The sick room, part 1

(J.C. Ryle)

"In those days King Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death!" Isaiah 38:1

Sickness, disease, decay, and death are the common lot of all mankind without exception. You have a striking proof of this in the chapter from which my text is taken. The Holy Spirit shows us a king and ruler of men, a dweller in palaces, a possessor of all that money can obtain, a good man, a holy man, a friend of God — laid low by disease, like the poorest man in the kingdom. Hear what the Holy Spirit says, "In those days King Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death!"

This is the old story. It is the history of every child of Adam for the last 6,000 years — except for Enoch and Elijah. It is as true of the infant who only lives a few hours — as it is true of Methuselah who lived 969 years. The story of every patriarch in the fifth of Genesis concludes with the simple words, "and he died."

There is no discharge in this war. Sooner or later, all die. There is no exemption for any rank or class or condition. High and low, rich and poor, gentle and simple, learned and unlearned, kings and their subjects, saints and sinners — all alike are liable to disease and all must submit to the King of Terrors. The admirals and generals who have left behind a world-wide reputation, the statesmen who have swayed senates and made indelible marks on the history of their own time — are all carried one after another to the grave. Rich men, in spite of all their privileges, enjoy no immunity from sickness and death.

No medical skill can prevent death. Our physicians and surgeons are unwearied in their efforts to find new remedies and modes of treatment. They compass sea and land in order to prevent disease, discover remedies, diminish pain, and lengthen life. But in spite of all that medicine and surgery can do — there is something which the ablest doctors find beyond their reach. When the time appointed by God comes — they cannot keep men and women alive.

After all, there is nothing amazing in this. The tent in which our soul lives — the human body — is a most frail and complicated machine. From the sole of the foot to the crown of the head — there is not a part of us which is not liable to disease. When I think of the variety of ailments which may assail our frame, I do not so much wonder that we die at last — as that we live so long.

But whence comes this liability to sickness, disease, and death? How are we to account for it? This is a question which will arise in many minds — and it is one which ought to be answered. Perfection is the ordinary mark of all God's handiwork — perfection in the heavens above us, and the earth beneath us — perfection in the movements of a planets — and perfection in a fly's wing, or a blade of grass. Look through a telescope or microscope at anything which God created — and you find nothing defective. How then can we account for the power of disease, decay, and death over the body of man?

There is only one book which supplies an answer to this question. That book is the Bible. The fall of man at the beginning, has brought sin into the world — and sin has brought with it the curse of sickness, suffering,  pain, and death. These are not things which God created at the beginning. They are the consequences of man's transgression. To suppose that a perfect God would deliberately create imperfection, is a supposition too monstrous to be believed. It is man who is to blame — and not God. The countless bodily sufferings that we see, are the just consequence of man's original disobedience.

Here to my mind lies one among many proofs that the Bible is given by inspiration of God. It accounts for many things which the atheist cannot explain. When I see a little infant convulsed with bodily pain and hovering between life and death in a weeping mother's arms — I would be utterly puzzled and confounded, if I did not believe the Bible. But when I turn to the Book — the mysterious problem is solved. I learn that suffering is the result of Adam's fall. That infant would not have suffered — if Adam had not sinned!