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The Balm of Gilead.
"Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no Physician there? Why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?" -JEREMIAH, viii. 22.
ALL men love health. The desire of it is founded
nature. It is one of the natural instincts which never leaves us. So long as we love pleasure and hate pain, we cannot but love health, as the chief of all outward blessings. Indeed it is to be desired beyond them all, because without it we can enjoy none of them; without it we are unfit for our worldly business and employment, and unfit for the duties of religion. A good man would therefore wish for health, with a view to the concerns of a better life as well as to those of the present life. All men desire it on a temporal account; but, alas, how few have any real desire for the health of the soul! If the body be in great pain, with what haste do they send for relief, and how carefully do they follow the physician's prescription? But when their souls are wounded with sin, and they may endure the smart and anguish of their wounds for ever; for these are by any human means incurable; and when a divine remedy is proposed, and they hear of a loving and an almighty physician, under whose hands no patient was ever lost,
yet they have not one wish to be healed. What can be the reason of this? Why are the very men, who with an invariable affection love bodily health, so far from desiring the health of the soul, that when they have an offer of being healed of all their spiritual maladies, they neglect the remedy and despise the physician? Is not this unaccountable conduct? What can make the same men in the same case reason so differently? If they had an infallible remedy for the recovery of bodily health, there is not one of them who would reject it; but there is a sovereign remedy for the recovery of the health of the soul, there is balm in Gilead, and a most kind and able physician there to apply it, and yet spiritual maladies abound. Let us inquire into the cause of this inconsistent behaviIt is an inquiry in which we are all nearly concerned. Our welfare depends on our being healed of the wounds of sin by this balm of Gilead. We can have no true peace of conscience here, nor no true happiness hereafter, unless we take this sovereign medicine. May the Lord God dispose us all to take it by means of what shall be said in opening and explaining the text, in which there is,
First, some sickness referred to.
Secondly, a sovereign medicine, there is balm in Gilead to heal it.
Thirdly, a great physician to apply it; and all the. means of healing being thus ready at hand, the question naturally follows, in the
Fourth place, why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?
If we look back to the seventeenth verse we shall find an account of the sickness referred to in the text. The people were stung with serpents and cockatrices, and of the most venomous and fiery sort, whose pois son once infused into the blood acts like the most raging fire, consuming and drying up the fluids of the body, and in a short time bringing on certain death. "For behold I will send serpents and cockatrices among you, which will not be charmed, and they shall
bite you, saith the Lord." This is a just picture of that more deadly poison which the old serpent, the devil, infused into both body and soul, the effects of which all the human race have felt; for he drew us all into sin, and the dreadful consequences of sin appear in that variety of diseases which brings down our bodies to the grave of death, and in that variety of corrupt and depraved appetites which proves the soul to be alienated from the life of God, and to be incapable, unless it be entirely changed, of enjoying God. It was sin which thus poisoned our nature: for before sin entered into the world, all things were good. There was no evil to afflict either body or soul. But when sin entered, then the sanction of the law took place: "In the day that thou eatest of the forbidden fruit, dying thou shalt die."-Gen. ii. 17. In that day thy body shall become mortal, and liable to those pains and diseases which in a course of years shall destroy its animal life, and thy soul shall be separated from the fountain of its spiritual life, and cut off from all communion with God in this world, and in the next it shall be separated from him for ever, which is the second death. O sin, what hast thou done! Thou art the author of all the evils which mankind are capable of suffering in earth and hell. Thou broughtest them all upon us, thou enemy of God and man! And wilt thou afterwards pretend to be our friend! Wilt thou come to court us with promises of happiness, that by deceiving us thou mayest more effectually poison and destroy our bodies and souls! Look upon this base traitor, my brethren. Can he be a friend to your nature who has subjected it to all the miseries of mortality? If you have any true love for yourselves, how can you love and cherish sin, which has made you liable to suffer the first and the second death? What! is this a friend to be taken into your bosom, one that will murder your body and bring both body and soul into hell? Accustom yourselves to view sin in this light, and it will help you to see the horrible destructive nature of it.
you behold a dead corpse, think what a murderer sin is: for that body would never have died, if sin had not poisoned it. And then turn your eyes inwards, and let each man say to himself this beloved body of mine, upon which I spend so much time and care, was made mortal by sin, and all the pains and diseases which I can suffer came from the same cursed cause; yea, from it came all the miseries which I deserve to suffer with devils and condemned spirits in the fire that never is to be quenched; and shall I love and delight to serve such an enemy? shall I give up the members of my body as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin, and so work out mine own everlasting destruction? God forbid! As sin is the author of all the evil which I do, or can endure, I will therefore fight against it, and may the Lord God save me from the guilt and deliver me from the dominion of it!
This is the language of every heart which is made sensible of the poisonous nature of sin. When the awakened sinner féels the malignant venom working in his constitution, he will be led to abhor and to detest it, and the more so when the scripture discovers to him the execrable foe who poisoned him with sin, and that was the old serpent. What these serpents are said, in the seventeenth verse, to have done to the body, in poisoning it, the same did he both to body and soul; and as he did it at first in the serpent, he has therefore been known and distinguished by this name, from the time that he deceived our first parents in the subtle serpent. The apostle has given us a very alarming description of him, Rev. xii. 9, where he is treating of the war which was in heaven between Michael and his angels, and the dragon and his angels. "And the great dragon," he says, 66 was cast out, the old serpent, called the devil, and Satan, who deceiveth the whole world." Here he is called the serpent, alluding to his crafty wiliness, and the old serpent, to denote his having employed all his wiles to deceive and ruin mankind. As soon as they were created he plotted their destruction, and he became
Satan, their sworn adversary, and the devil, their accuser, who sought to destroy their precious lives with the rage of a dragon-yea, with more rage than common dragons have, even with the burning fury of the great dragon. And, alas! he was successful: for he deceiveth the whole world. He poisoned the whole human race; he corrupted all flesh, and we are now groaning under the dreadful effects of our total corruption. The cursed venom of sin, which he infused into our bodies, still works in them; but its more cursed venom still works, though less perceptibly, in our souls. The poison keeps working in the body, until it bring on sickness and death, and reduce us to the dust, from whence we were taken; and it keeps working in the soul in every hateful and unholy temper, which tends to stir up the wrath and indignation of God, and to separate the soul for ever and ever from him, the fountain of life and glory.
This is the great and universal malady referred to in the text, the malady of sin, with which the old serpent, the devil, has poisoned the whole world. When he deceived our first parents he then poisoned the fountain, and all the streams which have been -ever since flowing from it partake of the direful infection for the word of truth declares, "that, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned." Here the entrance of sin is said to be the cause of the entrance of death, and we all die in Adam, therefore we all sinned in him: for the wages of sin is death. Now God being infinitely just and righteous, would not pay the wages, unless there was some sin to deserve them; but infants receive the wages of sin, consequently they are sinners; they die in Adam, because in him they have sinned: "for by the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation." Thus was our whole nature, both body and soul, corrupted by the fall, and there is not a sound part or faculty in either of them. They are corrupt and abominable altogether, and in nothing