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But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him, shall never thirst ; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.
THE conversation of which the text is a part, Christ had with a woman of Samaria, at the well of Jacob ; to which he went with a design of converting her and a number of her countrymen to the faith of the gospel. The place was well chosen by our Lord, because crowds of the people resorted thither for water. Among the many, he addressed himself to this woman, saying, “Give me to drink.” She pertly replied, “How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, who am a woman of Samaria 2 for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans. To which he replied, “If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith unto thee, Give me to drink, thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.” By “the gift of God,” Christ himself is meant. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” He is said by Paul to have “delivered him up for us all.” He is “the unspeakable gift.”
* Preached Lord's day, March 9, 1896.
Had this woman known Christ's real character, she would have bowed before him with sacred reverence, and have asked of him the things that she wanted, as a lost sinner; and he would have given her living water, i. e. a principle of spiritual life, with all its satisfying pleasures. Like all other persons in a natural condition, she was ignorant of his meaning; hence she answered him, “Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep : from whence then hast thou that living water Art thou greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle * This question discovered her entire ignorance of Christ: for he was far greater than Jacob, than Abraham, than angels, yea, than all the hierarchy of angels, cherubim and seraphim ; he was very and eternal God. Had she known this divine, this adorable personage, she would have been overcome with the appearance of God in human nature. In this ignorance, however, he did not leave her, but said to her, “Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again : but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst.” In what sense may it be said that he shall never thirst f is a question often asked by the lovers of the sacred scriptures; to which I reply, 1. That they who are made acquainted with the grace of the gospel, and feel its influence, will never thirst with that vehement desire as heretofore after earthly things. The power of religion in the heart, will cure them of their once supreme attachment to the things of the world. Or, 2. And which I esteem the real sense of our Lord in this sentence, “they shall never thirst,” is this ; that they who drink of this water that Christ gives them, shall find such an infinite and inexhaustible fullness in him, that they shall never find the least deficiency or want. If there is always enough in him, they never shall feel the pain of thirsting, because the water that he gives them shall be in them a well of water : if so, the soul who receives it will never know any want; he shall drink enough for time and eternity. On the last Lord's day, I mentioned the uncommon excellency of this passage. My design in the choice of it is, to consider a number of very important ideas with which it is crowded; such as,
I. A certain communication made to the mind, compared to water. II. That this water is given by Christ. Ill. It is an abiding principle—“it shall be in him.” IV. It is a vigorous and active principle, and of heavenly tendency—“springing up.” V. Its issue—“everlasting life.”
I. There is a certain communication made to the mind, compared to water. “The water that I shall give him.”
I wish this idea to be attended to, viz. that there is something communicated at the time of regeneration, that the sinner was destitute of before. It is something totally distinct from what such person before had. This certain something has been called grace, a new heart, a right spirit, a being created in Christ Jesus unto good works. The most common term used by Christians, to describe it, has been the term principle : thus we say, a principle of spiritual life, a principle of holiness. Upon strict examination of the term principle, I confess myself much in favour of it, because it is derived from a word that signifies the beginning of a thing: and certainly the principle of grace is the beginning of the divine life in the soul. When this water is given, it abides in the mind, and hence springs up to everlasting life. It is from the moment that this principle is communicated to the heart, that the conflict with sin commences; which is carried on till the believer obtains a complete victory. I now proceed to examine why it is compared to water. “The water,” saith Christ, “ that I shall give him.” 1. It is compared to water because of its freeness. What more free than water 2 This term then is fitly chosen to represent the freeness of divine grace. “Ho, every one that thirsteth,” says Isaiah, “come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money : come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money, and without price.” A beautiful description of this water : it is to be had without money and without price. The whole plan of salvation, from eternity to eternity, is of grace. “By grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” 2. We always connect the idea of cleansing with that of water. So it is with this water that Christ gives: it is in its nature holy, and always tends to holiness. The text is itself full proof of this, for it springeth up into everlasting life; this could not be the case if it did not tend to holiness,
because without holiness no man can see the Lord. We are told that “he that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure ?” 3. Water is perfectly simple, or unmixed. So is the water of life, or the grace that is communicated to the heart at the time of regeneration. As a principle, it is pure, and cannot be mixed with any other thing. Sin and grace dwell together in the same heart ; whence ariseth the conflict we have repeatedly mentioned; but they cannot be blended together. Sin will be sin forever, and grace will be grace. If there were a possibility of their being mixed, or blended together, they would be totally changed, and lose their specific nature: but this can never be the case; they are, and ever will be, infinitely different in their nature and influence. In the dispensation of the gospel by men, we often find a sad mixture of grace and works; but the principle of the divine life itself will always maintain its own nature, however some persons corrupt the truth of salvation by grace alone. They may corrupt the doctrine of grace, but they have no power to corrupt the water which Christ gives, or grace itself. I remark, 4. That water is absolutely necessary to sustain life; without it, all animal life would become extinct. So it is with the grace that Christ bestows. It is so exactly suited to the sinner’s condition, that without it he must be lost forever. The doctrine of grace is the only foundation of the sinner's hope; and the principle of grace, that alone by which the heart is changed, and the sinner made meet for heaven. Christ’s work for his people, and his work in them, is all grace.