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How to Pray

How to Pray

by R. A. Torrey

Contents

Chapter 1.       The Importance of Prayer

Chapter 2.       Praying Unto God

Chapter 3.       Obeying and Praying

Chapter 4.       Praying in the Name of Christ and According to the Will of God

Chapter 5.       Praying in the Spirit

Chapter 6.       Always Praying and Not Fainting

Chapter 7.       Abiding in Christ

Chapter 8.       Praying with Thanksgiving

Chapter 9.       Hindrances to Prayer

Chapter 10.     When to Pray

Chapter 11.     The Need of a General Revival

Chapter 12.     The Place of Prayer Before and During Revivals

Torrey, R. A. (1900). How to pray. Chicago; New York: Fleming H. Revell company. (Public Domain)

The Word of God Quick and Powerful

The Word of God Quick and Powerful

Heb. 4:12. The word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

THE state of a Christian’s mind should be alike distant from slavish fear and from presumptuous confidence. He is authorized to entertain a confidence, because he has Omnipotence for his support, and the veracity of God pledged to supply him with all that is needful for his spiritual welfare. But he has need of fear also; because he is in the midst of temptations, and has a deceitful heart, ever ready to beguile him. In the view of his privileges, he may rejoice: but in the view of his dangers, he should tremble. In a word, he should, as David expresses it, “rejoice with trembling.” This frame of mind is supposed by many to be unsuited to that full liberty into which we are brought under the Christian dispensation. But St. Paul continually inculcates the necessity of it in order to a safe and upright walk: “Be not high-minded, but fear:” “Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall.” But in no place of Scripture is this mixture of diffidence and affiance more strongly insisted on than in this and the preceding chapters. We are taught the indispensable necessity of “holding fast the confidence, and the rejoicing of hope, firm unto the enda;” and yet we are again and again warned by the example of the Israelites, who were excluded from the promised land, lest we also should “fall after the same example of unbeliefb.” It is in this view that the declarations in our text are introduced. There is an abruptness in them which renders the meaning of the Apostle somewhat difficult at first: but when the connecting link is supplied, the sense of the passage is clear, and very important. It speaks to this effect: The Israelites thought they had sufficient grounds for their unbelief; yet it ruined them. You also may be deceived by an evil heart of unbelief: but, however you may vindicate yourselves, that word, which you now disobey, will judge you in the last day; and will both expose your self-delusion, and justify God in passing against you a sentence of exclusion from the promised land.

The scope of the passage being thus explained, we propose to consider,

I.    The description here given of the word of God—

Many able commentators have given it as their opinion, that, by “the word of God,” we are to understand the Lord Jesus Christ, who is frequently called by that name in the Holy Scriptures. But St. Paul never speaks of Christ by that name: nor is there any mention of Christ in the context. On the contrary, the word of revelation is mentioned, as that which the Israelites would not believec; as that also which excluded them from the promised restd; and as that which speaks to us precisely as it did to theme. And the different things spoken of it in the text are far more suited to the written word, than to the Lord Jesus Christ. To that, therefore, we limit the description before us. Its properties are set forth,

1.   In figurative terms—

It is “quick,” that is, a living word. Our blessed Lord represents it in the same view: “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are lifef.” And it is the very same term which Stephen also makes use of, when he calls the Scriptures “the lively oraclesg.” The word is not a mere dead letter, that will soon vanish away: it lives in the mind of God: it lives in the decrees of heaven: it liveth and will live for ever: nor will millions of ages cause it to be forgotten, or in the least enervate its force. All besides this shall wax old, and decay: but this shall endure, without the alteration of one jot or tittle of it, to all generationsh.

It is also “powerful.” ear the appeal which God himself makes to us respecting it: “Is not my word like as a fire? saith the Lord: and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in piecesi?” Yes: there is nothing that can resist its force.

But in the text it is compared with “a two-edged sword,” which, how sharp soever it may be, cannot penetrate like that. Frequently is it characterized by this image, especially as proceeding from the mouth of the Lord Jesus Christk. Yet does that image give but a very faint idea of its power: for a sword, though it may inflict a mortal wound, would be utterly incapable of dividing, with accuracy, the almost imperceptible organs of the human frame: but the word can “pierce to the dividing asunder the joints and marrow, yea, and the animal soul also from the rational spirit.” By this is meant, that there is nothing so hidden, which it cannot detect; nothing so blended, which it cannot discriminate.

This the Apostle proceeds to set forth,

2.   In plain language—

The word is “a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Of the unregenerate man it is said, that “every imagination of the thoughts of his heart is only evil continuallyl.” The regenerate are “renewed in the spirit of their minds.” But still they are not so renewed, but that some imperfection cleaves to all which they do: there is something in every thought and every purpose of the human heart, something which still shews that man is a fallen creature, and which cannot stand the strict scrutiny of God’s all-seeing eye. If he lay judgment for a line, and righteousness for a plummet, there is not anything in which there will not be found some obliquity. Such a perfect standard is the word of God: “it will discern between the good and evil that is in the most holy thought of the most perfect of men.” In the hand of “the Spirit, whose sword it ism,” its power is infinite, even though it be wielded by the feeblest arm. In the hand of the prophets, it “hewed” the hypocritial Jews in piecesn. In the hand of the Apostles, it pierced thousands to the heart at onceo. In the hand of ordinary ministers, it has still the same power, and can so detect all the secret thoughts of men’s hearts, as to evince that, it is indeed the very word of God himselfp,———and through him is still, as much as ever, “mighty to the casting down of the most haughty imaginations, and to the bringing of every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christq.”

But that which gives to this description its force, is,

II.   The end for which it is adduced—

The Apostle means to say, that, however secret the workings of unbelief may be, they will all be detected and condemned by the word in the last day. Now,

Unbelief is a most subtle sin—

It has ten thousand pleas and pretexts by which it clokes its malignity, and justifies to the mind and conscience its operations. See it in the Jews, whom it deceived to their ruin. There was always some great trial, some apparently insuperable difficulty in their way. They supposed that God would make all their way easy, and that they should have nothing to try their faith and patience. Hence they construed every difficulty as a violation of God’s promises, and a prelude to his final dereliction of them. Hence also they made their appeals upon this subject with as much confidence, as if their conclusions were undeniable: and the chastisements which they received for their impiety only increased their complaints, as though, in addition to the disappointments of their legitimate expectations, they were treated with undeserved cruelty. Thus it is with us: we hide from ourselves, or rather we justify to ourselves, the workings of unbelief. Its operations all seem to us to be founded in truth and equity. If we look at God’s threatenings, it cannot be that they should ever be executed, because such a procedure would be inconsistent with the Divine perfections, and an act of injustice towards man. If the promises of God be the object to which our attention is turned, they are too great, and too good to be performed; or at least, that they are not intended for such sinners as we. Besides, they are so far out of our sight, as to have, in our conceptions, little or no reality, in comparison of the objects of time and sense. Other sins we excuse as acts of frailty: but this we justify, as an act of wisdom.

But, how subtle soever our unbelief may be, the word of God will discover and condemn it—

The word of God is so comprehensive, that there is not in the whole creation a thought or purpose that does not come within its ranger: and it is so minute, that there is not the slightest “imagination of a thought,” of which it does not take cognizance. It is spiritual, even as the Author of it himself is spiritual; and, when it is brought home with power to the soul, it convinces a man of sins of which he had before not the least conceptions. As by a chemical process the constituent parts of material bodies may be discovered, so by the application of the word to our souls in the last day will every thought be decompounded, as it were, and its every particle of good or evil be disclosedt. The fire that will try us will search the inmost recesses of the soul, and determine, with infallible precision, the quality of the most latent imagination thereu. Of this we have an earnest in the events which happened to the Jews in consequence of their unbelief. Thus, God addresses them by the Prophet Zechariah: “our fathers, where are they? and the prophets, do they live forever? But my words and my statutes which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not take hold of your fathers? and they returned and said, Like as the Lord of Hosts thought to do unto us, according to our ways and according to our doings, so hath he dealt with usx.” And the very same confession will, assuredly, be made in the last day by the most confident unbeliever in the universe: “His sin shall surely find him outy;” and it shall then be seen, “whose word shall stand, God’s or hisz.” The counsels of every heart shall then be made manifesta;” and God be justified before the whole universe in the sentence that he shall passb.

From hence we may see—

1.   How attentive we should be to the word of God—

Would we but inspect it with humility and care, it would be as a glass to reflect our own image, in a way that nothing else can doc. And, is it not madness to neglect the opportunity it affords us of learning our true character, and of ascertaining, beforehand, the sentence of our Judge? To what purpose is it to deceive our own souls? Will that word be altered? Will any other standard be brought forward whereby to estimate our state? Or shall we be able either to dispute its testimony, or avert its sentence? Dear brethren, remember the description given of it in our text: think how unavailing all your pleas and excuses will be, when its voice shall be raised against you: and now, ere it be too late, take it as a light to search all the secret corners of your heartsd, and to guide your feet into the way of peace.

2.   How fearful we should be of unbelief—

As there is no grace which so honors God, as faith, so there is no sin which so dishonors him, as unbelief. Other sins, though they oppose his authority, do not deny his right to command: but unbelief questions the very existence of his truth. Hence does St. John so frequently speak of it, as “making God a liare.” Ah! little do the sceptic and the unbeliever think what guilt they contract: and little do they imagine what chains they are forging for their own souls! How, I would ask, will any man get his sins forgiven? it can only be by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; and by a living faith too: for it is not a dead faith that will suffice; but such a faith as unites the soul to Christ, and derives out of his fulness all that grace, and mercy, and peace which we stand in need of. Most awful is that declaration of God, that “all the fearful and unbelieving shall have their part in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone; which is the second deathf.” Whether we believe this or not, it will prove true in the end: and the sentence, once denounced against Israel with an oath, shall again be repeated against all that abide in unbelief; “I swear in my wrath, that they shall not enter into my rest.”

3.   How earnestly we should pray to God for the gift of his Spirit—

It is by the Spirit of God alone that we can either “be convinced of unbeliefg,” or be enabled to exercise a living faithh. O! beg of God to give you his Spirit. Seek it in earnest; and you shall not ask in vaini. It is the Spirit’s office to “take of the things that are Christ’s, and to shew them unto youk.” It is his office to make the word effectual to your souls: for it is then only effectual, when “it comes in demonstration of the Spirit and of powerl.” Read not then, nor hear, the word in dependence on your own strength; but cry mightily to God to bring it home to your hearts “with power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurancem.” Then shall you experience its life-giving efficacy, and find it “the power of God to the salvation of your soulsn.”[1]

 

 

a Heb. 3:6.

b ver. 1, 11.

c ver. 2.

d Heb. 3:7–11.

e ver. 7–9.

f John 6:63.

g Acts 7:38.

h 1 Pet. 1:23–25.

i Jer. 23:29.

k Isai. 49:2. Rev. 1:16.

l Gen. 6:5.

m Eph. 6:17.

n Hos. 6:5.

o Acts 2:37.

p 1 Cor. 14:24, 25.

q 2 Cor. 10:4, 5.

r Ps. 119:96.

s Rom. 7:9, 14.

t John 12:48.

u 1 Cor. 3:13.

x Zech. 1:5, 6.

y Numb. 32:23.

z Jer. 44:28.

a 1 Cor. 4:5.

b Ps. 51:4. with Rom. 3:4.

c Jam. 1:23, 24.

d John 3:19–21. Prov. 20:27.

e 1 John 2:22. and 5:10.

f Rev. 21:8.

g John 16:8, 9.

h Eph. 2:8. Phil. 1:29.

i Luke 11:13.

k John 16:14.

l 1 Cor. 2:4.

m 1 Thess. 1:5.

n Rom. 1:16.

[1] Simeon, C. (1833). Horae Homileticae: 2 Timothy to Hebrews (Vol. 19, pp. 204–210). London: Holdsworth and Ball. (Public Domain)

The Jew, The Gentile, and the Church of God

The Jew, The Gentile, and the Church of God

“Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God,” (1 Corinthians 10:32, NKJV)

WHOEVER reads the Bible with any attention cannot fail to perceive that more than half of its contents relate to one nation—the Israelites. He perceives, too, that they have a very distinct place in the dealings and counsels of God. Separated from the mass of mankind, they are taken into covenant with Jehovah, who gives them specific promises not given to any other nation. Their history alone is told in Old Testament narrative and prophecy—other nations being mentioned only as they touch the Jew. It appears, also, that all the communications of Jehovah to Israel as a nation relate to the Earth. If faithful and obedient, the nation is promised earthly greatness, riches, and power; if unfaithful and disobedient, it is to be scattered “among all people, from one end of the earth even to the other.” Deut. 28:64. Even the promise of the Messiah is of blessing to “all the families of the Earth.”

Continuing his researches, the student finds large mention in Scripture of another distinct body, which is called the Church. This body, also, has a peculiar relation to God, and, like Israel, has received from Him specific promises. But there similarity ends, and the most striking contrast begins. Instead of being formed of the natural descendants of Abraham alone, it is a body in which the distinction of Jew and Gentile is lost. Instead of the relation being one of mere covenant, it is one of birth. Instead of obedience bringing the reward of earthly greatness and wealth, the Church is taught to be content with food and raiment, and to expect persecution and hatred, and it is perceived that just as distinctly as Israel stands connected with temporal and earthly things, so distinctly does the Church stand connected with spiritual and heavenly things.

Further, Scripture shows him that neither Israel nor the Church always existed. Each had a recorded beginning. That of Israel he finds in the call of Abram. Looking then for the birth of the Church he finds (contrary, perhaps, to his expectations, for he has probably been taught that Adam and the Patriarchs are in the Church) that it certainly did not exist before, nor during, the earth-life of Christ, for he finds Him speaking of His Church as yet future when He says (Matt. 16:18), “Upon this rock I will build my Church.”

Not “have built,” nor “am building,” but “will build.”

