The Soul's Malady and
by Thomas Watson
"It is not the healthy who need a doctor — but the sick." Luke 5:31
The occasion of the words is set down in the context.
Levi was called from the receipt of taxes (he was a tax collector); but
Christ called him, and there went out power with the Word, such that "Levi
left all, rose up, and followed him" (verse 28). Levi did not consult with
flesh and blood; he did not say, "How shall I live and maintain my charge? I
shall lose many a sweet bit at the tax booth; poverty is likely to be my
inheritance. Nay, if I follow Christ, I must espouse persecution." He does
not reason thus but, having a call, he hastened away after Christ. He rose
up and followed him; and, that he might give Christ a pledge and specimen of
his love, he made him a feast. Verse 29: "And Levi made him a great feast in
his own house." A better guest he could not invite.
Christ always came with His payment. Levi feasted Christ
with his food — and Christ feasted him with salvation. Well, Christ being at
this feast, the Pharisees began to murmur. Verse 30: "Why do you eat and
drink with tax collectors?" The Pharisees were offended at Him that He would
go in and eat with tax collectors. The tax collectors were counted the worst
of sinners, sinners of the deepest dye; yet the Pharisees were not so much
offended at the sins of the tax collectors, as they had a mind to pick a
quarrel with Christ. He who was the horn of salvation to some was a
rock of offense to these Jews. Others fed on Him; these
religious leaders stumbled at Him. They accused Christ for eating
with sinners; malice will never lack matter of accusation. Though the
devils proclaimed Christ's holiness (Luke 4:34: "Let us alone, I know You
who You are, the Holy One of God") — yet the Pharisees taxed Him for a
sinner. See what malice will do; it will make a man speak that which the
devil himself will not speak. The devils justified Christ; the Pharisees
accused Him. And Christ, who was a Lamb without spot, could not escape the
world's censures; no wonder that His people are loaded with the calumnies
and censures of the wicked.
But let us examine the matter of the charge they bring
against Christ, and see how groundless it was. They indicted Christ for
joining in with sinners.
First, Christ did nothing but what was according to His
commission. The commission He received from His Father was that He should
come to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15).
Second, Christ went in with sinners not to join
with them in their sins — but to heal them of their sins. To accuse
Christ was, as Augustine said, as if the physician should be blamed because
he goes among those who are sick of the plague. This groundless accusation
Christ overheard, and in the text He gives these envious Pharisees a
silencing answer: "It is not the healthy who need a doctor — but the sick."
It is as if Christ had said, "You Pharisees think yourselves righteous
people; and that you need no Savior. But these poor tax collectors are sick
and ready to die, and I come as a physician to cure them. Therefore do not
be angry at a work of mercy; though you will not be healed — yet do not
hinder Me from healing others. Those who are whole do not need a physician —
but those who are sick do."
In the words there are two general parties: The dying
patients and the healing Physician. The dying patients are "those
who are sick."
DOCTRINE 1: Sin is a soul
disease. Isaiah 53:4: "He has borne our griefs." In the Hebrew it
is "our sicknesses." Man at first was created in a healthy temper; he had no
sickness of soul; he ailed nothing. The soul had its perfect beauty and
glory. The eye was clear, the heart pure, and the
affections tuned with the finger of God into a most sweet harmony. "God
made man upright" (Ecclesiastes 7:29); but Adam, by eating the
forbidden fruit, fell sick and would have died forever — had not God found
out a way for his recovery. For the amplification of this doctrine, there
are three things to be considered:
In what sense sin is like sickness;
what the diseases of the soul are;
and that sin-sickness is the worst sickness.
A. In what sense is sin likened to sickness?
1. Sin may be compared to
sickness, for the manner of its being caught. First, sickness is
caught often through carelessness. Some catch cold by leaving off clothes.
So when Adam grew careless of God's command and left off the garment of his
innocence, he caught a sickness. He could stay no longer in the garden — but
lay bed-ridden. His sin has turned the world, which was a paradise,
into a hospital!
Sickness is caught sometimes through excess or
intemperance. Excess produces sickness. When our first parents ate of the
forbidden tree, they and all their posterity surfeited on it and took sick.
The tree of knowledge had sickness and death under the leaves! It was fair
to the eye (Genesis 3:6) but poisonous to the taste. We all grew desperately
sick by eating of this tree. Adam's intemperance has brought us to fasting
and weeping; and besides that disease at first by propagation, we have added
to it by actual perpetration. We have increased our sickness; therefore
sinners are said to wax worse and worse (2 Timothy 3:13).
2. Sin may be likened to
sickness — for its nature. Sickness is of a spreading
nature; it spreads all over the body; it works into every part — the head,
stomach, and so on; it disorders the whole body. Sin does not rest in one
part — but spreads into all the faculties of the soul and members of the
body. Isaiah 1:5-6: "The whole head is sick, the whole heart is faint; from
the sole of the foot, even unto the head, there is no soundness in it — but
wounds and bruises, and putrefying sores."
Sin corrupts the understanding.
Gregory Nazianzen calls the understanding "the lamp of reason." But this
lamp burns dim. Ephesians 4:18: "Having their understanding darkened."
Sin has drawn a veil over the understanding; it has cast a mist before our
eyes so that we neither know God nor ourselves. Naturally we
are only wise to do evil (Jeremiah 4:22). We are witty at sin — and wise to
damn ourselves! The understanding is defiled (1 Corinthians
2:14). We can no more judge spiritual objects until the Spirit of God
anoints our eyes — than a blind man can judge colors. Our understandings are
subject to mistakes; we call evil good — and good evil; we put bitter
for sweet — and sweet for bitter (Isaiah 5:20). A straight stick under water
seems crooked. Just so, to a natural understanding the straight line of
truth, seems crooked.
The memory is
diseased. The memory at first was like a golden cabinet in which divine
truths were locked up safely; but now it is like a colander or leaking
vessel — which lets all that is good run out. The memory is like a sifter,
which sifts out the flour — but keeps the husks. So the memory lets saving
truths go — and holds nothing but froth and vanity. Many a man can remember
a silly story, when he has forgotten Scripture truth. Thus the memory is
diseased. The memory is like a bad stomach — all the good food is
vomited out. So the most precious truths will not stay in the memory — but
are gone again.
The will is diseased.
The will is the soul's commander-in-chief; it is the master-wheel; but how
irregular and disordered it is! The will in the creation was like that
golden bridle which Minerva was said to put upon Pegasus, to guide and rule
him: it answered to God's will. This was the language of the will in
innocence: "I delight to do Your will, O God" (Psalm 40:8). But now it is
distempered and disordered; it is like an iron sinew which refuses to yield
and bend to God. John 5:40: "You will not come to Me, that you may
have life." Wicked men would rather die, than come to their Physician. The
Arminians talk of free will — but the will is sick. What
freedom does a palsied man have to walk? The will is a rebel against God.
Acts 7:51: "You always resist the Holy Spirit" because the will is
The affections are
sick. First, the affection of desire: a sick man desires that which
is hurtful for him; he calls for wine in a fever. So the natural man, being
sick, desires that which is bad for him; he has no desire after Christ; he
does not hunger and thirst after righteousness, but desires poison. He
desires to take his fill of sin; he loves death (Proverbs 8:36).
The affection of grief is sick. A man grieves for
lack of an estate — but not for the lack of God's favor! He grieves to see
the plague or cancer in his body — but not for the plague of his heart!
The affection of joy is sick. Many can rejoice in
a wedge of gold — but not in the cross of Christ. The affections are sick
The conscience is
diseased. Titus 1:15: "Their mind and conscience is defiled." Conscience is
erroneous, binding to that which is sinful (John 16:2). Acts 26:9: "I truly
thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of
Jesus." Conscience can lead out of the right way. Conscience is often
silent, and will not tell men of sin; it is a silenced preacher. And
conscience is dead (Ephesians 4:19). Conscience is stupefied
and senseless; the custom of sinning — has taken away the
sense of sinning.
Thus the sickness of sin has gone over the whole soul,
like that cloud which overspread the face of the heavens in 1 Kings 18:45.
3. Sickness debilitates and
weakens. A sick man is unfit to walk. So this sickness of sin
weakens the soul. Romans 5:6: "When we were without strength, Christ
In innocence Adam was, in some sense, like the angels: he
could serve God with a winged swiftness and a filial cheerfulness. But sin
brought sickness into the soul, and this sickness has cut the lock where his
strength lay; he is now disarmed of all ability for serving God. And where
grace is wrought, though a Christian is not so heart-sick as before — yet he
is very faint. The saints' prayers do but whisper in God's
ears, and if Christ did not pray them over again, God could not hear them.
We sin fervently — but pray faintly. As David said in 2 Samuel
3:39, "I am this day weak, though anointed king." So
Christians, though they have the oil of grace poured upon them, and are
anointed spiritual kings — yet they are weak. Sin has made
them feeble; they have spiritual shortness of breath, and cannot put forth
such strong desires after God as they ought. When we find ourselves dead in
duty and our holy affections languishing, we should think thus: "This is my
sickness; sin has made me weak!" As Jephthah said to his daughter in Judges
11:35, "Alas, my daughter, you have brought me very low," so may the soul
say, "Alas, my sin, you have brought me very low; you have brought me almost
to the gates of death."
4. Sickness eclipses the BEAUTY
of the body. This I ground on Psalm 39:11: "When You with rebukes
do correct man, You make his beauty to consume away like a moth." The moth
consumes the beauty of the cloth; so a fit of sickness consumes the beauty
of the body. Thus sin is a soul sickness; it has eclipsed the glory and
splendor of the soul; it has turned ruddiness into paleness. Of that beauty
of grace which once sparkled as gold, it may now be said, "How this gold has
become dim!" (Lamentations 4:1). That soul which once had an orient
brightness in it, it was more ruddy than rubies; its polishing was of
sapphire, the understanding bespangled with knowledge, the will
crowned with liberty, the affections like so many seraphim,
burning in love to God — but now, the glory has departed. Sin has turned
beauty — into deformity!
As some faces by sickness are so disfigured and look so
ghastly that they can hardly be known — so the soul of man is by sin so
sadly changed (having lost the image of God) that it can hardly be known.
Joel 2:31: "The sun shall be turned into darkness." Sin has turned that
sun of beauty which shined in the soul — into a stygian darkness; and
where grace is begun to be wrought — yet the soul's beauty is not quite
recovered — but is like the sun under a cloud.
5. Sickness takes away the
TASTE. A sick man does not taste the sweetness in his food. Just
so, the sinner, by reason of soul-sickness, has lost his taste for spiritual
things. The Word of God is bread to strengthen, and wine to
comfort; but the sinner tastes no sweetness in the Word. A child of God who
is spiritualized by grace, tastes a savoriness in ordinances. The promise
drops as a honeycomb (Psalm 19:10) — but a natural man is sick and his
taste is gone. Since tasting of the forbidden tree, he has lost his taste
for spiritual dainties.
6. Sickness takes away the
COMFORTS of life. A sick person has no joy of anything; his life
is a burden to him. So the sin-sick soul is void of all true comfort, and
his laughter is but the pleasing dream of a sick man. He has no true title
to comfort; his sin is not pardoned, and for all he knows, he may be in hell
7. Sickness ushers in DEATH;
it is the prologue to death. Sickness is, as it were, the chopping of the
tree; death is the falling of the tree. So this disease of sin (if not cured
in time) brings the second death.
What the DISEASES of the soul are:
Adam, by breaking the box of original righteousness, has
filled the soul with diseases. The body is not subject to so many diseases,
as the soul. "I cannot reckon them all up" (Psalm 40:12). "Who can
understand his errors?" (Psalm 19:12). I shall name some of the worst of
Pride is the arrogance of the soul,
lust is the fever of the soul,
error is the gangrene of the soul,
unbelief is the plague of the soul,
hypocrisy is the scurvy of the soul,
hardness of heart is the stone in the soul,
anger is the madness of the soul,
malice is the wolf in the breast,
covetousness is the cancer of the soul,
spiritual sloth is the soul's nausea, and
apostasy is the epilepsy of the soul.
Here are eleven soul-diseases, and when they come to
their full height, they are dangerous and most frequently prove mortal.
Why sin is the worst sickness:
To have a body full of plague sores is sad; but to
have the soul, which is the more noble part, spotted with sin is far
1. The body may be diseased and
yet the conscience be quiet. Isaiah 33:24: "The inhabitant of the
land shall not say, I am sick." He should scarcely feel his sickness because
sin was pardoned; but when the soul is sick of any reigning lust, the
conscience is troubled. Isaiah 57:21: "There is no peace to the wicked."
When Spira had abjured his former faith — his conscience burned as hell, and
no spiritual medicine that divines applied could ever allay that
2. A man may have bodily
diseases — yet God may love him. Asa was diseased in his feet (2
Kings 15:23) — yet he was a favorite with God. God's hand may go out
against a man — yet His heart may be towards him. Diseases are the
arrows which God shoots; pestilence is called God's arrow in Psalm 91:5.
This arrow (as Gregory Nazianzen said) may be shot from the hand of an
indulgent father; but soul-diseases are symptoms of God's anger. As
He is a holy God, He cannot but hate sin. "He beholds the proud afar off"
(Psalm 138:6). God hates a sinner for his plague-sores. Zechariah 11:8: "My
soul loathed them."
3. Sickness, at worst, does but
separate from the society of friends; but this disease of sin, if not cured,
separates from the society of God and angels. The leper was to be
shut out of the camp; this leprosy of sin, without the interposition of
mercy, shuts men out of the camp of heaven! This is the misery of those who
die in their sins: they are allowed neither friend nor physician to come to
them; they are excluded from God's favorable presence forever, in whose
presence is fullness of joy.
INFORMATION. See into
what a sad condition sin has brought us; it has made us desperately sick.
Nay, we die away in our sickness, until we are fetched again with the water
of life. Oh, how many sick, bedridden souls there are in the world — sick
from pride, sick from lust. Sin has turned our houses and churches into
hospitals; they are full of sick people. What David's enemies said
reproachfully of him is true of every natural man. Psalm 41:8: "An evil
disease cleaves fast unto him." 1 Kings 8:38: "He has the plague of his own
heart!" And even those who are regenerate are cured but in part; they have
some remnants of the disease, some ebullitions and stirrings of corruption.
Nay, sometimes this evil breaks forth to the scandal of religion, and from
this sin-sickness arises all other diseases — plague, gout, stone, fever. 1
Corinthians 11:2930: "He who eats and drinks unworthily, eats and drinks
damnation to himself; for this cause many are weak and sickly among you."
If sin is a soul-sickness, then how foolish they are who
hide their sins; it is folly to hide a disease! Job 31:33, 40: "If I covered
my transgression as Adam, by hiding my iniquity in my bosom." The wicked
take more care to have sin covered, than cured; if they can
but sin in private and not be suspected — they think all is well. There is a
curse belonging to him who sins in a secret place (Deuteronomy 27:15).
Hiding and concealing a disease, proves mortal. Proverbs 28:13: "He who
covers his sins shall not prosper."
If sin is a soul-sickness, then see what need there is of
the ministry. Ministers are physicians under God, to cure sick souls. God
has set in His church pastors and teachers (Ephesians 4:11). The ministers
are a college of physicians; their work is to find out diseases and
apply remedies. This is a hard work; while ministers are curing others, they
themselves are near unto death (Philippians 2:30). They find their people
sick with various diseases: some have poisoned themselves with error;
some are surfeited with the love of the creature; and some have
stabbed themselves in the heart with gross sin! Oh, how hard it is to heal
all these sick, gangrened souls! Many ministers sooner kill themselves by
preaching, than cure their patients; but though the work of the ministry is
a laborious work, it is a needful work. While there are
sin-sick souls, there will be need for spiritual physicians. How unworthy
then they are, who malign and persecute the ministers of God! Oh, unkind
world, thus to abuse your physicians. Can there be a greater injury to
souls? Would it not be a piece of the highest cruelty and barbarism, if
there were a law passed that all physicians should be banished out of the
land? And is it not worse to see multitudes of sick souls lie bleeding, and
to have their spiritual physicians removed from them, who should under God
heal them? This is wrath-procuring sin. 2 Chronicles 36:16: "They misused
His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, until
there was no remedy."
See what is inscribed in Deuteronomy 33:8, 11: "Smite
through the loins of those who rise against him, and of those who hate him,
that they rise not again." The Lord will wither that arm which is stretched
out against His prophets.
1. If sin is a soul-disease —
then let this serve to HUMBLE us. The Scripture often calls upon
us to humility. 1 Peter 5:5: "Be clothed with humility." If anything will
humble, this consideration may: sin is a soul-disease. If a woman had a
lovely face — but a cancer in her breast, it would keep her from being proud
of her beauty. So Christian, though you are endued with knowledge and
morality, which are fair to look upon — yet remember that you are diseased
in your soul; here is a cancer in the breast to humble you! This certainly
is one reason why God leaves sin in His own children (for though sin is
healed as far as the guilt of it — yet not as far the pollution of
it), that the sight of their sores, may make their plumes of pride fall off!
There are two humbling sights: a sight of God's glory and a sight of our
Uzziah the king had no cause to be proud; for though he
had a crown of gold on his head, he had the leprosy on his
forehead (2 Chronicles 26:19). Though the saints have their golden
graces — yet they have their leprous spots. Seeing sin has made
us vile — let it make us humble; seeing it has taken away our
beauty — let it take away our pride. Augustine said, "If
God did not spare the proud angels, will He spare you, who are but dust and
rottenness?" Oh, look upon your spiritual boils and ulcers — and be
humbled. Christians are never more lovely in God's eyes — than when they are
loathsome in their own eyes! Those sins which humble — shall never
2. If sin is a soul-disease, and
the most damnable disease — then let us be AFRAID of it. Had we
diseases in our bodies, a cancer in the lungs or a hectic fever, we would
fear lest they should bring death. Oh, fear sin-sickness, lest it bring the
second death. You who are a drunkard or a swearer, tremble at your
I am amazed to see sinners like the leviathan, made
without fear. Why do not men fear sin? Why do they not shake with
this disease? Surely the reason is stupidity; as they have the fever of sin,
so withal a spiritual lethargy. 1 Timothy 4:2: "Having their conscience
seared with a hot iron." If a man has an unbelieving heart and a seared
conscience, you may as well ring out the death bell; that man's case is
Another reason for not fearing is presumption. Many
imagine that they can lay a fig upon the boil; though they are sick, they
think that they can make themselves well. It is but saying a few prayers; it
is but a sigh or a tear — and they shall immediately recover. But is it so
easy to be healed of sin? Is it easy to make old Adam bleed to death?
Is it easy when the pangs of death are on you, in an instant to have
the pangs of the new birth? Oh, take heed of a spiritual lethargy; fear your
disease, lest it prove mortal and damnable! Physicians tell of a disease
that makes men die laughing. Just so, Satan tickles many with the pleasure
of sin — and they die laughing!
3. If sin is a soul distemper —
then account them your best friends who would reclaim you from your sins.
The patient is thankful to the physician who tells him of his
disease and uses means to recover him. When ministers tell you in love of
your sins, and would reclaim you — take it well; the worst they intend is to
cure you of your sickness. David was glad for a healing reproof. Psalm
141:5: "Let the righteous smite me, it shall be a kindness; and let him
reprove me, it shall be an excellent oil which shall not break my head."
Ministers are charged by virtue of their office, to reprove (2 Timothy 4:2).
They must as well come with corrosives as healing balms. Titus 1:13: "Rebuke
them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith." The Greek word is
"cuttingly," as a surgeon searches a wound and then lances it, cutting out
the gangrened flesh; but it is to restore him to health. So must the
ministers of Christ rebuke sharply so that they may help to save their dying
patients. Who is angry with the physician for prescribing a bitter remedy?
Why should any be angry with Christ's ministers for reproving when, in
regard of their office, they are physicians, and in regard of their
concerns they are fathers? But how few are those who will take a
reproof kindly! Amos 5:10: "They hate him who rebukes in the gate."
Why do men not love a reproof for sin?
One reason is because they are in love with their sins.
It is a strange thing that any should love their disease — but so it is.
Proverbs 1:22: "How long, you simple ones, will you love simplicity?" Sin is
the poison of the soul — yet men love it; and he who loves his sin hates a
Another reason is because sin possesses men with a lunacy
(Luke 15:7). People are mad in sin. Jeremiah 50:38: "They are mad on their
idols." When sickness grows so violent that men lie raving and are mad, they
then quarrel with their physician and say that he comes to kill them. So
when sin has grown to a head, and the disease has turned into a frenzy, then
men quarrel with those who tell them of their sin, and they are ready to do
violence to their physicians. It shows wisdom, to receive a reproof.
Proverbs 9:8: "Rebuke a wise man, and he will love you." A wise man would
rather drink a sharp remedy — than die of his disease.
4. If sin is a soul-sickness —
then do not FEED this disease. He who is wise will avoid those
things which will increase his disease: If he is feverish, he will avoid
wine which would inflame the disease. He will forbear a dish he loves,
because it is bad for his disease. Why should men not be as wise for their
souls? You who have a drunken lust, do not feed it with wine; you who
have a malicious lust, do not feed it with revenge; you who have an
unclean lust, make no provision for the flesh (Romans 13:14). He who
feeds a disease — feeds an enemy. Some diseases are starved; starve your
sins by fasting and humiliation. Either kill your sin — or your sin will
5. If sin is a soul-disease, and
worse than any other — then labor to be SENSIBLE of this disease.
There are few who are sensible of their soul-sickness; they think
they are well and have no spiritual sicknesses; they are whole and need no
physician. It is a bad symptom to hear a sick, dying man say that he is
well. The church of Laodicea was a sick patient — but she thought she was
well. Revelation 3:17: "You say I am rich, and have need of nothing." Come
to many a man and feel his spiritual pulse, ask him about the state of his
soul, and he will say that he has a good heart and does not doubt that he
shall be saved.
How can men be so desperately sick in their souls and
ready to drop into hell — and yet think themselves in a very good condition?
1. There is a spiritual cataract
upon their eyes; they do not see their sores. Laodicea thought
herself rich because she was blind (Revelation 3:17). The god of this
world blinds men's eyes so that they can neither see their disease, nor
their Physician. Many bless God that their estate is good, not from the
knowledge of their happiness — but from the ignorance of their danger.
When Haman's face was covered, he was near execution. Oh, pray with David,
"Enlighten my eyes, that I sleep not the sleep of death" (Psalm 13:3).
2. Men who are sick think themselves well — from the haughtiness of their
spirits. Alexander thought himself for a while to be the son of
Jupiter, and no less than a god. What an arrogant creature man is! Though he
is sick unto death, he thinks it too much a disparagement to acknowledge a
disease. He thinks that either he is not sick, or he can heal himself. If he
is poisoned, he runs to the herb, or rather weed, of his own righteousness
to cure him.
3. Men who are sick think of
themselves as well — through self-love. He who loves another will
not believe any evil report of him. Men are self-lovers (2 Timothy 3:2).
Every man is a dove in his own eye, and therefore does not suspect
himself of any disease. He will rather question the Scripture's verity —
than his own malady.
4. Self-deceit, and the deceit
of the heart appears in hiding the disease; the heart hides sin
as Rachel did her father's images (Genesis 31:34). Hazael did not think that
he was as sick as he was; he could not imagine that so much wickedness, like
a disease, should lie lurking in him. 2 Kings 8:13: "Is your servant a dog
that I should do this vile thing?" As the viper has his teeth hidden in his
gums — so that if one should look into his mouth he would think it a
harmless creature — so though there is much corruption in the heart — yet
the heart hides it and draws a veil over so that it is not seen.
The heart holds a false looking-glass before the eye,
making a man appear fair, and his estate very good. The heart can deceive
with counterfeit grace; hence men are insensible of their spiritual
condition, and think themselves well — when they are sick unto death.
5. Men take up a good opinion of
themselves, and imagine their spiritual estate better than it is through
mistaken reasoning. Because they enjoy glorious privileges; they
were born within the sound of Aaron's bells; they were baptized with holy
water; they have been fed with manna from heaven, therefore they hope they
are in a good condition. Judges 17:13: "Then Micah said, Now I know the Lord
will do me good, seeing I have a Levite as my priest." But alas! This is a
mistake; outward privileges do not save. What is any man the better for
the ordinances, unless he is the better by the ordinances? A
child may die with the breast in its mouth. Many of the Jews perished,
though Christ Himself was their preacher.
The other mistake is set down by the apostle in 2
Corinthians 10:12: "They, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing
themselves with others, are not wise." Here is a double error or mistake.
First, they measure themselves by themselves, that
is, they see they are not so bad as they were, therefore they judge that
their condition is good. A dwarf may be taller than he was — yet a dwarf
still; the patient may be less sick than he was — yet far from well; a man
may be better than he was — yet not godly.
Second, they compare themselves with others. They
see they are not so heinous and profane as others; therefore they think
themselves well — because they are not as sick as others. This is a mistake;
one may as well die of a consumption, as the plague. One man
may not be as far off heaven as another — yet he may never enter heaven. One
line may not be as crooked as another — yet not be straight. To the law and
to the testimony; the Word of God is the true standard and measure by which
we are to judge of the state and temper of our souls.
Oh, let us take heed of this rock — imagining our
condition better than it is; let us take heed of a spiritual apoplexy, to be
sick in our souls yet not sensible of this sickness. Why do men talk of a
light within them? The light within them by nature is not sufficient to
show them the diseases of their souls; this light tells them they are whole
and have no need of a Physician.
Oh, what infinite mercy it is — for a man to be made
sensible of sin and, seeing himself sick, to cry out with David in 2 Samuel
12:13, "I have sinned against the Lord." Would it not be a mercy for a
person who is demented, to be restored to the use of his reason? So it is
for him who is spiritually distempered and in a lethargy — to come to
himself, and see both his wound and his remedy. Until the sinner is sensible
of his disease, the medicine of mercy does not belong to him.
6. If sin is a soul sickness,
then labor to get this disease healed. If a man had a disease in
his body, a pleurisy or a cancer, he would use all the means available, for
a cure. The woman in the gospel who had a hemmorage spent her whole estate
upon the physicians (Luke 8:43). Be more earnest to have your soul
cured, than your body. Make David's prayer from Psalm 41:4: "Heal my
soul, for I have sinned!" Do you have a consumptive body? Pray to God rather
to heal the consumption in your soul; go to God first for the cure of your
soul. James 5:14: "Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the
church, and let them pray over him." The apostle does not say, "Let him call
for the physician," but "the elders," that is, the ministers. Physicians are
to be consulted in their due place — but not in the first place. Most men
send first for the physician and then for the minister; which shows they are
more desirous and anxious for the recovery of their bodies — than their
souls. But if soul diseases are more dangerous and deadly, then we should
prefer the spiritual cure before the bodily one; "Heal my soul, for I have
Until we are cured, we are not fit to do God any service.
A sick man cannot work; and while the disease of sin is violent, we are not
fit for any heavenly employment. We can neither work for God nor work out
our salvation. The philosopher defines happiness, as the operation of the
mind about virtue. To be working for God is both the end and the perfection
of our life. Would we be active in our sphere? Let us labor to have our
souls cured. As long as we are diseased with sin, we are lame and bedridden;
we are unfit for work. We read indeed of a sinner's works — but they are
dead works (Hebrews 6:1).
If we are not cured, we are cursed; if our
spiritual diseases abide on us — the wrath of God abides on us.
QUESTION. But how shall we get this disease of sin cured?
This brings us to the second thing in the text — the healing Physician: "the
whole need not a physician." Whence observe:
DOCTRINE 2: Jesus Christ is a
soul Physician. Ministers (as was said before) are physicians
whom Christ, in His name, delegates and sends abroad into the world. He said
to the apostles, and in them to all His ministers, "Lo, I am with you to the
end of the world" (Matthew 28:20). That is, "I am with you to assist and
bless you, and to make your ministry healing." But though ministers are
physicians — yet but under-physicians. Jesus Christ is the chief Physician.
It is He who teaches us all our remedies, and goes forth with our labors,
else the medicine we prescribe would never work. All the ministers under
heaven could not do any cure, without the help of this great Physician. To
amplify this I shall show:
That Christ is a soul-Physician.
Why He is a soul-Physician.
That He is the only soul-Physician.
How He heals His patients.
That He is the best Physician.
1. Christ is a soul-Physician.
It is one of His titles. Exodus 15:26: "I am the Lord who heals you." He is
a Physician for the body. He anointed the blind, cleansed the lepers,
healed the sick, and raised the dead (Matthew 8:16). It is He who puts
virtue into medicine and makes it healing, and He is a physician for the
soul. Psalm 147:3: "He heals the broken in heart." We are all as so many
impotent, diseased people: one man has a fever, another a palsy, another a
cancer; we are under the power of some hereditary corruption. But Christ is
a Soul-Physician. He heals these diseases. Therefore in Scripture the Lord
Jesus, to set forth His healing virtue, is typified by the brazen serpent
(Numbers 21:9). Those who were stung were cured by looking on the brazen
serpent. Just so, when the soul is stung by the old serpent, it is cured by
that healing under Christ's wings.
Christ is typified by the Good Samaritan. Luke
10:30, 33-34: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell
into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and
went away, leaving him half dead. But a Samaritan, as he traveled,
came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to
him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine." We have wounded
ourselves by sin, and the wound would have been incurable had not Christ,
that Good Samaritan, poured in His wine and oil.
Christ as a Physician is typified by the trees of the
sanctuary. Ezekiel 47:12: "The fruit thereof shall be for food, and the
leaf thereof shall be for medicine." Thus the Lord Jesus, that tree of life
in paradise, has a curative virtue. He heals our pride, unbelief, and so on.
As He feeds our graces, so He heals our corruptions.
2. WHY Christ is a
First, it is in regard of His call. God the Father called
Him to practice medicine. He anointed Him to the work of healing. Luke 4:18:
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the
gospel. He has sent Me to heal the broken-hearted." Christ came into the
world as into a hospital, to heal sin-sick souls. Though this was a glorious
work — yet Christ would not undertake it until He was commissioned by His
Father. "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me — He has sent Me." Christ was
anointed and appointed to the work of a soul-Physician.
Jesus Christ undertook this healing work because of the
need we were in of a physician. Christ came to be our Physician not
because we deserved Him — but because we needed Him; it was
not our merit — but our misery — which drew Christ from
heaven. Had He not come, we must of necessity have perished and died of our
wounds. Our disease was not minor; it had seized on every part. It made us
not only sick — but dead! And such remedies were necessary, as
none but Christ could give.
Christ came as a Physician, out of the sweetness of His
nature. He is like the Good Samaritan who had compassion on the wounded man
(Luke 10:33). A physician may come to the patient only for gain — not so
much to help the patient — as to help himself; but Christ came purely out of
sympathy. There was nothing in us to entice Christ to heal us; for we
had no desire for a physician, nor had we anything to pay our
physician. As sin made us sick — so it made us poor. So that
Christ came as a Physician not out of hope to receive anything from us — but
was prompted to it out of His own goodness. Hosea 14:4: "I will heal their
backslidings, I will love them freely." Love set Christ to work — not
only His Father's commission — but His own compassion moved Him to
His spiritual healing. King David banished the blind and lame out of
the city in 2 Samuel 5:8. Christ comes to the blind and lame and
cures them. In love and mercy, He comes with healing under His wings.
3. Christ is the ONLY
soul-Physician. Acts 4:12: "Neither is there salvation in any
other." There is no other soul-physician besides. The papists would have
other healers besides Christ. They would make angels their physicians — but
all the angels in heaven cannot heal one sin-sick soul. Indeed, they are
described by their wings in Isaiah 6:2 — but they have no healing under
their wings. Papists would heal themselves by their own merits. Adam ate
that apple which made him and his posterity sick — but he could not find any
herb in paradise to cure him. Our merits are rather damning — than
healing. To make use of other physicians and medicines is as if the
Israelites, in contempt of that brazen serpent which Moses set up, had
erected other brazen serpents. Oh, let us take heed of such false
Indeed, in bodily sickness it is lawful to multiply
physicians; when the patient has advised with one physician, he desires to
have others joined with him. But the sick soul, if it joins any other
physician with Christ, it surely dies.
