SUNDEW, A STRANGE PLANT BY C. H. SPURGEON.
IN a swampy part of the New Forest, in Hampshire, we met with a plant which was quite new to us. To our unlearned eyes it looked like a lichen or a small red cactus, and yet, it almost as much resembled a zoophyte; we did not know what to make of it, it was so old-world and weird-like. An abundance of red glandular hairs covered each leaf, and upon its surface glistened sparkling dew drops. To gather specimens and send them home by post in a box was a process suggested and carried out by a friend; our samples, however, did not endure the transit, and so we have not since seen our floral novelty Upon making enquiry, the plant turns out to be the
SUNDEW, or as the learned call it Drosera, from the Greek word drosys, dew. The olden writers call it Ros-solis, which is but the Latin of its English name. From Anna Pratt’s most interesting work entitled, “The flowering Plants, Grasses, Sedges, and Ferns of Great Britain,” we have gathered several facts which may not unfitly be woven into parables, and made to illustrate truth.
Sundew is the tempting name of this plant, and what would seem more safe, attractive, and proper for an insect to light upon? Surely it might wisely sip the crystal drop and fly away refreshed: but “things are not what they seem,” and there are lovely names which cover deadly evils. The gauzy-winged insect alights, drinks of the shining drops, and becomes henceforth a captive. “For when there’s moisture in the brake, The clammy sundew’s glistening glands ‘Mid carmine foliage boldly make Slaves of invading insect bands.” That dew was never born of the sun, neither is it exhaled by it; it is so viscid that when touched with the finger it will draw out in threads of more than an inch in length, and it is hardly possible that a small insect once caught by its glue can ever escape; in fact, the more it struggles the more it is covered with the clammy moisture, and the more surely is it held. It is too late now, thou pretty victim, thou hast been beguiled to an untimely fate, and escape is impossible. Like Jonathan, thou mayest complain,” I did but taste a little honey and I must die”: only that which seemed a tempting sweetness to thee was not so, but acrid to the last degree, so that thou hast a double disappointment to bewail. Struggle thou mayest, but thy case is hopeless. A watchful naturalist has seen the hairs upon the leaves close in upon the insect victim, and the edges of the leaf itself curl inwards, remaining in that condition long after the captive had died. The Sundew is an ogre towards flies, a cunning fowler among little winged wanderers, a vegetable spider, a deceiver and a devourer. Flies much like our common house flies, have been seen to be captured by one of the leaves; and held fast until the relaxing hairs of the plant have laid bare the blackened remains of their prey. One might naturally expect this from a plant bearing the name of Snapdragon, Catch-fly, or Swallow-wort, but who would have conjectured that Sundew would be the name of a deadly trap? Yet all around us are such deluding names and flattering deceits. Do not men call unhallowed lust by the sacred name of love? Is not drunkenness spoken of as good cheer? Are not profligate habits labelled generosity? and is not slavery to the basest passions denominated free living? There is much in a name after all, as Satan knows full well, and well pleased is he to get a name bright and fresh as that of Sundew, wherewithal to disguise the true character of his temptations. Fascinating are the counterfeit dews of youthful lusts; does it not seem a Puritanic harshness to deny them to the young? May they not taste and away? Nay, the dew is not dew, but clammy bird-lime for the soul, it will hold the youth and hold the man, and he will be utterly unable to escape, though he may become aware of his captivity and alarmed at the destruction which will follow upon it. The pleasures of sin cannot be enjoyed for a season and relinquished just when we will. We may say of them, as Virgil does of hell, “Avernus’ gates are open night and day, Smooth the descent, and easy is the way; But to return to heaven’s pure light again, This is a work of labor and of pain.
True, the grace of God may interpose to rescue the prisoner from the fetters which he has forged for himself, but no man has a right to reckon upon such a deliverance, much less to tempt the Lord by plunging into enslaving habits on the ground that others have been, through infinite mercy, emancipated from them. Who in his senses would take poison because in some cases an antidote has been supplied before death has closed the scene? Who wishes to be plague-stricken because a few survive amid the general mortality? O man, be wise, and shun the tempter and his honey-dew, lest thou be fatally ensnared and fastened down to certain ruin.
Lives have no warning, but men have, therefore let them take it, and flee far away from the destroyer. Leave off vice before it be meddled with, is an allowable alteration of the wise man’s proverb. Prevention is better than a cure, abstinence is better than reformation. Touch not, taste not, handle not that Sundew which is not from heaven and prepares for hell.
