Unbelief is ever ingenious in the invention of instruments wherewith to torture the soul. You say, “It was suggested to me the other day, and it stung my soul to desperation, We find in Scripture many who were desperately sick, cured by our Savioir; but where do we read in all the Gospel of any man’s eyes twice enlightened? of any deaf ears twice opened? of any tied tongues twice loosened? of any possessed with devils twice dispossessed? No doubt Christ could have repeated these miracles; but where do we read that he ever did so?”
This may be correct enough, and it is not improper, perhaps, to make it an alarming argument against returning to sin; but to infer that, because we do not find a single instance recorded of Christ re-healing any who had relapsed into affliction, therefore there is no hope for the backslider, is a mere assumption. If none had a second miracle performed upon their person it was probably because none had fallen again under the power of disease, during the remaining period of our Lord’s ministry or, that circumstances may have precluded their second application; but it remains to be proved that Christ would not have been gracious a second time to a wretched invalid. To reason thus, is to set up a defective supposition in contradiction to the plainest declarations and promises of Scripture, Jeremiah 3:12-14; Hosea 14:4. It is, also, against matter of fact, and the history of the church, from the day backslidden Peter was restored to the favor of his Lord, down to our own times, in which instances to the contrary are most numerous. If the above sentiment has left a remaining tinge upon your mind, may the following considerations entirely erase it:
First. If the sick are healed in answer to prayer, or by the blessing or God upon medicine, it is Christ still exerting his healing power; but multitudes have been thus raised up, more than twice or thrice, in each individual case. Second. The Lord Jesus has lately restored many wretched backsliders in this city.
You go on to say, “My sin is ever before my mind, and the constant recognition of it distracts and terrifies my soul.” This proves that the mind has a looking faculty, as well as the body. When the eye looks at black or red, the mind is conscious of corresponding sensations. It is the same with the eye of the mind; emotions are produced in the soul in accordance with the object that fixes its regard, whether it be the black and heinous nature of sin committed, or the crimson blood of Jesus Christ, which was the atonement for it. Now, so sure as you have power to command your bodily eyes, you have equal power to control the looking faculty of your soul. The Psalmist said “My sin is ever before me;” but he also added, “I have set the Lord always before me;” and you can do the same. O, think of “Christ and him crucified!”
My heart was made better, several years ago, when reading a most affecting account of an aged Christian. It is with some hesitation I insert it in this letter, lest you would consider it foreign in the great end I had in writing, to you. But hoping that it may serve to relieve and cheer your mind for a few moments by turning it off itself if I may use the expression, I will relate it:
An aged American Christian had entered upon those few last hours in human existence which God has set apart for the work of dying. A long life of usefulness had drawn the affections of his country around him. Nearly one hundred years had he sojourned upon the earth; but his days were numbered. The lady who related the circumstance tells us that she stood by his bedside, when a message of love was conveyed to his ear from a friend, a fellow-statesman, — one to whom he was united by the strongest bonds of friendship, in years long gone by. But the aged man had totally forgotten the friend of his early years. These links of friendship, once so delicately interwoven with his very being had all been broken. She endeavored to restore his recollection; but, alas! a great gulf was between his mind and the remembrance of the past. The name and the image of his friend had fled from his memory, and could not be recalled.
A vase of massy [sic = spelling is correct] silver was brought before him, on which his country had caused to be sculptured the record of his services and her gratitude. He gazed vacantly upon it, but no chord of association vibrated. The love of honorable distinction, so long burning like a perpetual incense-flame on the altar of a great mind, had forsaken its temple. Her eyes filled as she gazed at the mournful wreck of mental power; feeling, doubtless, that no darkness is so great as that which overshadows and extinguishes the glorious light of mind. An individual at that moment happened to mention the name of God, “the God of all grace;” and his lips, till now so still and motionless, began to tremble; his cold blue eye sparkled through the frost of death; his thin, bloodless hand clasped hers; and, with a startling energy, he repeated the following lines:
“When by the whelming tempest borne,”
High o’er the broken wave,
I knew thou wert not slow to hear,
Nor impotent to save.”
And as she passed down the avenue from the patriarchal mansion, she said, the voice of this aged saint of God, lifted up in prayer, fell upon her ear; and she learned the further lesson, that the spirit of prayer may survive when intellectual endowments, and the consciousness of high renown, have been alike totally effaced from the tablet of the memory.
I wish, my dear friend, if the thing were possible, you could in some way be separated from that remembrance of the past which seems not only to terrify you, but to drive you away from in Jesus. I could wish, vain as the desire may be, that the links which connect you with those painful transgressions were broken off in some sort, as in the case of this aged Christian; at least, that a moment’s respite might be afforded you, to turn the distracted eye of your soul to the “Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” I would ask for you what poor Job so mournfully desired for himself; “How long wilt thou not depart from me, nor let me alone till I swallow down my spittle?” So that, forgetting all past associations, all your past sins, your present unworthiness, — losing yourself; so to speak, in the contemplation of the glories of redemption, so completely absorbed in the adoration of that name “which is above every name,” JESUS, — as to extinguish every other remembrance. And if you wish to repeat a few lines, like the servant of God referred to above, here they are for you:
“Before the throne my Saviour stands,
My Friend and Advocate appears;
My name is graven on his hands,
And him the Father always hears;
While low at Jesus’ cross I bow,
He hears the blood of sprinkling now.”
A certain poet might well say of the name of Jesus, that it was
“The talisman* and spell
Of the Gospel’s earlier hour.”
It cleansed the lepers, healed the lame, unsealed the deafest ear, unchained the speechless tongue, tore away from the heart sorrow’s darkest veil. It had only to be uttered, and a flood of cloudless light irradiated the hitherto darkened eyeballs. At its sound, the fever fled away; but mentioned, and the Holy Ghost descended, and thousands were converted to God. Devils obeyed the authority of its mandate, and came out of the possessed, and fled in terror to their native hell. “Handkerchiefs or aprons,” brought from the person of the apostle, when applied to the sick or the possessed, calling over them the name of Jesus, the diseases departed, and the evil spirits went out. It was but uttered, and the ankle-bones of cripples received strength; proclaiming, by walking, leaping, and praising God, how powerful the charm of that wondrous name.
The miraculous power attending its utterance extorted the humbling inquiry, from the tribunal of the persecutors, “By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?” The miracle was wrought; this they could not deny; but the secret power, spell or charm by which the thing was done, excited their most intense inquiry. Triumphant Peter, full of the Holy Ghost, standing up sublimely among his wondering foes, his eye lighted up with holy transport, announced the secret in a tone of flame, “By the NAME of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand there before you whole.” Yes, the name of Jesus was associated with every splendid achievement in the early days of the Gospel triumph. “The pure believing multitude” were drawn together by the music of that name. In every deliverance from bloody persecution, and after every conquest which the Gospel achieved in the conversion of sinners, their select meetings resounded with the confident exclamations, “Signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child, Jesus.”
Dear sir, there is yet an omnipotence in that precious name. It is, to the present day, “The true Christian talisman.” It has lost nothing of its ancient power. I have seen thousands converted by it; of each of whom we could say, to astonished observers, what St. Peter said to the amazed multitudes, when they saw the cripple, who had long sat at the gate called Beautiful begging, now leaping and praising God: “And his NAME, through faith in his name, hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know; yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.”
An old divine has somewhere said, “There is majesty implied in the name GOD. There is independent being in JEHOVAH. There is power in LORD. There is unction in CHRIST. There is affinity in IMMANUEL; intercession in MEDIATOR; and help in ADVOCATE; but there is salvation in no other name under heaven, but the name of JESUS.” Acts 4:12.
A few months before I left America, I had the privilege of witnessing a very extensive revival of religion, in a certain place. One night I was peculiarly interested in the case of an individual who was at the altar, with many others, for the instruction and prayers of the servants of God. Her cries and tears were very affecting, and really alarming. When spoken to, she said that during twenty years she had been under concern for her soul, but had never yet been converted to God; adding that she was now determined, if mercy were to be found, not to rest till she obtained it. The meeting closed, and she left the house in great distress of mind. No sooner had she arrived at home than she fell down upon her knees, weeping in agony, and pleading for salvation, as if she would not be denied. A dear brother, who was happy in the love of God, went to her at the moment when she was saying, “Lord, here is my heart, I give it to thee this night. O, have mercy upon me, a sinner!” She repeated the words over and over again, with the deepest emotion. The brother saw there was a deficiency, both in her faith and prayer, and immediately supplied the defect, -bringing Christ crucified before her mind, — and insisted that JESUS should be in her supplication. “Say, for Jesus’ sake,” urged the brother. This, for some time, she positively refused to do. “Say, for Jesus’ sake,” he again reiterated; but driven on by a sense of her sins, she appeared firm in the determination to avoid that name. “Say, for the sake of Jesus,” he again urged, “and God will bless you.” At last, almost suffocated with sorrow and distress, she feebly said, “Have mercy upon me, for the sake of Jesus.” “That is right,” said the brother; “repeat it again.” “Have mercy!” &c. “Pray on,” said he, “for Jesus’ sake.” She did so, and, in a few minutes, unbelief fled away; faith triumphed; the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, filled her happy soul, and she rejoiced with joy unspeakable and full of glory.
But you inquire, “Have you ever known a case so desperate as mine which resulted in salvation?” Yes, many. Vast numbers of those I have seen brought to God were pressed with their sins, like a cart beneath its sheaves, until they despaired of mercy for a time; and the Lord Jesus, by faith in his mighty name, saved them.
Come, then, my unhappy friend, come to Jesus. Say in your heart, and suit the action of your soul to the words,
“From sin and fear, from grief and shame,
I hide me, Jesus, in Thy name.”
Forget all. Leave all you have and are behind; think of Jesus, — of his atoning blood; -think of nothing else; dwell upon his name; repeat it with energy; do so again and again, until your soul draws virtue out of him. “Looking unto Jesus,” says the apostle. When you thus think of him, and for this purpose, you are then looking unto him. When the serpent-bitten Israelite looked at the brazen serpent erected by Moses, he was healed immediately; so shall you, if you thus look to Jesus. Soon he will kindle a flame in your heart that all hell may not extinguish. When this is done, you may think of your sins, and be humble; but the retrospect shall not make you unhappy.