The Origin And Authority Of Medical Missions
( Originally Published 1913 )
IT is the genius of Christianity that its inspiration comes not from a creed, but from a Person, and that its dynamic is the life and death of a Divine Saviour who came on earth that He might establish a new and spiritual Kingdom. It follows, therefore, that His example and life of service must ever stand out as the supreme pattern for those who become His professed followers, and who call themselves by His name. Here, if anywhere, must be found that scheme and type of Christian living and serving to which He has summoned each of His disciples.
Now to no branch of Christian effort does all this more apply than to the work of Foreign Missions, in which considerations of method and selection of plans of working are essential for the successful achievement of the enterprise. Concerned as is the Foreign Missionary with the carrying of the Gospel into lands where it has not been before, and amongst peoples, many of whom are not responsive to the message, the nature of his representation of the truth is one of primary importance. He rightly seeks to ascertain the best lines of attack that can be adopted in coming face to face with the citadels of non-Christian error and darkness. And it will easily be seen that the most natural point to which such inquiry leads is the example of that Divine Prototype of all missionary labour, our Lord Himself. In other words the question, " What did Christ do ? " constitutes the obvious prelude to the satisfactory answering of the question, " What should we do ? "
We therefore propose to inquire what Our Lord's example has to teach concerning Medical Missions. Does it show that He employed the ministry of healing in His work amongst men, and thereby afford us Divine warrant for a similar work ? Can the claim be established that Medical Missions have a Scriptural basis, or have we in this modem development of the missionary enterprise only a philanthropic by-product of the rest-less Christian activity of these later days ? It is not too much to say that upon the answers to these questions our whole conception of Medical Missions must largely depend, and we therefore invite earnest attention to this profoundly interesting aspect of our subject.
In the first place it is suggested that there can be no better beginning to our present investigation than a consecutive reading of one of the Gospel narratives of the Life of Christ, underlining all the references to the healing of the sick. Inasmuch, however, as this may be difficult at the moment to some readers of this book, we give here a compendium of all the references contained in the Gospel by St Matthew.
Chapter iv. 23, 24.-" And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. And His fame went throughout all Syria : and they brought unto Him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatic, and those that had the palsy ; and He healed them."
Chapter viii. 2, 3.-" And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped Him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And Jesus put forth His hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed."
Chapter viii. 5-7, 13.-" And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto Him a centurion, beseeching Him, and saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him. . . . And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way ; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the self-same hour."
Chapter viii. 14-17.-" And when Jesus was come into Peter's house, He saw his wife's mother laid, and sick of a fever. And He touched her hand and the fever left her : and she arose, and ministered unto them. And when even was come, they brought unto Him many that were possessed with devils : and He cast out the spirits with His word, and healed all that were sick : that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, ` Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.' "
Chapter ix. 2-8.-" And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed : and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer ; thy sins be forgiven thee. And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, this man blasphemeth. And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts ? For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee ; or to say, Arise, and walk ? But that ye may know that the Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith He to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house. And he arose, and departed to his house. But when the multitudes, saw it, they marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men."
Chapter ix. 18, 19, 23-26.-" While He spake these things unto them, behold, there came a certain ruler, and worshipped Him, saying, My daughter is even now dead : but come and lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live. And Jesus arose, and followed him, and so did His disciples.
And when Jesus came into the ruler's house, and saw the minstrels and the people making a noise, He said unto them, Give place : for the maid is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed Him to scorn. But when the people were put forth, He went in, and took her by the hand, and the maid arose. And the fame thereof went abroad into all the land."
Chapter ix. 20-22.-" And, behold, a woman which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind Him, and touched the hem of His garment. For she said within herself, If I may but touch the hem of His garment, I shall be whole. But Jesus turned Him about, and when He saw her, He said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour."
Chapter ix. 27-31.--" And when Jesus departed thence, two blind men followed Him, crying, Thou Son of David, have mercy on us. And when he was come into the house, the blind men came unto Him : and Jesus saith unto them, Believe ye that I am able to do this ? They said unto Him, Yea, Lord. Then touched He their eyes, saying, According to your faith be it unto you. And their eyes were opened."
Chapter ix. 32, 33.-" And as they went out, behold, they brought to him a dumb man possessed with a devil. And when the devil was cast out, the dumb spake : and the multitudes marvelled, saying, It was never so seen in Israel."
Chapter ix. 35.-" And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people."
Chapter x. 1, 7, 8.-" And when He had called unto Him His twelve disciples, He gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease. . . . And as ye go, preach, saying, The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils : freely ye have received, freely give."
Chapter xi. 2-5.-" Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, and said unto Him, Art thou He that should come, or do we look for another ? Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see : the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the Gospel preached to them."
Chapter xii. 10-13.-" And, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered. And they asked Him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath days ? that they might accuse Him. And He said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the Sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it and lift it out ? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the Sabbath days. Then saith He to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth ; and it was restored whole, like as the other."
Chapter xii. 15.-" But when Jesus knew it, He with-drew Himself from thence: and great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them all."
Chapter xii. 22.-" Then was brought unto Him one possessed with a devil, blind, and dumb, and He healed him : insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw."
Chapter xiv. 14.-" And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion towards them, and He healed their sick."
Chapter xiv. 35, 36.-" And when the men of that place had knowledge of Him, they sent out into all that country round about, and brought unto Him all that were diseased ; and besought Him that they might only touch the hem of His garment : and as many as touched were made perfectly whole."
Chapter xv. 22, 28.-" And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto Him, saying, Have mercy on me, 0 Lord, thou Son of David ; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. . . . And Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith ; be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour."
Chapter xv. 30, 31.-" And great multitudes came unto Him, having with them those that were lame, blind, dumb, maimed, and many others, and cast them down at Jesus' feet, and He healed them. Insomuch that the multitude wondered, when they saw the dumb to speak, the maimed to be whole, the lame to walk, and the blind to see : and they glorified the God of Israel."
Chapter xvii. 14, 15, 18.--" And when they were come to the multitude, there came a certain man, kneeling down to Him, and saying, Lord, have mercy upon my son : for he is lunatic, and sore vexed : for ofttimes he falleth into the fire and oft into the water. . . . And Jesus rebuked the devil ; and he departed out of him : and the child was cured from that very hour."
Chapter xix. 2.-" And great multitudes followed Him ; and He healed them there."
Chapter xx. 30-34.-" And, behold, two blind men, sitting by the wayside, when they heard that Jesus passed by, cried out, saying, Have mercy on us, 0 Lord, thou Son of David. And the multitude rebuked them, because they should hold their peace : but they cried the more, saying, Have mercy on us, 0 Lord, Thou Son of David. And Jesus stood still, and called them, and said, What will ye that I shall do unto you ? They said unto Him : Lord, that our eyes may be opened. So Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes : and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed Him."
Chapter xxi. 14.-" And the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple ; and He healed them."
These passages which we have now read are profoundly significant, and throw a most instructive light upon the life of our Blessed Lord. Taken together their bearing upon our present subject is full of the deepest meaning, and the following five points will naturally suggest themselves as very clear conclusions.
1. Jesus Christ was without doubt a healer of the sick and assigned to the work of healing a prominent place in His ministry.—The truth of this fact will appeal to all students of the Life of Christ, and must also impress even the cursory reader of the Gospel narratives. Twenty-six of His miracles were for the direct object of healing disease, or raising the dead, and a further three were solely for ministering to the physical needs of mankind. At the very start of His public ministry (Luke iv. 16-19) our Lord quoted a passage from Old Testament scripture, in which His work as a Healer (equally true also we admit in a spiritual sense) was definitely set forth. Even when he was hindered by unbelief from doing any other mighty work His gracious acts of healing were continued (Mark vi. 5.). So prominent indeed was this aspect of His life on earth, that in case after case the numbers who surrounded Him were very largely composed of sick people and their friends. He was recognised everywhere as a great Healer, and His deeds of healing were not the least distinctive amongst those signs that marked Him out as an entirely new type of Rabbi. In nine instances He is recorded as being " moved with compassion " because of the purely bodily needs of men and women ; and it is not too much to say that to obscure this side of His wondrous ministry would be to take from the records of His life much of its attractive beauty, and to rob it of not a little of its glory. The " Strong Son of God, Immortal Love," will forever remain in the history of the world as not only a Preacher and a Teacher, but also a sympathising Healer.
