THE CHARACTERS OF THE WHOLE AND SICK, IN A SPIRITUAL SENSE, CONSIDERED AND CONTRASTED.
" But -whnn Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick."—Matt. ix. 12.
There is no article of faith more certain than that Jesus Christ is an all-sufficient and most willing Saviour, able to save to the utmost all that come unto God through him, and those who ronie unto him he will in no wise cast out. They that intrust their souls into his hands he keeps, and none of them is lost. It is certain that all the guilty sons of Adam stand in the most absolute need of him; in vain do they seek for salvation in any other. Without him, they are undone for ever; and without him, their very existence becomes a curse, and their immortality but the duration of their misery. The disease of sin has so deeply infected their souls, that none but this divine Physician can heal them.
Since this is the case, who would not expect that Jesus would be universally the darling of mankind ? Who would not expect that as many as are wounded, and just perishing of their wounds, would-all earnestly apply to this Physician, and seek relief from him upon any terms ? Must not all love and desire him, since all need him so extremely, and since he is so completely qualified to be their deliverer. But, alas! notwithstanding all such favorable presumptions from the nature of the thing, it is a most notorious fact, that this divine Physician is but little regarded by our dying world. This all-sufficient and willing Saviour is generally neglected by perishing sinners. There are thousands among us that have no affectionate thoughts of him; no eager longings after him; they exert no vigorous endeavors to obtain an interest in him, nor are they tenderly solicitous about it. They indeed profess his religion, and call themselves Christians, after his name; they pay him the compliment of a bended knee, and now and then perform the external duties of religion, and thus have high hopes they shall be saved through him; but as to their hearts and affections, he has no share there.
Now whence is this strange and shocking phenomenon in the rational world? Whence is it that the dying are careless about a physician ? That a Deliverer is neglected by those that are perishing? The true reason we may find in my text, They that are whole need not a physician, but they that are sick; that is, "they who imagine themselves well, however disordered they are in reality, do not feel their need of a physician, and therefore will not apply to him; but they who feel themselves sick, will eagerly apply to him, and put themselves under his care."
This is the answer of Christ to the proud caviling Pharisees, who censured his free conversation with publicans and sinners, at an entertainment which Matthew had prepared for him. The publicans were a sort of custom-house officers among the Jews, appointed by the Romans, whose tributaries they then were, to collect the levies or duties imposed by government. They were generally persons of bad morals, and particularly given to rapine and extortion in raising the taxes. The publicans, therefore, were objects of general contempt and abhorrence, as an abandoned sort of men; and the Jews, particularly the rigid and haughty Pharisees, held no conversation with them, but kept them at a distance, as though they had been excommunicated.
The condescending Jesus, who came to seek and to save that which was lost, did not conduct himself towards these poor outcasts upon the rigid principles of the Pharisees. They held them in such contempt, that they did not labor to instruct and reform them. But Jesus preached to them, conversed with them freely, and used the most condescending, affable, and ingratiating measures to reform them, and called some of them to the honor of being his disciples; of this number was Matthew, the author of this history. O! the condescension, the freeness, the efficacy of the grace of Christ! it can make a publican an apostle! an abhorred outcast the favorite of Heaven and the companion of angels! What abundant encouragement does this give to the most abandoned sinner among you to turn unto the Lord! Let publicans and sinners despair of mercy and salvation if they continue in their present condition; but if they arise and follow Jesus at his call, and become his humble, teachable disciples, they need not despair; nay, they may rejoice in hope of the glory of God, and be assured they shall be admitted into the kingdom of God, when the self-righteous are shut out.
When Matthew had embraced the call, he made a feast for his new Master, that he might show his respect and gratitude to him, and that he might let his brother publicans and old companions have an opportunity of conversing with him, and receive his instructions. How natural it is for a sinner, just brought to love Jesus, to use means to allure others to him, especially his former companions! Having seen his own guilt and danger, he is deeply affected with theirs, and would willingly lead them to that Saviour who has given him so gracious a reception. The blessed Jesus, who was always ready to embrace every opportunity of doing good, whatever popular odium it might expose a lethargic nature, and stupefies the unhappy creatures, so that they are not'sensible of it. It renders them delirious, so that they think themselves well when the symptoms of death are strong upon them. What multitudes of such may we see in the world! The Word of God pronounces them dangerously ill; their friends may see the most deadly symptoms upon them; but alas! they are stupidly insensible of their own case. Jesus, the divine physician, warns them of their danger, offers them his help, and prescribes to them the infallible means of recovery ; but they disregard his warnings, neglect his gracious offer, and refuse to submit to his prescriptions. This is the general character of those that are whole, in the sense of my text.
By the sick are meant those who, like the former, are really guilty, corrupt sinners, in extreme need of a Saviour, and who readily confess they are such; but here lies the difference, they are not onlv such in reality, but they are deeply sensible of it, and they are tenderly affected with their case; their temper and conduct, their thoughts of themselves and of Jesus Christ, their designs and endeavors are such as are natural to a soul sensibly sick of sin, and such as bear a resemblance to those of a person sick in body, and using all means for a recovery. This is the general character of the sick, in the sense of my text; but it is necessary I should descend to particulars. , The particular characters of the whole and sick, in contrast, are such as these:
1. He that is whole has never had a clear affecting sight and sense of sin; but he that is sick is fully convicted, and deeply sensible of it. The one has only a general, superficial, unaffecting conviction, that he is a sinner; that he has not been so good as he should have been; that his heart is somewhat disordered, and especially that he has been guilty of sundry bad actions. Sin appears to him a small evil, and he has a thousand excuses to make for it. Hence he is as easy, as careless, as presumptuous in his hopes, as if he believed he did not really deserve punishment from a righteous God, and therefore was in no danger. Thus, like a man in health, he is unconcerned, and neither apprehends himself sick, nor uses the least means for his recovery.
But is it so with a poor,_ sick sinner ? O, no! he sees, he feels, that his head is sick, and his whole heart faint; he feels that sin has enfeebled all his powers, and that he is no more able to exert them in religious endeavors, than a sick man is to employ himself in active life. O! into what a consternation is he struck when awakened out of his lethargic security, and his eyes are opened to see himself in a just light! He had flattered himself that he had a good constitution of soul, and that little or nothing ailed him ; but now, he is surprised to see the strong symptoms of spiritual death upon him.
Suppose some of you, who have come here to-day vigorous and healthy, should suddenly discover the spots of a plague broken out all over you, how would it strike you with surprise and horror! Such is the surprise and horror of the awakened sinner; thus he is alarmed and amazed. So clear are his views of his entire and universal depravity and imminent danger, that he is utterly astonished he was so stupid as never to discover it before. Now, also, he has a deep sense of the evil of sin: he not only sees himself universally disordered, but he sees, he feels the disorder to be deadly; sin now appears to him the greatest evil upon earth, or even in hell. O! how worthy of the severest vengeance from a righteous God! how contrary to the divine purity ; how base, how ungrateful a violation of the most strong and endearing obligations! how destructive to the soul! During the progress of the Christian life, he feels himself recovering a little, though very slowly, while he follows the prescriptions of his divine Physician, and receives healing influences from him.
2. They that are whole are generally easy and secure, and unapprehensive of danger; but the sick soul is alarmed and anxious, and cannot be easy till it perceives some appearances of recovery. He that is whole is benumbed with a stupid insensibility; but he that is sick is in pain from the disease of sin, which he sensibly feels. The one can walk about merry and thoughtless, with a hard, depraved heart within him; the other is perpetually uneasy, and, like a sick man, he has no taste for any thing while he feels such a heart within him. If the one is anxious, it is with some worldly care ; if the other is anxious, it is chiefly for the recovery of his dying soul. The one can give himself up to business, or pleasure, or idleness, as a man in health, and at ease; the other is apprehensive that his soul is in great danger, and, like a sick man, gives up his eager pursuits, till be sees whether he is likely to recover. He is alarmed with the deadly conseq uences of sin, as it exposes him to the wrath of God, the loss of heaven, and all the miseries of the infernal world. But this is not all that distresses him; he considers sin, in itself, as a loathsome disease, and is pained with its present effects upon him. How strongly does St. Paul represent the case, when he cries out, 0 ! wretched man that I am ! who shall deliver -me from the body of this death ?—Eom. vii. 24. The image seems to be that of a living man walking about with a rotten, nauseous carcass tied fast to him, which he cannot, with all his efforts, cast off; but it lies heavy upon him wherever he goes. This is the character of the soul sick of sin. But he that is whole hath little or no uneasiness upon this account. If he is alarmed at all, it is with the consequence of sin ; his slavish soul fears nothing but the punishment. As for the disease itself, it is so far from giving him uneasiness, that he is in love with it. It affords him sensations of pleasure, rather than of pain, and he rather dreads a recovery, than the continuance of the disorder. Sin has intoxicated him to such a degree, that holiness, which is the health of the soul, is disagreeable to him, and he would rather continue languishing than recover.
3. They that are whole are unwilling to apply to a physician, or to follow his prescriptions; but to the sick a physician is most welcome, and they will submit to his directions, however self-denying and mortifying. This is the point my text has particularly in view, and therefore we must take particular notice of it.
They that are in health have no regard to a physician, as such; they neither send for him nor will they accept of his help, offered gratis; they look upon the best of medicines with neglect, as of no use or importance to them; the prescriptions proper to the sick they hear with indifference, as not being concerned. Thus it is with thousands, who imagine themselves whole in spirit. The Lord Jesus exhibits himself to the sons of men under the character of a physician; the gospel makes a free offer of his assistance to all sick souls that will freely accept it. And what reception does he generally meet with ? Why, multitudes neglect him as though they had no need of him. They _inay indeed pay him the compliment of professing his souls. But, alas! they disregard this grand prescription; they will not submit to him, but, like an obstinate patient, will have their own way, though eternal death should be the consequence.
But this is not the case of the sinner spiritually sick; he will do any thing, he will submit to any thing, if it may but save him from the mortal disease of sin. How ardently does he long after Jesus! With what cheerfulness does he put himself under his care! With what joy and gratitude does he hear the offer of free salvation in the gospel! and how dear is the gospel to his heart on this account! With what eager, wishful eyes does he look upon his Physician! How does he delight to feel himself under the operation of his hand! With what anxiety does he observe the symptoms, and inquire whether he is upon the recovery or not! and O! with what pleasure does he discover the signs of returning health! to feel a little eager appetite for spiritual food! to feel a little spiritual life in religious exercises! to feel himself able to run in the way of God's commandments! to feel the principles of sin weakened within him! How sweet is this! Let those that think their souls healthy and vigorous, boast of their strength, and what mighty things they can do in religion; as for him he feels his weakness; he feels he can do nothing aright, but just as he receives daily strength from Christ. In short, the sick sinner is a tender, delicate, frail creature, entirely subject to the prescriptions of Christ, and every day taking means from him; anxious for his recovery and willing to submit to any thing that may promote it. This is the man, in our Christ-despising world, that gives Jesus a most willing and welcome reception, and embraces his gospel, as containing all his salvation and all his desire. O! that there were many such in our world! for this man is in a hopeful way of recovery. This world is a vast hospital, full of dying souls; Jesus descends from heaven and enters among them, offering them health and eternal life, if they will but submit to his directions, which are as easy as possible. Eepentance, indeed, and some other bitter ingredients, are included in a religion for sinners; and how can it be otherwise, since these are necessary for their recovery in the very nature of things ? But. after all, the generality die in their sins, amidst the full means of their recovery; and the great reason is, that they will not bo convinced of their danger, nor be persuaded to apply to the Physician. O f how tragical and affecting a case this! and what may render it the more so to us is, that it is the case of some of us. Yes, my brethren, though I am unwilling to harbor one hard thought of any of you, yet I cannot avoid concluding that there are some, I am afraid many souls, in this assembly, who are not sensible of their dangerous disease, and their need of Christ as a physician, and therefore are in danger of perishing without him. Sin, like a strong dose of opium, has stupefied you, and you feel easy and whole-hearted, as if nothing ailed you, when the symptoms of death are strong upon you. We can weep and lament over the sick-bed of a dying friend, and we even drop our tears after him into a dying grave; but shall we drop no tears this day over dying souls, that are so numerous among us. What renders the case more affecting is, that they perish by their own willful obstinacy, under the hands of an all-healing Physician: 0 that my head were waters ; and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night over the slain of the daughters of my people! Ye secure and whole-hearted sinners, must it not shock you to think that Jesus Christ, the only physician, gives you up ? You see, in my text, he looks upon you as persons that he has no business with. He had rather converse with publicans and sinners than with you, as having more hopes of success among them. Let publicans and sinners be encouraged to apply to Jesus. Come, ye profligates, drunkards, swearers, come sinners of the most abandoned character, apply to this Physician. He is willing to heal you. He offers you healing. Wilt thou be made whole ? is his question to you this day. He is also perfectly able, able to save to the uttermost, however inveterate your disease may be. If the children of the kingdom shut themselves out; if self-righteous Pharisees reject this Physician, and die in their sins, do you come in; put yourselves under his care, submit to his prescriptions, and you shall yet live, and be restored to perfect health, and eternal life. Eugged as you are, you are very proper materials for the temple of God. Therefore this day give yourselves up to him as his willing patients. Cry to him to undertake your case. Heal me, 0 Lord, and I shall be healed. Submit to his prescriptions, and follow his directions, and you shall live for ever.
I shall conclude my subject by giving answer from it to some questions that may arise in your minds on this occasion.
What is the reason that the world lies in such a dead security around us ? Whence is it there is so much sin in the world, and so little fear of punishment ? Whence is it that men will entertain such hopes of heaven upon such slight evidences, or, rather, with the full evidence of the word of God against them? Alas! the reason is, they are whole in their own imagination; they think themselves well, and therefore apprehend no danger, but lie in a dead, inactive sleep. What is the reason why so many neglect the means of grace in public and private ? Whence is it there are so many prayerless families and prayerless closets among us? Why is the Bible thrown by, in some families, as a piece of useless lumber ? Why is the house of God so thmly frequented in many places, and the table of the Lord almost deserted? Why is Christian conversation so unfashionable ? and why do we hear so few inquiries from sinners, what they shall do to be saved? The reason is, they imagine themselves well; they are whole-hearted; and therefore it is no wonder they neglect the means of recovery; they think they have no more to do with them than persons in health with physic. The only method to bring them to use those means in earnest is to make them sensible of their dangerous disease. And O that ministers may use all proper means with them for this end, and that divine grace may render them effectual. What is the reason that the means of grace are attended upon by others with so much formality and indifference ? Whence is it there are so many lukewarm, spiritless prayers, and solemn mockeries of God ? so many wandering eyes and wandering hearts in the heavenly exercise of praise, and in hearing the most solemn and affecting truths ? Whence is it that all the religion of many is nothing but a dull round of insipid, lifeless formalities! Alas! the same reason returns: they are whole in their own conceit. And how can they, while they flatter themselves with this imagination, use those means in earnest, which are intended for the recovery of the sick ?
Would you know what is the reason that the blessed Jesus, the most glorious and benevolent person that ever appeared in our world, is so generally neglected? O! the healthy should behave in a different manner. Why do they not indulge themselves in sin as you do ? Is it because they are sick of it. They see it to be a mortal poison, and they cannot be easy while they feel it working through their frame. Why do they not, like you, abandon themselves, and devote all their time to some worldly pursuit ? O! it is because they are sick, and must take time for the use of means for their recovery, whatever else be omitted. Why are they so much afraid of temptation, and keep out of its way ? It is because they are afraid of a relapse, and that sin, their old disease, will renew its strength. Whence are they so often filled with doubts and fears and anxious perplexities ? O! it is because the symptoms of the disorder are doubtful, and they know not whether they are in a way of recovery or not. When they are satisfied in this point, then they can rejoice, and that with a joy more noble than you are capable of.
And poor, sick souls, be of good cheer; you shall yet be healed. Yes, there is balm in Gilead; there is a Physician there; Jesus can heal you; and, blessed be his name, he is as willing as he is able. The deep sense of our disorder is often discouraging to you; O ! you are afraid it will at last prove mortal. But this very thing ought to encourage you. The persons that I cannot speak one comfortable word to are not of your character; they are the secure, whole-hearted sinners: but for you this is strong consolation ; so strong that it may bear down all your fears before it. The sense of your disorder qualifies you for the Physician, and renders you proper objects of his care. The poor, the maimed, the halt, the blind, the broken-hearted, are the characters of the persons that he has to do with, and who are recovering under his hands. And are not these your character? They are indeed humbling and mortifying; but, O! they are encouraging, as they prepare you for Christ's healing care.
But as for you, whole-hearted sinners, I must pronounce you lost and dead souls. Jesus himself has declared that he has no business with such as you. And if he casts you off, O! what other physician can you employ ? Alas! you will die in your sins! Die in your sins! O! dreadful ! better die in a ditch, or a dungeon, than die in your sins! Therefore now labor to be sensible of your disorder, while it is curable; for all that are not healed in this life are given up as incurable for ever. Now apply to Christ as a physician, for he is willing to undertake your cure.