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Healing and Suffering
Perfect soundness! Of this there was no doubt. The rulers themselves acknowledged they could say nothing against it. The fact was patent to all. But the marvel was 'perfect soundness' in a moment of time after a lifetime of lameness. The secret was faith in His name. Not faith in the unreality of lameness. Not faith in the non-existence of a twisted limb. Not faith in the doctrine of illusion by which a man who has been really always able to walk has been since his birth under the absurd infatuation that he was a cripple. No; it was not that under the suggestion of St. Peter he made a successful attempt to deny all his previous experience and say, 'How foolish to think I was lame when I could walk!' Not this, but faith in the name, the name of a Person, a Person Who had been crucified in that very city not two months ago, Whom he had probably seen entering the Temple on Palm Sunday, and Who he heard was now King of kings and Lord of lords. Braced by the words of St. Peter, he had called with all his spiritual energy upon the sacred name, and had immediately felt an inrush of strength which had lifted him on to his feet. The name, through faith in the name, had made everything possible.
It is not unnatural for men to ask as they are now asking, Was this loss of power in accord with the will of God? Was the gift of healing intended only to last during the infancy and childhood of the Christian Church, or ought we to have it today? And these questions are asked the more insistently because, both within the Church and without it, faith-healing, as it is called, is practised with some remarkable results. And it has been hastily assumed that these successes are only typical of what could be done on a very large scale if only the doctrines and principles on which they are based were more widely held.
I. Now in the first place we must freely admit that the old, strong, clear faith in the Sacred Name is not in this twentieth century what it was in the first, and that the exercise of it, whether individually or still more corporately, would result in a large increase of restorations to health. But whilst we fully admit this, we must also remember that Christ's office was not to abolish sickness and suffering. He was necessarily a wonderful Physician of the body; He cured probably every disease or functional disorder known to Palestine, and He sent forth His disciples to do the same; but there must have been large numbers like those in Nazareth who were never healed at all. Healing, valuable as it was, was only subordinate to another and higher object, the awakening of the soul to the love of God through faith. This our Lord confessed to be infinitely harder than the physical healing of the body, and surely infinitely more valuable. 'Whether is easier to say,' He asks of His critics, 'Arise and walk, or Thy sins be forgiven thee?' To heal the body cost Him power virtue went out, left Him weakened for it had to overcome the hesitancy of doubt and distrust; but to heal the soul, to give forgiveness, that needed far more difficult work repentance, self-surrender, restitution.
II. If we asked the beloved physician St. Luke, why we had lost the gifts of healing, might he not reply, 'Lost! but they are here! Whence comes all this that I have seen, this that has awakened such profound astonishment, this discovery of laws, principles, and remedies? Are they not the gifts of healing always latent in the Body of Christ, but called out by suffering? This marvellous manipulation of the fingers and instruments, this superb self-control that pursues its end with such unflinching determination, though it knows the slightest deviation may mean the loss of a valuable life; these splendid powers of eye and hand; this rare combination of tenderness and decision, of sympathy and calm indifference. Nay, is it not your failure to see in these some of the ripest fruits of the Incarnation, of Christ indwelling us and our indwelling Him, that has led to this manifestation of healing in such unexpected quarters.' Those who have seen devout Quakers living a lofty and unselfish life without the grace of Sacraments are not surprised to see the weak become strong, the diseased become healthy, without the blessings God has given through medicine. When we abuse His means of grace He works without them till we can use them again with reverence. This, then, seems to be what we see through the New Testament as interpreted by the life of the Christian Church.
Bishop Walpole, The Guardian, 17th June, 1910.
References. III. 16. Phillips Brooks, The Law of Growth, p. 167. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xliv. No. 2592. III. 17. H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 1498, p. 121. Expositor (4th Series), vol. ix. p. 107.
An Advent Exhortation
The performance of a miracle created the opportunity St. Peter took to preach the sermon of which our text is the application. He attributes the miracle just wrought entirely to Christ, Whom the Jews in their blind bigotry and hate had betrayed and murdered. And then he calls on them to repent, to hate their sin and renounce it as a necessary condition of pardon.
I. Repentance is a Universal Duty.
II. The Primary Result of Repentance is Pardon.
III. A Secondary Result of Repentance will be Times of Refreshing from the Presence of the Lord.
IV. The Ultimate Result of Repentance will be the Second Coming of Christ.
Christ will be revealed in flaming fire to the ungodly, and 'except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish'. Without sin and unto salvation He is coming to His saints. If you would see Him, would meet Him, would join His train, then 'what manner of persons ought you to be in all holy conversation and godliness'.
References. III. 19. John Watson, The Inspiration of our Faith, p. 72. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xiv. No. 804. Expositor (5th Series), vol. vii. p. 227. III. 19-21. J. Keble, Sermons for Lent to Passion-tide, p. 318. Bishop Gore, Christian World Pulpit, vol. liv. p. 374. J. Bowstead, Practical Sermons, vol. ii. p. 237. Expositor (4th Series), vol. vi. p. 211; ibid. vol. x. p. 198.
Luther had a dog named Tölpel, who was very dear to himself and his children. Some one questioned him about the restitution of all things, and asked whether in the heavenly kingdom there would be dogs and other animals. He replied: Certainly. For the earth in those days will not be void and empty, and Peter in Acts 3:0 calls that day 'the day of the restitution of all things.' Seeing then that the heavens and earth are to be changed, as in other passages we are more clearly told, He will create a new heaven and a new earth, and He will create new Tölpels, whose skin will be golden and their hair of pearls. There God will be all in all. There no creature will devour another. Serpents, toads, and other animals which on account of original sin are poisonous and harmful, will not only be harmless then, but even agreeable and pleasant to us, so that we shall play with them. How is it that we cannot believe the Word of God, although the things that the Scripture says have come true up to this article of the Resurrection. The cause lies in original sin.
E. Kroker, Luther's Tischreden (1903), p. 360, No. 700.
References. III. 21. D. Martin, Penny Pulpit, No. 1625, p. 50. E. A. Stuart, The New Commandment and other Sermons, vol. vii. p. 25. Expositor (4th Series), vol. i. p. 31; ibid. vol. ii. p. 381. III. 22. Ibid. vol. i. p. 85; ibid. (6th Series), vol. viii. p. 223. III. 25, 26. Ibid. vol. ii. p. 381. III. 26. A. Tucker, Preacher's Magazine, vol. xviii. p. 561. Penny Pulpit, No. 1671, p. 407. J. Bunting, Sermons, vol. ii. p. 406. R. J. Campbell, New Theology Sermons, p. 204. Expositor (6th Series), vol. x. p. 17. IV. 1. Expositor (4th Series), vol. i. p. 86; ibid. (5th Series), vol. v. p. 324. IV. 2. S. Baring-Gould, Village Preaching for a Year, vol. i. p. 319. Expositor (6th Series), vol. iii. p. 121. IV. 3. G. T. Newton, Preacher's Magazine, vol. xvii. p. 211. Expositor (6th Series), vol. viii. p. 140. IV. 3-6. G. Gladstone, Christian World Pulpit, vol. liv. p. 22. IV. 5-7, 18-20. J. Laidlaw, Studies in the Parables, p. 283. IV. 6. Phillips Brooks, The Law of Growth, p. 184. Expositor (4th Series), vol. iv. p. 329. IV. 7. J. M. Neale, Sermons on the Apocalyse, p. 167. IV. 11. Expositor (5th Series), vol. ix. p. 37.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Acts 3". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany