The Withered Hand

   (No. 1485)




   "And, behold, there was a man which hadhis hand withered... Then says
   He to the man, Stretch forth your hand. And he stretched it forth; and
   it was restored whole, like as the other." Matthew 12:10,13.

   NOTE well the expression. Jesus "went into their synagogue and, behold,
   there was a man which had his hand withered." A mark is set, as it
   were, in the margin, as if it were a notable fact. That word, "behold"
   is a sort of note of exclamation to draw attention to it. "Behold,
   there was a man which had his hand withered." In many congregations, if
   there should step in one of the great and mighty of the land, people
   would say, "Behold, there was a duke, an earl, or a bishop there." And
   although there were, occasionally, some great ones in our Savior's
   congregation, I find no notes of admiration about their presence, no,
   "beholds," inserted by the Evangelists as if to call attention to their
   appearance. No doubt if there were, in a congregation, some person of
   known intelligence and great learning who had earned a high degree,
   there are persons who would say, "Did you know that Professor Science
   or Doctor Classic was present at the service?" There would be a,
   "behold," put to that in the memories of many!

   There were persons well learned, according to the learning of the day,
   who came to listen to Christ, but there are no "beholds," about their
   having been present. Yet in the synagogue there was a poor man whose
   hand had been withered and we are called upon to note the fact! It was
   his right hand which was withered, the worse of the two for him, for he
   could scarcely follow his handicraft or earn his bread. His best hand
   was useless! His breadwinner failed him. I have no doubt he was a very
   humble, obscure, insignificant individual. He was probably in great
   poverty because he could not work as his fellow craftsmen could. And he
   was probably not a man of any rank, or learning, or special
   intelligence. His being in the assembly was, in itself, nothing very

   I suppose he had been accustomed to go to the synagogue as others of
   his townsmen did. Yet the Holy Spirit takes care to mark that he was
   present and to have the word, "behold," hung out like a sign that it
   might be regarded as a special subject for consideration that the
   crippled man was there! And tonight, dear Friends, it matters very
   little to the preacher or to the congregation that you are here, if you
   are some person of note or consequence, for we make no note of
   dignitaries here and attach no special consequence to anyone in this
   place where the rich and the poor meet together!

   But if you happen to be here as a soul needing a Savior. If you happen
   to be here with a spiritually withered hand so that you cannot do the
   things that you would and you are needing to have that hand restored to
   you, there shall be a "behold," put to that--and especially shall it be
   doubly emphatic if, tonight, the Master says to you, "Stretch out your
   withered hand"--and if Divine power shall restore that hand and a deed
   of Grace shall be accomplished! What our Lord needed on that particular
   Sabbath morning was somebody to work upon, somebody whom He might heal
   and so defy the traditional legality of the Pharisees who said that it
   was wrong to heal on the Sabbath!

   Christ did not want their health that morning--He looked for their
   sickness that He might illustrate His healing power. He did not want
   any greatness in anybody there--but He did want some poor needy one in
   whom He could display His power to heal. And that is just the case
   tonight. If you are rich and increased in goods and have need of
   nothing, my Master does not want you! He is a Physician and those who
   practice the healing art look out for sickness as their sphere of
   operation. If we were to tell a wise physician of a town where nobody
   was sick and everybody enjoyed perfect health, he would not settle
   there unless he wished to retire from his practice. My Master does not
   come into the assemblies where all feel themselves quite content with
   themselves--where there are no blind eyes, no deaf ears, no broken
   hearts, no withered hands--for what do such folks need with a Savior?

   He looks around and His eyes fix themselves upon pain, upon necessity,
   upon incapacity, upon sinfulness, upon everything to which He can do
   good--for what He wants in us mortals is the opportunity to do us
   good--and not a

   pretense on our part that we can do Him good! I begin with this because
   my talk tonight will be very simple and it will only be meant for those
   of you who need my Lord and Master. Those of you who do not need Him
   can go. But you that need Him, it may be you shall find Him tonight and
   there shall be the record kept in Heaven, not of those who were here,
   who said, "We see," nor of those who said, "Our hand is strong and deft
   for labor," but there shall be a register of blind ones who shall say,
   "You Son of David, open our eyes," and of withered ones who shall,
   tonight, stretch out their withered hands in obedience to His Divine

   I do not know that our crippled friend, when he went to the synagogue
   that morning, expected to get his withered hand healed. Being, perhaps,
   a devout man, he went there to worship, but he got more than he went
   for! And it may be that some of you whom God means to bless tonight do
   not know why you have come here. You came, perhaps, because you somehow
   love the ordinances of God's House and you feel happy in hearing the
   Gospel preached. You have never yet laid hold of the Gospel for
   yourselves. You have never enjoyed its privileges and blessings as your
   own, but still you have a hankering after the best things.

