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Now, we may not understand this. We cannot understand it unless we know the secret too. It is like a telegraphic message in cipher. We must have the key to the cipher to make any meaning out of it. And the key to this experience is the personal knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ in your own being. Let us, at least, believe it.
We shall find it confirmed by the whole story of his life. Let us recall an incident. We find it recorded in the fourteenth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. After Paul had preached the gospel at Lystra to a heathen audience with wonderful power, the jealous Jews from Iconium and Antioch came and set the people against him, inciting a cruel riot and persuading the mob to attack Paul and drag him through the streets of the city and stone him until they left him for dead. We may be quite sure that when Paul's Jewish enemies got a chance to kill him, they did not stop half way.
So far as they could see, Paul was killed. Dragged along the hard pavement and left buried amid a heap of stones, to all intents and purposes the life of Paul must have been ready to go out. But it was just then that "the life of Jesus" a.s.serted itself. And so we read, with great simplicity but with sublime eloquence, "Howbeit, as the disciples stood round about him, he rose up and came into the city, and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe. And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch."
Here we see the power of Christ revealed in the hour of utter despair. As his brethren stand around him in loving prayer the Holy Spirit arouses his sinking life, and Jesus touches him with His own physical and endless life; and, lo! the life of Christ quickens his mortal flesh, he springs to his feet and goes on to his work. And the next day we find him, not in a hospital, nor on a long vacation, but preaching the gospel and coming the very place where he had been maltreated and almost killed, and going on quietly, triumphantly with his work, taking his healing for granted as though it were just the thing to be expected.
So again, we find him at another point in his history, recorded in 2 Cor. 1: 8, telling them of the trouble that came to us in Asia, that "we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life; but we had the answer of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in G.o.d which raiseth the dead; who did deliver us from so great a death, who doth deliver, and in whom we trust He will yet deliver us."
Here is a very clear case of experience. In the first place the apostle was sick unto death and despaired even of life, when he looked at himself, and it would seem that when he looked at G.o.d, the answer was death. Paul's life was not equal to it. He was pressed above measure, and above strength. Yet there was another life, the life of his risen Lord, the strength of "G.o.d which raiseth the dead," on which he depended. And from the sinking life of Paul he looked up to the endless life of Jesus and claimed it in all its resurrection power till he could send back the triumphant shout, "He did deliver, He doth deliver, He will yet deliver."
This is the secret of Divine healing. It is union with One who is our physical Head as well as the source ot our spiritual life. It is to be in touch with the Son of man who is risen from the dead, in the power of an endless life, and who is the Head of our body and has taught us to understand that "we are members of His body, His flesh, and His bones." Yea, the apostle tells us in another place that "our bodies are the members of Christ." "The Lord is for the body, and the body for the Lord." Why should not we understand and claim the secret too?
It does not mean immortality, or life that never can die; but it does mean partic.i.p.ation in the life of our risen Lord in such a measure as will make us equal to every duty, every labor, and every pressure, until our life-work shall be done, and the Master shall either call us to Himself or come to meet us. Beloved, have you learned the secret--"THE LIFE ALSO OF JESUS?"
III. THE PRINCIPLES OF PAUL'S SECRET AND ITS PRACTICAL WORKING.
1. In the first place it did not presuppose that Paul should be strong in his own const.i.tutional strength. On the contrary it was based upon Paul's weakness and quite consistent with a condition on his part of personal insufficiency. There is every reason to believe that Paul was naturally feeble rather than robust, and that his constant exposures, hardships, and sufferings, had had their natural effect in reducing him many times to the very verge of prostration, and even death. And so we find him speaking of "the infirmity of his flesh."
We find him saying, "We which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake. Always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus." But this did not hinder his taking the strength of the Lord Jesus and being enabled thereby for all that the Master required of him. His health and strength were a Divine paradox. "When I am weak, then am I strong," he could most truly say. In himself he was physically weak but in reliance upon the physical strength of an indwelling Lord, he was stronger than himself, and better equipped for his work than even perfect health could have made him.
Here lies the deep secret of Divine healing and the explanation of Paul's singular experience recorded in the twelfth chapter of 2 Corinthians. "The thorn in the flesh" was not removed, whatever that thorn was, but more strength was given than if it had been removed. Therefore, if it was a spiritual trial it was not taken away but double grace was added. And if it was a physical weakness it was not withdrawn but double physical strength was supplied, so that Paul was even stronger than if he had been delivered from this particular trouble.
He could say, "I take pleasure in infirmities for Christ's sake, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." Paul's health was Divine strength given in human weakness so he could say, Though the outward man perish, the natural and physical const.i.tution may seem to decay, yet the inward man, the Divine life, by Christ's strength is renewed day by day.
2. In the second place Paul's experience of Divine health was not incompatible with the greatest pressures, the severest hardships, the most perilous exposures, and the most uncongenial and unfavorable surroundings. Much of his life was spent in damp, unhealthy dungeons. He was often exposed to cold, inclemency, fasting, sleeplessness, a night and a day was he drowned in the deep. Oft was he shipwrecked, again and again he was stoned, beaten with the Roman rods that bruised and lacerated both flesh and bone almost to mutilation.
Never did human frame sustain such unspeakable pressures. And yet through them all he went triumphant and always ready for whatever service the Master had for him. "We are troubled on every side," he could say, "yet not distressed; we are perplexed but not in despair; persecuted but not forsaken: cast down but not destroyed." The severest pressures only served to render the more marked the glory and strength of his Lord. He could say, "We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of G.o.d, and not of us."
3. In the third place Paul's physical strength was sustained by continual dependence on the Lord Jesus and a life of abiding in Him for physical as well as spiritual life. He gives us the secret in 2 Cor. 4: 16: "For which cause we faint not: though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen."
The renewing was "day by day" and only "while he looked" to the unseen sources of his strength. He did not receive one tremendous miracle which carried him through life. He had learned what Jesus had so fully unfolded in the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John in regard to his own life, "As the living Father hath sent Me, and I live by the Father; so he that eateth Me, even he shall live by Me." Feeding upon Christ he lived by Him, and he could truly say in the language which he employed elsewhere and in another connection, "In Him we live, and move, and have our being."
Beloved, have we learned thus moment by moment to live upon His life, and, while outward pressure increases, and personal strength diminishes, to take a stronger hold upon His everlasting strength, and, as we wait upon the Lord, "renew our strength" until we shall "mount up with wings as eagles, run and not be weary, walk and not faint." This was the physical life of Paul. This is the privilege of every believing and obedient child of G.o.d.
INQUIRIES AND ANSWERS.
Many practical questions arise in the minds of inquirers respecting Divine Healing, both as respects the doctrine and the personal appropriation. Some of these we shall endeavor to answer.
1. In what sense can Christ be said to atone for sickness, when disease involves no such moral element as sin does?
If I owe a debt to a man, not only am I liable, my house is liable too, and it may be held until my debt is paid. So my body is my house, and it is liable for the debt of my soul to G.o.d, even if it had not sinned, as it has, alas! Disease is sin's mortgage against my house. But, if the debt is paid, the mortgage is discharged, and my house is free. So Christ has paid my debt of sin and released my body. Judgment has no claims upon it. On the Cross of Calvary He bore in His body all my physical liabilities for sin, and therefore He is said to have borne our sicknesses and carried our pains, and by His stripes we are healed.
2. If Christ has provided for the complete removal of our diseases, why should we ever die?
He has not provided that there shall be no disease, but that disease if it come shall be overcome. Nor has He provided that there shall be no death, but that should death come it shall be overcome by the glorious resurrection. But if there were no death there could be no resurrection, and physical immortality in our human and earthly state would be far less than the glorious and immortal life we shall have through our Second Adam, in our resurrection life.
3. Why then cannot the dead be raised now as in the days of Christ and His apostles?
There is nothing to render such an occurrence impossible, but there is at the same time no Scriptural authority to justify our claiming it. The command to exercise this ministry was given to the twelve apostles, not to the seventy. And the time for the resurrection of Christ's people is distinctly stated thus: "Afterwards, they that are Christ's at His Coming."
4. If we should always claim healing, however, would it not follow that we should never die?
Not necessarily. There is no need that we should die of disease. The system might just wear out and pa.s.s away as naturally as the apple ripens and falls in Autumn, or the wheat matures and dies in June. It has simply fulfilled its natural period.
"Thou shalt come to thy grave in a full age like as a shock of corn cometh in his season." This is very different from the apple falling in June, with a worm in it. This is disease. The promise of healing is not physical immortality, but health until our life-work is done. "With long life will I satisfy him." We may not all live to fourscore, but we may all be "satisfied." And if we knew that our life would close tomorrow, we should claim strength and sufficiency today.
5. Are we not taught in the Scriptures that submission to G.o.d's will is the highest act of faith and obedience?
Yes, and before claiming anything of G.o.d we must be in the att.i.tude of profound submission and prostration; but, being in this att.i.tude, we will be led to make very sure that what we submit to is indeed G.o.d's will, and we shall find that that will does not lay upon an obedient and surrendered child a needless burden of sickness and pain; but desires and demands for us, even more than we can desire it, the help and deliverance Christ has purchased by His blood for our bodies as well as our souls.
6. How may I know His will in any particular case?
We can only know His will from His Word and Spirit. And we must not expect a special revelation from His Spirit where His Word has clearly spoken. He has told us clearly in His Word that Jesus has purchased for us redemption for body as well as soul. He has said of one sufferer who represented many more, "Ought not this woman to be loosed from her bond?" He has shown us His Father's will by His whole earthly example and acts as well as words, and never in a single case did He decline to help those who trusted Him; and unless He has shown us something different for us so clearly that we cannot question it, we should not question it, but should go forward on these clear encouragements of His Word and take Him at that Word for all.
7. Is not sickness a Divine chastening, and really designed for our good, and ought it not so to be received by us?
If we honestly so regard it, why, of course, we should bow under it at the Father's feet, and leave ourselves wholly in His hands. But it is a little inconsistent to say this and then run for the nearest doctor and use every expedient and resource of human skill to get rid of this gracious chastening, and get out of the Divine hands. Persons, who act so, really believe in their heart that sickness is an evil, and that they are perfectly justified in using every legitimate means to remove it. Even if it is a Divine chastening, surely prayer is a much more reverent and childlike remedy than physic.
But, seriously, the whole subject of Divine chastening is greatly mystified by those who reason in this way.
G.o.d has told us that His chastenings are not random or capricious blows, struck without reference to any principle or moral government, and leaving us wholly in the dark as to their purpose and remedy. G.o.d chastens like a father, intelligently and tenderly, and He is willing to make us know His meaning, and how we may escape His rod. He has told us distinctly that sickness and suffering are sent when we will not heed His gentle voice, and that, even then, if we will listen, repent, acknowledge our error, learn our lesson and obey His will, the trial will be arrested or removed, and we restored to His love and favor.
The thirty-third chapter of Job gives a picture of His dealings with His children through trial; and there is no dark, terrific mystery, but the simple, righteous principle, so clearly laid down in the New Testament, "If we would judge ourselves we should not be judged, but when we are judged we are chastened of the Lord that we should not be condemned with the world." Even if sickness be a Divine chastening its remedy is to have recourse to G.o.d, and, putting ourselves right with Him, claim His gracious deliverance.
8. How can I be sure that it is not best for me to be sick to keep me humble and near to G.o.d?
"Well, brother, if the blood of Jesus and the grace of G.o.d, and the power of the Holy Spirit are not sufficient to keep you humble and holy, I do not see how sickness is going to, unless it be a greater Saviour than Christ, and I do not see how G.o.d is going to keep the saints and angels pure in a world where there shall be no pain forever."
9. But do not a great many people greatly glorify G.o.d in their sicknesses and trials, and is it not a great opportunity for service and testimony?
A true disciple will glorify G.o.d anywhere, but how do you know how much more these persons would glorify G.o.d, after having shown the spirit of patience and meekness in trial, by rising up in His strength and showing His power to heal, and then going out to witness and work for Him?
