Luk_6:19. And the whole multitude sought to touch him: for there went virtue out of him, and healed them all.
IN perusing the histories of ancient heroes, we may often be led to admire their skill and valour; but we shall much oftener be shocked at the means they used to exalt and aggrandize themselves; and, when we see them raising trophies to themselves on the ruins of slaughtered nations, we shall be induced to consider them rather as the plagues and scourges of mankind. But how different will be our sensations, when we read the history of Jesus! There we shall meet with nothing which will not be delightful to a benevolent mind. If we trace him in his circuits through the country, and view in every place the objects that surround him, we shall behold at one time the eyes he has just now opened, gazing on him with wonder and amazement; and at another time the ears he has unstopped, drinking in his words with insatiable eagerness and attention. Here we shall behold the hands he has restored to use, stretched forth to proclaim his praises; and the feet he has strengthened, leaping and dancing round him with inexpressible delight: there we shall hear the tongues he has loosed, shouting with exquisite love and gratitude; and see those whom he has dispossessed of devils, sitting with composure at the feet of their Benefactor. Sometimes we shall see the very dead starting forth into life and vigour at his command, and either rapturously saluting their disconsolate relations, or rending the air with their acclamations and hosannas. Such accounts as these, if considered only in a temporal view, cannot but excite in us a sympathetic joy, and afford the most pleasing sensations: but, no doubt, they were intended also to convey some spiritual instruction; in which view they acquire an additional, and almost an infinite, importance. Perhaps it may be too much to say that the miracles, wrought by our Lord, were types of the spiritual blessings he conveys; but we may affirm without hesitation, that there is a very strong analogy between them: and therefore, when we see what he did to the bodies of men, we have, at least, a very just occasion of considering what he will do for our souls.
In this view we propose to consider the account given us in the chapter before us. We are informed that a great multitude came to him out of Jud
a and Jerusalem, and from the sea coast of Tyre and Sidon, to hear him, and to be healed of their diseases: and then it is said, in the words of the text, “The whole multitude sought to touch him: for there went virtue out of him, and healed them all.”
To illustrate this subject we shall,
Trace the analogy between the miracles wrought by our blessed Lord on the bodies of men, and those which he yet works on men’s souls—
For the more distinct elucidation of this point, we may observe,
There is resemblance between the disorders of the body, and the disorders of the soul—
[Many were brought to our Lord, who were blind, deaf, leprous, and possessed with devils. And such are men at this time, in a spiritual view. Like the Laodiceans, however they may “think themselves rich and increased with goods, they are wretched and miserable, and poor, and blind; and therefore need to take counsel of our Lord, and to anoint their eyes with his eye-salve, that they may see [Note: Rev_3:17-18.].” “Their eyes must be opened, before they will turn from the power of Satan unto God [Note: Act_26:18.].”
The natural man too is represented as spiritually deaf; as having ears, and not hearing [Note: Mat_13:15.]; as being unable to hear the voice of the good Shepherd [Note: Joh_8:47.]; yea, as like the deaf adder that stoppeth her ear [Note: Psa_58:4.].
The leprosy also of sin lies deep in our hearts; as the prophet intimates, when, in allusion to the convicted leper, he says of himself, and of all around him, “Woe is me, I am a man of unclean lips, and dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips [Note: Isa_6:5.].”
Though demoniacal possessions were not properly disorders, yet are they always enumerated with them, when the miracles of our Lord are recited. And, however humiliating the truth may be, it is certain that we are all, while in an unconverted state, possessed by Satan. The unbelieving world are blinded [Note: 2Co_4:4.], governed [Note: Eph_2:2.], and led captive by him at his will [Note: 2Ti_2:26.]. And, whatever evil they are excited to commit, it is through the instigation of that wicked fiend [Note: Joh_13:27. Act_5:3.].]
There is a resemblance between the cures wrought by our Lord upon the bodies of men, and the cures which he will work upon their souls—
[Wherever the blessings of salvation are mentioned in the prophets, they are set forth in some highly figurative expressions; and by none more commonly than by those relating to bodily cures. Isaiah says, “In that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind see out of, obscurity and out of darkness [Note: Isa_29:18; Isa_32:3.].” And again, “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped: then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing [Note: Isa_35:5-6.];” which figures are afterwards explained as relating to the spiritual salvation of the Church [Note: Isa_35:10.].
The application which the inspired Apostles make of these prophecies further evinces the truth of our position. St. Matthew quotes a passage, which beyond all doubt relates to spiritual benefits that were to be obtained through the death of Christ, and explains it, in a way of accommodation, as referring to the bodily cures which our Lord had wrought [Note: Compare Isa_53:4. with Mat_8:16-17.]. Further, our Lord himself, having healed a blind man, takes occasion to trace this very analogy between the spiritual blindness of the Pharisees, and the bodily blindness which he had just healed: “For judgment I am come into this world, that they who see not might see, and that they who see might be made blind [Note: Joh_9:39.].” And both the answer which the Pharisees made to him, and the reply which our Lord gave them, manifest that this analogy was intended to be pointed out [Note: Joh_9:40-41.].]
There is a resemblance between the manner in which the diseased persons applied to our Lord for healing, and the manner in which we should apply to him for spiritual healing—
[Of all the multitudes that came to our Lord, there was not one who was not sensible of his disease. Moreover, they all came to him with deep humility, prostrating themselves before him in the most abject manner [Note: Luk_8:28; Luk_8:41.], and acknowledging the utter insufficiency of all other means [Note: Mar_5:26; Mar_5:33.]. And such was their earnestness, that they came from afar [Note: Mar_8:3.], and could not be prevailed upon to hold their peace [Note: Mat_20:30-31.], nor would take a denial even from our Lord himself [Note: Mat_15:22-28.]. It is worthy of notice also, that they all came in faith: some few indeed doubted his power, and some his willingness, to help them: but none doubted both his power and his willingness; and the greater part entertained no doubt at all.
Thus then should we go to him, “weary and heavy-laden” with our sins, and so sensible of our spiritual wants, that if he should ask us, What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee? we may answer him immediately, “Lord, that this disorder may be healed, and that sin forgiven [Note: Mat_20:33.].” We must also, with all lowliness of mind, confess our inability to obtain relief from any other quarter, and our dependence on him alone [Note: Hos_14:1-3.]. Moreover, in proof of our earnestness, we must not merely seek, but strive [Note: Luk_13:24.], determining to take the kingdom of heaven by violence [Note: Mat_11:12.], and not to let the Saviour go, except he bless us [Note: Gen_32:26.]. Lastly, we must be sure to exercise faith on Christ, believing him both able and willing to save us: for we are expressly told that, he who wavereth and is of a doubtful mind, must not expect to receive any thing of the Lord [Note: Jam_1:6-7.].]
There is a resemblance between the manner in which our Lord cured their disorders and the manner in which he will cure ours—
[He sometimes healed the people secretly, as when he took the deaf man aside from the multitude, and put his fingers into his ears, and said, Ephphatha, be opened, and then charged him to tell no man [Note: Mar_7:34; Mar_7:36.]. So he has now many “hidden ones [Note: Psa_83:3.],” in whose hearts he carries on a secret work, and heals them without attracting the notice of the world. At other times he performed the cures openly, and in the sight of all; as when he bade the man with the withered hand to stand forth [Note: Mat_3:3; Mat_3:5.]. So he often converts the souls of profligate sinners, or bitter persecutors, in such a striking manner, as to fill all around them with wonder and amazement.
Sometimes he wrought his cures instantaneously; as in the man at the pool of Bethesda [Note: Joh_5:8.]: and so he effects a sudden change in the hearts of many, causing them to cry out like the first converts and the jailor, “What shall I do to be saved [Note: Act_2:37; Act_16:30.]?” At other times he performed his cures gradually, as in the blind man, who at first saw men, as trees, walking [Note: Mar_8:24.]: and so he often carries on his work in a gradual manner in our souls, leading us from progressive conviction to thorough conversion.
Sometimes he used means in curing them; as when he put clay and spittle on the blind man’s eyes [Note: Joh_9:6.]: so he now converts many by the preaching of his Gospel. At other times he used no means, as in the case of the ten lepers, who were cleansed as they were going in the way [Note: Luk_17:14.]: and so he often imparts the knowledge of himself by the teachings of his Spirit, without using any particular means or instrument to convey it.
But however varied his manner was with respect to these things, in one respect it was uniformly the same: whomsoever he cured, he cured perfectly: and thus he always carries on the work he has begun in the souls of men [Note: Php_1:6.], and perfects that which concerneth them [Note: Psa_138:8.].]
Since then, without any forced interpretations or conceits, we may draw such instruction from the miracles in general, let us endeavour to,
Improve the particular miracle recorded in the text—
If, in the concerns of our souls, we desire either direction or encouragement, we cannot find them any where more suitably afforded than in the passage before us; where the conduct of the multitude suggests the former, and the conduct of Jesus the latter. Let us then improve it,
[We should not dare to exhort you in general to follow the multitude; since that would be to lead you in the broad road to destruction [Note: Mat_7:13.]. But in the present instance we say, Follow that multitude.
Follow them in the conviction which they had of their own need of Christ. Every one felt within himself that he laboured under a disorder which needed healing; and, if each of them had been asked, ‘What is your disorder? and what is yours?’ they could all have specified the principal symptoms of the disorders under which they laboured. Now thus must we go to Jesus, feeling and lamenting the ravages which sin has made upon our souls. It is not sufficient for us to confess in general that we are sinners; we must open our case to him, and tell him, “Thus and thus have I done [Note: Jos_7:20.]!” And, if the Spirit of God have truly convinced us of sin, we shall find no more difficulty in this, than a poor man does in opening his complaints to a physician. More particularly, we should get our hearts impressed with the evil of our besetting sin; and, carrying it to Jesus, we should confess it, lament it, aggravate it, and implore both his mercy to pardon it, and his grace to subdue it: and, if we thus go to him labouring and heavy-laden, we have his promise that he will give us rest [Note: Mat_11:28.].
Follow them also in their earnestness. We are told that the people pressed on Jesus, so that they who were nearest to him could not maintain their place by reason of the multitudes, who strove to get access to him, and to touch him [Note: Mar_3:10.]. They not only left their own business, but, in many instances, prevailed on their friends to relinquish their occupations also, in order to carry them to Jesus. In short, they postponed every consideration to that of obtaining a cure from him. And who could blame them? They felt their need of healing, and knew that they might obtain it by going to him, and therefore they would on no account lose the opportunity afforded them: and, when they could in no other way get access to him, they would go up to the top of the house, and let down their diseased friends in a couch through the tiling [Note: Luk_5:19.]. Would to God that we were all thus earnest for the salvation of our souls! that no consideration whatever were suffered to detain us from the Lord! and that not one of us might delay another hour to go unto him! We are far more favourably circumstanced than they were, since we can go to him without removing from our chamber, or intermitting our earthly business. He is every where present to heal us; if we can only break through the crowd of lusts and cares that are within our own hearts, there is no other crowd that can keep us from him. How anxious should we be to get immediate relief from an acute disorder, especially if there were but one physician able to heal us, and his continuance in our neighbourhood were likely to be very short! Let us then shew the same care for our souls, and go to Jesus without delay, knowing that “this is the accepted time, this is the day of salvation.”
Once more—Follow them in their faith. They were not only convinced of Christ’s power and willingness to heal them, but were assured that, if they could but touch his garment, they should be whole [Note: Mat_9:21.]. They did not stand reasoning about the matter, or go and try other means, but applied to him as their all-sufficient helper. So must we go to him, not endeavouring first to heal ourselves by our repentance, or labouring to make ourselves fit for him by our amendments, or questioning whether he be willing to receive us: we must go to him just as we are, altogether filthy and abominable; and be firmly persuaded that we shall not seek his face in vain. To be reasoning and yielding to doubts and fears will be of little avail; but to go to Christ in faith, will prove an infallible remedy for every ill: whatever be our complaint, he will say, “Go thy way; and, as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee;” and we shall be made whole from that very hour [Note: Mat_8:13.].]
[We cannot conceive any thing more encouraging than the behaviour of our blessed Lord to the people.
Behold his condescension! How wonderful was it, that he, the Lord of glory, should suffer such a multitude of miserable and filthy objects to press upon him! yea, that he should go about through all cities, towns, and villages, for that very purpose! And will he now be inattentive to our spiritual wants? When we rush, as it were, with holy violence into his presence, and seek to touch him, will he forbid us? Will he withdraw himself from us, or say, ‘Stand off; thou art too vile to be admitted to my presence?’ Has he not said, on the contrary, that “whosoever cometh unto him, he will in no wise cast out [Note: Joh_6:3; Joh_6:37.]?” Let the trembling sinner then take courage; for his sighing shall soon be turned into that triumphant song, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name, who forgiveth all thy sins, and healeth all thy diseases [Note: Psa_103:1-3.]!”
Behold also his compassion! There was not one of all the multitudes that came to him, dismissed without a cure. Though many of them probably had despised him, and though he foresaw that many of those very persons would join in that general cry, “Away with him, crucify him, crucify him!” (as it is highly probable they did) yet his bowels of compassion yearned over them. Many, no doubt, were as unthankful as the nine lepers; yet did he not withhold his mercy from their bodies. How much more then will he have compassion on those who seek him for their souls! When he beholds them supplicating for the pardon of their sins, and the renovation of their hearts, will he turn from them, and shut his ear at their cry? no; he will rather fall upon their neck, and kiss them [Note: Luk_15:20.]; or, as the prophet speaks, “He will save; he will rejoice over them with joy, he will rest in his love, he will joy over them with singing [Note: Zep_3:17.].” Only let us seek him in truth, and we shall find him rich in mercy unto all that call upon him [Note: Rom_10:12.].
Lastly, behold his power! However inveterate the diseases of many might be, the whole multitude were healed. And has he less power now that he is in heaven? Has he not “the residue of the Spirit,” yea, and “all the fulness of the Godhead dwelling in him?” Why then should any be discouraged? What though our sins be great? can he not forgive them? What though our habits be deeply rooted? can he not overcome them? What though our temptations be manifold? can he not deliver us out of all? Be our “enemies ever so mighty, he that dwelleth on high is mightier.” Let us all surround him in expectation of his benefits; and “we shall find him able to save us to the uttermost.”]
[Let us now picture to ourselves the state of the multitudes who had touched him: what joys! what raptures! what ecstasies! what congratulations from surrounding friends! what universal shouts and acclamations to the honour of the Lord Jesus! none ascribing their recovery to an arm of flesh; but all acknowledging Jesus as the sole author of their happiness! And why should it not be thus with us at this time? Surely, if this whole congregation would but vie with each other in their endeavours to obtain his blessing, they would soon have far more abundant cause for joy, than ever they had, whose bodily health was restored: for their souls should be freed from the deadly malady of sin, yea, “virtue should come forth from him to heal us all.”]