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ONE SAYING WITH TWO MEANINGS
Joh_7:33 - Joh_7:34 . - Joh_13:33 .
No greater contrast can be conceived than that between these two groups to whom such singularly similar words were addressed. The one consists of the officers, tools of the Pharisees and of the priests, who had been sent to seize Christ, and would fain have carried out their masters’ commission, but were restrained by a strange awe, inexplicable even to themselves. The other consists of the little company of His faithful, though slow, scholars, who made a great many mistakes, and sometimes all but tired out even His patience, and yet were forgiven much because they loved much. Hatred animated one group, loving sorrow the other.
Christ speaks to them both in nearly the same words, but with what a different tone, meaning, and application! To the officers the saying is an exhibition of His triumphant confidence that their malice is impotent and their arms paralysed; that when He wills He will go, not be dragged by them or any man, but go to a safe asylum, where foes can neither find nor follow. The officers do not understand what He means. They think that, bad Jew as they have always believed Him to be, He may very possibly consummate His apostasy by going over to the Gentiles altogether; but, at any rate, they feel that He is to escape their hands.
The disciples understand little more as to whither He goes, as they themselves confess a moment after; but they gather from His words His loving pity, and though the upper side of the saying seems to be menacing and full of separation, there is an under side that suggests the possibility of a reunion for them.
The words are nearly the same in both cases, but they are not absolutely identical. There are significant omissions and additions in the second form of them. ‘Little children’ is the tenderest of all the names that ever came from Christ’s lips to His disciples, and never was heard on His lips except on this one occasion, for parting words ought to be very loving words. ‘A little while I am with you,’ but He does not say, ‘And then I go to Him that sent Me.’ ‘Ye shall seek Me,’ but He does not say, ‘And shall not find Me.’ ‘As I said unto the Jews, whither I go ye cannot come, so now I say to you,’ that little word ‘now’ makes the announcement a truth for the present only. His disciples shall not seek Him in vain, but when they seek they shall find. And though for a moment they be parted from Him, it is with the prospect and the confidence of reunion. Let us, then, look at the two main thoughts here. First, the two ‘seekings,’ the seeking which is vain, and the seeking which is never vain; and the two ‘cannots,’ the inability of His enemies for evermore to come where He is, and the inability of His friends, for a little season, to come where He is.
I. The two seekings.
As I have observed, there is a very significant omission in one of the forms of the words. The enemies are told that they will never find Him, but no such dark words are spoken to the friends. So, then, hostile seeking of the Christ is in vain, and loving seeking of Him by His friends, though they understand Him but very poorly, and therefore seek Him that they may know Him better, is always answered and over-answered.
Let me deal just for a moment or two with each of these. In their simplest use the words of my first text merely mean this: ‘You cannot touch Me, I am passing into a safe asylum where your hands can never reach Me.’
We may generalise that for a moment, though it does not lie directly in our path, and preach the old blessed truth that no man with hostile intent seeking for Christ in His person, in His Gospel, or in His followers and friends, can ever find Him. All the antagonism that has stormed against Him and His cause and words, and His followers and lovers, has been impotent and vain. The pursuers are like dogs chasing a bird, sniffing along the ground after their prey, which all the while sits out of their reach on a bough, and carols to the sky. As in the days of His flesh, His foes could not touch His person till He chose, and vainly sought Him when it pleased Him to hide from them, so ever since, in regard to His cause, and in regard to all hearts that love Him, no weapon that is formed against them shall prosper. They shall be wrapped, when need be, in a cloud of protecting darkness, and stand safe within its shelter. Take good cheer, all you that are trying to do anything, however little, however secular it may appear to be, for the good and well-being of your fellows! All such service is a prolongation of Christ’s work, and an effluence from His, if there be any good in it at all; and it is immortal and safe, as is His. ‘Ye shall seek Me and shall not find Me.’
But then, besides that, there is another thought. It is not merely hostile seeking of Him that is hopeless vain. When the dark days came over Israel, under the growing pressure of the Roman yoke, and amidst the agonies of that last siege, and the unutterable sufferings which all but annihilated the nation, do you not think that there were many of these people who said to themselves: ‘Ah! if we had only that Jesus of Nazareth back with us for a day or two; if we had only listened to Him!’ Do you not think that before Israel dissolved in blood there were many of those who had stood hostile or alienated, who desired to see ‘one of the days of the Son of Man,’ and did not see it? They sought Him, not in anger any more; they sought Him, not in penitence, or else they would have found Him; but they sought Him simply in distress, and wishing that they could have back again what they had cared so little for when they had it.
And are there no people listening to me now, to whom these words apply?-
‘He that will not, when he may,
When he will it shall be-Nay!’
Although it is blessed be His name always true that a seeking heart finds Him, and whensoever there is the faintest trace of penitent desire to get hold of Christ’s hand it does grasp ours, it is also true that things neglected once cannot be brought back; that the sowing time allowed to pass can never return; and that they who have turned, as some of you have turned, dear friends, all your lives, a deaf ear to the Christ that asks you to love Him and trust Him, may one day wish that it had been otherwise, and go to look for Him and not find Him.
There is another kind of seeking that is vain, an intellectual seeking without the preparation of the heart. There are, no doubt, some people here to-day that would say, ‘We have been seeking the truth about religion all our lives, and we have not got to it yet.’ Well, I do not want to judge either your motives or your methods, but I know this, that there is many a man who goes on the quest for religious certainty, and looks at, if not for Jesus Christ, and is not really capable of discerning Him when he sees Him, because his eye is not single, or because his heart is full of worldliness or indifference, or because he begins with a foregone conclusion, and looks for facts to establish that; or because he will not cast down and put away evil things that rise up between him and his Master.
My brother! if you go to look for Jesus Christ with a heart full of the world, if you go to look for Him while you wish to hold on by all the habitudes and earthlinesses of your past, you will never find Him. The sensualist seeks for Him, the covetous man seeks for Him, the passionate, ill-tempered man seeks for Him; the woman plunged in frivolities, or steeped to the eyebrows in domestic cares,-these may in some feeble fashion go to look for Him and they will not find Him, because they have sought for Him with hearts overcharged with other things and filled with the affairs of this life, its trifles and its sins.
I turn for a moment to the seeking that is not vain. ‘Ye shall seek Me’ is not on Christ’s lips to any heart that loves Him, however imperfectly, a sentence of separation or an appointment of a sorrowful lot, but it is a blessed law, the law of the Christian life.
That life is all one great seeking after Christ. Love seeks the absent when removed from our sight. If we care anything about Him at all, our hearts will turn to Him as naturally as, when the winter begins to pinch, the migrating birds seek the sunny south, impelled by an instinct that they do not themselves understand.
The same law which sends loving thoughts out across the globe to seek for husband, child, or friend when absent, sets the really Christian heart seeking for the Christ, whom, having not seen, it loves, as surely as the ivy tendril feels out for a support. As surely as the roots of a mountain-ash growing on the top of a boulder feel down the side of the rock till they reach the soil; as surely as the stork follows the warmth to the sunny Mediterranean, so surely, if your heart loves Christ, will the very heart and motive of your action be the search for Him.
And if you do not seek Him, brother, as surely as He is parted from our sense you will lose Him, and He will be parted from you wholly, for there is no way by which a person who is not before our eyes may be kept near us except only by diligent effort on our part to keep thought and love and will all in contact with Him; thought meditating, love going out towards Him, will submitting. Unless there be this effort, you will lose your Master as surely as a little child in a crowd will lose his nurse and his guide, if his hand slips from out the protecting hand. The dark shadow of the earth on which you stand will slowly steal over His silvery brightness, as when the moon is eclipsed, and you will not know how you have lost Him, but only be sadly aware that your heaven is darkened. ‘Ye shall seek Me,’ is the condition of all happy communion between Christ and us.
And that seeking, dear brother, in the threefold form in which I have spoken of it-effort to keep Him in our thoughts, in our love, and over our will-is neither a seeking which starts from a sense that we do not possess Him, nor one which ends in disappointment. But we seek for Him because we already have Him in a measure, and we seek Him that we may possess Him more abundantly, and anything is possible rather than that such a search shall be vain. Men may go to created wells, and find no water, and return ashamed, and with their vessels empty, but every one who seeks for that Fountain of salvation shall draw from it with joy. It is as impossible that a heart which desires Jesus Christ shall not have Him, as it is that lungs dilated shall not fill with air, or as it is that an empty vessel put out in a rainfall shall not be replenished. He does not hide Himself, but He desires to be found. May I say that as a mother will sometimes pretend to her child to hide, that the child’s delight may be the greater in searching and in finding, so Christ has gone away from our sight in order, for one reason, that He may stimulate our desires to feel after Him! If we seek Him hid in God, we shall find Him for the joy of our hearts.
A great thinker once said that he would rather have the search after truth than the possession of truth. It was a rash word, but it pointed to the fact that there is a search which is only one shade less blessed than the possession. And if that be so in regard to any pure and high truth, it is still more so about Christ Himself. To seek for Him is joy; to find Him is joy. What can be a happier life than the life of constant pursuit after an infinitely precious object, which is ever being sought and ever being found; sought with a profound consciousness of its preciousness, found with a widening appreciation and capacity for its enjoyment? ‘Ye shall seek Me’ is a word not of evil but of good cheer; for buried in the depth of the commandment to search is the promise that we shall find.
II, Secondly, let us look briefly at these two ‘cannots.’
‘Whither I go, ye cannot come,’ says He to His enemies, with no limitation, with no condition. The ‘cannot’ is absolute and permanent, so long as they retain their enmity. To His friends, on the other hand, He says, ‘So now I say to you,’ the law for to-day, the law for this side the flood, but not the law for the beyond, as He explains more fully in the subsequent words: ‘Thou canst not follow Me now, but thou shalt follow Me afterwards.’
So, then, Christ is somewhere. When He passed from life it was not into a state only, but into a place; and He took with Him a material body, howsoever changed. He is somewhere, and there friend and enemy alike cannot enter, so long as they are compassed with ‘the earthly house of this tabernacle.’ But the incapacity is deeper than that. No sinful man can pass thither. Where has He gone? The preceding words give us the answer. ‘God shall glorify Him in Himself.’ The prospect of that assumption into the inmost glory of the divine nature directly led our Lord to think of the change it would bring about in the relation of His humble friends to Him. While for Himself He triumphs in the prospect, He cannot but turn a thought to their lonesomeness, and hence come the words of our text. He has passed into the bosom and blaze of divinity. Can I walk there, can I pass into that tremendous fiery furnace? ‘Who shall dwell with the everlasting burnings?’ ‘Ye cannot follow Me now.’ No man can go thither except Christ goes thither.
There are deep mysteries lying in that word of our Lords,-’I go to prepare a place for you.’ We know not what manner of activity on His part that definitely means. It seems as if somehow or other the presence in Heaven of our Brother in His glorified humanity was necessary in order that the golden pavement should be trodden by our feet, and that our poor, feeble manhood should live and not be shrivelled up in the blaze of that central brightness.
