The Gospel Of Healing, A. B. Simpson
Chapter 5: Scriptural Testimonies
The value of testimonies upon this subject cannot be questioned. They are entirely Scriptural; and they often bring the Gospel down to the personal level and contact of the sufferer, as mere abstract teaching cannot do.
But they should always be simple, modest, as impersonal as possible, and illustrate principles. This is the character of all the Scripture testimonies. We shall glance at a few of these.
THE CASE OF JOB. Job i., etc.
This is the earliest case fully detailed in the Scriptures.
1. His sickness came from Satan’s touch. His agency in sickness is most distinctly taught by our Lord also, and his power is yet undiminished. 2. Job’s sickness was divinely permitted. It was designed to lead him to search his heart, and see his utter need of sanctification. 3. His sickness did not sanctify him, but only led to deeper exhibitions of his sin, and self-righteousness. Sickness does not purify anyone, although it may lead us to see our need of holiness and to receive it from God. 4. His sickness was removed when he saw his sin and acknowledged it before God. This came to him when God revealed Himself. Then he cried: “Now mine eye seeth Thee: wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” Then came his complete justification, and with it a spirit of forgiveness and love for his enemies. And then, as he prayed for them, the Lord turned his own captivity. When we get right with God, we do not need to pray a great deal for ourselves. As we pray for others, our own blessing will often come. Job’s healing made all things new, and all his blessings were doubled. And no doubt the spiritual blessing was the deepest of all.
How instructive to watch this case lying in the hands of God until the soul is ready to learn his spiritual lesson, and then receive from God’s own hand life and restoration!
THE WOUNDED ISRAELITES AND THE BRAZEN SERPENT. Num. xxi.
1. This sickness came from sin. They murmured, and God gave them something to murmur for. It is a serious matter to complain, for it is sure to bring the thing we fear, or a worse “I feared a fear, and it came upon me.”
2. This sickness came from Satan; from the serpent. So, still, he stings our life, and poisons our blood. It was a fiery serpent. The Hebrew words are “The serpents, the seraphims.” All our spiritual adversaries are not groveling worms. Many of them are lofty and transcendently wise. 3. The remedy was in the likeness of the disease; in short, a figure of the serpent with the poison extracted, and a striking intimation to the suffering camp and a sin-stricken world that Satan is robbed of his sting, and sickness and sin are but mere shadows of their former selves.
There was also in that brazen serpent the thought of Jesus made for us, Jesus assuming the vile and dishonored name of sinful man, and counted by God, and treated by men, as if He were indeed a serpent and a criminal. Thus for us has He taken the sting from Satan, sin, and death, and hung upon the uplifted cross the trophy of victory. 4. The healing came by looking at the Brazen Serpent. There is unspeakable power in a look. A look of evil chills the soul. A look of purity and love transfigures it. The eye brings into the soul the object of vision. Looking to the sun, it is present in the eye. Looking unto Jesus brings His life into our whole being.
This was physical life. The same life still comes from the cross for both soul and body, while we look unto Jesus.
NAAMAN. II. Kings v.
1. This was a typical case of disease. Leprosy was the peculiar type of sin, destroying both soul and body. It was the especial stigma of the physical effects of sin. 2. The instrument of this cure was, in the first instance, a Hebrew maid; and in her great usefulness we learn how God can use a very humble messenger and an incidental word. Indeed, Naarnan’s own servants, a little later, saved his blessing for him by their wise counsel. 3. The lesson of humble and Obedient Faith must next be learned. The proud self and will of Naaman must die before his body can be healed by the Divine touch. And so Elisha meets his splendid state with quiet independence, and sends him a simple and humbling message to wash seven times in the Jordan and be clean. The sick are often deeply wounded by our seeming neglect, but God sometimes teaches them thus the lowliness of faith, and takes their thoughts of themselves and others, Naaman, like all other proud sinners, at first refuses the cross, and is about to lose his blessing when a word of honest frankness from his servants brings him to his senses, and sends him to Jordan. 4. The Faith of Naaman consisted in his doing just what the prophet told him. He took God’s way without qualification, and he persevered in it till his blessing came. Perhaps the first or second or sixth time there was no sign of healing; but he pressed on, and at length the wondrous blessing came, the flesh of a little child, and the acknowledgment and sole worship of the great Jehovah he had found.
5. His request for a gift of earth from the place of his healing was a beautiful foreshadowing of that Earnest of the greater future whom we also receive, the Holy Ghost. The word earnest means a handful of soil. Naaman took home with him a handful of Canaan’s soil; and we, in our healing, receive the earnest of the Spirit, a part of Heaven begun on earth. 6. It is beautiful to see how Elisha sends him away leaning only on God. To his question about bowing in the house of Rimmon, Elisha will give no direct answer, but throws him on God alone, and bids him go in peace. How little man appears in all this! and how simple and glorious is God! 7. But Satan, too, must have a hand. And he usually shows his hand in some mercenary scheme like Gehazi’s. So still, spiritualism and kindred arts of Satan seek to make merchandise of the things of God. But if you look closely, you will see the leper hand and face as white as snow.
HEZEKIAH. II. Kings xviii.
1. It was a hopeless case. All men’s reasonings about the part that the remedy had in curing him ought to be set at rest by the fact that he was beyond the reach of every remedy, for even God had said that he should die, and not live. Man and means could, therefore, have nothing to do with his cure; it was wholly Divine. 2. He turned to God in humility. He made no attempt to find help from man. He threw himself helplessly on the mercy of the Lord. His prayer was not a very trustful one; but God heard his helpless cry, and sent deliverance. 3. The answer to his prayer was definite and clear. Fifteen years more of life from God Himself. It was sent to Isaiah, and communicated to him; and he at once believed it, and began to praise. 4. It was accompanied by a double sign. First a reversal of the dial 15 degrees, and then a poultice of figs. Both are called signs. The figs were not medicinal, for medicine was of no avail, but symbolical, and therefore administered by a prophet, not a physician. 5. The sequel of his healing was unworthy of it. Hezekiah rendered not again according to the benefit, but his heart was lifted up, and long years afterwards the bitter fruits of his sin and folly continued to prove how solemn a thing it is to receive God’s great mercies, and how sacredly our redeemed lives must be used for Him. People are always asking, ” Did not Hezekiah’s case prove the rightness of using remedies?” No. It proved the rightness of doing exactly what God tells us in regard to our healing. God told Naaman to wash in the Jordan. Anything else would have been disobedience. God told Hezekiah to use figs. Anything else would have been disobedience. If God had told us to use figs, anything else would be disobedience. But God has told us to use the anointing oil and the prayer of faith, and is anything else genuine obedience?