We have not done with the singular tenant of the bog, but will use it for another purpose. Its flower is very seldom seen expanded. For some reason unknown to botanists, and apparently in no way dependent on the shining of the sun, this flower often remains closed during the greater part of its flowering season. One enquirer asks, “Has any person ever seen the blossoms of the round-leaved Sundew fully expanded? Wishing to obtain a specimen of this little plant in full bloom, to sketch from, I have visited in almost every hour of the day a bog traversed by a small rivulet, whose margin is thickly dotted with its glowing leaves, looking as if they had, indeed, impaled drops of the morning dew to cool them through the day. I have watched it from the time in which its slender scape first rises from amidst a bunch of circinate leaves to that at which it forms at top into a nodding raceme, but never have I seen its minute white flower-buds unclose.” Many other watchful observers declare that, even in the fairest weather and brightest sunshine, they have looked in vain for opened flowers. Here and there a watcher has seen a flower unfold itself in the morning and close at noon to open no more, but the sight seems to be a great rarity even to the most attentive naturalists. One would not wish to follow the example of so rare a blooming, yet are there men of kindred spirit. They must surely have good times, seasons of affection, moments of generous impulse, when the soul reveals its best, but those around them have looked in vain for such rare occasions. They are so miserly that seldom are they moved to pity and relieve the needy, so churlish that scarcely ever can they utter a kind encouraging word, so cold that never are they seen to warm into enthusiasm. Children of the marsh, they are damp even to the core, sunlight cannot woo them into blossoming, the genial influences which rule other hearts scarcely affect them for good.
Woe to those who are compelled to live with them, they watch in vain for sympathy or love. Unhappy is the Abigail who is married to such a Nabal.
Perhaps now and then, to some favored companion, they become for the moment cordial, but they scarcely forgive themselves for the aberration, and relapse into the closed-up state again, to unfold their affections no more. Around them are men and women fall of love, smiling and flourishing the various seasons through, perfuming their surroundings with kindly fragrance of good thoughts and deeds, yet do they abide shut up within themselves. May heaven pity them in boundless mercy, and save them from themselves. ‘Twere better far to die of love than live without loving. Disappointment and heartbreak are infinitely to be preferred to selfishness and isolation: the one is an affliction which may happen to the nobles, the other is the vice of the base and groveling. Give the heart room to blossom like the rose, even though the hand of the cruel should pluck at it; our nature sinks even below its natural depravity when we refuse to love. Be it ours to open wide our full soul beneath the smile of the Sun of Righteousness, and so to grow as the lily, and give forth a sweet smell as Sharon’s ruddy flower; and never, never may we yield to the power of selfishness, which is as deadly to the heart itself as it is pernicious to those whom it despises.
Old writers highly praise the essence of the Sundew as a remedy for many diseases: it was celebrated under the name of aqua rosa solis, or spirit of Sundew. One old herbalist declares that it is good for the lungs, and for nervous faintness, and, though it will raise blisters upon the skin, he considers it to be very useful inwardly, and puts it down as a great cordial.
Ladies used it as a cosmetic, and perhaps do so still, but we are not learned in such matters; the country people use it to destroy warts and corns, so that after all it has uses, and perhaps this brief paper may conserve some little of its virtues, to the benefit of manners and of men. Good lies latent in things evil, but the hand of wisdom extracts it; be thus wise, dear reader, and thy profiting shall be known unto all.
LANGUAGE BY TOUCH ALL our readers are, or ought to be, well acquainted with the wonderful case of Laura Bridgman, the blind, deaf, and dumb girl, whom Dickens saw in America, and so graphically described. She not only learned to sew and knit, but to read, write, and calculate. Although every avenue of communication with her seemed to be closed, she was instructed through the sole medium of touch till she became a highly intelligent girl. The name of Doctor Howe, her patient instructor, deserves to be had in grateful remembrance; he was the pioneer in the difficult task of teaching blind, deaf mutes, and all who have followed him confess their obligations to his example.
It is not, however, at all generally known that Mr. Patterson, of the Parochial Schools of the Manchester Union, has achieved the same result in other cases. A small shilling book, by George Wallis, of the South Kensington Museum, gives a brief account of the cases of Mary Bradley and Joseph Hague, who were by Mr. Patterson’s persevering efforts upraised from a condition of living death into active mental life. The girl Mary Bradley was abandoned by her mother in a damp cellar, while suffering from some virulent disease, and so lost both sight and hearing at three years of age. She was, when first noticed, a motherless and fatherless child, without ear or eye, a most wretched inmate of the infant department of a workhouse, where the other children cruelly made sport of her, hitting and pulling her with their hands, while she screamed and vainly stretched out her hand to seize them. Happy for her was the day when she was admitted to the institution for the deaf and dumb. It was, however, far more easy to take her into the institution than to know what to do with her. “The obvious course for her instructor seemed to be to watch her habits, and to endeavor to adapt his own course and the efforts of those around her to them. With this view she was left for some days to her own resources, in order that the bent of her inclination might be seen and judged of. Finding herself in a new position, she was occupied for a time in becoming acquainted with the locality, and the persons and things by which she was surrounded. She made no attempt to make known her wants by signs, as is usual in the case of the deaf and dumb. If she required help her habit was to shout and scream; and, as her utterances were by no means agreeable, every one was interested in relieving her wants. Since her loss of hearing and sight she had been in no position in which signs could have been understood, had she made any; but it never seemed to occur to her to do so. In fact, she was at this time one of the most uncouth and wildlooking objects it is well possible to conceive. She had recently had her head shaved in consequence of some disease in the skin of the scalp, and with a crouching, groping attitude, she had more the appearance of a scared and timid animal seeking some mode of escape from danger, than of a human being endowed with a rational soul.”
The first step in teaching was to make her acquainted with the names of things around her. Mr. Patterson placed before her objects distinctly differing in shape, such as a pen, a book, a slate. As the visible letters could not be placed before her, the signs used by the deaf and dumb were used instead, but as she could not see them, her fingers were touched by Mr. Patterson in the proper form. This plan was a complete failure for a long time, for the poor girl failed to connect the pen or the book with the sign appropriate to it. Every day the work had to be commenced anew; the appliances were varied, and great kindness and patience exercised, but no beam of intelligence entered the darkened mind for five weeks. But to the resolute nothing is hopeless, God rewards determination: all at once, as with a sudden burst of sunshine, Mary Bradley’s face lit up with full intelligence; she had found the clue, she had connected the sign with the thing signified, and she proceeded to sign upon the fingers of her teacher the names of each of the articles. This was a grand beginning, and was energetically followed up. “Mr. Patterson then cut out the letters of the alphabet in cardboard, and gummed them to a sheet of stiff pasteboard, so that they stood in relief, and could be sharply felt and distinguished from each other by the fingers. By this means she soon became acquainted with all their forms, and mentally associated — say pen — with the signs upon her fingers and the object which these signs represented. Her progress now became daily more and more evident. She took great delight in her work, and with the limited time at Mr. Patterson’s disposal, it was difficult to keep pace with her desire for the knowledge of names. From these she was taught the quality of things. When new words of this kind were intended to be taught, the objects were generally placed before her, as an illustration of comparison: for instance — a large book and a small one, a light object and a heavy one, thick and thin, rough and smooth, hard and soft, sweet and sour. Objects possessing opposite qualities were placed within her reach, and she very readily acquired the words to express them. Thus the work went on step by step, every day’s lesson being a preparatory one for the next day. Verbs were taught much in the same way, the word being given with the action: standing, sitting, walking, eating, drinking, laughing, crying, etc., etc.., generally in the form of the present participle, and in connection with a noun, as being an easy change from the adjectives — as, a boy standing, a girl crying, etc.. “At length the great inconvenience presented itself of the want of a lessonbook adapted to meet the case. In order to supply this want, a case of type for printing in relief was obtained, and some lessons were printed, which were readily deciphered by the pupil through the sense of touch. It was, however, soon discovered that the operation of composing the type was an exercise which was not only very amusing to her, but also very instructive.
A little box was constructed in which she could arrange the type in sentences, etc., which were dictated to her by natural signs, the teacher using her hands in the same way as he would use his own to sign similar sentences to a seeing deaf child, and this became a never-failing source of interest. It made her familiar with the various modes of construction, — the greatest difficulty which the deaf and dumb have to encounter. Every new word was at once applied to its appropriate meaning.”
When she was ten years old, and had been under instruction two or three years, she learned to write, and before long exchanged letters across the Atlantic with her sister in deprivation, Laura Bridgman. With this mental growth the girl’s temper improved, and her manner became subdued, though before she had been exceedingly irritable. She lived to the age of twenty-six, suffering with great patience during the later years of her life.
The great truths of revelation had been made known to her, and she greatly rejoiced in reading the gospels in the form printed for the use of the blind.
Calling together her chief benefactors, she calmly and formally declared how she wished her small possessions to be disposed of, then fell asleep, we trust to wake in the image of Jesus. The little book before us only fails with regard to spiritual experience, of which we should have liked far more; however, as it is sold for the benefit of the deaf and dumb, we have no heart even to hint at a fault. That which is described awakens gratitude in our heart, and leads us to pray that all other poor creatures in a like case may come under similar judicious and generous influences.
The boy Joseph Hague was the son of a deaf and dumb mother, was born deaf, and became blind before he was two years of age. When he was eight years old he became the fellow pupil of Mary Bradley, who was delighted to communicate all she knew to her young companion. Only imagine one poor blind, deaf, and dumb child teaching another. With the boy much the same process had to be gone through as in the case of the girl, and the two together progressed much more rapidly than could have been anticipated when Mary alone was the pupil. Joseph aspired to do all that other blind boys could do, and soon progressed from making his own bed to the manufacture of baskets, in which he became a clever workman, and left the institution in due time to live with his father and mother.
Both cases are very wonderful, and read like a reproduction of Laura Bridgman and Oliver Caswall, described in “American Notes.” It has even suggested itself to us that God allowed two such unhappy little ones to be upon the stage of life at the same time that they might together feel their way into intelligence. The practical lesson to us all is to be thankful for our senses, educate them to perfection, learn all we can by means of them, and use them for the glory of God. Ye who have eyes, observe the handiwork of your Maker, consider his marvelous works, and read constantly in his word. Eyes are not sent to aid us in regarding vanity, or to flash with the glances of passion, but to weep for sin, and to be lifted in gratitude to the Redeemer God. Ye who have ears, hear the word of God with attention and grateful obedience. Such delicate organs are not intended to pollute the mind with the hearing of lascivious or idle talk, but to edify the soul with holy instruction. Ye who have tongues, sing unto the Lord, and speak well of his name. Let those who are fluent consecrate their utterance unto the Lord, proclaiming to all around them the gospel of Jesus; and let all, whether old or young, endeavor to sing the praises of God, ay, and to sing them well too; let the voice be cultivated, so that public worship in the department of song may be rendered to the Lord in the best and most harmonious manner. Surely it cannot be right that the devil and the flesh should have the best music. No, let us give eye and ear and tongue to him who in his bounty gave to us these precious boons, and in his tenderness has preserved to us the use of them.
C. H. S.
JOHN PLOUGHMAN ON MOTHERS MOST men are what their mothers made them. The father is away from home all day, and has not half the influence over the children that the mother has. The cow has most to do with the calf. If a ragged colt grows into a good horse, we know who it is that combed him. A mother is therefore a very responsible woman, even though she may be the poorest in the land, for the bad or the good of her boys and girls very much depends upon her. Just as she bends the twigs the trees will grow. As is the gardener such is the garden, as is the wife such is the family. Samuel’s mother made him a little coat every year, but she had done a deal for him before that: Samuel would not have been Samuel if Hannah had not been Hannah. We shall never see a better set of men till the mothers are better.
We must have Sarahs and Rebekahs before we shall see Isaacs and Jacobs.
Grace does not run in the blood, but we generally find that the Timothies have mothers of a godly sort.
Little children give their mothers the headache, but if she lets them have their own way, when they grow up to be great children they will give her the heartache. Foolish fondness spoils many, and letting faults alone spoils more. Gardens that are never weeded will grow very little worth gathering; all watering and no hoeing will make a bad crop. A child may have too much of its mother’s love, and in the long run it may turn out that it had too little. Soft-hearted mothers rear soft-headed children; they hurt them for life because they are afraid of hurting them when they are young.
Coddle your children, and they will turn out noodles. A boy who is his mother’s duck generally grows up to be a great goose. You may sugar a child till everybody is sick of it. Boys’ jackets need a little dusting every now and then, and girls’ dresses are all the better for occasional trimming.
Children without chastisement are fields without ploughing, and vines without pruning. The very best colts want breaking in. Not that we like severity; cruel mothers are not mothers, and those who are always flogging and faultfinding ought to be flogged themselves. There is reason in all things, as the madman said when he cut off his nose.
Good mothers are very dear to their children. There’s no mother in the world like our own mother. My friend Sanders, from Glasgow, says, “The mither’s breath is aye sweet.” Every mother is a handsome woman to her own son. That man is not worth hanging who does not love his mother.
When good women lead their little ones to the Savior, the Lord Jesus blesses not only the children, but their mothers as well. Happy are they among women who see their sons and their daughters walking in the truth.
He, who thinks it easy to bring up a family never had one of his own. A mother who trains her children aright had need be wiser than Solomon, for his son turned out a fool. Some children are perverse from their infancy; none are born perfect but some have a double share of imperfections. Do what you will with some children, they don’t improve. Wash a dog, comb a dog, still a dog is but a dog: trouble seems thrown away on such children.
Such cases are meant to drive us to God, for he can turn blackamoors white, and cleanse out the leopard’s spots. It is clear that whatever faults our children have, we are their parents, and we cannot find fault with the stock they came of. Wild geese do not lay tame eggs. That which is born of a hen will he sure to scratch in the dust. The child of a cat will hunt mice.
Every creature follows its kind. If we are black, we cannot blame our offspring if they are dark too. Let us do our best with them, and pray the Mighty Lord to put his hand to the work. Children of prayer will grow up to be children of praise; mothers who have wept before God for their sons, will one day sing a new song over them. If boys are not born with a chifney bit in their mouths, and therefore run wild, the Lord can bring them back, however far afield they may gallop. Some colts often break the halter, and yet become quiet in harness. God can make those new whom we cannot mend, therefore let mothers never despair of their children as long as they live. Are they away from you across the sea? Remember the Lord is there as well as here. Prodigals may wander, but they are never out of sight of the Great Father, even though they may be “a great way off.”
Let mothers labor to make home the happiest place in the world. If they are always nagging and grumbling they will lose their hold of their children, and the boys will be tempted to the public-house or the billiard table, or some other dangerous ground. By the way, those billiard tables at publichouses are everywhere now-a-days, and are desperate snares to young fellows who have time on their hands. Home is the best place for boys and men, and a good mother is the soul of home. The smile of a mother’s face has enticed many into the right path, and the fear of bringing a tear into her eye has called off many a man from evil ways. The boy may have a heart of iron, but his mother can hold him like a magnet. The devil never reckons a man to be lost so long as he has a good mother alive. O woman, great is thy power! See to it that it be used for him who thought of his mother even in the agonies of death.
REAL CONTACT WITH JESUS: A SACRAMENTAL MEDITATION BY C. H. SPURGEON.
And Jesus said, Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me — Luke 8:46.
OUR Lord was very frequently in the midst of a crowd. His preaching was so plain and so forcible that he always attracted a vast company of hearers; and, moreover, the rumor of the loaves and fishes no doubt had something to do with increasing his audiences, while the expectation of beholding a miracle would be sure to add to the numbers of the hangers-on. Our Lord Jesus Christ often found it difficult to move through the streets, because of the masses who pressed upon him. This was encouraging to him as a preacher, and yet, how small a residuum of real good came of all the excitement which gathered around his personal ministry. He might have looked upon the great mass and have said, “What is the chaff to the wheat?” for here it was piled up upon the threshing-floor, heap upon heap; and yet after his decease his disciples might have been counted by a few scores, for those who had spiritually received him were but few. Many were called, but few were chosen. Yet, wherever one was blessed our Savior took note of it; it touched a chord in his soul. He never could be unaware when virtue had gone out of him to heal a sick one, or when power had gone forth with his ministry to save a sinful one. Of all the crowd that gathered round the Savior upon the day of which our text speaks, I find nothing said about one of them except this solitary “somebody” who had touched him. The crowd came and the crowd went, but little is recorded of it all. Just as the ocean, having advanced to full tide, leaves but little behind it when it retires again to its channel, so the vast multitude around the Savior left only this one precious deposit — one “somebody” who had touched him and had received virtue from him.
Ah, my Master, it may be so again this evening! These Sabbath mornings and these Sabbath evenings the crowds come pouring in like a mighty ocean, filling this house, and then they all retire again; only here and there is a “somebody” left weeping for sin, a “somebody” left rejoicing in Christ, a “somebody” who can say, “I have touched the hem of his garment, and I have been made whole.” The whole of my other hearers are not worth the “somebodies.” The many of you are not worth the few, for the many are the pebbles, and the few are the diamonds; the many are the heaps of husks, and the few are the precious grains. May God find them out at this hour, and his shall be all the praise.
Jesus said, “Somebody” hath touched me,” from which we observe that, in the use of means and ordinances we should never be satisfied, unless we can get into personal contact with Christ; secondly, if we can get into such personal contact we shall have a blessing; “I perceive that virtue is gone out of me;” and, thirdly, if we do get a blessing, Christ will know it; however obscure our case may be, he will know it, and he will have us let others know it; he will speak, and ask such questions as will draw us out, and manifest us to the world.
I. First:, then,IN THE USE OF ALL MEANS AND ORDINANCES LET IT BE OUR CHIEF AIM AND OBJECT TO COME INTO PERSONAL CONTACT WITH THE LORD JESUSCHRIST.
Peter said, “The multitude throng thee and press thee,” and that is true of the multitude to this very day; but of those who come where Christ is in the assembly of his saints a large proportion only come because it is their custom to do so. Perhaps they hardly know why they go to a place of worship. They go because they always did go, and they think it wrong not to go. They are just like the doors which swing upon their hinges; they take no interest in what is done, at least only in the exterior parts of the service; into the heart and soul of the business they do not enter, and cannot enter.
They are glad if the sermon is rather short, there is so much the less tedium for them. They are glad if they can look around and gaze at the congregation, they find in that something to interest them; but getting near to the Lord Jesus is not the business they come upon. They have not looked at it in that light. They come and they go; they come and they go, and it will be so till at the last they will come for the last time, and they will find out in the next world that the means of grace were not instituted to be matters of custom, and that to have heard Jesus Christ preached and to have rejected him is no trifle, but a solemn thing to be answered for in the presence of the Judge.
Others there are who come to the house of prayer, and try to enter into the service, and do so in a certain fashion; but it is only self-righteously or professionally. They would come to the Lord’s table; they would attend to baptism; they world join the church; but they have baptism, yet not the Holy Spirit; they have the Lord’s Supper, but they have not the Lord himself; they eat the bread, but they never eat his flesh; they drink the wine, but they never drink his blood; they have been buried in the pool, but they have never been buried with Christ in baptism, nor have they risen again with him into newness of life. To them to read, to sing, to kneel, to hear, and so on, are enough. They are content with the shell, but the blessed spiritual kernel, the true marrow and fatness, these they know nothing of.
These are the many, go into what church or meeting-house you please.
They are in the press around Jesus, but they do not touch him. They come, but they come not into contact with Jesus. They are outward, external hearers only, but there is no inward touching of the blessed person of Christ, no mysterious contact with the ever-blessed Savior, no stream of life and love flowing from him to them. It is all mechanical religion. Vital godliness they know nothing of.
But, “somebody,” said Christ, “somebody hath touched me,” and that is the soul of the matter. Oh, my hearer, when you are in prayer alone never be satisfied with having prayed; do not give it up till you have touched Christ in prayer; or, if you cannot get at him, at any rate sigh and cry until you do. Do not think you have prayed, but try again. When you come to public worship, I beseech you, rest not satisfied with listening to the sermon, and so on — as you all do with sufficient attention; to that I bear you witness; — but do not be content unless you get at Christ the Master, and touch him. At all times when you come to the communion table, count it to have been no ordinance of grace to you unless you have gone right through the veil into Christ’s own arms, or at least have touched his garment, feeling that the first object, the life and soul of the means of grace, is to touch Jesus Christ himself; and except “somebody” hath touched him, the whole has been a mere dead performance, without life or power.
The woman in our text was not only amongst those who were in the crowd, but she touched Jesus; and therefore, beloved, let me hold her up to your example in some respects:, though I would to God that in other respects you might excel her.
Note, first, she felt that it was of no use being in the crowd, of no use to be in the same street with Christ, or near to the place where Christ was, but she must fret at him; she must touch him. She touched him, you will notice, under many difficulties. There was a great crowd. She was a woman. She was also a woman enfeebled by a long disease which had drained her constitution and left her more fit to be upon a bed than to be struggling in the seething tumult. Yet, notwithstanding that, so intense was her desire that she urged on her way, I doubt not with many a bruise, and many an uncouth push, and at last, poor trembler as she was, she got near to the Lord. Beloved, it is not always easy to get at Jesus. It is very easy to kneel down to pray, but not so easy to reach Christ in prayer. There is a child crying, it is your own, and its noise has often hindered you when you were striving to approach Jesus; or a knock will come at the door when you most wish to be retired. When you are sitting in the house of God, your neighbor in the seat before you may unconsciously distract your attention. It is not easy to draw near to Christ, especially coming as some of you do right away from the counting-house, and from the workshop, with a thousand thoughts and cares about you. You cannot always unload your burden outside, and come in here with your hearts prepared to receive the gospel. Ah! it is a terrible fight sometimes, a real foot-to-foot fight with evil, with temptation, and I know not what. But, beloved, do fight it out, do fight it out; do not let your seasons for prayer be wasted, nor your times for hearing be thrown away; but, like this woman, be resolved, with all your feebleness, that you will lay hold upon Christ. And oh! if you be resolved about it, if you cannot get to him, he will come to you, and sometimes, when you are struggling against unbelieving thoughts, he will turn and say, “Make room for that poor feeble one that she may come to me, for my desire is to the work of my own hands; let her come to me, and let her desire be granted her.”
Observe, again, that this woman touched Jesus very secretly. Perhaps there is a dear sister here who is getting near to Christ at this very moment, and yet her face does not betray her. It is so little contact that she has gained with Christ that the joyous flush and the sparkle of the eye, which we often see in the child of God, have not yet come to her. She is sitting in yonder obscure corner, or standing in this aisle, but though her touch is secret, it is true. Though she cannot tell another of it, yet it is accomplished. She has touched Jesus. Beloved, that is not always the nearest fellowship with Christ of which we talk: the most deep waters are still. Nay, I am not sure but what we sometimes get nearer to Christ when we think we are at a distance than we do when we imagine we are near him, for we are not always exactly the best judges of our own spiritual state, and we may be very close to the Master, and yet for all that we may be so anxious to get closer that we may feel dissatisfied with the measure of grace which we have already received. To be satisfied with self is no sign of grace, but to long for more is often a far better evidence of the healthy state of the soul.
Friend, if thou caust not come to the table to-night publicly, come to the Master in secret. If thou darest not tell thy wife, or thy child, or thy father that thou art trusting in Jesus, it need not be told as yet. Thou mayest do it secretly, as he did of whom Jesus said, “When thou wast under the fig tree I saw thee.” Nathaniel retired to the shade that no one might see him, but Jesus saw him and marked his prayer, and he will see thee in the crowd and in the dark, and not withhold his blessing.
This woman also came into contact with Christ under a very deep sense of unworthiness. I dare say she thought, “If I touch the Great Prophet it will be a wonder if he does not strike me with some sudden judgment,” for she was a woman ceremonially unclean. She had no right to be in the throng.
Had the Levitical law been strictly carried out, I suppose she would have been confined to her house, but there she was wandering about, and she must needs go and touch the holy Savior. Ah! poor heart, you feel to-night that you are not fit to touch the skirts of the Master’s robe, for you are so unworthy. You never felt so undeserving before as you do to-night. In the recollection of last week and its infirmities, in the remembrance of the present state of your heart, and all its wanderings from God, you feel as if there never was so worthless a sinner in the house of God before. “Is grace for me?” say you. “Is Christ for me?” Oh! yes, unworthy one. Do not be put off without it. Jesus Christ does not save the worthy, but the unworthy.
Your plea must not be righteousness, but guilt. And you, too, child of God, though you are ashamed of yourself, Jesus is not ashamed of you; and though you feel unfit to come, let your unfitness only impel you with the greater earnestness of desire. Let your sense of need make you the more fervent to approach the Lord, who can supply your need. The woman came under difficulties, she came secretly, she came as an unworthy one, but still she obtained the blessing.
I have known many staggered with that saying of Paul’s, “He that eateth and drinketh unworthily eateth and drinketh damnation to himself.” Now, understand that this passage does not refer to the unworthiness of those persons who come to the Lord’s Table; for it does not say, “He that eateth and drinketh being unworthy.” It is not an adjective; it is an adverb. “He that eateth and drinketh unworthily,” that is to say, he who shall come to the outward and visible sign of Christ’s presence, and shall eat of the bread in order to obtain money by being a member of the church, knowing himself to be a hypocrite, or who shall do it jestingly, trifling with the ordinance: such a person would be eating and drinking unworthily, and he will be condemned. The sense of the passage is, not “damnation,” as our version reads it, but “condemnation.” There can be no doubt that members of the church coming to the Lord’s table in an unworthy manner, do receive condemnation. They are condemned for so doing, and the Lord is grieved. If they have any conscience at all they ought to feel their sin, and if not they may expect the chastisements of God to visit them. But, oh, sinner, as to coming to Christ — which is a very different thing from coming to the Lord’s table — as to coming to Christ, the more unworthy you feel yourself to be the better. Come, thou filthy one, for Christ can wash thee. Come, thou loathsome one, for Christ can beautify thee. Come utterly ruined and undone, for in Jesus Christ there is the strength and salvation which thy case requires.
Notice, once again, that this woman touched the Master very tremblingly and it was only a hurried touch, but still it was the touch of faith. Oh, beloved, to lay hold on Christ! Be thankful if you do but get near him for a few minutes, “Abide with me,” should be your prayer, but oh, if he only gives you a glimpse, be thankful! Remember that a touch healed the woman. She did not embrace Christ by the hour together. She had but a touch, and she was healed; and oh, may you have a sight of Jesus now, my beloved! Though it be but a glimpse, yet it will gladden and cheer your souls. Perhaps you are waiting on Christ, desiring his company, and while you are turning it over in your mind you are asking, “Will he ever shine upon me? Will he ever speak loving words to me? Will he ever let me sit at his feet? Will he ever permit me to lean my head upon his bosom?” Come and try him. Though you should shake like an aspen leaf, yet come. They come best sometimes who come most tremblingly, for when the creature is lowest then is the Creator highest, and when in our own esteem we are less than nothing and vanity, then is Christ more fair and lovely in our eyes.
One of the best ways of climbing to heaven is on our hands and knees. At any rate, there is no fear of falling when we are in that position, for “He that is down need fear no fall.” Let your lowliness of heart, your sense of utter nothingness, instead of disqualifying you, be a sweet medium for leading you to receive more of Christ. The more empty I am the more room is there for my Master. The more I lack the more he will give me. The more I feel my sickness the more shall I adore and bless him when he makes me whole.
You see, the woman did really touch Christ, and so I come back to that.
Whatever infirmity there was in the touch, it was a real touch of faith. She did reach Christ himself. She did not touch Peter; that would have been of no use to her, any more than it is for the parish priest to tell you that you are regenerate when your life soon proves that you are not. She did not touch John or James; that would have been of no more good to her than it is for you to be touched by a bishop’s hands, and to be told that you are confirmed in the faith, when you are not even a believer, and therefore have no faith to be confirmed in. She touched the Master himself, and do not, I pray you, be content unless you can do the same. Put out the hand of faith and touch Christ. Rest on him. Rely on his bloody sacrifice, his dying love, his rising rower, his ascended plea; and as you rest in him, your vital touch, however feeble, will certainly give you the blessing your soul needs.
This brings us to the second part of our discourse, upon which only a word or two.
II. THE WOMAN IN THE CROWD DID TOUCH JESUS,AND,HAVING DONE SO SHE RECEIVED VIRTUE FROM HIM The healing energy streamed at once through the finger of faith into the woman. In Christ there is healing for all spiritual diseases. There is a speedy healing, a healing which will not take months nor years, but which is complete in one second. There is in Christ a sufficient healing, though your diseases should be multiplied beyond all bounds. There is in Christ an all-conquering power to drive out every ill. Though, like this woman, you baffled physicians, and your case is reckoned desperate beyond all parallel, yet a touch of Christ will heal you. What a precious, glorious gospel I have to preach to sinners! If they touch Jesus, no matter though the devil himself were in them, that touch of faith would drive the devil out of them. Though you were like the man into whom there had entered a legion of devils, the word of Jesus would cast them all into the deep, and you should sit at his feet, clothed, and in your right mind. There is no excess or extravagance of sin which the power of Jesus Christ cannot overcome. If thou canst believe, whatever thou mayest have been, thou shalt be saved. If thou canst believe, though thou hast been lying in the scarlet dye till the warp and woof of thy being are ingrained therewith, yet shall the precious blood of Jesus make thee white as snow. Though thou art become black as hell itself, and only fit to be cast into the pit, yet if thou trustest Jesus, that simple touch shall give to thy soul the healing which shall make thee fit to tread the streets of heaven, and to stand before Jehovah-Rophi’s face, magnifying the Lord that healeth thee.
And now, child of God, I want you to learn the same lesson. Very likely when you came in here you said, — “Alas! I feel very dull; nay spirituality is at a very low ebb; the place is hot, and I do not feel prepared to hear; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak; I shall have no holy enjoyment today!”
