Certain sicknesses are peculiar to the saints: the ungodly are never visited with them. Strange to say, these sicknesses are signs of vigorous health. Who but the beloved of the Lord ever experience that sin-sickness in which the soul loathes the very name of transgression, is unmoved by the enchantments of the tempter, finds no sweetness in its besetting sins, but turns with detestation and abhorrence from the very thought of iniquity? Not less is it for these, and these alone, to feel that self-sickness whereby the heart revolts from all creature-confidence and strength, having been made sick of self, self-exalting, self-reliance, and self of every sort. The Lord afflicts us more and more with such self-sickness till we are dead to self and its unsanctified desires. Then there is a twofold love-sickness. Of the one kind is that love-sickness which comes upon the Christian when he is transported with the full enjoyment of Jesus, even as the bride, elated by the favour, melted by the tenderness of her Lord, says in the fifth verse of the second chapter of the Song, ‘Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples: for I am sick of love.’ The soul overjoyed with the divine communications of happiness and bliss which came from Christ, the body scarcely able to bear the excessive delirium of delight which the soul possessed, she was so glad to be in the embraces of her Lord, that she needed to be stayed under the overpowering weight of joy. Another kind of love-sickness widely different from the first, is that in which the soul is sick, not because it has too much of Christ’s love, but because it has not enough present consciousness of it; sick, not of the enjoyment, but of the longing for it; sick, not because of excess of delight, but because of sorrow for an absent lover.
For meditation: Do you suffer from spiritual sickness? Christ came to call those who are prepared to admit to him that they are spiritually sick (Mark 2:17). As he said of his physically sick friend Lazarus, ‘This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God’ (John 11:4).
Sermon no. 539 7 November (Preached 8 November 1863)