by Charles H. Spurgeon
DELIVERED ON SUNDAY MORNING,
MARCH 5TH, 1865,
be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.”
THIS was Christ’s apology
for mingling with publicans and sinners when the Pharisees murmured against
him. He triumphantly cleared himself by shewing that accordingly to the
fitness of things he was perfectly in order. He was acting according
to his official character. A physician should be
I. We shall have no time for a preface this morning, and therefore let us enter at once into the text by observing that MERCY GRACIOUSLY REGARDS SIN AS A DISEASE.
Sin is more than a disease. If it were only a sickness, men were to be pitied for suffering it; but the element of the perverse will, of voluntary rebellion and designed offense enters into sin, otherwise it were far less truly sin; and this makes it more than a sickness, and worse than a malady. Let us not think that the picture of disease really does set forth all the heinous nature of sin; it is only a generous way in which Mercy chooses to look at it and to deal with it. As Justice views it, all the plague, and venom, and virus, and contagion in the world would be sweet and harmless, compared with one single evil thought or imagination; but Mercy leniently and graciously chooses, in order that it may have a sort of apology for its operations, under the great plan of salvation, to view sin as a disease. It is justified in such a view, for almost everything that may be said of deadly maladies may be said of sin. Let us come to particulars.
Sin is an hereditary disease: we are born with a tendency towards it, nay we are born in it. The taint is in our blood: the very center of our being feels the infection. Born in sin and shapen in iniquity, in sin did our mothers conceive us, and our offspring in like measure received from us that original sin which is part of our fallen nature. Every man born into the world bears within him the seeds of sin, in the bias and current of his mind, nor is this to be wondered at, for “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one.” “How can he he clean that is born of a woman?”
Sin, like sickness, is
very disabling. A sick man cannot carry burdens, climb mountains, run
in service, walk with perseverance, or leap for joy. The occupations and
the pleasures of other men are things from which he is shut out. Even so
does sin prevent our serving God. We cannot pray to
Sin also, like certain diseases, is a very loathsome thing. Some diseases are so extremely disgusting that scarcely can their names be mentioned; but, oh, they are sweetness itself when compared with sin. The most putrid poisonous air that ever blew from a fever hospital, never had such foulness in it as dwells in sin. Pest-houses, and lazar-houses are clean and safe compared with the haunts of vice. In God’s esteem, and in the esteem of all holy minds, the most detestable, obnoxious, dreadful thing in the whole world is moral evil. If that could be got rid of, all other evil would cease to be. This is the mother and nurse of all evil, the egg of all mischief, the fountain of bitterness, the root of misery. Here you have the distilled essence of hell; the “quintessence,” as the old divines would say of everything that is unlovely, disreputable, dishonest, impure, abominable —in a word — damnable.
Like some diseases, sin is fearfully polluting. As the leper cannot be tolerated abroad; as the plague-stricken are separated from their fellows, even so sin separates us from communion with God and holy beings. It is not alone their unwillingness to associate with us, as our horrible unfitness to have fellowship with them. It is dreadful to hear about with us a cancer, which has reached the stage of sickening rottenness; and yet this is not half so terribly disgusting as sin is to the heart of God. God is very gracious, but he cannot endure sin in his presence, and hence to set forth his hatred of it in type and figure he forbade diseased persons to enter his courts, or even to mingle with the camp of his people. For the unclean there was a plain and clear separation until he had been purified. Sin necessarily shuts us out from God’s presence. Into his holy fellowship we must not come, we dare not attempt to come; the fire of his anger would consume us, as it did Nadab and Abihu, if we as sinners should venture near him apart from Christ Jesus. We cannot stand at the altar to officiate as priests before God, though this was the proper lot of manhood, by reason of the leprosy that is on our brow. Our praising God, simple as that might seem, cannot be acceptable in his sight, because of the defilement of our uncircumcised lips. Almighty grace must take away our uncleanliness or we cannot worship. Iniquity is a polluting thing. Everything we do and everything we think of grows polluted through our corruption. The unclean person could not touch a vessel, sit on a bed, or come near a garment without defiling it; and our sin has much the same effect. Our prayers have stains in them, our faith is mixed with unbelief, our repentance is not so tender as it should be, our communion is distant and interrupted. We cannot pray without sinning, and there is filth even in our tears. Well was it for Israel that there was an Aaron to bear the sins of their holy things, and blessed is it for us that Jesus takes the sins even of our best works, and casts them into the depths of thesea.
Sin too may be likened
to many sicknesses from its being contagious. A man cannot be a sinner
alone. “One sinner destroyeth much good.” The seeds of sin are winged like
thistle-down. You may shut up the leper in a lazar-house, but there is
no such way of shutting up sin, it will get out and spread itself. A man,
if he be evil, will make others evil. His children will imitate him; his
dependants, feeling his influence, will walk in his footsteps. Even his
neighbors cannot look upon his sin without being in some measure infected
by it, for “the thought of evil is sin.” There is a fierce contiguousness
in every form of moral evil; like fire among stubble it spreads most rapidly.
The disease of sin is deep-seated, and has its throne in the heart. It does not lie in the hand or foot, it is not to be removed by amputation, much less by outward applications; no lancet can reach it, it is impossible to cauterize it. The skill of physician can often extract the roots of disease, but no skill can ever reach this. It has entered the marrow, the very core and center of our being, and only the Divine one is able to purge us from it. “No outward forms can make me clean The leprosy lies deep within.” It is in its own nature wholly incurable. “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?” If so, then can he that is accustomed to do evil learn to do well. Can a brine fountain send forth sweet waters? Shall the thorn suddenly yield olives? Can the cataract which has been for ever dashing down the steep, reverse its course and return towards the river-head? Shall fire suddenly become gentle and lose its consuming power while the fuel is round about it? Shall the lion of himself eat straw like the ox? Shall the leopard bleat like a lamb? Such changes, being changes or nature, are only to be wrought by divine strength; and so it is not possible for the disease of sin ever to be cared by any human remedies. Man cannot cure himself. He may reform, He may drive the disease inward, and prevent its coming out upon the skin; He may so model, and guide, and restrain himself, that the coarser forms of sin which are condemned among men may not appear in him; but the virus, the essential poison of sin, no man can ever extract from his own heart, nor can another man do it for him. Jehovah Rophi, the healing Lord, must manifest his omnipotent power. The utmost religiousness, the most devout prayers, the greatest possible circumspection, will not avail to remove the taint of sin, if they spring from an unrenewed heart. The carnal mind is enmity against God, and is not reconciled to God, neither, indeed, can it be.
And so, let us close the story of this sickness of sin, by observing that it is a mortal disease. It kills not just now, but it will kill ere long. Not merely shall the body die as the result of sin, but the soul must be killed for ever with eternal wrath. O sinner, thou little knowest what thy sin will bring thee to; but if thou wilt read in God’s Word, thou shalt discover that it will bring thee to the worm that never dies, and to the fire that never can be quenched. Perhaps to-morrow thou mayest know what a full-blown sin is; perhaps to-morrow, I said — that word may be prophetic to some of you — but if not to-morrow, it is but a matter of time, a few months, more or less, and you will be in torment. Sin, when it is ripened, bringeth forth death and damnation. Oh! thou dost not know what that word “to be damned” means! Thou canst play with it sometimes, and lightly hurl it at thy fellow creatures; but couldst thou only once hear the shriek of a damned soul, couldst thou only once see a spirit cast out from the presence of God into eternal misery, surely it would compel thee to cry, “What must I do to be saved.” Enough of this: it is clear that there is a very excellent parallel to be drawn between sin and disease. Humbling as it is, yet the fact is nevertheless most certain, that we are all suffering under the disease of sin.
