He who forgives all your iniquities, and heals all your diseases,
soul diseases which answer to "iniquities." In view of the way in which Eastern poets loved to repeat their thought with slightly altered phraseology, it is quite possible that the text may read, "Who forgiveth all thine iniquities, and healeth all thy soul diseases - those soul conditions of frailty and infirmity, out of which iniquities come." But, however that may be, it is certainly true that God is the Healer of all men's diseases. The work of the physician must always be traced back to the Divine Physician, who alone has proved to be the recuperative force in human vitality. God has healed us again and again through the agency of the doctor and the medicine.
I. WHAT IS SAID ABOUT MEN'S SICKNESSES IN THE OLD TESTAMENT? Abraham and Isaac died of sheer old age. So indeed did Jacob, but there is a fuller reference to his ending. For all that appears in the record, neither the patriarchs nor their families suffered any sicknesses during their lives. Evidently, these experiences of sickness were not then seen in their relation to character, and so there was no need to leave any narratives concerning them. Sickness is reckoned with under the Mosaic system, but in a very peculiar way. It was treated as an outward sign and consequence of sin; both the sick person and those who tended him being treated as "unclean." To limit this rule because, in its working, it occasioned very serious family and social disturbance, one particular form of disease - that most typical form of disease, leprosy - was taken as the representative of all forms, and the law of the "unclean" was strictly enforced in relation to it. Judaism never suggests the idea that character is cultured by the experience of sickness; and so even its priests and Levites offer no example of tending the sick poor. Sickness, in the old economy, served its purpose simply as the outward sign of God's judgment on sin. When Job's friends came to comfort him, they could think of no other view of sickness than this, though Job felt sure that there must be a higher meaning, if only he could reach it. In the historical books the references to sickness - other than great pestilences - are very brief. One king suffered from internal disease, and one had the gout, but there is only one instance in which any details of a sickness are given, and in that case the relation of it to character first clearly appears. Hezekiah, in the middle of his reign, but before any son and heir was born to him, was smitten down with a bad kind of boil or carbuncle, which put his life in peril. He turned to God in his distress, and gained from God recovery. Evidently he prayed the prayer of faith. As evidently the Prophet Isaiah prayed for him the prayer of faith. And yet it is significantly told us that means were used to ensure his recovery, "Now Isaiah had said, Let them take a cake of figs, and lay it for a plaister upon the boil, and he shall recover." The Book of Job is not a discussion of the question - What ought a godly man to do who is smitten with sickness? Its subject is rather this - What moral end can explain the Divine permission of sickness? One king was seriously reproved because, when he was ill, he "sought unto the physicians, and not unto God." But the wrong was not in his seeking the help of the physicians, but in his failing to seek God first, and to let him send him to the physicians: All we can say about this matter, in connection with the Old Testament, is that when moral considerations began to prevail over ceremonial ones, a truer and worthier view of sickness began to gain power. Then sickness was seen to be one of the great moral agencies by means of which God wrought his higher work in characters and in souls.
II. WHAT IS SAID ABOUT SICKNESS IN THE GOSPELS? Our Lord, as a moral and spiritual Teacher, our Lord as a Saviour, found in men's sicknesses, infirmities, and. disabilities his best agencies for reaching their souls with saving influences. To him suffering was the issue and consequence of sin. And so it was to everybody in his day. Sickness illustrated sin. Suffering produced moods of mind in men which laid them open to his higher influence. So he worked very largely for and among sick people, always trying to get their sicknesses sanctified to them, even in the very act of healing or removing them. He revealed fully to the world the moral relations of sickness, the moral possibilities that lie in sickness. Our Lord's dealing with it is unique, not so much because it was supernatural, as because it was moral. He dealt with it only as a means of securing soul healing. Since Christ's time, sickness, disease, and disability have taken rank among God's remedial agencies, God's character culturing agencies, God's sanctifying agencies.
III. WHAT IS SAID ABOUT SICKNESS IS THE EPISTLES? The apostles never claimed to exert any independent powers. They always healed "in the Name of Christ." They conceived of themselves as holding that special ability in trust for particular ends in the propagation of the gospel. They did not heal everybody. They only healed when the healing could make a way for the gospel, draw attention to it, or prove its Divine origin. And the historical fact is that the power of healing passed away with the first generation of disciples. It is found, in later ages, only in separate and highly endowed individuals, to whom has been entrusted a genius for healing. The case of the Apostle Paul is a remarkable one. He had the gift of healing. He did heal the father of Publius. But he was not carried away by the gift he possessed. He held all his gifts under the most careful restraints. His friend and fellow labourer, Epaphroditus, was "sick, nigh unto death," but St. Paul put forth no power to heal him. God had mercy on him, and restored him in the ordinary way. Trophimus was left at Miletum sick, but it did not enter the apostle's mind that he, or the eiders, could have cured him if they had tried. St. Paul himself had some bodily infirmity which he calls a "thorn in the flesh," but he simply prayed about it, as we pray about such things now. The reference made to this matter by the Apostle James has been gravely misunderstood. It must be read in the light of the chief point he deals with in his Epistle, viz. that faith which cannot get expression in action is not acceptable faith, it is mere sentiment. Anointing sick people with oil was no religious ceremony in the days of the apostle. Using oil in the toilet was simply the sign of health. Those who prayed in faith for the healing of the sick should show their faith by acting as if their prayer was answered. Get the sick man up, dress him, anoint him, in the full confidence that God answers prayer. So Jesus said to the man with the withered hand, "Stretch forth thine hand!" If he believed, he would do what Christ told him, and find power come in so doing. In every age God has healed diseases through his own appointed healing agencies; and those we must use in faith. - R.T.
Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseasesI. FORGIVENESS AND HEALING ARE MEN'S GREATEST NEEDS.
1. Because without them there can be no upward spiritual progress. Man's course is downward until he is divinely forgiven and healed. The accumulating power of sin.
2. Because without them there can be no truly happy service for God.
3. Because without them, existence itself must ultimately become intolerable.
II. FORGIVENESS AND HEALING ARE RECEIVED FROM GOD.
1. He only has the right to forgive and heal.
2. He only has the power.
3. With God is the disposition to put forth His power and assert His right to forgive and heal.
III. FORGIVENESS AND HEALING ARE, IN THE KINGDOM OF GRACE, INSEPARABLY CONNECTED. Whom God forgives He heals (1 John 1:9).
IV. FORGIVENESS AND HEALING, WHEN POSSESSED, INSPIRE DEEPEST GRATITUDE TO THEIR AUTHOR.
I. Forgiveness is A PRIMARY BLESSING.
1. We never enjoy a mercy as a mercy from God till we receive the forgiveness of sins.
2. There are many mercies which are not given at all, and cannot be given, until first of all the pardon of sin has been bestowed. The application of the blood of sprinkling must be felt, the cleansing power of the atonement must be known, or the rest of the blessings of the covenant will never reach us.
3. And well may the Lord place this mercy first, because when it comes it ensures all the rest. The day-dawn is always followed by the clearer light.
4. The pardon of sin comes first, that it may be seen to be an act of pure grace. If any other blessing had preceded it, our legal spirits would have dreamed of merit and fitness: if any attainment had been reached by us before the forgiveness of sins was given, we might have been tempted to glory in self; but now we perceive that God forgives our sins before He heals our moral diseases, and therefore there is no room for pride to set her foot upon.
II. Forgiveness is A PRESENT BLESSING.
1. This privilege the believer has actually obtained. As many as have looked to Christ upon the cross are now justified by faith, and have peace with God. This is a matter of present fact, and not of mere hope.
2. This present mercy is perpetually bestowed — He still forgiveth our iniquity; there is perpetuity in it. At this very moment I may be mourning my sin, but God is forgiving it. Even in the holiest deeds we do there is still sin, but even then God is still forgiving.