He finds, too, from Eph. 3:5–10, that the Church is not once mentioned in Old Testament prophecy, but was, in those ages, a mystery “hid in God.” Scripturally, he finds the birth of the Church in Acts 2, and the termination of its career on the earth in 1 Thes. 4.

The student also finds, in the scriptural division of the race, another class, rarely mentioned, and distinguished in every respect from either Israel or the Church—the Gentiles. The comparative position of the Jew, the Gentile, and the Church may be briefly seen in the following scriptures:

The Jew.

 

The Gentile.

 

The Church.

 

Rom. 9:4, 5.

 

Eph. 2:11, 12.

 

Eph. 1:22, 23.

 

John 4:22.

 

Eph. 4:17, 18.

 

Eph. 5:29–33.

 

Rom. 3:1, 2.

 

Mark 7:27, 28.

 

1 Pet. 2:9.

 

Comparing, then, what is said in Scripture concerning Israel and the Church, he finds that in origin, calling, promise, worship, principles of conduct, and future destiny—all is contrast.

Calling

Israel.

 

Church.

 

Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee. Gen. 12:1.

 

Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling. Hebrews 3:1.

For our citizenship is in heaven. Phil. 3:20. R. V.

 

For the Lord thy God bringeth thee into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills;

 

And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. Matt. 8:20.

 

A land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig-trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil olive, and honey;

 

To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you. 1 Pet. 1:4.

 

A land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness. Deut. 8:7–9.

And he said, I am Abraham’s servant. And the Lord hath blessed my master greatly, and he is become great; and he hath given him flocks, and herds, and silver, and gold, and men-servants, and maid-servants, and camels, and asses. Gen. 24:34, 35.

The Lord shall cause thine enemies that rise up against thee to be smitten before thy face: they shall come out against thee one way, and flee before thee seven ways. Deut. 28:7.

And the Lord shall make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath. Deut. 28:13.

 

Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling-place. 1 Cor. 4:11.

And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! Mark 10:23.

Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? James 2:5.

They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. John 16:2.

Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Matt. 18:4.

 

Of course it is not meant that a godly Jew did not, at death, go to Heaven. The distinction is that the incentive to godliness in his case was earthly reward, not heavenly. It should be needless to say that, in this Dispensation, neither Jew nor Gentile can be saved otherwise than by the exercise of that faith on the Lord Jesus Christ whereby both are born again (John 3:3, 16) and are baptized into that “one body” (1 Cor. 12:13) which is “the Church” (Eph. 1:22, 23). In the Church the distinction of Jew and Gentile disappears. (1 Cor. 12:13, Gal. 3:28, Eph. 2:14, Eph. 2:11, “in time past Gentiles.” 1 Cor. 12:2, R. V., “when ye were Gentiles.”)

The contrast between Israel and the Church further appears in the rules given for the Conduct of each. Compare:

Israel.

 

Church.

 

When the Lord thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee … thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them: thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them. Deut. 7:1, 2.

 

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you. Matt. 5:44.

Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it; being defamed, we intreat. 1 Cor. 4:12, 13.

 

Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe. Exodus 21:24, 25.

 

But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. Matt. 5:39.

 

Also,

 

 

 

Deut. 21:18–21.

 

Luke 15:20–23.

 

In the appointments for Worship we still find contrast. Israel could worship in but one place, and at a distance from God—only approaching Him through a priest. The Church worships wherever two or three are gathered, has boldness to enter into the holiest, and is composed of priests. Compare:

Lev. 17:8, 9

 

with

 

Matt. 18:20.

 

Luke 1:10

 

with

 

Heb. 10:19, 20.

 

Num. 3:10

 

with

 

1 Pet. 2:5.

 

In the predictions concerning the Future of Israel and the Church the distinction is still more startling. The Church will be taken away from the earth entirely, but restored Israel is yet to have her greatest earthly splendor and power. See,

The Church

In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. John 14:2, 3.

For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive, and remain unto the coming of the Lord, shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 1 Thess. 4:15–17.

For our citizenship is in heaven; from whence also we wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall fashion anew the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed to the body of his glory. Phil. 3:20, 21. R. V.

Beloved, now are we the sons of God; and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. 1 John 3:2.

Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. Rev. 19:7–9.

Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. Rev. 20:6.

Israel

And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Luke 1:31–33.

(Of these seven promises to Mary five have already been literally fulfilled. By what rule of interpretation are we authorized to say that the remaining two will not be so fulfilled?)

Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up. Acts 15:14–16.

I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree; how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree? For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob. Romans 11:1, 11, 24–26.

And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people.…

And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth. Isa. 11:11, 12.

For the Lord will have mercy on Jacob and will yet choose Israel, and set them in their own land: and the strangers shall be joined with them, and they shall cleave to the house of Jacob. Isa. 14:1. Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that it shall no more be said, The Lord liveth that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; but, The Lord liveth that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the lands whither he had driven them: and I will bring them again into the land that I gave unto their fathers. Jer. 16:14, 15. Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely; and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. Jer. 23:5, 6.

Behold, I will gather them out of all countries whither I have driven them in mine anger, and in my fury, and in great wrath; and I will bring them again unto this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God. Jer. 32:37, 38.

Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem. The Lord hath taken away thy judgments, he hath cast out thine enemy: the King of Israel, even the Lord, is in the midst of thee: thou shalt not see evil any more. Zeph. 3:14, 15.

It may safely be said that the Judaizing of the Church has done more to hinder her progress, pervert her mission, and destroy her spirituality, than all other causes combined. Instead of pursuing her appointed path of separation, persecution, world-hatred, poverty, and non-resistance, she has used Jewish Scripture to justify her in lowering her purpose to the civilization of the world, the acquisition of wealth, the use of an imposing ritual, the erection of magnificent churches, the invocation of God’s blessing upon the conflicts of armies, and the division of an equal brotherhood into “clergy” and “laity.”

Specify Alternate Text

Ecclesiastes 12:1

Remember Also Your Creator

“Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, Before the difficult days come, And the years draw near when you say, “I have no pleasure in them”:” (Ecclesiastes 12:1, NKJV)

“Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”;” (Ecclesiastes 12:1, ESV)

“Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, Before the difficult days come, And the years draw near when you say, “I have no pleasure in them”:” (Ecclesiastes 12:1, NKJV)

“Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years approach when you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”;” (Ecclesiastes 12:1, NASB 2020)

“Don’t let the excitement of youth cause you to forget your Creator. Honor him in your youth before you grow old and say, “Life is not pleasant anymore.”” (Ecclesiastes 12:1, NLT)


As Ec 11:9, 10 showed what youths are to shun, so this verse shows what they are to follow.

Creator—“Remember” that thou art not thine own, but God’s property; for He has created thee (Ps 100:3). Therefore serve Him with thy “all” (Mk 12:30), and with thy best days, not with the dregs of them (Pr 8:17; 22:6; Je 3:4; La 3:27). The Hebrew is “Creators,” plural, implying the plurality of persons, as in Genesis 1:26; so Hebrew, “Makers” (Is 54:5).

while … not—that is, before that (Pr 8:26) the evil days come; namely, calamity and old age, when one can no longer serve God, as in youth (Ec 11:2, 8).

no pleasure—of a sensual kind (2 Sa 19:35; Ps 90:10). Pleasure in God  Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 1, p. 413). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc. (Public Domain)

INSTRUCTION may profitably be given in a variety of ways: indeed, in order to be effectual, it must be accommodated in some measure to the dispositions and habits of the persons addressed. To one who is wayward and self-willed, the pungency of irony may be well applied; whilst with the tractable and docile, the more simple and direct way of affectionate exhortation may be of more avail. Both these methods are adopted by Solomon in the passage before us. In the verses immediately preceding our text, he addresses a young man whom he supposes to be bent on the prosecution of his evil ways: “Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth, and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will call thee into judgment.” Then, after a serious admonition to avoid the evils which ungovernable passions will bring upon him, he affectionately exhorts him to devote his early life to the exercises of true piety.

It is observed by some, that the word which in our text is rendered “thy Creator,” is, in the original, in the plural number, “thy Creators:” and the passage in that view is supposed to mark the concurrence of the three Persons in the ever-blessed Trinity, in the formation of man; according to what is written in the book of Genesis, “Let us make man in our imagea.” But without drawing your attention to any observations of a critical nature, I shall endeavor simply to shew you,

I.    What is implied in “remembering our Creator”—

Of course, it cannot be supposed that it is a mere act of the memory which is here recommended, but such a remembrance as befits the relation in which we stand to him as his creatures. We should remember then,

1.   His authority over us—

As the work of his hands, we have received from him all our powers, whether of mind or body. It is of his bounty alone that we have been endowed with the faculty of reason, which elevates us above all the rest of this lower world, and brings us into a near conformity with that higher order of created intelligences, the holy angels. But for what purpose has he thus distinguished us, but that we might render him services worthy both of our present state, and our future destinies? “He has formed us for himself, that we might shew forth his praise.” This is the end for which we are to live: nor is anything on earth to divert us from the course which HE has marked out for us. Obedience, it is true, is due to our parents, and to all others whom the providence of God has placed over us: but the authority of the creature must always be regarded as subordinate to that of our Creator; and, if at any time the will of man stand opposed to the will of God, we must then reply, “Whether it be right to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.” Whatever solicitations we may have from without or from within to violate any part of God’s revealed will, we must withstand them manfully, and resist them even unto death. Knowing that “we are not our own, but God’s, we must glorify him with our bodies and our spirits, which are his.”

2.   The commands he has given us—

We will not here enter into the different commandments of the law, but draw your attention rather to that great commandment of the Gospel to believe in Christ: “This is his commandment,” says St. John, “that ye believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christb.” This command should be had in constant remembrance. It is addressed to every child of man. There is no one so innocent, as not to need a Savior; nor any one so guilty, but that he may, through penitence and faith, obtain an interest in that Savior, whom God has provided for a ruined world. Do not imagine, my young friends, that you are not concerned in this, or that it will be time enough for you to attend to it, when you shall feel a greater need of mercy. You all are sinners: you all have a consciousness within yourselves that you have done many things which you ought not, and left undone many things which you ought to have done: you therefore have in your own bosoms a witness that you need a Savior: and as in the presence of the Most High God, I declare unto you, that there is no mercy for the young, any more than for the old, but in the name, and through the mediation, of Jesus Christ: “there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we can be saved, but the name of Jesus Christ.” Go then to this Savior, and implore mercy at his hands. Look to him as dying for your sins, and “as reconciling you to God by the blood of his cross.” Let every one of you from day to day wash in the fountain of his blood, and clothe yourselves with the robe of his unspotted righteousness, and live altogether upon “his fulness, receiving out of it” continual supplies of all needful grace.

3.   His continual presence with us—

“God is in every place, beholding the evil and the good,” and wherever you are, you should see, as it were, this inscription written, “Thou God seest mec.” This is a point which you should never forget for one single moment: for it is only by bearing this in mind that you will be kept from the indulgence of secret sins. When no human eye is upon us, we are apt to think that we may give a greater latitude to our conduct: but we should remember that the darkness is no darkness with God, but the night and the day to him are both alike: “there is no darkness nor shadow of death where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves.” Oh, if you bear this in remembrance, you will never do what you know to be wrong, nor utter what you know to be false: you will act in all things as in the immediate presence of your God, and will do nothing but what you believe to be good and acceptable in his sight.

4.   His determination to judge us in the last day—

God “has appointed a day wherein he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he has ordained, even by his Son Jesus Christ.” In that day all shall be summoned to his judgment-seat, the old and the young, the rich and the poor: not one that has ever been born into the world shall then be absent: the child that died in the birth, as well as the man of a hundred years old, shall be summoned to receive his everlasting doom, according to what they have done in the body, whether it be good or evil. To those who die before they have attained the knowledge of good and evil, we doubt not but that the mercy of God will be extended: but to those who have lived to your age, judgment or mercy will be dispensed according as you have remembered or forgotten God. Most awful is that declaration of the Psalmist, “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget Godd.” If you have forgotten his authority over you, and especially his command to believe in his Son Jesus Christ; if you have forgotten that his eye was always upon you, inspecting your most secret thoughts, and noting them down in order to his future judgment; and if you have lived without any concern about the sentence that shall then be passed upon you; it will indeed be an awful day to you, a commencement of such misery as no words can describe, no imagination can conceive. Remember then that God marks down in the book of his remembrance your every act, and every word, and every thought; and that it is your wisdom so to live, that, whether called at an earlier or later period of life, you may give up your account to him with joy, and not with grief.

Such is the duty of all without exception: but the text requires me more particularly to shew,

II.   Why we should thus remember him in early life—

It were easy to accumulate reasons on so plain a point: but we shall content ourselves with assigning a few of the most obvious;

1.   This is the most favorable time—

It is of the nature of sin to harden the heart and to sear the conscience: and therefore the less we have been habituated to sin, the more hope there is that a good impression may be made upon our minds. We cannot agree with those who represent the hearts of youth as a sheet of white paper, on which you may write either good or evil: for, alas! there is evil, not merely written, but inscribed there in a most abundant measure, and in characters that are almost indelible: but we cordially accede to this truth, that the young are as yet only like plants sprouting from the earth, pliable and easy to be trained; whilst at a more advanced age they become like trees, which retain their form, unyielding, and unmoved. From the very employments too of men in more advanced life, there arise many disadvantages: being drawn to a more vigorous pursuit of earthly things, they are, not unfrequently, so oppressed with “the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lust of other things, that the good seed which has been sown in them, cannot grow up unto perfection.” But from these things young people are comparatively free. Besides, at this season they have an express promise from God, which they cannot plead in future lifee: and therefore in a variety of views they may well consider this as “the most convenient season” for piety that can ever occur.

2.   It may, for aught we know, be the only time that shall be allotted us—

The youngest and the healthiest amongst us may be speedily removed. Let any one survey the monuments that surround him, and he will see that multitudes have been cut off at his age, though once they appeared as likely to live as any who have survived him. And what if disease or accident arrest you before you have truly devoted yourselves to God? Will you have any opportunity to repair your error in the grave? “Is there any work or device there,” by which you can accomplish what here was left undone? No: “as the tree falleth, so it lieth:” and as you die, in a converted or unconverted state, so you must remain forever. “To-day then, while it is called to-day, harden not your hearts,” as the generality, alas! are but too prone to do.

3.   No other thing in the universe can so contribute to our present happiness—

It is quite a mistake to imagine that happiness can be found in the vanities of time and sense. From infallible authority we can declare that everything under the sun is mere “vanity and vexation of spirit.” But in the service of God there is real joy: his ways are all, without exception, “ways of pleasantness and peace:” and “in keeping his commandments there is great reward.” Ask any one whether he ever regretted that he had given himself up to God too soon? We have heard of men, even of good men, as Job and Jeremiah, cursing the day of their birth: but whoever cursed the day of his new birth? At every period of life this is a subject that will bear reflection and impart delight: and in proportion as we grow in piety will our joy in God be increased.

4.   There will certainly come a time when we shall wish we had sought the Lord in early life—

The text speaks of “evil days as coming:” and sooner or later they are coming to all. There is a time of sickness or old age coining, “wherein we shall have no pleasure” in earthly things: and shall we not then wish, that we had sought the Lord in our youth? Shall we then look back with pleasure on the sins that we have committed, or on the vanities that have kept us from God? Nothing but the consolations of God will then be of any avail to make us happy amidst the evils, which, from pain or debility, we shall have to sustain. But there is a time of death also which we must meet: and what will be our thoughts at that period? Then it will be of little moment to us what joys or sorrows we have met with in our former life. All our anxiety will be about the future. Oh! with what force will that question press upon the mind, “Am I ready? Am I prepared to meet my God?” How different will our feelings then be, according as we have given up ourselves to God in our early youth, or put off the work of our souls to a dying hour! and what an unfit season will that be to begin that work! Go one step farther: follow the soul into the eternal world: view it standing at the judgment-seat of Christ: What will be its feelings at that day? I need not say: your own consciences will tell you. At this moment, even though you choose not to live the life of the righteous, you are saying inwardly in your hearts, “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his.” Then, as these times must come, let us work while it is day, knowing assuredly, that the night is coming when no man can work, and when we shall bitterly lament, that ever we lost this day of our visitation, and neglected the things belonging to our everlasting peace.

Address—

1.   The younger part of our audience—

You are now going to take upon you the vows that were made in your behalf in baptismf. “Now” therefore more particularly “remember God.” Remember, that he sees the way in which you perform this duty: he sees whether you endeavor truly to approve yourselves to him, or whether you only mock him by a thoughtless compliance with an established form. Go to him, and surrender up yourselves wholly to him, as “the first-fruits of his creatures,” and you will have reason to bless God to all eternity that ever you were called to perform this solemn service. But, if you go without any sincere desire to devote yourselves to him, you will only harden your own hearts, and increase the guilt you have already contracted. “Let me however hope better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.” Yes, dearly Beloved, we will hope, respecting some of you at least, that we “have not bestowed upon you labor in vain.”

2.   To those who have grown to man’s estate—

Every argument used with the young, presses with additional weight on you, and says, with greatly augmented force, “Remember NOW thy Creator.” If in your earlier days you were led to comply with this advice, I will venture to ask, Do you repent of having done so? Is not the chief matter of your regret, that you did not give yourselves up to him at a yet easier period, and that you have not adhered more steadfastly to the engagements you entered into? If you have, on the contrary, advanced in the Divine life, and grown from babes to young men, or from young men to fathers, does not that afford you matter of very exalted joy? Go on then, “forgetting what is behind, and reaching forward to that which is before:” and know that, “when the days arrive in which you shall say, you have no pleasure in them,” you shall experience “a joy with which the stranger intermeddleth not;” which this world can neither give nor take away; and which shall be to you a pledge and earnest of everlasting felicity in the bosom of your God.[1]

 

 

a Gen. 1:26.

b 1 John 3:23.

c Gen. 16:13.

d Ps. 9:17.

e Prov. 8:17.

f Confirmation.

[1] Simeon, C. (1833). Horae Homileticae: Proverbs to Isaiah XXVI (Vol. 7, pp. 409–415). London: Holdsworth and Ball. (Public Domain)

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Pilate: What is Truth?

Pilate:  What is Truth?

"Pilate saith unto Him, what is truth?

St. John is especially distinguished among the four evangelists for his subtle delineation of character. We do not commonly remember—it costs us an effort to remember—how very largely we are indebted to the fourth gospel for our conceptions of the chief personages who bear a part in evangelical history, where those conceptions are most clear and distinct. If we analyze the sources of our information, we find again and again that while something is told us about particular persons in the other evangelists, yet it is St. John who gives those touches to the picture which make it stand out with its own individuality as a real, living, speaking man. The other evangelist will record a name, or, perhaps, an incident; St. John will add one or two sayings; and the whole person is instinct with life. The character flashes out in half-a-dozen words. “From the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” So it is with Philip, with Thomas, with Mary and Martha, and with several others who might be named. This vividness of portraiture is our strongest assurance, if assurance were needed, that the narrative was indeed written by him whose name it bears—by the beloved disciple and eye-witness himself. For, observe, there is no effort at delineation of character; there is no delineation of character at all, properly so called. The evangelist does not describe the persons whom he introduces; they describe themselves. The incidental act, the incidental movement or gesture, the incidental saying, tells the tale. That which he had heard, that which he had looked upon and his eyes had seen, that which his hands had handled of the Word of Life—that and that only he declared.

Pilate furnishes a remarkable illustration of this feature in St. John’s gospel. Pilate is the chief agent in the crowning scene of evangelical history. He is necessarily a prominent figure in all the four narratives of this crisis. In the first three gospels we learn much about him. We find him there, as we find him in St. John, at cross purposes with the Jews. He is represented there, not less than by St. John, as giving an unwilling consent to the judicial murder of Jesus. His Roman sense of justice is too strong to allow him to yield without an effort. His personal courage is too weak to persevere in the struggle when the consequences threaten to become inconvenient. He is timid, politic, and time-serving, as represented by all alike. He has just enough conscience to wish to shake off the responsibility, but far too little conscience to shrink from committing the sin. But in St. John’s narrative we pierce far below the surface. Here he is revealed to us as the sarcastic, cynical worldling, who doubts everything, distrusts everything, and despises everything. He has an intense scorn for the Jews, and yet he has a craven dread of them. He has a certain professional regard for justice, and yet he has no real belief in truth or honor. Throughout he manifests a malicious irony in his conduct at this crisis. There is a lofty scorn in his answer when he repudiates any sympathy with the accusers. “Am I a Jew?” There is a sarcastic pity in the question which he addresses to the Prisoner before him, “Art Thou the King of the Jews? Art Thou, then, a king—Thou poor, weak, helpless fanatic, whom with a single word I could doom to death?” He is half-bewildered with the incongruity of the claim; and yet there is a certain propriety that a wild enthusiast should assert his sovereignty over a nation of bigots; so he sarcastically adopts the title. “Will you that I release unto you the King of the Jews?” Even when, at length, he is obliged to yield to the popular clamor, he will at least have his revenge by a studied contempt. “Behold your King! Shall I crucify your King?” And to the very last moment he indulges his cynical scorn. The title on the cross was, indeed, unconsciously, a proclamation of a Divine truth; but in its immediate purpose and intent it was the mere gratification of Pilate’s sarcastic humor. “Jesus of Nazareth.” Could any good thing come out of Nazareth? “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” He has sacrificed his honor to them, but he will not sacrifice his contempt. “What I have written, I have written.”

But it is more especially in the sentence which I have chosen for my text that the whole character of the man is revealed. The Prisoner before him had accepted the title of a King. He based His claim to this title on the fact that He had come to bear witness of the truth. He declared that those who were themselves of the truth would acknowledge His claim. They were His rightful subjects; they were the enfranchised citizens of His kingdom.

Strange language this, in the ears of a cynical, worldly sceptic, to whom the most attractive hope of humanity was a judicious admixture of force and fraud. “Pilate saith unto Him, What is truth? And when he had said this he went out.” The altercation could be carried no farther. Was not human life itself one great query without an answer? What was truth? “Truth”? This helpless Prisoner claimed to be a King, and He appealed, forsooth, to His truthfulness as the credential of His sovereign rights! Was ever any claim more contradictory of all human experience, more palpably absurd, than this? “Truth”? When had truth anything to do with founding a kingdom? The mighty engine of imperial power, the armed scepter which ruled the world, whence came it? Certainly it owed nothing to truth. Had not Augustus established his sovereignty by an unscrupulous use of force, and maintained it by an astute use of artifice? And his successor, the present occupant of the imperial throne, was he not an arch dissembler, the darkest of all dark enigmas? The name of Tiberius was a byword for impenetrable disguise. Truth might do well enough for fools and enthusiasts; but for rulers, for diplomatists, for men of the world, it was the wildest of all wild dreams. “Truth”? What was truth? He had lived too long in the world to trust to any such hollow delusion. He had listened to the ceaseless din of philosophical disputations till he was weary of them. The Stoics, the Epicureans, the Platonists, all had their several specifics which they vended as truth. All were equally sure, and yet no two agreed.

He had witnessed, certainly not without contempt, and yet not altogether without dismay, the rising flood of foreign superstition—Greek, Syrian, Egyptian, Chaldean—which threatened to deluge the city and empire, and destroy all the ancient landmarks. Could he believe all or any of these? In this never-ending conflict of philosophical dogmas and religious creeds, what could he do but resign himself to skepticism, to indifference, to a cold and cynical scorn of all enthusiastic convictions and all definite beliefs? “What is truth?”

And yet as he turned away, neither expecting nor desiring an answer to a question which he had asked merely to end an inconvenient controversy, some uneasy misgivings, we may well suppose, flashed across the mind of this proud, sarcastic worldling, that he was now brought face to face with truth as he had never been brought before. There was a reality about every word and action of this Jewish Prisoner which arrested and overawed him. The calmness with which He urged His claims, the fearlessness with which He defied death, the impressive words, the still more impressive silence, the manifest innocence and rectitude of the Man, if he saw nothing more—these could not be without their effect even on a Pilate, steeped as he was in the moral recklessness and the religious despair of his age. At all events, he would serve the Man if he conveniently could.

But there had been also a nobler element in Pilate’s education than moral skepticism and religious unbelief. He was a Roman governor, and as a Roman governor he was an administrator of Roman law. It was their appreciation of law, their respect for law, their study of law, far more than anything else, which gave its greatness to the character of the Roman people. Even in the most degraded ages of their history, and with the worst individual types of men, this is the one bright spot which relieves the gloom. It is the nobler prerogative of law to set a standard clear, definite, and precise. I have no concern here with other obligations to the law which as Christians we are bound to acknowledge, though, speaking before the chief representatives of English law and justice, I cannot fail to be reminded of them this afternoon. But this exhibition of a moral standard is a gain which it is hardly possible to over-estimate. The standard will not always be the highest. From the nature of the case it cannot be so. Law deals with some departments of morality very imperfectly; with others it does not attempt to deal at all. But still, whenever it is felt, and so far as it penetrates, it creates an ideal, and begets a habit which will not be powerless even with the most indifferent and reckless of men. So it was with Pilate. Theological skepticism had eaten out his religious principles to the very core. Unscrupulous worldliness and self-seeking had shattered his moral constitution; but though his principles were gone, and his character was ruined, still he was haunted by some lingering sense of professional honor; still the magnificent ideal of Roman justice and Roman law rose up before him, and would not lightly be thrust aside. He pleads repeatedly for justice against the relentless accusers. Three times he declares the Prisoner’s innocence in the same explicit words—“I find no fault in Him.” Once and again he strives to shift the responsibility from his own shoulders to theirs. “Take ye Him and judge Him according to your law. Take ye Him and crucify Him.” But his efforts are all in vain. They will have none of this. The deed shall be done, and he shall do it.

It was not the first, and it would not be the last time that Pilate found himself in conflict with the Jews. For ten years he was governor of this turbulent, intractable people. This was an unusually long period of office under an Emperor like Tiberius, who was constantly changing his provincial governors from mere suspicion and distrust. It must have cost Pilate no little trouble to steer his course so long and so successfully, without foundering either on the suspicions of his jealous master here or on the bigotry of his stubborn subjects there. And yet he was constantly wounding the religious susceptibilities of the Jews. At one time he shocked them by bringing the military ensigns with the effigies of Cæsar within the walls of Jerusalem; at another he persisted in setting up some gilt shields, inscribed with a profane heathen dedication, in the palace of Herod within the holy precincts. In both cases he drove the Jews to the extreme verge of exasperation. In both cases he exhibits the same sarcastic and defiant scorn which is apparent here. In both cases their obstinate zeal or bigotry triumphs, as it triumphs here, and he is forced, in the end, to retrace his steps and to undo his deed.

So, then, this was only one brief episode in a protracted struggle between Pilate and the Jewish people. Doubtless, it seemed at the time quite insignificant compared with those other and fiercer conflicts in which he was engaged. It is passed over in silence by contemporary Jewish writers. It concerned the life of a single person only; it was settled in a single night; and yet it involved nothing less than the eternal destiny of all mankind.

        Ah, there is a terrible irony in God’s retributive justice, which so blinds a man to the true proportions of things. A single moment may do a wrong which centuries cannot repair. It is a dangerous thing to defy the truth. The majesty of truth is inviolable, and he who insults it in a moment of recklessness can never forecast the consequences. Time and space and notoriety are no measure of importance here. The most important criminal trial on record in the history of mankind was hurried through in two or three short hours, under cover of night and in the grey of early dawn.

