IT is to be remembered, as I continue this subject, that I have but one object before me. It is not to oppose men; and certainly, it is not to oppose God. My desire is honestly to face facts as they are, both in the Word and experience, and thus to reach sane and solid truth. It is my impression that often those persons who have considered the subject of miraculous healing have been extremists, opposing it in toto or else endorsing it in toto, when neither the one nor the other is justifiable. It is my hope and prayer to avoid any extreme which may be beyond what is God’s revealed truth. If thus, I may set aside the false and preserve the true, then a real gain will have been secured. To this end, therefore, I desire to state in this chapter certain facts which, I think, have sometimes been forgotten, and which, being forgotten, have led to false conclusions and much distress of soul.
A common line of argument in favour of the doctrine of miraculous healing is as follows: Christ came to destroy sin; He came thus to destroy the consequences of sin; sickness is a consequence of sin; and hence, He came to destroy sickness. This seems like unanswerable logic; and indeed it is, for the Scripture confirms each clause of the statement. Nevertheless, a false deduction may easily be made from it, not as related to its objective, but its process. Let me set this forth by a parallel statement, as follows: Christ came to destroy sin; He came thus to destroy the consequences of sin; sinfulness is a consequence of sin; hence, He came to destroy sinfulness. This too seems like unanswerable logic; and indeed it is. But every one knows that its application must be carefully made. For while, judicially, God regards us as sinless (Rom. 5:1), experimentally, He does not do so (1 John 1:8, 10); and we are well aware of the fact that full sinlessness is not to be presently obtained but is only to be secured at the return of Christ, when we shall see Him as He is and be like Him (I John 3:2). So then logic has its limitations and is to be viewed in the light of revelation and experience. And this is as true of sickness as it is of sinlessness. Christ did die to destroy sickness, and He will yet do it. But He does not say that He will, in a perfect sense, do it now, but rather, at a later time, when He comes in power and great glory (Rev. 21:4). The time element is very important, both in prophecy and promise. We need carefully to note, in the one and other, not only what is said, but also when what is said will be brought to pass.
It is argued that if miracles of healing were in Jewish times, also in Christ’s times, and also in apostolic times, we may be sure that they may be more than ever looked for in these church times, since Christ has ascended to heaven, been crowned with glory and honour, and now has all power in heaven and on earth. This deduction seems undeniable. But if it is so, just as it is stated, why is not Christ doing now, in the way of miracles, all that He did in the past, and indeed a great deal more? He used to deliver Israel, in times of peril, by lightnings, thunders, hailstones and chariots of fire; why has He not delivered the church, in her times of persecution, in the same way? He fed the hungry multitudes of Galilee with multiplied bread and fishes; why has He never fed the hungry poor of London, New York and the famine-stricken places of China in like manner? He showed His mighty power, even in the days of His earthly humbling, by raising one and another from the dead; why has He never performed, since apostolic days, a single miracle of this kind? He kept Moses alive for one hundred and twenty years, and even then the prophet’s eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated; why did He not do the same for the apostles, most of whom died comparatively young, Dr. Gordon, who died at fifty-nine, Dr. Simpson, who died at seventy-six, and Mr. Hudson Taylor, who died at seventy-three? There are evidently great differences between various acts of miracle-working, and, so far as argument is concerned, it appears that more is to be said for the old times than the new. Nevertheless, it is true that Christ, His redemptive work having been finished and His exaltation having taken place, possesses now more miracle-power than He did in the past. What, then, is to be recognized is this, that, having “all power” (Matt. 28:18), He is not exercising it, in respect to physical miracles, as He did formerly, for His own high and holy reasons. It cannot be argued, therefore, that, because He has at present more power to heal, He will do for the church in healing more than He did for the saints in the past. Indeed, if any deduction is to be made from what He is doing in general, in respect to miracles, He will do now, in healing, not more than He did in the past, but actually less. And the history of the church, even including apostolic times, confirms this conclusion.
The argument of many who hold and teach miraculous healing is to the effect that Christ, by His death and resurrection and by the consequent pouring out of the Holy Spirit, has given to the present-day church all of the gifts which were granted to the apostolic church. But is this so? He gave the apostolic church the gift of inspiration. Has He given this gift to the present-day church? He gave the apostolic church the gift of special miracle working, such as the shadow of Peter healing the sick, and handkerchiefs and aprons from the body of Paul doing the same. Have any such miracles as these been wrought by the members of the present-day church? He gave Peter and Paul power to raise the dead. Has any latter-day saint performed this miracle? The fact of the matter is, there are many miracles which, having been brought to pass in Old Testament and early New Testament times, have never been repeated. This does not mean that the redemptive and pentecostal work of Christ has been undone, or made impotent, or even lessened in power. It simply means that Christ, for His own reasons, is not doing now all that He did in the days of old. So we cannot say that Christ’s redemption and ascension and the coming down of the Holy Spirit have brought to the present-day Christians all that they brought to the apostles. On the contrary, judging by the record of the Word as found in the Acts and Epistles, there has been from the first of the church period a diminution in the manifestation of miracles in general, and of acts of healing in particular.
If we are to assume that Christ’s commission to perform miracles in the physical realm, as given to the apostles, pertains to us as well as to them, we must conclude that whatever He commanded them, He does us. This assumption, at first sight, is encouraging. But it will be found that it carries us too far. For instance, as previously pointed out, if we are to hold that the sign of Mark 16:17, 18 of laying hands on the sick with the result of recovery is for all believing and Spirit-filled Christians, we must also believe that all of the other signs are for them, that is, that they may cast out devils, speak with new tongues, take up serpents, and drink deadly things without their being hurt; for all of the signs are in the same commission and are related to the same persons. For instance again, if we are to assume that Christ’s several commandments given to the apostles in reference to performing miracles of healing pertain to us as well as to them, we must be prepared, according to Matthew 10:1-8, not only to heal, but also to exercise power against unclean spirits, to cleanse the lepers and—mark it—to raise the dead. The apostles accepted the commission of our Lord in all of its details, not being staggered by any one of them; and we have the record of various members of the apostolic company performing each of the miracles spoken of, including the raising of the dead. But no one has heard of any modern saint healing all manner of sickness and disease, cleansing lepers, or raising the dead. And the fair assumption is that the Lord’s commission of miracle-working as above quoted, was for the apostles alone, they being a special class of men, and hence that it does not apply to the present-day church. We may correctly conclude, therefore, that present-day Christians are not to be classed, in regard to the working of miracles, in the same category as the apostles; and that whatever miracle-power they may be permitted to display is derived from Christ in a wholly different relationship and with an entirely different kind and degree of manifestation.
It is held by many who advocate miraculous healing that it is wrong to make use of a physician and his medicine because the one and the other must necessarily stand between the sick person and God. This means, if such teachers are to be consistent, that they should also hold that means of every sort are wrong, for the same reason. This would bring us to a large conclusion, for we find ourselves dependent upon means of almost every kind and on almost every hand. It is to be admitted, of course, that it is possible for a Christian to make more of a divine gift than the divine Giver. But it need not be so; and with countless Christians it is not so. And some of us find it just as easy to recognize God in the gift of a physician and his remedy as in any other means to a good end. Some Chinese Christians, in taking medicine, bow the head, silently give God thanks for the doctor and his remedy, and ask God’s blessing upon the remedy; and many who are not Chinese, in taking medicine, do the same, if not with bowed heads, yet with bowed hearts. In other words, whether or not some particular means will stand between the soul and God, depends, not upon the means, but upon the soul. An irreverent and thankless soul will see the means and not God. A reverent and thankful one will see both the means and God, and God more than the means.1