We know not how He prepares the place, but heaven, whatever it be, is no place for a man unless the Man, Christ Jesus, be there. He is the Revealer of God, not only for earth, but for heaven; not only for time, but for eternity. ‘No man cometh unto the Father but by Me,’ is true everywhere and always, there as here. So I suppose that, but for His presence, heaven itself would be dark, and its King invisible, and if a man could enter there he would either be blasted with unbearable flashes of brightness or grope at its noonday as the blind, because his eye was not adapted to such beams. Be that as it may, ‘the Forerunner is for us entered.’ He has gone before, because He knows the great City, ‘His own calm home, His habitation from eternity.’ He has gone before to make ready a lodging for us, in whose land He has dwelt so long, and He will meet us, who would else be bewildered like some dweller in a desert if brought to the capital, when we reach the gates, and guide our unaccustomed steps to the mansion prepared for us.
But the power to enter there, even when He is there, depends on our union with Christ by faith. When we are joined to Him, the absolute ‘cannot,’ based upon flesh, and still more upon sin, which is a radical and permanent impossibility, is changed into a relative and temporary incapacity. If we have faith in Christ, and are thereby drawing a kindred life from Him, our nature will be in process of being changed into that which is capable of bearing the brilliance of the felicities of heaven. But just as these friends of Christ, though they loved Him very truly, and understood Him a little, were a long way from being ready to follow Him, and needed the schooling of the Cross, and Olivet, and Pentecost, as well as the discipline of life and toil, before they were fully ripe for the harvest, so we, for the most part, have to pass through analogous training before we are prepared for the place which Christ has prepared for us. Certainly, so soon as a heart has trusted Christ, it is capable of entering where He is, and the real reason why the disciples could not come where He went was that they did not yet clearly know Him as the divine Sacrifice for theirs and the world’s sins, and, however much they believed in Him as Messiah, had not yet, nor could have, the knowledge on which they could found their trust in Him as their Saviour.
But, while that is true, it is also true that each advance in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour will bring with it capacity to advance further into the heart of the far-off land, and to see more of the King in His beauty. So, as long as His friends were wrapped in such dark clouds of misconception and error, as long as their Christian characters were so imperfect and incomplete as they were at the time of my text being spoken, they could not go thither and follow Him. But it was a diminishing impossibility, and day by day they approximated more and more to His likeness, because they understood Him more, and trusted Him more, and loved Him more, and grew towards Him, and, therefore, day by day became more and more able to enter into that Kingdom.
Are you growing in power so to do? Is the only thing which unfits you for heaven the fact that you have a mortal body? In other respects are you fit to go into that heaven, and walk in its brightness and not be consumed? The answer to the question is found in another one-Are you joined to Jesus Christ by simple faith? The incapacity is absolute and eternal if the enmity is eternal.
State and place are determined yonder by character, and character is determined by faith. Take a bottle of some solution in which heterogeneous substances have all been melted up together, and let it stand on a shelf and gradually settle down, and its contents will settle in regular layers, the heaviest at the bottom and the lightest at the top, and stratify themselves according to gravity. And that is how the other world is arranged-stratified. When all the confusions of this present are at an end, and all the moisture is driven off, men and women will be left in layers, like drawing to like. As Peter said about Judas with equal wisdom and reticence, ‘He went to his own place.’ That is where we shall all go, to the place we are fit for.
God does not slam the door of heaven in anybody’s face; it stands wide open. But there is a mystic barrier, unseen, but most real, more repellent than cherub and flaming sword, which makes it impossible for any foot to cross that threshold except the foot of the man whose heart and nature have been made Christlike, and fitted for heaven by simple faith in Him.
Love Him and trust Him, and then your life on earth will be a blessed seeking and a blessed finding of Him whom to seek is joyous effort, whom to find is an Elysium of rest. You will walk here not parted from Him, but with your thoughts and your love, which are your truest self, going up where He is, until you drop ‘the muddy vesture of decay’ which unfits you whilst you wear it for the presence-chamber of the King, and so you will enter in and be ‘for ever with the Lord.’
THE ROCK AND THE WATER
Joh_7:37 - Joh_7:38 .
The occasion and date of this great saying are carefully given by the Evangelist, because they throw much light on its significance and importance. It was ‘on the last day, that great day of the Feast,’ that ‘Jesus stood and cried.’ The Feast was that of Tabernacles, which was instituted in order to keep in mind the incidents of the desert wandering. On the anniversary of this day the Jews still do as they used to, and in many a foul ghetto and frowsy back street of European cities, you will find them sitting beneath the booths of green branches, commemorating the Exodus and its wonders. Part of that ceremonial was that on each morning of the seven, and possibly on the eighth, ‘the last day of the Feast,’ a procession of white-robed priests wound down the rocky footpath from the Temple to Siloam, and there in a golden vase drew water from the spring, chanting, as they ascended and re-entered the Temple gates where they poured out the water as a libation, the words of the prophet, ‘with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.’
Picture the scene to yourselves-the white-robed priests toiling up the pathway, the crowd in the court, the sparkling water poured out with choral song. And then, as the priests stood with their empty vases, there was a little stir in the crowd, and a Man who had been standing watching, lifted up a loud voice and cried, ‘If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink.’ Strange words to say, anywhere and anywhen, daring words to say there in the Temple court! For there and then they could mean nothing less than Christ’s laying His hand on that old miracle, which was pointed to by the rite, when the rock yielded the water, and asserting that all which it did and typified was repeated, fulfilled, and transcended in Himself, and that not for a handful of nomads in the wilderness, but for all the world, in all its generations.
So here is one more instance to add to those to which I have directed your attention on former occasions, in which, in this Gospel, we find Christ claiming to be the fulfilment of incidents and events in that ancient covenant, Jacob’s ladder, the brazen serpent, the manna, and now the rock that yielded the water. He says of them all that they are the shadow, and the substance is in Him.
I. So then, we have to look, first, at Christ’s view of humanity as set forth here.
You remember the story of how the people in the wilderness, distressed by that most imperative of all physical cravings, thirst, turned upon Moses and Aaron and said, ‘Why have ye brought us here to die in the wilderness, where there are neither vines nor pomegranates,’ but a land of thirst and death? Just as Christ, in the former instances to which we have already referred, selected and pointed to the poisoned and serpent-stricken camp as an emblem of humanity, and just as He pointed to the hunger of the men that were starving there, as an emblem, go here He says: ‘That is the world-a congregation of thirsty men raging in their pangs, and not knowing where to find solace or slaking for their thirst.’ I do not need to go over all the dominant desires that surge up in men’s souls, the mind craving for knowledge, the heart calling out for love, the whole nature feeling blindly and often desperately after something external to itself, which it can grasp, and in which it can feel satisfied. You know them; we all know them. Like some plant growing in a cellar, and with feeble and blanched tendrils feeling towards the light which is so far away, every man carries about within himself a whole host of longing desires, which need to find something round which they may twine, and in which they can be at rest.
‘The misery of man is great upon him,’ because, having these desires, he misreads so many of them, and stifles, ignores, atrophies to so large an extent the noblest of them. I know of no sadder tragedy than the way in which we misinterpret the meaning of these inarticulate cries that rise from the depths of our hearts, and misunderstand what it is that we are groping after, when we put out empty, and, alas! too often unclean, hands, to lay hold on our true good.
Brethren, you do not know what you want, many of you, and there is something pathetic in the endless effort to fill up the heart by a multitude of diverse and small things, when all the while the deepest meaning of aspirations, yearnings, longings, unrest, discontent is, ‘My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God.’ Nothing less than infinitude will satisfy the smallest heart of the humblest and least developed man. Nothing less than to have all our treasures in one accessible, changeless Infinity will ever give rest to a human soul. You have tried a multiplicity of trifles. It takes a great many bags of coppers to make up L. 1000, and they are cumbrous to carry. Would it not be better to part with a multitude of goodly pearls, if need be, in order to have all your wealth, and the satisfaction of all your desires, in the ‘One Pearl of great price’? It is God for whom men are thirsting, and, alas! so many of us know it not. As the old prophet says, in words that never lose their pathetic power, ‘they have hewn out for themselves cisterns’-one is not enough-they need many. They are only cisterns, which hold what is put into them, and they are ‘broken cisterns,’ which cannot hold it. Yet we turn to these with a strange infatuation, which even the experience that teaches fools does not teach us to be folly. We turn to these; and we turn from the Fountain; the one, the springing, the sufficient, the unfailing, the exuberant Fountain of living waters. Some of you have cisterns on the tops of your houses, with a coating of green scum and soot on them, and do you like that foul draught better than the bright blessing that comes out of the heart of the rock, flashing and pure?