4. HOW Christ heals His
patients. There are four things in Christ, which are healing.
His WORD is healing.
Psalm 107:20: "He sent His Word and healed them." His Word in the mouth of
His ministers is healing; when the heart is wounded in desertion, Christ
creates the lips which speak peace (Isaiah 57:19). The Word written — is a
repository in which God has laid up sovereign oil and balsams to recover
sin-sick souls; and the Word preached — is the pouring out of these oils,
and applying them to the sick patient. "He sent His Word and healed them."
We look upon the Word as a weak thing. What is the breath of a man to save a
soul? But the power of the Lord is present to heal (Luke 5:17). Christ makes
use of His Word as a healing medicine; the remedies which his ministers
prescribe, He Himself applies. He makes His Word convincing, converting, and
But the Word does not heal all; to some it is not a
healing — but a killing Word. 2 Corinthians 2:16: "To the one we
are a savor of death unto death." Some patients die of their disease. Such
people as sin presumptuously die, though they know a thing to be sin
(Job 24:13). They are of those who rebel against the light, and this is
dangerous. David prayed in Psalm 19, "Keep back Your servant from
presumptuous sins." Such people as sin maliciously die. When the
disease comes to this head, the patient will die (Hebrews 10:29). But to
those who belong to the election of grace, the Word is the healing medicine
which Christ uses. "He sent His Word, and healed them."
Christ's WOUNDS are healing.
Isaiah 55:5: "With His stripes — we are healed." Christ made a
medicine of His own body and blood. The Physician died to cure the
patient! The pelican, when her young ones are bitten by serpents, feeds
them with her own blood to recover them. Thus, when we were bitten by the
old serpent, then Jesus Christ prescribes His own blood to heal and restore
us. The blood of Christ, being the blood of Him who was God as well as man,
had infinite merit to appease the holiness of God, and infinite virtue to
This is the balm of Gilead, which recovers a soul
which is sick even unto death. This balm of Gilead, as naturalists
say, is a juice which a little shrub, being cut with glass, weeps out. This
was anciently of very precious esteem; the savor of it was odoriferous, the
virtue of it sovereign; it would cure ulcers and the stinging of serpents.
This balm may be an emblem of Christ's blood; it has a most sovereign virtue
in it. It heals the ulcer of sin and the stinging of temptation; it merits
for us justification (Romans 5:9). Oh, how precious this balm of Gilead is!
By this blood we enter into heaven.
Christ's SPIRIT is healing.
The blood of Christ heals the guilt of sin; the Spirit of Christ
heals the pollution of sin. The Spirit is compared to oil; it is
called the anointing of the Spirit in Isaiah 61, to show the healing
virtue of the Spirit. Christ by His Spirit heals the rebellion of the will,
the stone of the heart; though sin is not fully removed, it is subdued.
Christ's ROD is healing.
Christ never wounds but to heal; the rod of affliction is to recover
the sick patient. David's bones were broken — so that his soul might be
healed. God uses affliction as the surgeon does his lance, to let out the
venom and corruption of the soul, and make way for a cure.
QUESTION. But if Christ is a Physician, why are not
ANSWER 1. Because all do not know they are sick.
They do not see the sores and ulcers in their souls. And will Christ cure
those who see no need of Him? Many ignorant people thank God that they have
good hearts; but that heart can no more be good which lacks grace, than that
body can be sound which lacks health.
ANSWER 2. All are not healed because they love their
sickness. Psalm 52:3: "You love evil." Many men hug their disease.
Augustine said that, before his conversion, he prayed against sin — but his
heart whispered, "Not yet, Lord." He was loath to leave his sin too soon.
How many love their disease more than their Physician!
While sin is loved, Christ's medicines are loathed.
ANSWER 3. All are not healed because they do not look
for a Physician. If they have any bodily distemper upon them, they
immediately send for the physician. Yet their souls are sick — but they will
not go to their Physician, Christ. John 5:40: "You will not come unto Me
that you may have life." Christ takes it as an undervaluing of Him — that we
will not send for Him. Some send for Christ when it is too late; when other
physicians have given them over and there is no hope of life, then they cry
to Christ to save them. But Christ refuses such patients as make use of Him
only for a shift. You who scorn Christ in time of health — Christ may
despise you in the time of sickness!
ANSWER 4. All are not healed because they would be
self-healers. They would make their duties their saviors. The papists
would be their own physicians; their daily sacrifice of the mass is a
blasphemy against Christ's priestly office. But Christ will have the honor
of the cure, or He will never heal us; not our tears — but His
ANSWER 5. All are not healed because they do not take
the medicine which Christ prescribes for them. They would be cured — but
they are loath to take the curing medicines. Christ prescribes them to drink
the bitter potion of repentance and to take the pill of
mortification — but they cannot do this; they would rather die than take
these! If the patient refuses to take the course the physician prescribes,
it is no wonder that he is not healed.
Professors — you have had many prescriptions to take;
have you taken them? Ask your conscience. There are many hearers of the Word
who, like foolish patients, send to the doctor for medicines — but when they
have it, they put it up in the cupboard — but do not take it. It is probable
you have not taken the prescription which the gospel prescribes, because the
Word has no operation on your hearts. You are as proud, as earthly, and as
malicious as ever!
ANSWER 6. All are not healed, because they have no
confidence in the Physician. It is observable that when Christ came to
work any cure, He first put this question, "Do you believe that I am able to
do this?" (Matthew 9:28). This undoes many. "Oh," says the sinner, "there is
no mercy for me. Christ cannot heal me." Take heed, your unbelief is
worse than all your other diseases. Did not Christ pray for those who
crucified Him? "Father, forgive them." Some of those were saved, who had a
hand in shedding His blood (Acts 2:36-37). Why then do you say Christ cannot
heal you? Unbelief dishonors Christ; it hinders from a cure; it closes the
orifice of Christ's wounds; it staunches His blood. Millions die of their
disease, because they do not believe in the Physician.
5. Christ is the BEST Physician.
That I may set forth the praise and honor of Jesus Christ, I shall
show you wherein He excels other physicians; no physician is like Christ.
He is the most SKILLFUL
Physician. There is no disease too hard for Him. Psalm 103:3:
"Who heals all your diseases." The pool of Bethesda might be an emblem of
Christ's blood (John 5:5). Whoever first after the troubling of the water
stepped in, was made whole of whatever disease he had. There are certain
diseases that physicians cannot cure, such as a consumption in the lungs,
some kinds of obstructions and gangrenes. Some diseases are the reproach of
physicians. But there is no disease which can oppose Christ's skill. He can
cure the gangrene of sin — even when it comes to the heart. He healed Mary
Magdalene, an unchaste sinner. He healed Paul, who breathed out threatenings
against the church, insomuch that Paul stands and wonders at the cure: "But
I obtained mercy!" literally, "I was bemercied!" (1 Timothy 1:13).
Christ heals head distempers and heart
distempers, which may keep poor trembling souls from despair. "Oh," says the
sinner, "never was any so diseased as I!" But look up to your Physician,
Christ, who has healing under His wings. He can melt a heart of stone,
and wash away black sins in the crimson of His blood! There are no
desperate cases with Christ. He has those salves, oils, and balsams which
can cure the worst diseases.
Indeed, there is one disease which Christ does not heal,
namely, the sin against the Holy Spirit. There is no healing of this
disease; not but that Christ could cure this — but the sinner himself
will not be cured. The king may pardon a traitor — but if he will
obstinately refuse the pardon, he must die. The sin against the Holy Spirit
is unpardonable because the sinner will have no pardon. He scorns Christ's
blood and despises His Spirit; therefore this sin has no sacrifice (Hebrews
Christ is the best Physician
because he cures the BETTER part, the soul. Other physicians can
cure the liver or spleen — but Christ cures the heart. They can cure
the blood when it is tainted — but Christ cures the conscience
when it is defiled. Hebrews 9:14: "How much more shall the blood of Christ
purge your conscience from dead works?" Galen and Hippocrates might cure
kidney-stones — but Christ cures heart-stones. He is the best physician who
cures the most excellent part. The soul is immortal and angelic. Man was
made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), not in regard of his body — but his
soul. Now if the soul is so divine and noble, then the cure of the soul far
exceeds the cure of the body.
Christ is the best Physician,
for He causes us to FEEL our disease. The disease of sin, though
it is most damnable — yet is least discernible. Many a man is
sin-sick — but the devil has given him such stupefying drug, that he sleeps
the sleep of death, and all the thunders of the Word cannot awaken him. But
the Lord Jesus, this blessed Physician, awakens the soul out of its
lethargy, and then it is in a hopeful way of recovery. The jailor was never
so near a cure as when he cried out, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"
Christ shows more LOVE to His
patients than any other physician. This appears so in that long
journey He took from heaven to earth. It appears so in that He comes to His
patients without being sent for. The sick send for their physicians, and use
many entreaties; but Christ comes unsent for. Isaiah 65:1: "I was found by
those who did not seek Me." He meets us with mercy. He entreats us to be
healed. If Christ had not first come to us, and, with the good Samaritan,
poured in wine and oil, we would have died of our wounds.
This Physician lets Himself bleed — to cure His patient!
Isaiah 53:5: "But He was wounded for our transgressions." Through His wounds
— we may see His great love.
Our repulses and unkindnesses do not drive Christ away
from us. Physicians, if provoked by their patients, go away in a rage and
will come no more. We abuse our Physician and thrust Him away; we bolt out
our Physician — yet Christ will not forsake us — but comes again and applies
His sovereign oils and balsams. Isaiah 65:2: "I have spread out My hands all
the day unto a rebellious people." Christ puts up with wrongs and
incivilities, and is resolved to go through with the cure. Oh, the love of
this heavenly Physician!
Christ Himself drank that bitter cup which we should have
drunk, and by His taking the potion we are healed and saved.
Thus Christ has shown more love than any physician ever
did to the patient.
Christ is the CHEAPEST
Physician. Sickness is not only a consumption to the body — but
the purse! (Luke 8:43). Physicians charge fees — but Jesus Christ gives us
our medicine freely. He takes no fee. Isaiah 55:1: "Come without money and
without price." He desires us to bring nothing to Him but broken hearts; and
when He has cured us, He desires us to bestow nothing upon Him but our love
— and one would think that was very reasonable.
Christ heals with more EASE than
any other. Other physicians apply pills, potions, or remedies.
Christ cures with more ease. Christ made the devil go out with a word spoken
(Mark 9:25). So when the soul is spiritually possessed, Christ can heal with
a word, nay, He can cure with a look. When Peter had fallen into a
relapse, Christ looked on Peter — and he wept. Christ's look melted Peter
into repentance; it was a healing look. If Christ but casts a look upon the
soul, He can recover it. Therefore David prayed to have a look from God in
Psalm 119:132: "Look upon me — and be merciful unto me."
Christ is the most
TENDER-HEARTED Physician. He has ended His passion — yet not His
compassion. How He pities sick souls! He is not more full of skill, than of
sympathy, Hosea 11:8: "My heart is turned within Me." Christ shows His
compassion in that He proportions His medicine to the strength of the
patient. If medicine is too sharp for the constitution, it endangers the
life. Christ gives such gentle medicine as works kindly and savingly. Though
He will bruise sinners — yet He will not break the bruised
reed. Oh, the mercy of Christ to poor souls, who feel themselves heart-sick
with sin! He holds their head and heart when they are fainting. He brings
the cordials of His promises to keep the sick patient from fainting away.
Christians, you perhaps may have hard thoughts of your
Physician, Christ, and think that He is cruel and intends to destroy you.
But, oh, the workings of His heart towards humble, broken-hearted sinners!
Psalm 147:3: "He heals the broken in heart, and binds up their wounds."
Every groan of the patient — goes to the heart of this Physician!
Physicians often prescribe medicine which is harmful to
the patient. Sometimes they cannot find the cause of the disease; and
sometimes they may give that which is harmful. Or if they do find the cause,
they may give that which is good for one thing — but bad for another. When
the liver and spleen are both distempered, the medicine which helps the
liver, may hurt the spleen. But Christ always prescribes that medicine which
is suitable, and withal He blesses it. If the disease of the soul is
pride, He humbles it with affliction. God turned Nebuchadnezzar to eat
grass like an animal — to cure him of his arrogance. If the disease of the
soul is sloth, Christ applies some awakening Scriptures (Matthew
12:11; Luke 13:24; 1 Peter 4:18). If the disease is the stone of the
heart, Christ uses proper medicines. Sometimes the terrors of the law,
sometimes mercies, and sometimes He dissolves the stone in His own blood! If
the soul is faint through unbelief, Christ brings some Scripture
cordial to revive it. Matthew 12:20: "A bruised reed He will not break."
Isaiah 57:16: "I will not contend forever, neither will I be always angry;
for the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made." Thus
the Lord Jesus always prescribes that medicine which is proper for the
disease, and shall work effectually for the cure.
Christ NEVER FAILS to succeed.
Physicians may have skill — but not always success; patients often die under
their hands. But Christ never undertakes to heal any, but He makes a certain
cure. John 17:12: "Those whom You gave Me, I have kept, and none of them is
lost." Judas was not given to Christ to be healed; but never any who was
given to Christ, has ever miscarried.
QUESTION. How shall I know then that I am given to Christ
to be cured?
ANSWER. Is it with you as with a sick patient, who sees
himself dying without a physician. Are you undone without Christ? Do you
perceive yourself as bleeding to death without the balm of Gilead? Then you
are one of Christ's sick patients, and you shall never miscarry under His
hands. How can any of those be lost, whom Christ undertakes to cure? As He
pours in the balsam of His blood, so He pours out the perfume of His prayers
for them. John 17:11: "Holy Father, keep through Your own name, those whom
You have given Me." Satan could never upbraid Christ with this, that any of
His sick patients were lost.
Other physicians can only cure
those who are sick — but Christ cures those who are DEAD!
Ephesians 2:1: "You has he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins."
A sinner has all the signs of death on him: the pulse of his affections does
not beat; he is without breath; he does not breathe after holiness. He is
dead — but Christ is a Physician for the dead! Of every one whom Christ
cures, it may be said, "He was dead — and is alive again" (Luke 15:32).
Christ cures not only our
diseases — but our DEFORMITIES. The physician can make the sick
man well; but if he is deformed he cannot make him lovely. Christ gives not
only health — but beauty. Sin has made us ugly and misshapen.
Christ's medicines do not only take away our sickness — but our
spots. He not only makes us whole — but lovely. Hosea 14:4: "I
will heal their backslidings." Verse 6: "His beauty shall he as the
olive-tree." Jesus Christ never thinks that He has fully healed us, until He
has drawn His own beautiful image upon us! Song of Solomon 2:13: "Arise, my
lovely one," lovely with justification, lovely with sanctification. Christ
not only heals — but adorns. He is called the Sun of
Righteousness in Malachi 4:2, not only because of the healing under His
wings — but because of those rays of beauty which He puts upon the soul
Last, Christ is the most
bountiful Physician. Other patients enrich their physicians — but
here the Physician enriches the patient! Christ advances all His patients.
He not only cures them — but crowns them! (Revelation 2:10).
Christ not only raises from the bed — but to the throne! He gives the sick
man not only health — but heaven!
Good news this day — there is balm in Gilead! There is a
Physician to heal sin-sick souls! The angels that fell had no physician sent
to them; we have. There are but few in the world to whom Christ is revealed;
those who have the gold of the Indies, lack the blood of the Lamb. But the
Sun of Righteousness is risen in our hemisphere with healing in His wings.