3. This mercy of pardon is knowingly received. Nobody ever sings over uncertain blessings.
4. This present blessing is immediately efficient, for it secures us a present right to all that is involved in being pardoned. Then seek it at once.
III. Forgiveness is A PERSONAL BLESSING. "Who forgiveth all thine iniquities." Our Lord is a blessed God to forgive anybody, but that He should forgive me is the greatest feat of His mercy. A good brother wrote me the other day, "Mercy had reached its zenith when it saved me." He thought so of himself, and we may each one think the same of his own case. "But may we know this personally?" saith one. I answer, "Yes."
1. Some of us know that God has forgiven us, because we have the character which He describes as being forgiven. In repentance, in confession of sin, in forsaking sin, and in faith in our Lord Jesus, we have the marks of pardoned sinners, and these marks are apparent in our souls.
2. Moreover, if you have any doubt about whether the Lord forgives you now, it will be well for you to make sure that you accept His way of salvation. It is by faith in His dear Son.
3. We know that we are at this moment forgiven, because we at this moment give to the Lord Jesus Christ that look which brings forgiveness.
IV. Forgiveness is A PERFECT BLESSING. "Who forgiveth all thine iniquities." He does not remove the great ones, and leave the little ones to rankle; not the little ones, and leave one great black one to devour us, but "all of them He covers and annihilates with the effectual atonement made by His dear Son. Now, I want you to obtain this pardon as a complete thing. Do not rest till you have it: you will never know true peace of mind until it is yours.
V. Forgiveness is A PRICELESS BLESSING. Though it could not be purchased by a life of holiness or by an eternity of woe, forgiveness has been procured. This pardon which is freely preached to-day to all who believe in Jesus hath been purchased, and there is He that procured it, sitting at the right hand of God the Father, a man like unto ourselves, but yet equal with the ever-blessed One.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
The Study.I. WHY SIN IS CALLED A DISEASE.
4. As it deprives men of sound reason (Isaiah 5:20).
5. As it leads to death (Romans 6:1).
III. THE REMEDY BY WHICH GOD HEALS THESE DISEASES.
3. The means of grace (Ephesians 4:11-13).
4. The resurrection of the body (1 Thessalonians 4:16).
5. The ease of an ignorant, insensible sinner is very deplorable.
6. The case of a real Christian is very hopeful.
(1) (2) 7. The glory of Christ, as the Physician of souls, is great indeed. (The Study.)
(2) 7. The glory of Christ, as the Physician of souls, is great indeed. (The Study.)
7. The glory of Christ, as the Physician of souls, is great indeed.
II. FORGIVENESS IS THE FIRST OF MANY NEW BENEFITS (vers. 4, 5). When God forgives, He follows on to give temporal blessings. His providences wait on His mercies. Illustrate in Job, and in David.
III. FORGIVENESS TAKES EVEN THE REMEMBRANCE OF SIN AWAY. See figures in (vers. 11, 12, 13). They help us to realize how complete God's forgiveness is. He remembers our sins no more against us for ever. Show how true this is of the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Then we may well be happy in our forgiving, merciful God, and sing psalms of praise to Him. Only let us always remember that God's forgiving us is made to depend on our forgiving others.
(Robert Tuck, B.A.)I. DISEASE ITSELF AFFORDS US ONE OF OUR RICHEST LUXURIES. It is impossible to describe, to one who has not known the joy of a timely release from the fierceness of disease, the exquisite enjoyments of such an hour. And in this we see the goodness of God. "Sorrow may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." There may remain still great weakness, and much, that in other circumstances, would be called distress; but this is all forgotten amid the luxury of a temporary release, and a hope still better.
II. WE SEE DIVINE GOODNESS IN THE EFFORTS THAT NATURE MAKES TO EFFECT HER OWN CURE. By "nature" I mean the unseen operation of His hand who healeth all our diseases; I mean God Himself, operating by certain laws which He has indented upon every part of our frame. The cure is effected without a miracle, but not without the finger of God. David, when diseased, was cured like other men, by the laws of matter, and by human means; still he takes occasion to bless and praise Jehovah as Him who healeth all our diseases.
III. THE GREAT VARIETY OF SPECIFICS FOUND IN EVERY PART OF THE CREATION, FOR THE VARIOUS DISEASES OF MEN, SPEAK THE DIVINE GOODNESS. Probably there is not a plant or shrub that grows but yields us either food or medicine. The severest poisons are, at length, in many instances, considered the safest and speediest remedies. The mineral and vegetable kingdoms are constantly pouring their treasures into the chamber of distress. And there seems an almost inexhaustible variety. Hence they furnish a specific for every disease. Now in all this how good is God! He could have sent the plague without the remedy, the poison without the antidote. It would be our shame if we could withhold our praise, and yet live in a world so full of the glory of God, where every plant, and shrub, and mineral speaks His praise, and every disease yields to the specific He prescribes.
IV. IT STILL IS TRUE THAT IT IS GOD WHO HEALETH ALL OUR DISEASES. But for that wisdom which He has given to man, physicians could never have known the nature or the virtue of those plants and minerals which are their appointed remedy. And His blessing makes the means effectual. REMARKS.
1. A period of recovery from sickness should be a season of praise.
2. The life that God has made His care should be devoted to Him.
3. We see why many have praised the Lord upon the sick bed. It is not a place so destitute of comforts as many have supposed.
4. The subject will lead us to reflect with the psalmist on the wondrous mechanism of our natures.
(D. A. Clark.)Exodus 15:26; Jeremiah 17:14; Jeremiah 30:17; Psalm 147:3; Isaiah 30:26). Also, when Jesus appeared as the Messiah fulfilling the hopes of the Hebrews, He healed the broken-hearted, bound up wounds and gave sight to the blind. The direct agency of the highest of all beings is brought out in the case of the woman who for twelve years had suffered and had spent her living on physicians, and only found relief when she touched the border of Christ's garment (Luke 8:41). In this example we have only another version of Abraham's prayer (Genesis 20:17). Now, however men may argue, the scientific mind is at one with the Bible. Life in all its phases is a mystery. While conditions and aspects of its beginnings and development have been fixed and determined, birth and death defy explorers, and that which fluctuates between the two — disease — is hardly less obscure. God the ultimate healer will be more fully recognized as science attains to its maturity. To Him, then, should the honour be attributed when we are restored from the bed of languishing and pain. That is His due. The tribute was paid Him by the ancients in adorning the altars with votive offerings, and a similar practice obtained in the Middle Ages, and in some countries has been continued to this day. I have seen altars in Europe burdened with models of the limbs and organs that have been healed by Divine mercy. It would be well for Christians in their prayer-meetings to tell how God has helped their bodies as well as their souls. Were we to speak more in His praise we would encourage more to look to Him for restoration. But His being the healer does not preclude the use of means in overcoming disease. These means may be infinitely varied and may border on the inscrutable, but they are real just the same. When it is said a virtue went out of Christ to cure the woman, that influence was the means employed, and though inexplicable, may at least suggest to thought the transmission of something from God when the sick are made whole. That certain states of feeling are remedial agencies, that they who rouse such feelings are useful, that cherished beliefs will operate on the body, and that moral improvement has in itself a curative value, is becoming more and more apparent. Xavier, who found Simon Rodriguez sick at Lisbon, chronicles the feel that the joy excited in the patient broke up the fever; and Melanchthon was operated on in a similar way by the appearance of Luther. Mr. Herbert Spencer illustrates the great power of mind over body, when he shows how intense feeling brings out great muscular force. Dr. Berdoe has shown us a gouty man throwing away his crutches and running to escape an infuriated animal. I have never doubted that the mind can affect in a wonderful way the sick. The story of the Prince of Orange at the siege of Buda, 1625, sending for mock medicine for his troops dying of scurvy is well known. He brought into camp a decoction of camomile, wormwood and camphor, which he gave out as so precious a medicine that a drop or two in a gallon of water would suffice. The restoration of the men to health was due to imagination, not physic. And the same may be said of cures wrought at the hands of monks or pious souls in the past, and at the shrines of Lourdes and Old Orchard in the present. It will not do to ascribe a desire to deceive to all the so-called miracle workers. While impositions are discernible, still many were sincere, and God evidently used their sincerity to His own glory. The cures wrought by the Jansenists at St. Midard, by the UItramontanes at La Galette and Lourdes, and by Father Ivan at St. Petersburg, have been neither few nor slight. A curious instance of the power of mind we have in what was known as the cure of the King's evil by royal touch. Charles II touched nearly 100,000 persons, and many were healed. And coming nearer to our own time we find William III, while practising the same act, offering a different prayer: "God give you better health and more sense." Among curative agencies a very high rank must be assigned to the moral and the spiritual. When a man abstains from demoralizing habits, excessive feeding and drinking, the effect will be discernible in his appearance. While the cure is like that wrought by sanitation, back of it is the ideal of a pure manhood. When the spiritual is supreme, and Christians have little time to think of themselves or of their cares, and when they are fully occupied with celestial visions, they usually keep well and hearty. At such times we understand the text: "Thou art the health of my countenance and my God." But among the means owned of God are we to class what is known as material remedies? St. insisted that "the precepts of medicine are contrary to celestial science, watching or prayer"; only it must be remembered that this was maintained as necessary to the efficacy of relics as remedial agencies. for different reasons sympathized with Ambrose. He declared that "whoso shall fall sick shall use no medicine or physic, but commit his case to God, praying that His will may be done." To which Luther made answer: "Do you eat when you are hungry?" And as only an affirmative reply could be given, he continues: "Even so you may use physic, which is God's gift just as meat and drink is, or whatever else we use for the preservation of life." When Jesus says that "they who are whole need not a physician, but they who are sick," He lends His countenance to the medical science. We find medicine distinctly recognized in the following places: (Proverbs 17:22; Jeremiah 30:13; Jeremiah 46:11; Ezekiel 47:12). Paul commends to Timothy a little wine for his stomach's sake and his infirmities. He does not regard it as an invalidation of faith in God to use a remedy. Neither did Isaiah (2 Kings 20:7). When Ezekiel beholds the vision of "Holy Waters," he says the leaf of the tree which grows on either side of the river shall be for medicine. Here is a distinct recognition of medicinal virtues in nature. Why should the "balm of Gilead" be praised, why should the mollifying quality in ointment be referred to by Isaiah, if all such means reflected on and were inimical to Divine healing? The case of Asa, "who sought not to the Lord, but to the physicians" (2 Chronicles 16:12) is sometimes adduced against this supposition. But his error did not lie in employing doctors, but in trusting to them. Had he shown in his sickness the same discrimination he evinced in his attack on Ethiopia, when he cried out (2 Chronicles 19:11), he might have overborne disease as he did his foe in the field. If God is the supreme healer what line of conduct should we, especially Christians, pursue? Surely we ought to do all in our power to provide for the comfort and recovery of the afflicted. It is written (Psalm 41:8) that "God will make all his bed" — the sick man's — "in his sickness." But that surely does not mean that we are not to make it too. The hand of God is precious to smooth our pillow; and a wife or daughter's or mother's is not an unnecessary second. We want to carry the spirit of Christ into our contact with disease. With that came more humanitarianism in the past. Establishments for the cure of the sick appeared at an early day in the east; the Infirmary of Monte Cassino and the Hotel-Dieu were opened at Lyons in the sixth century, and in the seventh the Hostel-Dieu in Paris; and it is to the credit of Napoleon III that while he was building the Opera House in Paris, he was rebuilding, on a magnificent scale, the hospital of that sacred name. In this department wonderful has been the progress. We have everything apparently new from such institutions to the Ambulance Corps and the Genevan Cross. But more and more should these arrangements be permeated with the Christ spirit. This faith in God as the Divine Healer should lead to prayer for the sick. Many answers have come to us. I can testify to as many notable instances of recovery from disease as perhaps any other minister. And yet we must never forget that Jesus, overcome by agony, trembling on the verge of death, while praying for deliverance, exclaimed, "Thy will be done." Complete reconciliation and harmony with God is worth more than a few years, more or less, of existence in the world. The devout soul will realize that He is healing all its diseases, and that the final health of the body can only come through the collapse of death leading to the glorious resurrection. But until then, I expect, in proportion as God is exalted, by faith and science the approach of that time when sickness shall largely disappear, and when (Isaiah 65:20). And when that season comes health and holiness, both, under God, the product of human agencies, shall preserve the race, and the burden of earth's anthem be: "Bless the Lord, O my soul, who forgiveth all thine iniquities, who healeth all thy diseases."
(G. C. Lorimer, D.D.)
Sunday Circle.At one of his mission meetings Gipsy Smith recently told a story about his own little ones who had played truant, and in trying to be stern he sent them to bed without any supper. He passed the rest of the evening tiptoeing about, listening, and wondering what the effect of the punishment would be. Finally, not hearing any sound, he made his way to the bedchamber. As he leaned over the bed, one of the little fellows said: "Is that you, father?" and sobbed out, "Father, will you forgive me?" "Yes, my son, yes — yes, I will forgive you, for I love you." "Then, father, take me down to supper." This was used by Gipsy Smith to point the lesson that once we are forgiven by our Heavenly Father, we have the blessedness of sharing intimate communion with Him. After the kiss of reconciliation the erstwhile prodigal breaks again the "bread enough and to spare" of his Father's house.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Christian Age.There is much need of asserting the great truth that God can forgive sin. Science is a teacher much honoured now, and science says that it is as impossible morally as physically to put things back where they were before; as impossible to restore a sinful heart as to make whole a broken shell. Under such teaching has grown up a modern religion whose god is fate, whose hope is dust for the body and nothingness for the soul, whose heaven is but to be an influence in others' lives. The sect is not large, but skilful of speech in philosophy, poetry, fiction. One of them speaks through the hero of a tale: "I hate that talk of people as if there was a way of making amends for everything. They'd more need to see that the wrong they do can never be altered. It's well we should feel that life's a reckoning we can't make twice over; there's no real making amends in this world, any more than you can mend a wrong subtraction by doing your addition right." And the age may need this lesson. We have been guilty of making sin too slight and punishment too soft. "It is good," sing the old Eumenides in AEschylus, "that fear should sit as the guardian of the soul, forcing it into wisdom — good that men should carry a threatening shadow in their hearts under the full sunshine; else how should they learn to revere the right?" True, but God has thought it also good to give His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. Far diviner is the message of Hawthorne in "The Scarlet Letter," where the badge of sin and shame becomes the charmed symbol of a pure and helpful life. Nature knows nothing of forgiveness; science and conscience as well assure us it is impossible. They speak for their own realms, and truly. But, "when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly." How God takes care of the disaster wrought by our sin is one of the hidden things. That He will blot out our transgression as a thick cloud vanishes in the sun is His radiant promise. It is a forgiveness which not only enables us to enter heaven; it is heaven, or else, for our race, there were no heaven. God can forgive sins, and God alone; and Jesus is "God with us" forgiving sins and sending penitents away praising with a song that angels could not sing.
(Christian Age.)John Bunyan well says, "It must be great mercy, or no mercy; for little mercy will never serve my turn."
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
(J. H. Jowett.)
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