2. Jesus Christ employed His work as a Healer to give to men an evidence of His mission.—This instructive fact finds its most ready illustration in the passage where Jesus answered the inquiry of John the Baptist. To that inquiry, it will be remembered, Christ took the direct line of pointing to His deeds, as well as to His words. He gave John's disciples a first-hand demonstration of His wonderful works of healing, accompanied, as these were, by His words concerning the good news He was proclaiming to men. He combined in one great object-lesson just the very constituent elements of that ministry which Medical Missions seek to imitate to-day, and then He bade the eager questioners return to their imprisoned teacher with the evidence afforded by what they had both seen and heard.
Upon that Christ was content to stake the verdict as to the reality of His mission, and as to the fact that He was indeed and in truth the promised Messiah. And in so doing Christ forever placed a divine seal upon the evidential value of Medical Mission work. He most clearly showed, by His own example, that if His people are called upon to give proof of their ordination to the work of the great commission, they should go forth not only preaching, but also healing.
3. Jesus Christ attracted men within the sound of His preaching and teaching by means of His acts of heading.—The remarkable magnetism of Jesus Christ is apparent directly the record of His life on earth is read. It is one constant succession of incidents that tell of the thronging multitudes who sought Him and gave Him, again and again, scarcely time for rest or food. And if we inquire into the causes of that magnetism, we have surely not far to go to find one at least. It must appeal to all that it was in His healing work that Christ exerted a most natural, yet all-attractive, influence that drew men and women around Him. Sickness was then, as now, the ever recurring fruit of the fall in Eden. Knowledge of disease and its cure was but in its most primitive stage of development. And the presence of a teacher in their midst who could and did heal the sick, give sight to the blind, power to palsied limbs, life to the dead, was a source of such keen and such pathetic interest that it would have been impossible to imagine anything but the gathering of the people unto Him. The sick came ; their friends came to bring them ; others came, struck by the wonders accomplished, and the scenes that were presented as Jesus passed from place to place must have given the people cause to think of Him as a great Physician quite as much as a Preacher or Teacher.
Furthermore, the wondrous compassion of Jesus was force of the highest kind of magnetism. Think of Him as " touched with the feeling of our infirmities " ; contemplate Him as " He saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion toward them and He healed their sick," and you are irresistibly drawn towards this gracious pitying Healer. The consequent effect of all this upon the spread of His teaching could not but be significant in the extreme. The Preacher became known, " His fame spread abroad," by virtue of the fact that He also was a Healer. The crowds came to Him " bringing their sick," because He could heal, but once having come they presented the audience to which He could tell the words of Eternal Life. And the more the mind reflects upon the Lord's earthly life, the more does it become clear that this striking interplay between His preaching and healing ministry was more than a coincidence,—it was a Divine coordination. Jesus Christ came to minister to the needs of man in his whole being, but He knew that poor fallen humanity was ever more ready to appreciate that which met its conscious physical sufferings, than it was to welcome that which met its unfelt spiritual needs. He therefore approached man along the line of least resistance, and divinely employed His work in the lower realm to contribute a powerful lever to His operations in the higher sphere. Thus do we find how far-reaching is this Divine method of Medical Missions, and how in using it to obtain a widespread hearing for the message of the Gospel we have the highest sanction.
4. Jesus Christ defined a close connection between sickness and sin, and indicated the consequent correspondence that should exist between the work of healing for the body and that for the soul.—Throughout the Gospels it will be seen in not a few instances, how, in the mind of Christ, there was a manifest relation between sickness and sin. The two were regarded, it would seem, not always or necessarily as cause and effect, but rather as possessing a close affinity, inasmuch as the one was a departure from the normal in the physical and mental part of man's nature, and the other a similar departure in the realm of the spiritual. Both were marks of the trail of the Evil one, and were indicative of the necessity for a work of healing throughout the whole of human nature. When Christ came, He came with the full recognition of this fact, and with the purpose of procuring and conferring that very healing which was needed. But on the part of man there was no similar consciousness of the link between sickness and sin, and Our Lord had first to impress upon man its existence, and then to lead him on from that to see the correspondence that should prevail between the removal of sin and the healing of disease. Our Lord's efforts in this direction are seen in various places, but perhaps the most prominent instance is that given in the healing of the paralytic (Matt.'ix.2), where Christ proceeded in the first place to deal with the most serious matter, viz., the sin of the soul, and to pronounce upon that forgiveness ere He went on to heal the body of its disease. His process of action was misunderstood by the religious men who observed it, and who, whilst quite prepared to admit His right to heal the body, denied His claim to forgive sins. He accordingly vindicated His right to do the latter by His ability to do the former, and gave in this one concrete instance an illustration of the affinity we have pointed out above, and the link that should be maintained between work for the salvation of the soul and that for the healing of the body.