THE NOBLEMAN’S SON. John iv.
This was Christ’s first miracle of healing. It seems to speak peculiarly to our own times.
1. It teaches us that we do not need the physical and visible presence of Jesus to heal us. He was far from this sick child and simply spake a word of power, which crossed these intervening spaces with Almighty energy, even as it still can reach from Heaven to earth. “Oh, if He were only here!” you say. Nay, His first great miracle was performed from a distance perhaps as great as between earth and Heaven. 2. It was by simple, naked faith, without sight or signs. The Lord Jesus had to press this farther away from all but His own simple word, “Except ye see signs and wonders,” He exclaimed, “ye will not believe.” And then He tested his faith by a simple word, “Go thy way; thy son liveth;” and the man accepted the hard lesson, believed the naked word, and the child was made whole. He showed his faith by quietly going back and ceasing any more to clamor for the Lord’s going. 3. This case began at a fixed moment, and developed quietly and gradually, as so many are now healed. “He inquired at what hour he began to amend.” And the answer was that at a certain moment the fever broke. He was now convalescent. So still the dear Master works for all who trust Him. Faith has both its instants and its hours. We must learn to accept both; to count the death-blow struck at the moment of our believing, and then to follow on as it works out all its stages of blessing.
THE HEALING OF PETER’S MOTHER-IN-LAW. Mark i.
This was Christ’s second recorded miracle of healing. He had just come from the Synagogue where, amid the astonishment of the people, He had cast out a demon. Peter’s wife’s mother was lying sick of fever. It was, then, a case of ordinary disease. And yet our Lord distinctly recognizes another agency at the back of the fever. For “He rebuked the fever,” and this implies some personal and evil agent that must have caused it. He would not rebuke a mere natural law. There is no blame where there is no personal will. Nay, the fever was but the blistering touch of a demon hand; and this was what He rebuked.
Next, she must actively take hold of the healing power which He stands over her to administer. He took her by the hand, and lifted her up, and she arose. There was of course, His mighty touch and Almighty help. But there was also her co-operation, her grasping His extended hand, her shaking of the torpor and weariness of disease, her effort to arise, and her rising. Thus we must meet His help and power.
And then there was the use of her new strength in ministering to Him and them. This was the best proof of healing, the best use of it too. So must we ever give our new life to God, and in ministering to others and forgetting ourselves, we shall find our own strength continually renewed. As we give our life we shall save it; and as we serve others He will administer to all our needs. It is a blessed exchange of responsibility and care to find that we have nothing to do but live for Him, and He but one business, to live for us, and supply all our need.
THE HEALING OF THE MULTITUDE. Matt. viii.
The next cases of healing we read of in the life of Christ were a large number of promiscuous cases on the evening of the Sabbath on which He healed Peter’s mother-in- law. They had been gathering all day long, and waiting until the Sabbath was past. And as soon the hour of six o’clock had come, they pressed upon Him from every side, in great numbers and variety, and He healed them all. Now the first lesson we learn from these cases is connected with this very fact, that they waited until the Sabbath was past. It shows how exactly their prevalent ideas of healing resembled the godless ideas of our own secular age. They considered the body, and all that pertained to it, to be purely secular. Healing, therefore, was a mere secular calling, and, as such, unfit work for the holy Sabbath day. Is not this just what modern unbelief has taught the churches of Christendom? The cure of the body is a matter for natural laws and remedies, and secular physicians, a profession to be studied and used for secular profit like any other business, but in no sense as sacred and holy as the salvation and culture of the soul. For the present our Lord met them on their own ground; but the day soon came when He deliberately and purposely healed on the Sabbath day, that He might repudiate and trample down this absurd and godless idea, and show to men that the body was as sacred as the soul; that its restoration was as much part of God’s redemption; that it in no sense was left to be the subject of mere professional treatment; that it was His own holy prerogative and business to heal it; and that it was as holy and sacred work for the Sabbath day as the worship of the Temple or the salvation of the souls of men. The next lesson taught by these cases is the universality of His healing. He healed all that had need. He wished to show that it was not for favorite cases like the mother-in-law of an Apostle, but for all poor, sinful, suffering lives that could trust Him.
And the highest and most helpful of all the lessons is the way in which these cases are linked with the prophecy in Isaiah, announcing the true character of the Messiah as the Bearer of Sickness and Infirmity. It was no mere incidental fact, therefore, that He was healing these sufferers; it was no special and exceptional display of His power as the Son of God. But it was the real purpose and design of His Messiahship; and so all the ages can come to Him and lay upon Him their burdens and pains.
How deep and full these words, “Himself took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses!” Himself, not Himself and physicians, but Himself alone; Himself, not Himself and us, but He takes the whole burden Himself, and leaves us utterly free; Himself, then the healing cannot be had apart from having Him. It is all wrapped up in Himself. His life in us, His indwelling, His body, His flesh; and His bones. Himself took and bare, not merely once, but for ever, not only lifting, but keeping, and carrying for ever. Blessed Healing! Blessed Healer!
THE LEPER. Mark i.
This occurred soon after, in one of Christ’s tours through Galilee.
