By Horatius Bonar
"I said, Lord, be merciful unto me: heal my soul; for I have sinned against Thee." -- Psalm 41:4
THIS is the cry of the needy; of him who has no helper; of him who in the time of trouble finds that there is no refuge but in God. It is the cry from the soul's sickbed,--more terrible than the sickbed of the body,--to the divine Physician, for the application of his heavenly skill and medicine. It tells us--
I. Sin is the soul's sickness. It is an infinite evil; the evil of evils, in comparison with which mere pain is nothing. The end of all bodily sickness, if allowed to run its course, would be death temporal; so the end of all sin, if unarrested, would be death eternal. It is infinitely varied in its nature, though comprehended under some general descriptions, and capable of being classified under certain heads. All the diseases, or shades of disease, of the body, are but types of the awful varieties of sin. Palsy, leprosy, fever, blindness, and the like, are symbols of sin. The whole head is sick, and the whole heart is faint. There is the disease of unbelief, of impenitence, of lust, of enmity to God, of pride, of worldliness, &c.; all these have penetrated our spiritual system, and destroyed our spiritual health. Not that sin is mere disease or misfortune, to be got quit of gradually by a healthy regimen, or diet, or medicine; to be wrought out of the constitution by human skill and effort. It is guilt as well as sickness, to be dealt with by the Judge as much as the physician; nay, by the Judge first, before the physician can touch it,--for as the order of the evil was first, the guilt and then the disease following thereon, so the order of the remedy is first the pardon and then the health.
II. God is the soul's Healer. Whether we look at sin as disease or as guilt, or as both together, we find that in regard to it we must deal with God alone. The medicine, the skill, the pardon, the deliverance, are in His hands. With no other must we transact in the matter of sin's removal; not with self, or man, or the flesh, or the church, or a creed, or a priest, but with God himself; and that directly, face to face, alone, without any medium or intervention. All others are physicians of no value. They heal not at all, or they heal slightly, or they increase and irritate the disease. Health is with God alone. He heals effectually and eternally. He who is the soul's life is also the soul's health. Whatever be the sickness, deep or slight, of long or brief standing, connected with the eye, the ear, the hand, the feet, the head, or the whole spiritual being, the counsel which must be given to the sick soul is, Go straight to God; deal with Him, and let Him deal with you.
III. God is most willing that the soul should be healed. He has no pleasure in our sickness or death; His desire is that we should live and be in health. Our sickness is not of Him, but of ourselves, just as truly as our health is not of ourselves, but of Him. Yet He loves not the evil of His creatures; He desires their good, not their evil. Why, then, does He allow sickness and death? For infinitely wise reasons, of which you and I know nothing, but which will be known sooner or later. Yet our present ignorance should not lead us to deny the sincerity of God's desire for our welfare. The two things will be found perfectly reconcilable, and both equally true. Let us not take up with one-sided truth, but let us receive both sides, according to the divine revelation, whatever our perplexed minds may argue.
IV. God has made provision for the soul's healing. The disease was so thoroughly beyond human skill that none but God could undertake the cure. He has undertaken it; He has provided the means, He has sent the physician. The medicine is the cross. There is forgiveness which is indispensable as the commencement of the cure; righteous forgiveness through the death of the Surety. At and with the cross the cure begins, and begins by the pardon of the sinner. But pardon is not the whole. There is fear, trouble, disquietude, weariness, darkness, and such like. For these also the cross provides. And with the medicine there is the Physician Himself, Christ Jesus; or rather there is Christ and the Holy Spirit, Christ dispensing the Spirit, and the Spirit revealing Christ. The power and the skill are in their hands. They apply the divine provision. So that everything pertaining to the healing of the soul is truly divine. Hear the Lord's own declaration regarding this, "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up," &c. We ask then,
(1.) Hast thou been healed? If so, give God the glory. Assuredly the health came not from man, but from the love and power of God, from the cross of Christ, from the hand of the Holy Ghost.
(2.) Wilt thou be made whole? Perhaps thou art still unhealed? Be it so. The cross is here for healing; look and be cured, look and be saved, look and be forgiven. It is not working, or buying, or deserving, but simply looking. The sight of the cross is pardon, and health, and life. The leaves of this tree are for the healing of the nations.
(3.) Canst thou do without healing? Is thy wound so slight, thy disease so trivial, that thou canst do without the cross, and that thou canst heal thyself? Or though unhealed dost thou think thou canst go on as thou art, well enough, without health? Suppose thou couldst in this world, what of the world to come? Tossed upon an eternal sick-bed, think of that! Eternal disease pervading body and soul, think of that! Oh, look and be healed! Make at once the application of our text, "Heal my soul, for I have sinned against thee."