edge, and consequently unteachable; the other ignorant too, but sensible of it, and, therefore, desirous of instruction : suppose he should turn from the self-conceited creature, and carry on conversation with the other, who was likely to profit by it ; and suppose the former should resent it, and say, “If he were indeed a scholar, as he pretends to be, he would not be fond of the society of such an ignorant dunce, but would rather choose me for a companion." How properly might a teacher reply, “ O ! you are a wise man ; and have no need of my instruction '; and, therefore, as a teacher, I have no business with you ; but this poor, ignorant creature is sensible of his want of instruction ;and, therefore, it is most fit I should converse with him." Such a reply has a peculiar pungency and mortifying force in it; and such Jesus used in the case before us.

To give a fuller view of this text, and to adapt it to practical purposes, I intend to describe the characters of those that are whole, and of those that are sick, in the senses here intended.

There are none of the sons of men who are really whole. Their souls are all diseased; for all have sinned, and there is none righteous, no, not one. And perhaps there are none upon earth so proud, and so ignorant of themselves, as to affirm in so. many words, that they are whole ; that is, “perfectly right eous.”—Therefore, by the whole, cannot be meant either those : who are really free from all sin, or those who imagine themselves entirely free from it. It does not appear that even the proud Pharisees were capable of flattering themselves so far. But by the whole, are meant those who are indeed guilty, depraved sinners, and who are ready to make a superficial confession in words that they are sinners, but continue secure and impenitent, insen- : sible of their guilt, their corruption, their danger, and their need of a Saviour ; that is, those who are really sick, and dangerously ill, and yet are as easy, as unapprehensive of danger, as careless about applying to the physician, as if nothing ailed them. disease is of a lethargic nature, and stupifies the unhappy creatures, so that they are not sensible of it. It renders them delirious, so that they think themselves well, when the symptoms of death are strong upon them. What multitudes of such may we : see in the world! The word of God pronounces them dangerously ill; their friends may see the most deadly symptoms upon them : but alas ! they are stupidly insensible of their own case. Jesus, the divine Physician, warns them of their danger, offers

them his help, and prescribes to them the infallible means of recovery ; but they disregard his warnings, neglect his grácious offer, and refuse to submit to his prescriptions. This is the general character of those that are whole, in the sense of my text.

By the sick, are meant those who like the former, are really guilty, corrupt sinners, in extreme need of a Saviour, and who readily confess they are such ; but here lies the difference, they are not only such in reality, and they not only acknowledge that they are such, but they are deeply sensible of it, they are tenderly affected with their case : their temper and conduct, their thoughts of themselves and of Jesus Christ, their designs and endeavours are such as are natural to a soul sensibly sick of sin, and such as bear a resemblance to those of a person sick in body, and using all means for a recovery. It is the characteristic of this class of sinners, not that they are less holy, or in more danger, than others; but that they are more sensible of their condition, and more solicitous and laborious about deliverance. They feel themselves disordered ; they put themselves under the care of Jesus, the only Physician of souls ; they submit to his prescriptions, and use all means for their recovery to soundness of mind, from the deadly disease of sin. This is the general character of the sick, in the sense of my text ; but it is necessary I should descend to particulars:

The particular characters of the whole and the sick, in contrast, are such as these :

1. He that is whole has never had a clear affecting sight and sense of sin ; but he that is sick is fully convicted, and deeply sensible of it. The one has only a general, superficial, unaffecting conviction, that he a sinner : that he has not been so good as he sliould have been ; that his heart is somewhat disordered : and especially that he has been guilty of sundry bad actions. But, alas ; he neither sees his sinfulness in its full extent, nor is suitably affected with that little of it he sees. He does not clearly see the entire and universal corruption of his heart, and the numberless principles and seeds of sin that are there ; the blindness of his mind as to divine things; the secret disaffection of his heart towards God and holiness ; the carnality of his mind, and his lukewarmness and formality in the duties of religion. He may have a transient glance, a superficial view of these things; but he has not a deep settled conviction of them ; nor is he suitably affected VOL. II.


Sin apo

with what he knows of his own sinfulness. It does not appear to him such a mighty matter to have such a disordered heart towards God, to have dropped a forbidden word now and then, or to have committed a few bad actions ; few, I say, for so they appear to him, though repeated times and ways beyond number. pears to him a trifling peccadillo, a small evil, and he has a thou. sand excuses to make for it. Hence he is as easy, as careless, as presumptuous in his bopes, as if he believed he did not really deserve punishment from a righteous God, and therefore was in no danger. Though the leprosy of sin spreads ever so wide, and breaks out into ever so many putrid and mortifying sores, yet he is easy and secure, and insensible of the disease. Thus, like a man in health, he is unconcerned, and neither apprehends himself sick, nor uses the least means for his recovery.

O! what multitudes of such are among us! They will confess themselves sinners, with ag little concern as if they were quite free from sin, or as if they thought there was little or no danger in it.