1. The request of-this man is a good specimen of the state of mind in which we find the average Christian. He has full confidence in the power of Christ to heal, but is very uncertain about His willingness. Now if a friend is going to doubt me at all, I should much rather he would come to me and say, “I am sure you would help me if you could,” than “I know you have it in your power to aid me, but I have little confidence in your disposition to do it.” When will men see that this easy good- natured talk about God’s will involves the most subtle and offensive distrust? 2. Christ’s answer to him is explicit and emphatic and ought to settle the question of His will to heal the sincere and trusting sufferer,”I will; be thou clean.” There is no evasion or ambiguity, no hesitation or conditioning. It is a great, prompt, kingly answer, and in it all ages may hear His word to us all. 3. The touch of Christ meant a great deal to a leper. It was a long time since a hand of love had touched him. It was not a told or mechanical touch. He was moved with compassion. His whole heart of love and his very life were in it. Yes, He helps us, not because His promise compels Him, but with overflowing love and unbounded condescension. He touches our immortal life with His own, and makes our leper hearts quiver with the fresh warm blood of His being. 4. He must then go to the priest at Jerusalem, and make a proper acknowledgment and testimony, and hold back all other testimony until he has borne witness before the religious authorities of the nation. And so we must bear witness, too, of His mighty works in us, and we must do it where He wants it, perhaps in the very hardest place for us, and in the very face of religious pride and opposition. It was a long journey from Galilee to Jerusalern, but if our testimony requires as great a sacrifice for Him, is not His love worth it all?
THE PARALYTIC. Mark ii.
1. This is one of the most remarkable of Christ’s healing miracles, because He now, for the first time, brought out the doctrine of sin in connection with sickness, and assumed the right on earth to forgive sins. And from this moment He was regarded as a blasphemer. This poor man came for healing, but the Lord saw a deeper need that must first be met. His spiritual life must precede the physical. And so He speaks the word of pardon first. “Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.” So we must ever begin. And how many have been led to the very thought of salvation by their need of healing! 2. Then follows his physical healing. But this, too must be taken by himself in the exercise of bold obedient faith. He was not healed prostrate on that mat. He must rise up, put away his bed, and walk. Christ will not heal you in your bed. You must arise and step out upon His strength. 3. He was not, as is commonly supposed, healed through the faith of the men who brought him to Jesus, but through his own. Their faith laid him at the feet of Jesus, and brought him the word of forgiving mercy. But his own must claim the healing. And it must have been a real faith which could rise up before that throng and carry his bed. The faith of others can do much for us, added to our own, but an unbelieving heart can have nothing from the Lord.
4. The place of healing, as a token of forgiveness and a sign of Christ’s saving power, is very solemn. He did heal this man, that they might know that the Son of man has power on earth to forgive sin. And Christ is ever wanting to convince the world of the reality of His Gospel by His physical miracles. How can we expect men to believe that His spiritual gifts are real when He does not manifest sufficient power to overcome the physical evils of our life? What right has any man to be sure that any part of his religion is real when his faith has never had enough of vigor to accomplish any really difficult thing in his practical life?
THE LAME MAN AT BETHESDA. John v.
1. This miracle occurred in Jerusalem about the middle of His ministry. It was His first open and deliberate case of healing on the Sabbath day, and was purposely designed to defy their absurd ideas about the secular nature of disease and healing, and show them that it was sacred enough to be done on the Sabbath day, and to be a part His spiritual ministry. Many people are still afraid of unduly exalting the importance of the body, forgetting that whenever Christ touches it He makes it the channel and the vessel of all holy life and blessing. 2. The next great lesson of this case has reference to the folly of the things that men depend upon for healing. This man was looking to the fountain of Bethesda to heal him, and had some superstitious idea about its being troubled at times with healing virtues. Now it happens that the verse about the angel stepping in at certain seasons is an interpolation, and that was all a silly lie. So foolish and so false are the hopes of those who look to earthly sources of healing. They disappoint or disappear like Bethesda and its false legend. When the Lord undertook to heal him, He paid no attention to Bethesda or any other means, but spake a single word of power, and bade him go forth in the strength of God. 3. There is a lesson, too, for the waiting ones who are just hoping for some day of help to come, and go on hoping down to the grave. When Jesus healed him He dispelled all his dreamy future, and started him on the practical and solid ground of a present act of decision. So still hope is often mistaken for faith. The test of faith is that it is always present, and takes the blessing now. 4. Another most important lesson also is the folly and helplessness of leaning on others. “Sir, I have no man to put me in,” expresses the languid dependence of hundreds still who are expecting healing through the help of others, and paralyzing all their own strength and power of believing by looking to some one else’s faith and prayers. Others cannot help us until we firmly believe for ourselves. If we cling to them our hands bind and impede them, like the clinging of a drowning man to his rescuer, and both may sink together. But when we have a distinct hold of Christ for ourselves, then He can give our friends a similar grasp for and with us. 5. Again, “Wilt thou be made whole?” expresses the real element of effectual faith. It acts through a firm and decided will. Faith is not mere will power, but its seat and region is the will. This is the mightiest thing God has given to a man, and no man can receive much from God without a firm and decided choice. We must first
see that it is His will to make us whole, and then we must claim it for ourselves with a strength and tenacity which will carry along with it all the power of our being. 6. One lesson more this poor sufferer must teach us: “Sin no more lest a worse thing come to thee.” Not always, yet often, such long and terrible disorders are the direct results of some course of sinful indulgence. Many a life to-day is impotent because of secret and youthful sin. There must, therefore, be a distinct recognition, confession, and repudiation of all sin, and the redeemed life must be pure and vigilant, if it would retain His sacred life. Each heart and conscience must answer for itself, and God’s Spirit will make it very plain to all who desire to know that they may fully obey. But there is no touchstone so searching as this life of Christ, and there is no cord that binds the soul more sacredly on the Altar of holiness than “I am the Lord that healeth thee.” This miracle should not be separated from the discourse which follows on the LIFE which Christ has come to give. It was just an illustration of that blessed life. Christ’s healing is neither more nor less than His own Divine life breathed into us, quickening our impotent souls and bodies, and beginning the eternal life now. This is just what He teaches them here. “The Son quickeneth whom He will.” “The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God and they that hear shall live.”