   What if, tonight, the hour has come--the hour which Sovereign Grace has
   marked in red letters in the calendar of love--in which your withered
   hand shall be made strong and your sins shall be forgiven? What bliss
   if you shall go your way to glorify God because a notable miracle of
   Grace has been worked in you! God grant it may be so by the power of
   the Holy Spirit! I entreat those of you who love the Master to pray Him
   to work wonders at this time upon many--and His shall be the praise!

   I. First, we will say a little about THE PERSON TO WHOM THE COMMAND IN
   OUR TEXT IS ADDRESSED. "Then said Jesus to the man, stretch forth your
   hand." This command was addressed, then, to a man who was hopelessly
   incapable of obeying. "Stretch forth your hand." I do not know whether
   his arm was paralyzed, or only his hand. As a general rule, when a
   thorough paralysis, not a partial one, takes place in the hand, it
   seizes the entire member and both hand and arm are paralyzed. We
   usually speak of this man as if the entire limb had been dried up and
   yet I do not see in either Matthew, Mark, or Luke, any express
   declaration that the whole arm was withered. It seems to me to have
   been a case in which the hand, only, was affected.

   We used to have, not far from here, I remember, at Kennington Gate, a
   lad who would frequently get on the step of the omnibus and exhibit his
   hands, which hung down as if his wrists were broken, and he would cry,"
   Poor boy! Poor boy!" and appeal to our compassion. I fancy that his
   case was a picture of the one before us, in which, not the arm,
   perhaps, but the hand had become dried up. We cannot positively decide
   that the arm was still unwithered, but we may notice that our Lord did
   not say, "Stretch out your arm," but, "your hand," so that He points to
   the hand as the place where the paralysis lay. If He had said, "Stretch
   out your arm," as the text does not declare that the arm was dried up,
   we should have said that Christ bade him do exactly what he was capable
   of doing and there would have been no miracle in it.

   But inasmuch as Jesus says, "Stretch forth your hand," it is clear that
   the mischief was in the hand and so it was telling him to do what he
   could not possibly do, for the man's hand was assuredly withered. It
   was not a sham disease. He had not made a pretense of being paralyzed,
   but he was really incapable. The hand had lost the moisture of life.
   The spirits which gave it strength had been dried out of it and there
   it was, a withered, wilted, useless thing with which he could do
   nothing. And yet it was to such a man that Jesus said, "Stretch forth
   your hand." This is very important for us to notice because some of
   you, under a burden of sin, think that Christ does not save real
   sinners--that those people whom He saves are, in some respects, not
   quite so bad as you--that there is not such an intensity of sin about
   them as about your case, or if an intensity of sin, yet not such an
   utter hopelessness and helplessness as there is about you. You feel
   quite dried up and utterly without strength.

   Dear Hearer, it is exactly to such as you that the Lord Jesus Christ
   directs the commands of the Gospel! We are bid to preach to you,
   saying, "Believe," or at other times, "Repent and be baptized, every
   one of you! Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved."
   These commandments are not addressed, as some say they are, to sensible
   sinners, but to insensible sinners, to stupid sinners, to sinners who
   cannot, so far as moral ability is concerned, obey the command at all!
   Such are bid to do so by Him, who in this case bade the man do what he
   naturally, in and of himself, was quite incapable of doing--because,
   you see, if he could stretch out his hand, himself--there was no
   miracle needed, for the man's hand was not withered at all!

   But it is clear that he could not move his hand and yet the Savior
   addressed him as if he could--in which I see a symbol of the Gospel way
   of speaking to the sinner--for the Gospel cries to him in all his
   misery and incapacity, "To you, even to you, is the word of this
   salvation sent." This very incapacity and inability of yours is but the
   space in which the Divine power may be displayed and, because you are
   thus incapable and because you are thus unable, therefore to you does
   the Gospel come that the excellency of the power may be seen to dwell
   in the Gospel and in the Savior Himself and not at all in the person
   who is saved! The command, then, which brought healing with it, was
   addressed to one who was utterly incapable.

   But, mark you, it came to one who was perfectly willing, for this man
   was quite prepared to do whatever Jesus bade him do. If you had
   questioned him, you would have found no desire to retain that withered
   hand and no wish that his fingers should remain lifeless and useless.
   If you had said to him, "Poor man, would you like to have your hand
   restored?" tears would have been in his eyes and he would have replied,
   "Yes, that I would! That I might earn bread for my dear children. That
   I might not have to go about begging and have to depend upon the help
   of others, or only earn a hard crust with this left hand of mine. I
   wish, above all things, that I could have my hand restored!"

   But the worst of many unconverted people is that they do not want to be
   healed--do not want to be restored! As soon as a man truly longs for
   salvation, then salvation has already come to him! But the most of you
   do not wish to be saved. "Oh," you say, "we truly wish to be saved." I
   do not think so, for what do you mean by being saved? Do you mean being
   saved from going to Hell? Everybody, of course, wishes that! Did you
   ever meet a thief that would not like to be saved from going to prison
   or being locked up by a policeman? But when we talk about salvation, we
   mean being saved from the habit of wrong-doing--being saved from the
   power of evil, the love of sin, the practice of folly--and the power to
   find pleasure in transgression.

   Do you wish to be saved from pleasurable and gainful sins? Find me the
   drunk who sincerely prays to be delivered from drunkenness! Bring me an
   unchaste man who pines to be pure! Find me one who is an habitual liar
   and yet longs to speak the truth! Bring me one who has been selfish and
   who in his very heart hates himself for it and longs to be full of love
   and to be made Christ-like! Why, half the battle is won in such cases.
   The initial step is taken. The parallel holds good in the spiritual
   world. The character I have in my mind's eye is the case of a soul
   desiring to be what it cannot be and to do what it cannot do--and yet
   desiring it. I mean the man who cries in agony, "To will is present
   with me, but how to perform that which is good I find not." "I would,
   but cannot, repent. My heart feels like a stone. I would love Christ,
   but, alas, I feel that I am fettered to the world! I would be holy,
   but, alas, sin comes violently upon me and carries me away!"

   It is to such people that Jesus Christ's Gospel comes with the force of
   a command. Will you be made whole, my Friend? Then you may be! Do you
   desire to be saved from sin? You may be! Do you wish to be emancipated
   from the bondage of corruption? You may be! And this is the only way in
   which you may be saved--"Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall
   be saved." His name is called Jesus, for He shall save His people from
   their sins. He has come on purpose to do this to real sinners--not to
   mere pretenders--for it is clear that He cannot save men from sins if
   they have none! He cannot heal withered hands if there are no withered
   hands to be healed! He comes to you who need Him, to you that are
   guilty, to you whose hands are withered! Even to you is this glorious
   word of the good news proclaimed! God grant you Grace to hear it
   believingly and to feel its power!

   II. Secondly, I want to speak a little upon THE PERSON WHO GAVE THE
   COMMAND. It was Jesus who gave it. He said, "Stretch forth your hand."
   Did our Lord speak this in ignorance, supposing that the man could do
   so? By no means, for in Him is abundant knowledge! He had just read the
   hearts of the Pharisees and you may be sure that He who could read
   those subtle spirits could certainly see the outward condition of this
   patient. He knew that the man's hand was withered and yet He said,
   "Stretch forth your hand." When I read in Scripture the command,
   "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ," I am sure that Jesus Christ knows
   what He is saying. "Go you," He said, "into all the world and preach
   the Gospel to every creature."

   Yes, to every creature. Suppose that some of His disciples had been
   very orthodox and had come back and said, "Lord, was there not a
   mistake about the persons? Why preach to every creature? Are not some
   of them dead in sin? We would rather preach to character." I have heard
   some of Christ's professed servants say that to bid dead sinners live
   is of no more use than to shake a handkerchief over the graves in which
   the dead are buried. And my reply to them has been,

   "You are quite right. Do not do it, for it is evident you are not
   called to do it. Go home and go to bed. The Lord never sent you to do
   anything of the kind, for you admit you have no faith in it." But if my
   Master sent me as the herald of resurrection and bade me shake a
   handkerchief over the graves of the dead, I would do it! And I should
   expect that this or that handkerchief, if He commanded it to be shaken,
   would raise the dead, for Jesus Christ knows what He is doing when He
   sends His servants.

   If He does not send us, it is a fool's errand, indeed, to go and say,
   "You dead men, live." but His commission makes all the difference! We
   are to say to the dead, "Awake, and Christ shall give you life." What?
   Wake, first, and then get life? I shall not try to explain it, but that
   is the order of the Scripture--"Awake, you that sleep, and arise from
   the dead, and Christ shall give you life." If my Master puts it so, I
   am quite satisfied to quote His words. I cannot explain it, but I
   delight to take Him in His own way and blindly follow His every step
   and believe His every word! If He bids me say, "Arise from the dead," I
   will gladly do it right now! In the name of Jesus, you dead ones, live!
   Break, you hard hearts! Dissolve, you hearts of steel! Believe, you
   unbelievers! Lay hold on Christ, you ungodly ones!

   If He speaks by His ministers, that word shall be with power--if He
   speaks not by us, it is little matter how we speak! Well may the
   judicious Brother say that there would be no use in his bidding the
   dead arise, for he confesses that his Master is not with him. Let him,
   therefore, go home till his Master is with him! If his Master were with
   him, then would he speak his Master's words and he would not be afraid
   of being called foolish. It is the Lord Jesus Christ who says to this
   man with the withered hand, "Stretch forth your hand." To me it is a
   sweet thought that He is able to give power to do what He gives the
   command to do.

   Dear Soul, when you are bid to believe and you stand with tears in your
   eyes and say, "Sir, I cannot understand and I cannot believe," do you
   not know that He who bids you believe can give you power to believe?
   When He speaks through His servants, or through His Word, or directly
   by His Spirit upon your conscience, He who bids you do this is no mere
   man, but the Son of God! And you must say to Him, "Good Lord, I beseech
   You give me, now, the faith which You ask of me. Give me the repentance
   You command." And He will hear your prayer and faith shall spring up
   within you! Did you never notice, dear Souls, Christ's way of doing His
   work? His way is generally this--first, to give the command, then to
   help the heart to turn the command into a prayer--and then to answer
   that prayer by a promise.

   Take these specimens. The Lord says, "Make you a new heart." That is
   clearly a command. But by-and-by you find the Psalmist David, in the
   51st Psalm, saying, "Create in me a clean heart, O God." And then, if
   you turn to Ezekiel, you get the promise, "A new heart, also, will I
   give you." First, He commands you; next He sets you praying for the
   blessing and then He gives it to you! Take another. The command is,
   "Turn you, turn you, why will you die, O house of Israel?" Then comes
   the prayer, "Turn me and I shall be turned, O Lord." And then follows
   the blessed turning of which the Apostle Paul speaks when he says that
   God has sent His Son to bless us by turning every one of us from his

   Take another case and let it refer to purging. We find the Lord
   commanding us to "purge out the old leaven" and straightway there comes
   the prayer, "Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean." And then on
   the heels of it comes the promise, "I will surely purge away your
   dross." Or, take another kind of precept, of a sweeter sort, belonging
   to the Christian. You are continually told to sing--"Sing praises to
   God, sing praises: sing praises unto our King, sing praises." In
   another place we meet with the prayer, "Open my lips and my mouth shall
   show forth Your praise." And in a third Scripture we have the Divine
   promise, "This people have I formed for Myself; they shall show forth
   My praise." See, then, the Master's way of going to work--He commands
   you to believe, or repent. He then sets you a-praying that you may be
   enabled to do it and then He gives you Grace to do it so that the
   blessing may really come to your soul!

   Everywhere that Gospel commands are uttered by Christ, Himself, to
   men's hearts, they, receiving them, find the ability coming with the
   command. "But He is not here," says one, "He is not here!" Verily I say
   unto you in His name, He is here! His words are, "Lo, I am with you
   always, even to the end of the world"--till this dispensation shall be
   ended Christ will be where the Gospel is preached! Where His message is
   honestly and truthfully delivered with the Spirit of God, there Jesus
   Christ, Himself, is virtually present speaking through the lips of His
   servants! Therefore, dear Soul with the withered hand, Jesus Himself
   says to you tonight, "Stretch forth your hand." He is present to heal
   and His method is to command. He now commands! O gracious Spirit, be
   present that men may obey!