Here then did our Lord afford another basis for this very association that finds its modern representation in Medical Missions. The follower of Jesus Christ cannot, as He could, pronounce forgiveness of sins, but he is able to give the message of the Saviour who can, and by conveying, at the same time, the boon of physical healing to many a diseased frame, he can support and commend his right of dealing with the deeper needs of the soul.
5. Jesus Christ in sending His disciples upon their missionary journeys, gave them a commission to heal the sick as well as to preach the Gospel.—The point in our Lord's life on earth when He sent forth His disciples upon a missionary journey of their own, marks an important epoch in the unfolding of His plans. Up to then His gracious work of preaching, teaching and healing had been His alone, and His followers were only witnesses. But from this time onwards, it became revealed that His purposes included a definite place for His disciples as co-workers in the same blessed ministry that He Himself exercised. Their marching orders (Matt. x. 7, 8) ordained them to a like two-fold service, in the performance of which they would step in the footprints of their Master, and both preach and heal. If His ministry was directed to meeting the needs of man in his whole being, theirs was to be after the same pattern. And inasmuch as they could not discharge this work without being specially fitted for it, we find, as a requisite preliminary, that Christ in-vested them with the power of miraculous healing (Matt. x. 1). Thus equipped, those first disciples went forth and preached and healed everywhere.
Now, if we are to see in this an indication of the type of comprehensive ministry which our Lord would have His Church imitate in carrying out her mission in the world, then it is clear that Medical Missions have not only the sanction of His example, but the authority of His express command. There is, however, one apparent difficulty which must be admitted in seeking to establish a parallelism between the work of the early disciples and that which is done to-day. They accomplished their work by virtue of a special endowment of miraculous power, whilst we today have no such gift. Hence, it may be urged, there is no ground to assume that we are called to exercise the work of healing in our missionary ministry. Yet neither have we the miraculous gift of tongues as the early Church had, and by which it accomplished such wonders in the spread of the Gospel amongst the heathen. And it is not argued that therefore the modem Church is not called to preach and teach in distant lands. It is taken for granted that by the use of God-given faculties the same end can be obtained through the acquisition of languages. Hence, in a similar way, whilst we have not to-day the gift of miraculous healing, we can acquire, and bring into the service of the Gospel, that great gift of God—Medical Science, by the utilisation of which the command to heal the sick can still be obeyed. As the late Rev. Dr Pierson so well said :
" The great Economist of the Universe works no unnecessary miracles, and when human hands can roll away the stone, He does not work a miracle to do so."
Let no hesitancy, therefore, characterise our employment of medical skill in the furtherance of the Gospel, but rather, realising the type of service our Lord has set before His Church, let us hasten to harness all the forces of modern scientific healing to the shafts of His Gospel chariot and speed forth along " earth's paths of pain," healing as well as preaching.
We have thus passed in review the main outlines of the teaching to be deduced from Christ's earthly ministry concerning the place of healing in the work of the Gospel. The conclusions that have suggested themselves will, we think, appeal to all as ample proof of the Scriptural origin and authority of Medical Missions. That in Jesus Christ and His life on earth, we have the tons et origo of this aspect of missionary work must commend itself to everyone. The truth of the words :
" It was the path the Master trod, Should not His servant tread it still ? "
is so self-evident, so overwhelmingly clear to both conscience and reason, that to not a few, we imagine, any further argument will be quite unnecessary. The example of Christ is all-sufficient. Yet, if space permitted, a further most instructive study would be to trace the record of the early Church as contained in the Acts of the Apostles, and note how strongly evident was the ministry of healing in the propagation of the Gospel. To any who can do this the investigation will be most interesting, as shewing how those first followers of our Lord interpreted His plans and purposes for the spread of His Kingdom. Whether, however, this be done or not, it is manifest that we can invite the attention of our readers to the other aspects of our subject, assured that in all their minds there will exist a profound conviction as to its Divine institution and Biblical warrant.