THE MAN WITH THE WITHERED HAND. Matt. xii. 10.
This miracle was a repetition, in Galilee, of the bold lesson about healing on the Sabbath day, which Jesus had just given in Jerusalem, and healing of the impotent man at Bethesda. They both emphasize the same great principle respecting the freedom of the Sabbath, the sanctity of the body, and the sacredness of its cure.
They both also teach the same great lesson about the necessity of active and aggressive faith in order to receive Christ’s healing power. This man was impotent, too, in his diseased hand. He had no power in himself to lift it. But he must, none-the-less, put forth an effort of will and an act of force; not as an attempt either, but in good faith and really expecting to accomplish it. And as he did so, the Divine power quietly and fully met his obedient co-operation, and carried him through into strength and victory. Thus faith must do the things we have no strength to do, and as it goes forward the new strength will come. The feet must step forward into the deep, and even touch the cold waters as they advance, but He will not fail. In passive waiting there can come no life or power from God. We must put our feet on the soil of Canaan, we must stretch forth our hands and take of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever. The spider taketh hold with her hands, and therefore is in kings’ palaces. So many Christians have no hands. They have no grip in their fingers, no stamina in their will, no hold in their faith. Hear His voice, ye listless ones. “STRETCH FORTH THINE HAND.”
In his arguments with the Pharisees about this case, Jesus leaves no room to doubt the light in which He regards healing as connected with the will of God. He ridicules their prejudices against His healing a sufferer on the Sabbath, and claims the healing of this man, first on the grounds of simple humanity, as no more than any man would do for an ox or a sheep who had fallen into a pit, and secondly, on the ground of right; to do it is “to do good,” “to save life;” not to do it is “to do evil,” “to destroy” life. This does not look much like treating sickness as a great boon. And yet such gentle and merciful teachings only exasperated these wicked men; and, when they even see God’s power vindicate His teachings, and the man stand forth healed before their eyes, they are filled with madness, and consult how they may destroy Him.
So prejudice still blinds men to the truth and love of God, and as much as ever, to-day, opposes Christ’s healing ministry for the sake of doctrinal consistency.
THE WOMAN WITH THE SPIRIT OF INFIRMITY. Luke xiii. 10-20.
This beautiful incident occurred a good deal later, but as it was one of Christ’s Sabbath miracles, and comes in the same general class with those just referred to, supplementing and enforcing the same principles, we will introduce it here.
1. The nature of her disease. It was a case of helpless paralysis and deformity. She was bowed together, and could in no wise lift herself up. It was also of long standing. She had been eighteen years in this condition. It was, therefore, about as difficult a chronic case as could well be brought to the great Healer. 2. The cause of her disease. Here a ray of marvelously clear and keen light is thrown in not only upon her case, but upon the whole question of disease. The Lord distinctly declares that her troubles had come, not through natural causes, but direct personal agency, the agency of an evil spirit, that her very body is bound by A SPIRIT OF INFIRMITY. And He afterwards declares that SATAN HAS BOUND HER, lo, these eighteen years. He does not recognize it as a case of Providential discipline, but the direct hand of the devil upon her frame. This is incapable of evasion or ambiguity. And it may well make one shudder who has been nursing and petting some foul demon, as if it were an angel. 3. The question of God’s will is also made marvelously clear. There is no greater word in Christian ethics than “OUGHT.” It is the word of conscience, of law, of Everlasting Right. It is a cable that binds both God and man. When God says ought, there is no appeal, no compromise, no alternative, nothing but absolutely to obey. It does not mean that a thing is possible, or permissible, or perhaps to be done, but it means that it is necessary to be done and that not to do it would be WRONG. And Christ says to these evil men who would put these petty prejudices before God’s beneficent will and His creatures’ happiness, “OUGHT NOT THIS WOMAN TO BE LOOSED FROM THIS BOND?” That ought to settle the question of how God regards our healing. 4. But there is one more principle, the greatest of all, and it conditions and limits this “ought” and everything else in her case; and that is the woman s faith. The Lord expressly calls her a child of faith. That is just the meaning of the expression “a daughter of Abraham.” And it is this which makes it a matter of “Ought,” that she
should be healed. “Ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, to be loosed from this bond?” Is it the will of God to heal all? It is the will of God to heal all who believe. More is meant by the expression, “a daughter of Abraham,” than mere faith. It expresses a very strong faith, a faith which, like Abraham’s, believed without sight, and in the face of seeming impossibilities. Have we any evidence of such faith on her part? We have. We are told that Jesus called her to Him and said, “Woman, thou art loose from thine infirmity.” In the Revised version it is, “He called her.” It implies that He required her to come to Him first. This would require supernatural exertion and faith and so she must have made the attempt to come before He touched her. Then, as she came, He declared the work done, “Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity;” and He laid his hands upon her and completed the work. But her faith had to take the initiative, and, like Abraham, step out, not knowing whither, on the naked call and strength of God. Then the work could be counted done. “Thou art loosed.” And then the full results began to follow.
THE CENTURION’S SERVANT. Matt. viii. 5.
