April 20: The Divine Physician

When the even was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Elijah the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses. Matthew 8:16, 17

IN one respect only may it be said, that our Divine and adorable Lord would seem to have been exempted from the physical infirmities peculiar to the nature which He so voluntarily and entirely assumed—it does not appear that He was ever, in His own person, the subject of sickness or disease. It is indeed declared by His inspired biographer, thus confirming at the same time a prediction of one of the prophets, “Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses;” but this He did in the same manner in which He bore our moral sicknesses, without any personal participation.

He bore our sins, but He was Himself sinless. He carried our sicknesses, but He Himself was a stranger to disease. And His exemption from the one will explain His exemption from the other. His humanity knew no sin; it was that “holy thing” begotten by the Holy Spirit, and as stainless as God Himself. As sin introduced into our nature every kind of physical evil, and disease among the rest, our Lord’s freedom from the cause necessarily left Him free from the effect. He was never sick, because He never sinned. No, He had never died, had He not consented to die. With a nature prepared and conceived totally without moral taint, there were no seeds of decay from which death could reap its harvest. Under no sentence of dissolution, death had no power to claim Him as its victim.

As pure as our first parents before the fall, like them in their original state of holiness, He was naturally deathless and immortal. Had He not, by an act of the most stupendous grace, taken upon Him the curse and sin of His Church, thereby making Himself responsible to Divine justice for the utmost payment of her debt, the “bitterness of death” had never touched His lips. But even then His death was voluntary. His relinquishment of life was His own act and deed. The Jew who hunted Him to the cross, and the Roman by whose hands He died, were but the actors in the awful tragedy. The “king of terrors” wrenched not His spirit from Him. Death waited the permission of Essential Life before he winged the fatal dart. “Jesus yielded up the spirit,” literally, made a surrender, or let go His spirit. Thus violent though it was, and responsible for the crime as were its agents, the death of Jesus was yet voluntary. “I lay down lay life,” are His expressive words.

The control and power of Christ over bodily disease form one of the most instructive and tender pages of His history when upon earth. We can but briefly refer the reader to a few of the different traits of the Divine Physician’s grace, as illustrated by the various cures which He effected. His promptness in healing the nobleman’s son, John 4:43—54. His unsolicited cure of the sick man at the pool of Bethesda, and the man with a withered hand, John 5:1—9; Mark 3:1—6. The humility and delicacy with which He heals the centurion’s servant, Matt. 8:5—13. The tenderness with which He restored the widow’s son, Luke 7:11—17. The simplicity with which He recovered the man born blind, John 9:1—7. The gentle touch with which He cured the man, sick of the dropsy, Luke 14:1—6. The natural and spiritual healing of the paralytic, Luke 5:17—28. The resistless compassion with which He cured the daughter of the Syrophenician woman, Mark 8:24—3O. The wisdom and the authority with which He healed the lunatic child, Luke 9:37—43. The power with which He ejected the demons from the man, permitting their entrance into the swine, Matthew 8:28—34.

Truly the name of our Divine Physician is “Wonderful!” All this skill and power and feeling He still possesses; and in their exercise, in His present dealings with His suffering saints, is He glorified.

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November 8: The Word Made Flesh

“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

Before this Vessel of grace let us pause in adoring admiration of its greatness and its beauty. It is the “great mystery of godliness.” Angels are summoned to adore it. “When He brings in the first-begotten into the world, He says, And let all the angels of God worship Him.”

It was the profoundest conception of God’s wisdom, the masterpiece of His power, and worthy of their deepest homage. Such an unveiling of the glory of God they had never gazed upon before. In the countless glories with which He had enriched and garnished the universe, there was not its symbol, nor its type. All other wonders cease to astonish, and all other beauty fades, in comparison with this, the grandest, the peerless of all. As if fathoming the utmost depth of infinity, and collecting all its hidden treasures of wisdom and power, of grace and truth, God would seem to have concentrated and embodied, to have illustrated and displayed them all, in the person of His Incarnate Son, “God manifest in the flesh.”

In this was found to consist the fitness of Immanuel, as the covenant Head of grace to the church. The Divine and costly treasure, no longer confided to the guardianship and ministration of a weak, dependent creature, was deposited in the hands of incarnate Deity, One whom the Father knew, His “equal,” His “fellow,” made strong for Himself; and thus it was secured to His church, an inexhaustible and eternal supply.

But not in His Divine nature only did the fitness and beauty of our Lord, as the one Vessel of grace, appear. His human nature, so perfect, so sinless, so replenished, enriched, and sanctified with the in-being of the Holy Spirit, conspired to render Him “fairer than the children of men.”—But in what did the chief excellence and beauty of our Lord’s humanity consist? Was it the glory of human wisdom, of worldly grandeur, of secular power? No; not in these!

It was that which the world the least esteems, and the most hates, which formed the rich endowment of our Lord’s inferior nature—the grace which dwelt within Him. The world conferred no dignity upon Christ, save that of its deepest ridicule and its bitterest scorn. In His temporal estate, He preferred poverty to wealth, obscurity to distinction, insult to applause, suffering to ease, a cross to a throne. So indigent and neglected was He, though every spot of earth was His, and all creatures were feeding from His hand, He had no nightly shelter, and often no “daily bread.” How affecting to those who love the Savior, and who owe all their temporal comforts to His deprivation, and all their glory to His abasement, are expressions like these—”Jesus hungered;” “Jesus said, I thirst;” “Jesus sighed deeply in His spirit.” “Jesus groaned within Himself;” “Jesus wept” “The Son of man has not where to lay His head.” Thus low did stoop the incarnate God!

But in the midst of all this poverty and humiliation, God did seem to say, “I will make Him, my Son, more glorious than angels, and fairer than the children of men. I will endow Him immeasurably with my Spirit, and I will replenish Him to the full with my grace. I will anoint Him with the oil of gladness above His fellows.” When He appeared in the world, and the eye of the evangelist caught the vision, he exclaimed with wondering delight, “The glory of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

How did all that He said and did, each word and action, betray the fullness of grace that dwelt within Him! The expressions that distilled from His lips were “gracious words;” the truths He thus taught were the doctrines of grace; the works He performed were the miracles of grace; the invitations He breathed were the promises of grace; the blessings He pronounced were the gifts of grace; in a word, the blood He shed, the righteousness He wrought, the redemption He accomplished, the salvation He proclaimed, the souls He rescued, and the kingdom He promised, were the outgushings, the overflowings, the achievements, the triumphs, and the rewards of grace.

October 11: The Lamb Led To Slaughter

“He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: in his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth.” Acts 8:32, 33

In the person of the Son of God, the two extremes of being—the infinite and the finite—meet in strange and mysterious, but close and eternal union. The Divine came down to the human—Deity humbled itself to humanity. This was humiliation indeed! It was not the creature descending in the scale of creation, but it was the Creator stooping to the creature. “God was manifest in the flesh.” “He humbled Himself.” Oh, it is an amazing truth! So infinitely great was He, He could thus stoop without compromising His dignity, or lessening His glory.

But, if possible, a step lower did He seem to descend. Thus in prophetic language did he announce it: “I am a worm and no man.” What astounding words are these! Here was the God-man sinking, as it were, in the depths of abasement and humiliation below the human. “I am a worm, and no man!” In the lowliness which marked His external appearance, in the estimation in which He was held by men, in the contemptuous treatment which He received from His enemies, the trampling of His glory in the dust, and the crushing of His person on the cross, would seem in His own view to have robbed Him, not only of His glory as God, but even to have divested Him of His dignity as man! “I am a worm, and no man!”

Oh, here is glory—glory surpassing all imagination, all thought, all power of utterance! He who bent His footsteps along this flinty path, He who sunk thus low, was Jehovah, the “mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” Wonder, O heavens, and be astonished, O earth! Lowliness and majesty, humiliation and glory, how strangely were they blended in You, O incarnate God!

The assumption of our nature, in its depressed and bruised condition, constituted no small feature in the abasement of the Son of God. That, in the strong language of the Holy Spirit, He was “holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners,” is a truth we cannot too distinctly affirm, or too earnestly maintain. The least misgiving touching the perfect sinlessness of the human nature of our Lord tends to weaken the confidence of faith in the atonement, and so to enshroud in darkness the hope of the soul.

As a single leak must have sunk the ark beneath the waves, so the existence of the slightest taint of sin in Jesus would have opened an inlet through which the dark billows of Divine wrath would have rolled, plunging both Himself and the church He sustained in eternal woe. But that “holy thing” that was begotten of the Holy Spirit knew not the least moral taint. He “knew no sin,” He was the sacrificial “Lamb without spot.”

And because He presented to the Divine requirement a holy, unblemished, and perfect obedience and satisfaction, we who believe are “made the righteousness of God in Him.”

But His taking up into subsistence with His own our nature in its fallen condition, comprehends the sinless infirmities and weaknesses with which it was identified and encompassed. When I see my Lord and Master bowed with grief and enduring privation, when I behold Him making the needs and sorrows and sufferings of others His own, what do I learn but that He was truly a “man of sorrows and acquainted with grief”?

Is there any spectacle more affecting, than thus to behold the Incarnate God entering personally and sympathetically into all the humiliations of my poor, bruised, vile nature, and yet remaining untouched, untainted by its sin?—taking my weaknesses, bearing my sicknesses, sorrowing when I sorrow, weeping when I weep, touched with the feeling of my infirmities, in all points tempted like as I am.

September 28: Now Crowned With Glory

“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor.” Hebrews 2:9

There was an honoring, but not a glorifying of our humanity, when the Son of God assumed it. Its union with the Deity—its fullness of the Spirit—its spotless holiness—its deep knowledge of, and intimate fellowship with, God—conspired to invest it with a dignity and honor such as no creature had ever before, or ever shall again attain. But not until its ascension into heaven was it glorified.

Oh, through what humiliation did it pass, what indignity did it endure, when below! What sinless weaknesses, imperfections, and frailties clung to it! It hungered, it thirsted, it labored, it sorrowed, it wept, it suffered, it bled, it died! “The poor man’s scorn, the rich man’s ridicule,” what indignities did it endure!

It was scourged, it was bruised, it was mocked, it was smitten, it was spit upon, it was nailed to the tree, it was pierced, it was slain! Oh, what eye, but that of faith, can, through all this degradation, behold the person of the incarnate God?

But now “we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor.” Even after His resurrection, it must be acknowledged that a change, approximating to that state of glory, had already passed over Him. So spiritualized was He, that even His disciples, when they saw Him, knew Him not. What, then, must be the glory that encircles Him now that He has passed within His kingdom, and is exalted at the right hand of God, “far above all heavens, that He might fill all things”!

John, during his banishment at Patmos, was favored with a view of His glorified humanity, and thus describes its dazzling appearance—”I saw seven golden candlesticks; and in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the breasts with a golden girdle. His head and His hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and His eyes were as a flame of fire, and His feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and His voice as the sound of many waters. And He had in His right hand seven stars; and out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword; and His countenance was as the sun shines in his strength. And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. And He laid His right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am He that lives, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.”

Sublime description of the “glory and honor” which now crown the exalted humanity of our adorable Redeemer! Did the awe-stricken and prostrate evangelist entertain any doubt of the glorious person who thus appeared to him? that doubt must all have vanished the moment he felt the “right hand” of Jesus laid upon Him, and heard His own familiar voice saying unto him, “Fear not.” Oh, what a tangible evidence and what a near view did he now have of the exalted and glorified humanity of his Lord! At that instant he saw Him to be divine, and he felt Him to be human!

