by Henry Law
"I am the Lord who heals you." Exodus 15:26
These words first cheered the heart of Moses. But they are the common heritage of the Church of God. This day they reach our ears. May they bring healing on their wings!
Reader! in thought survey the porches of Bethesda's pool. Can earth present a sight of deeper woe? Malady makes every form its prey. Each sound is burdened with a sufferer's groan. The heart is hard which can repress the sigh, Oh! that these pains might end! But vain may be the wish. For human ailment often baffles human skill. It knows no certain cure. Are you prepared to see your own case in those cells? Transfer the sickness from the body to the soul, and then your couch is surely spread among these sufferers. Sin makes this world a universal hospital. It drives earth's millions into one Bethesda.
Reader! do you sigh here, Oh! that these deeper pains might end! This speedily may be. There is one sure relief. Jesus stands near, a spiritual Healer, mighty to cause the blind to see, the deaf to hear, the lame to walk, the leprous to be clean, and every wound to close. No case exceeds His healing power! These lines are written, that sin-diseased souls may now be led to drink at this truth's fount.
Holy Spirit! grant Your aid. Show that the malady of sin abounds throughout man's tribes. Show that all remedy much more abounds in Christ. The cure will be more prized, if first we mark the many features of our deep disease. Let us remove the mask, then, and behold the multiform malignity of this fiend—sin. Sin is a universal taint. No child of man escapes it. We tread this earth diverse in climate, in station, in mental power, in mold of temper, and in frame of body. But all who breathe life's breath are spotted with this plague. Adam's foul fall infused the evil poison into nature's veins. Each parent sows this seed. No offspring is infection-free. Cain was conceived in sin. The last babe must be corruption's heir.
Reader! your cradle may have been wealth's downy pillow, or poverty's harsh provisions. You may have intellect to command a gazing world's applause, or you may crawl unknown to an unknown grave. In these externals no two may be the same. But all are one in oneness of distempered soul. Each mother's infant is transgression's child. Sin is an all-spoiling evil. It is a weed which overruns the garden. It stains all men, and every part in each.
It enters to pervade. Its root is in the soul. Eden saw it planted there. But its fibers and its branches spread through each faculty of mind and body. See how it masters the whole inner frame. The heart first sickens. This becomes harder than the nether millstone, the nest of every unclean bird, the den of lust's vile brood. The head soon grows distempered. Hence error and ignorance expel right judgment. The world is worshiped as a rightful lord. Hell is derided as some weak fable. Repentance is reserved for dying moments. The glorious Word is scorned as the bewildered page in which the brain-sick and fanatic glean delusions. The eye is blind to see the 'chief among ten thousand, the altogether lovely One.' The ear hears nothing but discord in the Gospel-note. The palate has no relish of healthful food. The lips, the mouth, the throat, the tongue, are festered with contaminating sores. Alas! how many words go forth to spread contagion and to scatter death. Thus the disease runs wildly through the whole man
Sin is the union of all spiritual maladies in one compacted mass. It is no solitary evil. It comes in troops, in flocks, in swarms. In our frames one member may be weak, the others strong. But in this hospital, all sufferings at once make every sufferer their prey. One ailment is all ailments. One part infected leaves no part in health. Sin never yields to earth-born cure. All trials have been tried. But failure is the end of each. Self has ransacked the stores of self. Wounds have been washed with tears, and bound with bands of a strict moral life. The cup of penance and of rigid religious vows has often been drunk with eager lip. But remedy is not in these. A feather cannot halt the fast-rushing stream. A little pruning will not kill the branch. Oil will not quench a flame.
Shall then the sin-sick fly to religious forms and ceremonies and hallowed rites? Alas! their anguish lies too deep for superficial cure. Uplifted hands and bended knees, and all the sacredness of sacred things, have in themselves no virtue to choke evil's fount! The love of holy service is a sign of health. But it cannot bestow health. Restored cripples leap and walk and praise as evidence of strength, but not to gain it. No human medicines give soul-health.
Sin's end is endless death. Its course is sure. The falling stone rolls downward to the lowest depths. The stream flows on until the ocean's bed is reached. Thus sin's strong bias rushes to the pit of hell. Oh! mark those writhing sufferers in the burning lake! Ask them what brought them to their woe. One wild shriek answers, Sin! Sin uncured, unchecked. Ah! sinner, your inward malady seems little now. What will it prove, hereafter? Its present touch gives little pain, but it has iron arms. The embrace seems gentle now. But it will tighten into ever-tightening torture.
This sketch is dark. The reality is darker far. But why are these black colors laid? The purpose is, to form a background for the Scripture-light. The malady's malignity is drawn to show that one Physician alone can avail. Look now toward the chambers of the Gospel-feast. The horizon gleams with rays. The Sun of Righteousness appears; and there is 'healing in his wings.' Amid Bethesda's crowded seats, the blessed Jesus stood, omnipotent to heal. Amid the soul-sick, He as surely stands with like omnipotence. He comes, and His voice is, 'I am the Lord who heals you.' Behold His outstretched hands. They bear a perfect remedy. He takes away sin's poison, and it cannot kill. He soothes its wounds, and they can no more pain. He cuts its roots, and they can no more spread. Come, hear these tidings from His Word of Truth.
Your first complaint is, that your sickness is the seed of everlasting death. True! It is dragging you with rapid force towards a gaping grave! But Jesus takes your sins and nails them to His cross! Then in His death they die. Then in His wounds they disappear. He washes you with His heart's blood. He bathes you in this precious stream. And never, never are your sins found again. Thus condemnation is forever gone.
Is not that sickness healed which has no power to harm? Thus Jesus is the sinner's Healer. He brings in pardon. Pardon changes malady to health, because it changes death to life. Believer, you are thus relieved. Let your song ever be, He forgives all my iniquities—and so He heals all my diseases.
But you still sigh that, though future punishment is gone, yet present pain still gnaws. The scar may cause pain, which is not unto death. You are a guilt-touched wretch. And sense of guilt is an unceasing ache. Truly these tears are bitter. But in Jesus there is solace for these pangs. No ease can come, but by the Spirit's hand. He only takes it from the Savior's blood. But He brings soothing virtue thence and lulls the accusing conscience into rest. He can present, as an assuaging cup, the tender promise, 'I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.' He can apply the calming argument—Why should memory dwell sobbingly on what God casts behind His back forever? He can teach, that a head crowned with pardon's crown should not hang down. Thus Jesus fulfils the word; He gives 'unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning.' Thus sin is cured because its pain is soothed. Believer, will you not confess it? He 'is sent to heal the broken-hearted'?
But you may add, that more is needed to restore full health. You mourn that the vile roots lie deep within. No child of God is unconscious of the lurking evil. While the flesh is flesh, it is the hot-bed of corruption. But Jesus can subdue the plague! By sanctifying grace He can create a clean heart and renew a right spirit. He can implant a counteracting principle of godly love. He can give strength to fight the good fight of faith, to run with patience in pure paths, and to find no delight but in God's will. O my soul, cling then to the cross! In its atmosphere evil withers, and holiness grows firm!
Thus Jesus cures all sin. It can no more condemn nor vex nor rule. They walk in healthy peace with God, in healthy peace within, in healthy paths of holy life, whose hearts have heard, 'I am the Lord that heals you.'
Perhaps you still fear, lest the extreme malignity of your case should baffle all this skill. It would be so, except the Healer were Jehovah-Jesus. But mark. His title shivers all such doubts. He cries 'I am the Lord who heals you.' Almightiness is the property of this arm! He wills, and it is done. He works, and none can thwart. If all the maladies of all the sufferers in earth and hell formed one huge sickness centering on your soul, let Christ the Lord but speak, and perfect is your cure!
Are you distressed, lest long lying on sin's couch should bar against you every door of hope? Consider well, the Healer. At Bethesda's pool he singles out the wretchedness of him who 'had been now a long time in that case.' Extremity of misery was a melting plea to Jesus. His heart is still the same. Take courage. If, from the day of Adam's fall, your malady had rolled onward as a swelling stream, His tender love could turn it all to health!
Does conscience groan beneath the load of prominent provocations? You may have turned from many a gracious call. This very case is met by mercy's sweet voice. Read your sure welcome in the page of life. 'I was angry and punished these greedy people. I withdrew myself from them, but they went right on sinning. I have seen what they do, but I will heal them anyway! I will lead them and comfort those who mourn.' Isaiah 57:17-18
You reply, that the hand of faith alone can take the remedy. But your faith so trembles that it scarcely lives. Behold the timid woman of the Gospel. With down-cast eye, with tottering step, she comes, and instantly the touch was life. Do but the same—and you will hear, 'Your faith has made you whole; go in peace.'
Shall all this earnest pleading fail? It only remains, then, to pray again that the all-conquering Spirit would make you willing to be among the Healer's healed ones. Oh! look to Jesus's cross. It was ordained of old. It was erected on Calvary. It is uplifted in the Gospel. It is magnified in every faithful pulpit. But why? Surely that miseries may end, and spiritual diseases may be cured! On it the Heavenly Healer dies Himself, that His death may be the death of sin! On it He bleeds, that His blood may drop health. On it He suffers wounds, that the wounded may be whole. On it He gives His body to most painful pains, that ease may be His people's portion. On it He lays down His life, that they may have life.
And now He cries, Come, without money, without price. Come, leave your sickness, and return with health! Will you not join the blessed company, who sing in renewed strength, 'With His stripes we are healed'? Will you not enter the land in which no inhabitant mourns, 'I am sick—the people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity'?