But not only are these desires misread, but the noblest of them are stifled. I have said that the condition of humanity is that of thirst. Christ speaks in my text as if that thirst was by no means universal, and, alas! it is not, ‘If any man thirst’; there are some of us that do not, for we are all so constituted that, unless by continual self-discipline, and self-suppression, and self-evolution, the lower desires will overgrow the loftier ones, and kill them, as weeds will some precious crop. And some of you are so much taken up with gratifying the lowest necessities and longings of your nature, that you leave the highest all uncared for, and the effect of that is that the unsatisfied longing avenges itself, for your neglect of it, by infusing unrest and dissatisfaction into what else would satisfy the lowest. ‘He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver, nor he that loveth abundance with increase,’ but he that loves God will be satisfied with less than silver, and will continue satisfied when decrease comes. If you would suck the last drop of sweetness out of the luscious purple grapes that grow on earth, you must have the appetite after the best things, recognised, and ministered to, and satisfied. And when we are satisfied with God, we shall ‘have learnt in whatsoever state we are, therewith to be self-sufficing.’ But, as I say, the highest desires are neglected, and the lowest are cockered and pampered, and so the taste is depraved. Many of you have no wish for God, and no desire after high and noble things, and are perfectly contented to browse on the low levels, or to feed on ‘the husks that the swine do eat,’ whilst all the while the loftiest of your powers is starving within. Brethren, before we can come to the Rock that yields the water, there must be the sense of need. Do you know what it is that you want? Have you any desire after righteousness and purity and nobleness, and the vision of God flaming in upon the pettinesses and commonplaces of this life which is ‘sound and fury, signifying nothing,’ and is trivial in all its pretended greatness, unless you have learned that you need God most of all, and will never be at rest till you have Him?
II. Secondly, note here Christ’s consciousness of Himself.
Is there anything in human utterances more majestic and wonderful than this saying of my text, ‘If any man thirst, let him come to Me’? There He claims to be separate altogether from those whose thirst He would satisfy. There He claims to be able to meet every aspiration, every spiritual want, every true desire in this complex nature of ours. There He claims to be able to do this for one, and therefore for all. There He claims to be able to do it for all the generations of mankind, right away down to the end. Who is He who thus plants Himself in the front of the race, knows their deep thirsts, takes account of the impotence of anything created to satisfy them, assumes the divine prerogative, and says, ‘I come to satisfy every desire in every soul, to the end of time’? Yes, and from that day when He stood in the Temple and cried these words, down to this day, there have been, and there are, millions who can say, ‘We have drawn water from this fountain of salvation, and it has never failed us.’ Christ’s audacious presentation of Himself to the world as adequate to fill all its needs, and slake all its thirst, has been verified by nineteen centuries of experience, and there are many men and women all over the world to-day who would be ready to set to their seals that Christ is true, and that He, indeed, is all-sufficient for the soul.
Brethren, I do not wish to dwell upon this aspect of our Lord’s character in more than a sentence, but I beseech you to ask yourselves what is the impression that is left of the character of a man who says such things, unless He was something more than one of our race? Jesus Christ, it is as clear as day, in these words makes a claim which only divinity can warrant Him in making, or can fulfil when it is made. And I would urge you to consider what the alternative is, if you do not believe that Jesus Christ here sets Himself forth as the Incarnate Word of God, sufficient for all humanity. ‘I am meek and lowly in heart’-and His lowliness of heart is proved in a strange fashion, if He stands up before the race and says, ‘If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink.’
III. Note, further, Christ’s invitation.
‘Let him come . . . and drink’-two expressions for one thing. That invitation sounds all through Scripture, and, perhaps, there was lingering in our Lord’s mind, besides the reference to the rock that yielded the water, some echo of the words of the second Isaiah: ‘Ho! every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters.’ ‘Nay!’ said Christ, ‘not to the waters, but to Me.’ And then we hear from His own lips the same invitation addressed to the woman of Samaria, with the difference that to her, an alien, He pointed only to the natural water in the well that had been Jacob’s, whereas, to these people, the descendants of the chosen race, He pointed to the miracle in the desert, and claimed to fulfil that. And on the very last page of Scripture, as it is now arranged, there stands the echo again of this saying of my text, ‘Let him that is athirst come’-there must be the sense of need, as I was saying, before there is the coming-’and whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely.’
Now, dear friends, beneath these two metaphorical expressions there lies one simple condition. I put it into three words, which, for the sake of being easily remembered, I cast into an alliterative form: approach Christ, appropriate Christ, adhere to Christ.
Approach Christ. You come by faith, you come by love, you come by communion. And you can come if you will, though He is now on the throne.
Appropriate Christ. It is vain that the water should be gushing from the rock there, unless you make it your own by drinking. It must pass your lips. It must become your personal possession. You must enclose a piece of the common, and make it your very own. ‘He loved us, and gave Himself for us’; well and good, but strike out the ‘us’ and put in ‘me.’ ‘He loved me and gave Himself for me.’ The river may be flowing right past your door, yet your lips may be cracked with thirst, even whilst you hear the tinkle of its music amongst the sedges and the pebbles. Appropriate Christ. ‘Come . . . and drink.’
Adhere to Christ. You were thirsty yesterday: you drank. That will not slake to-day’s thirst, nor prevent its recurrence. And you must keep on drinking if you are to keep from perishing of thirst. Day by day, drop by drop, draught by draught, you must drink. According to the ancient Jewish legend, which Paul in one of his letters refers to, about this very miracle, you must have the Rock following you all through your desert pilgrimage, and you must drink daily and hourly, by continual faith, love, and communion.
IV. We have here not only these points, but a fourth. Christ’s promise.
‘He that believeth on Me, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.’ That is one case of the universal law that a man who trusts Christ becomes like the Christ whom he trusts. Derivatively and by impartation, no doubt, but still the man who has gone to that Rock, to the springing fountain as it pushes forth, receives into himself an inward life by the communication of Christ’s divine Spirit, so that he has in him a fountain ‘springing up into life everlasting.’ The Book of Proverbs says, ‘The good man shall be satisfied from himself,’ but the good man is only satisfied from himself when he can say, ‘I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me,’ and from that better self he will be satisfied.
So we may have a well in the courtyard, and may be able to bear in ourselves the fountain of water, and where the divine life of Christ by His Spirit has through faith been implanted within us, it will come out from us. There is a question for you Christian people-do any rivers of living water flow out of you? If they do not, it is to be doubted whether you have drunk of the fountain. There are many professing Christians who are like the foul little rivers that pass under the pavements in Manchester, all impure, and covered over so that nobody sees them. ‘Out of him shall flow rivers of living water’-that is Christ’s way of communicating the blessing of eternal life to the world-by the medium of those who have already received it. Christian men and women, if your faith has brought the life into you, see to it that approaching Christ, and appropriating Christ, and adhering to Christ, you are becoming assimilated to Christ, and in your daily life, God’s grace fructifying through you to all, are ‘become as rivers of water in a dry place, and the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.’
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MacLaren, Alexander. "Commentary on John 7". MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture. https://studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent