WHO ARE ‘THE WHOLE’ AND WHO ARE ‘THE SICK’?
“They that are whole (healthy) have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance!” [Mark 2:17]
Let us look, then, at the character pointed out in the text by the expression, “THE WHOLE.” I need scarcely say, that the word naturally means a person healthy, strong, and vigorous; one untainted by sickness or disease; one in all the enjoyment of robust health, without any constitutional ailment or bodily affliction. Now it is a truth, naturally, that such people “need not a physician.” They are not in circumstances to require such aid; their vigorous health, their robust constitution, their freedom from all disease, give them perfect liberty to dispense with the services of medical skill.
From this comparison we may easily gather who are “the whole,” in a spiritual sense. Those who have never received any wound in their conscience, who have never felt sick unto death, WHO HAVE NEVER GROANED AND SUFFERED UNDER THE DISEASE OF SIN.
But who are these hearty and healthy people? All men in a state of unregeneracy; all in whose hearts the Spirit of God has not begun His quickening work. These are called “whole,” – not as really and actually free from taint or infection – for in the sight of God they are one mass of disease; but they are called “whole” in the text, because they feel and know nothing, spiritually and experimentally, of sickness. They are not healthy in the sight of God, but in their own sight – for “their eyes stand out with fatness,” and they are not “plagued with sickness like other men.” Psalm 73:5,7
If we look a little more closely at these characters, we shall find them divided into two grand classes – THOSE DEAD IN SIN, and those dead in a profession. As never plagued with the sickness of sin, both of these characters may be said to be “whole.”
Look, for instance, at men generally – say, those you have daily to associate with, whose conscience God has not touched with His finger. Is there any sigh, any cry, any groan, any sorrow for sin ever manifested by them? Are they not light, trifling, and frivolous; or, if settled and sober, altogether buried in the things of time and sense? Do you ever witness anything in them, that shows they have the least concern for their immortal souls? Are they not evidently dead in sin – so dead as not to have one thought for the future, one solemn feeling of eternity?
And is there not a large class of PROFESSORS, who are as DEAD IN FORMALITY as the others in transgression, though they may have a name to live? But what is the grand distinguishing mark of both? Is it not that they are “whole?” They have never felt any inward sickness or running sore; they have never been wounded by the arrows of God shot into their conscience; they have never had the ill-conditioned ulcers and deep abscesses of human nature laid open by the keen dissecting knife of the great Anatomist; nor have they ever been brought down to sigh and groan under a body of sin and death. “Their strength is firm.” Their “face is covered with fatness, and the bundles of fat are on their flanks;” their “breasts are full of milk, and their bones are moistened with marrow.” Psalm 73:4 Job 15:27 Job 21:24
Now, however heady, high-minded, presumptuous people may despise the groans and sighs of God’s sin-sick people, and the feeling acquaintance that each rightly-taught man has with his own sore, and his own grief; or whatever ridicule may be poured out upon the trials which God’s children experience when the internal plague of corruption is felt, it is a solemn truth, in spite of all contempt or ridicule, that “the whole need not a physician.” And it is equally true, let them speak of Christ as much as they may, that there can be no spiritual communion with the great Physician, Jehovah-rophi (the Lord, the Healer), unless there be some inward wound or sickness of soul felt, so as to make them desire healing from His blessed hands.
“The whole need not a physician;” they need no visits from Jesus, no smile from His loving countenance, no balm from His tender hands, no cure from His gracious lips. They may know from the Bible that there is such a Person as Christ, just as a healthy man may know that some celebrated physician lives in such a street; but as to any personal application to Him, any sighing at His gracious footstool, any showing before Him their sickness, any laying down their broken bones or bruised consciences at His door, they can know nothing of it, because they are “whole.” Still less can they know the efficacy of His balmy blood sprinkled on their conscience; still less the spiritual experience contained in those words, “He makes sore, and binds up; he wounds, and his hands make whole” Job 5:18; “Who heals all your diseases.” Psalm 103:3 And how can those who despise or ridicule all experience, know anything spiritually of Jesus? For they are “whole;” and being “whole” they “need not a physician.”
No one knows anything spiritually and experimentally of soul sickness, until God the Spirit quickens him from a death in sin. Then for the first time a wound is made in his conscience by an arrow shot from the bow of the Almighty. Now spiritually, as well as naturally, when a man is groaning and languishing under a wound, will he not anxiously desire a surgeon to bind it up? Let a man meet with what is called an accident; let him fall from a ladder, or be run over by a carriage. Will not the bystanders gather together in a moment, and take him off to a hospital? And even the poor man himself, if he retains his senses, is glad to be taken there as soon as possible. But what has made the laborer, who just before was standing careless upon the scaffold, now all pale and trembling upon a stretcher, crying to be taken to the surgeon? Is it not the broken rib or fractured limb that in a moment has produced the change?
So spiritually, there was a time when the vessel of mercy ridiculed spiritual things, cared for neither heaven nor hell, nor had one pang of concern about his immortal state; but the wound came, the bones were broken, distress of mind followed, and the soul pined and languished away, fearing the “second death.” But no sooner was this felt, than a Physician was wanted, one able and willing to heal. At first, perhaps, through ignorance, he looked out and sought after “physicians of no value,” running here and there for ease, and not seeking only to the Lord. But, sooner or later, being baffled in all his attempts to find relief from human help, he is brought to apply to “Jehovah, who heals you” Ex 15:26; and finds there is “balm in Gilead,” and a “physician there.”
