A Promise For The Blind
and the lame, the woman with child, and she that travails with child together: a great company shall return there.“ Jeremiah 31:8.
POOR Israel, as a nation, had its ups and downs. It was sometimes in captivity and soon it experienced a deliverance. At one time it was diminished and brought low through affliction, persecution, or sorrow. At another, it was multiplied and increased exceedingly. It was the deliverance from one of these evil seasons that Jeremiah was commissioned to announce by the promise that the Lord’s people would come again to their own land.
Let us consider, for a few minutes, the circumstances of these Israelites. It must have been a sorrowful thing for them to dwell in a land that was not their own, to hear a language they didn’t understood, to see the fierce inhabitants, their enemies, and the idolatrous worship of the heathen gods. We can well conceive of their mournful spirit and the feeling with which they gave utterance to their plaintive song, “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yes, we wept when we remembered Zion. We hung our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” But God sent among them Prophets who told them that they would be restored and herein lay the glory of the promise–that it included all the captive people of God–whatever might betheir rank or position! The blind, the halt and the lame would all come back. The hoary-headed man with his staff, equally with the young and vigorous–the lame as well as he who could run like the rabbit–all would come to the Mountain of the Lord! Nor should even women be left behind–“The blind and the lame, the woman with child and she that travails with child together: a great company shall return there.” Had the Prophet not said that the blind and the lame would come, that their faces should be turned towards the holy city–had he not said that they would enter into the Temple of the Lord–they might have thought that being poor and blind, they would never be allowed to come unto the holy mountain, even Zion.
But, my Friends, this text has a further prophetical signification in its reference to the gathering in of the Jews in the latter times. And with this we have more particularly to do. I believe in the restoration of the Jews to their own land in the last days. I am a firm believer in the gathering in of the Jews at a future time. Before Jesus Christ shall again come upon this earth, the Jews shall be permitted to go to their beloved Palestine. At present they are only at the entrance gates. I am told that the Jews have a practice of bringing some of the soil of their own country to England under the seal of the chief rabbi. And that at their death it affords them the highest joy to know that they will have a portion of this soil buried with them, even were it no more than sufficient to cover a sixpence. They have another idea–of course, it is a very foolish one–that every Jew dying in a foreign land travels underground direct to Palestine. It is because they love their country that they believe such a lie!
But whatever may be our opinion respecting the Jews and their position, this I know–though they ought not to be fettered and oppressed, though they ought to have a vote in Parliament, though they ought to be freed from civil disabilities, yet they never can amalgamate with other nations. The time will come when they shall leave their sordid ideas in the pursuit of gain to secure the treasures of Paradise. They are now a scattered people and must be till the last times. Then suddenly they shall rise, touched by the influence of the Spirit of God, again to be His people. Their temple shall again resound with the worship of God and old Zion will be again built! Then may we truly expect the latter-day Glory shall come. Certainly, if I read my Bible aright, I must believe that the downtrodden, despised Jew shall again be glad and poor old Judea, that has been the scoff and scorn of mankind, shall again be lifted up and restored–and shall shine forth “fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners!”
If it is so, mark you, the blind Jew and the lame Jew will as surely go to Jerusalem as any of the rest of the Jews! They will all go–the blind, the lame, the woman travailing with child will all meet in God’s holy Temple.
However, I leave this case of the Jews, their coming up from Babylon and the last gathering in of Israel. I know very little of them, but would rather speak of my text under another aspect. You know that God has a peculiar people, as much a chosen nation as the Jews ever were–a called and elected people whom the Father has chosen from before the foundation of the world–a redeemed people whom Jesus has purchased with His precious blood. They are a sanctified people because God has separated them from the rest of mankind. Well, all these people are to be brought in, to be gathered to Christ–everyone whom God has chosen, redeemed and sanctified shall come to Mount Zion! Blessed be God, they shall all come to this city above! God’s wheat shall all be gathered into God’s garner. The ransomed of the Lord shall all join the throng around the Throne of God forever–
“To bless the conduct of His Grace,
And make His glories known.”
My text says the blind and the lame shall meet there. Now I am about to speak, first of all, of the characters named in thetext. And then I am going to try to show you the duties of Christians to the persons so designated, or spoken of, as the lame and the blind.
- First, I am to speak of THE CHARACTERS NAMED IN THE TEXT–“the blind and the lame.”
We will speak of the blind first. There are three classes of blind people–the physically blind, the mentally blind and the spiritually blind. In illustration, I would take you to the London Road and there you will find these three orders of blind people. There is the school for the blind, where you will find the physically blind. Just before you is the Roman Catholic Cathedral–there you will find the spiritually blind. And further on is the Bethlehem Hospital, commonly called Bedlam, where you will find the mentally blind. These are, then, the three divisions–the naturally, or physically blind, the mentally blind and the spiritually blind.
Well, first, we refer to the physically blind. If chosen of God, they will love Him and they shall all come to Heaven.Ah, poor Adam, how many are the infirmities which your one sin has entailed upon your offspring! Oh, mother Eve, how did your act of transgression bring on us a train of woes! Lameness, blindness, deafness along with all the sad ailments of the paralytic, the dumb, the deformed! But all honor to the Second Adam! He overcomes these infirmities! He saves “the blind and the lame.” Through His Sovereign Grace, He loves many of the poor, darkened sons of men. Blind men are not chosen for soldiers except in the army of God, but in that army He enlists many blind warriors and makes them the best of His soldiers! Yes, blind saints, God loves you and will not exclude you from Heaven! The man who has to go leaning on his crutch all through the journey of life is not refused at Heaven’s door because of his crutches. You blind men, groping along in the world, when you arrive at Heaven’s gate, are you to be excluded because of the lack of your eyes? Rather, the moment they come to its threshold, God speaks the word and the withered limb regains its strength, the dim eye its luster and thus, “the blind and the lame” become fitted to join the shining multitude around the Throne of God!
We know that if we die aged, we shall not be aged in Heaven–there are no furrows on the brow of the glorified ones! Their eyes know no dimness–they know not what it is to have infirmities of body, for mortality is exchanged for immortality! It may be that we are weakly here. It may be that we have a feeble, diseased, emaciated body here. But there we shall have a spiritual body, like unto Christ’s glorious body, clothed in light and majesty! We shall then be partakers of the bliss of Heaven, shining as the stars in the firmament forever and forever! Now, you physically blind, you who do not see the glorious rays of the sun, do not be downcast, but remember that there have been many illustrious saints who have endured the same calamity. Chief and foremost, remember the Blind Bard of Paradise, who, when his eyes were darkened, saw things that others had never imagined! I mean Milton. Though you are deprived of your temporal sight, you may see far into the deep things of God! Others have been blind as well as you. Many blind men have been great men. You physically blind, rejoice that blind though you are, if you look to Christ, by faith, you will join “the general assembly and Church of the first-born, which are written in Heaven.”
But, then, secondly, the mentally blind shall be restored. I have referred to Bedlam for an illustration. I do not mean,by that, to refer to those who have suffered the entire loss of their reason. It would be a very doubtful question to discuss whether a person born without the use of his natural reason can be an object of Divine Grace. It would lead to a great deal of discussion, without any practical result, so I leave it alone. But there is such a thing as practical mental blindness. There may be the master-mind, gigantic conceptions, a fruitful imagination with the power of leading and governing other minds–and yet there may be a degree of mental blindness. We are all somewhat blind. We have all, we must confess, an imperfect vision–except the “Pope” who claims to be infallible and, therefore, proves that he is more blind thanthe rest of us! There are some of us who feel our fallibility in point of judgment and who are obliged to acknowledge our ignorance and lack of clear mental perception.
But, my Friends, some of the mentally blind shall enter Heaven. I now refer to those whose mental powers are very weak. I sometimes meet with these mentally blind people. They do not know much of their own language and, perhaps, have never put as many as a half a dozen words together in their lives in public. I once heard of one of these, an old woman, who had heard a most uninteresting discourse upon metaphysics, but she called it “a blessed sermon, for,” she said, “the minister told us all about the Savior being both meat and physic, too.” I think that was a good mistake! She, like many of the mentally blind, could not understand one-half of the words that are used by some of our preachers. She belonged to the somewhat mentally blind folk who have not had the benefit of teaching or training. Well, blessed be God, they do not need it to find the way to Heaven! “The wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.”
Well, all these mentally blind shall come. There will be people in Heaven who never read a word in their lives. I know not how low the Grace of God can go. Some poor creatures who know nothing of the things of earth, even these may understand the Gospel, it is so plain! We do not need a giant intellect in order to grasp its Doctrines. Its element and substance is, “He that believes and is baptized shall be saved.” Believer, ignorant though you may be, you can comprehend this grand scheme of man’s redemption, so do not say that because you are poor and ignorant, you will not enter Heaven!
But, then, thirdly, there are
the spiritually blind. Whenever you find a person spiritually blind, you ought to be very
careful how you speak to him, or of him. I do think this is a matter in which we often fail. The discussion between Catholics and Protestants has been far from what it ought to have been. We seem bent upon forcing them to submit at once to our views, but this is wrong of us. We may condemn wrong principles, but let us always speak gently of the men who hold them. They are spiritually blind, so we should deal kindly with them, avoiding that bitterness of spirit which is so often manifested. Sick men will not take your medicine if you give them vinegar with it–give them something sweet with it and they will take it. So be kind and loving to the spiritually blind and they will be likely to give heed to you.
To say nothing of the Church of Rome, the Puseyites, or Arminians–to go no further than the present congregation–there are many spiritually blind here! Oh, men or woman, do you see your lost and ruined state by nature? No. Did you ever, by faith, see Christ crucified on the Cross for man’s redemption? No, you did not! Did you ever understand the sufficiency of the mediatorial Sacrifice of Christ? No, you did not! Did you ever realize what vital union with the Person of Christ means? No! Has the Holy Spirit ever spoken in your heart? You are obliged to confess that you know nothing about His purifying influence! Ah, then, you are blind–spiritually blind! Chapelgoer, churchgoer–having the form of religion without the power, you are blind as a bat which can only fly in the night! Or like the owl–when daylight comes, you will not be able to find your way. Unless the scales are removed from your eyes, you will be exposed to the Judgment of God! But if the Holy Spirit illuminates you, though now blind, you shall come to Zion with the rest ofthe chosen race!
But my text also mentions the lame. These are not so much the subject of our consideration tonight and may, therefore, be passed over briefly. But many of the lame are to get to Heaven. Who are they? Well, Brothers and Sisters, thereare some of God’s people who are lame because they are weak in faith. We sometimes hear a great deal said about possessing a full assurance of being a child of God and then, every now and then, we hear of others who have a doubt, or only a hope, concerning their salvation. As good Joseph Irons used to say, “They keep hope, hope, hoping–hop, hop, hopping all their lives because they can’t walk.” Little-Faith is always lame. Yet, although some of you never could say with certainty that you are the people of God, yet one or another of you can say with sincerity–
“A guilty, weak, and helpless worm,
On Your kind arms I fall;
Be You my strength and righteousness,
My Jesus, and my All.”
You lame ones, fear not–you will not be cast out! Two snails entered the ark–how they got there, I cannot tell. It must have taken them a long time. They must have started rather early, unless Noah took them part of the way. So, some of you are snails–you are on the right road, but it will take you a long while to get into the ark unless some blessed Noah helps you!
Again, backsliders are lame. There are Christians to be found who believe that it is possible to fall from a state ofGrace. Here I would speak cautiously. God’s people cannot fall finally–but they can fall a long way. When a Christian falls, it is no light matter. I hear some talking of falling and getting up again, as if it were nothing. But let them turn to Hebrews 6:4-6. But we will rejoice that–
“Grace will complete what Grace begins,
To save from sorrows or from sins.”
I do not say that a Christian may not fall and break a limb–but I do say that a child of God cannot fall, spiritually, and break his neck! He cannot fall without grievous injury. The result, in his experience, will be unhappiness and misery. Look at poor David–after falling into that great sin, his history was nothing but troubles from rebellious sons and enemies! You loving, living children of the blessed God, I know that you will not talk lightly of falling into sin. Backsliders, fallen ones, God will have mercy upon you if you are truly penitent. It is a glorious fact that the sorrowing backsliders shall not be left behind. Backsliders shall sing above, as God’s restored children, whom He always has loved. Blind and lame ones, believe in the Lord and you shall be found amongst the followers of the Lamb at the last!
II. Now secondly and very briefly, WHAT ARE OUR DUTIES TO THESE BLIND PEOPLE?
I answer, first, to the spiritually blind, our duty is to pray for them. Yes, I believe we should never do anythingwithout prayer. However much you may profess to love them, yet if you do not pray for them, I cannot believe what you say! An infidel once met a Christian and said to him, “You don’t believe in the Bible. You don’t believe in the Gospel!” “I do,” the Christian replied. “Well, then, how is it that as I pass you in going to my business every day, you have never spoken to me concerning my soul? You don’t believe the Bible!” “I do.” “I cannot believe you,” he said, “for if you do, you are very unfeeling.”
Now, Christians, if you believe that you have spiritually blind people around you, what is your duty towards them? Sirs, unless you feel a deep concern about their state, I fear that the heavenly Physician has not removed the spiritual cataract from your eyes! If we believe their position to be one of extreme peril–that they, for lack of the Light of God to guide them–are perishing, how we ought to exert ourselves on their behalf! The ministers do not feel enough for souls in this degenerate age, but keep on preaching, preaching, preaching, or read, read, reading their good-for-nothing manuscripts–and yet there is no increase to their churches! The minister is here in the pulpit and the people are down below in the pews. There is no golden link of sympathy between them. We need more of this sympathy! We need more intense love to souls, the souls of the ungodly! We need to go more to God’s Throne to plead for withyou! As God’s ambassadors, we say with Paul, “We pray you, in Christ’s stead, be you reconciled to God.” It is no trifling matter to be spiritually blind! It is no light matter to have no eyes! No, the blind are sure not to enter Heaven if they die spiritually blind! They must have their eyes enlightened by God if they are to be found above! May the ever-blessed and glorious God awaken all the spiritually blind! May we who are ministers and all others who have the opportunity use it, under God’s blessing, to throw the Light of God upon their dark minds! Try to get your neighbors to the House of God, but take care that it is a Gospel ministry to which you invite them! Take care that you prove the value of the Gospel you possess by your own consistent practice. Pray for them and it may be that God will give them repentance unto life.
And then, next, our duty to the mentally blind is to be very charitable and try to instruct them. We must manifest, inall our dealings with them, a kindness of disposition, never attempting to thrash them into what we believe to be right. I do not believe in the utility of bigoted denunciations. I sometimes differ from my Christian Brothers, but I do not quarrel see it plainly enough.“ We, as Calvinists, believe that men cannot see the Truth of God unless it is revealed to them by God. We should, therefore, be the last to condemn the ignorant, but should do our utmost to instruct them and to open their eyes. It is of no use to attempt to force a man to believe. It has been said–
“Convince a man against his will,
He’s of the same opinion still.”
So, whenever you get into an argument with a mentally blind man, suppose it to be a Roman Catholic, don’t get cross with him. If you do, you will never make a friend of your opponent. Suppose others do not see as you do on some matters, on infant baptism or anything else–and I think we Baptists very often err in our temper in some of our discussions–well, don’t try to compel them to see as you see! Brothers and Sisters, that is not the way to convince them of the Truth of our beliefs. Instead of acting like that, we should try to show them the Truth as it is in the Bible–and then they must shut their eyes or else see it. “It is there,” you say–“if you can’t see it, I shall not be cross or out of temper with you.” Never let us be cross with the mentally blind. You know that the policeman, when he meets a man at night, turns his lantern straight upon the man’s eyes–so must we turn the Light of Truth upon these blind eyes and not take out the truncheon to thrash them! We should also reflect that there was a time when we, too, knew nothing. It therefore behooves us to act kindly to the younger scholars in the school, seeing that we have not always been in the highest class.
But now to conclude, we have to speak of our duty to the physically blind. There are some good people who wouldbe glad to work for their living, but they are disabled through affliction. Among these are the blind. When I go among the sick and poor, I find so many to relieve that when I have given all I can afford, there is still more to do. Well, there they are, and to do them any permanent good you must give them something week by week. I was thinking, suppose another globe were created and rolled up alongside this world, so that when any in this world became sick, or blind, or helpless, we could put them over into the other world to get rid of them? Well, suppose that were done, Brothers and Sisters? You would soon want them back again! “There is dear Sister So-and-So. She is entirely dependent upon the charity of her friends, but she has such rich deep experience–we have derived so much comfort from her society that we must have her back.” Then, if these poor sufferers were in another world, you would have no way of doing good by relieving them–and then you would wish you could do doing something for them for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ. You would then have to complain, “Here is this shilling–I don’t know what to do with it. Here I have money that I cannot use because there are no objects of charity to whom I can give it–I wish Jesus Christ would come down to earth again. Would I not minister to His necessities if He were here? Yes, that I would! I would give Him the best of things that were to be found anywhere. Then I would sit at His feet, washing them with my tears and wiping them with the hair of my head.”
You say that, but if all these poor blind people were in another world, there would be no one to whom you could minister for His sake, so Jesus Christ has sent some of them to us that we may have the opportunity of doing good to them and that, by-and-by, He may be able to say to us, “Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these, My brethren, you have done it unto Me.” He has cast some blind people upon the Church on purpose–to give us the treat of doing something for them. He has said, “The poor you have always with you.” He allows you the opportunity of showing your love to Him by relieving those who need your help. When I hear of a church where they are all gentlemen, I always say farewell to that, for where there are no poor, the ship will soon sink! If there are no poor there, Christ will soon give them some if they are a real Gospel Church.
Now, the reason we have a Blind Society is simply this–there are some good people who cannot help themselves because they are blind and helpless. There is one from my Church and some from other Churches. It is not a very large Society–it is all the better for that, for I find that in the great Societies, there is so much influence needed and so many votes required, that those who need help most cannot obtain it! And those who do not need it so much, but have the influence, get it all! Well, in this Christian Blind Relief Society, some of these poor blind people receive a trifle every week and I assure you they are all needy and deserving objects of your charity.
This is what we ask you tonight to support. Jesus Christ stands at the door and says to you as you leave, “Give Me something, this night, if you love Me.”
I have to appeal so often, and am followed so much by my own people, that I have not the face to ask you for anything tonight, so Christ shall ask, instead, and I will ask next time. Remember the poor! Take care of the blind!