But is it so with the poor sick sinner? O! no: he sees, he feels that his whole head is sick, and his whole heart faint, and that from the crown of the head, even unto the sole of the foot, there are nothing but wounds, bruises, and putrifying sores. He feels the plague of a hard senseless heart, and the secret springs of wickedness within him. He feels that sin bas enfeebled all his powers, and that he is no more able to exert them in religious endeavours, than a sick man is to employ himself in active life. O ! into what a consternation is the sinner struck, when he is awakened out of his lethargic security, and his eyes are opened to see himself in a just light! He had Aattered himself that he had a good constitution of soul, and that little or nothing ailed him ; but now, he is surprised to see the strong symptoms of spiritual death upon him.

Suppose some of you, who have come here to-day vigorous and healthy, should suddenly discover the spots of a plague broken out all over you, how would it strike you with surprise and hor. ror ! Such is the surprise and horror of the awakened sinner ; thus is he alarmed and amazed. So clear are his views of his entire and universal depravity, and imminent danger, that he is utterly astonished he was so stupid as never to discover it before. Now also he has a deep sense of the evil of sin : he not only sees himself universally disordered, but he sees, he feels the disorder to be deadly: sin now appears to him the greatest evil upon earth,

or even in hell. O ! how worthy of the severest vengeance from a righteous God! how contrary to the divine purity! how base, how ungrateful a violation of the most strong and endearing obligations ! how destructive to the soul, not only according to the penalty of the divine law, but in its own native tendency! During the progress of the christian life, he feels himself recovering a little, though very slowly, while he follows the prescriptions of his divine physician, and receives healing influences from him. He feels his enfeebled soul gathering a little strength ; his vitiated taste gradually corrected ; and the welcome symptoms of returning health ; but 0 ! he is sensibly sick still. The cure is not complete in this world ; but the remains of his old disorder hang upon him all his life, and he is subject to many dangerous relapses, in which it gathers new strength, and he is afraid it is incurable.

2. They that are whole are generally easy and secure, and unapprehensive of danger ; but the sick soul is alarmed and anxious : and cannot be easy, till it perceives some appearances of recovery.

He that is whole, is benumbed with a stupid insensibility ; but he that is sick is in pain from the disease of sin, which he sensi. bly feels.

The one can walk about merry and thoughtless, with a hard depraved heart within him ; the other is perpetually uneasy, and, like a sick man, has no taste for any thing while he feels such a heart within him. If the one is anxious, it is with some worldly care ; if the other is anxious, it is chiefly for the recovery of his dying soul. The one can give himself up to business, or pleasure, or idleness, as a man in health, and at ease ; the other is apprehensive that his soul is in great danger; and, like a sick man, gives up his eager pursuits, till he sees whether he is likely to recover. He is alarmed with the deadly consequences of sin, as it exposes him to the wrath of God, the loss of heaven, and all the miseries of the infernal world. But this is not all that distresses him ; he considers sin, in itself, as a loathsome disease, and is pained with its present effects upon him. As a sick man is not only alarmed at the consequence of his disease, namely, death, but considers it as a present pain, and as depriving him of the present comforts of life; so the sick soul feels sin as a loathsome, painful disease, that now deprives it of the exalted pleasures of religion, and renders it incapable of serving its God with vigour and life. This indisposition of soul for the exercises of religion, is, in itself, a constant uneasiness to him who is spiritually sick. How strongly does St. Paul represent the case, when he cries out, O! wretched man that I am ! who shall deliver me from the body of this death ? Rom. vii. 24. The image seems to be that of a living man walking about with a rot. ten, nauseous carcass tied fast to him, which oppresses bim, and he cannot, with all his efforts, cast it off ; but it lies heavy upon him wherever he goes : which constrains him to cry out, “O! who shall deliver me from this dead body?” This is the character of the soul sick of sin. But he that is whole hath little or no uneasiness upon this account. If he is alarmed at all, it is with the consequence of sin ; his slavish soul fears nothing but the punishment. As for the disease itself, it is so far from giving him uneasiness, that he is in love with it. It affords bim sensations of pleasure, rather than of pain, and he rather dreads a recovery, than the continuance of the disorder. Sin has intoxicated him to such a degree, that holiness, which is the health of the soul, is disagreeable to him, and he would rather continue languishing than recover.

My brethren, you can easily distinguish between sickness and health of body ; and you are very ready to do it. And will you not inquire what state your souls are in ? whether they are sens sible of their sickness, and in a way of recovery? or whether they are stupified, or made delirious by the disorder, insensible of their danger, and unsolicitous about their recovery? I pray you examine yourselves in these particulars.

3. They that are whole are unwilling to apply to a physician, or to follow his prescriptions ; but to the sick a physician is most welcome, and they will submit to his directions, however self-denying and mortifying. This is the point my text has particularly in view, and therefore we must take particular notice of it.

They that are in health have no regard to a physician, as such : they neither send for him, nor will they accept of his help, if offered gratis : they look upon the best of medicines with neglect, as of no use or importance to them : the prescriptions proper to the sick they hear with indifference, as not being concerned. Thus it is with thousands, who imagine themselves whole in spirit. The Lord Jesus exhibits himself to the sons of men under the character of a physician ; the gospel makes a free offer of his assistance to all sick souls that will freely accept it. And what

« ElőzőTovább »