blow, when he knows the consequence? Who would wish the providence of God to be removed from keeping this important organ of natural sight? Who would plunge his eye fearlessly and recklessly where angry swords are flashing on every side? Who would open it to the arrow of the archer? Who would expose it to the rifle of the marksman? Who would lay it bare to stones and darts flying around it in all directions?
Now if a man, spiritually, sees that he is surrounded with instruments of destruction; if he discovers that swords are flashing on every side, darts cast in every direction, and snares and temptations are on every hand, any one of which may darken his spiritual sight; if he knows and feels these things, can he go on in a daring way of reckless presumption? If he breathes forth the words, "Keep me as the apple of the eye," is it not an appeal to the divine wisdom, the divine care, the divine tenderness, and the earnest desire of his soul that the Lord would exert all that wisdom, care, and tenderness over him? But there is much lodged, far more than I can express, and doubtless far more than I feel, in this prayer, "Keep me as the apple of the eye."
II. "Hide me under the shadow of your wings." This is the second branch of the petition that the soul of the Psalmist breathed forth in the words of the text.
He here makes use of another figure. The former plea was to be "kept" and he told the Lord how he wished to be kept—"as the apple of the eye;" this petition was, that he might be "hidden," and he tells God how he wishes to be hidden—"under the shadow of your wings." As the first was a figure in nature, and referred to the eye; so the second is another figure in nature, and refers to the protection that a mother bird exercises over her young. The Lord uses the same figure, when he says, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered your children together, even as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings." (Matt. 23:37.) We read also (Deut. 32:11) of "the eagle fluttering over her young, and spreading abroad her wings." We have the same figure used here. "Hide me under the shadow of your wings." The soul is breathing forth in expressive language its desire to be hidden under the shadow of God's protecting wing, as a young bird, or the tender chick, is covered and hidden beneath the fostering wings of the mother hen.
1. But before we enter into the figure, we will look at the expression—"HIDE me." "Come, my people," we read (Isa. 26:20), "enter into your chambers, and shut your doors about you; hide yourself for a little moment." There is much contained in the word "hide."
1. It implies, in the first instance, separation. If a man be hidden under the shadow of God's wings, it presupposes that the Lord has separated him unto himself, and keeps him distinct from all others as one of his "peculiar people." If we are hidden naturally, it indicates a coming out from other people; for we cannot be hidden if we are in a crowd. Solitude is a hedge and a bar from the world. "Hide me," then, implies an inward separation of heart and spirit—and this is a feeling which every God-taught soul earnestly desires. How much religious gossip there is, where this inward separation of heart and spirit is never seen! How much so-called religious conversation, in which the grace of God never manifests itself! And finding, as many of the living family do, what barrenness and death enter their conscience from this idle conversation (of which so many churches, alas, are full), it makes the greater part, or at least the most spiritual part of God's people lead a solitary and separate life. They find that they can no more go into professing company without defilement, hardness of heart, and searedness of conscience, than they can go into the profane world; no, even less so, because in the world they are more upon their guard. When in the society of worldly people, they watch their lips and guard their words; but with the professed followers of Jesus they give themselves more licence. So that when the Lord's spiritually taught family have felt and groaned under this, it brings them to desire to be "hidden," brought out of the professing world, and kept solitary and separate.
2. But "hide me" has another signification. The wrath of God is coming upon the world. The Son of Man will appear in his glory, and then the vials of divine vengeance will be poured out to the uttermost upon a guilty race. Now "hide me" is the desire of the soul to be brought under safe protection; to be delivered from this general approaching ruin, this universal, overwhelming destruction; and to be led into that spiritual knowledge of, and that spiritual communion with, the Lord of life and glory, that the soul shall find a refuge in him until the calamities are over and past.
2. But there is something more which we must enter into in order to get the full meaning of the expression—"Hide me under the shadow of your wings." "Under the shadow of your wings!" What ideas are conveyed by this figure?
1. Is not PROTECTION one? When the tender chicks see danger at hand, and flee for refuge under the wing of the mother, is not protection the leading feeling that brings them there? When the bird of prey, the hawk or the vulture, is in the sky, and about to pounce upon the chicks, does not the mother utter a peculiar cluck, at the sound of which they all run and nestle themselves under the shadow of her wings, and there are secured? Doubtless the Psalmist had some reference to this. When he said, "Hide me under the shadow of your wings," he saw dangers in prospect, he perceived "the Prince of the power of the air," that bird of prey hovering over him, that unclean vulture, about to pounce upon his soul; and feeling as defenseless from his attacks as the tender chick from the pounce of the hawk, the desire of his soul was to be brought into safe shelter, under the shadow of God's wings.
2. But it implies also NEARNESS. When the tender chicks get beneath the maternal wing, what a nearness there is between the mother and her offspring! How near her bosom is to them! and how near are they to her bosom! And no doubt, naturally, there are mutual sweet sensations connected with the nearness of the mother to the offspring, and the nearness of the offspring to the mother. As then the mother naturally feels a delight in having her child near to her breast, as the child clings to that warm shelter that it may be near to the maternal bosom; so the soul, in desiring to be "hidden under the shadow of God's wings," seeks nearness to him, and spiritual access to his presence—not to be at a distance from him, not to be shut out from his overspreading wing, not to be driven into darkness and gloominess as a forlorn outcast; but to be brought near unto, and be favored with sweet communion with the Lord. And every soul taught of God feels that there is no "hiding" short of this; that a man cannot hide himself from the presence of the Lord, though he flies unto the very ends of the earth; that all that man can do will not avail him in the day of wrath; that all his own refuges are refuges of lies; that his own righteousness will leave him unsheltered; that all mere forms, rites, and ceremonies will leave his head bare one day for the thunderbolt of divine vengeance; that there is no effectual protection from the wrath of God, except by being hidden in Christ, and thus brought into near and immediate communion and communication with the Lord of life and glory.
And as he has seen the tender chicks hiding themselves under the maternal wing, so he longs to be hidden under the shadow of God's wings, not merely to escape the coming danger, (that is but a selfish motive which all have,) but to be brought into special nearness that he may lean on the bosom of his Lord.
3. But there is also another idea connected with the figure; which is that of NURTURING, or what is called "brooding." When the tender chick comes forth from the egg, it would soon perish and die, were it not for the nurturing warmth of the mother, as she spreads her wing over it. How the little shrinking ones cower beneath those warm wings!—And as she spreads herself over them, her warmth nurtures them, diffusing itself through their whole system, and insensibly strengthening their weak and tender frame.
So spiritually. We have no warmth in ourselves; we may try to rub our evidences together, as Indians get fire by rubbing together sticks; we may obtain sparks but nothing else; a little light but no warmth. Would we be warm—would we feel our souls, our hearts, our spirits, burn with love and affection—we can only get inward and spiritual warmth by coming near its almighty Source! The consumptive patient relocates to the warm climates of the South, to get, if he may, a temporary respite from the death that threatens him; he does not relocate to the frozen climates of the north; he knows, the farther he goes from the sun, the more does ice hold the earth in perpetual chains—when he seeks for a more congenial sky, he goes towards the sun.
So the soul never can get warm by leaving the Lord, and plunging into the world—all there is chilliness, iciness, and death. Would we be warm? We can only be so by coming near to the Almighty source of life, light, and heat; by getting near unto the Sun of Righteousness, as the chick creeps under the mother's wing, and draws near her breast. Would the Lord warm our cold hearts? He brings the soul near to himself; and warmth out of his covenant fullness enters into and strengthens the heart.
4. But what an effectual PROTECTION it is! When the infant chicks are hidden beneath the maternal wing, what weapon can strike them? They are safe from every enemy; the arrow must pass through the bosom of the mother to wound them; and until she is slaughtered upon the spot, the chicks under her wing remain in a place of perfect security. So spiritually. If the soul be hidden under the shadow of God's wings, it never can be pierced there—and as long as the Lord lives, the soul must live, for it lives in nearness to and communion with him.
5. And again, how all the family are brought into mutual contact, when the mother hen spreads her wings over them! There is no foreigner, no stranger, no enemy there. She only nurtures her own chicks; she has no anxiety or solicitude for the chicks of other birds; but all the fondness of her maternal bosom is spent upon her own offspring. So spiritually. When the soul says, "Hide me under the shadow of your wings," it is longing to get into that sweet and blessed spot, where the Lord manifests himself in all the tenderness and affection of his parental relationship, and gathers together all his children into love and communion with each other. There is no pecking each other with beak and claws when they are all safe under the shadow of his wings.
What a safe and blessed spot this is! "Under the shadow of your wings!" It seems to us at times a mercy to be brought under the shadow of God's ordinances, under the shadow of the experimental preaching of the word. And I dare say, some of you, who are chafed and tormented with the cares of the week, are glad sometimes on the Lord's day, to get under the shadow of this little roof, to catch some droppings of the word of life into your hearts.
But what is all this compared with getting under the shadow of the Almighty? That is where Ruth fled—as Boaz said to her, "A full reward be given you of the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings you are come to trust!" (Ruth 2:2.) And here is safe refuge, here is sure consolation, and everything that the soul can long for or enjoy. No spot is nearer heaven, and no spot more desirable, than where the Lord "hides us under the shadow of his wings." No evil can hurt us there!
And if we get near the Lord, will there not be some communication of the Lord's presence to our souls? If we touch the marble piece, is there not a sensation of cold? and if we touch the warm stove is there not a sensation of heat? Whatever we touch, is there not sensation communicated out of it? So, would we get near the Lord?—it is to get warmth from the Lord. But to go from him, to rush into the world, to run into paths of sin, to flee to 'formal religion', to bury ourselves in the lusts of our depraved nature—what is this but to dip our hands in ice, and expect to get heat? It is by being "hidden under the shadow of God's wings," that we can alone find shelter, protection, and warmth.
How much then is contained in these words! O! I feel to have been merely like a child dipping a shell into the sea, and taking up a few drops. We can but dip, as it were, a shell into this Scripture, or into any text of Scripture. We cannot exhaust the mine of deep experience contained in any one passage like this. We are like the miner, who may extract a lump or two of tin or copper out of a vein of the mine; but how deep the mine extends itself, beyond the power of his skill or strength to penetrate! So with the Scriptures of truth; there are such veins of experience in them—veins so rich, and that lie so deep, that it requires one well and deeply taught in the things of God to be able to strike a pickaxe even into any part of them.
We have seen then but a little of what is contained in the petition of the Psalmist before us this evening. We have not had all his trials—we therefore cannot enter into the depth of feeling with which he breathed it out. We have not had all his consolation, we have not equally felt the power of divine grace—and therefore we can only glean a little, a feeble measure, just a few hints and scraps, and mere gatherings-up of the rich experience here poured forth. But still those of us who fear God can say, each in our measure, "Keep me as the apple of the eye." If we know anything of divine teaching, of the evil and misery of sin—and of the sweetness of being kept from its filth, guilt, and power—if we dread to fall before night comes on—if we know that none but Jesus can keep us—if we long to be kept by him, and feel the blessedness of it, surely we can in a measure join in with this simple cry—"Keep me as the apple of the eye."
And if we have ever felt any measure of nearness of access to the Lord—any sweet sensations communicated out of him—any sympathy from his bosom—any light from his countenance—any love from his heart—we can also breathe out, at times—"Hide me under the shadow of your wings." This is the only sure keeping, and this is the only safe hiding. And sure I am, that the words of the text (I say nothing of my exposition of them; if not agreeable to God's will and word, let all I have spoken "with stammering lips" this evening be dispersed to the winds)—but I am sure that the words of the text, which the Holy Spirit has written, will meet with a response in every God taught bosom—"Keep me as the apple of the eye—hide me under the shadow of your wings."
And will they, can they be breathed forth in vain? Is not Jesus "the same yesterday, today, and forever?" and will not the Lord, who inspired that prayer in David's bosom, and heard it too, if he has breathed the same into our hearts, hear it also?
I am sure then I cannot leave you with a better prayer than this—"Keep me as the apple of the eye—hide me under the shadow of your wings." And sure I am, it will be our prayer, and our desire, if we know anything of divine things by divine teaching. We shall feel that there is no keeping like God's keeping, and no hiding like God's hiding—that all we have done to keep ourselves has only issued in disappointment—and all we have done to hide ourselves has only exposed us more to the thunderbolts of divine vengeance. So that being beaten out of house and home, and driven from every other refuge, we at last come to this safe and simple shelter—"Keep me as the apple of the eye—hide me under the shadow of your wings."
Preached at Zoar Chapel, London, on Thursday evening, July 11, 1844, by J. C. Philpot
"But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick."
The way in which the Lord, in the days of His flesh, dealt with cavilers and critics is very remarkable. He did not convert, but confound them. He did not appeal to anything spiritual in them; for they had no spiritual understanding in the things of God; but He silenced them by addressing Himself to their natural consciences.
We have one or two remarkable examples of this nature. On one occasion, for instance, we read, that the "Pharisees took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk. And they sent unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying Master, we know that you are true, and teach the way of God in truth, neither do you care for any man; for you regard not the person of men. Tell us, therefore, What do you think? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?" Here was a snare laid for His feet, a dilemma in which they thought they had placed Him. Now, suppose He had said, "It was not lawful to pay tribute unto Caesar," then they would have accused Him to the Roman governor as preaching high treason. And suppose He had said, "It was lawful to pay tribute to Caesar," then they would have asked, "How He, as a Jew, and professing obedience to the law, could command subservience to a foreign prince? when Moses had expressly commanded, 'One from among your brethren shall you set king over you - you may not set a stranger over you, who is not your brother.'" De 17:15.
But how did the Lord meet this cavil, and extricate Himself from this dilemma? He asked them to show Him the tribute-money; and when they had brought it unto Him, He said, "Whose is this image and superscription?" They were compelled to answer 'Caesar's.' "Then says he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's." Matthew 22:16-21 The very fact of the money, bearing Caesar's image and superscription, circulating among them, was an unanswerable proof of their subjection to the Roman yoke, and that therefore it was lawful to pay tribute.
Again, on another occasion John 8:3, we read, that "the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman caught in adultery;" and they tried to entangle Him by enquiring what was to be done with her. "Master," paying Him all due respect, said they, "Moses in the law commanded us that such should be stoned; but what do you say?" Here was a dilemma they thought to place the Lord in. Suppose He had said, "The woman ought to be stoned;" then they would have accused Him before the Roman governor of setting up the Jewish in opposition to the Roman law; the power of life and death being in the hands of the Roman governor only. And if He had said, "She ought not to be stoned;" they would have directly asked Him, "How could this be consistent with the law given by Moses?" But how wisely He met this difficulty, and took "the wise in their own craftiness," by saying, "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her." John 8:7 By thus appealing to their natural consciences, He caught them in their own net, and overwhelmed them with confusion.
Our text, and the verses connected with it, afford another instance of the same nature. "And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at dinner in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why does your Master eat with publicans and sinners?" These self-righteous Pharisees were always on the watch to find, if possible, something to condemn the Lord with. And here they professed their pious astonishment, that so holy a man as He claimed to be, could associate with such vile, ungodly wretches. "For do we not judge," they would insinuate, "of a man by the company that he keeps? And must not a man love and practice sin who keeps company with sinners?" But how did the Lord disentangle Himself from this net that they were seeking to spread for his feet? He met their cavil thus, "Those who are whole need not a physician, but those who are sick." He appealed to their own sense and reason, and to their natural consciences. It was as though He had said, "Where should a physician be? Is it not with the sick in the hospital? Are not the sick wards his peculiar place and province, and are not diseased patients the very people he is called to associate with and take care of? Is the physician necessarily contaminated by the disease that he cures? How can he heal the sickness, if he does not visit the sick?" By thus appealing to their reason and conscience, He silenced and confounded them. Now, this is an example well worthy of our imitation.
We are sometimes thrown into the way of scoffers, and of people who will cavil even at the great foundation truths of divine revelation. With such people there is no use attempting to argue the question on spiritual grounds; for they have no spiritual ears to hear, no spiritual eyes to see, no spiritual heart to fall under the power of truth. To do so is to throw pearls before swine. If the Lord enables us, the best way is to appeal to their natural consciences; and, as shortly as possible, without entering into the details of truth, to silence them by putting before them something which they themselves cannot deny.
But the words of the text have a much higher sense than a mere appeal to natural conscience or human reason. They contain a gospel truth, far deeper and higher than reason can comprehend, and one that will last as long as the world endures. "Those who are whole need not a physician, but those who are sick."
We find, in the text, two characters spoken of, and these put in a distinct opposition to, and contrast with each other - the "whole," and the "sick." And as the two characters are distinct in themselves, so their case is distinct also; the case of the one being that he "needs not," and the case of the other that he needs "a physician." And thus, if the Lord enables me by His blessed Spirit experimentally to trace out this evening who are "the whole," and who are "the sick;" and show why the one "needs not," and why the other needs "a physician," it may be for our profit, and may also, if God so grants, be to His own glory.
I. Let us look, then, at the character pointed out in the text by the expression, "the whole." I need scarcely say, that the word naturally means a person healthy, strong, and vigorous; one untainted by sickness or disease; one in all the enjoyment of robust health, without any constitutional ailment or bodily affliction. Now it is a truth, naturally, that such people "need not a physician." They are not in circumstances to require such aid; their vigorous health, their robust constitution, their freedom from all disease, give them perfect liberty to dispense with the services of medical skill. From this comparison we may easily gather who are "the whole," in a spiritual sense. Those who have never received any wound in their conscience, who have never felt sick unto death, who have never groaned and suffered under the disease of sin.
But who are these hearty and healthy people? All men in a state of unregeneracy; all in whose hearts the Spirit of God has not begun His quickening work. These are called "whole," - not as really and actually free from taint or infection - for in the sight of God they are one mass of disease; but they are called "whole" in the text, because they feel and know nothing, spiritually and experimentally, of sickness. They are not healthy in the sight of God, but in their own sight - for "their eyes stand out with fatness," and they are not "plagued with sickness like other men." Psalm 73:5,7
If we look a little more closely at these characters, we shall find them divided into two grand classes - those dead in sin, and those dead in a profession. As never plagued with the sickness of sin, both of these characters may be said to be "whole."
Look, for instance, at men generally - say, those you have daily to associate with, whose conscience God has not touched with His finger. Is there any sigh, any cry, any groan, any sorrow for sin ever manifested by them? Are they not light, trifling, and frivolous; or, if settled and sober, altogether buried in the things of time and sense? Do you ever witness anything in them, that shows they have the least concern for their immortal souls? Are they not evidently dead in sin - so dead as not to have one thought for the future, one solemn feeling of eternity?
And is there not a large class of professors, who are as dead in formality as the others in transgression, though they may have a name to live? But what is the grand distinguishing mark of both? Is it not that they are "whole?" They have never felt any inward sickness or running sore; they have never been wounded by the arrows of God shot into their conscience; they have never had the ill-conditioned ulcers and deep abscesses of human nature laid open by the keen dissecting knife of the great Anatomist; nor have they ever been brought down to sigh and groan under a body of sin and death. "Their strength is firm." Their "face is covered with fatness, and the bundles of fat are on their flanks;" their "breasts are full of milk, and their bones are moistened with marrow." Psalm 73:4 Job 15:27 Job 21:24
Now, however heady, high-minded, presumptuous people may despise the groans and sighs of God's sin-sick people, and the feeling acquaintance that each rightly-taught man has with his own sore, and his own grief; or whatever ridicule may be poured out upon the trials which God's children experience when the internal plague of corruption is felt, it is a solemn truth, in spite of all contempt or ridicule, that "the whole need not a physician." And it is equally true, let them speak of Christ as much as they may, that there can be no spiritual communion with the great Physician, Jehovah-rophi (the Lord, the Healer), unless there be some inward wound or sickness of soul felt, so as to make them desire healing from His blessed hands.
"The whole need not a physician;" they need no visits from Jesus, no smile from His loving countenance, no balm from His tender hands, no cure from His gracious lips. They may know from the Bible that there is such a Person as Christ, just as a healthy man may know that some celebrated physician lives in such a street; but as to any personal application to Him, any sighing at His gracious footstool, any showing before Him their sickness, any laying down their broken bones or bruised consciences at His door, they can know nothing of it, because they are "whole." Still less can they know the efficacy of His balmy blood sprinkled on their conscience; still less the spiritual experience contained in those words, "He makes sore, and binds up; he wounds, and his hands make whole" Job 5:18; "Who heals all your diseases." Psalm 103:3 And how can those who despise or ridicule all experience, know anything spiritually of Jesus? For they are "whole;" and being "whole" they "need not a physician."
Now you who make a profession, do look at this matter; it concerns your immortal souls. Did you ever feel sickness of heart and wounds in your conscience? Did you ever groan under the felt malady of sin? Did you ever apply to, and tell out your needs before the great Physician? Did you ever look to and hang upon His balmy blood as cleansing from all sin? And have you ever felt His hands dealing gently with you, binding up your wounds, and pouring into them the healing wine and oil of gospel grace?