But the Lord’s people are not merely wounded by the arrows of God sticking in their conscience; THEY HAVE ALSO TO BE LED INTO THE DEEP DEPRAVITY OF THEIR FALLEN NATURE, THE DESPERATE WICKEDNESS OF THEIR EVIL HEART. We may class spiritual patients under two heads – those that are wounded and need the surgeon – and those that are sick and need the physician. And generally speaking, we need the first before the second, and have to go to the surgeon before we go to the dispensary. Thus usually, we know but little of our dreadful depravity, when the Lord first takes us in hand; the fountains of the great deep are not then broken up; the desperate unbelief, enmity, rebellion, perverseness, pride, hypocrisy, uncleanness, and all the other vile corruptions of our heart are not at first opened up and brought to light.
But as the Lord leads the soul on, He opens up by degrees the desperate corruption and depravity of our nature, and unfolds the hidden evils of our heart, which before were covered from our view. It is with us as it was with the Prophet. The Lord led him into one chamber after another; and when his astonishment increased at what he saw there, He said unto him, “Turn yet again, and you shall see greater abominations than these.” Ezekiel 8:15 But as the Lord leads us into a knowledge of our depravity, He makes us to feel sick at heart, and thus we come into the state of feeling described by the prophet Isaiah – “The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores.” Isaiah 1:5,6 And as we are led into a knowledge of our sinfulness, and groan under it, we feel more and more a burden of shame and sorrow on account of it; and the more deeply and daily that this is felt, the more deeply and daily do we find our need of the great Physician.
All the Lord’s dealings with our souls are that He may exalt His dear Son in our hearts, that we may have all the shame, and Jesus all the glory; and therefore, all this deep and daily discovery of our depravity is eventually to bring greater glory to the Son of God. The deeper we sink into shame and guilt, under the knowledge of the depravity of our nature, the more do we seek unto, feel the power, and prize the love, blood, grace, and preciousness of the Lord Jesus. Every fresh discovery of our vile nature, when the Lord is pleased to bring the savor of Jesus’ name, like the ointment poured forth, into the conscience, serves only instrumentally to increase our faith and affection towards Him; and thus the deeper we sink in self, the higher the Lord Jesus rises in our soul’s admiration and adoration.
But to make us more and more dependent upon Jesus, the Lord, by His teachings, leads us usually into a knowledge of our backsliding and idolatrous nature. And O, what a backsliding and idolatrous heart do we carry in our bosom, and how perpetually does it make us sigh and groan! Is there anything too vile for our depraved nature not to lust after? Is there anything too base which our hearts will not imagine? Are there any puddles, which, if God left us to ourselves, we would not grovel in? As we are brought more to feel the workings of this base backsliding heart, and have the burden of it more laid upon our conscience, the more sick are we at heart, and the more is the disease felt to be in the very vitals. We sigh and groan because we are so vile – for we would be far otherwise. In our right mind, we would be in the fear of the Lord all the day long, and would never do a single thing inconsistent with the precepts of the gospel – we would never say a word that the Lord would disapprove of – would always walk in faith, hope, and love – and would continually be spiritual and heavenly-minded.
But alas, this is what we cannot attain unto. Our eye is caught by every passing vanity, our carnal minds rove after forbidden things, and our vile heart will still commit villainy. And as the conscience is made tender – and if it be not so, the fear of God is not there – and as the soul is led into a deeper acquaintance with the spirituality of God’s character and the purity of His nature, and as a deeper and clearer knowledge of Jesus in all His covenant relationship is gained, the more it is felt to be an evil and bitter thing to depart from “the Fountain of living waters.”
But there is, after all, one class only of people that this great Physician admits as patients. In this metropolis, you know, there are hospitals for different diseases; and a man afflicted with one disease must not go to an infirmary intended for another. The consumptive patient must go to the hospital for diseases of the chest; the man suffering from typhus fever must be taken to the fever hospital – and the sufferer from inflamed eyes must go to the Opthalmic institution. So spiritually, the Lord’s Hospital,”Christ’s Hospital” – if I may use the expression without irreverence – IS ONLY FOR INCURABLES; and until every other hospital refuses us admission, or turns us out as hopeless cases, the Lord does not admit us as patients. It is like a man with a fever going for admittance to the consumptive hospital. They would say, “You are not the patient for us; people with your disease are not admitted here.” So spiritually, THE LORD’S DISPENSARY IS ONLY FOR INCURABLES, whom every other hospital rejects; and as long as we, like Asa, seek to other physicians, we are not admitted into His sick wards.
The leprosy was an incurable disease. So experimentally, until the disease of sin gets so desperate as to be past the help of all human skill, past our own healing, and all healing from others, we will not seek unto, and I am sure we cannot find, the great Physician. A great part, an important part of the Spirit’s work, is to bring men into this state; for we read, “The Lord kills, and makes alive; he brings down to the grave, and brings up.” 1 Sam 2:6,7 And what is “to kill,” and “bring down to the grave,” but to render a man incurable? Not that God is the author of sin – God forbid. He does not work sin in us, but discovers it as already there; and shows us what we are, by bringing light and life into the conscience; so that in His light we see, and in His life we feel, and groan over the malady of sin thus made manifest.
Now many of God’s people are on the way to this free hospital; but they are not admissible yet; not deeply sunk enough into the disease yet; it has not yet laid hold of their vitals, not yet spread its deep roots into their conscience. Like the first commencement of a cancer, or of a consumption, the symptoms may be discoverable, but the disease has as yet not spread into the whole constitution. But like the two fatal diseases I have named, the felt malady of sin will spread and extend until the soul becomes incurable – and the more this is seen and experienced, the more urgently will a man seek, and the sooner will he find, the great Physician.
Read the full sermon – http://www.gracegems.org/sin_sick_soul.htm