VIII. DIVINE LIFE FOR THE BODY
IT was while Mr. Simpson was pastor of the Thirteenth Street Presbyterian Church in New York that he found the secret of Divine life for the body and entered into an experience of physical healing, which bore him through thirty-five years of the most strenuous toil in a way which caused multitudes to marvel.
Some years before, during his pastorate in Louisville, he had been deeply impressed by the healing of a young paralytic in his congregation. He thus describes the effect upon himself:
"The impression produced by this incident never left my heart. Soon afterwards I attempted to take the Lord as my Healer, and for a while, as long as I trusted Him, He sustained me wonderfully; but afterwards, being entirely without instruction, and advised by a devout Christian physician that it was presumption, I abandoned my position of simple dependence upon God alone, and so floundered and stumbled for years. But as I heard of isolated cases, I never desired to doubt them or question that God did sometimes so heal. For myself, however, the truth had no really practical or effectual power, for I never could feel that I had any clear authority in a given case of need to trust myself to Him."
This experience is no extraordinary one. Thousands of devout servants of God are living as he then lived, some of whom are unwise enough to assert that there is nothing better promised us in the Bible, during this dispensation at least. For such Mr. Simpson had great sympathy, for he knew that the Holy Spirit alone ever led him to see that he had a right to the life of Christ for body, mind and spirit.
In The Gospel of Healing, a little book which he wrote nearly thirty years ago, and which has been issued in many editions, there is a chapter in which he tells how he was led to see and accept the truth of Divine healing. Among his papers was a revision of this personal testimony, intended for a new edition which was about to be published. As this is his life-long, as well as his latest testimony, we shall let him tell the story.
"For more than twenty years I was a sufferer from many physical infirmities and disabilities. Beginning a life of hard study, at the age of fourteen I broke hopelessly down with nervous prostration while I was preparing for college, and for many months was not permitted by my physician even to look at a book. During this time I came very near death, and on the verge of eternity gave myself to God. After my college studies were completed, I became the ambitious pastor of a large city church at twenty-one, and plunging headlong into my work, I again broke down with heart trouble and had to go away for months of rest, returning at length, as it seemed to me at the time, to die. Rallying, however, and slowly recovering in part, I labored on for years with the aid of constant remedies and preventives. I carried a bottle of ammonia in my pocket for years, and would have taken a nervous spasm if I had ventured without it. Again and again, while climbing a slight elevation or going up a stair did the old suffocating agony come over me. God knows how many hundred times in my earlier ministry when preaching in my pulpit or ministering by a grave it seemed that I must fall in the midst of the service or drop into that open grave."
"Two other collapses of long duration came in my health, and again and again during these terrible seasons did it seem that the last drops of life were ebbing out, and a frail thread held the vital chain from snapping forever."
"A few months before I took Christ as my Healer, a prominent physician in New York told me that I had not constitutional strength enough left to last more than a few months."
"During the summer that followed I went for a time to Saratoga Springs, and while there, one Sabbath afternoon, I wandered out to the Indian camp ground, where the jubilee singers were leading the music in an evangelistic service. I was deeply depressed, and all things in life looked dark and withered. Suddenly, I heard the chorus:"
'My Jesus is the Lord of Lords: No one can work like Him.'
"Again and again, in the deep bass notes, and the higher tones that seemed to soar to heaven, they sang:"
'No one can work like Him, No one can work like Him.'
"It fell Upon me like a spell. It fascinated me. It seemed like a voice from heaven. It possessed my whole being. I took Him also to be my Lord of Lords, and to work for me. I knew not how much it all meant; but I took Him in the dark, and went forth from that rude, old-fashioned service, remembering nothing else, but strangely lifted up."
"A few weeks later I went with my family to Old Orchard Beach, ME., chiefly to enjoy the delightful air of that loveliest of all ocean beaches. I lived on the seashore while there, and went occasionally to the meetings on the camp ground, but only once or twice took part in them, and had not, up to that time, committed myself in any full sense to the truth or experience of Divine healing. I heard a great number of people testify that they had been healed by simply trusting the Word of Christ, just as they would for salvation. It drove me to my Bible. I determined that I must settle this matter one way or the other. I am so glad I did not go to people. At His feet, alone, with my Bible open, and with no one to help or guide me, I became convinced that this was part of Christ's glorious Gospel for a sinful and suffering world, for all who would believe and receive His Word." That was enough. I could not believe this and then refuse to take it for myself, for I felt that I dare not hold any truth in God's Word as a mere theory or teach to others what I had not personally proved. And so one Friday afternoon at the hour of three o'clock, I went out into the silent pine woods -- I remember the very spot -- and there I raised my right hand to Heaven and made to God, as if I had seen Him there before me face to face, these three great and eternal pledges:
"1. As I shall meet You in that day, I solemnly accept this truth as part of Your Word and of the Gospel of Christ, and, God helping me, I shall never question it until I meet You there."
"2. As I shall meet You in that day, I take the Lord Jesus as my physical life, for all the needs of my body until all my life-work is done; and, God helping me, I shall never doubt that He does become my life and strength from this moment and will keep me under all circumstances until all His will for me is perfectly fulfilled."
"3. As I shall meet You in that day, I solemnly promise to use this blessing for the glory of God and the good of others, and to so speak of it or minister in connection with it in any way in which God may call me or others may need me in the future."
"I arose. It had only been a few moments, but I knew that something was done. Every fibre of my soul was tingling with a sense of God's presence. I do not know whether my body felt better or not -- I know I did not think of it -- it was so glorious to believe it simply, and to know that from now onHe had it in hand."
"Then came the test of faith. The first struck me before I had left the spot. A subtle voice whispered: 'Now you have decided to take God as your Healer, it would help if you should just go down to Dr. Cullis' cottage and get him to pray with you.' I listened to it for a moment. The next moment a blow seemed to strike my brain, which made me reel as a stunned person. I cried: 'Lord, what have I done?' I felt I was in some great peril. In a moment the thought came very quickly: 'That suggestion would have been all right before this, but you have just settled this matter forever, and told God that you will never doubt that it is done, and you must not attempt to do it over again.' I saw it like a flash of lightning, and in that moment I understood what faith meant and what a solemn thing it was inexorably to keep faith with God. I have often thanked God for that blow. I saw that when a thing was settled with God, it was never to be unsettled or repeated. When it was done, it was never to be undone or done over again in any sense that could involve a doubt of the finality of the committal already made. I think in the early days of the work of faith to which God afterwards called me, I was as much helped by a holy fear of doubting God as by any of the joys and raptures of His presence or promises. This little word often shone like a living fire in my Bible: If any one draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.' What the enemy desired was to get some doubt about the certainty and completeness of the transaction just closed, and God mercifully held me back from it."
"The day after I started to the mountains of New Hampshire. The next test came on the following Sabbath, just two days after I had claimed my healing. I was invited to preach in the Congregational Church. I felt the Holy Spirit pressing me to give a special testimony. But I tried to preach a good sermon of my own choosing. It was about the Holy Ghost, and had often been blessed, but it was not His word for that hour, I am sure. He wanted me to tell the people what He had been showing me. But I tried to be conventional and respectable, and I had an awful time. My jaws seemed like lumps of lead, and my lips would scarcely move. I got through as soon as I could, and fled into an adjoining field, where I lay before the Lord and asked Him to show me what my burden meant and to forgive me. He did most graciously, and let me have one more chance to testify for Him and glorify Him. That night we had a service in our hotel, and I was permitted to speak again. This time I did tell what God had been doing. Not very much did I say, but I tried to be faithful in a stammering way, and told the people how I had lately seen the Lord Jesus in a deeper fullness, as the Healer of the body, and had taken Him for myself, and knew that He would be faithful and sufficient. God did not ask me to testify of my feelings or experiences, but of Jesus and His faithfulness. And I am sure He calls all who trust Him to testify before they experience His full blessing. I believe I should have lost my healing if I had waited until I felt it."
"Well, the next day the third test came. Near by was a mountain 3,000 feet high; I was asked to join a little party that were to ascend it. I shrank back at once. Did I not remember the dread of high altitudes that had always overshadowed me, and the terror with which I had resolved in Switzerland and Florence never to attempt it again?"
"Then came the solemn searching thought, 'If you fear to go, it is because you do not believe that God has healed you. If you have taken Him for your strength, need you to fear to do anything to which He calls you?'"
"I felt it was God's thought. I felt my fear would be, in this case, pure unbelief, and I told God that in His strength I would go."
"And so I ascended that mountain. At first it seemed as if it would take my last breath. I felt all the old weakness and dread; I found I had in myself no more strength than ever. But over against my weakness and suffering I became conscious that there was another Presence. There was a Divine strength reached out to me if I would take it, claim it, hold it, and persevere in it. When I reached the mountain top, I seemed to be at the gate of heaven, and the world of weakness and fear was lying at my feet. Thank God, from that time I have had a new heart in this breast, literally as well as spiritually, and Christ has been its glorious life."
"The Lord has often permitted the test to be a, very severe one. A few months after my healing He called me into the special pastoral, literary and missionary work which has since engaged my time and energy, and which has involved much more labor than any previous period of my life. And yet I desire to record my testimony to the honor and glory of Christ, that it has been a continual delight and much easier in every way than the far lighter tasks of former years. I have been conscious, however, all the time that I was not using my own natural strength. Physically I do not think I am any more robust than ever. I am intensely conscious with every breath, that I am drawing my vitality from a directly supernatural source, and that it keeps pace with the calls and necessities of my work. I believe and am sure that it is nothing else than the life of Christ manifested in my mortal flesh. I do not desire to provoke argument, but I give my simple, humble testimony, and to me it is very real and very wonderful. I know it is the Lord'."
The idea is too common that a person who is healed is thereafter immune from every kind of sickness. Dr. Simpson's conception of Divine life for the body was exactly contrary to this supposition. He felt himself to be wholly dependent upon a vital and continuous connection with the Lord for his life.
He illustrated this by a personal incident. One night he found it necessary to search for some papers in an office which he had abandoned, from which all lighting and heating appliances had been removed. There was a heap of ashes in the grate and a large bottle of oil on the mantel. It occurred to him to pour the oil upon the ashes, and the light and heat thus supplied enabled him to accomplish his purpose. He says: "It was a beautiful parable to me. There was a time when my physical strength, like that heap of ashes, was burned out, but lo! I found a vessel of oil, the blessed Holy Ghost, and as God poured His fullness on my exhausted frame, a Divine strength came, full of sweet exhilarance and unwearied buoyancy and energy, and in that light and life of God I am working without exhaustion, and trust still to work in His glorious all-sufficiency until my work is done."
A definite instance in which this simple secret of life was manifested is narrated by Rev. W. T. MacArthur. "Mr. Simpson had contracted a heavy cold, and was really a sick man, but he delivered the convention address for which he had come to Chicago. At the close of the meeting I accompanied him to his hotel where he sat for a few minutes in the lobby. He was breathing heavily and ablaze with fever. I said, 'Mr. Simpson, is there nothing I can do for you?' He replied, 'Yes, Mr. MacArthur, you can say good night. I must be alone with God.' Early in the morning I called him by telephone, I should not have been greatly astonished if there had been no response. However, the signal had no sooner been given than I heard his voice sharp and clear. He seemed surprised that I should be enquiring for his health, and asked me kindly if / had rested well. He was just leaving for a convention four hundred miles farther West. I also was to speak at that convention, and arrived there about twenty-four hours after he did. All agreed that they had never seen him looking better, and had never heard him preach so well."
Some years ago Dr. Simpson himself told the Nyack students of one of his many experiences. He had been hastening down the hill from his home to catch the early morning train when he slipped and dislocated his kneecap. The pain was intense, and he was unable to stand. "Sitting there on the ice," he said, "I held my knee up and silently prayed, when suddenly it seemed as if the very love of the Lord was bathing it and the pain turned into an exquisite sensation that seemed like a physical joy."
It seems not a little strange that we should expect those who trust the Lord for their bodies to manifest continually a perfect physical life while, at the same time, we excuse ourselves and others for very evident failures in spiritual life. The Apostle John expressed his ardent wish for his friends in this prayer: "Beloved, I wish above all things that you may prosper and be in health even as your soul prospers." Dr. Simpson believed that this was the true measure of Divine life for the body, for to him body, soul, and spirit were inseparably related and each equally provided for in the dispensation of divine grace.
Some have thought that Dr. Simpson changed his views and attitude in his latter years. Nothing could be further from the truth. Those who knew him most intimately all bear witness to his unshaken confidence in the Lord as the Healer of His people. Even when he himself in his last days was not restored, as he earnestly prayed that he would be, his faith did not for a moment fail. He had never attempted, as some have done, to explain some of the mysteries that sorely perplex those who demand that the secrets of the individual soul in its relationship to God shall be understood by others. We shall do well to be as wise as he was in leaving some things to be made manifest when we shall "know as also we are known," and even to be willing to allow God to keep some of his own secrets.
The Life of A. B. Simpson is the Official Authorised Edition by A. E. THOMPSON, M. A. with Special Chapters by Paul Rader James M. Gray, D. D. Kenneth Mackenzie, J. Gregory Mantle, D. D. F. H. Senft, B. A. R. H. Glover, M. D. W. M. Turnbull, D. D. Published by Christian Alliance Publishing Co. 318 West 39TH St., New York in 1920. Lightly updated to the language of the 21st century by D. N. Pham. (c) 2012.
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