THE SCRIPTURAL FOUNDATION.
Man has a two-fold nature. He is both a material and a spiritual being. And
both natures have been equally affected by the fall. His body is exposed
to disease; his soul is corrupted by sin. We would therefore expect that
any complete scheme of redemption would include both natures, and provide
for the restoration of his physical as well as the renovation of his spiritual
life. Nor are we disappointed. The Redeemer appears among men with both hands
stretched out to our misery and need. In the one He holds salvation; in the
other, healing. He offers Himself to us as a complete Saviour; His indwelling
Spirit the life of our spirit; His resurrection body the life of our mortal
flesh. He begins His ministry by healing all that had need of healing. He
closes it by making on the Cross a full atonement for our sin; and then on
the other side of the open tomb He passes into Heaven, leaving the double
commission for "all the world," and "all the days even unto the end of. the
world;"--"Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.
He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. He that believeth not shall
be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe. In My name they
shall cast out devils . . . . they shall lay hands upon the sick and they
This was "the faith once delivered unto the saints." What has become of it?
Why is it not still universally taught and realized? Did it disappear with
the Apostolic age? Was it withdrawn when Peter, Paul, and John were removed?
By no means. It remained in the Church for centuries and only disappeared
gradually in the growing worldliness, corruption, formalism and unbelief
of the early Christian centuries. With a reviving faith, with a deepening
spiritual life, with a more marked and Scriptural recognition of the Holy
Spirit and the Living Christ, and with the nearer approach of the returning
Master Himself, this blessed Gospel of physical redemption is beginning to
be restored to its ancient place, and the Church is slowly learning to reclaim
what she never should have lost. But along with this there is also manifested
such a spirit of conservative unbelief and cold, traditional, theological
rationalism as to make it necessary that we should "contend earnestly for
the faith once delivered unto the saints." First of all we must be sure of
our Scriptural foundations. Faith must ever rest on the Divine Word; and
the most important element in the "prayer of faith" is a full and firm persuasion
that the healing of disease by simple faith in God is, beyond question, a
part of the .Gospel and a doctrine of the Scriptures.
The earliest promise of healing is in Exodus xv. 25, 26: "There He made for
them a statute and ordinance, and there he proved them, and said, If thou
wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, and wilt do that
which is right in His sight and wilt give ear to His commandments, and keep
all His statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have
brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the Lord thy God which healeth thee."
The place of this promise is most marked. It is at the very outset of their
journey, like Christ's healing of disease at the opening of His ministry.
It comes immediately after the passage of the Red Sea. And we know that this
event was distinctly typical of our redemption, and their journey of our
pilgrimage. "These things happened unto them for ensamples, and are written
for our admonition, on whom the ends of the world are come." 1. Cor. x. 11.
This promise, therefore, becomes ours, as the redeemed people of God. And
God meets us at the very threshold of our pilgrimage with the covenant of
healing, declaring that as we walk in holy and loving obedience we shall
be kept from sickness, which belongs to the old life of bondage we have left
behind us forever. Sickness belongs to the Egyptians, not to the people of
God. And only as we return spiritually to Egypt do we return to its malarias
and perils. Nay, this is not only a promise, it is "a statute and an ordinance."
And so the Lord Jesus has left for us a distinct ordinance of healing in
His name as sacred and binding as any of the ordinances of the Gospel.
Psa. cv. 37. "He brought them forth also with silver and gold, and there
was not one feeble person among their tribes." This shows us the actual
fulfillment of that promise. Although they did not fulfill their part in
the covenant, yet God kept His. Word. And so, although our faith and obedience
are often defective, yet, if Christ is our surety, and if our faith will
claim His merits and His name, we too shall see the promise fulfilled.
Job i. and ii. The story of Job is one of the oldest records of history.
It gives us an unmistakable view of the source from which sickness comes--Satan;
and the course which brings healing, taking the place of humble self-judgment
of the mercy-seat. If ever a sick chamber was unveiled it was that of Uz.
But we see no physician there, no human remedy, but only a looking unto God
as his Avenger. And when he renounces his self-righteousness and self-vindication
and takes the place where God is seeking to bring him-that of self-renunciation
and humility-he is healed.
Ps. ciii. 2, 3. "Bless the Lord, oh my soul, and forget not all His benefits:
who forgiveth all thine iniquities, who healeth all thy diseases." The Psalms
of David are a continual record of affliction. But God is always the deliverer,
and God alone. We see no human hand. As directly does he look to Heaven for
the healing as he does for the pardon, and in the same breath, he cries,
"Who forgiveth all thine iniquities, who healeth all thy diseases." And it
is a complete healing, ALL his diseases, as universal and lasting as the
forgiveness of his sins. And how glorious and entire that was, is evident
enough. "As far as the East is from the West, so far hath He removed our
transgressions from us." But here, as in the case of Job, there is an intimate
connection between the sickness and the sin; and both must be healed
II. Chron. xvi. 12, 13. "And Asa, in the thirty and ninth year of his reign,
was diseased in his feet, until his disease was exceeding great: yet in his
disease he sought not to the Lord, but to the physicians. And Asa slept with
his fathers." Here was a king who had begun his reign by an act of simple
implicit trust in God, when human resources utterly failed him; and by that
trust (chapter xiv. 9-12) he won one of the most glorious victories of history.
But success corrupted him, and taught him to value too highly the arm of
flesh. So that in his next great crisis (chapter xvi. 7, 8) he formed an
alliance with Syria, and lost the help of God. He refuses to take warning
from the prophet, and rushes on to the climax of his earthly confidence.
He becomes sick. Here is a greater foe than the Ethiopians, but again he
turns to man. "He sought not to the Lord, but to the physicians." And more
sad or sarcastic could not well be the vivid picture of the issue. And Asa
slept with his fathers."
Isaiah liii. 4, 5. "Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows
. . . and with His stripes we are healed."
This the great Evangelical vision, the Gospel in the Old Testament, the very
mirror of the coming Redeemer. And here in the front of it, prefaced by a
great AMEN-the only "surely" in the chapter is the promise of healing; the
very strongest possible statement of complete redemption from pain and sickness
by his life and death, and the very words which the Evangelist afterwards
quotes, under the inspired guidance of the Holy Ghost-Matt. viii. 17, as
the explanation of His universal works of healing. The translation in our
English version does very imperfect justice to the force of the original.
The translation in Matthew viii. 17 is much better: "Himself took our
infirmities, and bare our sicknesses." The literal translation would be,"
surely He hath borne away our sicknesses and carried away our pains." Any
person who will refer to such a familiar commentary as that of Albert Barnes
on Isaiah, or any other Hebrew authority, will see that the two words here
used denote respectively sickness and pain, and that the words
for "bear" and "carry," denote not mere sympathy, but an actual substitution
and the removal utterly of the thing borne. Therefore, in the same full sense
as He has borne our sins, Jesus Christ has SURELY BORNE AWAY and CARRIED
OFF our sicknesses; yes, and even our PAINS, so that abiding in Him, we may
be fully delivered from both sickness and pain. Thus "by His stripes we are
healed." Blessed and glorious Gospel! Blessed and glorious Burden Bearer.
Thus the ancient prophet beholds in vision the Redeemer coming first as a
Great Physician, and then hanging on the Cross as a Great Sacrifice. And
thus the Evangelists have also described him; for three years the Great Healer,
and then for six hours of shame and agony, the Dying Lamb.
Matthew viii. 17. "He healed all that were sick, that it might be fulfilled
which was spoken by Esaias the prophet saying, Himself took our infirmities
and bare our sicknesses." This is quoted as the reason why He healed all
that were sick. It was not that He might give his enemies a vindication of
His Divinity, but that He might fulfill the character presented of Him in
ancient prophecy. Had he not done so, He would not have been true to His
own character, and if He did not still do so, He would not be--"Jesus Christ,
the same yesterday, to-day, and forever." These healings were not occasional,
but continual; not exceptional, but universal. He never turned any away.
"He healed all that were sick." "As many as touched Him were made perfectly
whole." He is still the same.
Now, this was the work of His life. We have been too ready to sum up all
the Redeemer's work in the one act at the close; and in our zeal for the
value of His blood, we have forgotten the preciousness of His earthly life.
But God would not have us forget that He spent more than three years in deeds
of power and love before He went up to that Cross to die. And we need that
Living Christ quite as much as Christ Crucified. The Levitical types included
the meat offering quite as much as the sin offering; and suffering human
hearts need to feed upon the Great Loving Heart of Galilee and Bethany, as
much as on the Lamb of Calvary.
It would take entirely too long to examine in detail the countless records
of His healing power and grace, or tell how He cured the leper, the lame,
the blind, the palsied, the impotent, the fever stricken, "all that had need
of healing;" how He linked sickness so often with sin, and forgave before
he spake the restoring word; how He required their own personal touch of
appropriating faith, and bade them take the healing by rising up and carrying
their bed; how His healing went far beyond His own immediate presence, and
reached and saved the centurion's servant and the nobleman' s son; and how
sharply He reproved the least question of His willingness to help, and threw
the responsibility of man's suffering on his own unbelief. These and many
more such lessons crowd every page of the Master's life, and still reveal
to us the secret of claiming His healing power. And what right anyone can
claim to explain away these miracles, as mere types of spiritual healing
and blessing, and not as specimens of what He still is ready to do for all
who trust Him-is as inexplicable as the Mythical Theory. Such was Jesus of
Nazareth. But was this blessed power to die with Him?
John xiv. 12. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on Me, the
works that I do shall he do also; and greater works shall he do, because
I go to my Father." Here is another "VERILY," nay a "VERILY, VERILY."
Then it must be something emphatic, and something man was sure to doubt.
Now, it is no use to tell us that this meant that the Church after Pentecost
was to have greater spiritual power, and do greater spiritual works by the
Holy Ghost than Jesus Himself did, inasmuch as the conversion of the soul
is a greater work than the healing of the body; because Jesus says, "The
works that I do, shall he do also," as well as the "greater works than
these:" that is, he is to do the same works Christ did, and greater also.
And so we know they did the same works that he did. Even during His life
He sent out the twelve Apostles, and then He sent out the seventy as forerunners
of the whole host of the Christian Eldership (for the seventy were just the
first Elders of the Christian Age, corresponding to the seventy Elders of
Moses), with full power to heal. And when He was about to leave the world,
He left on record both these Commissions in the most unmistakable terms.
Mark xvi. 15-18. "Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every
creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; he that believeth
not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe: In My
name they shall cast out devils, they shall speak with new tongues, they
shall take up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt
them, they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover." Here is the
Commission given to them, the twofold Gospel, and assuring them of His presence
and unchanging power. What right have we to preach the one without the other?
What right have we to hold back any part from the perishing world? What right
have we to go to the unbelieving world and demand their acceptance of our
message without these signs following? What right have we to explain their
absence from our ministry by trying to eliminate them from God's Word, or
consign them to an obsolete past? Nay, Christ did give them, and they did
follow as long as Christians continued to "believe" and expect them. And
by such "mighty signs and wonders" the Church was established in Jerusalem,
Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth. The unbelief of the world
needs them today as much as in the Apostolic times. During the Apostolic
age these manifestations of healing power were by no means confined to the
Apostles. Philip and Stephen were as gloriously used as Peter and John. In
I. Cor. xii. 9-30, "the gifts of healing" are spoken of as widely diffused
and universally understood among the endowments of the Church. But now, the
Apostolic age is closing; is this to be continued, and if so, by whom? By
what limitation is it to be preserved from fanaticism and presumption? By
what commission is it to be perpetuated to the end of time, and placed within
the reach of all God's suffering saints? We turn with deep interest to
James v. 14. "Is any sick among you ? let him call for the elders of the
Church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of
the Lord. And 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."
Now, let us notice first who gives this commission. It is James, the President
of the Apostolic Board; the presiding officer of the Mother Church at Jerusalem;
the one who had authority to say, in summing up the decrees of the Council
at Jerusalem (Acts xv. 19), "My sentence is;" the man who is named first
by Paul himself among the Pillars of the Church (Gal. ii. 9); he it is who
rightly transmits the Apostolic gifts to the ordinary and permanent officers
who are to succeed them in the oversight of the flock of Christ.
Again, observe to whom this power is committed. Not the Apostles, who are
now passing away, not men and women of rare gifts and difficult of access,
but the elders, the ordinary officers of every single church, the men who
are within reach of every sufferer, the men who are to continue till the
end of the age.
Again, notice the time at which this commission is given. Not at the beginning,
but at the close of the Apostolic age; nor for that generation, but for the
one that was just rising, and all the succeeding ages. For, indeed, these
New Testament epistles were not widely circulated in their own age, but were
mainly designed "for our admonition on whom the ends of the world are
Again, observe the nature of the ordinance enjoined--the prayer of faith,
and the anointing with oil in the name of the Lord. Now, this was manifestly
not a medical anointing, for it was not to be applied by a physician, but
by an elder, and must, naturally, be the same anointing of which we read,
Mark vi. 13, and elsewhere, in connection with the healing of disease by
the Apostles themselves. Any other interpretation would be strained and contrary
to the obvious meaning of the custom, as our Lord and His Apostles observed
it. In the absence of any explanation here to the contrary, we are bound
to believe that it was the same--a symbolical religious ordinance expressive
of the power of the Holy Ghost, whose peculiar emblem is oil. The Greek Church
still retains the ordinance. The Romish apostasy has changed it into a mournful
preparation for death. It is a beautiful symbol of the Divine Spirit of life
taking possession of the human body, and breathing into it His vital
Again, observe that this is a command. It ceases to be a mere privilege.
It is the Divine prescription for disease; and no obedient Christian can
safely-dispense with it. Any other method of dealing with sickness is
unauthorized. This is God's plan. This makes faith so simple and easy. We
have but to obey in childlike confidence; He will fulfill.
And once more, we must not overlook the connection of sickness with sin,
the suggestion that the trial has been a Divine chastening, and requires
self-judgment, penitence and pardon, and the blessed assurance that both
pardon and healing may be claimed together in His name.
III. John 2. "Beloved, I wish (pray) above all things that thou mayest prosper
and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth." If more were needed than
the testimony of James, the last of the Apostles, and the one who best knew
the Master's heart, has left this tender prayer, by which we may know our
Father's gentle care for our health as well as for our souls. And when God
breathes such a prayer for us, we need not fear to claim it for ourselves.
But, as we do, we must not forget that our health will be even as our
Eph. v. 30. "We are members of His body, His flesh, and His bones." These
words recognize a union between our body and the risen body of the Lord Jesus
Christ, which gives us the right to claim for our mortal frame all the vital
energy of His perfect life. His body is ours. His life is ours, and it is
Rom. viii. 11. "If the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell
in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal
body by His Spirit that dwelleth in you." This cannot refer to the future
resurrection. That will be by the "Voice of the Son of God," not the Holy
Spirit. This is a present dwelling and a quickening by the Spirit. And it
is a quickening of the "mortal body," not the soul. What can this be but
physical restoration, which is the direct work of the Holy Ghost, and which
only they can receive who know the indwelling of the Divine Spirit. It was
the Spirit of God that wrought all the miracles of Jesus Christ on earth.
Matt. xii. 28. And if we have the same Spirit dwelling in us we shall experience
the same works.
II Cor. iv. 10, 11. "Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord
Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be manifested in our mortal flesh.
For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the
life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal body. "This is Paul's
physical experience, constant peril, infirmity, and physical suffering, probably
by persecution and even violence; in order that the healing, restoring and
sustaining power, and life of Jesus might be the more constantly manifest
in his very body for the encouragement of suffering saints, "for your sakes."
His life was a constant miracle-that it-might be to all men a pledge and
monument of the promise made to him for all who might hereafter suffer. "My
grace is sufficient for thee." This life, he tells us, v. 16, "was renewed
day by day." The healing power of Christ is dependent on our continual abiding
in Him, and, like all his gifts, is renewed day by day.
Finally, as a voice that has been speaking for eighteen centuries, let us
hear the sweet words, Heb. xiii. 8 : "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today,
and forever." And this is but an echo of that voice that spoke these parting
words a generation before :"Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of
the world." He did not say I will be; that would have suggested a break;
but I AM, an unchanging NOW, a presence never withdrawn, a love, a nearness,
a power to heal and save as constant and as free as ever, even unto the end
of the world; "JESUS CHRIST, THE SAME, YESTERDAY, TODAY, AND FOREVER."
Thus have we traced the teachings of the Holy Scriptures from Exodus to Patmos:
we have seen God giving His people the ordinance of healing in the very outset
of their pilgrimage; we have seen it illustrated in the ancient dispensation
in the sufferings of Job, the songs of David, and the sad death of Asa; we
have seen Isaiah's prophetic vision of the coming Healer; we have seen the
Son of Man coming to fulfill that picture to the letter; we have heard Him
tell His weeping disciples of His unchanging presence with them; we have
seen Him transmit His healing power to their hands; and we have seen them
hand it down to us and to the permanent officers of the Church of God, until
the latest ages of time. And now what more evidence can we ask? What else
can we do but believe, rejoice, receive, and proclaim this great salvation
to a sick and sinking world?