The Weekly Pulpit
Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him…
I. EXAMINE THE PASSAGE. Epistle of James. The first epistle written. Point, the activity of faith. It must do something. Such active faith covers the whole life. This passage is found among practical directions. Affliction. Merry. Sick. Every natural and simple explanation has been given to this difficult and misused passage. Anointing the body with oil was the sign of health. Those who were sick might not be anointed; nor those passing through a time of mourning. The ancient customs in relation to anointing may be illustrated by our customs in relation to shaving the beard. The sick man will neither trouble himself, nor be troubled, about shaving; but as soon as he begins to recover he will return to his cleanly habits. So the ancients would neglect daily anointing while under sickness, and their return to their old ways was the sign of recovering. When, therefore, James enjoins the elders to anoint the sick man after prayer for his restoration, he really says, "Pray for him in perfect faith, and show that you have such strong faith by acting towards him as if he were restored to health again." The elders were to "help him rise, wash, and anoint."
II. THINGS REQUIRING SPECIAL NOTICE. Age of miracles was not then passed.
1. The unconditional character of the promise. Not really without conditions. See the demand for faith, and for acts expressing faith. Rules should be stated without their exceptions. But all rules have such. Compare our Lord's strong sentences about prayer.
2. The meaning of the anointing with oil. After the prayer. Idea.
(1) Symbolical of medicinal healing. Oil was a curative agent.
(2) Sacramental; a help toward realising the action of Divine grace.Sight may be a help to the apprehension of spiritual things. Compare our Lord's touching those whom He healed: or making clay to put on the eyes of the man whose sight He restored. This the true sacramental idea.
3. The sense in which forgiveness is blended with recovery.
(1) Sin regarded as scandal to the Church. Penitent, if sent for elders.
(2) Sin as before God. With this the man himself must deal. All recovery is sign of Divine forgiveness. "Go and sin no more."
III. REMOVING THE LOCAL AND TEMPORARY, WHAT MAY WE LEARN FROM THE PASSAGE FOR OUR TIMES?
1. The duty of showing sympathy with the sick. Example of Christ. Consider sickness from the Christian point of view. Issue of sin. Divine chastisement. Corrective discipline.
2. The duty of using means for the recovery of sick. Oil a curative agent in those days. So the elders were to use means. Anointing means "rubbing the body," or the affected parts. Symbol of all healing agents. Show how science now takes the place of miracle.
3. The importance of recognising the power of the "prayer of faith." This was needed for miracle: much more is it needed for science. What, then, is our duty? To the sick belonging to our Church. Note that the duty rests on the sick to send for the elders, and on the elders to go when sent for. To the sick in general. Provision made for their relief. Support during sickness required. Prayer-power — faith-power — still more needed, if the spiritual ends, for which all sickness is sent, are to be reached.
(The Weekly Pulpit.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: