"For this people's heart is waxed gross,
"He hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted" (Luke iv.18).
Several times, either directly or indirectly, Christ alludes to Himself as a physician. In this character He is worthy of careful study.
The first thing in order to appreciate a physician, is to realize that one is sick. The Saviour says the well need not a physician. It is equally true that the well care not for a physician. Sin is the disease of which Christ, as a physician, is the healer. The disease is deadly. The smallest amount is fatal. The Great Physician alone can heal it. There is no other remedy. When a man is once affected, however much he may keep it under control, and prevent its increase, there is never a diminution of the disease till the remedy of the Great Physician is applied.
There is much senseless talk about depravity that necessarily implies, though its advocates may not so intend, that sin has comparatively little condemnatory force. The idea so often expressed that one must be "a great sinner in order to need a great Saviour;" that if he is only "partially depraved, he needs to be only partially saved;" that he must be "totally depraved in order to be totally lost;" that he must be "totally depraved in order to be wholly dependent on Christ for salvation," and such like, necessarily puts a light estimate upon sin. The idea is, that if one has but a comparatively small amount of sin, he is not wholly lost and utterly helpless, and wholly dependent on Christ. When the simple fact is, that sin is so heinous in its character and condemnatory in its consequences, that any amount of it, whether much or little, renders one as helpless and hopeless and dependent on Christ as if he were totally depraved by nature and doubly defiled by a life of sin. There is, therefore, no necessity for total depravity, in order that man be in an utterly lost and helpless condition without Christ. A grain of strychnine is just as fatal as an ounce, without an antidote.
In order that we appreciate a physician, and avail ourselves of the benefits of his skill, we must have faith in him. Without faith that his skill is superior to ours, and that he can help us, we will not call upon him. If we have faith in him we will do as he directs. The highest evidence of faith in a physician, and the surest way of being benefited by his skill, is in going precisely by his directions. Some years ago the writer had a long spell of typhoid fever. His physician came to see him one hundred and thirty times. After he became convalescent, his physician said to him one day, "In looking back over your case, I can attribute your recovery to but two things -- your unyielding resolution and confidence, and your faith in your physician." What did he mean by faith in my physician? What had that to do with it? He explained. "For," said he, "you followed my directions minutely in everything, and for more than seven weeks the least wabble would have turned the scale against you." This was a fine illustration of faith, but theologically he attached to the word a very different idea.
Such must be our faith in the Great Physician that we apply to Him for the treatment of a sin-sick soul. And having called upon Him, we are to follow His directions. On one occasion He said to the Pharisees, "Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" So in this case He would say, "Why do you call on me as a physician, and do not as I direct you?" As well apply to an earthly physician and expect to be healed by faith in his skill, without taking his medicine or following his directions in other respects, as to expect the Great Physician to heal you in the same way. This illustrates the absolute folly of expecting to be "justified by faith only" in the Great Physician of souls, before and without doing as He directs. Our faith in a physician is valuable only as it induces us to take his remedies. When it leads to this, it has fulfilled its only office. When it does not lead to this, it is worthless. So of our faith in Christ. The only value of faith is in its leading to the observance of the divine will. The faith that does this saves, because it leads us to where God saves us. God promises salvation in the doing of His will. "Not every one that says unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven." Faith leads to the doing of the Father's will. In this it performs its only office, and in this it saves. Faith can have value only as it leads to the appropriation and use of the remedies prescribed.
It is often the case that a physician is stationary, and his patients have to come to him in order to get the benefits of his treatment. In such case, the acts necessary to take us to him are essential to our recovery, though they have no virtue whatever except as means of reaching him. So of coming to Christ. Christ does not come to the sinner, as orthodox prayers at the mourners' bench imply; but He invites the sinner to come to Him. "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." "And you will not come to me that you may have life." Believing on Christ is one thing, and coming to Him is quite another. One must first believe before he will come. Yet, in addition to believing, the orthodox world, so-called, utterly fails to tell us how to come to Christ. They cry, "Come, come," but tell us not how. Christ plainly teaches that we come to Him in obedience. We are baptized into Him; into His body. We put Him on by baptism. Being baptized into Christ is Paul's explanation of how we become the children of God by faith. "Ye are all sons of God, through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ." We come to Christ, then, in baptism. This is the first overt act in the "obedience of faith." Our faith, repentance and baptism bring us to Christ; then He, as the Great Physician, heals our sin-sick soul. There is no healing virtue in these things that bring us to Him; but they are conditions of our healing because they are means of our reaching the Physician.
The remedy for sin is the Physician's own blood. That is the only thing in the universe of God that can heal the disease of sin, and remove the ruinous consequences. "The blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanses from all sin." The blood of animal sacrifices could not take away sin. "For it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins." Since animal sacrifice could not meet the demands of the law, God prepared a body for His Son in which to make a sacrifice.
"Sacrifice and offering thou wouldst not,
Hence we are redeemed from the curse of sin, not with corruptible things, "but with precious blood, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, even the blood of Christ." "And without the shedding of blood there was no remission."
It is plain, therefore, that the blood of the Physician is the only remedy. This remedy is freely given when we come to Him.
Jesus said: "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth may in him have eternal life." The Israelites were commanded to look upon the brazen serpent; and they that looked were healed. They had to have faith, in order to look with a view to being healed. Looking was the thing commanded. It was the result of faith. In looking they were healed. But there was no virtue in the looking. Looking, in and of itself, had no power to heal. Still it was essential to the healing. Neither had the thing looked upon any power to heal. There was no virtue in the serpent. The healing power lay back of that. It was in God, who had promised. God did the healing. But while there was no healing virtue in the look nor in the thing looked upon, they were necessary to the healing, because to this end were they commanded. They were, therefore, necessary to bring one to the point in the obedience of faith where God promised to heal. So it is with the Great Healer of souls. They that believe shall in Him find the healing power. Their faith leads them to Him, where the healing power is applied, as the look brought the Israelites to the healing power of God. Our obedience that brings us to Christ is the outgrowth of our faith, just as their look was the outgrowth of theirs. There is no healing virtue in the one nor the other, but they were and are necessary to bring the believer where the healing virtue is.
After all that is said about being saved by faith, and by other things, it is simply true that Christ saves us. He is our Saviour. And He saves us by means of His own blood.
"There is a fountain filled with blood,
It is thus that Christ is precious to us as the great Physician of souls. We should give heed to His inviting voice, place ourselves under His continued care, follow His directions, and we shall enjoy a healed and healthful state of the soul.
"The great Physician now is near,