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As CHRIST is the great physician, so his people are,
by natural contamination, sick and need to be healed. Adam impaired the spiritual, as well as natural, health of his progeny, which nothing but omnipotence could remedy; and therefore omnipotence, clothing itself with the flesh of Jesus, hath effectually interposed. JEHOVAH sent his WORD and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.
This lesson was taught in the history of the Jews at Marah.* Here they found only bitter water, of which they could not drink; and when Moses cried unto the Lord, the Lord showed [or taught] him a TREE, which being thrown in, sweetened the waters. There, at that time, or upon that occasion, he established or placed before them a statute and a decree [a rule of instruction from his holy mind and will] and there he proved them. This promise was also added, upon the observance of the voice and commandment of the Lord; I will put none of those diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians; for I am JEHOVAH, that healeth thee,
A sublime and spiritual instruction was apparently. intended in these words. When believers have entered
upon their pilgrimage, they find sometimes if not often, for the trial of their faith, the water, the bitter water, of affliction and trouble. Carnal professors murmur at such an event, and look back for relief upon. Egypt or the world, with the carnal Jews; but the real Christian, like Moses, crieth unto the Lord; and the Lord teacheth him how to use the tree of his appointment, which can heal all his diseases, and sweeten his sorrows. This tree is the TREE OF LIFE, which groweth in the midst of the heavenly paradise; and its leaves are for the healing of the nations.* The Lord Christ is this sacred and medicinal tree; and he, that cometh by faith unto him, in spiritual disease or distress, shall find him the healer of the soul; yielding, as an olive, the oil of his grace; and, as a vine, the wine of his consolation and peace.
A lesson, of the same tendency with that of the waters at Marah, was also inculcated by healing the stings of the fiery serpents, sent among the Israelites. It was in believing the word of the Lord, and in looking up to the instituted sign of a serpent of brass, that they were cured of the poisonous malady, which destroyed much people on every side.
Thus the old serpent of fire hath bitten us all; first, our progenitor, and, through him, every one of us. As the least particle of poison from a common serpent will presently infect the whole frame to its destruction; so it is not merely the number or quantity of sin, that poison of the soul, but its nature, received within us,
Gen. ii. 9. with Rev. xxii, 2.
which has diseased us throughout, and threatens us daily with something worse than the grave. To Christ crucified; to him, who became a curse, as a sin-bearing serpent itself, lifted on high; must we look by faith for the antidote. By faith we receive its virtue, and become healed of our plague. Jesus cures all the malady of sin, by taking it all upon himself. And he makes an end of sin, and absorbs its baleful poison, when, individually, he applies his infinite virtue to the believing soul. His cross, which was the instrument of the most accursed death, becomes like the tree of life to the longing eyes of the Christian, and changes the sorrows of his heart, like the bitter waters of Marah, into sweetness and delight.
Into all this Christ entered freely and voluntarily. The wounds of the cross, without his own will, had no power to injure or to kill; for, being the Prince of life, he could have healed and sustained himself, as well as others. He cried with a loud voice, possessing full strength to live, if he had pleased to live. He first bowed his head, and then died (contrary to the usage of mortals in the same circumstances) as the very Lord and Master of death itself, to whom he submitted without compulsion, because, as the true and availing sacrifice, he was sponte sua to lay down his life.
He was the willing substitute for sinners made willing to embrace him in the day of his power. The wrath of heaven, like the fire upon the typical sacrifices, which were offered up at the first establishment of the tabernacle and temple, fell upon this Lamb of God, who was thereby invested with the curse due to their sins, in
their behalf and in their stead. And this perfectly insured their full and free, salvation.*
Reader; hath the Lord put bitterness into thy cup, or placed sorrows in the way of thy pilgrimage? Remember this instruction of his word, and by faith apply this tree of life, which yieldeth wisdom and comfort, to the distresses of thine heart. Use this remedy, which hath been tried for ages; and thou shalt find a distillation of more precious balm than that of Gilead, for the wounds of sin, or the maladies of life. Look unto him made sin, made disease, made a curse, for thee; and be saved: he invites, he commands, thee thus to look for relief. Nor can he deny himself, or be worse than his word. If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. Cast thy cares, thy whole lot, yea, thy very soul, upon this Lord of truth, this faithful and never-failing God. Try him, as he tries thee. He sends affliction; do thou throw the care of it upon him. He proves thy confidence in him: prove thou his fidelity towards thee. Come with a single eye, and a simple sincere heart, to the throne of his grace: ask for grace, with the holy boldness or liberty of his children, and submit the whole to him for his own glory. Say, with Jeremiah; Heal me, O Lord, my strength and my fortress, and my refuge in the day of affliction, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved; for thou, thou, even thou, art my praise. Then wait with the patience of faith; and sce, if he will not make good his truth,
See this strikingly illustrated in Lev. ix. 24. 2 Chron. vii. 1. &c. with Isa. liii. 4, 5.
† Jer. xvii. 14. with xvi. 19.
either by causing thy grief to depart, or by enabling thee to bear it. Whatever method he uses, thou shalt find it in the end for his glory, and for thy good: and what else canst thou presume to desire ?
Thou art called to a warfare, but not at thy own charge. It is beyond thee to find thyself in courage, wisdom, and support, for so great a concern. Thou wouldest soon deny thy Master with Peter, and betray him like Judas ; if Satan were loosed upon thee, and thou hadst no strength but thine own. All Christ's disciples, bold as they were in their professed resolutions to abide by him, and favoured as they had been by his presence, forsook him and fled in his last great conflict with the powers of darkness. They were poor too, and had almost nothing in the world to lose. And yet it is remarkable, that, at the same time, some richer disciples, who were such secretly before for fear of the Jews, now had grace given them to step forward boldly, to own their crucified Lord, to demand his dead body, and to show their love by anointing it with the richest ointments and spices. All which demonstrates, that the poor cannot confess Christ, merely because they have nothing to part with for his sake; nor the rich, because they have nothing to gain by him in the world; but that Christians, in all conditions of life, have only constancy and courage, at any time, or for any occasion, but as they derive it from him. The poor left him by himself to suffer, and the rich had not power to exert their interest either to prevent or to soften his sufferings; for these were absolutely needful for the salvation of both: and yet providence honored the last, being eminent and conspicuous members