It will be observed that I have described in the last two chapters ten separate cases of sickness, with the details of which I am personally familiar. Also, it will be observed that God in answer to prayer, in the first five of these, gave direct and immediate healing, and in the last five, though prayer Was offered, did not give such healing, but healed otherwise or did not heal at all. In addition, it will be observed that I have chosen and arranged the ten cases in such a manner as to establish a parallelism between them, each corresponding set having reference, for the most part, to similar conditions in respect to the persons who were sick, the kind of sickness which prevailed, and the person, or persons, who prayed for healing.
In view of this citation and combination, it is now possible to consider the whole number of the cases in order to attempt to gather from them warrantable conclusions. It must be remembered, however, that any deductions which may thus be made cannot be considered as, in themselves, final. Whatever conclusions may be reached must be submitted to the test of the Word of God, and only such deductions may stand as are found to be in correspondence with the Word. Thus two processes of reasoning will be brought into view. The first process may be regarded as a scientific one, having its real value; the second process will be recognized as a spiritual one, having a supreme value. At the same time, if the finding from one process confirms that obtained from the other, and if the two are discovered to be in agreement, it may rationally be concluded that the truth, being witnessed to both by Scripture and experience, has been established and may rightfully affect both opinion and practice. The present chapter will be taken up, therefore, with the consideration of the ten eases which have been described, and with the attempt to discover what the facts and principles are which they contain. I shall take the liberty, in proceeding, in view of my familiarity with the details of the cases, to state certain important features of them, which were not mentioned in the descriptions given. Also, for the sake of clearness, I shall put my conclusions in the form of a series of propositions.
It is to be noted, in all of the ten cases mentioned, that the use of means, as represented by physicians, nurses and medicines, was not rejected, either before, during, or after the experience of the sicknesses described. This signifies that God did not condition His acts of healing, in the five cases where He gave direct healing, upon the persons concerned assuming the attitude that the use of means was wrong and was inconsistent with full trust in God. On the contrary, it signifies that God granted direct healing even when means were regarded as allowable, and that He continued to grant such healings, in additional cases, in answer to the prayers of those who used such means.
It is to be noted in all of the ten cases mentioned, with two exceptions, that the individuals concerned did not send for the elders of the church in order that the sick person might be anointed with oil, and yet that God, in five cases, granted direct healing in answer to the prayers offered. It is to be noted also, in the two cases where anointing took place, that God did not answer prayer by direct healing. It is not meant to imply by these statements that the persons who had to do with the cases of sickness and did not have recourse to anointing disbelieved in taking the course described in the fifth chapter of the Epistle of James; nor is it meant to imply, prayer not having been answered in the two cases where anointing with oil took place, that the persons concerned concluded that anointing had been a mistake. The intention is simply to point out the fact that the conditions were as described. The conclusion, therefore, is rightfully reached that God, in the cases where direct healing was given, did not require that the injunction in the Epistle of James should be complied with, but, on the contrary, was pleased to heal apart from the fulfillment of that injunction. And the further conclusion is rightfully reached, that God, in the cases where anointing was practised, did not consider the obedience which led to the use of oil, even though believing prayer accompanied it, a sufficient reason why healing should in these cases be given.
It is to be noted, in all of the ten cases, that the attitude of those who prayed was not that of claiming healing, as if a universal right had been established by the atoning work of Christ, but rather that of seeking God’s will in the given case, and of saying continually, “Thy will be done,” until that will was made known. It also is to be observed, that this was the experience in all of the five cases where direct healing was granted as truly as it was in the five cases where healing was not granted.
It is to be noted in all of the five cases where direct healing was given that there were certain facts which gave them a peculiar character. In some cases, there was not time or opportunity to make use of the natural means of healing, if the Christian service which the individual had undertaken was to be continued and fulfilled. In other cases, means had been used and these had failed, so that there was no possibility of healing taking place unless God should bring this to pass in an unusual manner. And lastly, some special spiritual end was manifestly in view as a result of the healing given, such as the showing forth of Christ’s power in a peculiarly striking and public way, or the raising up of an individual whose life was of importance in the fulfillment of God’s purposes upon the earth.
It is to be noted that the conditions of prayer in the five cases of direct healing were not uniform, but dissimilar. In acme cases, one prayed. In other cases, two united in prayer. In still other cases, many persons, sometimes widely separated, ware agreed together in the prayer which was offered. Again, in some cases, prayer was offered but once. In other cases prayer was offered many times and through long periods of time. In addition, persons who prayed for healing were heard and answered who had never before had such an experience. And, still in addition, persons who had liberty in asking for healing at one time, did not obtain such liberty at another time; and also, after such liberty, in a given case, had passed away, it was, in some other case, fully restored. It may be added that the only common experience in the prayers for healing which were offered is found in the fact that they were addressed to the Father in the name of Christ, and that they were designed to be for the glory of God and the good of the individual for whom prayer was offered. But it is to be remembered that this last was as truly the fact in the cases where direct healing was not granted as in the cases where it was.
It is to be noted that the faith exercised was not generally of the kind where positive assurance of obtaining the thing asked for accompanied the prayer. There was assurance, so far as is known, in all of the ten cases; but this had reference to the power, love, and wisdom of God rather than to the fact that healing would take place. The general attitude of those who prayed, and hence, of those who exercised faith, was this: they believed that God could heal; that He would heal if it was for His glory and for the good of the person who was sick; and finally, that He could be trusted implicitly to do what was right and best. Thus, those who prayed left the issue f their prayers with the heavenly Father in child-like confidence, repeating the prayer for healing until His will was known, and accepting the answer when it came, whatever it was, with submissive and trustful praise. it is to be observed also, that this submission of faith was as true in the five cases where direct healing was given as in the five cases where it was not given.
It is to be noted, so far as the facts are known, that the nature of the faith exercised by those who prayed for healing did not differ as between the five cases where direct healing was given and the five cases where such healing was not given. Hence, it cannot be inferred, where direct healing was not given, that the persons praying did not believe, or, at least, did not believe sufficiently to have the prayers for healing answered. As a matter of fact, just the opposite of what might naturally have been expected in such respects sometimes took place. In the experiences which I had of praying for healing, with the one exception of my experience with Mr. McC., I am positive that I had no more consciousness that I was trusting God when prayer for direct healing was answered than I had when such prayer was not answered. indeed, I am bound to say that I was sometimes more conscious of a confidence in God that He would heal when He did not heal than when He did. The natural explanation of this last is this: that God’s answering prayer for healing, on a given occasion, strengthened my faith and thus encouraged me to believe more ardently, on a subsequent occasion, though the result in the second case turned out to be just the opposite of what it had been in the first one. This was the fact when I prayed the second time for the healing of my throat; when I prayed the second time for healing from seasickness, and when I prayed the second time for the healing of Mr. Taylor. It seems correct to conclude, therefore, that the putting forth of God’s power to heal, while in answer to the prayer of faith, did not depend upon a peculiar quantity of faith, or even upon a peculiar quality of faith, but rather upon the fulfilling of other scriptural and spiritual conditions.
It is to be noted, in the cases where direct healing was delayed and in the five cases where it was not granted, that special spiritual blessings were given to the persons who were permitted to be sick, and that most of the persons, if not all of them, were finally constrained to testify that they believed that the sickness had proved to be even better than health could have been. Mr. McC. has affirmed that the things which did most to separate him from the world to God and give him power to testify of the exalted and glorified Christ was the valley-deep experience through which he passed in the months of his weakness and suffering. Mr. Taylor once told me that his greatest spiritual blessings had come to him in connection with his various sicknesses; and later he made to me the remarkable statement that all of the most important advance movements which had taken place in connection with the China Inland Mission, including its inception, had Come as a direct result of some physical breakdown through which he had been called upon to pass. And, if I may be permitted to refer to my own experience in this connection, I would witness to the fact, that the deepest, the most precious, and the most abiding spiritual lessons which God has been pleased to teach me were learned in consequence of and during my various experiences of sickness. This last is particularly true in respect to the prayer-life, the praise-life, the life of dependence upon God, and the life which chooses to live, not for the seen, but for the unseen, not for the temporal but for the eternal. All of this has been so blessedly true in my own experience, that I am tempted to agree with the man who said: “Health is the best thing in the world—except sickness!” Indeed, knowing what God has done for me through physical weakness, and being persuaded that certain blessings could never have been given to me in any other way than through such an experience, I feel that it would have been nothing short of a calamity to have missed the physical suffering through which I have passed.
It is to be noted, in all of the five cases where direct healing was given, that the process of healing was not a gradual one, but was instantaneous; and also, so far as the disease which was healed is concerned, that it was accomplished once for all. It is not meant by this that God always answered prayer as soon as it was offered. This was the case in some instances. But in some others, prayer was offered for a long time before deliverance was given. It remains a fact, however, in each of the five cases where direct healing was granted, that when the healing came it was immediate and lasting. In other words, from the moment of healing, prayer was turned into praise, and the petitions which had been offered did not have to be repeated.
It is to be noted, in all of the five cases where prayer for direct healing was answered, that, while the disease healed did not recur, other minor ailments, or even more serious diseases, were experienced, which needed to be faced and dealt with as previous sicknesses had been. I was healed of my cold; but I had many subsequent colds. I was healed of my seasickness; but since then I have frequently been seasick. Mr. McC. was lifted from the place of death; but he has had to take special care of his body and has found that there is a decided physical limitation upon him. Mr. Taylor was frequently recovered by God from severe sicknesses and his life was long lengthened out in spite of a weak heart; but other sicknesses came upon him, and at last it was through heart failure that his earthly life came to an end.
It is finally to be noted, in all of the ten cases, while the granting of direct healing was evidently connected with holiness of life on the part of the person healed or on the part of the person or persons praying, that such holiness was not, in itself, a sufficient cause of healing. With the exception of the persons who were insane, there was special fellowship with God being enjoyed; and it is possible, even in the cases excepted, that this was the fact, as far as the physical conditions permitted. Admitting then, that a real measure of holiness of life was existing in all of the cases, it is to be observed that the results in the two sets of cases were different and opposite, the persons in the first five cases being healed, and the persons in the second five cases not being healed. It may be stated as a fact therefore, as far as the existing conditions are known, that those persons who were not healed were as much in fellowship with God when prayer was not answered as at other times or in other cases when it was; and also, that the persons who offered prayer for the person sick were as much in fellowship with God when their prayers were not answered as, at previous or subsequent times, when they were. Speaking for myself, I am positive that I have sometimes met with God’s refusal to heal when I have been most in fellowship with Him. And taking Mr. Taylor as an illustration of one who maintained, by the Spirit, a pre-eminently close fellowship with God, I can affirm, as a result of personal observation and of the testimony of the one who knew him best, namely, Mrs. Taylor, that the times of his physical weakness were not times of his spiritual declension, but, contrariwise, they were commonly the times of his closest communion with Christ.
I venture to give here, in closing this chapter, and in confirmation of the foregoing statement, a story which relates to almost the last physical sickness of Mr. Taylor, which finally ended with his death. It was at the time when Mr. Taylor was living, as an invalid, at Davos, Switzerland, and when the Boxer trouble was raging in China. As the news of that calamity was received by cables and letters, Mr. Taylor’s heart, which was always deeply and tenderly concerned for his missionaries, suffered keenly. He said, except to God, very little; but his wife and others saw that the shocking news of suffering and death was vitally affecting the already weakened body and that his strength was failing fast. From that time on most of the adverse news had to be kept from him. This, however, did not arrest the physical decline. At last, the beloved sufferer was so far spent that about all he could do was to lie on a sofa in his sitting room, where he was daily placed for change and rest, and patiently wait the issue, whatever it might be. While lying thus one day, he spoke to his wife as follows: “I cannot read; I cannot pray; I can scarcely think, but,” he added with a smile, “I can trust!” And these memorable words characterized, not only Mr. Taylor’s life in general, but also and particularly, all of those final years wherein weakness was his constant portion. It was such an one as this whom God permitted, in the very consummation of his holy living and believing, to be laid aside in great weakness and in frequent pain, until, at last, in far away China, over-fatigue was added to debility, and he quietly and peacefully fell asleep in Christ.