Now, I am sure of this, if you have walked in this path, you will never ridicule the experience of God's people, stigmatize it as "corruption," and heap upon it all the contempt which enmity can devise. You will never despise the groans of God's people, if you were ever in the same situation, or if your soul ever passed through a similar experience.
Let me illustrate this by appealing to your natural feeling. Suppose that some years back you had gone through some operation, say, the amputation of a limb; and as you pass by the hospital, in which you yourself once had been, you were to hear the piercing shriek of some poor sufferer stretched on the operating table - would you ridicule and laugh at his cries? Would you not remember that you yourself once lay there in agony? Or, suppose that the Lord had afflicted you in times past with insanity, and afterwards mercifully delivered you from the asylum. But should you pass by St. Luke's, and hear the ravings and shoutings of some unhappy resident, would you laugh and jeer, or would you pity and sympathize?
So spiritually, if a man has ever known an inward wound made in his conscience by the entrance of the two-edged sword, and afterwards enjoyed health and cure, will he pour contempt on those who are walking in the same path in which he himself once traveled? Depend upon it, when a man ridicules and despises the afflictions of God's people, it is a bad sign - a black mark against him - it strongly looks as though he had never himself passed through the same experience, and had never known similar exercises.
1. No one knows anything spiritually and experimentally of soul sickness, until God the Spirit quickens him from a death in sin. Then for the first time a wound is made in his conscience by an arrow shot from the bow of the Almighty. Now spiritually, as well as naturally, when a man is groaning and languishing under a wound, will he not anxiously desire a surgeon to bind it up? Let a man meet with what is called an accident; let him fall from a ladder, or be run over by a carriage. Will not the bystanders gather together in a moment, and take him off to a hospital? And even the poor man himself, if he retains his senses, is glad to be taken there as soon as possible. But what has made the laborer, who just before was standing careless upon the scaffold, now all pale and trembling upon a stretcher, crying to be taken to the surgeon? Is it not the broken rib or fractured limb that in a moment has produced the change?
So spiritually, there was a time when the vessel of mercy ridiculed spiritual things, cared for neither heaven nor hell, nor had one pang of concern about his immortal state; but the wound came, the bones were broken, distress of mind followed, and the soul pined and languished away, fearing the "second death." But no sooner was this felt, than a Physician was wanted, one able and willing to heal. At first, perhaps, through ignorance, he looked out and sought after "physicians of no value," running here and there for ease, and not seeking only to the Lord. But, sooner or later, being baffled in all his attempts to find relief from human help, he is brought to apply to "Jehovah, who heals you" Ex 15:26; and finds there is "balm in Gilead," and a "physician there."
2. But the Lord's people are not merely wounded by the arrows of God sticking in their conscience; they have also to be led into the deep depravity of their fallen nature, the desperate wickedness of their evil heart. We may class spiritual patients under two heads - those that are wounded and need the surgeon - and those that are sick and need the physician. And generally speaking, we need the first before the second, and have to go to the surgeon before we go to the dispensary. Thus usually, we know but little of our dreadful depravity, when the Lord first takes us in hand; the fountains of the great deep are not then broken up; the desperate unbelief, enmity, rebellion, perverseness, pride, hypocrisy, uncleanness, and all the other vile corruptions of our heart are not at first opened up and brought to light.
But as the Lord leads the soul on, He opens up by degrees the desperate corruption and depravity of our nature, and unfolds the hidden evils of our heart, which before were covered from our view. It is with us as it was with the Prophet. The Lord led him into one chamber after another; and when his astonishment increased at what he saw there, He said unto him, "Turn yet again, and you shall see greater abominations than these." Ezekiel 8:15 But as the Lord leads us into a knowledge of our depravity, He makes us to feel sick at heart, and thus we come into the state of feeling described by the prophet Isaiah - "The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores." Isaiah 1:5,6 And as we are led into a knowledge of our sinfulness, and groan under it, we feel more and more a burden of shame and sorrow on account of it; and the more deeply and daily that this is felt, the more deeply and daily do we find our need of the great Physician.
All the Lord's dealings with our souls are that He may exalt His dear Son in our hearts, that we may have all the shame, and Jesus all the glory; and therefore, all this deep and daily discovery of our depravity is eventually to bring greater glory to the Son of God. The deeper we sink into shame and guilt, under the knowledge of the depravity of our nature, the more do we seek unto, feel the power, and prize the love, blood, grace, and preciousness of the Lord Jesus. Every fresh discovery of our vile nature, when the Lord is pleased to bring the savor of Jesus' name, like the ointment poured forth, into the conscience, serves only instrumentally to increase our faith and affection towards Him; and thus the deeper we sink in self, the higher the Lord Jesus rises in our soul's admiration and adoration.
3. But to make us more and more dependent upon Jesus, the Lord, by His teachings, leads us usually into a knowledge of our backsliding and idolatrous nature. And O, what a backsliding and idolatrous heart do we carry in our bosom, and how perpetually does it make us sigh and groan! Is there anything too vile for our depraved nature not to lust after? Is there anything too base which our hearts will not imagine? Are there any puddles, which, if God left us to ourselves, we would not grovel in? As we are brought more to feel the workings of this base backsliding heart, and have the burden of it more laid upon our conscience, the more sick are we at heart, and the more is the disease felt to be in the very vitals. We sigh and groan because we are so vile - for we would be far otherwise. In our right mind, we would be in the fear of the Lord all the day long, and would never do a single thing inconsistent with the precepts of the gospel - we would never say a word that the Lord would disapprove of - would always walk in faith, hope, and love - and would continually be spiritual and heavenly-minded.
But alas, this is what we cannot attain unto. Our eye is caught by every passing vanity, our carnal minds rove after forbidden things, and our vile heart will still commit villainy. And as the conscience is made tender - and if it be not so, the fear of God is not there - and as the soul is led into a deeper acquaintance with the spirituality of God's character and the purity of His nature, and as a deeper and clearer knowledge of Jesus in all His covenant relationship is gained, the more it is felt to be an evil and bitter thing to depart from "the Fountain of living waters."
Some people seem to think many allowances ought to be made. "They have business," they say, "to attend to, and their daily occupations to follow; and they are sure they could not transact their business if their hearts were not in it, nor carry on the necessary dealings in trade, or pursue their worldly calling, if their minds were not fully in them." They argue that they could not be bustling tradesmen, nor faithful servants, were their hearts in heaven. But do they never feel guilt, and never groan and cry because they are thus buried in the world? Is there no gathering up of their heart's affections heavenward sometimes from their business? The merchant in his counting-house, the tradesman behind the counter, or the servant at his work - have they no secret, solemn moments when their hearts go up after Jesus? Are there no inward sighs and groans to the Lord, that He would bless, keep, and water their soul from time to time by the dew of His Spirit? Or can your hearts be buried in the world well near all your waking hours? Can you be as carnal and as thoughtless as the servants of Satan who are engaged in the same occupation with yourself? and never be cut to the quick at your carnality, never pour out one sigh, nor groan out your trouble before God?
I believe, from soul experience, that a backsliding heart and an idolatrous nature, is one of the greatest troubles a child of God can have. All his worldly trials, heavy as they may be, are light compared to this. That he should daily, and sometimes hourly, seek pleasure and gratification in the things of time and sense; and should perpetually turn away from all spiritual and heavenly things, gives him more trouble than all his other trials put together. But what good comes out of all this soul exercise? What spiritual profit springs from a sense of our diseased nature and depraved appetite? Such need the Physician. And the deeper they sink into soul sickness, and the more sensible they are of the plague of their hearts, the more do they prize and want to realize the healing remedies which this great and good Physician has to bestow.
4. But there is, after all, one class only of people that this great Physician admits as patients. In this metropolis, you know, there are hospitals for different diseases; and a man afflicted with one disease must not go to an infirmary intended for another. The consumptive patient must go to the hospital for diseases of the chest; the man suffering from typhus fever must be taken to the fever hospital - and the sufferer from inflamed eyes must go to the Opthalmic institution. So spiritually, the Lord's Hospital, "Christ's Hospital" - if I may use the expression without irreverence - is only for incurables; and until every other hospital refuses us admission, or turns us out as hopeless cases, the Lord does not admit us as patients. It is like a man with a fever going for admittance to the consumptive hospital. They would say, "You are not the patient for us; people with your disease are not admitted here." So spiritually, the Lord's dispensary is only for incurables, whom every other hospital rejects; and as long as we, like Asa, seek to other physicians, we are not admitted into His sick wards.
Look at the woman who had spent all her living upon physicians, and got worse instead of better. Was it not her incurable disease that instrumentally caused her to seek and find health and cure from the hem of Jesus' garment? And it is the Lord's purpose to bring all His people into the same spot of being incurable by human power or help. We may illustrate this, by supposing there were in this city a hospital for incurables. If a patient came for admittance who was not very ill, the physician would say to him, "You are not bad enough for admittance here; you are not sufficiently ill; we may make an out-patient of you; but at present there is no room for you. When the disease lays greater hold upon you, then we can admit you." And so spiritually, as long as a man has only a trifling ailment, is only slightly wounded, and the disease is not deeply spread, there is no admission for him to the benefits of Christ's blood.
Look at the leper under the law. Lev. 13 Had he not to go before the priest, whose province it was to examine "the rising, the scab, or bright spot?" And was not this one of the marks of leprosy, that it "spread much abroad in the skin," and "in sight was deeper than the skin?" But the priest was not to receive him immediately as a leper - he was to shut him up seven days, and wait until it was a clear ease of leprosy, which was known by its deepening and spreading. The leprosy was an incurable disease. So experimentally, until the disease of sin gets so desperate as to be past the help of all human skill, past our own healing, and all healing from others, we will not seek unto, and I am sure we cannot find, the great Physician. A great part, an important part of the Spirit's work, is to bring men into this state; for we read, "The Lord kills, and makes alive; he brings down to the grave, and brings up." 1 Sam 2:6,7 And what is "to kill," and "bring down to the grave," but to render a man incurable? Not that God is the author of sin - God forbid. He does not work sin in us, but discovers it as already there; and shows us what we are, by bringing light and life into the conscience; so that in His light we see, and in His life we feel, and groan over the malady of sin thus made manifest.
