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that was with him the only difficulty. But the Saviour shows him his error, by asking, “If thou canst believe?" as if he had said, I can save, but canst thou trust? Canst thou confide in me? This was the real question to be settled between the afflicted father and the Saviour, as it is now the great one to be settled between the anxious sinner and the Saviour. Not, will the Saviour heal me? but, can I trust him for healing? The distressed father is thus obliged to feel, that if there was any thing to prevent his child's recovery, that obstacle was in his own breast. Accordingly, there is a great struggle between faith and unbelief. He can hardly believe in Christ's power and mercy. Was it indeed true, that he could do this for him, and help him? Was the recovery of that miserable boy "possible," if he believed? But if he finds it difficult to believe this, he finds it more difficult to return to his unhappy dwelling, with his child unhealed. His heart is breaking. He bursts into tears, and cries, "Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!" His confidence is weak, but it is real. The Saviour bends over the boy, who, cast by the foul spirit to the ground, is writhing in agony, and, lifting him up, restores him in health to his father! "Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no Physician there? Why, then, is not the hurt of the daughter of my people recovered?" If there be, then, one of you who is not "recovered," it cannot be from want of power, or a want of will, on the part of the Physician to heal you, if you choose to be healed; and if you do not choose thus to live, you deserve to die.
But, perhaps there are other reasons which pre
vent you from being saved, that may be profitable for us to examine. May not your indifference arise from thinking that there is no danger? But, if there
was no danger, how is it, that the disease under which you labour, is described in such remarkable language in Scripture? Is there no danger in being an "enemy to God!" a "child of wrath," because of disobedience?-in being a subject of the "kingdom of darkness ?"—in being "condemned already?"-in being "dead in trespasses and in sins?”—in being "without God in the world?" Yet all this is true of you, if you are not saved.
You do not, however, see or feel anything, in your present state or condition, to alarm you? This is possible. So have I known men obtain rest from their pain of body a few hours before they died; they ceased to suffer, when death was seizing their vitals and turning them into the corruption of the grave: thus does the sinner experience most ease, when he is nearest to eternal death. But I have also known-and I daresay so have you-men brought to a sense of their danger, from perceiving the concern of others about them, when they themselves never would have discovered it from their own feelings merely. Have you never seen a man become for the first time alarmed about himself, as he saw the faithful physician look anxious—and no longer heard him express good hope of his recovery -and beheld his family gaze upon him with tearful eyes, or heard their low sobs, which could not be restrained? From these outward signs, he became convinced that something dangerous had befallen him. And thus, too, might the most indifferent sinner be made to see, that
some sore and terrible malady had seized his soul.
If he was not in danger of some great, though to him unseen destruction, because of the existence of a great, though by him, unfelt moral disease-why do the great and good angels rejoice, when he escapes it? If he is not in danger, how is it that God himself commands, warns, beseeches him to fly from it? And if he is not in danger, why that sore agony in Gethsemane that awful scene on Calvary- that dying cry from the Son of God? The danger of the sinner can only be measured, by what God has done to deliver him from it. And, if there is not inconceivably great danger, then the inconceivably great things which God has done to save us must have been unnecessary! It is thus that you may be made to know your danger, when you are too blind to know the true nature and vileness of the malady which occasions it. When you look within, you may be disposed to cry "peace and safety," --but when you look without, you cannot choose but see that an inevitable destruction awaits the impenitent.
But, perhaps, you do not deny the dangerous consequences of this malady of sin-that you profess a wish to escape from them—but imagine that you can do so without going to Christ. But God says, that "there is no other name given whereby we can be saved, but the name of Christ." It is for the sake of what Christ has done and suffered alone that God will pardon us-and pardon those only who will be pardoned in this way. It is the Holy Spirit freely offered and promised to all who receive Christ-who can alone teach us truly to know God's will, and effectually help
us to do it. If you refuse to avail yourselves of this appointed method of being healed, and prefer methods which appear to you (in your blind and sinful ignorance!) better and wiser, you are acting like Naaman, the Syrian, who refused to dip in Jordan at the command of the Prophet, and "went away in a rage," saying, "are not Abana and Pharphar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them and be clean." But you remember the advice given to this proud and ignorant leper, "if the Prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldst thou not have done it? how much rather then when he saith to thee, wash and be clean ?"—and what was the result? "Then went he down, and dipped seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child-and he was clean!" Go thou and do likewise. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, "by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost."
And all this, it may be, you intend doing-but you see no immediate necessity for applying to the Physician. No immediate necessity! Is it not certain that you are every moment getting worse, and that you never can get better until you go to Him? Is it not certain, that if left to yourself, the malady which you so much love to-day, you will love much more tomorrow? Can you be holy, and enjoy peace, and love Christ, and obey God, too soon? And if you determine to keep that malady one week-one hour-what if God should permit it to possess you for all eternity? "Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts;"
but if you will not hear his voice "to-day," what if tomorrow, the righteous sentence should be passed ;
they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord; they would none of my counsel, and despised all my reproof, therefore shall they eat the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices !"
But are those the true reasons which, after all, keep most men from seeking the balm that is in Gilead, and the Physician who is there? Are they not rather the mere excuses of a sin-loving soul, which perhaps desires to get rid of the evil consequences of sin, but not of sin itself? It is not unlikely, that I truly interpret your feeling, and read aright the wishes of your heart, when I say, that you have no objections to be saved from all the pain and trouble which attend your malady, and from all the fears of coming agony, if you are only permitted to keep the malady itself; that you have no objection to be cured, provided only the Physician will cure you in your own way;—that you have no objection to be saved from the curse of sin when you dic, if you are only allowed to keep "the pleasures of sin" as long as you live. And, accordingly, the language of your heart is, "My disease I fear is dangerous; I am afraid of it. Why, then, am I not saved? There is balm in Gilead, there is a Physician there. am willing to be healed; but let the cure put me to no trouble, no pain, no self-denial of any kind. Let it be done in spite of me, by an act of Omnipotent power. Save this body from being cast into hell; but do not cut off this hand, or pluck out this eye!
to the safe way that leads to glory; but
Bring me in
put me not to
the trouble of striving to enter in by a gate so straight,