Miraculous healing advocates often make the assertion that the Bible nowhere endorses the use of medicinal means. If this were true, it would not greatly signify, for there are many means to good health which are not commanded by the Word of God but which are commonly recognized as legitimate and useful, such as eating pure food, obtaining sufficient sleep, securing exercise, making sure of proper sanitation, etc. But, as a matter of fact, the statement is not true. Paul left his companion Trophimus at Miletum sick (2 Tim. 4:20), not healing him, but probably leaving him to the care of a physician and his nursing friends. Also, Paul had a beloved friend and helper named Timothy, who was sick and needed help, and the apostle was moved upon by the Holy Spirit—it is to be remembered that his words are inspired—to advise him in respect to getting well, and it is to be observed that he did not tell him to send for the elders of the church and have himself anointed with oil, as if that were the only permissible thing to do, but wrote, “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities” (1 Tim. 5:23), prescribing, as a physician might do, wine as a medicine, as this was then, as it is now, a commonly recognized remedy for stomach troubles, wounds, etc. (Luke 10:34). Moreover, Christ Himself, the great miracle worker and healer, endorsed the use of remedial means. When He healed the blind man, He spat on the ground, made clay of the spittle, anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay and then told him to go and wash in the pool of Siloam (John 9:6, 7). When He healed another blind man, He spat upon his eyes (Mark 8:22, 23). And when He healed a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech, He put His fingers in the man’s ears, and then spat, and touched his tongue with the saliva (Mark 7:32, 33). Now it is to be recalled that Christ healed other blind, deaf and dumb men through no such processes as those mentioned, but simply by a word. Also, it is to be kept in mind that clay and spittle were not in themselves remedies and would not have produced healing. And finally, it is to be remembered that Christ, in His healings, was performing miracles with the purpose of establishing His claim of deity. If, therefore, Christ has utilized remedies for various diseases which were in common use among physicians—though these would not have cured blindness, deafness and dumbness—He would not have wrought a miracle and those who watched Him would have concluded that there was nothing remarkable about the healings, except that the healer was a more clever physician than the other doctors whom they knew. But when He healed without any remedy, and especially when—as appears to be the case—He took such common and non-remedial things as clay and spittle and put healing properties into these, then those who saw were convinced that the healer was none other than their promised Messiah. This, then, is to be noted, that since Christ did put medicinal virtue into the clay and spittle and used these for the purpose of healing physical ills, His action became a solemn, official and divine endorsement of the use of medicinal remedies for the curing of disease.
It seems lawful to some teachers to feel intensely in favour of miraculous healing, and, therefore, to speak harshly concerning physicians and their medicines. For instance, I heard one of the leaders of the healing movement in this country say in a public meeting that a doctor is the “Devil’s agent,” and that a medicine bottle is a “stink-pot.” These statements came rather close home to me, for I have been brought into immediate contact with two medical men—my father-in-law and son—often assisting, in my young manhood, the first one in his surgical operations, and for long observing the second, first on the foreign field and more recently at home, with intimate and intense interest. As related to the former, I have seen brakemen on the Erie Railroad, in western New York, crushed almost beyond recognition by the shunting cars, and have watched the kind doctor, with earnest prayer and the tenderness of a woman, save life, hands, arms and legs. And as related to the latter, I know it as a fact that he never performs an operation without praying, and that he has saved, medically and surgically, hundreds of lives, and, in addition, has helped over five hundred women through the sorrows of childbirth, with the result of not having lost the life of one mother and of only one child. With these two cases pressing upon me, I find it difficult to call either one of them the “Devil’s agent” or the bottles which contain their medicines “stink-pots.” The Devil is not given to prompting prayer or doing divinely kind and loving deeds; and medicines, while they may smell and taste bad, have a wonderful way, by God’s blessing, of working His works and saving imperilled lives. As touching doctors, a certain advocate of miraculous healing said that Luke was a physician and that afterwards, ceasing to be a physician, he became an evangelist. But the inspired Paul called him “the beloved physician,” speaking of him, not as in the past, but as in the then present. As touching medicine, James, the one who exhorted Christians to send for the elders and to be anointed with oil, has this to say, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17); and I feel assured that these words include medicines, since God Himself called “good” (Gen. 1:12) the mineral and vegetable creation from which remedies are derived.
It is generally held by those who set forth the claims of miraculous healing that sickness is the result of sin—which is true—and that particular sickness is the result of particular sin—which may or may not be true. It is clear, if there had been no sin, that there would have been no sickness; and it is true in the physical world as well as in the spiritual, that whatsoever a man sows, he must reap (Gal. 6:7). At the same time, other reasons than divine judgment may enter into a particular sickness (Job 2:1-8; Dan. 8:27, 10:7-12; Phil. 2:25-30; I Tim. 5:23). From the standpoint of the Word, Christ made this plain in the case of the man who was born blind. The superficial disciples asked the Master, “Who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” But Jesus answered, “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents; but that the works of God should be made manifest in him” (John 9:1-3). And from the standpoint of experience, we have the same lesson set forth, for the spiritual law which prevailed in Old Testament times, namely, that the righteous should be well and the unrighteous should be sick (Ex. 15:26, 23:25; Deut. 7:12-15), does not pertain to New Testament times, as incidents on every hand illustrate. In the old times, the Gentiles suffered physical scourges of all sorts, while the Jews, unless they were disobedient, were kept from such. And as between Jew and Jew, the godly man usually was in better health and lived longer than the ungodly one. But no such distinctions now exist. Epidemics sweep away the unconverted and the converted alike; and frequently, the godly man is more weak and sickly than the ungodly one, while the ungodly one outlives the godly one. The finest physical specimens among men of the present time are prize fighters; and it will be commonly acknowledged, whatever may be said in their favour, that they are not noted for their spirituality. I have in mind a Unitarian who lived to ninety years of age, and his Unitarian sister lived to ninety-seven. I have in mind certain leading scientists who have proved through long years their physical ruggedness and ability to bear strain; but it is said that none of these is a professing Christian and two of them do not believe that there is a personal God. On the other hand, such godly men as George Müller and Hudson Taylor were physically weak, were often sick and died comparatively young. The theory, therefore, that a man is blessed with good health in exact proportion as he obeys God, and suffers from poor health in exact proportion as he disobeys Him cannot be demonstrated in these days, either from the Word or experience. Godliness is profitable, physically and spiritually, for the life that is as well as that which is to come (I Tim. 4:8). And yet, in spite of godliness, it is evident that there are many times when God chooses that the profit of life shall be other than that of physical health and strength and in the other world rather than in this one.
Some teachers who hold and practice miraculous healing have assumed the attitude that they will not take medicine at any time or under any circumstances, and they consistently hold to their vow of abstinence, however sorely tried they may be by disease and pain. Such persons are to be admired for their desire to please God and their loyalty in carrying out what they believe is right. But a question arises as to their sound judgment, and also, as to their being actually able to fulfil what they seek to bring to pass. As to their sound judgment, let me take this for an example: If you should offer such an one as I have spoken of figs to eat, he would accept them, partake of them, find them helpful to his digestion, and hence, thank God for them. But if a physician should take figs, put them into a press, extract the juice from them, put this in a bottle, mark the bottle “Syrup of Figs,” and then prescribe this syrup to the individual, he would refuse the “drug,” and would not give God thanks. It would be difficult to find consistency in a case of this sort. As to such persons bringing to pass what they desire, let me present this for consideration: It is a fact beyond disputing that foods, in lesser or greater proportion, contain ingredients similar to those found in medicines. This is true of some meats and many vegetables.2 In such cases, the main difference between food and medicine is that in food the medicinal ingredients are distributed and in medicine concentrated. A person who refuses medicine, therefore, is frequently taking it as he partakes of the food set before him. Such persons then, while rejecting medicine and protesting against its use, are almost constantly living in dependence upon and in benefit from it. And there would be only one escape from such a condition of things; it would be necessary to dismiss, not only the physician and his medicine, but also the cook and her cooking, which is more than even the average extremist would be willing to do. In other words, God has inseparably connected our lives with medicine; and good judgment suggests that we should recognize this and receive all that God gives to us with thanksgiving. It is a notable fact that most physicians now recognize the curative effects of many foods and make it their practice to prescribe, not medicine but these foods.3
There are those who have accepted the doctrine of miraculous healing who make a radical distinction between food and medicine, accepting the one and rejecting the other. Their argument is that food is constructive and medicine is destructive, and they conclude that physical construction is right and physical destruction is wrong. As a matter of fact, no such distinction between food and medicine may be made, for it is not only true that some foods are constructive and some medicines destructive, but it is also true that some foods are destructive and some medicines constructive. But aside from this, it is impossible to take the position, spiritually or physically, that it is always right to construct and always wrong to destroy. What may be said is that it is always right to construct the good and never right to construct the bad, and always wrong to destroy the good and never wrong to destroy the bad. So the moral quality of one’s action, in such cases, is to be determined by its character and purpose. And yet extremists in miraculous healing do not recognize this. They accept food, whatever its effect may be, and reject medicine, whatever its effect might be. Let me illustrate:
Pernicious anemia is a deadly disease. It results from an abnormal condition of the blood-forming organs and of the blood. Blood is made up of red and white corpuscles, healthy blood containing about 5,000,000 red corpuscles to every cubic millimetre, and the ratio of the white to the red being one in five hundred. Anemia, in certain cases, is produced either by this ratio being changed, the red decreasing and the white increasing, or through the chemical degeneration of the red corpuscles. The problem set before the physician, therefore, is to bring back the blood to the normal. To do this, he will make use of sunlight, fresh air and appropriate food, such as liver and kidney substances; and with this the one who believes in miraculous healing will agree. Also, he will seek to re-establish the rightful condition of the blood by the use of iron; and with this many who believe in miraculous healing will not agree. Now, who made the sunlight, fresh air and good food? We answer, God. And who made the iron? We answer, God. And who has authorized us to make distinctions between these means which He has furnished when each and all have been produced by the same Creator and with the same beneficial intent? We certainly, in this case, may not answer, God. On he contrary, in a case of anemia, it is my conviction, since God is in all the four means mentioned, that all should be accepted as from Him and used accordingly. And what is true, as related to anemia, seems to me also true, as related to other diseases, of all other divinely produced means of cure. In respect to the use of iron, it is a strange inconsistency on the part of those who hold to miraculous healing that they would refuse to take iron as a medicine, but would have no hesitancy in eating spinach, in spite of the fact that the latter contains a large proportion of iron and is the present medical treatment in seeking to replenish impoverished blood.
It is taught by some who hold the doctrine of miraculous healing that it is God’s purpose to keep the saints in perfect health and strength, and, in case these blessings are lost through disease, to restore them. I remember a gentleman in Toronto whom I asked if he was well. He was an ardent believer in miraculous healing, and for an answer, he threw back his head, squared his shoulders, smote his breast with his hand, and said, “Look at me; Christ is my physical life, and I am in perfect health and strength.” He evidently did not quite know himself, for he died within a year. But aside from such a misjudgment, all who claim perfect health and strength speak without knowledge. I mean by this that there is not a man, woman or child living who is in a perfect physical condition. To prove this statement, I have but to ask one or two questions. Adam, before the fall, was perfectly well; are we as well as he? The patriarchs lived for hundreds of years; do we live as long as they? Judged by the standards thus set up, the present generation of mankind, including all who hold miraculous healing, falls far short physically of what has been and, ideally, should be. So then “health” and “strength” are, at best, comparative terms, with the comparison against us.
In addition to the foregoing, this is to be noted. The scientists of the Rockefeller Institute, New York City, have demonstrated beyond doubting that all persons, young and old, rich and poor, well and unwell, are indwelt by tubercular germs, and that the struggle of existence with every one is to keep himself in such a physical state as to prevent these germs from developing to that degree as will give them mastery and control of the physical system. To prove this, one could take an entirely well person, who has no history or taint of tuberculosis about him, put him in a damp place, take away sunlight, pure air and good food, and ultimately that person would develop the disease, and it would come, not from without, but from within. So when we speak of a person as well, we must necessarily use the word, not accurately but inaccurately, not exactly but loosely. That is, one person is well as compared with another who is not well; or a person is well as compared with what he was when he was sick. But as for a person being absolutely well as compared with the unfallen Adam—to take him as a standard of good health—there is not a person living who can lay claim to being this. And this was as true in the Lord’s time as it is now. And it was as true of those whom He healed from specific disease as it was of those whom He did not heal. So then, disease, as related to mankind, is universal; and even in a case of actual miraculous healing, it is, strictly speaking, partial and not total. It is for this reason, amongst other things, that the Spirit speaks of “the body of our humiliation” (Phil. 3:21) and says that “we groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:23).
The claim is made by some that good health may be the portion of each Christian because it is his privilege to receive and exercise the power of the resurrection-life of Christ; and it is pointed out that this power, being perfected by the atoning death of Christ and His subsequent exaltation to the place of authority at God’s right hand, is beyond anything which the saints had previous to Pentecost. Half truths are dangerous things; and even full truths are, when they are misapplied. This is a case of a full truth; and I think its danger is in its misapplication. To substantiate this statement let we point out a few scriptural facts. The apostles after Christ’s resurrection drew mightily upon His power; yet not one of them did the miraculous things which the Master did before He was resurrected, that is, of the same kind—except in the raising of the dead—or in the same measure. Peter never turned water into wine; he never stilled a tempest; he never—so far as we know—healed a leper; he never bade anyone walk on the water; he never fed multitudes with five loaves and two fishes. In fact, his miracles, even his miracles of healing, were comparatively few. And what was true of Peter was even more true of Paul. As to the other apostles who lived after Pentecost, excepting John in a single instance, the record says almost nothing of their miracle working. And as to any of them having abounding health and strength, there is absolutely nothing said in the New Testament about this, which seems to indicate that they lived physically as other men lived. In the case of Paul, we have indications from his writings of his physical condition. But he, who knew more about the resurrection power of Christ than any other apostle, set forth in several statements the fact that he was often far from well (2 Cor. 1:8, 9; 4:8-12; 11:24-27; 12:7-10). In addition, if the resurrection increased Christ’s right to display His power and increased the power which was to be displayed, how is it to be explained that He performed more and greater miracles before His resurrection than He did or has done after it? And if the saints may know more of God’s miracle power now, because of Christ’s resurrection and ascension, how is it, to take a single example, that they do not live as long as the patriarchs of old lived who knew nothing of Christ’s resurrection life? As far as I can tell, there is but one way in which to answer the above questions, it is true that Christ has taken to Himself more power than He had before the resurrection and that He has displayed this more since that event than before it; but it has pleased Him to express this in the spiritual world rather than in the physical. It does not follow, therefore, that the saints now have the right to go beyond the miracle positions of the saints of old. The fact of the matter is, the very reverse of this is true.
Many who hold the doctrine of miraculous healing state that the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the resurrected Christ, brings the fulness of the life of Christ to the saint, and that this life, through faith on the part of the recipient, may become, not only his spiritual life, but also his physical one, so that the individual may enjoy, during all of his days on earth, the fulness of physical life. Here is the danger of a half truth, not, as in the preceding instance, of a full one. It is wholly true that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the resurrected Christ and that a saint may be filled with Him; but it cannot be proven either from the Word or experience that every one who is so filled has a fulness of physical life. Eliminating the verse which is made so much of, namely, Romans 8:11, which appears to have nothing to do with our present experiences (see pages 62, 63), there is not a passage in the New Testament which proves that the Spirit stands ready at all times, in all circumstances and through the length of life to give abounding health and strength to Christians. And the history of the church, while it has notable examples of those to whom the Spirit has given exceptionally good health for the fulfilment of some special service, records that in all cases there has been a final physical breakdown which has resulted in death, and also, that there has been an almost countless number of devoted and trustful men and women who have fulfilled through life their earthly mission through the “much tribulation” of physical infirmity.
A friend once spoke to me about Dr. Simpson, and declared that he certainly drew his physical life from the Holy Spirit. I did not deny the statement, but I did venture to say one word. It was this: “Wait!” And neither of us had to wait long, for a few years later, the good Doctor went to pieces, physically, and, because of his physical ailment, spiritually; and, while he was restored spiritually, he was never recovered physically. Few who know the Holy Spirit will deny that He has power to maintain one in health and strength. But such persons need to be careful not to go too far in their deductions, for it is evident that the Spirit has set limitations upon Himself as to what He will presently do for the bodies of the saints, both as related to the church at large and the individual members of it. Moreover, it is manifest that He has no fixed rule by which He works, for He deals with each person according to His infinite knowledge of what is right and best for him (I Cor. 12:4-11).
Teachers of miraculous healing who set forth the doctrine of perfect health and strength because of an infinite Holy Spirit, reach a place of difficulty before they are done with the subject, which sometimes makes them to have recourse to strange explanations. I refer to the fact that death, previous to the second coming of Christ, is universal (I Cor. 15:51; Heb. 9:27). As to this, it is to be noted, just as the fall of Adam has no place in the theory of evolution, that death has no place in the theory of physical life in the Spirit. Grant that God, the Holy Ghost, may be at all times our physical life, we must conclude, in all consistency, that we need not die, since the Spirit is an “eternal Spirit” and never dies (Heb. 9:14).
Dr. William J. Erdman once asked Dr. Simpson why, according to his teaching, a saint had to die, and the Doctor was honest enough to say, “I do not know.” And yet, when Dr. Simpson wrote his book on miraculous healing (Gospel of Healing, pages 66, 67), he had recourse to this language, it being, with the facts before him, the best statement which he could make: “When the end comes, why need it be with painful and depressing sickness, as the rotten apple falls in June from disease and with a worm at the root? Why may it not be rather as the ripe apple would drop in September, mature, mellow, and ready to fall without a struggle into the gardener’s hand?” As a matter of fact, though Dr. Simpson did not intend it to be so, this is spiritual camouflage. For the illustration used is the covering up of the ugly truth that death is an enemy; that he insidiously lays hold of saint and sinner alike; that he brings disease of some sort, sooner or later, upon all; and, finally, that he gives the fatal grip, and the individual, no matter what his prayer and faith may be, dies. So the time comes, universally, when the theory of physical life in the Spirit breaks down and fails. Dr. Simpson found it so, and his last sickness and final death were anything but like the dropping of an apple in September into the gardener’s hand. The same is true of Dr. Gordon and Dr. Cullis. Indeed, in varying circumstances, the same has been true of all the saints who have lived and died. And it will be true—until Christ comes—of all other saints. The Spirit of the resurrected Christ may quicken us, but it is certain that He will never give us resurrection bodies until the resurrection time has come (I Cor. 15:51-57; I Thes. 4:13-17).
There is an aspect of this subject which, I think, most miraculous healing teachers fail to recognize, and which, this being the case, leads to a measure of blindness in respect to the true proportions, values and objectives of life. Let me make plain what I mean by asking two questions: First, is it so important that a saint should always be well and strong and active? And second, is it so desirable that a saint should always live to a good old age?
As touching the first, there may be no doubt as to what our natural desire is, for we do not like disease, weakness and pain; and I fear that this natural desire has much to do with the fervency of our prayers and the urgency of our faith in seeking good health and healing. But is not an insistence upon freedom from disease a going back to the days of Israel, who were children in position and experience and for this reason could not and would not endure suffering? And is not the bearing of physical affliction, when it is needful, the maintaining of our high position as Christians, proving that we can be weak and yet strong, that we can sorrow and yet rejoice, that we can be chastened and yet not misunderstand, and that we can suffer and yet praise? Paul reached his highest attainment, not through perfect health, but in just such a process of physical loss and spiritual gain as this (2 Cor. 4:7-11); and we shall do well, if God so appoints, if we follow in his steps.
As touching the second, it is not strange that the Old Testament saints desired long life and a good old age, for they had no heaven and Christ, as we have, to go to at death (Psa. 88:3-6, 10-12). But for a New Testament saint to wish to lengthen out his days interminably, suggests that he knows little about the city whose builder and maker is God, or about the Lamb which is the light thereof. I suppose the young Paul desired to live as long as possible. But one day he had a vision of heaven and Christ, and from thence he was in a strait between staying—for the sake of others—and going— for his own sake—knowing that going was “very far better” (Phil. 1:23, R.V.). It would not be right to seek sickness or death. But it is right to seek to be careful not to lay such an undue emphasis upon the present life as to make us prefer it to the life which is to be. And this thought suggests that one object which God, at a given time, may have in allowing disease and sickness to come and in not answering prayer for healing and health, is to give us a right perspective as between earth and heaven, and thus to make us to be willing and even long to be absent from the body and at home with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8; Phil. 1:20-23).