If a man were poisoned, what a comfort it would be to him to hear that there
was an herb in the garden which could heal him! If he had a gangrene in his
body, and were given up by all his doctors, how glad he would be to hear of
a physician who could cure him! O sinner, you are full of deadly cancer —
you have a gangrened soul. But there is a Physician who can recover you.
There is hope! Though there is an old serpent to sting us with his
temptations — yet there is a brazen serpent to heal us with His blood.
If Christ is a Physician, then
let us make use of this Physician for our diseased souls. Luke
4:40: "When the sun was setting, all those who were sick with divers
diseases were brought unto Him, and He laid His hands on everyone of them
and healed them." You who have neglected a Physician all this while, now
when the sun of the gospel and the sun of your life are setting, bring your
sick souls to Christ to be cured. Christ complains that though men are sick
even to death — yet they will not come or send for the Physician. John 5:40:
"You will not come to Me that you might have life." In bodily diseases the
physician is the first one who is sent for; in soul diseases the Physician
is the last one who is sent for.
But there may be many sad objections that poor souls make
as to why they do not come to Christ, their soul-Physician.
OBJECTION 1. Alas, I am discouraged to go to Christ to
cure me — because of my unworthiness. I am just like the centurion who
sent for Christ about his sick servant in Luke 7:6: "Lord, do not trouble
Yourself, for I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof." Christ
was coming to heal his servant — but the centurion would have staved off
Christ from coming. "I am not worthy." So many a trembling soul says,
"Christ is a Physician — but who am I that Christ should come under my roof
or heal me? I am unworthy of mercy." Just as Mephibosheth said to King David
in 2 Samuel 9:8, "What is Your servant, that You should look upon such a
dead dog as I am?"
ANSWER. Now to such as have their hearts broken
with a sense of their unworthiness, and are discouraged from coming to
Christ to heal them, let me say these five things by way of reply:
1. Who did Christ shed His blood for — but such as are
unworthy? 1 Timothy 1:15: "Jesus Christ came into the world to save
sinners." Christ came into the world as into a hospital, among a company
of lame, bed-ridden souls.
2. Though we are not legally worthy, we may be
evangelically worthy. It is part of our worthiness — to see our
unworthiness. Isaiah 41:14: "Fear not, you worm Jacob." You may be a worm
in your own eyes — yet a dove in God's eyes.
3. Though we are unworthy — yet Christ is
worthy. We do not deserve a cure — but Christ has merited mercy for
us. He has a store of blood, to supply our lack of tears.
4. Who was ever saved, because he was worthy? What man
could ever plead this title, "Lord Jesus, heal me because I am worthy?" What
worthiness was in Paul before his conversion? What worthiness was there in
Mary Magdalene, out of whom seven devils were cast? But free grace pitied
and healed them. God does not find us worthy — but makes us
5. If we never come to Christ to be healed until we are
worthy, we must never come. And let me tell you, this talking of worthiness
savors of pride; we would have something of our own to offer. Had we such
preparations and self-excellencies, then we think Christ should accept us,
and we might come and be healed. This is to pay our Physician a fee to be
healed. Oh, do not let the sense of unworthiness discourage you. Go to
Christ to be healed. "Arise, He calls you!" (Mark 10:49).
OBJECTION 2. But I fear I am not within Christ's
commission. I am not of the number that shall be saved; and then, though
Christ is a Physician, I shall not be healed.
ANSWER 1. We must take heed of drawing desperate
conclusions against ourselves; it is high presumption for us to make
ourselves wiser than the angels. All the angels in heaven are not able to
resolve the question of who are elect and who are reprobates.
ANSWER 2. You who say that you are not within Christ's
commission, read over Christ's commission and see who it is He comes to
heal. Luke 4:18: "He has sent me to heal the broken-hearted." Has God
touched your heart with remorse? Do you lay to heart your gospel
unkindnesses? Do you weep more out of love for Christ than out of fear of
hell? Then you are a brokenhearted sinner, and are within Christ's
commission. A bleeding Christ will heal a broken heart!
OBJECTION 3. But my sins are so many that surely I shall
never be healed. I am sick with many diseases at once.
ANSWER. You have the more need of a Physician. One would
think that was a strange speech of Peter to Christ in Luke 5:8: "Depart
from me, for I am a sinful man," Should it not rather be, "Lord,
come near me"? Is it a good argument to say to a physician, "I am diseased,
therefore depart from me"? No, rather, "Come and heal me!" Our sins should
serve to humble us — not to beat us away from Christ. I tell you if we had
no diseases, Christ would have no work to do in the world.
OBJECTION 4. But my disease is inflamed and grown to a
paroxysm; my sin is greatly heightened.
ANSWER. The plaster of Christ's blood — is broader
than your sore! 1 John 1:7: "The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from
all sin." The blood of the Lamb takes away the poison of
the serpent. All diseases are alike to Christ's blood. He can cure the
greatest sin as well as the least. Have you a bloody issue of sin running?
The issue of blood in Christ's side can heal you!
OBJECTION 5. But mine is an old inveterate disease — and
I fear it is incurable.
ANSWER. Though your disease is chronic — Christ can heal
it. Christ does not say, "If this disease had been found in time, it might
have been cured." He is good at old sores. The thief on the cross
had an old festering disease — but Christ cured it; it was well for him
that His Physician was so near. Zaccheus, an old sinner, a tax
collector, had wronged many a man in his time — but Christ cured him. Christ
sometimes grafts His grace upon an old stock. We read that Christ cured at
sunset (Luke 4:40). He heals some sinners at the sunset of their
OBJECTION 6. But after I have been healed, my disease has
broken out again. I have relapsed into the same sin, and therefore I fear
there is no healing for me.
ANSWER. It is rare that the Lord leaves His children to
these relapses, though through the suspension of grace and the prevalency of
temptation, it is possible they might fall back into sin. These sins of
relapse are sad. It was an aggravation of Solomon's offense that he sinned
after the Lord had appeared to him twice (1 Kings 11:9). These sins after
healing, open the mouth of conscience to accuse, and stop the mouth of God's
Spirit which should speak peace. These sins exclude from the comfort of the
promise; it is as it were sequestrated. But if the soul is deeply humbled,
if the relapsing sinner is a repenting sinner, let him not cast away the
anchor of hope — but have recourse to his soul-Physician.
Jesus Christ can cure a relapse. He healed David's and
Peter's relapse. 1 John 2:1: "If any man sins, we have an advocate with the
Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous." Christ appears in the court, as the
Advocate for the client. As He poured out His blood upon the brazen altar of
the cross, so He pours out His prayers at the golden altar in heaven.
Hebrews 7:25: "He ever lives to make intercession for us." In the golden
work of intercession, Christ presents the merits of His blood to His Father
— and so obtains our pardon. He applies the virtue of His blood to us
— and so works our cure. Therefore, do not be discouraged from going
to your physician; though your disease has broken out again — yet Christ has
fresh sprinklings of His blood for you. He can cure any relapse!
OBJECTION 7. But there is no healing for me. I fear I
have sinned the sin against the Holy Spirit.
ANSWER 1. The fear of sinning it is a sign that you have
not sinned it. Why do you think that you have sinned the sin against the
Holy Spirit? Every grieving of the Spirit of God, is not that fatal sin. We
grieve the Spirit when we sin against His illumination. The Spirit being
grieved may depart for a time, and carry away all its honey out of the hive,
leaving the soul in darkness (Isaiah 50:10). But every grieving of
the Spirit is not the sin against the Holy Spirit. When a child of
God has sinned, his heart smites him; and he whose heart smites him for sin
has not committed the unpardonable sin.
A child of God, having grieved the Spirit, does as Noah
did when the dove flew out of the ark: he opened the windows of the ark to
let it in again. A godly man does not shut his heart against the Spirit as a
wicked man does (Acts 7:51). A gracious soul opens his heart to let in the
Spirit, as Noah opened the door of the ark to let in the dove. Christian, is
it so with you? Then be of good comfort, you have not sinned the sin against
the Holy Spirit. That sin is a malicious despising of the Spirit, which you
tremble to even think of.
Therefore, laying aside these arguments and disputes,
whatever the diseases of the soul are — come to Christ for a cure! Believe
in His blood and you may be saved. You see what a skillful and
able Physician Christ is, what sovereign oils and balsams He has, and
how willing He is to cure sick souls. Oh, then, what remains but that you
cast yourselves upon His merits to heal and save you! Of all sins,
unbelief is the worst because it casts disparagement on Christ, as if He
were not able to work a cure. O Christian, believe in your Physician. John
3:15: "Whoever believes in Him shall not perish."
Say as Queen Esther did in Esther 4:16: "I will go in
unto the king, which is not according to the law, and if I perish, I
perish." So say, "The Lord Jesus is a Physician to heal me. I will adventure
on His blood, and if I perish, I perish. Queen Esther ventured against the
law; she had no promise that the king would hold out the golden
scepter. But I have a promise which invites me to come to Christ: "He
who comes unto Me I will never cast out." (John 6:37).
Faith is a healing grace. We read that, when the
Israelites were burying a man, for fear of the soldiers of the Moabites,
they cast him hastily into the grave of Elisha. Now the man, as soon as he
was down and had touched the dead body of the prophet, revived and stood up
on his feet (2 Kings 13:21). So if a man is dead in sin — yet let him be but
cast into Christ's grave and by faith touch Christ, who was dead and buried.
That man will revive, and his soul will be healed.
Remember, there is no way for a cure, but by believing.
Christ Himself will not avail us otherwise. Romans 3:25: "Whom God has set
forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood." Faith is the
applying of Christ's merits. A plaster, though it is ever so rare and
excellent — yet if it is not applied to the wound, it will do not
good; though the plaster is made of Christ's blood — yet it will not heal
unless applied by faith. The brazen serpent was a sovereign remedy for the
cure of those who were stung; but if they had not looked upon it, they would
have received no benefit. So though there is a healing virtue in Christ —
yet unless we look upon Him by the eye of faith, we cannot be cured. Above
all things labor for faith; this is the all-healing grace. This hand
touching Christ, fetches virtue from Him.
Not that faith has more worthiness than other graces; but
only it is influential as it makes us one with Christ. If a man had a stone
in a ring that could cure many diseases, we would say that this ring heals.
But it is not the ring — but the stone in that ring, which does the curing.
So faith saves and heals not by its own virtue — but as it lays hold of
Christ and fetches down His sacred influences into the soul.
ANSWER 2. If Jesus Christ is a spiritual Physician, let
us labor to hasten the cure of our souls. Consider:
1. What a little time we have to stay here, and let that
hasten the cure. Solomon said, "There is a time to be born — and a
time to die" (Ecclesiastes 3:2). But he mentions no time of living,
as if that were so short that it was not worth naming. The body is called a
vessel in 1 Thessalonians 4:4. This vessel is filled with breath;
sickness broaches it — and death draws it out! Oh, hasten your soul's cure;
death is upon its swift march, and if it surprises you suddenly, there is no
cure to be wrought in the grave. Ecclesiastes 9:10: "There is no work, nor
device, nor wisdom in the grave where you go."
2. Now is properly the time of healing; now it the day of
grace; now Christ pours out His healing balsams; now He sends abroad His
ministers and Spirit. 2 Corinthians 6:2: "Now is the accepted time." There
were certain healing days wherein the king healed those who had the evil.
The day of grace is a healing day; if we neglect the day of grace, the next
day will be a day of wrath! (Romans 2:5). Oh, therefore hasten the cure of
your soul. Neglect your food rather than your cure. Sin will not only
kill you — but damn you!
To get a cure, come to the healing pool of the sanctuary.
The Spirit of God may all of a sudden stir these waters; the next Sabbath,
for all you know, may be a healing day to your soul.
Ask others to pray for you. When any disease is upon your
body, you desire the prayers of others. The prayers of the saints are
precious balms and medicines to cure sick souls.
3. Is Jesus Christ a soul
Physician? Then let me speak to you who are in some measure healed of your
damnable disease. I have four things to say:
First, break forth into
thankfulness. Though sin is not quite cured (there are
still some remnants of the disease) — yet the reigning power of it is
taken away. You are so healed that you shall not die (John 3:16; 11:26).
Those who were cured by the brazen serpent afterwards died; but such as are
healed by Christ shall never die. Sin may molest you — but it shall not damn
you. Oh, then, what cause you have to admire and love your Physician! The
Lord Jesus has taken out the core and the curse of your disease; publish
your experiences. Psalm 66:16: "I will tell you what God has done for my
soul." As a man who has been cured of a lingering disease, how glad and
thankful is he? He will tell others of the medicine which cured him. So say,
"I will tell you what God has done for my soul: He has cured me of an old
disease — a hard, unbelieving heart — a disease which has sent millions to
hell." Truly we may cheerfully bear any other sickness — if this
soul-sickness is cured. Luther said, "Lord, strike and wound where You will
— if my sin is pardoned." Oh, let the high praises of God be in your mouth
(Psalm 149:6). God expects thankfulness as a tribute. He wonders why men do
not bring their thank-offering. Luke 17:17: "Were there not ten cleansed —
but where are the nine?"
Second, are you healed? Take
heed of coming into infected company lest you take their infection.
The wicked are devils to tempt to sin. Lot was the world's wonder, who lived
in Sodom when it was a pest-house — yet did not catch the disease.
Third, take heed of relapses.
Men are afraid of a relapse after they are cured; beware of soul
relapses. Has God softened your heart? Take heed of hardening it. Has He
cured you in some measure of deadness? Do not relapse into a drowsy
security. You may have such an uproar and agony in your conscience as may
make you go weeping to your grave. Oh, take heed of falling sick again. "Sin
no more, lest a worse thing come unto you" (John 5:14).
Four, pity your friends who are
sick unto death; show your piety in your pity. Have you a
child who is well and healthy — but has a sick soul? Pity him and pray
for him. David wept and fasted for his sick child (2 Samuel 12:16). Your
child has the plague-sore of the heart, and you have conveyed the
plague to him; weep and fast for that child. Have you a wife or a
husband who, though they are not sick in their bed — yet the Lord knows
they are soul-sick; and are under the raging power of sin? Oh, let your
affections yearn over them; lift up a prayer for them. The prayer of faith
may save a sick soul. Prayer is the best medicine which can be used in a
desperate case; you who have felt the disease of sin and the mercy of
your Physician — learn to pity others.
4. Last, is Christ a soul
Physician? Then let us go to Christ to cure this sick, dying nation.
Britain, God knows, is a sick patient. The whole head is sick, the whole
heart is faint. The nation is ill all over; magistracy, ministry, and the
common people are diseased. And those who pretend to be our healers, are
physicians of no value. We have spent our money upon these physicians — yet
our sores are not healed. Jeremiah 14:19: "Why have you smitten us, and
there is no healing for us?" Instead of healing us, those who should have
been our physicians have increased the nation's malady by giving false
remedies. This is like giving a medicine in a fever which more inflames the
disease. Ah, Britain is sick because Britain is sinful! Sick
with error, uncleanness, and drunkenness; so sick that we may fear our
funerals are approaching. And, which is the worst symptom, though balm has
been poured into our wounds, the precious ordinances of God have been
applied — yet we are not healed. It is a sign of a fatal disease, that it is
too ill to be cured.
This sin-sickness in the land has produced many dire
effects: division, oppression, and bloodshed. The very core of the nation is
almost torn asunder, so that now God has fulfilled that threatening upon us
from Micah 6:13: "I will make you sick with smiting you." We had made
ourselves sick with sinning, and God has made us sick with smiting.
Now what remains but that we should go to the Great
Physician, whose blood sprinkles many nations; that He should apply some
healing medicines to dying Britain. God can heal with a word. He can give
repentance as well as deliverance. He can put us in joint again.
Let all the people of the land lie between the porch and the altar, saying,
"Spare Your people, O Lord" (Joel 2:17). Our prayers and tears may set
Christ a-work to heal us. Psalm 106:23: "Therefore He said that He would
destroy them, had not Moses His servant stood in the breach to turn away His
wrath." Let us never stop imploring our heavenly Physician, until He lays a
fig on England's boil and causes it to recover.