An Excerpt On The Sight of Sin
Taken from Christ All and in All
or Several Significant Similitudes by which the Lord Jesus Christ is described in the Holy Scriptures.
By Pastor Ralph Robinson of Mary Woolnoth, London, U.K., Published in 1868
…[Question] IV. Whether Jesus Christ observes the same method in this work of discovering the sinner’s estate to himself? Whether all sinners have the same measure of humbling and terror, and whether they continue for the same time under apprehensions of wrath?
Jesus Christ is a free agent. He is not tied to any certain method, nor doth he always walk in the same way. His dispensations in the work of convincing men of sin are various and different. The work is wrought on all so far as to make the soul sensible of sin’s bitterness above all other bitterness, and to make it sensible of Christ’s excellency above all other excellent things. But that it is done in the same violent manner in all, or that it is of the same continuance, cannot be affirmed. Conviction and conversion may be wrought at the same sermon, as we see it was with those three thousand, Acts 2:37, 41. They were no sooner pricked in their hearts, but they gladly received the word. There was great difference between this work in Lydia and in the jailor, Acts xvi. 14. God showed her her sickness in a more mild way. The Lord opened her heart that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. But the jailor, he had an earthquake, and great horrors in his conscience, ver, 27, 29.
1. Some sinners have been more scandalous than others. These are brought to Christ with greater troubles: so it was with the jailor; he had been a cruel bloody man; God lays him under deep sorrow.
2. God hath a greater work to do by some sinners than others. These he uses to deal with in a more rough way, that he may prepare them for service the better. This seems to be the reason of his so sharp dealing with Saul, Acts 9:15, 16.
3. Some sinners are of a more rough, turbulent nature than others. These must be handled more severely. Some men must be bound before they will be ruled. So it is with some kind of sinners. Thus with Manasseh, 2 Chronicles 33:11.
4. Some have been sinners of a longer standing than others. These Christ useth to be more sharp withal in his way of curing.
5. Some sinners have been more confident in their civil righteousness than others. As Paul was in his Pharisaism, Philippians. 3:6. These Christ uses to handle more sharply. Jesus Christ is a wise physician, he observes the nature of all his patients, and accordingly prescribes medicines for them. He that hath the least measure of this conviction hath so much as that he sees himself lost, undone, helpless, hopeless in himself. He sees the evil of sin; he sees Christ an excellent, suitable, all-sufficient good for his soul. This one thing I add more. Where there is the least sorrow before conversion there is, many times, greater sorrow and more troubles of spirit after conversion.
The Uses Of This Point:
1. How sad is the condition of those that never yet were truly made sensible of their sick estate. They never yet had a true, lively, sensible apprehension of their sick condition. They were never so much as pricked in their hearts for sin so as to make them loathe it. They were never taken from all their high conceits of their own natural estate, &c. These men have cause to suspect that sin is not yet cured. A person may have some conviction of his misery and not be healed, but a man cannot be healed without some conviction. The heart cannot be broken for sin without the sight of sin, Ezekiel 36:31. There can be no self-loathing till there be a remembering of our ways and doings that have not been good.
2. How necessary the preaching of the law is to true conversion. A man will never be taken off from the opinion of his own healthfulness but by the preaching of the law. The law shows men what they are, what they may expect, &c. The fallow ground of the heart will never be broken up without the plough of the law, Jeremiah 4:3. The plough of the law must go and make deep furrows too before the seed of comfort be cast in. Though the preaching of the law [does] not convert, yet it helps forward conversion, inasmuch as it works that preparatory work, without which conversion ordinarily is not; as the needle makes way for the thread, so the law makes way for conversion. The spirit of bondage makes way for the spirit of adoption, and that is wrought by the preaching of the law.
3. The mistake of those who are against all kind of preparations to conversion. They would have mercy held out to sinners as sinners, not as sinners so and so qualified. Surely the Scripture hath laid down qualifications for sinners to whom the gospel is tendered. They must be humbled sinners, burdened sinners, &c. The mercy of the gospel is not to be prostituted to sinners as sinners, but to broken-hearted sinners, to heart-wounded sinners, to sinners that see themselves lost in themselves, to hungering and thirsting sinners. The brazen serpent was only for such to look upon as were stung with serpents. Such as are in some measure sensible of the stinging nature of sin are to be invited to lay hold on Christ. As it is an undoing to wounded sinners to keep them from Christ, so it is an undoing to such sinners as are not in some measure pressed with sin to apply the promises of the gospel. This was prefigured in the leper, “The leper must cry unclean,’ &c. Every sinner is this leper; sight of sin must go before healing of sin.
4. Let ministers take the same way which Christ takes for the curing of sinners. Jesus Christ is both an able and faithful physician. It is no disparagement to use this method, yea, it is the greatest wisdom to prescribe the same receipts which Jesus Christ prescribes; [which] he uses to take men off from the opinion they have of their own way. His manner is to let men see they are sick, to convince them of sin before he apply healing medicines. All those ministers that desire to have their endeavours successful must do so likewise. People must be contented to suffer their condition to be known, to suffer themselves to be made sick, that so they may be cured. This is Christ’s way, this is a safe way, this must be our way. Though such kind of preaching put you to some present trouble, yet it will be to your eternal advantage. Your sores cannot be healed comfortably till you see them to be sores and festered sores. You must be contented to suffer the ploughings of the law, that you may be prepared for the comforts of the gospel. You must be contented to be cast down, that you may be prepared for raising up. You must be contented to be led to the gates of hell, that you may be brought to the kingdom of heaven. Better a great deal to go to heaven through hell than to sail through an imaginary heaven, and land at the dark stairs of hell in the end.
5. Those that find themselves to be spiritually sick shall find Jesus Christ a physician ready to heal them. No physician was ever so ready to heal a sick brother as Jesus Christ will be to cure a sin-sick sinner. We find in the Gospel that Christ was very willing to heal those that came to him sick of bodily infirmities. We do not, that I remember, read of any one that was sent away uncured, that earnestly begged his help either for themselves or any of theirs. The leprous, the paralytic, the demoniac, the lame, the blind, those that were sick of fevers, those that had bloody issues. “Whatever sicknesses men had, they obtained favour, Matthew 4:23. Christ ever valued the soul above the body, therefore he will be much more ready to heal the sickness thereof. He healed many of the sick publicans when they saw their diseases; as Zaccheus, Matthew, &c.; and he will be, to the end of the world, ready to afford the same mercy to any that are or shall be in their condition. Three things are here to be unfolded by way of explication.
I. What it is to be spiritually sick of sin.
II. That Christ will be ready to heal such.
III. What are the reasons of this readiness.
I. To be sick of sin comprehends these six particulars.
First, A true sight of our sinful condition. That man who never yet had the sight of a sinful estate was never yet truly sick of sin; the soul must be convinced that it is a sinful estate. Thus it was with the publican, Luke xviii. 13. He acknowledged himself to be a sinner, ἁμαρτωλός. Nor is all sight of sin sufficient; but that sight of sin which is an ingredient of spiritual sickness must have these two properties.
1. It must arise from the word of God. This was the foundation of the apostle’s sight of sin, Romans 7:9, ‘When the commandment came,’ saith he, “sin revived and I died.” Thus also it was with those three thousand, Acts 2:37, ‘When they heard this, they were pricked in their hearts.’ The sense of sin did arise from something which was delivered to them out of the word of God. No other light besides this divine light will discover sin so as to make the soul sick of it.
2. It must extend to sin in the root as well as to sin in the branches. I mean original birth-sin, as well as actual sin. Possibly the sight of sin may arise first from some actual transgression. So it was with those converts, Acts 2:37. That bloody act of theirs against Jesus Christ was the first sin they saw. Actual sins are more obvious to the eye than original sin. This is a sin lying underground, more remote, at a greater distance from the cognizance of a sinner, therefore peradventure some actual offence first is set upon the conscience; but sooner or later doth this actual sin bring to the sinner’s conscience the sight of that sin, which is the root both of this and of all other actual sins; namely, that body of death, that law of the members, as the apostle calls it, Romans 7:23, which continually warreth against the law of the mind.
Secondly, A serious apprehension of the misery and danger the soul is in by reason of sin discovered. No man is sick of sin till he see the danger which sin hath, and which it is likely further to plunge him into. Thus it was with those converts, Acts 2:37. The question they propound, “What shall we do to be saved‘ doth imply clearly enough that they looked upon themselves as men in a state of damnation in their present condition. And, indeed, the same word of God which discovers sin doth discover wrath also as the wages of sin, so that the sick sinner is one that lies under the apprehension of wrath, which he expects suddenly to fall upon him.