   III. It is time for a few words upon another point and that is upon THE
   COMMAND ITSELF. The command itself was, "Stretch forth your hand." I
   notice about that command that it goes to the very essence of the
   matter. It is not,

   "Rub your right hand with your left." It is not, "Show your hand to the
   priest and let him perform a ceremony upon it." It is not, "Wash your
   hand." No, it is, "Stretch it forth." That was the very thing he could
   not do and thus the command went to the very root of the mischief. As
   soon as the hand was stretched out it was healed! And the command went
   directly to the desired mark.

   Now, my Lord and Master does not say to any of you sinners tonight, "Go
   home and pray." I hope you will pray, but that is not the great Gospel
   command! The Gospel is, Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall
   be saved. Paul stood in the dead of night, with the trembling jailer
   who hardly understood his own question, when he cried, "Sirs, what must
   I do to be saved?" And Paul, according to the practice of some, should
   have said, "We must have a little prayer," or, "You must go home and
   read the Bible and I must further instruct you until you are in a
   better state." He did nothing of the sort! But then and there Paul
   said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved."

   There is no Gospel preached unless you come to this, for salvation
   comes by faith and by nothing short of it. That is just the difficult
   point, you tell me. Yes, and at the difficult point this command
   strikes and says, "Stretch forth your hand." Or in the case of the
   sinner, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ." For, remember, all that any
   of you ever do in the matter of eternal life which has not faith in it,
   can be nothing, after all, but the effort of your carnal nature--and
   that is death! What can come of the movements of death but a still
   deeper death? Death can never produce life! Prayer without faith? What
   sort of prayer is it? It is the prayer of a man who does not believe
   God! Shall a man expect to receive anything of the Lord if he does not
   believe that God is and that He is the Rewarder of them that diligently
   seek Him?

   "Oh, but I must repent before I believe," says one. What kind of
   repentance is that which does not trust God--does not believe in God?
   An unbelieving repentance--is it not a selfish expression of regret
   because of punishment incurred? Faith must be mixed with every prayer
   and every act of repentance or they cannot be acceptable! And,
   therefore, we must go right straight to this point and demand faith,
   saying, "Believe and live." "Stretch forth your hand." That stretching
   forth of the hand was entirely an act of faith. It was not an act of
   sense. As a matter of sense and nature, the man was, I say, weariless
   for it. He only did it because his faith brought the ability! It was a
   pure act of faith, that stretching out of the hand.

   "I still do not understand," says one, "how a man can do what he cannot
   do?" But you will understand a great many other wonderful things when
   the Lord teaches you, for the Christian life is a series of paradoxes!
   And for my own part, I doubt an experience unless there is something
   paradoxical about it. At any rate, I am sure that it is so that I, who
   can do nothing of myself, can do everything through Christ which
   strengthens me! The man who is seeking Christ can do nothing. But if he
   believes on Christ, he can do everything--and his withered hand is
   stretched out. But, in addition to its being an act of faith, it seems
   to me it was an act of decision. There sit the haughty, frowning
   Pharisees. Your imagination can easily picture those fine-looking
   gentlemen with fringes on their garments and phylacteries across their

   There, too, are the scribes all wrapped up in their formal array--very
   grave and knowing men. Persons were almost afraid to look at them, they
   were so holy and so contemptuous. Look, there they sit like judges at
   court to try the Savior! Now, Christ does, as it were, single out this
   poor man with a withered hand to be His witness. And by His command He
   practically asks him which he will do--will he obey the Pharisees or
   Him? It is wrong to heal on the Sabbath, say the Pharisees. What do you
   say, you with the withered hand? If you agree with the Pharisees, you,
   of course, will decline to be healed on the Sabbath--and you won't
   stretch out your hand! But if you agree with Jesus, you will be glad to
   be healed, Sabbath or no Sabbath!

   Ah, I see. You will stretch out your hand and break away from the
   tyrants who would keep you withered! The man did as good as vote for
   Christ when he stretched forth his hand! Many a soul has found peace
   when, at last, he has held up his hand and said, "Sink or swim, lost or
   saved! Christ for me! Christ for me! If I perish I will cling to His
   Cross and to Him, alone, will I look, for I am on His side, whether He
   will have compassion upon me or not." When that act of decision is
   performed, then comes the healing! If you hold up your hand for Christ,
   He will make it a good hand, though now it is all paralyzed and
   drooping, like a dead thing. Unworthy as you are, He has the power, as
   you hold up your hand for Him, to put life into it and to give you the
   blessing your heart desires!

   I think I hear somebody say, "Oh, Sir, you would not be praising me too
   much if you were to say that I do wish to be saved and saved in
   Christ's own way! I would give my very eyes to love Him." Ah, you need
   not lose your eyes! Give Him

   your trust; give Him your soul's eyes! Look to Him and live! "Oh, that
   I could be saved," says one. "How I long for it." May the Holy Spirit
   lead you to resolve in your own soul that you will not be saved by
   anybody but Christ. O that you would determine--

   "He that suffered in my stead, Shall my Physician be. I will not be

   Till Jesus comforts me."

   When that is done, I do not doubt that through faith in the Physician
   you will be quickened by Divine power and you will find healing at

   IV. So I will just lead you on, in the fourth place, to notice THIS
   MAN'S OBEDIENCE. We are told that he stretched forth his hand. Christ
   said, "Stretch forth your hand." Mark says, "And he did so." That is to
   say, he stretched forth his hand. Now, observe that this man did not do
   anything else in preference to what Jesus commanded, though many
   awakened sinners are foolish enough to try experiments. Christ said,
   "Stretch forth your hand" and he did so. If, instead of that, the man
   had walked across the synagogue and brought himself up to Christ, the
   Master would have said, "I bade you do no such thing. I bade you
   stretch forth your hand."

   Suppose he had then, with his left hand, begun to grasp the roll of the
   Law as it stood in the synagogue and had kissed it out of
   reverence--would that have been of any use? The Master would only have
   said, "I bade you stretch forth your hand." Alas, there are many, many
   souls that say, "We are bid to trust in Jesus, but, instead of that, we
   will attend the means of Grace regularly." Do that, by all means, but
   not as a substitute for faith, or it will become a vain confidence! The
   command is, "Believe and live." Attend to that, whatever else you do.
   "Well, I shall take to reading good books. Perhaps I shall get good
   that way." Read good books, by all means, but that is not the
   Gospel--the Gospel is, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall
   be saved."

   Suppose a physician has a patient under his care and he says to him,
   "You are to take a bath in the morning. It will be of very great
   service to your disease." But the man takes a cup of tea in the morning
   instead of the bath and says, "This will do as well, I have no doubt."
   What does his physician say when he enquires--"Did you follow my
   instructions?" "No, I did not." "Then you do not expect, of course,
   that there will be any good result, for you have disobeyed me." So we,
   practically, say to Jesus Christ, when we are under searching of soul,
   "Lord, You bid me trust You, but I would rather do something else.
   Lord, I need to have horrible convictions; I need to be shaken over
   Hell's mouth; I need to be alarmed and distressed." Yes, you need
   everything but what Christ prescribes for you--which is that you should
   simply trust Him!

   Whether you feel or do not feel, you should just come and cast yourself
   on Him, that He may save you and He, alone. "But you do not mean to say
   that you speak against praying, reading good books, and so on?" Not one
   single word do I speak against any of those things--any more than if I
   were the physician I quoted, I should speak against the man's drinking
   a cup of tea. Let him drink his tea! But not if he drinks it instead of
   taking the bath which I prescribe for him! So let the man pray--the
   more the better. Let the man search the Scriptures, but, remember, that
   if these things are put in the place of simple faith in Christ, the
   soul will be ruined! Let me give you a text--did you ever hear it
   quoted properly? "You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you
   have eternal life; but you will not come unto Me that you might have
   life." That is where the life is--in Christ--not even in searching
   Scripture, good as the searching of Scripture is! If we put even golden
   idols into the place of Christ, such idols are as much to be broken as
   if they were idols of mud or idols of dung! It matters not how good an
   action is--if it is not what Christ commands--you will not be saved by
   it. "Stretch forth your hand," He says. That was the way by which the
   healing was to come--the man did nothing else and he received a
   gracious reward.

   Notice that he did not raise any questions. Now this man had a fair
   opportunity of raising questions. I think he might very fairly have
   stood up in his place and said, "This is inconsistent, good Master. You
   say to me, 'Stretch forth your hand.' Now, You know that if I can
   stretch forth my hand, there is nothing wrong with me and, therefore,
   there is no room for Your miracle. And if I cannot stretch forth my
   hand, how can You tell me to do so?" Have you not heard some of our
   friends who like to make jests of holy things and scoff at our
   Doctrines of Grace declare that we teach, "You can and you can't; you
   shall and you shan't"? Their description is right enough, though meant
   to ridicule us. We do not object to their putting it thus if it so
   pleases them.

   We teach paradoxes and contradictions to the eyes if you only consider
   the letter--but if you get down into the innermost spirit, it is within
   these contradictions that the eternal Truth of God is found! We know
   that the man is dead in trespasses and sins--steeped in a spiritual and
   moral torpor out of which he cannot raise himself--yet we, by the
   Master's own command say, "Awake, you that sleep, and arise from the
   dead and Christ shall give you life!" Or, in other words, we say to the
   withered hand, "Be you stretched out," and it is done! The blessed
   result justifies that very teaching which in itself seems so worthy of
   sarcastic remarks!

   Notice further that the man did what he was told to do--stretch out his
   hand. If you had asked him, "Did you stretch out your hand?" perhaps he
   would have said, "Of course I did. Nobody else did." "Wait a minute, my
   good man. Did you of yourself stretch out your hand?" "Oh, no," he
   would say, "because I have tried many times before and I could not, but
   this time I did it." "Then how was it that you were able to do it?"
   "Jesus told me to do it and I was willing--and it was done." I do not
   expect that he could have explained the rationale of it and, perhaps,
   neither can we. It must, indeed, have been a very beautiful sight to
   see that poor, withered, limp, wilted hand, first hanging down and then
   stretched out before all the people in the middle of the synagogue! Do
   you not see the blood begin to flow, the nerves gaining power and the
   hand opening like a reviving flower?

   Oh, the delight of his sparkling eyes! As at first he could only fix
   them upon the little finger and the thumb to see if they were really
   all alive! Then he turned, looked at that blessed One who had healed
   him and seemed anxious to fall down at His feet and give Him all the
   praise! Even so, we cannot explain conversion and regeneration and the
   new birth and all that--but we know this--Jesus Christ says, "Believe,"
   and we believe! By our own power? No! But as we will to believe (and He
   gives us that will) there comes a power to do according to His good
   pleasure. I look around me, wondering where is the man with the
   withered hand, tonight, or where is the woman with the withered hand.
   To such I would say, in my Master's name, "Stretch out that hand of

   It is an auspicious moment. A great thing shall be done unto you.
   Believe now! You have said before, "I can never believe." Now trust
   Jesus. Sink or swim, trust Him!--

   "Venture on Him, venture wholly! Let no other trust intrude, None but
   Jesus Can do helpless sinners good."

   Our Lord Jesus never casts away a sinner who trusts in Him. Oh, I would
   almost put it like this--If you do not feel that you can come, or ought
   to come to Christ, being so unworthy, sneak in! Sneak into His house of
   mercy, just as you have known a hungry dog sneak in where there has
   been something to eat! The butcher, very likely, would deal him a kick
   if he saw him after a bone, but if he once gets it, he may as well make
   off with it and keep it to himself!

   There is this blessed thing about my Master--if you can get a crumb
   from under His table, He will never take it away from you, for He never
   casts out those that come. However they come, He neither turns them
   away nor takes back the blessing. He never says, "Come here, Sir, you
   have no right to hope in My Grace." Remember the woman in the crowd
   that dared not come to Christ before His face, but who came behind Him
   and touched the hem of His garment? She stole the cure from Him, as it
   were, and what did He say? "Come here, My woman, come here. What have
   you done? O, what right had you to touch My garment and steal a cure?
   For this a curse shall come upon you"? Did He speak thus in
   indignation? Not at all! Not at all!

   He bade her come and she told Him the truth. And He said, "Daughter, be
   of good cheer. Your faith has made you whole." Get at Him, Soul! Behind
   or in front, push for a touch of Him! Make a dash at Him! If there is a
   crowd of devils between you and Christ, plow your way through them by
   resolute faith! Though you are the most unworthy wretch that ever
   trusted Him, trust Him now so that it may be told in Heaven that there
   is a bigger sinner saved today than ever was saved before! Such a
   salvation will make Christ more glorious than He ever was! And if yours
   is a worse case than He ever touched with His healing hands to this
   day, well then, when He has touched and healed you, as He will, there
   will be more praise to Him in Heaven than He ever had before!

   O soul, I wish I could persuade you to draw near to Him, but only my
   Master can do it! May He draw you by His great Grace!

   V. The last thing to consider is THE RESULT OF THIS STRETCHING OUT OF

   OBEDIENCE TO THE COMMAND. He was healed! I have already tried to set
   before you the fact that the healing was

   manifest. It was also immediate. The man had not to stand there a long
   time, for his hand was straightway healed--and yet the cure was
   perfect, for his hand was whole like the other. It was just as useful
   as his left hand had been, with all the extra dexterity which naturally
   belongs to the right. It was perfectly healed, though healed in a
   moment! You may depend upon it, it was permanently healed for, though I
   have heard it said that saved souls fall from Grace and perish, I never
   believed it, for I have never read of any of the cases which our Lord
   cured that they became bad again. I never heard of a withered hand that
   was healed and was paralyzed a second time. Nor will it ever be! My
   Master's cures last forever!

   I remember seeing in the shop windows, some years ago, that there was
   to be had within a "momentary cure" for the toothache. I noticed after
   a few months that the proprietor of that valuable medicine, whatever it
   was, had discovered that nobody needed a momentary cure and so the word
   "momentary" was changed for the word, "instantaneous," which was a
   great improvement. I am afraid that some people's salvation is a
   momentary salvation. They get a sort of Grace and then they lose it.
   They get peace and, by-and-by, it is gone. What is needed is permanence
   and there is always permanence in the work of Christ! "The gifts and
   calling of God are without repentance" and His healing is never

   O Soul, do you see, then, what is to be had at this moment from Jesus?
   Healing for life! Deliverance from the withering power of sin
   throughout life and eternity! This is to be had by cheerful obedience
   to the matchless command, "Stretch forth your hand," or, in other
   words, "Trust, trust, trust!" Only this week I was talking with one who
   said he could not trust Christ and I said, "But, my dear Friend, we
   cannot have that. Could you trust me?" Yes, he could trust me. "Why can
   you trust me and not trust the Lord Jesus? I will put it another way.
   If you said to me I cannot trust you, what would that imply?"

   "Why," he said, "it would mean, of course, that you were a very bad
   fellow, if I could not trust you." "Ah," I said, "that is exactly what
   you insinuate when you say you cannot trust Jesus, for he that believes
   not has made Him a liar! Do you mean to say that God is a liar?" The
   person to whom I spoke drew back with horror from that consequence and
   said "No, Sir, I am sure that God is true." Very well, then. You can
   certainly trust One who is true! There can be no difficulty in that! To
   trust and rest upon One whom you cannot doubt must follow as a matter
   of course upon your good opinion of Him. Your belief that He is true is
   a sort of faith. Throw yourself upon Him now. Just as I lean upon this
   rail with all my weight, lean like that upon the mercy of God in Christ
   Jesus! That is faith!

   If God's mercy in Christ cannot save you, be lost! Make it your sole
   hope and confidence. Hang on your God in Christ Jesus as the vessel
   hangs upon the nail. As a man casts his whole weight upon his bed, so
   throw yourself unreservedly upon the Divine Love which was seen in
   Jesus and is still seen there! If you do this, you shall be saved! And
   I do not mean merely that you shall be saved from Hell, for the power
   of faith, working in you by God, the Holy Spirit, shall save you from
   loving sin! Being forgiven, you will, from now on, love Him who
   forgives you and you will receive a new principle of action which shall
   be strong enough to break the bars of your old habits! And you shall
   rise into a pure and holy life! If the Son shall make you free, you
   shall be free, indeed--and free you shall be at once if you now trust


   The Lord grant His blessing, for Christ's sake. Amen.