II. But now, secondly,
IT PLEASES DIVINE MERCY TO GIVE TO CHRIST
Having deigned to consider
sin as a disease, which is a great proof of mercy, it now graciously confers
upon Christ the character of a physician. Be it for ever understood that
Jesus Christ never came into the world merely to explain what sin is. Moses
had for his mission the exposition of sin, Christ has for his mission the
eradication of it. We know what sin is through the law: that is as much
as the law can do for us. Christ comes, not merely to tell us what it is,
but to inform us how it can he removed. Jesus did not come to apologize
for sin; Christ never died in order that sin might
When a physician presents himself, one of the first enquiries is, “Is, he a regular practitioner? Has he a right to practice? Has he a diploma?” Very properly, the law requires that a man shall not be allowed to hack our bodies and poison us with drugs at his own pleasure without having at least a show of knowing what he is at. It has been tartly said that “a doctor is a man who pours drugs, of which he knows little, into a body of which he knows still less.” I fear that is often the case. Still a diploma is the best safeguard mortals have devised. Christ has the best authority for practising as a Physician. He has a divine diploma. Would you like to see his diploma? I will read you a few words of it: it comes from the highest authority, not from the College of Physicians, but from the God of Physicians. Here are the words of it in the sixty-first chapter of Isaiah. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek. He hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted.” He has a diploma for binding up broken hearts. I should not like to trust myself to a physician who was a mere self-dubbed doctor who could not show any authorization; I must have him know as much as a man can know, little as I believe that will probably be. He must have a diploma; it must be signed and sealed too, and be in a regular manner, for few sensible men will risk their lives with ignorant quacks. Now Jesus Christ has his diploma and there it is — God hath sent him to bind up the brokenhearted.
The next thing you want in a physician is education; you want to know that he is thoroughly qualified; he must have walked the hospitals. And certainly our Lord Jesus Christ has done so. What form of disease did he not meet with? When he was here among men it pleased God to let the devil loose, in order that there might be more than usual venom in the veins of poor diseased manhood; and Christ met the devil at his darkest hour and fought with the great enemy when he had full liberty to do his worst with him. Jesus did indeed enter into the woes of men. Walked the hospital! Why the whole world was an infirmary, and Christ the one only physician, going from couch to couch, healing the sons of men. Something more be it observed, may be said of him, he is experimentally as well as by education qualified in the healing art. I have heard of a celebrated physician that he was wont to try the effect of his medicines upon himself. This has been done in our Masters case. There is not a single disease which he does not know experimentally, for he himself took our sicknesses and infirmities. He was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin. He knows his patient’s case by having passed through the case himself. There is no brokenness of heart, there is no grief of soul which Jesus Christ has not himself participated in; and though you may say he knows not sin in its infection, yet he knows sin in its imputation, and is, by having suffered all its penalties, perfectly well acquainted with it.
One likes a physician, too, who has a wide practice. One does not care for a man’s merely understanding his tools; we like to know whether he has used them, and whether he has been successful in his art. Blessed he the name of the beloved Physician! he has the widest imaginable practice. These eighteen hundred years he has been healing sin-sick souls — what am I saying? — these six thousand years he has been “mighty to save;” for before he bodily gave himself to the cross, the virtue of the medicine of his own blood had begun to operate upon the sons of men. O souls, ye may see in heaven the multitudes whom he has healed. There, before the eternal throne, you may view the myriads who have been delivered from all sorts of diseases through the power and virtue of his touch. You need not fear to trust yourselves in his hands, for even the hem of his garment healeth our diseases.
To sum up the virtues
of this Physician in a very few words: His cures are very speedy — there
is life in a look at him; his cures are radical — he strikes at the very
center of the disease, and hence his cures are very sure and certain. He
never fails, and the disease never returns. There is no
III. I cannot, however, tarry longer on that point, but come to the third, which is the main one that I am driving at; namely, THAT NEED IS THAT ALONE WHICH MOVES OUR GRACIOUS PHYSICIAN TO COME TO OUR AID.
He says, “They that are whole need not a physician,” and you will see the natural conclusion from his line of reasoning is, “I do not go to the whole, because they do not need me; I go to the sick because they do need me; the reason why I go anywhere is because I am needed.” I believe, dear friends, though doubtless there are some exceptions, that if you were to take the medical profession through, you would perceive larger-heartedness, and more humanity there than almost anywhere; and you would find that there is scarcely a physician, certainly none known to me, who would, if he had two urgent cases to consider, make any distinction between the two, except that he would give his first attention to the sufferer who needed him most. Of course if the matters are both trivial, common sense allows a man to select that which will best remunerate him for his skill, but in imminently dangerous cases, necessity decides. The true physician is born with a physician’s heart, and feels for the woes of his fellow men; and, though a man has obtained a diploma, he is no physician, and ought not to practice if his soul is not in his work, and his heart full of benevolence to the afflicted. The true physician having a sympathy and an intense desire to be of service, if there be two persons requiring him, would say, “This is in the more imminent danger, I shall go there first.”
Now what is most certainly
only fair to acknowledge concerning human physicians, we must admit with
a far greater cogency concerning the great physician of souls. If there
were two sinners both perishing, and Christ were not able to save at the
same moment more than one, he would go to that one first which needed him
most. This is his rule. He acts according to sovereignty, but that sovereignty
is under the control of his own infinite, mercy, and if he hears a cry
from two hearts to-day, if he should give any preference, the preference
would be given to that which was the cry of the most lost, the most abject,
the most needy sinner. Now think this over and you will see that it is
true, and most consolatory. What was it made Christ a physician at all?
Was is not because men were sick with sin? Suppose they had been perfect,
would Christ have ever been a Savior if men had not been lost? Brethren,
it would have been a work of supererogation; it would have been a folly,
a monstrous folly, on his part, to undertake an office which was not required
of him. It is sin which makes room for his work as a Savior. I say it —
you will understand me — he is only a Savior because there are sinners,
and his Saviorship is based upon our sinnership. He takes that position
because he is wanted. Again, what was the main thought which was upon him
when he was compounding his great medicine? What was it made him shed great
drops of blood? Was it human guilt, or human merit, think you? Why guilt,
and guilt alone. What made him give his back to the scourgers, and his
cheeks, to the smiters? What made him stretch his arms to the cross and
give his feet to the nails? What made him bear the unsufferable wrath of
Almighty God? Was it man’s goodness? Why you cannot think of such a thing;
it was human vileness, villany,
As I see then Christ in his
great surgery, compounding the Almighty medicine which is to expel the
disease from the veins of humanity, I see him every moment thinking of
sin! sin! sin! Man’s sin makes him die. And now that he is in heaven, beloved,
what is it that Christ is thinking of there? “He maketh intercession” —
what, for? For the righteous? If they were self-righteous, perfectly righteous,
they would not need intercession from him. “He maketh intercession for
the transgressors.” He is exalted on high — what for? To reward the good?
Nay, verily, but to give repentance and remission of sins — evidently to
those who have no repentance and whose sins have need to be forgiven. Up
in heaven, Christ still has his eye upon sinners — sinners are the jewels
whom he seeks. Where, again, was Jesus Christ when he was on earth? Did
he not spend the most of his time among sinners? Was he not always dealing
out healing to the sick, life to
Need, need, need alone quickens the physician’s footsteps, bringing Jesus from the throne of glory to the cross, and in his spiritual power, bringing him every day from the throne of his Father down to broken-hearted heavy-laden souls. Now, this is very plain talking, and you all receive it, but still the most of people do not understand it. A minister, when he had done preaching in a country village, said to a farm-laborer who had been listening to him, “Do you think Jesus Christ died to save good people, or bad people?” “Well, sir,” said the man, “I should say he died to save good people.” “But did he die to save bad people?” “No, sir; no, certainly not, sir.” “Well, then, what will become of you and me?” “Well, sir, I do not know. I dare say you be pretty good, sir; and I try to be as good as I can.” That is just the common doctrine; and after all, though we think it has died out among us, that is the religion of ninety-nine English people out of every hundred who know nothing of divine grace: we are to be as good as we can; we are to go to church or to chapel, and do all that we can, and then Jesus Christ died for us, and we shall be saved. Whereas the gospel is that he did not do anything at all for people who can rely on themselves, but gave himself for lost and ruined ones. He did not come into the world to save self-righteous people; on their own showing, they do not want to be saved. He comes because we need him, and therefore he comes only to those who need him; and if we do not need him, and are such good respectable people, we must find our own way to heaven. Need, need alone, is that which quickens the physician’s footsteps.
IV. We therefore come to another point, upon which we shall not stay many minutes. It follows, therefore, and the text positively asserts it, that THE WHOLE — THAT THOSE WHO HAVE NO GREAT NEED — NO NEED AT ALL, WILL BE UNAIDED BY CHRIST.
OF course they ought to be
left alone. No physician in his senses thinks of sending a prescription,
no surgeon thinks of sending his bottles and his boxes of pills to people
who profess to be perfectly well. The prescription would be put into the
fire and the physic thrown in the streets — the man
And that truly is the treatment
Jesus Christ gets from a great many people. You hear them say,
V. To conclude, it follows then, that THOSE WHO ARE SICK SHALL BE HELPED BY JESUS.
Let the question go round
these galleries and this area
-Administrator, News For Christians Dot Com
Back to Index Page