Yes! the very tabernacle of flesh in which He dwelt, the identical robe of humanity that He wore, He carried up with Him into heaven, and sat down with it upon the throne. There it is, highly exalted. There it is, above angels, and higher than saints, in close affinity and eternal union with the Godhead. There it is, bathing itself in the “fullness of joy,” and drinking deeply of the satisfying “pleasures” which are at God’s “right hand for evermore.”

Oh, what must be the holy delight which the human soul of Jesus now experiences! Sin presses upon it no more; sorrow beclouds it no more; the hidings of God’s face distress it no more; infirmity clings to it no more: it exults in the beams of God’s unveiled glory, and it swims in the ocean of His ineffable love. If the vision upon Mount Tabor was so glorious—if the splendors there encircling that form which yet had not passed through the scenes of the crucifixion, the resurrection, and the ascension, were so overpowering—if the attractions of that spot were so great, and the ecstasy of that moment was so ravishing—what, oh, what must be the glory, the joy, the bliss of heaven, where we shall no longer see Him “through a glass darkly,” but “as He is,” and “face to face”!

June 24: A Great Stooping Down

“For verily he took not on him the nature of angels;
but he took on him the seed of Abraham.” Hebrews 2:16.

Who are the people upon whom the heart of Jesus is set? They, are not angels; and yet He loves angels, because they are elect and holy; He loves them as the creatures of His power, and as the ministers of His will. But God loves not angels as He loves man. The Lord Jesus bears not the same affection towards those unfallen and pure spirits as He does towards a poor sinner hiding in His wounded side, cleansing in His blood, and enfolding himself within the robe of His righteousness. He never took part of the nature of angels, nor wept over angels, nor bled for angels- but all this He did for man!

It is His Church, then, which is represented as the object of His love- His own people, the donation of His Father, the creatures of His choice, the subjects of His grace, the treasure of His heart. Is it asked wherein has He loved them? Rather might we ask wherein has He not loved them?

Look at His assumption of their nature! What a mighty stoop was this!- the Infinite to the finite. Were it possible for me to save the life of an insect by assuming the form of that insect, I should, by so doing, manifest my great benevolence. But behold the love of our Incarnate God! His heart was bent, His whole soul was set, upon saving man.

But He could save man only by becoming man. He could not raise our nature, but as He stooped and assumed that nature. He must not only look upon it, and pity it, and weep over it, but He must take it into the closest and most indissoluble union with Himself. Nor was it the mere exchange or blending together of natures so as to form one new nature. It was not the absorption of the Infinite into the finite, for He ceased not to be God when He became man; He only veiled, He did not extinguish, the glory of His Deity. In this consisted the mightiness of the stoop.

I see no humiliation in the Savior’s life, but as it springs from this one fact- His condescension in taking up into union with His own Divine our human nature. This was the first and greatest step in the path that conducted Him to the cross. All the acts of abasement and ignominy which follow were ingrafted upon this. And, oh, what humiliation! Look at your nature! Contemplate it in some of its severest forms of degradation, wretchedness, and woe. Are you not often constrained to blush that it is your own? Do you not turn from it at times with loathing and abhorrence, ashamed to confess that you are a man?

Above all, what self-loathing, what self-abhorrence, when the Holy Spirit opens the chambers of iniquity in your own heart, and makes you acquainted with the abominations that are there! And yet the Son of God stooped to our nature. “A body have You prepared me.” But it was unfallen, sinless humanity that He took into union with His Godhead. Where, then, is His condescension? In stooping to an inferior nature, though in that stoop He received no taint from us. He was made a sin- offering, yet He was “without sin.”

If this truth, dear reader, has no glory to your eye, nor sweetness to your soul, what is your Christianity? It is the foundation of Christianity, it is the marrow of the Gospel, it is the hope of the soul, it is that truth which takes every ruffle from the pillow of death.
And is not this just the truth we need as a suffering and a tried people? When do we extract the sweetest honey from this bitter of bitters? Is it not when our humanity is wounded, oppressed, and cast down? When do we most value and love the humiliation of the Incarnate God? Is it not when by suffering we are driven to it, then to learn the tenderness and the sympathy that are in Christ?

Oh blessed affliction, sweet sorrow, friendly chastisement, that brings my soul into the deeper experience of what God is in my nature!

May 9: God With Us

“No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him.” John 1:18

Of the spirituality of the Divine nature we can form no just or definite conception. All our ideas of it must necessarily be unintelligible, vague, and shadowy. Referring to this impossibility, and in language of condescending adaptation to our sensible view of objects, Jesus says of His Father, “You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His shape.” Ignorant of this inspired truth, and yet with a quenchless thirst ever desiring such a conception of an infinite spirit as would afford a resting-place for the mind, an object on which faith could repose, and around which the affections could entwine, man has been beguiled into atheism and idolatry of the most debasing and fearful character. Framing his conceptions of spirit after his own low and depraved idea of matter, he has “changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four footed beasts, and creeping things.”

But God has revealed Himself. He has stooped to our nature, and in the person of His incarnate Son has embodied the spirituality of His being, with all its divine and glorious attributes. All that we clearly, savingly know of God is just the measure of our acquaintance with this truth. Jesus brings God near. “You are near, O Lord.” Oh, how near! “They shall call His name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” The most stupendous, glorious truth which created mind ever grasped is involved in this wondrous declaration, “Emmanuel, God with us.” With what glory does it invest the Bible! what a foundation does it lay for faith! what substance does it impart to salvation! and what a good hope does it place before the believing soul!

God is with us in Christ, with us in the character of a reconciled Father, with us every step of our journey to heaven, with us to guide in perplexity, to soothe in sorrow, to comfort in bereavement, to rescue in danger, to shield in temptation, to provide in need, to support in death, and safely to conduct to glory. My soul! fall prostrate in the dust before the majesty of this amazing, this precious truth; adore the wisdom that has revealed it, and admire the grace that makes it yours!

March 9: Grasping His Deity

“God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself.” 2 Cor. 5:19.

The great glory of our Immanuel is his essential glory. When our faith can firmly grasp the Deity of our adorable Lord- and on this precious doctrine may it never waver!- there is a corresponding confidence and repose of the mind in each particular of His sacrificial work. Then it is that we talk of Him as a Mediator, and love to view Him as the great Sin-bearer of His people.

In vain do we admire His righteousness, or extol His death, if we look not upon Him in the glory which belongs to Him as essentially God. From this truth, as from a fountain of light, beams forth the glory, which sheds its soft halo around His atoning work. Oh, when, in the near view of death, memory summons back the past, and sin in battle array passes before the eye, and we think of the Lord God, the Holy One, into whose dreadful presence we are about to enter, how will every other support sink beneath us but this!

And, as the Holy Spirit then glorifies Christ in His essential glory, testifying that the blood and righteousness- the soul’s great trust- are of the incarnate God, we shall rise superior to fear, smile at death, and pass in peace and triumph to glory. Yes, reader, we shall be satisfied with nothing short of absolute Deity, when we come to die. And, in proportion as you find this great truth the substance of your life, you will experience it the support of your death.

 

February 19: The Ocean Of His Goodness

“You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might be rich.” 2 Corinthians 8:9.

How little do we associate our most costly mercies, and even those which we are accustomed to esteem of a more ordinary character (although every mercy is infinitely great), with the abasement of our Lord! How seldom do we trace our happy moments, and hallowed joys, and high delights, and sacred scenes, and precious privileges, to this dark part of His eventful history! And yet all flow to us through this very channel, and, but for this, would never have been ours.

When the ocean of His goodness rolls in upon me, wave on wave- when I feel the cheering warmth of creature smiles beaming sweetly and fondly- when I review, one by one, my personal, domestic, and relative mercies- when even the cup of cold water, presented by the hand of Christian kindness, moistens my lips, what is the thought that forces itself upon my mind? “All this springs from the deepest humiliation of my adorable Christ!”
And when I ascend into the higher region of grace, and survey the blessings so richly and so freely bestowed- a rebel subdued- a criminal pardoned- a child adopted- a royal priest anointed- union with Christ- covenant relationship with God- access within the Holy of Holies- conformity to the Divine image- still more deeply am I overwhelmed with the thought, “all this proceeds from the infinite abasement of the incarnate God!”

And when yet higher still I ascend, and, passing from grace to glory, contemplate the heaven of bliss that awaits me- in one moment absent from a body of sin, and present with the Lord- away from a world, beautiful though it is, because God has made it, yet the throne of Satan, the empire of sin, the scene of sorrow, pollution, suffering, and death; and eternally shut in with God, where all is joy, and all is holiness- made perfectly holy, and, consequently, perfectly happy, to sin no more, to sorrow no more, to weep no more, to wander no more, to fall no more- oh, how full of glory then becomes the humiliation of my incarnate Lord! Beloved, when God exalts you, remember it is because your Savior was abased. When your cup is sweet, remember it is because His cup was bitter. When you press your mercy fondly and closely to your heart, remember it is because He pressed His heart to the spear. And when your eye of faith and hope looks forward to the coming glory, oh, do not forget that, because He endured your hell, you shall enjoy His heaven!

January 25

“In all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren.” Hebrews 2:17.

Partaking of our nature, nothing that was human was foreign to Him but the sin that tainted and defaced it. Separate from it all that is fallen, exorcize every evil spirit from the soul, expel every low sentiment from the mind, extirpate every selfish feeling from the heart, and let all that remains of our humanity, be its pure affections, its exquisite sensibilities, its refined feelings, its noble purposes, its lofty, generous, and delicate sentiments of sympathy and love, and you have a perfect portrait of our Lord and Savior. Our Lord, as man, was truly and purely human. Entering Himself into every affinity of our nature, He became intimate with each thought and feeling, with each sentiment and emotion, with each sorrow and pang, with each tear, groan, and sigh of our humanity- all, all were His, but its sin. Nor was it essential to the exquisite and perfect tenderness and sympathy of His nature that He should, like us, be sinful. No, this would have but beclouded, blunted, and impaired all the gentle sensibilities and intellectual perceptions of His human soul, as in us it has woefully done. The human susceptibilities which Jesus possessed were all the deeper, richer, and intenser from the very fact of their perfect purity, their entire sinlessness. How perfect, then, must be His love, how tender His compassion, how exquisite His sympathy, since it flows from a humanity all immaculate as His Godhead!

 

January 11

“We have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:15.

See Him bearing our sicknesses and our sorrows; more than this, carrying our iniquities and our sins. Think not that your path is a isolated one. The incarnate God has trodden it before you, and He can give you the clear eye of faith to see His footprint in every step. Jesus can say, and He does say to you, “I know your sorrow; I know what that cross is, for I have carried it. You have not a burden that I did not bear, nor a sorrow that I did not feel, nor a pain that I did not endure, nor a path that I did not tread, nor a tear that did not bedew my eye, nor a cloud that did not shade my spirit, before you, and for you. Is it bodily weakness? I once walked forty miles, to carry the living water to a poor sinner at Samaria. Is it the sorrow of bereavement? I wept at the grave of my friend, although I knew that I was about to recall the loved one back again to life. Is it the frailty and the fickleness of human friendship? I stood by and heard my person denied by lips that once spoke kindly to me; lips now renouncing me with an oath that once vowed affection unto death. Is it straitness of circumstance, the galling sense of dependence? I was no stranger to poverty, and was often nourished and sustained by the charity of others. Is it that you are houseless and friendless? So was I. The foxes have their shelter, and the birds their nests; but I, though Lord of all, had nowhere to lay my head; and often day after day passed away, and no soothing accents of friendship fell upon my ear. Is it the burden of sin? Even that I bore in its accumulated and tremendous weight when I hung accursed upon the tree.”