Thirdly, Compunction and contrition is wrought in the soul by reason of sin. The heart throbs and aches by reason of that miserable state which by sin he is brought into. Thus it was with those converts, Acts 2:37. They were pricked in their hearts, their spirits were full of grief and vexation to remember what they had done, and what they were like to suffer. Thus it was with the publican, Luke 18:13. He ‘smote his breast,” saith the text, his heart was overwhelmed with grief, shame, fear, sorrow. There was a mixture of all these passions in him at once. Thus it is with all those that are spiritually sick. This is that which our Saviour calls labouring, and being heavy laden, Matthew 11:28. Sickness, when it is seen, is evermore accompanied with pain and anguish.
Fourthly, Dissatisfaction with the present condition. This follows upon the former; and you will find it hath ever been in such as have seen their spiritual sickness. What is the meaning of those questions which are propounded by the three thousand, Acts 2:37; by the jailor, Acts 16:30; and by Paul, Acts 9:9? Do they not clearly evince that they were unsatisfied with their present estate? It was no pleasing thing to them to continue any longer in that condition. As if they should have said, it is no abiding in this estate. It is such a kind of reasoning as the four lepers had among themselves when the famine was so raging in Samaria, 2 Kings 8:3, ‘Why sit we here until we die?’ Whatever the success or event be, we must think of some other course. Just so it is with a conscience-wounded sinner, he cannot be contented with that estate. Though he know not how to get out, yet he cannot be content to abide there.
Fifthly, Despair of deliverance by anything in himself. He that is sick of sin looks upon himself as utterly unable to help himself. This is that which is called in another place spiritual poverty. And, saith Calvin, Nemo spiritu pauper, nisi qui in nihilum apud se redactus. Thus it was with those sick sinners before-named. Their asking so seriously what they must do did clearly imply that they themselves knew not what to do; something they thought must be done, and yet they knew not what it was. No man is truly sick, but he that doth clearly see that, in regard to himself, he is both helpless and hopeless. Self-insufficiency is one ingredient of spiritual sicknesses. Self-denial and soul sickness are evermore companions. This is clear from the publican’s confession and prayer, Luke 18:13. He goes out of himself to God, acknowledging that, if ever he was healed, he must be healed by mercy.
Sixthly, A willingness to take any course God would have him, so he may be healed. This is implied in that question so often mentioned, Acts 2:37; 9:6; 16:30. They are very ready to follow the advice of God, given by his ministers for a speedy cure. Cut them, lance them, scar them, bleed them, purge them, anything to free them from sin, anything to save them from wrath, which is ready to devour them. They will stick at nothing, let God take his own way, and use his own medicines; whatever he prescribes, they are resolved to drink it down, be it ever so bitter, be it ever so unsavoury, be it ever so contrary to their corrupt constitutions. They hope he can heal them, they are willing he should use his own method for the healing of them. This is the first thing wherein spiritual sickness consists.
II. That Christ is ready to heal such sinners as these.
This appears three ways.
1. He inviteth such to come to him for cure. The invitations of Christ are not empty compliments, as the invitations of men often are, but real things. He is not in jest, but in good earnest, when he bids men repair to him. Never did one friend send to another with so much heartiness as Christ doth to men. Now we shall find him inviting sinners under this qualification. That is a famous place in Matt. 11:28, ‘Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.‘ And again, Isa. 55:1, “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters,’ &c. Who is he that thirsteth, who is he that hath no money, but such sinners as I have described! These are the patients which Christ invites.
2. He hath promised to take care for the curing of such. The promises of Jesus Christ are not false, ambiguous, or fallacious, as the promises of men too frequently are. He is the faithful witness, the “Amen,” Revelation 3:14. All his words are spoken in simplicity and verity. Now it is his promise to cure heart-wounded sinners. That [which is written] in Matthew 11:28, hath an express promise annexed to the invitation. The promise of refreshing, or giving rest, is as good as if he had said, I will heal you. To this, agrees that in Matthew 5:3, 4, 6. Poverty of spirit, mournfulness of spirit, hungering and thirsting, do all go in into the description of the sickness of the soul, and to each of these doth Christ make express and full promise of spiritual healing. Christ’s promise is the best security heaven or earth can afford.
3. God the Father hath promised it in Christ’s behalf. You will many times find that the prophets which have prophesied of him before his incarnation have, by God’s appointment and in God’s name, engaged themselves that he should heal such sinners. That is a very full place amongst others, Isaiah 42:3. That it is meant of Christ is clear from Matthew 12:20, where this text is applied to Christ; and it is applied to him upon this account, that he healed the man with a withered hand, ver. 10–13, and multitudes of other diseased persons, ver. 15. Whereupon this of the prophet is brought in, ‘Behold my servant,’ &c. “A bruised reed shall he not break,’ &c. The words are a meiosis, more is understood than is expressed. He shall not bruise, the meaning is, he shall strengthen it ; he shall not quench, the meaning is, he shall cause it to flame, and nourish it. By the bruised reed and the smoking flax we are to understand such sinners as are bruised and bowed down under the sense of their great wretchedness: these sinners Christ will be ready to cherish. You have it set out by another metaphor, Isaiah 40:11, “He shall carry the lambs, and gently lead them that are with young.‘ Who are the lambs, and such as are with young, but broken-spirited Christians, that are overwhelmed and pressed down with the apprehension of their own misery? Christ will be so far from neglecting these, that he will put them in his bosom, a place of warmth, tenderness, and security.
III. Why Christ is so ready to help poor sinners.
1. He doth it in obedience to his commission. God the Father, when he sent him into the world, gave him a very special charge concerning these persons. He was on purpose anointed to the place and office of a physician, that he might take care of such as these. You may read his commission set down at large, Isaiah 61:1-3. There you have the patients described, and the physic applied, and the authority enjoining and enabling. The patients are described by such terms as set out the sensibleness of their condition. The meek, the broken-hearted, the captives, them that are bound, them that mourn in Zion, them that sit in ashes, them that are under the spirit of heaviness. The cure is set down in expressions suitable to the nature of these sicknesses. To the meek, good tidings; to the broken-hearted, binding up; to the captives, liberty; to them that are bound, the opening of the prison; to them that mourn, comfort, the oil of joy; to them that are in ashes, beauty; to the spirit of heaviness, the garment of praise. The authority enjoining this is the Divine unction of the Father by the Spirit. ‘The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, the Lord hath anointed m.’ (Isaiah 61:1). So Isaiah 50:4. Jesus Christ is a very exact observer of his Father’s commandment. He hath his commission not only in his hand, but even in his heart, Psalm 40:8, in the midst of his bowels. Now, because God hath in so peculiar a manner recommended these to his care, therefore doth he apply himself to them for their cure.
2. From the instigation of his own mercifulness. Jesus Christ is very tender-hearted, he is full of the bowels of compassion. The apostle calls him “a merciful and faithful High Priest,’ Hebrews 2:17. He could not be a complete high priest, if he wanted either of these. Now, being so merciful and compassionate, he will not turn away his bowels from them that are in so dejected a condition. This is rendered as the reason why he was so ready to heal the wounded traveller, Luke 10:33, 34, ‘When he saw him, he had compassion on him, and bound up his wounds.” Jesus Christ hath lost none of his tenderness by going into heaven. He is still touched with the sensible feeling of our infirmities, Hebrews 4:15; this inclines him to this readiness.
3. That he may not lose the glory of that work which he hath begun. The humbling and convincing of proud sinners is as truly the work of Christ as the restoring of humbled sinners. It is his work to prick the heart as well as to comfort the heart. Now, if he should humble and convince a sinner, and then leave him and proceed no further, he would lose the honour of what he hath done. The soul doth not heartily praise Christ for conviction till conviction be carried on to conversion. The soul, so long as it abides only under the pains of conviction, apprehends no love, but only wrath and anger; and so long as the love of Christ is unseen the glory of Christ is not proclaimed. Now, Christ will not lose the glory of the first work, therefore is he so careful and ready to carry on the second work.
The Uses Of This Point:
1. Let this preserve all that are in such a condition from despair. Satan’s great plot upon convinced and humbled sinners is to drive them to despair. As he endeavours to heighten and harden unbroken sinners to presumption, so his great design is to affright humbled sinners to despair. This doctrine is a good preservative against such temptations: you that see sin, and complain of your spiritual sicknesses, know this to your comfort, that as Christ hath prepared you for healing, so he will be ready to heal you.
Object.: I have been a long time under these heart-pricking convictions, and yet cannot find any healing; my wounds are as wide and as deep as ever they were, I have lain many months, yea, many years under the apprehensions of sin and wrath, and yet am not healed. How shall I believe this doctrine!
Sol. 1.: Many sinners are healed who do not apprehend themselves to be healed. Many wounded sinners will not believe themselves to be healed unless they could find no scar or spot of sin upon them. They think they are not healed of sin because they are not quite delivered both from the being and acting of sin. They even look to find as perfect healing on earth as they shall have in heaven. But we must know that a person may be healed, both of the guilt of sin by justification and of the dominion of sin by sanctification, and yet still find many sores of sin upon, and new sores breaking out every day in, him. Paul was healed when he cried out, ‘O miserable man that I am who shall deliver me from the body of this death?’ Romans 7:24. David was healed, and yet cries out, “My wounds stink and are corrupt through my foolishness,’ Psalm 38:5. And again, ver, 7, ‘My loins are filled with a loathsome disease, and there is no soundness in my flesh.” When the love of sin, the secret delight in sin, the allowance of sin, the commanding rule of sin are removed, though there continue many wounds and scars too upon the soul, the cure of sin is wrought, and that which is wanting shall perfectly be finished.
Sol. 2.: Many sinners keep themselves from being healed by their own default. They do keep terror and apprehensions of wrath upon their souls because they will not close with the promises of the gospel. Though the comforts of the gospel be held out never so clearly, and with never so much persuadingness, yet they will have none of them. They are not humbled enough, as they think; they are not so prepared as they should be, therefore they will not come to Christ to close with him as with a Saviour, nor apply the promises of the gospel, but reject them, and put them away as none of their portion. This is the case of abundance of sinners. Is it any wonder if such say they are not healed? It is because they will not be healed. They are not worthy of mercy, and therefore they will have none. They do not consider that all our worthiness stands in the sense of our own unworthiness. They do not consider that they do not come to bring fulness to Christ, but to draw out of Christ’s fulness, John 1:16. If such sinners would but lay aside this spiritual pride, and close with Christ, because they see they are unworthy of him, they should find that he would in a short time spiritually heal them. For he is willing to heal, and willing to do it speedily. Jesus Christ never did, never will put any sin-lamenting sinner to any unnecessary trouble, to any unnecessary delay.
2. Let all the people of God, especially the ministry of God, be ready to follow Christ’s example. When you see or know of any soul that is wounded with sin, apply what healing medicines you can, that they may be healed. It is given in charge to the ministers of God, both in the Old and in the New Testament, Isaiah 35:3; 1 Thessalonians 5:14. As it is cruel mercy to prostitute the comforts of the gospel to proud sinners, so is it great cruelty to withhold the cordials of the gospel from such sinners as are burdened with their sins. Jesus Christ will take it very kindly at any man’s hand that will help forward the curing of a wounded sinner; he expects it at the hands of his ministers. As they must be Boanergeses to secure sleepy sinners, so they must be Barnabases to mourning sinners. A wounded spirit is an insupportable burden, Proverbs 18:14. The more insupportable the burden is the greater charity it is to be a means to support the spirit under it.
3. Let this be a motive to all sick sinners to come to Christ. This is enough to persuade you to come to him, because there is none else [that] can heal you. You must either come to him or else you must die in your sins. But this is more, he is willing to heal you. There is a natural shyness in sinners that see their sin to come to Christ. It is hard to drive them. Cast away this sinfulness, slothfulness, and come to him ; cast yourselves at his feet, and say, Lord, heal us.
Object. 1: I have been a sinner of very great magnitude.
- Sol. 1: Not greater than Christ hath cured. Not greater than he can cure, Isaiah 1:18; 55:8,9.
- Sol. 2: Did ever Christ upbraid any with the greatness of their sins, that did see them and bewail them?
- Sol. 3: Make them not greater, by refusing the physician which God hath sent from his bosom to cure you.
Object. 2: I have continued long in them.
- Sol. 1: They are not of so long a continuance as some that Christ hath cured.
- Sol. 2: Make them not of longer continuance by staying still in them.
Object. 3. I fear the time of healing is past.
- Sol. 1: While Christ calls the time is not past.
- Sol. 2: It is a sin for any man to think the time past.
- Sol. 3: He can heal thee at the last gasp. Adventure on! Sinners, it is better to die coming to (were it so), than running from, Christ. You have both his promise and his oath, that he will not cast you out. He that came to call sinners to repentance will not reject repenting sinners.