How many there are on the contrary, who wither and fail under the long and crushing weight of years of pain, and become depressed, morbid, and blighted by the furnace. If G.o.d wants us well He will not perfectly bless us in sickness. He will sustain us, but He will also prompt us to claim something higher and better.
10. But how do I know that if I were healed I would really use my strength for the glory of G.o.d, and not perhaps, like Hezekiah, fail to render according to the benefit received? The same grace and power that heal the body are also promised to sanctify and keep the soul and may be claimed by the same faith. The first promise is Jehovah Tsidkenu, the second, Jehovah Rophi, but both are equally free, and both must be taken together if our blessing is to be complete.
11. Was not the answer of G.o.d to Paul, when he prayed for the removal of his thorn, a lesson to us to accept our trials and sicknesses as G.o.d's will and receive more grace to bear them?
Well, in the first place, Paul certainly prayed until he got an answer from heaven, and so we should claim deliverance at the very least until we get a refusal as clear and divine as he did. In the next place Paul's revelations required a special discipline to counteract the effect of his stupendous revelations, and when we get where he had been we may claim some right to his thorn.
In the third place, if the ordinary doctrine of our opponents be true, that sickness is not from Satan but from G.o.d, this could not have been disease, for it was a messenger of Satan.
In the fourth place, there is every reason to believe that it was not sickness, but some humiliating and annoying trial, something that buffeted him rather than incapacitated him for work, for all through it the power of Christ rested upon him. He does not seem to have been hindered a single day from his ministry, and adds that "all the signs of an apostle were wrought in him, in signs, and wonders and mighty deeds."
And, finally, we have elsewhere several distinct accounts of his healing from disease, showing that he had anything but a doubtful experience of the efficacy of prayer for his bodily need. In Acts 14: 20, we see him by faith rising up from a state of apparent death after having been stoned and dragged through the streets as dead, and immediately going forth to preach the gospel. In 2 Cor. 1: 8-11, we see him give up, humanly speaking, to die, through the pressure of a trouble under which he "despaired even of life," and yet delivered through faith in G.o.d who raiseth the dead.
And in 2 Cor. 4: 10, 11, we see him often exposed to death, and ready to sink, naturally, but finding his weakness a greater occasion for the life of Christ to be manifested in his mortal flesh. Such a man is rather an unfortunate argument to use against Divine Healing. 12. Why have not the great and good men of the past and present accepted this doctrine, if it is in the Word of G.o.d?
Well, why have they not accepted the doctrine of the Lord's personal coming, the doctrine of baptism, the doctrine of holiness in this life?
Simply because the faith once delivered to the saints was lost during the Middle Ages and partly recovered by Luther, and since then is slowly being restored to the Church of G.o.d. We shall never have much hold upon Divine truth until we take it at G.o.d's word, without waiting for the endors.e.m.e.nt of human names. But it would not be hard to show a long array of n.o.ble names, including Ireneus, Tertullian, Origen and Justinian among the fathers, the Waldenses and Covenanters in later times, and even Luther, Peden, Cameron, Wesley and Whitfield since the Reformation, who bear witness to the marvelous healing power of G.o.d in this way.
13. Why was Epaphroditus "sick nigh unto death"?
I suppose as Paul states because of his extreme self-sacrificing efforts for him. And, perhaps, we might add, to give an opportunity and show the power and grace of G.o.d in His healing, for "G.o.d had mercy on him," and healed him; and I cannot see how his case is ought but an example of G.o.d's love and power in healing.
14. Why did Paul leave Trophimus at Miletum sick?
Well, we do not claim that Paul had any power to heal Trophimus, or that anybody has such power now. It was a matter between Trophimus and his G.o.d. Perhaps G.o.d had some lesson for him that he had not learned, and, therefore, could not at once be healed. Are there not such cases today, by hundreds? Had not G.o.d to leave Job on his back until he learned his heart-searching lesson? And then He healed him immediately.
Divine healing fully recognizes the sovereignty of G.o.d, and the state and spiritual att.i.tude of the individual. The case of Trophimus, therefore, is fully in harmony with all its principles.
15. Why is it that many persons who were anointed for healing have not been healed; and some who seemed to have real faith have died?
We never can read the heart. G.o.d only knows if there was a real faith. Many excellent and eminent Christians are found without such a faith. Many, who once claimed healing with a victorious faith, at a later period are found to be without it and acknowledge it themselves.
There may be various causes for it. Sometimes it is a subtle, spiritual decline in vigorous, energetic fellowship with G.o.d. The soul reposing on its pillow of privileges has got at ease in Zion, and lost the edge of its first love. Sometimes a marvelous healing has led it so to rest in what G.o.d has done as to let go abiding communion for continued life and power.
Sometimes a subtle pride, or lack of love crept in and weakened the spiritual vigor. Sometimes in those that are not healed there is an expectation and hope rather than an immediate and present tense faith. Real faith takes and acts now. Many drift slowly over, expecting to be some day healed, expecting rather than accepting. In many such cases it has afterwards been made very plain that there was no real taking of Christ for strength and healing.
Sometimes the Master is taking home His child and will He not, in such cases, lift the veil and show the trusting heart that its service is done? How often He does! Dorothea Trudel could not, would not, ask for life. She was going home. A dear young girl in Michigan who for some time claimed healing, awoke one day from sleep, her face covered with the reflection of heaven, and told her loved ones that the Master had led her to trust for life thus far, but now was taking her to Himself. It is well, and let no one dare to reproach such a heart with unfaithfulness.
16. Why did President Garfield die, in spite of the prayers of the whole nation, including many G.o.dly and believing persons?
There was no sort of compliance in this case with the Scriptural conditions of answered prayer. He was under the care of a number of earthly physicians, there was no submission of the case directly to G.o.d in the ordinance of anointing, and the prayer of faith, and, indeed, such a suggestion was, we believe, refused, and would be probably in any similar case.
Nor was there any evidence of personal faith in G.o.d, on his own part, for healing. In no sense did it come under the Scriptural requirements for Divine Healing, and, besides, it is very probable that G.o.d was dealing with this whole nation in a public manner through its head, and calling it to repentance without which, not even Noah, Daniel and Job could together have obtained deliverance.
17. Does not James say, "The prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up and if he have committed sins they shall be forgiven him?"
Yes, all true, and they are forgiven, but it is not a question of forgiveness merely, but of discipline, and James also says, in the same pa.s.sage: "Behold the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth and hath long patience for it. Be ye also patient, stablish your heart for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. Ye have heard of the patience of Job and have seen the end of the Lord that He is very pitiful and of tender mercy." This is the spirit of the faith that claims and receives Divine Healing.
18. But does not James speak of the prayer of faith as if it was the faith of the elders that brought the healing?
Happily, the Holy Ghost has antic.i.p.ated this objection by the first verses in this Epistle of James, where he says about this very question of prayer, "Let him ask in faith, nothing wavering, for let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord." G.o.d is not going to make one man's faith a shelter for another's unbelief. He is not going to let us keep our doubts and get our healing. He cares for us too well to let us remain on any lower plane than that of implicit confidence in Him.
True, He does give and bless the ministry of prayer for others, and enables us to believe for their help, but it is only when they also are right with G.o.d, and exercising faith for themselves. Then their faith and ours are in one accord and it is really a united prayer. But when we are leaning on another's faith and not looking directly to G.o.d ourselves, there is no unity and there can be no power.
19. Are there not, in the New Testament, distinct promises of special gifts, power of healing and miracles spoken of in connection with the enduement of the Spirit, and may we not expect these to be exercised by special individuals?
Yes, there are spiritual gifts, but they are never apart from the Giver. They are not powers possessed by the individual, but the power of the Holy Ghost personally, working through Him. "All these worketh that one and the self same Spirit, dividing to every one severally as He will."
So that no man can claim that he is a healer or a power, or anything but a helpless instrument whom G.o.d may be pleased to use in a given case, and will use in so far as the conditions are in accordance with His will. But G.o.d will not allow him to do anything differently from what G.o.d Himself would do, if you came to Him directly. Now, if you come to G.o.d with a heart of unbelief and dependence upon man, you will get nothing. Nor will you if you thus come to His most chosen instruments.
Take, for example, the gift of power for winning souls. This is a real ministry and power. But it gives no power to us to save the sinner apart from his own direct repentance and faith. It is simply the power to lead him to G.o.d, and when he comes with a true heart, to claim for him acceptance and salvation, and really receive with and for him the blessing and seal of Heaven.
So, precisely, in the ministry of healing, the part of the instrument is to lead the sufferer to know the will and word of G.o.d, to trust Him for himself, and then when he truly and trustingly comes, to claim with and for him the blessing promised, and the seal and earnest of the Holy Spirit.
A young lad fell overboard from a ship's deck, and one of the sailors stood quietly looking at his struggles, while the mother cried frantically, "Why don't you save my boy?" Still he stood until he sank and rose the second time. Then he sprang in and rescued him. "Why did you wait so long?" asked the anxious mother. "I waited till he was too weak to clutch me. Had he done so, we would both have sunk together." Keep your hands off all men if you would really trust G.o.d, and then even men can doubly help you.
20. Is there any need for the ministry of others at all?
Yes, G.o.d has appointed the ministry of prayer and given a special promise where two of us are agreed as touching anything we shall ask. He has also appointed the ordinance of anointing as the special seal and acknowledgment of His covenant of healing, and our claim; and these are divine means, and channels of blessing when received in the spirit of faith in Himself, and their willful neglect would show a spirit of disobedience and selfwill, unbecoming the humble disciple.
21. What is the special significance of anointing, and how often should it be administered?
It is the Old Testament symbol of the Holy Ghost. It signifies His personal coming into the body of the person anointed to communicate the healing life and power of Jesus Christ. It sustains to the matter of healing a similar relation to that held by baptism and the Lord's Supper in connection with our professions of Christ as a Saviour, and our deeper communion with Him spiritually.
It should not be repeated needlessly or with an idea of any potency in itself. If there be any new physical need, or even a new spiritual state enabling us to take hold of Christ for healing in a more effectual manner than before, it may be repeated, but it ought not to be lightly done, or done in any way which could discount or reckon as null and void our former anointing.
22. Why has G.o.d made all the remedies we find in nature if He does not intend us to use them?
Perhaps He did not make them any more than He made beer or whiskey. G.o.d made the barley and man made the alcohol.
And yet there is in the human body and the natural world a certain vis medicatrix natura, as the doctors call it, that is a certain restorative power, which is part of His divine beneficence for a world which He foresaw would be cursed with sin and sorrow. And we do not deny that natural remedies may go a certain length and possess a limited value in relieving and healing the body. But- 1. They are limited and extremely uncertain.
2. They are not His way for His children.
3. They are not to be combined in the Scriptures with Divine Healing.
a. They work through natural, this through supernatural channels.
b. They do not act on the same principles. The one is local and specific treatment, the other is a direct vital touch upon the springs of life.
c. All Christ's redemption purchases must be free gifts, by grace without works, and so if Divine Healing be through Christ's blood, it must be a gift of grace alone. We cannot mix our works with it any more than our justification.
d. He must have all the glory, and if man touch it he will be sure to claim it.
e. Faith, by its very nature, is always weakened by a mixture of man's works. If it has a human twig to lean on, it will lean harder on it than on G.o.d's mightiest words. It must, therefore, have G.o.d only.
To combine the omnipotence of Jesus with a dose of mercury, is like trying to go upstairs by the elevator and the stairs at the same moment, or harnessing an ox with a locomotive.
23. But cannot we ask G.o.d to bless the means?
Yes; but that is not Divine Healing through the name of Jesus alone, as He has prescribed. That is Esau's blessing. There is a blessing even for Esau; but give me Jacob's.
24. But did not G.o.d prescribe figs for Hezekiah?
Yes, and if He had prescribed figs for us, we should use them. Hezekiah did just what he was told, and G.o.d healed him. We are told to pray, "Anointing with oil in the name of the Lord," and if we really believe G.o.d, we will exactly obey.