Now many of God's people are on the way to this free hospital; but they are not admissible yet; not deeply sunk enough into the disease yet; it has not yet laid hold of their vitals, not yet spread its deep roots into their conscience. Like the first commencement of a cancer, or of a consumption, the symptoms may be discoverable, but the disease has as yet not spread into the whole constitution. But like the two fatal diseases I have named, the felt malady of sin will spread and extend until the soul becomes incurable - and the more this is seen and experienced, the more urgently will a man seek, and the sooner will he find, the great Physician.
But O, how nature shrinks from this! What a death-blow it would be for a patient in a decline to be told that he is not bad enough yet for the consumptive hospital. The physician might say, "I see the symptoms; I mark the hectic flush, the laboring breath, the hacking cough; but you are not bad enough yet - a few weeks or months will make you admissible" What a death-blow to him. But if according to the common phrase, "you must be worse before you are better," the remedies used at this point were to be the means of healing the patient, instead of its being a death-blow from the physician, it would be the first buddings of a hope of cure.
O how the soul shrinks from going more deeply into the felt malady of sin! The little it has known of it has made it so sick and faint, that it dreads its spreading more and more, and becoming more and more incurable. But if the more deeply we sink into a knowledge of the disease, the more we prize and value the great Physician, then may we not say, "Welcome disease, welcome pain, welcome sickness, if it be but the preparation for us to receive Jesus in all His fullness and covenant characters."
But this is a way quite contrary to sense and reason, and utterly distinct from anything which nature would suggest as true or desirable. We cannot think that the way to make us prize Jesus is to get deeper and deeper into the filth and guilt of discovered sin, and that we must lie in our blood, that the Lord may come down to us, and spread His skirt over us, enter into covenant with us, and call us His. Eze 16:8
This great Physician has His eye upon all His patients and sees in whom the malady is just beginning, in whom it is progressing, and in whom it is fast reaching the incurable point, and only waiting for Him to stretch forth His hand to cure. The patient often knows not the nature of his own disease; but the great Physician has His eyes on every one of His patients; on those who are just feeling their sickness, and on those who are dying without His healing balm. The first He deepens, and the latter He cures. But O, how tenderly does He deal with every class of His patients! And even if He deepens the wounds of some, however painful, it is for their profit; for "Like as a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear him." Psalm 103:13
III. But what are His REMEDIES? For this great Physician must suit the remedy to the malady.
1. One remedy, then, and that perhaps the only one, may be to take off a diseased limb. We may have a badly infected knee; and the only remedy is to take the limb off to keep us from dying. You may have some corruption, some lust, some besetting sin, that, like a diseased limb, is gradually draining away your spiritual health, and making such havoc with your constitution, that you must die, unless the limb be amputated, unless the idol is removed. It may be even your money, or good name, or something which you hold near and dear, and can no more willingly part with than your leg or your arm; and yet it must be amputated that your life may be saved. The skillful surgeon, we know, will not spare the patient for his crying - no his very tenderness directs him to make a deeper incision, and to wield the knife with a firmer hand. So this great Physician, in proportion to His skill and tenderness, will amputate with a firmer hand the diseased limb which is draining away our spiritual strength.
2. Or, as a part of His office as the Physician of the soul, He may have to handle our sores. How we shrink, naturally, when the surgeon puts his hand on a tender spot, and presses it to ascertain where the disease lies; and so, when the Lord puts His finger on some sore place in the conscience, some backsliding, some inconsistency, committed perhaps years ago - how the soul winces from the touch! And, I believe, could I thoroughly ransack the conscience of each living soul before me, there would be something of which you were deeply ashamed before God, some secret sin, past or present, which when the Lord puts His finger on it, and brings it under the light of His countenance, makes you wince under the pressure of His hand. But it is needful to have it pressed, that it may be probed, in order to be thoroughly healed.
How often is it with God's people, as the Lord complains, by the Prophet, "They have healed the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly." Jer 6:14 Sin has been passed over and thought little of; but the Lord, sooner or later, laying His hand on the conscience, brings it to light, and makes the soul feel the guilt and shame of it, before He manifestly pardons it.
3. But this great Physician also has balm to apply, as well as limbs to amputate, and wounds to press. What balm is this? It is that "blood which cleanses from all sin." "Behold," He says, "I will bring it health and cure, and I will cure them, and will reveal unto them the abundance of peace and truth." Jer 33:6 This is the "blood of sprinkling, that speaks better things than that of Abel;" which is the only God-appointed remedy for a guilty conscience; as the Holy Spirit testifies, "For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies 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?"
The Lord will not allow His people to rest upon any other remedy than this. There are many who rest in doctrines, or church membership, or consistency of life, or zealous exertions for what they consider truth; but the Lord will never let any of His own children rest upon anything except an experimental knowledge of "the blood of sprinkling" - the precious blood of the Son of God. And if a man can rest upon anything else but this, it shows that God the Spirit has not yet taught him either his malady, or the only remedy provided for sin-sick souls.
Those, then, "who are sick" need a Physician. It is not with them a matter of speculation. I might read in the "Court Guide" the names and residences of all the physicians in the metropolis; but that would not profit me if I were laboring under disease. So men may read in the Bible of the offices and titles of Christ, of the healing virtue of His blood, the justifying power of His righteousness, and the saving efficacy of His intercession; but it is applying to and receiving benefit from His healing hands which can alone endear Him to us as the great Physician.
