What change and renewal is wrought in a Christian man by Christ, who has healed the afflictions and diseases of the soul.
1. He who comes to God, and desires to be in truth a partner of Christ’s throne, ought to come with a view to this end, that he may be changed and altered from his former condition and conduct, and be made a good and new man, who brings nothing of the old man with him. If any man be in Christ, it says, he is a new creature. This was the very purpose of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, to change and alter and renew nature, and to create afresh this soul that was overturned by passions through the transgression, mingling it with His own Spirit, the Spirit of Godhead. New mind, and new soul, and new eyes, new ears, a new spiritual tongue, and in short new men altogether—this was what He came to make of those who believe Him, or let us say new bottles, anointing them with His own light of knowledge, that He might change their wine into new wine, which is His Spirit; for new wine, He says, must be put into new bottles.
2. As the enemy, when he had got man into subjection, made him new for himself, enveloping him in lusts of wickedness, and anointing him with the spirit of sin poured into him the wine of all iniquity and evil doctrine; so the Lord, having delivered him from the enemy, made him new, anointing him with His own Spirit, and poured into him the wine of life, the new doctrine of the Spirit. He who changed the nature of the five loaves into the nature of a multitude, and gave a voice to the irrational nature of an ass, and converted the harlot to chastity, and prepared the nature of burning fire to bedew those who were in the furnace, and tamed for Daniel the nature of savage lions; He is able also to change the soul, which was waste and had become savage, from sin into His own goodness and loving-kindness and peace, by the holy and good Spirit of promise.
3. As a shepherd knows how to cure the scabby sheep, and to protect it from wolves, so Christ, the true shepherd, when He came, was alone able to cure and to convert man, the lost and scabby sheep, from the scab and leprosy of sin. The priests and Levites and teachers before were unable to cure the soul by the oblations of gifts and sacrifices, and by their sprinklings of blood, wherewith indeed they were unable even to cure themselves. For it is not possible, it says, that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sin. But the Lord said, showing the impotence of the physicians of the time, Ye will surely say unto me this parable, Physician, heal thyself; as much as to say, “I am not like them, who cannot so much as heal themselves. I am the true physician, and the good shepherd, who lay down My life for the sheep, who am able to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease of the soul. I am the sheep without spot, that was offered once, and that am able to cure those that come to Me.” The true healing of the soul is from the Lord only. Behold, it says, the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world, that is to say, of the soul that has believed Him, and that loves Him with a whole heart.
4. The good Shepherd, then, heals the scabby sheep. Sheep cannot heal sheep. And except man, the reasonable sheep, be healed, there is no entrance for him into the heavenly church of the Lord. It is thus said even in the law through shadow and image. Concerning the leper, and him who has a blemish, the Spirit speaks figuratively, with this meaning; A leper, or one that hath a blemish, shall not enter into the assembly of the Lord; but it charged the leper to go to the priest, and with much entreaty to take him to the house of his tabernacle, and [ask him] to lay his hands upon the leprosy, indicating the spot where the leprosy had attacked him, and to heal it. After the same manner, Christ, the true high priest of good things to come, bending over souls that are afflicted with the leprosy of sin, enters into the tabernacle of their body, and heals and cures their disorders. Thus the soul will be enabled to enter into the heavenly church of the saints of the true Israel. For any soul that bears the leprosy of the sin of the passions, and has not come to the true high priest, and been healed now in the camp of the saints, cannot enter into the heavenly church. For [that church] being without blemish, and pure, seeks souls that are without blemish and pure. Blessed, says the scripture, are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
5. The soul which really believes Christ must be changed and altered from its present evil condition to a new condition which is good, and from its present lowly nature into another nature which is divine, and be itself made new by the power of the Holy Ghost. Thus can it be fit for the heavenly kingdom. These things can be obtained by us if we believe and love Him in truth, and live by all His holy commandments. If in the time of Elisaeus the casting of light wood upon the waters brought up the heavy iron, how much more in this case will the Lord send forth His light, buoyant, good, and heavenly Spirit, and by means of Him bring up the soul that is sunk in the waters of wickedness, and make it light, and wing it to the heights of heaven, and alter and change it out of its own nature.
6. In the visible world, no one can pass and get across the sea of himself, without having the light and buoyant ship, built of wood, which alone is able to walk over the waters—for if a man treads upon the sea, he is drowned and perishes. In the same way no soul can of itself cross and pass over and get beyond the bitter sea of sin, and the dangerous deep of the wicked powers of the darkness of the passions, unless he shall receive the buoyant, heavenly, winged Spirit of Christ, which walks over all wickedness and passes on, whereby he shall be enabled to arrive by a straight, right course at the heavenly haven of rest, at the city of the kingdom. And as those who are in the ship do not draw, or drink of the sea, nor have their clothing or their food from it, but bring these things with them from abroad in the ship, so the souls of Christians do not take from this world, but from above, out of heaven, heavenly sustenance, and spiritual clothing; and living thereby, embarked in the ship of the good, life-giving Spirit, pass beyond the adverse evil powers of principalities and dominions. And as all ships are built of one substance of wood, that by means of them men may get over the bitter sea, so from one Godhead’s heavenly light of the divers gifts of the one Spirit, all Christian souls receive power and fly high over all wickedness.
7. But since the ship needs also a pilot, and a sweet, well-tempered wind to make a good passage, the Lord Himself becomes all these in the faithful soul, carrying it over the terrible storms and the wild waves of wickedness, and the blasts of the violent winds of sin, mightily and skilfully and expertly, as He knows how, dispersing their tempest. Without Christ, the heavenly pilot, it is impossible for any to pass the wicked sea of the powers of darkness, and the gusts of bitter temptations. They go up, it says, to the heavens, and down again to the deep. But Christ possesses all a pilot’s knowledge, both of wars and temptations, treading over the wild waves. For in that He Himself, it says, was tempted, He is able to succour them that are tempted.
8. So our souls must be altered and changed from their present condition to another condition, and a divine nature, and be made new instead of old—that is, good and kind and faithful, instead of bitter and faithless, and being thus made fit, be restored to the heavenly kingdom. The blessed Paul writes thus of his own change, and of the apprehension wherewith he was apprehended of the Lord: I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I was apprehended by Christ. How then is he apprehended of God? Like as if some usurper were to seize and carry off a captivity, and it were then apprehended or caught by its true sovereign, so when Paul was under the influence of the usurping spirit of sin, he persecuted the church and made havoc of it. But since he acted through zeal for God according to ignorance, supposing himself to be contending for truth, he was not disregarded, but the Lord apprehended him, shining about him unspeakably, the heavenly King and true, vouchsafing His own voice to the man, and striking him like a slave, set him free. Behold the Master’s goodness and power of changing, how He is able to change souls that were enveloped in sin and had relapsed into wildness, and in a moment of time to convert them to His own goodness and peace!
9. All things are possible with God; as it proved in the case of the robber. In a moment of time he was changed through faith, and restored to paradise. This was the purpose of the Lord’s coming, to alter and create our souls anew, and make them, as it is written, partakers of the divine nature, and to give into our soul a heavenly soul, that is the Spirit of Godhead leading us to all virtue, that we might be enabled to live eternal life. May it be that with all our hearts we should believe His inexpressible promises, because He is true that promised. We must love the Lord, and be diligent every way in all virtues, and ask persistently and continually, so as to receive the promise of His Spirit completely and to perfection, that our souls may be brought to life while we are still in flesh. For if the soul shall not receive in this world the hallowing of the Spirit through much faith and prayer, and be made partaker of the divine nature, being mingled with grace whereby it shall be able to fulfil every commandment unblameably and purely, it is not made for the kingdom of heaven. What good thing a man has gained here, the same in that day will be his life, through the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, for ever. Amen.