A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Morning, July 11, 1875, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. *3/31/2012
As rivers of water in a dry place. [Isa 32:2]
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1. I suppose it must be conceded that the surface meaning of this passage refers to Hezekiah and to other good kings who were the means of great blessing to the declining kingdom of Judah. We can scarcely be thankful enough for a righteous government. If for a few years we could feel the yoke of despotism we would better appreciate the joys of freedom. In the prophecy before us very much is said in praise of a king who shall reign in righteousness, and princes who shall rule in judgment; such men are the protectors of the State, enriching it by commerce and blessing it with peace; they deserve honour and the word of God renders it to them. But I cannot bring my mind to believe that these expressions were intended by the Holy Spirit to have no other and higher reference. They appear to me to be far too full of meaning to be primarily or solely intended for Hezekiah or any other mere man. When the Holy Spirit declared by the mouth of the prophet, “A man shall be as a hiding place from the wind and a covert from the tempest, as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land,” it can scarcely be conceived that he referred only to Hezekiah and his princes. It cannot be that the church of God has erred these many years in applying such a passage as this to the Lord Jesus Christ. Surely the words are not only applicable to him, but can never be fully understood until they are applied to his ever blessed and adorable person. At any rate, this much is certain, that if a king who rules in righteousness brings so much blessing on his people, then Jesus, who is particularly the King of righteousness, “the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords,” must bring these blessings in the highest conceivable degree, and therefore these expressions are, beyond all possibility of exaggeration, applicable in their widest sense to him whom we today delight to hail as Lord of all.
Applying the language of the whole verse to the Lord Jesus Christ,
the King in Zion, we are struck with the number of the metaphors. He
is not merely a hiding place and a covert, and a river, but he is a
shadow of a great rock. Yes, my brethren, if we attempt to describe
our Lord’s glories by earthly analogies we shall need a host of them,
for no one can describe them to perfection, each one has some
deficiency, and even altogether they are insufficient to display all
his loveliness. We need a thousand types and images to depict the
varied beauties of his character, the various excellencies of his
offices, the merit of his sufferings, the glory of his triumphs, and
the innumerable blessings which he bestows on the sons of men. Should
you focus all the rays of nature’s sun you could not equal a solitary
beam of his splendour —
Nor earth, nor sea, nor sun, nor stars,
Nor heaven his full resemblance bears;
His beauties you can never trace
Till you behold him face to face.
It is very pleasant to see that our Beloved is such a many facetted Christ, that from all points of view he is so admirable, and that he is supremely precious in so many different ways, for we have so many and so varied needs, and our circumstances are so continually changing, and the incessant cravings of our spirit are so constantly taking fresh turns. Blessed be his name, these changes of ours, and needs of ours, and cravings of ours, shall only put us in new positions in which to see even more fully his all surpassing excellencies, his superabounding fulness, and how completely he is adapted to meet the needs of our nature in every conceivable condition. Blessed be the name of the Lord Jesus that while he is one he is many, while he is altogether lovely he is also many lovelinesses combined, while he is perfect under one aspect he is equally complete under every other.
The point to notice in the text, applying it to Christ is this, that
it is a man who is to be as rivers of water in a dry place.
Notice that — a man! We glory in the Godhead of Jesus Christ; about
that we entertain no question. This is not the place in which to
attempt to prove it, for we are all persuaded of it, and we know him
to be divine by personal dealings with him; we have found him to be
the Son of the Highest, and he always must be so to us, — “very God of
very God.” Yet none the less, but all the more, we tenaciously hold
to the truth of the true and proper manhood of the Lord Jesus Christ,
and it is as God in human flesh that he is to us as rivers of water
in a dry place. Think of it for a minute. If God loves us so much as
to become man, then the blessings which he intends to bestow must be
incalculable. The incarnation is in itself a promise full of untold
blessing. Gaze upon the Son of God in Bethlehem’s manger, and you
feel sure that if the Infinite has assumed the form of an infant,
his incarnation indicates infinite love, foreshadows intimate
communion, and foretells unbounded blessedness for the sons of Adam.