1. The first thing that is remarkable about this case is the high commendation which Christ here gives to the faith of a Gentile and heathen, who possessed so little opportunity of knowing God and enjoying light. The most solemn lesson in all the Bible about faith is that it was most strongly developed in those who had but little light, and the greatest advantages were usually met by the most unreasonable unbelief. They who do not promptly use the light they have are not likely to make a good use of more. This man had very little more light than he had learned from his own profession, and the smattering of Jewish teaching he may have gathered, but he had been a true man as far as he knew his duty, and he had shown his love to God’s people and his kindness to the Jewish congregation, whose Synagogue he had built at his own expense. 2. His strong faith showed itself first in his recognizing Christ’s absolute control over all the forces of the universe, even as he controlled his disciplined soldiers; and secondly, in his recognizing the sufficiency of Christ’s bare word to stop the disease in a moment. He asked no more than one word from the Lord of Heaven and earth. And that one word he took as a decree as final as the decree of the Caesars. He recognized the authority of Christ’s word. It passes over this universe like a great and resistless mandate, and even in the hands of a little child it is as mighty as His own Omnipotence. How tremendous the force of law! Let a single human voice speak the sentence of that Court, and all the power of wealth and influence is helpless to hold back that man from a prison cell. The word which Christ has spoken to us is a word of law, and when faith claims it, all the powers of hell and earth dare not resist it. This is the province of faith, to take that imperial word and use its authority against the forces of disease and sin. 3. The humility of this man is a beautiful accompaniment of his faith. He deeply felt his unworthiness of Christ’s visit. It was not often that a proud Roman acknowledged himself unworthy of a visit, but this Centurion felt that he was standing before One greater than his Emperor, and his spirit bowed in lowly reverence and worship. We can come nearer. Not only will He enter our roof but He will make our heart his home for ever.
THE GADARENE DEMONIACS. Matt. viii. 28.
This incident introduces to us a class of cases of great importance, the insane and the disease of the mind. There seems no reason to doubt that they are still the same in character and cause as the instances of demoniacal possession in the days of Christ. The causes of these disorders are distinctly attributed by our Lord to Satanic agency. The power that held this man was sufficient to destroy three thousand swine. What fearful forces one human heart can hold! The power which the evil spirit exerted upon his body, enabling him to break any chain which the hand of man could place upon him, may give us some idea of how spiritual agencies may affect the body either for good or evil. All physical strength is spiritual in its cause. This wretched man seems to have been conscious of two principles within him: one his own will feebly struggling for freedom, the other the evil spirits controlling him, and crushing his will under them. The difference between such a case and one willingly yielded to Satan is very great. The Lord met this case with deep compassion. He regarded him as the victim of a power he could not resist, and by a word of command He set him free. Immediately his whole appearance was changed. The wild and dreaded maniac is sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. The awful power that had possessed him was soon apparent in the destruction of the swine. He himself clung to his Deliverer, and desired to go with Him. But Jesus knew that he needed to be pushed out into the discipline of confession and service, and sent him at once to stand alone and spread the tidings in his home. Every new advance would give him new assurance and strength, and before long the whole region of Decapolis was so stirred by his testimonies, that the way was prepared for the Master’s visit and the mighty work which closed with the feeding of the four thousand. So must we often trust the young disciple with the most bold and difficult service and self- reliance.
The treatment of the insane is one of the most important questions connected with the subject of faith. The true remedy is the power of Christ. No doubt it is a subject of much difficulty; and in many cases there are long and severe trials of faith and need for quiet homes where they can be separated, guarded and brought under the influence of Christian teaching and faith. The result of the little that has been attempted has shown how much may be done with holy wisdom and courageous faith.
THE WOMAN WHO TOUCHED HIS GARMENT. Luke viii. 48.
1. The most beautiful thing about this miracle is the way it is embosomed in the heart of a greater, the raising of Jairus’ daughter. It would seem as though in these twin miracles the Lord would write, in one striking lesson, the two principles so finely illustrated respectively, in each of God’s absolute power on the one hand, even to work where there is nothing but death, and faith’s absolute power on the other to take everything from God. They emphasize the two wonderful omnipotences that Christ has linked together: “All things are possible with God,” and “all things are possible to him that believeth.” 2. The helpless nature of her disease and the failure of human physicians is brought out with a good deal of plainness of speech. There is no attempt to apologize for the medical Profession but we are frankly told that all that had been done for her had only made her worse. It wilt be noticed that it is a physician himself, Luke, who gives us the most vivid picture of all this. 3. The process of the faith and healing is very striking. There were three stages. First, she believed that she would be healed. She said, “If I may touch his garment, I. shall be whole. Then, secondly, she came and touched. She did something. The personal and living element in faith is here brought out very vividly. Faith is more than believing, it is a living contact with a living Saviour. It is the outreaching of a conscious need in us, feeling after and finding its supply in Him. It is not a mere outward approach, not even a mere mental approach. Hundreds thronged Him, but only one TOUCHED Him. Then, thirdly, there is the conscious receiving after the naked believing and the actual coming. Immediately her blood was staunched; she felt in her body that she was whole of her plague. She did not feel first and then believe, but she believed and then she felt. 4. But her blessing must be confessed. Christ will not allow us to hold his gifts without acknowledgment. Nor can we enjoy and retain them long in secret. Like plants, they need the light of day. And so her womanly sensitiveness must all be laid aside, and her shrinking heart must tell its blessings at His feet, in the hearing of all men. How much we lose by sensitiveness and silence! 5. And how much she gained by that confession! “Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. Go in peace.” A daughter, comforted, healed and now sent forth into peace, that deep, Divine rest that comes with the touch of God, and is the richest part of the inheritance which faith brings. It is not merely that the peace comes into her. She goes into peace, a land so wide and fruitful, that she never can miss its boundaries or exhaust its precious things. And could one little act of faith for her body bring all this deep spiritual blessing? Yes, the most precious part of the blessing His healing gives is that it heals the whole being, and brings us into union with God, with a fullness we never would have known without this living and human touch. Indeed, it will be found that most of the great spiritual blessings, experiences, and revelations of God to his people in the Scriptures began with what we would call temporal blessings. Abraham became the father of faith by believing in God for a son. Jacob became the Prince of Israel by claiming a temporal deliverance. Daniel saw the coming to Jesus while asking for the Restoration of the Captivity. The Syrophenician woman won her transcendent victory for a suffering child. And so still the things we call little and commonplace, like the little jewelled axles in the wheels of our watches, are the very pivots on which the greatest spiritual experiences turn; and trusting God for a headache or a dollar may teach us to trust Him for all the fullness of His grace and holiness.