Why not? Why, the touch of Jesus could make you live if you were dead, and surely it will stir the life that is in you, though it may seem to you to be expiring! Now, struggle hard, my beloved, to get at Jesus! May the Eternal Spirit come and help you, and may you yet find that your dull, dead times can soon become your best times. Oh! what a blessing it is that God takes the beggar up from the dunghill! He does not raise us when he sees us already up, but when he finds us lying on the dunghill, then he delights to lift us up and set us among princes. Or ever you are aware your soul may become like the chariots of Amminadib. Up from the depths of heaviness to the very heights of ecstatic worship you may mount as in a single moment if you can but touch Christ crucified. View him yonder, with streaming wounds, with thorn-crowned head, as in all the majesty of his misery, he expires for you! “Alas!” say you, “I have a thousand doubts to-night.” Ah! but your doubts will soon vanish when you draw nigh to Christ. He never doubts who feels the touch of Christ, at least not while the touch lasts, for observe this woman! She felt in her body that she was made whole, and so shall you, if you will only come into contact with the Lord. Do not wait for evidences, but come to Christ for evidences. If you cannot even dream of a good thing in yourselves, come to Jesus Christ as you did at the first. Come as if you never had come at all. Come to Jesus as a sinner, and your doubts shall flee away. “Ay,” but saith another, “my sins come to my remembrance, my sins since conversion.” Well, return to Jesus, when your guilt seems to return. The fountain is still open, and that fountain, you will remember, is not only open for sinners but for saints; for what saith the Scripture — There shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem ” — that is for you, church-members, for you, believers in Jesus.
The fountain is still open. Come, beloved, come to Jesus anew, and whatever be your sins, or doubts, or heavinesses, they shall all depart as soon as you can touch your Lord.
III And now the last point is — and I will not detain you longer upon it —
IF SOMEBODY SHALL TOUCH JESUS,THE LORD WILL KNOWIT. I do not know your names; a great number of you are perfect strangers to me. It matters nothing; your name is “somebody,” and Christ will know you. You are a total stranger, perhaps, to everybody in this place, but if you get a blessing there will be two who will know it — you will, and Christ will. Oh, if you should look to Jesus this day, it may not be registered in our church-book, and we may not hear of it; but still it will be registered in the courts of heaven, and they will set all the bells of the New Jerusalem a-ringing, and all the harps of angels will take a fresh lease of music as soon as they know that you are, born again. ‘With joy the Father doth approve The fruit of his eternal love; The Son with joy looks down and sees The purchase of his agonies; The Spirit takes delight to view The holy soul he formed anew; And saints and angels join to sing The growing empire of their King.” “Somebody!” I do not know the woman’s name; I do not know who the man is, but — “ Somebody” — God’s electing love rests on thee. Christ’s redeeming blood was shed for thee. The Spirit has wrought a work in thee, or thou wouldst not have touched Jesus; and all this Jesus knows about it.
It is a consoling thought that Christ not only knows the great children in the family, but he also knows the little ones. This stands fast: “The Lord knoweth them that are his,” whether they are only brought to know him now, or whether they have known him for fifty years. “The Lord knoweth them that are his,” and if I am a part of Christ’s body, I may be but the foot, but the Lord knows the foot; and the head, and the heart in heaven feel acutely when the foot on earth is bruised. If you have touched Jesus, I tell you that amidst the glories of angels, and the everlasting hallelujahs of all the blood-bought, he has found time to hear your sigh, to receive your faith, and to give you an answer of peace. All the way from heaven to earth there has rushed a mighty shock of healing virtue, which has come from Christ to you. Since you have touched him the healing virtue has touched you.
Now, as Jesus knows of your salvation, he wishes other people to know it, and that is why lie has put it in my heart to say — Somebody has touched the Lord. Where is that somebody? Somebody, where are you? Somebody, where are you? You have touched Christ, though with a feeble finger, and you are saved. Let us know it. It is due to us to let us know. You cannot guess what joy it gives us when we hear of sick ones being healed by our Master. Some of you, perhaps, have known the Lord for months, and you have not yet come forward to make an avowal of it; we beg you to do so.
You may come forward tremblingly, as the woman did; you may perhaps say, “I do not know what I should tell you.” Well, you must tell us what she told the Lord; she told him all the truth. We do not want any thing else.
We do not desire any sham experience. We do not want you to manufacture feelings like somebody else’s that you have read of in a book.
Come and tell us what you have felt. We shall not ask you to tell us what you have not felt, or what you do not know. But, if you have touched Christ, and you have been healed, I ask it, and I think I may ask it as your duty, as well as a favor to us, to come and tell us what the Lord hath done for your soul.
And you, believers, when you come to the Lord’s table, if you draw near to Christ, and have a sweet season, tell it to your brethren. Just as when Benjamin’s brethren went down to Egypt to buy corn, they left Benjamin at home, but they took a sack for Benjamin, so you ought always to take a word home for the sick wife at home, or the child who cannot come out Take home food for those of the family who cannot come for it. God grant that you may have always something sweet to tell of what you have experimentally known of precious truth, for while the sermon may have been sweet in itself, it comes with a double power when you can add, “and there was a savor about it which I enjoyed, and which made my heart leap for joy!”
Whoever you may be, my dear friend, though you may be nothing but a poor “somebody,” yet if you have touched Christ, tell others about it, in order that they may come and touch him too; and the Lord bless you, for Christ’s sake. Amen.