If Jehovah himself in human flesh walks toilsomely over the acres of
Judea, if he bears human sicknesses and sorrows, if he in human form
gives his hands to the nails and his heart to the spear, there must
be boundless affection in his heart towards the seed chosen from
among men. What rivers of blessings must come to us if God himself
comes to us, and comes in such a way and in such a spirit. What does
the union of Godhead with humanity mean except this, that though he
was rich yet for our sakes he became poor? And what can his purpose
be except “that we through his poverty might be made rich?” rich with
riches as vast as those which he renounced in order to espouse our
nature in all its poverty and degradation? Let us at this time
rejoice in the Son of Mary, the Son of Man, who is also the Son of
God; let us exalt today as we believe that Jesus is as truly man as
he is truly God.
Oh joy! There sitteth in our flesh,
Upon a throne of light,
One of a human mother born,
In perfect Godhead bright!
This is the source, the channel, and the stream, bringing to us and containing within itself all the blessings with which God has enriched us. This is that river of God which is full of water.
4. We come, then, with this as our guide, to study the metaphor of our text. When we have done so for a little while, we shall remark upon a special excellence which is indicated; and, having done so, we shall close by gathering up the practical lessons of the whole.
5. I. Concerning describing the benedictions which come to us through the incarnate God, LET US STUDY THE METAPHOR of rivers of water in a dry place.
6. This means, first, great excellence of blessing. A river is the appropriate emblem of very great benefits, for it is of the utmost value to the land through which it flows. A river in its own way creates life wherever it flows; grass and reeds and rushes are sure to spring up, and willows fringe the water courses. The water of the river fosters and nourishes the vegetation along its banks, and sustains an infinite number of fish and creeping things. The silver stream lights up the landscape with its brightness; “the joyous and abounding river” is the theme of song, and a song in itself. It is a glad sight to trace the winding line of silver light among green fields. Who can refuse to render thanks to the God who thus visits the earth, and waters it? Now, what the river is to the land that the Lord Jesus Christ is to us. He is the spring and source of spiritual life, and where he comes divine life springs up and flourishes like a tree by the rivers of water, whose leaf never withers. The life which he bestows he also nourishes, watering it every moment; nourishing it, he makes it fruitful; making it fruitful, he causes it to be fair to look upon, and brings it to perfection. Vegetation owes much to the river which waters it. What would the meadows be without the streams? What would the saints be without the Saviour? What would the villages be without their springs and waterbrooks? What would believers be without the covenant blessings which are given to us in Christ Jesus?
7. The analogy is so very obvious that I need not pursue it. The place of broad rivers and streams is the place where plentiful good things are looked for, and we shall not look in vain for good things in our Lord Jesus. He is that river the streams of which make glad the city of God. Of him it may be truly said that “everything that lives which moves, wherever the rivers shall come, shall live.” Because the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, therefore rivers of mercy flow to many, and we who believe shall be made to drink from the river of his pleasures. Here, my heart, is reason for adoration. I need not see any difficulty in it. Having believed the testimony of the Lord, all difficulty has vanished. “The Word was God,” and the Word was also “made flesh and dwelt among us,” and through being made flesh and dwelling among us, he has opened rivers in high places and fountains in the midst of the valleys. God has come down to man so that man may go up to God. God has veiled himself in an infant’s form so that babes may learn his love; the Christ has grown in stature from childhood to manhood so that we also may grow up into him in all things; he has been perfect man so that we also may come to the fulness of the stature of men in Christ Jesus. Christ the man, the God, connects man with God; the river flows directly from the throne of God to the hearts of mortals, and brings God himself to us to fill us with all fulness. Observe the excellence of the Lord Jesus, and meditate upon it.
The metaphor chiefly implies, in the second place, abundance.
Jesus is as rivers of water, because he is full of grace and truth.
It would be a very difficult thing to calculate the body of water to
be found in the Thames, but in rivers such as our American friends
are favoured with it must be almost beyond the power of mind to
conceive the mass of water that must come rolling down into the sea.
Gallons and tons of water seem quite ridiculous by the side of the
Mississippi and the St. Lawrence. I always feel very uneasy when
theologians begin making calculations about the Lord Jesus. There
used to be a very strong contention about particular redemption and
general redemption, and though I confess myself to be to the very
backbone a believer in Calvinistic doctrine, I never felt at home in
such discussions. It is one thing to believe in the doctrines of
grace, but quite another thing to accept all the encrustations which
have formed upon those doctrines, and also a very different matter to
agree with the spirit which is apparent in some who profess to
propagate the pure truth. I can have nothing to do with calculating
the value of the atonement of Christ. I see clearly the speciality of
the purpose and intent of Christ in presenting his expiatory
sacrifice, but I cannot see a limit to its preciousness, and I dare
not enter into computations concerning its value or possible
efficacy. Appraisers and valuers are out of place here. Sirs, I would
like to see you with your slates and pencils calculating the contents
of the Amazon in cubit feet: I would be pleased to see you sitting
down and estimating the quantity of water in the Ganges, the Indus,
and the Orinoco; but when you have done so, and summed up all the
rivers of this earth, I will tell you that your task was only fit for
school boys, and that you are not at the beginning of the number
which can sum up the fulness of Christ, for in him dwells all the
fulness of the Godhead bodily. His merit, his power, his love, his
grace surpass all knowledge, and consequently all estimate. Limits
are not to be found, neither shore nor bottom are discoverable.
Instead of coldly calculating with a view to systematise our
doctrines, let us joyfully sing with the poet of the sanctuary —
Rivers of love and mercy here,
In a rich ocean join;
Salvation in abundance flows,
Like floods of milk and wine.
9. All idea of stint or insufficiency is out of place in reference to the Lord Jesus. When any man enquires, “Is there enough merit in the Saviour’s death to make atonement for my sin?” The answer is, “The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin.” When any say, “Perhaps I may not taste his love and believe on his name,” the reply is, “Whoever wills, let him partake of the water of life freely.” Oh, sirs, would you measure the air? Could you calculate the contents of the atmosphere which surrounds the globe? Yes, that might be done. Would you measure space? I suppose that also might be accomplished. Will you measure eternity? Will you calculate infinity? You must begin with problems like these before you can discover a bound to that abundant grace which comes to sinners through God in human flesh, who bore human sin, and gave up his life, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God.
10. Anything approaching to a narrow spirit is unseemly in connection with the merits of our Redeemer. Niggardliness at an imperial banquet is not more out of place than an ungenerous spirit in a Christian. Our Lord does things upon such a royal scale that we ought to be of a kingly spirit also. Saint and bigot are a strange mixture: saint and miser cannot agree. I remember hearing about a man who used to go out preaching, and happened to have a well upon his property, to which his neighbours came more frequently than he liked, and he therefore put up a notice that trespassers would be prosecuted. It was not at all surprising that a witty friend soon adorned the preacher’s residence with a sign in prominent capitals, bearing these words, “Come to Jesus, but you must not take water out of my well.” In a great many other ways the same remark might be applied. Come to Jesus, but do not crowd me in my pew! Come to Jesus, but do not ask me for a shilling. Certain people are very free with the gospel, for it costs them nothing: very free indeed with the tracts which are given to them to distribute, but they hang back when the hungry need feeding or the naked need clothing. Do you think such churls are any credit to the gospel? Yes, and are there not preachers who appear to be half afraid that some poor nonelect sinner may get into heaven by accident. Hear how they define, and distinguish, and denounce. I confess I have no sympathy with those who would drive men back; I would far rather draw them forward. When one once gets to know that Jesus is as rivers of water, a large hearted loving spirit seems to spring up in the soul as a matter of course. The Holy Spirit enlarges the heart by revealing to us the glorious fulness of our Lord. I pray, my brethren, that you may be all enlarged, and that none of you may ever slander the Lord Jesus Christ by bearing a narrow, contracted testimony concerning him. Never may you help to constrain other people’s apprehensions of what the gospel is by depicting your Lord as if he were some narrow, straightlined canal, with locks, and pumps, and measured wharfs, for he is as rivers of water. There is in Christ Jesus such an abundance that if you come, oh great sinner, there is enough of mercy in Christ for you; yes, if the teeming myriads of the human race should all come rushing to this river to drink, they could not drain it dry — no, it should seem all the fuller, and the lands should be made all the more glad as the undiminished stream flowed on.
11. In a river we see not only excellence and abundance, but freshness. A pool is the same thing over again, and gradually it becomes a stagnant pond, breeding corrupt life and pestilential gases. A river is always the same, yet never the same; it is always in its place, yet always moving on. Filled to the brim with living water, even as in ages long past, and yet flowing fresh from the spring, it is an ancient novelty. We call our own beautiful river, “Father Thames,” yet he wears no furrows on his brows, but leaps in all the freshness of youth. You shall live by the banks of a river for years, and yet each morning its stream shall be as fresh as though its fountain had been unsealed only an hour ago when the birds began to awaken the morning and the sun to sip the dews. Is it not so with our Lord Jesus Christ? Is he not always as bright and fresh as when you first met him? I remember when I first knew him, and my soul was married to him. I had a blessed honeymoon in dearest fellowship. That sweet communion is not over yet, indeed, it is deeper, nearer, more constant than ever. He is as good a Christ to me now as at first: I may not say that he is better, but I must confess that I know him better, I love him more fervently, and prize him more highly. If you serve an employer for twenty years I should expect that you would know him well by that time. Some of you have served the Lord Jesus these forty years, and what do you think of him? You have come to know him by this time, and you may without fear tell all that you have discovered. Do not words fail you to express his excellence? All others become stale, but Jesus has the dew of his youth. These fine ribbons and bits of colour, which are attracting the people to certain Episcopal churches for a time, will soon fade. They tell us that such and such a church is quite full, because they have a choir clothed in elegant gowns, and pompous processions and tasteful banners, and many other childish toys, which turn their churches into dolls’ houses; but do not let them dream that these prettinesses will draw the people for long. Go into the Popish churches on the continent, and you will see in some cases fine marbles and gems, and in others twopenny-halfpenny artificial flowers and daubs of paint, but where are the people? Very rarely do you see a crowd. In general you only see a few women, dupes of the priests; the manhood of the nation is not to be entrapped by such transparent tomfooleries. These things grow old and effete, but the gospel does not. Centuries ago Wycliffe preached the gospel of Christ beneath an oak in Surrey, and crowds assembled; not long ago I preached beneath the same old tree the very same gospel, and its attractive power was none the less. Even so, in the ages yet to come, others will arise with the same message on their lips, and the people will gather to hear them, and acknowledge the gospel’s power. Some will come to find fault, and will gnash their teeth with rage, but they must come and hear it: it is impossible for them to do otherwise, for the novelty of the gospel will always attract. Is it not always news? And is not news a thing always sought after? Does a man want something new? Tell him “the old, old story.” Our naked fathers crossed the Thames in their coracles, [a] and we sail upon it in our steam vessels, but it is the same glad river, and yet when it first flowed it was no more fresh and sparkling than it is today. It is always changing, always fresh, always new, yet always the same; and so is Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and for ever.
12. Again, Jesus Christ may well be compared to a river, from his freeness. We cannot say this concerning all the rivers on earth, for men generally manage to claim the banks and shores, and the fisheries and water rights. I sometimes wonder our great men do not map out the stars. Will no duke claim the Pole star, and no earl monopolise Castor and Pollux? Could we not have an Enclosure Act for the Zodiac, or at least for some of the brighter constellations? Well is it written, “The heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord’s: but he has given the earth to the children of men.” Yet rivers can scarcely be parcelled out, they refuse to become private property. See how freely the creatures approach the banks. I took pleasure the other day in seeing the cattle come to the river to drink. The cows sought out a sloping place, and then stood knee deep in the stream and drank and drank again! I thought of Behemoth, who trusted he could snuff up Jordan at a draught, they drank so heartily, and no one said no to them, or measured out the draught. The dog as he ran along lapped eagerly, and no tax was demanded of him. The swan was free to plunge her long neck into the flood, and the swallow to touch the surface with its wing. To ox and fly, and bird, and fish, and man, the river was equally free. So you ox of a sinner with your great thirst, come and drink; and you dog of a sinner, who think yourself unworthy even of a drop of grace, still come and drink. I read a notice near one of our public ponds, “No one is allowed to wash dogs here.” That is proper enough, for a pond, but it would be quite needless for a river. In a river the foulest may bathe to his heart’s content. The fact of its fulness creates a freeness which no one restricts. How I delight to talk about this, for I remember when I thought that the Lord Jesus was not free to me; I dreamed that I wanted him and he would not have me, whereas it was all the other way: he was willing enough, but I was unwilling. Oh, poor sinner, there is nothing so free in all the world as Christ is. To all who pant after him, desire him, and need him, he is free as the air you breathe.
Christ is like a river for constancy, too. Pools and cisterns dry
up, but the river’s song is —
Men may come and men may go,
But I go on for ever.
So it is with Jesus. The grace to pardon and the power to heal are not a spasmodic force in him; they abide in him for evermore. He saved a thousand years ago, he still saves; he saves all day long, and all night long. Whether we sleep or wake, the river still flows on, sounding no trumpet, but steadily pursuing its course, and so the pardoning grace of God is flowing all day and all night long, all the year round, quietly blessing thousands. Blessed be God for this! Today is the Sabbath, and to me it seems as if the river widened out and poured its bounty over a greater area. Oh that you would drink from it, poor sinner, today. It still flows, whether you refuse it or accept it. Oh do not allow it to flow in vain for you.
14. The text speaks of rivers, which implies both variety and unity — we cannot enlarge upon this, but must dwell upon the idea of force. Nothing is stronger than a river; it cuts its own way, and will not be hindered in its course. Who shall dam up the Mississippi? Who shall enchain the Amazon? They flow where they wish, following the course which infinite sovereignty marked out for them. If the rock is in the river’s way it will wear it down. If the cliff intrudes, it must fall, being undermined by the current, and falling it must disappear. The river does not wait for man, neither tarries for the sons of men, but follows its predestined course. Glory be to God, Christ Jesus will accomplish the divine purposes, the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. No one can change his course: winding this way and that, he must needs go to this sinner and the other; he cleanses a dying thief and waters some of “Caesar’s household.” Between the high hills of proud opposition he speeds his way, and makes glad the lowly valleys of the contrite in heart. Neither death nor hell can stop his course; he sweeps away all opponents even as that mighty river, the river Kishon, swept away the armies of Jabin; and when it seems as if there were no longer a channel for the gospel the truth leaps down the precipice in some great reformation or revival like a glorious Niagara Falls, and the wonders of divine power are still more clearly seen, the Lord making bare his arm in the eyes of all the people. Flow on, oh river of God, for evermore.
15. II. Secondly, WE WILL CONSIDER A SPECIAL EXCELLENCE which the text mentions. “Rivers of water in a dry place.”
16. I cannot tell you how I leaped at that word on my own account. In this country we do not value rivers so much because we have springs and wells in all our villages and hamlets; but in the country where Isaiah lived the land is parched and burnt up without rivers. You can trace the Jordan and the other streams by the fringe of vegetation skirting their banks, and consequently a river is greatly prized in a dry place. Ah, my brethren, when the Man Jesus Christ came here with blessings from God, he brought rivers into the dry place of our humanity; when he came down among Abraham’s race, he brought rivers of water into the dry old stock of Jesse; when Judah had lost her king, he came to renew the royalty of the house of David; and today, we Gentiles, who had been cut off from all covenant blessings and left like the desert while Israel was like a garden, — we have Jesus Christ coming among us as rivers of water in a dry place. Jesus has come to you, my brother, and what a dry place your heart was by nature. Ah, think how dry it was before Christ came and caused springs of life to water your soul. As I think of my own state by nature, I can only compare it to a waste howling wilderness, “a salt land, and not inhabited,” in which there was great drought, — a dry and thirsty land where no water is. The Sahara is no more destitute of waterbrooks than is human nature of anything that is good, and yet Jesus Christ has come into your human nature and into mine and made the dry land springs of water. Oh brethren, what a dry place our nature would still be at this very moment if it were not for the presence of Jesus as the river of the water of life. We have grown older, but our nature has not improved; years have gone over us but not even a cloud the size of a man’s hand has come to us by nature’s energy, our only watering has been through our interceding Saviour.
17. As far as the flesh is concerned, I see myself more prone to sin than ever, weaker than ever for all good things, more consciously dead and withered apart from Christ. If you have found springs in the waste places of your nature, I confess I have not: my nature is, indeed, still a dry place. Emptiness! — Oh, that is hardly the word for it: one feels worse than empty. Dead, oh how dead! Even those of us who try to live near to God have cold seasons. I suppose the perfect people have no such confessions to make, but I am not one of them. I mourn over seasons in which I cannot pray as I wish to, and rise groaning from my knees; I suffer from temptations without and fightings within, and I cannot always equally rejoice in God, although I know he is always worthy of all my joy. I lament that it is so, but so it is with me. There may be people who can always glide along like a trolley car on the rails without a solitary jerk, but I find that I have a vile nature to contend with, and spiritual life is a struggle with me; I have to fight from day to day with inbred corruption, coldness, deadness, barrenness, and if it were not for my Lord Jesus Christ my heart would be as dry as the heart of the damned, and have no more life, or light, or goodness in it than hell itself. This, however, I can say, I value his fulness all the more because I am so empty, and I prize his power all the more because I am so weak. I find I cannot speak or think well enough of my Lord, nor poorly enough of myself. Nothingness and emptiness, vanity and sin are my sole and only inheritance from nature, and all my fulness lies in Christ, and every excellence I can ever claim must come from him and him alone.
18. Do not many of you find your outward circumstances very dry places? Are you rich? Ah, my brethren, wealthy society is generally as dry a place as the granite hills. “Gold and the gospel seldom do agree.” Are you poor? Poverty is a dry place to those who are not rich in faith. Are you engaged in business from day to day? How often do its cares parch the soul, like the hot sandstorm of the desert! To rise up early and to toil late amid losses and crosses is to dwell in a dry place. Oh, to feel the love of Christ flowing then! This is to have rivers of water. To have Christ near when you are losing your money, when accounts go unpaid, and commercial houses falling, this is true religion. To rejoice in Christ when you are unemployed, poor man, to have Christ when the wife is sick, Christ when the darling child has to be buried, Christ when the head is aching, Christ when the poor body is half starved; this is sweetness. Ah, you will never know the sweetness of Christ until you know the bitterness of trial. You cannot know his fulness until you see your emptiness. I pray that it may be our experience always to feel ourselves going down and Christ going up, ourselves getting poorer and poorer apart from him, while we know more and more of the priceless riches which are ours in Christ Jesus our Lord.
19. The point of it all, seems to me to be this — that Christ is a river of abounding grace, but he is most so to those who are most dry. Alms are only sought by the poor, the physician is only esteemed by the sick, the lifeboat is only valued by the man who is drowning; so, my brethren, Christ will be dearer and dearer to you just in proportion as you have less and less esteem for yourself. “Rivers of water in a dry place.”
20. III. Now, WE CLOSE WITH THE PRACTICAL LESSON from it all.
21. First, see the goings out of God’s heart to man, and man’s way of communing with God. Other rivers rise in small springs, and many tributaries combine to swell them, but the river I have been preaching about rises in full force from the throne of God. It is as great a river at its source as in its subsequent course. Oh, my brother, whenever you stoop down to drink from the mercy which comes to you by Jesus Christ you are having fellowship with God, for what you drink comes directly from God himself. Think about this now. You desire to have a communication established between you and God, and the Lord says, “Here I am coming to you, coming in a great river of blessedness; take from me; accept what comes to you through Jesus Christ. Every drop of it has come from my throne, and is full of the love which is my essence.” Oh, poor sinner, do you see this? What a simple, what a safe, what a suitable way God has prepared to bring you into communion with himself! You are to be the receiver, and he the giver; he the everlasting source of all your supplies, and you simply the partaker of his benefits. Ask what God is, and the answer is, God is a river of goodness streaming down to men through the person of Jesus Christ.
22. Secondly, see what a misery it is that men should be perishing and dying of soul thirst when there is this river so near. That men should die of thirst would be horrible, but that such deaths should happen all along the banks of a river is shocking indeed. What ails them? Have they never heard of it? Dear brethren, let the thought press heavily on you, that millions of our race have never heard of Jesus. In China, in parts of India, in Africa, in large tracts of the country myriads live and die without having heard the sweet name of Jesus. Are we doing all we can for missions, do you think? Are we all sure that we give as much as we should, and pray as we should, and work as we should for missions? It is a sad thing that Christ has come into the world and yet men perish by the millions.
23. Ah, yet there is a still sadder thought, for millions of men know all about this river and yet do not drink. Many of our own fellow citizens know the plan of salvation by Jesus Christ, but they are struck with a strange insanity; they would sooner die of thirst than drink from God’s own river. Oh God, we sometimes say, “Have pity,” but you have had pity, and therefore we had better pray, “Teach men to have pity upon themselves.”
24. Another lesson is, let us learn if we have any constraint, where it must lie. It cannot be in Christ, because he is as rivers of water; so the next time we feel that we are constrained, that we have little grace, little power, little joy, let us know where the fault lies. Our cup is small, but the river is not. If you do not have, brethren, it is not because God does not give, it is because you are not open to receive. “You do not have because you do not ask, or because you ask amiss.” Oh church of God, if you are weak it is not because God is weak; if you cannot get at sinners it is not because God cannot reach them. You are not constrained in him, you are constrained in your own hearts.
25. Is Christ a river, then, last of all, drink from him, all of you. To be carried along on the surface of Christianity, like a man in a boat, is not enough, you must drink or die. Many are influenced by the externals of religion, but Christ is not in them; they are on the water, but the water is not in them; and if they continue as they are they will be lost. A man may be in a boat on a river and yet die of thirst if he refuses to drink; and so you may be carried along and excited by a revival, but unless you receive the Lord Jesus into your soul by faith, you will perish after all. Faith is as simple a thing as drinking, but you must have it; you must believe or die. If a man were submerged up to his neck in water like Tantalus, [b] and if all the rivers in the world flowed by him, he would expire in the pangs of thirst if he did not drink. Some of you have been up to your neck in the river for years. As I look at those pews I can only remember that rivers of love and mercy have been flowing right up to your lips, and yet you have not drunk. He who dies like that deserves to die; he who perishes of thirst in such a condition must perish with a sevenfold emphasis. May God help you. I do not know what more I can ask him to do for you. Has he not done enough in giving rivers of mercy to you in Christ?
26. And if you have drank from this stream, the next thing I say is, live near it. We read about Isaac that he lived by the well. It is good to live close to an inexhaustible spring. Commune with Christ, and get nearer to him each day. Wade into this river, as you have done, until the water is up to your ankles; go on until it is up to your knees; go on until it washes your heart and loins, yes, go on until you find it to be a river to swim in.
I should like to say, last of all, if Christ is like a river, let us
be like the fish that live in it. The fish is an ancient
Christian emblem for Jesus and his people. I sat under a beech tree
some months ago in the New Forest; I gazed up into it, measured it,
and noted the architecture of its branches, but suddenly I saw a
little squirrel leap from bough to bough, and I thought, “After all,
this beech tree means far more to you than to me, for you live in it.
It delights me, it instructs me, and it affords me shade, but you
live in it and upon it.” So we know something about rivers, and they
are very useful to us, but to the fish the river is its element, its
life, its all. So, my brethren, let us not merely read about Christ,
and think about him, and speak of him, but let us live on him, and in
him, as the squirrel in the tree and the fish in the river. Live
by him, and live for him: you will do both if you live in
Roll over me, thou heavenly stream,
I find my element in thee.
This my true life and bliss I deem,
In Christ, my Lord, absorb’d to be.
[Portion Of Scripture Read Before Sermon — Isa 32]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “The Adorable Trinity in Unity, Doxology to the Trinity — Let There Be Light” 170]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Gospel, Stated — Grace Is Free” 541]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Gospel, Invitations — Mercy’s Invitation” 488]
[See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3564, “Publications” 3566 @@ "Lectures To My Students"]
[a] Coracle: A small boat made of wickerwork covered with some watertight material (originally hides or skins), used by the ancient Britons, and still by fishermen on the rivers and lakes of Wales and Ireland. OED.
[b] Tantalus: Name of a mythical king of Phrygia, son of Zeus and the nymph Pluto, condemned, for revealing the secrets of the gods, to stand in Tartarus up to his chin in water, which constantly receded as he stooped to drink, and with branches of fruit hanging above him which ever fled his grasp; a rock is also said to have hung over him threatening to fall. OED.
The Adorable Trinity in Unity, Doxologies to the Trinity
170 — “Let There Be Light” <6.6.4>
1 Thou, whose almighty word,
Chaos and darkness heard,
And took their flight,
Hear us, we humbly pray,
And where the gospel’d day
Sheds not its glorious ray,
Let there be light.
2 Thou, who didst come to bring
On thy protecting wing,
Healing and sight,
Sight to the inly [a] blind,
Health to the sick in mind,
Oh! now, to all mankind,
Let there be light.
3 Spirit of truth and love,
Life giving, holy Dove,
Speed forth thy flight;
Move o’er the water’s face
By thine almighty grace,
And in earth’s darkest place,
Let there be light.
4 Blessed and holy three,
Wisdom, Love, Might,
Boundless as ocean’s tide,
Rolling in fullest pride,
O’er the world, far and wide,
Let there be light.
John Marriott, 1813
[a] Inly: inwardly
541 — Grace Is Free <7s.>
1 Grace! how good, how cheap, how free;
Grace how easy to be found!
Only let your misery
In the Saviour’s blood be drown’d!
2 Wishful life before his throne:
Say, “I never will be gone,
Never, till my suit’s obtain’d
Never, till the blessing’s gain’d.”
Count Zinzendorf, 1736;
tr. by Charles Kinchin, 1742.
488 — Mercy’s Invitation
1 Let every mortal ear attend,
And every heart rejoice;
The trumpet of the gospel sounds
With an inviting voice.
2 Ho, all ye hungry, starving souls,
That feed upon the wind,
And vainly strive with earthly toys
To fill an empty mind;
3 Eternal Wisdom has prepared
A soul reviving feast,
And bids your longing appetites
The rich provision taste.
4 Ho, ye that pant for living streams,
And pine away and die,
Here you may quench your raging thirst
With springs that never dry.
5 Rivers of love and mercy here
In a rich ocean join;
Salvation in abundance flows,
Like floods of milk and wine.
6 Come, naked, and adorn your souls
In robes prepared by God,
Wrought by the labours of his Son,
And dyed in his own blood.
7 Great God, the treasures of thy love
Are everlasting mines,
Deep as our helpless miseries are,
And boundless as our sins.
8 The happy gates of gospel grace
Stand open night and day,
Lord, we are come to seek supplies,
And drive our wants away.
Isaac Watts, 1706.