THE TWO BLIND MEN. Matt. ix. 27.
This little story illustrates several important principles.
1. Mere prayer will not heal the sick. These blind men followed Him from the house of Jairus crying, “Have mercy on us.” And yet it brought no reply. “I have been praying for my healing for forty years,” people sometimes say to us, “and I am no better.” Well, little wonder, for if you had prayed in faith you would not have prayed so long. 2. Mere coming into the presence of Christ will not heal us. They came to Him into the house, but still they were not healed. So persons go to meetings, try to get under spiritual influences, and seem to think that those things will bring their blessings. Perhaps they even present themselves definitely to Him for His help and healing, and yet they are no better. 3. The reason is given in the last step brought out here. All this is of no avail unless we definitely believe that He does do for us what we claim. “Believe ye?” He asks and then utters the great law of faith which determines for every one of us the measure of our blessings, “According to your faith be it unto you.” Then His touch brings sight and healing, and they go forth into the glorious light of day.
There is a secret in everything; there is a secret spring or number by which the safe can be unlocked. There is a secret way by which that paper can be brought before the Government. There is a secret by which nature’s mighty forces can be harnessed and used. And there is a secret which opens heaven-commands all the forces and resources of the throne. It is not agonizing prayer; it is not much labor; it is simply this: “According to your faith be it unto you.”
THE SYRO-PHENICIAN WOMAN. Matt. xv. 21.
1. This was another example of faith where there was little light or opportunity. It is doubtful if this woman had ever heard a promise or a passage of Scripture, or seen an inspired teacher in all her life. She belonged to an alien and accursed race, and everything was against her. And when she came to Jesus, He seemed against her, too. To her pitiful cry tor help He answered her not a word. To his disciples’ appeal to send her away, that is to grant her request and dismiss her, He replies in language which seemed imperatively to exclude her from any right to His mercy. And when at last she came to His very feet and implored His help, He answered in language so harsh and repelling that it seemed like courting insult to approach Him again. He had even called her a dog, the type in the East of that which is unclean and unfit for fellowship and yet in the face of all this her faith only grew the stronger, until at last she drew out of His very refusal the argument for her blessing. Difficulties cannot injure true faith. They are the very stimulus of its growth.
2. We see the Lord’s design in dealing with us, and sometimes seeming to refuse us. All through that struggle He knew and loved her, and saw the trust that would not be denied. And He was but waiting for its full manifestation. Nay, He only tried it because He knew it would stand the trial, and would come forth as gold at last. So He keeps us at His feet, and even seems to refuse our cry, to call forth all the depths of our trust and earnestness. Another object, too, He had with her. He was bringing her to the death of self and the sense of sin. And when at last she was willing to accept His judgment of her, and take her place as a poor worthless sinner, unworthy of any of His blessings, then she could receive all. Faith is a coming down as well as an ascent, a death as well as a life. 3. Her great faith consisted not only in her persistency, in holding on until the last in importunate pleading, but in its ingenuity in finding some ground on which to plead and claim the blessing. Faith is a process of logic, an arguing our case with God, and it is always looking for something to rest upon. Her heart seemed to lean at first upon His grace and love as she somehow felt it instinctively. Something told her that that calm, gentle face could not refuse her. But still she had no word from Him. One little word only, one whisper, one faint concession would do her. But he had spoken nothing but hard, inevitable words of exclusion, exclusion based upon the great principles and limitations of His coming, principles that seemed to make it wrong for Him to help her. At last He speaks a word that seems to close the door for ever. Not only a Gentile, but a dog. It is not meet. How can she surmount that? Wonderful! That becomes the very bridge on which she crosses the Jordan. A dog-that gives her a place. A dog-well, even a dog has some rights. She will claim hers. Only a crumb. This thing she asks is but a crumb to Him, so great that mighty deeds of power and love drop from His fingers like morsels, but oh, so much to her! Lord, I accept it. I lie down at Thy feet, at Thy children’s feet; I ask not their fare, but this which is but their leaving; this which will not diminish aught for them; this which even now they in yonder Galilee have had to the surfeit, until they have refused to take more–this I humbly claim for myself and child, and Thou canst not say me nay. 4. No. He could not. Filled with love and wonder, He answers: “Oh woman, great is thy faith; be it unto thee even as thou wilt.” And the mighty deed was done. “As thou wilt.” Here, again, we have the same element of decision, of fixed and concentrated will which is essential to all strong faith and action. It was the same will, in the negative form, as “I will not” which overcame at Peniel sixteen centuries before; and these two cases, both for a temporal deliverance, are companion pictures of overcoming faith.
THE DEMONIAC CHILD. Matt. xvii. 14.
Immediately after the Transfiguration, Jesus was brought face to face with the power of Satan in the form of a case of demoniacal possession that resisted all the Disciples. The cause of their failure was their lack of faith, and the reason of their unbelief was their strife about personal ambition. When Jesus comes to the multitude He rebukes the unbelief which He perceives on every side, and then calls the father and child into his presence. The moment the father begins to speak of the difficulties of the case, he falls into a paroxysm of discouragement and cries, “If Thou canst do anything, have compassion on us, and help us.” But the Lord’s answer quickly brings him to see that it is not a matter of Christ’s power but of his own faith. “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.” He at once recognizes the tremendous responsibility which this places upon him, and meets it. “Lord, I believe; help Thou mine unbelief.” These two words together-the Lord’s great word to him, and his word to the Lord-are among the most wonderful teachings of the Bible about faith. The first tells us the possibilities of faith-all things; equal to God’s own omnipotence, for the only one else to whom all things are possible is God. Faith does, indeed, take and use His own Omnipotence. The second defines the possibility of faith-that is, how far can we believe? Now, many spend their lives wondering if they can believe. Others, more wisely, like this man, put forth the effort and stretch forth the hand first, and then throw themselves on God to sustain and carry them in it. Had he said, “Lord, help my unbelief,” without first saying “Lord, I believe,” it would have been vain. Had he said, “Lord, I believe;” and stopped there, it would have been equally vain, for it would only have been his own will power. He put forth his will, and then he depended upon Christ for the strength. This is faith. It all comes from Christ, and is, indeed, His own faith in us, but it must be taken by us and used with a firm and resolute hand. The healing power now comes, but it seems at first only to make matters worse, and develops such a desperate resistance from Satan, that in the conflict the child is thought by the spectators to be really dead. So, often, when God begins to heal us, we really seem to get worse, and the world tells us that we have destroyed ourselves. But the death must precede the life, the demolition the renovation. Let us not fear but trust Him who knows, and all will be well. He takes the child by the hand, and lifts him up, and the demon has left him for ever.
THE BLIND MAN AT BETHSAIDA. Mark viii. 22.
1. The first thing Christ did with this man was to take him by the hand and lead him out of the town, separating him thus from the crowd, giving him time to think, and teaching him to walk. hand in hand with Jesus, and trust Him in the dark. So He first takes us all, and leads us out alone with Himself, long before we look in His face, or know that He is leading us. 2. Next He begins the work of healing him by a simple anointing, as a sign, and putting His hands upon his eyes. The result is a partial healing, but distorted and unsatisfactory. Thus would He teach us that sometimes our progress will be partial and by successive stages. Many never get beyond this first stage. 3. There is a third stage-perfect sight; and it comes from one cause: a look at Jesus. “I see men,” he said the first time; and while he only saw men, he saw nothing clearly. But the second time the Lord made Him “look up,” and now he saw clearly. That one look at Jesus, even through the dimness, made all things clear and whole.
THE BLIND MAN AT JERUSALEM. John lx.
1. The question of sin in connection with sickness receives a very important limitation in this incident. Christ teaches His disciples that there are cases of infirmity where there has been no special iniquity beyond the common guilt of all men, and the trouble has been permitted to afford an opportunity for God to show His love and power in restoring. 2. In the healing of this man, the Lord again used a simple sign. He anointed his eyes with spittle and clay. None will say that this could have any medicinal effect to cure eyes blind from birth. It was simply a sign of His touch. He then sent him to wash in the pool of Siloam, and he came, seeing. If it be said that there was any virtue in the clay, it may be added, with equal force, that he did not receive his sight until the clay had been washed away in the pool of Siloam.
This pool was the type of Christ, and the Holy Spirit, Siloam, was the same as Shiloh, and it meant the Sent One. The water meant the Holy Spirit, also the Sent of the Father and Son. 3. The testimony of this man, subsequently, was most glorious. With a keen sarcasm, he exposed the inconsistencies of the Scribes and Pharisees who came to see him about it, and to draw out of him some evidence against Christ, who had again broken the Sabbath by this act of healing. But the humble peasant was more than a match for them, and the controversy which follows is intensely sharp and interesting. At last they resort to coarse force, and excommunicate him from the Synagogue. But he is a true martyr; and soon after Jesus appears to him again and reveals His true character and glory, and the man becomes a loving Disciple.
BLIND BARTIMEUS AND HIS COMPANION. Luke xviii.
1. There was a deep insight in the cry of Bartimaeus, “Thou Son of David.” Jesus was now coming to claim His throne, and the title by which He was to be known was “The Son of David.” It was strange that His own people should be blind to His claim, and that a poor old blind man should be the first to see it. So still the wise are the blind-so the blind see still. 2. We see persistent faith. He cried aloud; he cried so much the more when they rebuked him: he cried and threw away his garments, teaching us that we must put all hindrances out of the way. He had but one request: his earnest faith summed up all its intensity in one word, “Lord, that my eyes may be opened.” There can be no strong faith without strong desire. The languid prayer has not motive power enough in it to ascend to God. 3. His healing was simple and glorious. There was a pause, a call, a question, an earnest reply; the word is spoken, the work is done: he gazes on the beautiful scene, the men around him, and the face of the Lord. And then he looks no further, but sends up his shouts of praise, and follows Jesus in the way.
THE WITHERING OF THE FIG TREE. Mark xi. 20.
This is Christ’s one miracle of judgment, and it would seem to be a poor source of faith and comfort. But Christ made it the occasion of His highest teaching about faith, and it is indeed, a symbol of the deepest and tenderest operation of His Grace. The greatest principle of Scripture is Salvation by Destruction, Life by Death. The life of the world is the destruction of Satan, Sin and Death. The Sanctification of the Soul is the withering up of the natural life. The healing of the body is the death stroke at the root of an evil growth of disease. There are things that need God’s Fire and God’s Holiness. There are times when we want more than mercy and gentleness, and the whole spirit longs for the touch of the keen sword which slays utterly the foul thing that is crushing out our life and purity. Oh, how glorious at such a time is the Consuming Holiness of the Living God? This is the meaning of the withered fig tree. “Ye shall do this which is done to the fig tree,” He says to His Disciples. Yes, we can speak that mighty word of faith, and lo, the flesh withers and dies. We can speak it again, and lo, the poison tree of sickness is withered, and begins to dry up from the root. And although leaves and branches may for a while retain their form and color, we know that the death-blow has been struck at the root, and the real work is done.
The secret of all is this: “Have the Faith of God.”
The marginal reading is as much higher than the text as heaven is above the earth. The faith of God is as different from faith in God as Christ’s faith is from that of the Disciples who were laboring with the demoniac boy. Jesus does mean to teach us that no less than such a faith as His own will do these things, and that we can have it, and must take it.
THE LAME MAN AT THE BEAUTIFUL GATE. Acts iii. 10.
The first miracle of the Holy Ghost after Christ’s ascension is marked by the most emphatic recognition of the name of Jesus only as the source of power in its performance, and the most distinct repudiation of all human power or glory in it. The Apostles distinctly use that Name as their first word to the man, and when the people come crowding around them, and the rulers summon them before them, they again and again disavow any part in it, further than merely to represent the Mighty Name and power of Him who had been crucified by the men before them. It is not now a present, but an absent Lord, represented by His ministers and His Name.
Again the very faith through which the miracle had been performed and received was as distinctly disavowed, as in any sense their own will-power, or the man’s, for they distinctly say, “Yea, the faith which is by Him hath made this man stand before you whole.” So that both the faith and the power are simply Jesus Himself working and believing in us.
Again the miracle itself is only valued as a testimony for Jesus, and an occasion for more widely and effectually spreading His word. They do not wait to wonder over it. They do not let it monopolize their attention, but they quietly press on with their greater work, the preaching of the Gospel. The healing of the sick is simply accessory to the great and the whole work of the Gospel, and ought always to be associated with it. But the lame man was an unanswerable argument for the Gospel, a very buttress in the walls of the young Church. “Seeing the lame man with Peter and John, they could say nothing against it.” That is fine. We need such testimonies still. The world, the infidel, and the devil cannot answer them. We have seen the proudest infidel put to shame by a poor woman coming up before the people who knew her, and telling him how God had made her whole.
ENEAS AT LYDDA. Acts ix. 34.
The miracle, by the hands of Peter, has the same features. First, Peter is most careful to recognize only the Master’s Power and Name. “Aeneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole.” Peter is wholly out of sight, and ever must be.
Next, the effect of it is to bring men to God; not to set them wondering, but to set them repenting. All Lydda and Saron saw it, and turned to the Lord. The true effect of a full Gospel of supernatural power and might is always spiritual results, and the salvation of men. And through these mighty signs and wonders will come, Joel tells us, the last great outpouring of the Spirit upon the world, and the awakening of men before the second coming of the Lord.
THE LAME MAN AT LYSTRA. Acts xiv. 10.
This is one of the most instructive cases of healing in the Bible.
1. This was a purely heathen community and audience. They had no preconceived prejudices. 2. Paul preached to them “the Gospel.” No doubt he told them of the healing and redeeming work of Jesus. 3. As he preached he perceived the light of faith and life irradiating the face of one of his most helpless hearers. We can see these things in men. God gives the spiritual mind instincts of discernment. 4. Paul evidently would not have gone farther unless he had “perceived” that this man had “faith to be healed.” It is no use trying to push men on Christ who have not hands to touch Him. It was not Paul’s faith that healed the man, but his own. 5. But he must be helped to act it out.
“Stand on thy feet,” cries Paul; and as he rises and attempts in a hobbling, halting way, to stand, he cries “UPRIGHT,” for this is the force of the word (see Young’s translation). There must be no halting and half-believing. A bold step like this must be carried through audaciously. And lo! the man responds to the brave words, and now not only stands up, but begins to leap and walk. By works his faith is made perfect. 6. The effect of the miracle and the humble spirit of Paul need no additional word. God was glorified, and Paul gave Him all the glory.
PAUL’S OWN EXPERIENCE OF HEALING. Acts xv. 19; II. Cor. i. and iv.
It was not long till the great Apostle had occasion to prove his own faith. The excited people first worshipped and then stoned him and, dragged out of the city by a mob infuriated by Jewish agitators, he was left for dead in the midst of the little band of disciples. But did he die? No. “As the disciples stood round him he rose up in their midst, and the next day he departed for Derbe, and there he preached the Gospel.” Could there be anything more simply sublime or sublimely simple? Not a word of explanation, no utterance even of surprise, but a quiet defiance of pain, weakness and death itself, and going on about his work in the strength of the Lord.
In the Second Epistle to the Corinthians and the Fourth Chapter, he gives us the secret of his strength: “We which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake;”–that was what happened at Lystra-” that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.” That was the secret of the wondrous restoration at Lystra. In a later verse he gives it to us again, “For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.”
In the First Chapter of Second Corinthians he gives us another instance of his healing.
It was a great trouble that came to him in Asia, and pressed him out of measure above strength, so that he despaired even of life. And, indeed; when he looked at himself, his condition and his feelings, the only answer he could get was death.
But even in that dark hour he had one confidence, the life of Christ, and “God who raiseth the dead.” And this trust was not in vain. He did deliver from death, and had since been constantly delivering the Apostles, and he was sure would yet deliver him to the end. And he simply adds his thanks to them for the prayers which had so helped and comforted him, and which gave occasion for such wider thanksgiving on his behalf, to the glory and grace of God.
OUR SAVIOUR’S EXPERIENCE OF PHYSICAL LIFE IN GOD. Matt. iii
Jesus Himself had to learn, and leave to us, the great lesson of living physically not on natural strength and support, but on the life of God. This was the very meaning of His first temptation in the wilderness. It was addressed directly to His body. Weakened and worn by abstinence, the tempter came to Him and suggested that He should resort to the usual means of sustenance and strength, and make some earthly bread. The Lord answers him that the very reason of His trial and abstinence is to show that man’s life can be sustained without earthly bread, by the life and word of God Himself. The words have a deep significance when we remember that they are quoted from Deuteronomy, and are first used of God’s ancient people, to whom, He says, He tried to teach this same lesson, that “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” So it is not only the Son of Man who was thus to live as a special evidence of His Divine power, but the lesson is for man, and we must all learn with Him to receive our life for the body as well as the soul, not by the exclusion of bread, but “not by bread ALONE,” but also by God’s word. This is exactly what our Saviour meant when, two years later, he said in the Synagogue at Capernaum, “As the Living Father hath sent Me, and I live by the Father: so that he that eateth Me even he shall live by Me.”
So our Lord learned His physical lesson, refused the Devil’s bread, and overcame in His body for us. The next two temptations were addressed to His soul and His spirit, and were, in like manner, overcome. And so He became for us the Author and Finisher of our faith.
Such are some of the witnesses. “Seeing, then, that we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and run with patience the race that is set before us, LOOKING UNTO JESUS THE AUTHOR AND FINISHER OF OUR FAITH.”