A man may pass by a pharmacist's shop, and see the bottles of medicine in the window, may read the labels, and even theoretically know their use - but having recourse to the remedies will alone profit one in sick circumstances, or afflicted with bodily disease. And so spiritually - whenever soul sickness is opened up in our conscience, and whenever the malady is felt and groaned under, there will be a needing of the great Physician. Who and what Jesus is will be no barren speculation then. His Person will not be a mere doctrine floating in the brain - His blood will not be a mere theory - His righteousness not merely an article of doctrine - and His dying love not merely a dogma in a sound Calvinistic creed. There will be something deeper, something more abiding, something more powerful than names, notions, and theories to the sin-sick soul; and the more it needs the Physician, the more it will apply to Him.
This blessed Physician heals "without money and without price;" He never demands a fee for His wondrous cures; nor did He ever turn away one who lay languishing at His door, who felt his sickness, or pined at His feet for a manifestation of His healing blood applied to his conscience with almighty power. All His covenant characters, all the sympathizing tenderness of His bosom, all His almighty power, all His everlasting love, all that He is and has as God-Man, are all enlisted on behalf of His poor and needy family.
You are languishing, say, under sickness of soul, and feel the plague of a wretched heart, a depraved nature, a vile body of sin and death, and a corrupt imagination. You are afflicted with every disease. You have palsy, to weaken all your powers; you have consumption, to drain your very vitals; you have fever, quickening your pulse after evil and inflaming your base lusts; you have lethargy, so that you cannot move forward a step in the Lord's way. Your heart is diseased; your appetite depraved; your knees are faint; and your hands hang down. In fact, there is scarcely a disease known to the physician, of which we have not spiritually the anti-type in our vile nature; with this striking difference, that we do not usually suffer in our body from more than one disease at a time, but in our soul we suffer from all.
But, you say, your malady is such as none but yourself have experienced. Yet does it not say, "The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint?" and surely that includes every disease; for if the whole "head" and "heart," all the intellectual powers of the one, and all the feelings and affections of the other, are sick and faint, that surely must include all.
Why should you, then, perish from your diseases? Is it for lack of power in the great Physician? Is it for lack of will? Does not He combine in Himself these two qualifications? "O," say you, "I believe He has the power, for my conscience has received the truth, that He is God as well as man; but I dare not say He has the will." He has the will, for He has made you willing to be cured; and if you are willing to be cured, you are one of His people; for this is one of their characters, "Your people shall be willing in the day of your power." Psalm 110:3 Well then, He has both power and will, and has in the exercise of both, healed thousands of diseases and thousands of patients, and never turned away one that came unto Him.
Then, why despair, sin-sick soul? "Because my heart is so corrupt," you reply; "because my imagination is so depraved, my will so rebellious, my affections so earthly, and my nature such a sink of sin." It is so; far deeper than you or I can know, far worse than you or I can feel. It is so. But shall that be a reason why you should die in your sickness? It is rather the very reason why you should hope.
Now, if you were "whole;" if you had no sickness; no pain, no ailment, no languishing, no pining away, no nightly groans, no daily sighs, you would not need a Physician; you would be whole-hearted, and could do without Jesus. This is your very mercy, that you feel your sickness and disease; and that it is incurable by all that you have yet done, or think of doing. This very incurability is the very reason that makes you a fit patient for this great Physician. The Lord sees in all His people this incurability; His eye is upon them all for good; His heart overflows with love and compassion; and, if I may use the expression, He tenderly desires to stretch out His hand to heal.
Let me ask you two questions. Search the records of the New Testament. Look at the acts of Jesus.
1. Did you ever know a patient to be sent away uncured?
2. Did you ever know any saved but an incurable?
Did not the Lord give eyes to some that were born blind? Were not they incurable? Did He not unstop the ears and loose the tongue of those who were deaf and mute? Were they not incurable? Did He not heal the woman of her disease, who had suffered so many years? Was not she incurable? Did He not heal the man at the pool of Bethesda? Was not he incurable? Did He not heal the ten lepers? And were not they incurable? Can you find any disease which He healed that was not incurable? If they were not incurable, would not His power have fallen short in point of manifestation? Would not His numerous enemies have said, it was all collusion, or deception?
And can you find that He anywhere said to those diseased sufferers who cast themselves at His feet, that they were first to do something for themselves, and begin the cure which He would then complete? Or can you find that any were sent away, without being made perfectly whole? He healed all their maladies in a moment, by one glance of His eye, one touch of His hand. Has His power ceased? Does not the same compassionate heart beat in His bosom? Is He not, still "mighty to save?" "God over all, blessed forever?" And will He disappoint any poor soul now whom He has made to feel his own sickness and his own sore? He cannot do it; He would deny Himself if He did; and "He cannot deny Himself," for "He abides faithful."
But how many of God's poor needy children have many years of sickness to pass over their head before they feel the balm of His atoning blood on their conscience! And why is this? That they may become more incurable, (if I may use such an expression), and sink deeper and deeper into the sense and feeling that they cannot cure, comfort, bless, or save their own souls. And when they at length are brought here, the Lord will appear for them, that they may know His power, and that He alone may have all the glory.
Thus, while he sends away all the "whole," and does not give them a look; He bestows His compassion and love on those that who "sick." And all to redound to the glory of Jehovah, who, as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, three Persons in one undivided Godhead, deserves the praise, adoration, and thanksgiving of His redeemed and justified church now and forever.