What are the duties and privileges of the Christian when he falls ill? First, endeavor to ascertain the occasion and cause of his sickness. As intimated in the previous chapters, many physical ailments are due to inattention unto the most simple and obvious rules of hygiene. Much illness is brought about by our own carelessness and folly. Those guilty of gluttony are inviting trouble. But there are various forms of gluttony as well as degrees thereof. There is an intemperance of quality as well as of quantity. They who disdain plain and wholesome food, and who concentrate principally on fancy things and a rich diet must not be surprised if their systems become upset; in such cases a two or three days' complete fast, followed by a return to a simpler and saner mode of living, is the best remedy. Those with weak chests should not needlessly expose themselves to the night air. Wet shoes are to be removed as soon as possible if colds are to be avoided. If we ignore the dictates common prudence then we may easily discover what has injured and how to correct it.
But suppose upon careful reflection we are unable to trace our present ill health to any physical neglect or folly, then what are we to do? Seek to ascertain the moral cause thereof. "Let us search and try our ways" (Lam. 3:40), making an honest endeavor to find out what it is which has grieved the Spirit. If conscience be allowed to do her work the probability is we shall soon be made aware that there is an Achan in our camp, an Achan which must be dealt with unsparingly if we are to enjoy the smile of the Lord again. If we have set up some idol it must be thrown down; if we have indulged some lust it must be mortified: if we have entered a forbidden path it must be forsaken: if we have willfully departed from some path of duty it must be returned unto, otherwise "some worse thing" is likely to come upon us. All known sins must be judged, mourned over, confessed in detail unto God: "I said I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord, and Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin" (Ps. 32:5).
But suppose after an honest and careful review of my ways conscience does not convict me of any particular sin, then what must I do? Prayerfully seek the help of the Holy Spirit. Get down before the Lord and cry "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Ps. 139:23, 24). Though there may be nothing in my outward conduct for which the Lord is chastising me, yet it is likely there is something within against which He is intimating His displeasure and for which He requires me to humble myself. A spirit of selfishness, the allowing of pride, the workings of self-will, the stirrings of rebellion when Divine Providence crosses me, the exercise of self-righteousness, may be the plague-spot of my soul which needs purging. In the rush and pressure of every-day life the "little foxes which spoil the vines" (Song of Sol. 2:15) are apt to be neglected, and if we are careless then we must not be surprised if we are placed on our backs for a season, that there may be time for reflection and opportunity for closer dealings between the soul and God, that the hidden things of darkness may be brought out into the light and faithfully dealt with.