This is the great lesson of Pilate’s crime. He was surprised by the truth; he found himself unexpectedly confronted by the truth; and he could not recognize it. His whole life long he had tampered with truth; he had despised truth; he had despaired of truth. Truth was the last thing which he had set before him as the main aim of life. He had thought much of policy, of artifice, of fraud, of force; but for truth in any of its manifold forms he had cared just nothing at all. And his sin had worked out its own retribution. Not truth only, but the very Truth itself, Truth incarnate, stood before him in a human form, and he was blind to it; he scorned it; he played with it; he thrust it aside; he condemned, and he gibbeted it. “Suffered under Pontius Pilate,” is the legend of eternal infamy with which history has branded his name.

So it is always. The Lord appears suddenly in His temple—in the shrine of the human heart and conscience; suddenly—at a time and in a form which we least expect. The truth visits us very frequently under the disguise of some common event, or some insignificant person. It surprises us, perhaps, in the accidental saying of some little child, or in the insidiousness of some mean temptation, or in the emergency of some trivial choice. It stands before us at once as our suppliant and our king. We fail to see its majesty veiled in its humble garb. We treat it as our prisoner when, in fact, it is our judge, and may become our gaoler. We flatter ourselves that we have power to condemn or to release it. We have no fault to find with it, but still we reject it; we crucify it; and before three days are gone it rises from its grave to bear eternal testimony against us. We could not see the truth, because we ourselves were not of the truth. Here in this judicial blindness is the warning of Pilate’s example. Like is drawn to like: like only understands like. The truth is only for the children of truth.

We must not, however, unduly narrow the sense of truth and of truthfulness. When our Lord called Himself the truth—when He declared that the truth should make us free, He meant very much more than is commonly understood by the word. Veracity is, indeed, truth; but it is only a small part of the truth. A man may be scrupulously veracious, strictly a man of honor; he may always say what he believes; he may always perform what he promises; and yet he may not be, in the highest sense, true. He may be the slave of a thousand unrealities. A genuine child of truth is very much more than a speaker of the truth. He is a doer of the truth, and a thinker of the truth, and a liver of the truth. He is frank, open, and real in all things. Reality is the very soul of his being. He cares for nothing which is hollow, shadowy, and superficial. Popularity, wealth, success, worldly ambition, and display are essentially unreal, because they are external, because they are transient. Therefore, he estimates them at their true value. The devotion of scientific men in pursuit of scientific truth wins our highest admiration. It is not without a thrill of national pride that we have just bidden God-speed to the gallant company which has started for the Arctic seas. To face untold hardships and possible death in such a cause is a worthy and noble aim, for these are realities. But obviously there are truths of far higher moment to the temporal and eternal well-being of man than the laws of electricity, or the causes of the Aurora, or the fauna of the Polar seas. Whence came I? Whither go I? What is sin? What is conscience? Is there a God in heaven? Is there a providence, a moral government, a judgment? Is there a redemption, a sanctification, a life eternal? These are the momentous, the pressing questions which a man can only shelve at his peril. Christ is the answer to all these questions. Therefore, He is the verity of verities. Therefore, He claims for Himself the title of the truth as His absolute and indefeasible right.

An incapacity to see the truth, when thus presented to us in its highest form, may arise from different causes. It may spring from bigoted partisanship, and religious pride, and obstinate formalism, as in the case of the Jews; or it may spring from cold cynicism, and worldliness, and dishonesty, as in the case of Pilate. These two conspire to crucify the truth. As we sow, so also shall we reap. Pilate’s life had been stained in untruthfulness. His government had been an alternation of violence and artifice. His aim had not been to rule uprightly, to rule generously, but to rule at any cost. He must calm the suspicions of his jealous master, and he must quell the turbulence of an unruly people. Whatever means would conduce to these ends were to him legitimate means. Uprightness, honor, frankness, generosity, truth—what were these to him? He had no belief in them, and why should he practice them? He projected his own motives into his estimate of mankind at large. He read the characters of others in the distorted mirror of his own consciousness. Human life, as he viewed it, was false from beginning to end. It was, after all, the reflection of his own falsehood which he saw. He was ever looking out for the unrealities of existence. He had no eye for its realities. Men’s convictions were their foibles: men’s beliefs were his playthings. Untruthfulness, cynicism, distrust, scorn, had withered his soul. They only will find the truth who believe that the truth may be found. Pilate had no such belief. He had gone through life asking, half in bitterness, half in jest, “What is truth?” He had asked it now again, and the question was fatal. Pilate’s temper of mind is a very real danger in an age like ours. Let us beware of thus jesting with truth, lest some time, like him, we crucify the truth unawares.

Lightfoot, J. B. (1890). The Contemporary Pulpit Library: Sermons. New York: Thomas Whittaker. (Public Domain)

The Water of Life Rev 22.17 John Bunyan.jpg

The Water of Life

The Water of Life

“And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely”—Revelation 22:17

Forward:

Often, and in every age, the children of God have dared to doubt the sufficiency of divine grace; whether it was vast enough to reach their condition—to cleanse them from the guilt of all their sins-and to fit their souls to dwell with infinite holiness in the mansions of the blessed. To solve these doubts—to answer these anxious inquiries, Bunyan wrote many of his works; for although he was a Boanerges, or son of thunder, to awaken the impenitent, he was eminently a Barnabas—a son of consolation—an evangelist to direct the trembling inquirer to Christ the way, the truth, and the life. He proclaims first, from his own experience, that there is “Grace abounding to the Chief of Sinners”; then he proclaims “Good News for the Vilest of Men, the Jerusalem Sinner is Saved”—“Christ is an Advocate”—“Christ is a complete Savior.” Every one is invited with a “Come and welcome to Jesus Christ.” There is “Justification by his Righteousness”—“Salvation by his Grace.” “He is a Throne of Grace” to which all are freely invited. Even “The Broken Heart is an acceptable sacrifice.” There is “The Holy City, New Jerusalem,” to receive such at the end of their pilgrimage, and directions amply given to the pilgrim to guide him in his progress to the celestial city; and he now introduces us to a majestic overflowing river, “The Water of Life,” sufficient for the refreshment and solace of the myriads of God’s saints who have lived from the creation, and will live until the final consummation of all things, when the prophet in holy vision saw “a great multitude which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, stand before the throne, and before the Lamb.” This work was the result of the author’s mature experience, being published by him during the last year of his eventful life. In it he refers to one of those ten excellent manuscripts left by him at his decease, prepared for the press, and afterwards published by Mr. Doe. It is called, The Saint’s Privilege and Profit. The way in which he alludes to this, as if it had been printed, shows that he had fully determined to publish it shortly, and this, if it was needed, would confirm our confidence in those treatises. He thus refers to it: “Because I have spoken of this thing, more particularly upon that text, ‘Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace,’ I shall therefore here say no more.”

Two things are rather extraordinary with regard to this valuable treatise on the Water of Life. One is, that although inserted in every list of our author’s works, both published by himself and by his friends after his decease, it escaped the researches of Doe, Wilson, Chandler, Whitfield, and others who collected and published Bunyan’s works, excepting only the edition with Mason’s notes, printed for A. Hogg about 1785. The other singular circumstance is, that although the separate treatises of Bunyan were all most wretchedly and inaccurately printed, the Water of Life has in this respect suffered more than any other of his works. A modern edition of this book, published at Derby by Thomas Richardson, is, without exception, the most erroneously printed of all books that have come under my notice. The Scriptures are misquoted—words are altered so as to pervert the sense—whole sentences and paragraphs, and even whole pages in three or four places, and, in one instance, four consecutive pages, are left out!!! I should be grieved if more penal enactments were added to our statutes, but surely there should be some punishment for such a crime as this. The other editions are more reputable, but very incorrect. One of them bears the imprint of “London, for James Bunyan, 1760.” Another has “London, sold by Baxter, Doolittle, & Burkit,” evidently fictitious names, adopted from those three great authors. The Pilgrim’s Progress was twice published by D. Bunyan, in Fleet Street, 1763 and 1768; and the Heavenly Footman, “London, sold by J. Bunyan, above the Monument.” All these are wretchedly printed, and with cuts that would disgrace an old Christmas carol. Thus the public have been imposed upon, and thus the revered name of Bunyan has been sacrificed to the cupidity of unprincipled men. Had his works been respectably printed they would have all been very popular and useful, and his memory have been still more venerated.

To attract his readers to come personally, and partake the blessings imparted by the water of life, Bunyan shows that, as a medicine, it alone is the specific to cure the sin-sick soul—all other applications must fail most fatally—“all other remedies come from and return to the Dead Sea”—while the water of life issues from, and leads the soul to, the throne of God. It cleanseth from the old leaven. The Divine Physician is ever ready to administer to the wearied soul. Be not misled by worldly-wisemen to take advice of the doctor’s boy, but go direct to Jesus; he is ready—he is willing to cure and save to the uttermost. His medicine may be sharp, but merely so as to effect the cure “where bad humors are tough and churlish.” “It revives where life is, and gives life where it is not. Take man from this river, and nothing can make him live: let him have this water and nothing can make him die.” The river of water of life allegorically represents the Spirit and grace of God; thus the truth is mercifully set before us, for “what is more free than water, and what more beneficial and more desirable than life?” Vast and majestic rivers convey but a faint idea of the immensity of Divine grace; in comparison with which “the most mighty mountain dwindles into the least ant’s egg or atom in the world.” A stream of grace issued from the same source during the patriarchal dispensation, and then mankind were directed to it by immediate revelation, or by the tradition of their fathers. It extended under the Jewish or Levitical law, in its course passing through the temple, issuing from under the threshold of God’s house, revealed by types, and shadows, and an earthly priesthood, and then “grace ran but slowly because Jesus was not glorified.” Now it flows like a majestic river from the throne of God, open to all, without limit of family or nation, revealed to every creature by the volume of inspiration. This water admits no mixture—it is pure and perfect as its origin—free as the air we breathe to sustain life. “There is no grudge, or a piece of an upbraiding speech heard therein.” Any attempt to mix with it human merits destroys all its efficacy. In it, and in it only, spiritual life, exciting to works of mercy, and giving sure hopes of immortal bliss, is to be found. God’s children can no more live separated from this river than fish can live out of water. As a fish, by natural instinct, avoids foul and unwholesome water, so a Christian has spiritual powers to judge of the purity of doctrine. Like the manna from heaven, and our daily bread, it must be supplied day by day. No church cistern of works of supererogation can supply this pure water. All such pretended supplies are poisonous. It must come direct from heaven without human interference. Those only who spiritually thirst will seek it. Some prefer wine that perisheth in the using, while this water, once received, becomes a well-spring of living waters, springing up into everlasting life. How marvelous that river which swallows up all the impurities of the myriads of the redeemed, so that they are seen no more for ever. These are the truths pressed upon our attention in this treatise. Well may our venerated Bunyan say, while richly enjoying the blessings of this river of grace, just before he waded through the black river which absorbs our earthly bodies—“O grace! O happy church of God! all things that happen to thee are, for Christ’s sake, turned into grace!” It is a river that so reflects the splendor of God, that the first sight of it was to Paul above the brightness of the sun; a light that did, by the glory of it, make dark to him all the things in the world.

Reader, may your soul and mine be abundantly refreshed from this inexhaustible river, the streams whereof make glad the city of God.

Geo. Offor

The Epistle to the Reader:

I have now presented thee with something of a discourse of the water of life and its virtues; therefore, thou mayest, if thou wilt, call this book Bunyan’s Bill of his Master’s Water of Life. True, I have not set forth at large the excellent nature and quality thereof, nor can that so be done by the pen or tongue of men or angels. Yet this I have said, and so saying, said truly, that whosoever shall drink of this water shall find it in him a well of water; and not only so, but a well springing up in him to everlasting life, let his disease be what it will. And as men, in their bills for conviction to readers, do give an account to the country of the persons cured, and the diseases that have been removed by liquors and preparations, they have made for that end, so could I, were it not already (by Holy Writ) done by an infallible pen to my hand, give you accounts of numberless numbers that have not only been made to live, but to live forever, by drinking of this water, this pure water of life. Many of them indeed are removed from hence, and live where they cannot be spoken with was yet; but abundance of them do still remain here, and have their abode yet with men.

Only, if thou wouldst drink it, drink it by itself, and that thou mayest not be deceived by that which is counterfeit, know it is as it comes from the hand of our Lord, without mixture, pure and clear as crystal. I know there are many mountebanks in the world, and every of them pretend they have this water to sell; but my advice is, that thou go directly to the throne thyself (Heb 4:16); or as thou art bidden come to the waters (Isa 55:1), and there thou shalt be sure to have that which is right and good, and that which will certainly make thee well, let thy disease, or trouble, or pain, or malady, be what it will. For the price, care not for that, it is cheap enough, this is to be had without money or price. “I will give,” saith God and the Lamb, “unto him that is athirst, of the fountain of the water of life freely” (Rev 21:6). Hence he says again, “Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev 22:17). So that thou hast no ground to keep back because of thy poverty; nay, for the poor it is prepared and set open, to the poor it is offered, the poor and needy may have it of free cost (Isa 41:17, 18).

But let it not be slighted because it is offered to thee upon terms so full, so free. For thou art sick, and sick unto death, if thou drinkest not of it, nor is there any other than this that can heal thee, and make thee well. Farewell. The Lord be thy physician! So prays thy friend,

JOHN BUNYAN

The Water of Life:

“and he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of god and of the lamb.” Revelation 22:1

These words are part of that description that one of the seven angels, which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, gave unto John of the New Jerusalem, or of the state of that gospel church, that shall be in the latter days (Rev 21:9). Wherefore he saith, “And he showed me”; HE, the angel, showed me it.

In the text we have these things to consider of,

FIRST. The matter, the subject matter of the text, and that is the water of life. “He showed me the water of life.” SECOND. We have also here the quantity of this water showed to him, and that is under the notion of a river: “He showed me a river of water of life.” THIRD. He shows him also the head, or well-spring, from whence this river of water of life proceeds, and that is, “the throne of God and of the Lamb.” “He showed me a river of water of life, proceeding out of the throne of God, and of the Lamb.” FOURTH. We have also here the nature and quality of this water; it is pure, it is clear as crystal: “And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.”

[the water of life]

[FIRST.] We will begin with the first of these, to wit, with the matter, the subject matter of the text, which is, THE WATER OF LIFE. These words, water of life, are metaphorical, or words by which a thing most excellent is presented to and amplified before our faces; and that thing is the Spirit of grace, the Spirit and grace of God. And the words, water of life, are words most apt to present it to us by; for what is more free than water, and what more beneficial and more desirable than life? Therefore I say it is compared to, or called, the water of life. He showed me the water of life.

That it is the Spirit of grace, or the Spirit and grace of God, that is here intended: consider, FIRST, the Spirit of grace is in other places compared to water: and, SECOND, it is also called the Spirit of life. Just as here it is presented unto us, “He showed me the water of life.”

FIRST. The spirit of grace is compared to water. “Whosoever,” saith the Lamb, “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” (John 4:14). What can here by water be intended, but the Spirit of grace that this poor harlot, the woman of Samaria, wanted, although she was ignorant of her want, as also of the excellency thereof? Which water also is here said to be such as will spring up, in them that have it, as a well into everlasting life.

Again, “In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink.” But of what? Why of his rivers of living waters. But what are they? Why he answers, “This spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive” (John 7:37–39).

Yes, the prophets and servants of God in the Old Testament, did take this water of life for the Spirit of grace that should in the latter days be poured out into the church. Hence, Isaiah calls water God’s Spirit and blessing, and Zechariah, the Spirit of grace. “I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring” (Isa 44:3). And Zechariah saith, “I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplication,—and they shall mourn,” &c. (Zech 12:10). Behold, in all these places the Spirit of grace is intended, and for our better understanding it is compared to water, to a well of water, to springs of water, and to floods of water.

SECOND. It is also called the Spirit of life, [either] more closely, [or] more openly.

More closely, where it is called “living water,” “that living water,” and “water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:10, 11, 14, 7:38).

Then more openly or expressly it is called “the Spirit of life.” “And after three days and an half, the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet” (Rev 11:11).

From hence, therefore, I conclude, that by these terms, water of life, is meant the Spirit of grace, or the Spirit and grace of the gospel. And the terms are such as are most apt to set forth the Spirit and grace of the gospel by: for,

[First. The term WATER.]

1. By this term, WATER, an opposition to sin is presented unto us. Sin is compared to water, to deadly waters, and man is said to drink it, as one that drinketh waters. “How much more abominable and filthy is man, which drinketh iniquity like water?” (Job 15:16). So, then, that grace and the Spirit of grace is compared to water, it is to show what an antidote grace is against sin; it is, as I may call it, counter poison to it. It is that ONLY thing by the virtue of which sin can be forgiven, vanquished, and overcome.

2. By this term WATER, you have an opposition also to the curse, that is due to sin, presented unto you. The curse, is compared to water; the remedy is compared to water. Let the curse come into the bowels of the damned, saith the psalmist, like water (Psa 109:18). The grace of God also, as you see, is compared to water. The curse is burning; water is cooling: the curse doth burn with hell-fire; cooling is by the grace of the holy gospel: but they that overstand the day of grace, shall not obtain to cool their tongues so much of this water as will hang on the tip of one’s finger (Luke 16:24, 25).

3. Water is also of a spreading nature, and so is sin; wherefore sin may for this also be compared to water. It overspreads the whole man, and infects every member; it covereth all as doth water. Grace for this cause may be also compared to water; for that it is of a spreading nature, and can, if God will, cover the face of the whole earth; of body and soul.

4. Sin is of a fouling, defiling nature; and grace is of a washing, cleansing nature; therefore grace, and the Spirit of grace, is compared to water. “I will,” saith God, “sprinkle clean water upon you, [my Spirit, v 27] and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you” (Eze 36:25).

5. Water; the element of water naturally descends to and abides in low places, in valleys and places which are undermost; and the grace of God and the Spirit of grace is of that nature also; the hills and lofty mountains have not the rivers running over the tops of them; no, though they may run “among them.” But they run among the valleys: and “God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace unto the humble,” “to the lowly” (John 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5; Prov 3:34).

6. The grace of God is compared to water, for that it is it which causeth fruitfulness; water causeth fruitfulness, want of water is the cause of barrenness; and this is the reason why the whole world is so empty of fruit to Godward, even because so few of the children of men have the Spirit of grace in their hearts. But,

[Second. The term LIFE.]

As there is a great special signification in this term WATER, so there is in this term LIFE, water of life. “He showed me the water of life.” In that, therefore, there is added to this word water, that of life, it is, in the general, to show what excellent virtue and operation there is in this water. It is aquae vitae, water of life, or water that hath a health and life in it. And this term shows us,

1. That the world of graceless men are dead; dead in trespasses and sins (John 5:21, 25; Eph 2:1; Col 2:13). Dead, that is, without life and motion Godward, in the way of the testament of his Son.

2. It also shows us that there is not any thing in the world, or in the doctrine of the world, the law, that can make them live. Life is only in this water, death is in all other things. The law, I say, which is that that would, if anything in the whole world, give life unto the world, but that yet killeth, condemneth, and was added that the offence might abound; wherefore there is no life either in the world or in the doctrine of the world. It is only in this water, in this grace of God, which is here called the after of life, or God’s aquae vitae.

3. It is also called the water of life to show that by the grace of God men may live, how dead soever their sins have made them. When God will say to a sinner, “live,” though he be dead in his sins, “he shall live.” “When thou wast in thy blood, I said unto thee, Live; yea, when thou wast in thy blood, I said, Live” (Eze 16:6). And again, “The dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live” (John 5:25). That is, when he speaks words of grace, and mixeth those words with the Spirit and grace of the gospel, then men shall live; for such words so attended, and such words only, are spirit and life. “The words that I speak unto you,” saith Christ, “they are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63).

4. In that this grace of God is here presented unto us under the terms of water of life, it is to show that some are sick of that disease that nothing can cure but that. There are many diseases in the world, and there are also remedies for those diseases; but there is a disease that nothing will, can, or shall cure, but a dram of this bottle, a draught of this aquae vitae, this water of life. This is intimated by the invitation, “let him take the water of life freely” (Rev 22:17). And again, “I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely” (Rev 21:6). This is spoken to the sick, to them that are sick of the disease that only Christ, as a physician, with his water of life, can cure (Mark 2:17). But few are sick of this disease, but few know what it is to be made sick of this disease. There is nothing can make sick of this disease but the law and sin, and nothing can cure but the grace of God by the gospel, called here the water of life.

[the greatness and abundance of the water of life]

[SECOND.] We come now to discourse of the second thing with which we are presented by the text, and that is, the quantity that there is of this water of life. It is a RIVER—“He showed me a river of water of life.” Waters that are cordial, and that have in them a faculty to give life to them that want it, and to maintain life where it is, are rare and scarce, and to be found only in close places and little quantities; but here you see there is abundance, a great deal, a RIVER, a river of water of life. In my handling of this point I will show you,

FIRST. What a river of water of life this is. SECOND. And then draw some inferences therefrom.

FIRST. What a river this is, this river of water of life.

First. It is a deep river. It is a river that is not shallow, but deep, with an “O the depth!” (Rom 11:33). “I will make their waters deep, saith God” (Eze 32:14). And again, they “have drunk of the deep waters” (Eze 34:18). A river of water of life is much, but a deep river is more. Why, soul-sick sinner, sin-sick sinner, thou that art sick of that disease that nothing can cure but a potion of this river of the water of life, here is a river for thee, a deep river for thee. Those that at first are coming to God by Christ for life, are of nothing so inquisitive as of whether there is grace enough in him to save them. But, for their comfort, here is abundance, abundance of grace, a river, a deep river of the water of life, for them to drink of.

Second. As this river is deep, so it is wide and broad (Eph 3:18; Job 11:9). Wherefore, as thou art to know the depth, that is, that it is deep, so thou art to know its breadth, that is, that it is broad; it is broader than the sea, a river that cannot be passed over (Eze 47:5). Never did man yet go from one side of this river to the other when the waters indeed were risen; and now they are risen, even now they proceed out of the throne of God and of the Lamb too. Hence this grace is called “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph 3:8). Sinner, sick sinner, what sayest thou to this? Wouldst thou wade? wouldst thou swim? here thou mayest swim, it is deep, yet fordable at first entrance. And when thou thinkest that thou hast gone through and through it, yet turn again and try once more, and thou shalt find it deeper than hell, and a river that cannot be passed over. If thou canst swim, here thou mayest roll up and down as the fishes do in the sea. Nor needest thou fear drowning in this river, it will bear thee up, and carry thee over the highest hills, as Noah’s waters did carry the ark. But,

Third. As this river of water of life is deep and large, so it is a river that is full of waters. A river may be deep and not full. A river may be broad and not deep. Aye, but here is a river deep and broad, and full too. “Thou waterest it; thou greatly enrichest it with the river of God, which is full of water” (Psa 65:9). Full of grace and truth. Fill the water-pots, saith Christ, up to the brim. The waters of a full cup the wicked shall have; and a river full of the water of life is provided for those who indeed have a desire thereto.

Fourth. As this river is deep, broad, and full, so it still aboundeth with water. The waters, says the prophet, “were risen” (Eze 47:4). Hence, the Holy Ghost saith, God causeth the waters to flow (Psa 147:18). And again, “And it shall come to pass in that day [the day of the gospel] that the mountains shall drop down new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the rivers of Judah shall flow with waters, and a fountain shall come forth of the house of the Lord, and shall water the valley of Shittim” (Joel 3:18). When a river overflows it has more water than its banks can bound: it has water. “Behold, he smote the rock, that the waters gushed out, and the streams overflowed” (Psa 78:20). This river of water of life, which is also signified by these waters, is a river that abounds and that overflows its banks in an infinite and unspeakable manner. Thus much for the river, to wit, what a river of water of life it is. It is a river deep, broad, full, and abounding with this water, with this Spirit and grace of the gospel.

[Inferences to be drawn from this term RIVER]

SECOND. Now I shall come to draw some inference from it, that is, from this term, a river. A river of water of life.

First. Then, a river is water that is common, common in the streams, though otherwise in the head. This river proceeds out of the throne, and so, as to its rise, it is special; it is also called the water of life, and as it is such, it is special; but as it is a river it is common, and of common use, and for common good. Hence the grace of God is called the common salvation (Jude 3), for that by the word there is no restraint, no denial to or forbidding of any that will, from receiving thereof.

And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely (Rev 22:17). What can more fully declare the commonness of a thing? Yea, this river is called, at the very head of it, an “open fountain,” a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem (Zech 13:1). And by David or Judah and Jerusalem is comprehended every soul that would drink of the water of life or living water. And hence it is that this river is said to “go down into the desert and go into the sea,” where all kinds of fishes are (Eze 47:8). By sea is meant the world, and by fish the people, and thither shall run this river of water of life. But,

Second. Though a river, in the streams of it, is common, yet a river, as it passes through a country or province, will choose its own way, it will run in the valleys, in the plains, not over steeples and hills. It will also fetch its compasses and circuits; it will go about and reach hither and thither, and according to its courses it will miss by its turnings what places and people it lists, yet it is common, for that it lies open, yet it is common for all the beasts of the field. There is, therefore, a difference to be put betwixt the commonness of a thing and its presence. A thing may be common, yet far enough off of thee. Epsom, Tunbridge waters, and the Bath, may be common, but yet a great way off of some that have need thereof. The same may be said of this river, it is common in the streams, but it runs its own circuit, and keeps its own water-courses. “He sendeth the springs into the valleys which run among the hills” (Psa 104:10). Indeed, he openeth his river in high places, in his throne, and of the Lamb, but still they run in the midst of the valleys to water the humble and the lowly. Wherefore, they that thirst and would drink are bid to come down to the waters—” Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money, come ye, buy,” &c. (Isa 55:1). And again, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink” (John 7:37). The waters are common, but you must come to them, to them where they are, or you will be nothing the better for them. “Come ye to the waters.”

Third. This water of life is called a river, to intimate to you by what store of the same it is supplied. All rivers have the sea for their original: “All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again” (Eccl 1:7). And so this river of water of life is said to proceed out of the throne, as out of a place where it breaketh out, but the original is the sea, the ocean of grace, which is an infinite Deity. “Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea, into the depth of the sea of thy grace” (Micah 7:19). Rivers, when they are broken up, do with their gliding streams carry away a great deal of the filth, which from all parts of the countries through which they run, is conveyed into them; and they carry it away into the sea, where it is everlastingly swallowed up. And, O! the filth that is cast into this river of God! and, O! how many dirty sinners are washed white therein, for by its continual gliding away, it carrieth that filth into the midst of the sea.

A river will take away the very stink of a dead dog: nor doth all the soil and draught that is cast into the rivers, cause that those that can should be afraid to make use thereof: all that have need do betake themselves to this river notwithstanding. But how much more virtue is there in this sweet river of grace that is designed, yea, opened on purpose, to wash away sin and uncleanness in, to carry away all our filth, and to remain as virtuous still!

Fourth. It is called a river, to show that it yields a continual supply, as I may call it, of new and fresh grace. Rivers yield continually fresh and new water. For though the channel or watercourse in which the water runs is the same, yet the waters themselves are always new. That water that but one minute since stood in this place or that of the river, is now gone, and new and fresh is come in its place. And thus it is with the river of God, which is full of water; it yieldeth continually fresh supplies, fresh and new supplies of grace to those that have business in those waters. And this is the reason that when sin is pardoned, it seems as if it were carried away. Those waters have, with their continual streams, carried away the filth of the sinner form before his face. It is not so with ponds, pools, and cisterns; they will be foul and stink, if they be not often emptied, and filled again with fresh water. We must then put a difference between the grace that dwelleth in us, and this river of water of life. We are but as ponds, pools, and cisterns, that can hold but little, and shall also soon stink, notwithstanding the grace of God is in us, if we be not often emptied from vessel to vessel, and filled with fresh grace from this river (Jer 48:11). But the river is always sweet, nor can all the filth that is washed out of the world make it stink, or infect it: its water runs with a continual gliding stream, and so carries away all annoyance, as was said, into the depth of the sea.

Fifth. The grace of God is called a river, to show that it is only suited to those who are capable of living therein. Water, though it is that which every creature desireth, yet it is not an element in which every creature can live. Who is it that would not have the benefit of grace, of a throne of grace? But who is it that can live by grace? Even none, but those whose temper and constitution is suited to grace. Hence, as the grace of God is compared to a RIVER, so those that live by grace are compared to FISH: for that as water is that element in which the fish liveth, so grace is that which is the life of the saint. “And there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither; for they shall be healed, and everything shall live whither the river cometh” (Eze 47:9). Art thou a fish, O man, art thou a fish? Canst thou live in the water; canst thou live always, and nowhere else, but in the water? Is grace thy proper element? The fish dieth if she be taken out of the water, unless she be timely put in again; the saint dieth if he be not in this river. Take him from this river, and nothing can make him live; let him have water, water of life enough, and nothing can make him die.

I know that there are some things besides fish, that can make a shift to live in the water; but the water is not their proper, their only proper element. The frog can live in the water, but not in the water only; the otter can live in the water, but not in the water only. Give some men grace and the world, grace and sin; admit them to make use of their lusts for pleasure, and of grace to remove their guilt, and they will make a pretty good shift, as we say; they will finally scrabble on in a profession; but hold them to grace only, confine their life to grace, put them into the river, and let them have nothing but river, and they die; the word, and way, and nature of grace, is to them as light bread, and their soul can do no other but loath it, for they are not suited and tempered for that element. They are fish, not frogs, that can live in the river, as in their only proper element. Wherefore, the grace of God, and Spirit of grace, is compared to a river, to show that none but those can live thereby whose souls and spirits are suited and fitted thereto.

Sixth. The grace, and Spirit of grace of God, is called or compared to a river, to answer those unsatiable desires, and to wash away those mountainous doubts that attend those that indeed do thirst for that drink. The man that thirsteth with spiritual thirst, fears nothing more than that there is not enough to quench his thirst. All the promises and sayings of God’s ministers to such a man seem but as thimbles instead of bowls (Psa 63:1, 143:6). I mean so long as his thirst and doubts walk hand in hand together. There is not enough in this promise; I find not enough in that promise to quench the drought of my thirsting soul. He that thirsteth aright, nothing but God can quench his thirst. “My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God” (Psa 42:2, 63:1, 143:6). Well, what shall be done for this man? Will his God humour him, and answer his desires? Mark what follows: “When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none,” (and they can find none, when all the promises seem to be dry, and like clouds that return after the rain), “and their tongue faileth for thirst, I, the Lord, will hear them.” Aye, but Lord, what wilt thou do to quench their thirst? “I will open rivers,” saith he, “in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys. I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water” (Isa 41:17, 18). Behold! here are rivers and fountains, a pool, and springs, and all to quench the thirst of them that thirst for God.

Wherefore, as I said, such provision for the thirsty intimates their fears of want and the craving appetite of their souls after God. Right spiritual thirst is not to be satisfied without abundance of grace. And “they shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house, and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures” (Psa 36:8).

Seventh. The grace of God is compared to a river, to show the greatness of the family of God. He has a family, a great family, and, therefore, it is not a little that must be provided for them. When Israel went out of Egypt, and thirsted by the way, God provided for them a river; he made it gush out of the rock; for, alas! what less than a river could quench the thirst of more than six hundred thousand men, besides women and children? (Psa 78:20).

I say, what less than a river could do it? When the people lusted for flesh, Moses said, “Shall the flocks and the herds be slain for them to suffice them? or shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them to suffice them?” (Num 11:22). Even so could not less than a river sustain and suffice that great people. Now his people in gospel days are not to be diminished, but increased; and if then they had need of a river, surely now of a sea; but the river is deep and broad, full, and abounds, or rises with water, so it will suffice.

Eighth. The grace of God is compared to a river, perhaps to show of what a low esteem it is with the rich and the full. The destitute indeed embrace the rock instead of a shelter, and the poor and needy, they seek water: but they that can drink wine in bowls, that can solace themselves with, as they think, better things, they come not to this river to drink; they never say they shall die if they drink not of this water. It is, therefore, for the poor and needy, God will lead THEM to his “living fountains of waters,” and will “wipe away all tears from THEIR eyes” (Rev 7:17). And thus I pass the second and come to the third particular, and that is, to show the head and spring from whence this river proceeds, or springs.

[the head or well-spring of the water of life]

[THIRD.] Rivers have their heads from whence they rise, out of which they spring, and so, accordingly, we read this river has; wherefore he saith, “He showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.”

[GOD.] God is here to be taken for the whole Godhead, Father, Son, and Spirit, for that grace proceeds from them all; the grace of the Father, the grace of the Son, and the grace of the Spirit is here included. Hence, as the Father is called “the God of grace” (1 Peter 5:10): so the Son is said to be full of grace, grace to be communicated (John 1:14–16), and the Holy Ghost is called “the Spirit of grace” (Heb 10:29). So then by this we perceive whence grace comes. Were all the world gracious, if God were not gracious, what was man the better? If the Father, or the Son, or the Holy Ghost, are gracious, if they were not all gracious, what would it profit? But now God is gracious, the three persons in the Godhead are gracious, and so long they that seek grace are provided for; for that, there proceeds from them a river, or grace like a flowing stream; indeed the original of grace to sinners is the good will of God; none can imagine how loving God is to sinful man. A little of it is seen, but they that see most, see but a little.

[THE LAMB.] But there is added, “and of the Lamb.” The Lamb is, Jesus as sacrificed, Jesus as man, and suffering. Hence you have the Lamb, at the first vision of the throne, set forth unto us, that is, as slain. “And I beheld, and lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain” (Rev 5:6). Wherefore, by this word Lamb, we are to understand who, or by what means, grace doth now run from the throne of God, like a river, to the world. It is because of, or through the Lamb. We are “justified freely by the grace of God through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood” (Rom 3:24). And again, “We have redemption through his blood,” even “the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of God’s grace” (Eph 1:7).

Nor doth the Lamb of God, by becoming a means, through death, of the conveyance of grace to us, at all darken the nature or glory of grace, but rather doth set it off the more. For wherein can grace or love more appear than in his laying down his life for us? I speak now of the grace of the Son. And wherein could the nature and glory of grace of the Father more appear than in giving his Son to death for us, that grace might, in a way of justice as well as mercy, be bestowed upon the world? Wherefore, as he saith here, that the river of water of life proceedeth from God, so he adds that the Lamb, because he would have us while we are entangled and overcome with this river of God’s pleasure, not forget what it cost the Lamb of God that this grace might come unto us.

For the riches of grace and of wisdom are, that grace comes to us not only in a way of mercy and compassion, but in a way of justice and equity; but that could be by no other means but by redeeming blood. Which redeeming blood came not from us, nor yet through our contrivance or advice; wherefore, whatever it is to the Lamb, still all is of grace to us. Yea, the higher, the greater, the richer is grace, by how much the more it cost the Father and the Lamb, that we might enjoy it. When a man shall not only design me a purse of gold, but shall venture his life to bring it to me, this is grace indeed. But, alas! what are a thousand such short comparisons to the unsearchable love of Christ.

The Lamb, then, is he from whom, by, or through whom the grace of God doth come to us. It proceeds from the throne of God and of the Lamb. And it proceeds from him now as a donator: from him, not only as a means of conveyance, but as one that has power to give grace; power, as he is the Son of Man. For as the Son of Man he is the Lamb, and as he is the Lamb it cometh from him. “The Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins” (Matt 9:6). And that before he had actually paid to God the price of our redemption. But how much more now? Wherefore Paul, in his prayer for grace and peace for saints, supplicates both God and the Lamb—“Grace be to you, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph 1:2; 1 Cor 1:3; 2 Cor 1:2; Gal 1:3).

“Proceeding out of the throne.” Formerly this river of water is said to come from under the threshold of the house of the Lord (Eze 47:1). And it is, said again, they “shall go out from Jerusalem,” that is, the church or house of God still (Zech 14:8). In that they are said to come out from under the threshold, it may be to intimate that they ran but low formerly, if compared to what they do now. Which might also be signified by this, that they “issued out,” that that issues out ordinarily comes forth but slowly. Also the prophet saith, the first time he went through the waters, they were but up to the ankles (Eze 47:3, 4). But what is ankle-deep to that which followeth after? It is said also to come out from Jerusalem, where, I perceive, were no great rivers, to intimate, that as long as the first priesthood, first temple, and type, were in their splendor, only the shadow of heavenly things were in use, and that then grace ran but slowly, nor would run much faster, because Jesus was not yet glorified. For the Spirit and abundance of grace was to be given not before but after his ascension.

Wherefore, now Jesus is ascended, now he is glorified, now grace proceeds from the throne, not from the threshold of the house. “He shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God, and of the Lamb.”

THE THRONE. That of which the mercy-seat was a type, that which is called the throne of grace (Exo 25:17; Heb 4:16). And it is called the throne of grace, even, therefore, because it is that from or out of which proceeds this river of water of life, this overflowing grace of God. Now, it may be asked what is the throne of grace? and I shall answer it is the humanity of Christ. He is the throne, he is the Jacob in which God sitteth (Isa 22:22, 23). And he shall be for a glorious throne to his Father’s house (Rev 3:7). The fulness of the Godhead dwells in him bodily; and God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, nor can grace come to men but by Christ, nor can God rest as to our salvation but in him. But because I have spoken of this thing more particularly upon that text, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace,” &c., I shall, therefore, here say no more.

Only, methinks, it is a glorious title that the Holy Ghost has given to the humanity of Christ, in that he calls it the throne of God; and methinks he gives it the highest preference in that he saith, out thence proceeds a pure river of water of life: we will a little, therefore, speak something to this word—the throne, the throne of God.

First. A throne is the seat of majesty and greatness; it is not for things of an inferior quality to ascend or assume a throne. Now, then, since this river of water of life proceeds from the throne, it intimates, that in grace and mercy there is great majesty; for grace, as it proceeds, has a voice from the throne. And, indeed, there is nothing in heaven or earth that can so AWE the heart as the grace of God (Hosea 3:5). It is that which makes a man fear, it is that which makes a man tremble, it is that which makes a man bow and bend, and break to pieces (Jer 32:9). Nothing has that majesty and commanding greatness in and upon the hearts of the sons of men as has the grace of God. So that, I say, when he saith that this river of grace proceeds out of the throne of God, it is to show us what a majesty, what a commanding greatness, there is in grace. The love of Christ constraineth us.

When Moses went up to the mount the first time to receive the law, he did exceedingly fear and quake. Why? because of the fire and smoke, thick darkness and thunder, &c. But when he went up the second time thither, “he made haste and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped.” But why? because it was before proclaimed that “the Lord was merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth; keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, and transgression, and sin,” &c. (Exo 34:6–9).

There is nothing overmastereth the heart like grace, and so obligeth to sincere and unfeigned obedience as that. “Examine me, O Lord,” said David, “and prove me; try my reins and my heart. For thy loving kindness is before mine eyes: and I have walked in thy truth” (Psa 26:2, 3). Therefore, he saith again, O Lord our God, “how excellent is thy loving kindness” in all the earth! and that loving kindness is marvellous; for it has that majesty and that excellent glory in it as to command the heart and subdue sin. And, therefore, grace has given to it the title of sovereignty, or of one that reigns. The throne is called “the throne of grace” (Heb 4:16), that on which it sits and reigns, as well as that from whence it proceeds: “Grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom 5:21).

Second. As a throne is a seat of majesty and greatness, and so can awe, so it is the seat of authority and legislative power, and so will awe; this is confirmed from what was said but now, “grace reigns.” Wherefore it is expected that they that hear the word of God’s grace should submit thereto, and that at their peril. “He that believes not shall be damned,” is a word of power, of law, and of authority, and the contemner shall find it so. Grace proceeds from the throne, from the throne of God and of the Lamb. Wherefore, sinner, here is laid a necessity upon thee, one of the two must be thy lot; either thou must accept of God’s grace, and be content to be saved freely thereby, notwithstanding all thy undeservings and unworthiness, or else thou must be damned for thy rebellion and for thy rejecting of this grace. Wherefore, consider with thyself and think what is best to be done. Is it better that thou submit to the grace and mercy of God, and that thou acceptest of grace to reign for thee, in thee, and over thee, than that thou shouldst run the hazard of eternal damnation because thou wouldst not be saved by grace? Consider of this, I say, for grace is now in authority, it reigns and proceeds from the THRONE. Now, you know, it is dangerous opposing, rejecting, despising, or disowning of them in authority; better speak against twenty than against one that is in authority. If “the wrath of a king is as messengers of death” (Prov 16:14), if the wrath of the king “is as the roaring of a lion,” what is the wrath of God? (Prov 19:12). And you know, to despise grace, to refuse pardon, to be unwilling to be saved from the guilt and punishment due to treasons, the king’s way, since that also is the best way, how will that provoke? how hot will that make wrath? But to accept of grace, especially when it is free grace, grace that reigns, grace from the throne, how sweet is it? “His favor is as dew upon the grass.”

This, therefore, calls for thy most grave and sedate thoughts. Thou art in a strait, wilt thou fly before Moses, or with David fall into the hands of the Lord? wilt thou go to hell for sin, or to life by grace? One of the two, as was said before, must be thy lot: for grace is king, is upon the throne, and will admit of no other way to glory. In and by it thou must stand, if thou hast any hope, or canst at all “rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Rom 5:2).

Third. As the throne is the seat of majesty and authority, so it is the highest seat of authority. There is none above the throne, there is no appeal from the throne. There are inferior courts of judicature, there are under-governors, and they may sometimes, perhaps, be faulty; wherefore in some cases an appeal from such may be lawful or permitted; but from the throne none can appeal. Now grace is upon the throne, reigns upon the throne, proceeds from the throne. A man may appeal from the law to the throne, from Moses to Christ, from him that spake on earth to him that speaks from heaven; but from heaven to earth, from Christ to Moses, none can appeal, Moses himself has forbid it. For “Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you, of your brethren like, unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people” (Acts 3:22, 23).

See here, this NEW prophet judges in the highest court; he is master of grace, the throne by which grace reigns; and even Moses admits that from himself an appeal may be made to this prophet; yea, he allows that men may flee from himself to this prophet for refuge; but there must be no appeal from him. Thou must hear him or die. How shall we escape, “if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven?” (Heb 12:25).

This, therefore, is to be duly weighed and deeply considered by us. It is not a saint, nor a minister, nor a prophet, nor an angel that speaks, for all these are but servants, but inferiors; no, it is a voice from the throne, from authority, from the highest authority; it is the Lord from heaven. This grace proceeds from the throne, and, therefore, men must stand and fall by what shall come from hence. He that comes not hither to drink shall die for thirst. He that refuses this water now, shall not have so much as will hang upon the tip of his finger, if it would save his soul, hereafter. “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation” (Heb 2:3).

Apostates will, therefore, from hence find gripping pangs and burning coals, for they have turned themselves away from this throne, and from the grace that proceeds therefrom; nor is it to any purpose whatever they plead for themselves. They are fallen from grace, and what can help them? Christ is become of none effect unto such, whosoever is, that is, seeks to be, justified by the law; they “are fallen from grace” (Gal 5:4).

Fourth. The throne is the seat of glory, “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him; then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory” (Matt 25:31). And if the throne of judgment is the seat of glory, much more the throne of grace. We will venture then to say that the throne of grace is the throne of God’s glory, as the throne of judgment will be the throne of Christ’s glory, and that grace proceedeth from his throne, that both it and he might have glory; glory in a way of mercy.

1. That it might have glory; therefore has he designed that grace shall be effectual in, and to the salvation of some, even “to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in his Beloved” (Eph 1:6). He has designed, not the glory of man’s works, but the glory of his own grace; and, therefore, has put man’s works, as to justification before God, under his feet, and counts them as filthy rags; but has set his grace up above, has made it a king, given it authority to reign, has provided for it a throne, and called that throne the throne of grace, from whence it also proceeds to its own praise and glory, in and by the effectual salvation of those that receive it, and receive it not in vain.

2. As grace is exalted, and made to proceed out of the throne, to its own praise, to its own glory; so is it also thus exalted and made flow to us like a river, that we should be the praise of the glory of him that hath exalted it. We that receive it, and submit unto the throne whence it proceeds, have thereby “obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will, that we should be to the praise of his glory” (Eph 1:11, 12). So that this throne is a throne of glory. “A glorious high throne, from the beginning is the place of our sanctuary” (Jer 17:12). Now what follows from this, but that they that accept of this grace give glory to God, to his grace, and to the word of his grace; such, I say, “glorify God for his mercy” (Rom 15:9). “They glorify God for your professed subjection to the gospel of Christ” (2 Cor 9:13), which is the gospel or good tidings “of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24). They, with Abraham, believe, and give glory to God (Rom 4:20). And with the Gentiles they glorify the word of the Lord (Acts 13:48).

But to slight grace, to do despite to the Spirit of grace, to prefer our own works to the derogating from grace, what is it but to contemn God? to contemn him when he is on the throne, when he is on the throne of his glory? I say, it is to spit in his face, even then when he commands thee to bow before him, to subject unto him, and to glorify the grace of his glory, that proceeds from the throne of his glory. If men in old time were damned because they glorified him not as God, shall not they be more than damned, if more than damned can be, who glorify him not for his grace? And, to be sure, none glorify him for his grace but those that close in therewith, and submit themselves thereto. Talkers of grace are but mockers of God, but flatterers of God. Those that only talk highly of grace, and submit not themselves unto it, are but like to those that praise a look, or flatter him in his own conceits. Grace God has exalted, has set it upon the throne, and so made it a king, and given it authority to reign; and thou goest by, and hearest thereof, but wilt not submit thyself thereto, neither thy soul nor thy life; why, what is this more than to flatter God with thy lips, and than to lie unto him with thy tongue? what is this but to count him less wise than thyself? while he seeks glory by that by which thou wilt not glorify him; while he displays his grace before thee in the world from the throne, and as thou goest by, with a nod thou callest it a fine thing, but followest that which leadeth therefrom? Tremble, tremble, ye sinners, that have despised the richness of his goodness; the day is coming when ye shall behold, and wonder, and perish, if grace prevaileth not with you to be content to be saved by it to the praise of its glory, and to the glory of him who hath set it upon the throne (Acts 13:38–41).

Fifth. The throne is the seat of wisdom. Hence, he is called “the Ancient of Days,” that sits on this throne, the throne of God (Dan 7:9). Infinite in wisdom, whose garments were white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool. By Ancient of Days, and in that it is said the hair of his head is like the pure wool, his wisdom is set forth unto us. Wherefore, when we read that out of the throne proceeds a river of grace; when we read this proceedeth out of the throne of God, it is as much as to say the wise God, who most perfectly knoweth all ways, counteth, in his wisdom, that to save men by grace is the best, most safe, and sure way: “Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace, to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed” (Rom 4:16). And, again, forgiveness is according to the riches of his grace, wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence (Eph 1:7, 8).—Wherefore, to set grace upon the throne, to let grace proceed out of the throne as a river, is by the wise God, the only wise God, counted the best way, the safest way, the way that doth best suit the condition of a sinful man, and that tends most to the utter disappointment of the devil, and death, and hell. Grace can justify freely, when it will, who it will, from what it will. Grace can continue to pardon, favor, and save from falls, in falls, out of falls. Grace can comfort, relieve, and help those that have hurt themselves. And grace can bring the unworthy to glory. This the law cannot do, this man cannot do, this angels cannot do, this God cannot do, but only by the riches of his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ. Wherefore, seeing God has set grace on the throne, and ordered that it should proceed from this throne to the world; yea, seeing he has made it king, and granted to it, to it only, the authority and sovereignty of saving souls, he has magnified not only his love, but his wisdom and his prudence before the sons of men. This, then, is his great device, the master-piece of all his witty inventions; and, therefore, it is said, as was hinted before, in this thing he hath proceeded towards us in ALL wisdom and prudence (2 Sam 14:14; Prov 8:11, 12).

So then, he that comes to, and drinks of this water, glorifies God for his wisdom, praises God for his wisdom. Such an one saith that God is only wise, and, bowing his head, saith again, “to God only wise, be glory both now and for ever. Amen.” But he that shall contemn this grace, confronts the highest wisdom, even wisdom upon the throne; he saith to himself, I am wiser than Daniel, than the judgment of God. I could have found out a more safe way to heaven myself; and had I been of God’s council, I would have told him so. All this, so horrible blasphemy, naturally proceeds from him that liketh not that grace should be king on the throne, and should proceed out of the throne to the world; but “shall he that contendeth with the Almighty instruct him?” He that reproveth God, let him answer it (Job 40:2).

The text says, that this very doctrine to the Greeks, to the wise, is foolishness, and the preaching of it a foolish thing to them; but it will appear even then, when the conclusion of all things is come, and when these wise ones, by their wisdom, have fooled themselves to hell, that this “foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Cor 1:21–25).

Christ Jesus, because he was low in the world, is trampled upon by some, but he is a glorious throne to his Father’s house: for since his humility was the lowest of all, now he is exalted to be the throne of God, yea, is made the fountain whence grace continually flows, like the rivers, and comes down to us like a mighty stream. Wherefore, I will conclude this with both comfort and caution: with comfort, and that because of the security that they are under that indeed have submitted themselves to grace; “sin shall not have dominion over you; for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” And let it be a caution to those that despise. Take heed, it is dangerous affronting of the wisdom of God. Now here is the wisdom of God, even wisdom upon the throne. It pleased God, for the glory of his wisdom, to make this the way: to wit, to set up grace to reign. I have often thought, and sometimes said, if God will be pleased with any way, surely he will be pleased with his own. Now this is the way of his own devising, the fruit and effect of his own wisdom; wherefore, sinner, please him, please him in that wherein he is well pleased. Come to the waters, cast thyself into them, and fear not drowning; let God alone to cause them to carry thee into his paradise, that thou mayest see his throne.

Sixth. The throne is the seat of faithfulness, the place of performing of engagements and promises. “When I shall receive the congregation,” saith Christ, “I will judge uprightly,” that is faithfully (Psa 75:2). And now he has received it, and is made head over all things to it (Eph 1:22, 23). And for this cause is he upon the throne, yea, is the throne, from whence proceeds all this grace, that like a river doth flow, and glide from heaven into the world. This river, then, is nothing else but the fulfilling of promises; the faithful fulfilling of promises. “If I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you” (John 16:7). “This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh,” &c. (Acts 2:16–18). Now this river is the Spirit, the Spirit and grace of God, which was promised by the Father and the Son, and now it comes running from the throne of God and of the Lamb. For “being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this which ye now see and hear” (Acts 2:33).

Behold, then, how mindful, how careful, how faithful our Father and the Lamb of God is! It is not exaltation, nor glory, nor a crown, nor a kingdom, nor a throne, that shall make him neglect his poor ones on earth. Yea, therefore, even because he is exalted and on the throne, therefore it is that such a river, with its golden streams, proceeds from the throne to come unto us. And it shall proceed to be far higher than ever was the swellings of Jordan. True, it runs not so high now as in former days, because of the curse of God upon Antichrist, by whose means the land of God’s people is full of briers and thorns (Isa 32:13–17). But when the tide is at the lowest, then it is nearest the rising; and this river will rise, and in little time be no more so low as but ankle-deep; it will be up to the knees, to the loins, and be a broad river to swim in (Eze 47). For “there the glorious Lord will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams” (Isa 33:21). “And there shall be no more curse” in the church, “but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and his servants shall serve him” without molestation (Rev 22:3–6).

“These sayings are faithful and true,” and in faithfulness shall they, from the throne of God and of the Lamb, be performed to the church. Faithfulness in him that rules, is that which makes Sion rejoice; because thereby the promises yield milk and honey. For now the faithful God, that keepeth covenant, performs to his church that which he told her he would. Wherefore, our rivers shall run, and our brooks yield honey and butter (Job 20:17). Let this teach all God’s people to expect, to look, and wait for good things from the throne. But, O! methinks this throne, out of which good comes like a river! who would not be a subject to it? who would not but worship before it? But,

Seventh. A throne is “the seat of justice.” “Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne” (Psa 89:14). And it is also from justice that this river of grace flows to us: justice to Christ, and justice to those that are found in him (Rom 3:24). God declares that he can justly justify, and justly forgive (1 John 1:9). Now, if he can justly justify and justly forgive, then can he give grace, and cause that it should proceed to, yea, flow after us as a river (1 Cor 10:4). The river that gushed out of the rock in the wilderness ran after the people there, wherefore they wandered therein. They drank of the rock that followed them; the rock was not removed out of his place, but the flood followed them whither they went. “He opened the rock and the waters gushed out; they ran in the dry places like a river” (Psa 105:41). This rock, saith he, was Christ, that is, figuratively: and this throne is Christ really: and the water gushing out of the rock, and following of them in the wilderness, was to show how, when Christ became a throne, grace and goodness should follow us in the wilderness from thence so long as here we abide. Wherefore David, considering this, said, “Surely goodness and mercy shall FOLLOW me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever” (Psa 23:6).

But whence must this come? The text says from the throne; from the throne, the seat of justice; for from thence, by reason of what HE hath found in Christ for us, he, in a way of righteousness and justice, lets out to us rivers of his pleasures; whose original is that great and wide sea of mercy that flows in his infinite heart beyond thought.

All is paid for both US and grace (John 7:39). We are bought with a price (1 Cor 6:20). He has obtained eternal redemption for us (Heb 9:12). Yea, and as we are made his, and heaven made ours thus, so this river of grace has been also obtained by him for us (John 7:38). Wherefore, all comes to us in a way of justice and righteousness. Hence we are said to obtain “faith through the righteousness of God” (2 Peter 1:1), that is, through the justice of God, and of Jesus our Lord. Mark, here is the justice of God, and the justice of Jesus our Lord; and we have our faith from the justice of God, because of the righteousness of Jesus our Lord; that is, Jesus answered with works of justice the demands of justice; and therefore, in a way of justice, grace reigns, and comes to us like a river, as is signified, for that it is said to come to us out of the throne.

Again, grace is said “to reign through righteousness unto eternal life” (Rom 5:21). Through what righteousness? the righteousness or justice of God by Jesus Christ our Lord. By Jesus Christ, or for his sake. For for his sake, as I said, we are forgiven; and for his sake have all things pertaining to life and godliness. Which all things come to us, through, or down, the stream of this river in a way of justice; and, therefore, it is said to come from the throne.

Eighth. This throne is the seat of grace and mercy; and, therefore, it is called the mercy-seat and throne of grace. This throne turns all into grace, all into mercy. This throne makes all things work together for good. It is said of Saul’s sons, they were not buried after they were hanged, until water dropped upon them out of heaven (2 Sam 21:10, 14). And it may be said of us there is nothing suffered to come near us, until it is washed in that water that proceeds from the throne of grace. Hence afflictions flow from grace (Psa 119:67), persecutions flow from grace; poverty, sickness, yea, death itself is now made ours by the grace of God through Christ (1 Cor 3:22; Rev 3:19; Heb 12:5–7). O grace, O happy church of God! all things that happen to thee are, for Christ’s sake, turned into grace. They talk of the philosopher’s stone, and how, if one had it, it would turn all things into gold. O! but can it turn all things into grace? can it make all things work together for good? No, no, this quality, virtue, excellency, what shall I call it, nothing has in it, but the grace that reigns on the throne of grace, the river that proceeds from the throne of God. This, this turns majesty, authority, the highest authority, glory, wisdom, faithfulness, justice, and all into grace. Here is a throne! God let us see it. John had the honor to see it, and to see the streams proceeding from it. O sweet sight! O heart-ravishing sight! “He showed me a pure river of water of life proceeding out of the throne of God.”

Indeed, as was hinted before, in the days of the reign of Antichrist there are not those visions of this throne, nor of the river that proceedeth therefrom. Now he holdeth back the face of his throne, and spreadeth a cloud upon it; but the preserving, saving benefits thereof we have, as also have all the saints, in the most cloudy and dark day. And since we can see so little, we must believe the more; and by believing, give glory to God. We must also labor for more clear Scripture knowledge of this throne; for the holy Word of God is the perspective glass by which we may, and the magnifying glass that will cause us to behold, “with open face, the glory of the Lord” (2 Cor 3:18).

But, methinks, I have yet said nothing of this throne, which is indeed none other but the spotless and glorified humanity of the Son of God. This throne is the Lord Jesus, this grace comes from the Divine Majesty, as dwelling bodily in the Lord Jesus. Wherefore let us fall down before the throne, and cast our crowns at the foot of the throne, and give thanks to him that sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb for ever and ever. O how should Jesus be esteemed of! The throne of the king is a royal seat: it is said of Solomon’s, “there was not the like made in any kingdom” (1 Kings 10:20). But of this it may be said there is not its like in heaven and earth. At the setting up of this throne, the angels flocked round about it, and the beasts and the elders gathered together to see it (Rev 4). When this throne was set in heaven, there was silence, all the heavenly host had no leisure to talk; they were surprised with sight and wonder. When this throne was set in heaven, what talk there was! it was as the music of the trumpet.

“And behold,” says John, “a door was opened in heaven; and the first voice which I heard was, as it were, of a trumpet talking with me, which said, Come up hither, and I will show thee things which must be hereafter. And immediately I was in the Spirit, and behold a THRONE WAS SET IN HEAVEN, and one sat upon the throne.”

This throne was Jesus Christ exalted, SET, that is, lifted up, not as upon the cross to the contempt and scorn of his person, but, as I said, to the wonderment of the four beasts, and the elders, and all the angels in heaven. “A throne was set in heaven, and one sat upon the throne”; that is, God. And this intimates his desirable rest for ever: for to sit is to rest, and Christ is his rest for ever. Was it not, therefore, well worth the seeing? Yea, if John had taken the pains to go up thither upon his hands and knees, I say, to see the Lord Jesus as a throne set in heaven, and the glory of God resting and abiding upon him, and giving out by him all things, not only his Word, but all his dispensations and providences, to the end of the world; and this blessed thing among the rest, even “a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal,” [how richly would he have been rewarded for his pains].

[the nature and quality of this water]

[FOURTH.] But I leave this, and proceed to the fourth and last thing, namely, to the nature and quality of this water. It is said to be pure and clear; pure and clear as crystal. “And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal.” I know that there is a two-fold quality in a thing, one with respect to its nature, and the other with respect to its operation. The first of these is inherent, and remaineth in the subject being as such, and so for the most part useless. The other is put forth then when it meeteth with fit matter on which it may freely work. As to instance aquae vitae, the very metaphor here made use of, hath a quality inherent in it, but keep it stopped up in a bottle, and then who will may faint notwithstanding; but apply it, apply it fitly, and to such as have need thereof, and then you may see its quality by the operation. This water, or river of grace, is called, I say, the water of life, and so, consequently, has a most blessed inherent quality; but its operation is seen by its working, the which it doth only then when it is administered and received for those ends for which it is administered. For then it revives where life is, and gives life where it is not. And thus far, in the general, have we spoken to it already. We will, therefore, in this place more particularly, though briefly, speak a few words unto it.

[The operative quality of this water]

FIRST. Then this water of life is the very groundwork of life in us, though not the groundwork of life for us. The groundwork of life for us is the passion and merits of Christ, this is that for the sake of which grace is given unto us, as it is intimated by the text; it proceeds from the throne of God, who is Christ. Christ then having obtained grace for us, must needs be precedent, as to his merit, to that grace he hath so obtained. Besides, it is clear that the Spirit and grace come from God through him; therefore, as to the communications of grace to us, it is the fruit of his merit and purchase. But, I say, in us grace is the groundwork of life; for though we may be said before to live virtually in the person of Christ before God, yet we are dead in ourselves, and so must be until the Spirit be poured upon us from on high; for the Spirit is life, and its graces are life, and when that is infused by God from the throne, then we live, and not till then. And hence it is called, as before, living water, the water of life springing up in us to everlasting life. The Spirit, then, and graces of the Spirit, which is the river here spoken of, is that, and that only, which can cause us to live; that being life to the soul, as the soul is life to the body. All men, therefore, as was said before, though elect, though purchased by the blood of Christ, are dead, and must be dead, until the Spirit of life from God and his throne shall enter into them; until they shall drink it in by vehement thirst, as the parched ground drinks in the rain.

Now when this living water is received, it takes up its seat in the heart, whence it spreads itself to the awakening of all the powers of the soul. For, as in the first creation, the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters, in order to putting of that creature into that excellent fashion and harmony which now we behold with our eyes; even so the new creation, to wit, the making of us new to God, is done by the overspreading of the same Spirit also. For the Spirit, as I may so say, sitteth and broodeth upon the powers of the soul, as the hen doth on cold eggs, till they wax warm and receive life. The Spirit, then, warmeth us, and bringeth the dead and benumbed soul—for so it is before conversion—to a godly sense and understanding of states, of states both natural and spiritual; and this is the beginning of the work of the Spirit, by which the soul is made capable of understanding what God and himself is.

And this drinking in of the Spirit is rather as the ground drinks in rain, than as a rational soul does through sense of the want thereof.

The Spirit also garnisheth the soul with such things as are proper for it, to the making of it live that life that by the Word of God is called for.

It implanteth light, repentance, faith, fear, love, desires after God, hope, sincerity, and what else is necessary for the making the man a saint; these things, I say, are the fruits and effects of this Spirit which, as a river of water of life, proceedeth forth of the throne of God and of the Lamb. Hence the Spirit is called the Spirit of faith, the Spirit of love, and the Spirit of a sound mind; for that the Spirit is the root and original of all these things, by his operations in, and upon, the face of the soul (2 Cor 4:13; Gal 5:22; 2 Tim 1:7).

But, again, as this living water, this Spirit and the grace thereof, doth thus, so it also maintains these things once planted in the soul, by its continual waterings of them in the soul. Hence he saith, “I will water it every moment”; water IT—his vineyard, the soul of the church, the graces of the church; and so the soul and graces of every godly man (Isa 27:3).

And because it so happeneth sometimes, that some of those things wherewith the Holy Ghost has beautified the soul may languish to a being, if not quite dead, yet “ready to die” (Rev 3:2), therefore he doth not only refresh and water our souls, but renews the face thereof, by either quickening to life that which remains, or by supplying of us with that which is new, to our godly perseverance and everlasting life. Thus “thou visitest the earth, and waterest it; thou greatly enrichest it with the river of God” (Psa 65:9).

For this must be remembered, that as the herb that is planted, or seed sown, needs watering with continual showers of the mountains, so our graces, implanted in us by the Spirit of grace, must also be watered by the rain of heaven. “Thou waterest the ridges thereof abundantly: thou settlest the furrows thereof: thou makes it soft with showers: thou blessest the springing thereof” (Psa 65:10). Hence he says that our graces shall grow. But how? “I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon. His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon. They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine: the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon” (Hosea 14:5–7). Or, as he saith in another place, “The Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not” (Isa 58:11).

There is, besides this, another blessing that comes to us by this living water, and that is, the blessing of communion. All the warmth that we have in our communion, it is the warmth of the Spirit: when a company of saints are gathered together in the name of Christ, to perform any spiritual exercise, and their souls be edified, warmed, and made glad therein, it is because this water, this river of water of life, has, in some of the streams thereof, run into that assembly (Jer 31:12, 13). Then are Christians like those that drink wine in bowls, merry and glad; for that they have drank into the Spirit, and had their souls refreshed with the sweet gales and strong wine thereof. This is the feast that Isaiah speaks of, when he saith, “In this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined” (Isa 25:6). This is called in another place, “the communion of the Holy Ghost” (2 Cor 13:14). Now he warmeth spirits, uniteth spirits, enlighteneth spirits; revives, cherisheth, quickeneth, strengtheneth graces; renews assurances, brings old comforts to mind, weakens lusts, emboldeneth and raiseth a spirit of faith, of love, of hope, of prayer, and makes the Word a blessing, conference a blessing, meditation a blessing, and duty very delightful to the soul. Without this water of life, communion is weak, flat, cold, dead, fruitless, lifeless; there is nothing seen, felt, heard, or understood in a spiritual and heart-quickening way. Now ordinances are burdensome, sins strong, faith weak, hearts hard, and the faces of our souls dry, like the dry and parched ground.

This drink also revives us when tempted, when sick, when persecuted, when in the dark, and when we faint for thirst. The life of religion is this water of life: where that runs, where that is received, and where things are done in this spirit, there all things are well; the church thrifty, the soul thrifty, graces thrifty, and all is well. And this hint I thought convenient to be given of this precious water of life, that is, with reference to the operative quality of it.

[The other qualities of this water]

SECOND. I shall come, in the next place, to speak of it, as to the other descriptions which John doth give us of it. He says it is, First, pure; Second, clear; Third, clear to a comparison: “And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal.”

[First. The purity of this water.]

1. You read here that this water of life is PURE, that is, alone without mixture, for so sometimes that word PURE is to be understood. As where it saith, pure, “pure olive oil” (Exo 27:20). “Pure frankincense” (Exo 30:34). “Pure gold” (Exo 25:11, 17). “Pure blood of the grape” (Deut 32:14), and the like. So then, when he saith, “he showed me a pure river of water of life,” it is as if he had said he showed me a river of water that was all living, all life, and had nothing in it but life. There was no death, or deadness, or flatness in it; or, as he saith a little after, “and there shall be no more curse.” A pure river. There is not so much as a grudge, or a piece of an upbraiding speech found therein. There is in it nothing but heart, nothing but love, nothing but grace, nothing but life. “The gifts and calling of God are without repentance” (Rom 11:29).

2. PURE is sometimes set in opposition to show or appearance; as where he says, “the stars are not pure” (Job 25:5). That is, not so without mixture of darkness, as they seem to be: so again, “If thou wert pure and upright” (Job 8:6): that is, as thou seemest to be, or as thou wouldst have us believe thou art.

Now, take pure in this sense here, and then the meaning is, it is grace without deceit, without guile; its show and its substance are the same; it has nothing but substance in it; it is indeed what it seems to be in bulk; it is a river in show and a river indeed. It comes from God and from his throne in appearance, and really it comes from his very heart.

The great fear of the tempted is, that there is not so much grace in God, and that he is not so free of it as some scriptures seem to import. But this word PURE is levelled against such objections and objectors, for the destroying of their doubts, and the relieving of their souls. There is no fraud, nor guile, nor fable in the business; for though God is pleased to present us with his grace under the notion of a river, it is not to delude our fancies thereby; but to give us some small illustration of the exceeding riches of his grace, which as far, for quantity, outstrips the biggest rivers, as the most mighty mountain doth the least ant’s egg or atom in the world.

3. But, again, this word PURE is set in opposition to that which is hurtful and destructive: “I am pure from the blood of all men,” that is, I have hurt nobody (Acts 20:26). “The wisdom that is from above is first pure,” it is not hurtful (James 3:17). Do you count them pure with the wicked balances? how can that be, since they are hurtful? (Micah 6:11).

Now take PURE in this sense here, and then it intimates, that the grace of God, and the doctrine of grace, is not a hurtful thing. It is not as wine of an intoxicating nature. If a man be filled with it, it will do him no harm (Eph 5:18). The best of the things that are of this world are some way hurtful. Honey is hurtful (Prov 25:16, 27). Wine is hurtful (Prov 20:1). Silver and gold are hurtful, but grace is not hurtful (1 Tim 6:10). Never did man yet catch harm by the enjoyment and fulness of the grace of God. There is no fear of excess or of surfeiting here. Grace makes no man proud, no man wanton, no man haughty, no man careless or negligent as to his duty that is incumbent upon him, either from God or man: no, grace keeps a man low in his own eyes, humble, self-denying, penitent, watchful, savory in good things, charitable, and makes him kindly affectionated to the brethren, pitiful and courteous to all men.

True, there are men in the world that abuse the grace of God, as some are said to turn it into wantonness and into lasciviousness (Jude 4). But this is, not because grace has any such tendency, or for that it worketh any such effect; but because such men are themselves empty of grace, and have only done as death and hell hath done with wisdom, “heard the fame thereof with their ears” (Job 28:22). It is a dangerous thing for a man to have the notions of grace, while his heart is void of the spirit and holy principles of grace; for such a man can do no other than abuse the grace of God. Alas, what can be expected of him that has nothing in him to teach him to manage that knowledge of grace which he has, but his flesh, his lusts, and lustful passions? Can these teach him to manage his knowledge well? Will they not rather put him upon all tricks, evasions, irreligious consequences and conclusions, such as will serve to cherish sin? What Judas did with Christ, that a graceless man will do with grace, even make it a stalking horse to his fleshly and vile designs; and rather than fail betray both it, and the profession of it, to the greatest enemies it has in the world.

And here I may say, though grace is pure, and not hurtful at all, yet one altogether carnal, sinful, and graceless, having to do with the doctrine of it, by the force of his lusts which tamper with it, he will unavoidably bring himself into the highest ruin thereby. An unwary man may destroy himself by the best of things, not because there is in such things an aptness to destroy, but because of the abuse and misuse of them. Some know the way of life, the water of life, by knowledge that is naked and speculative only; and it had been better for such if they had not known, than to know and turn from what they know; than to know, and make the knowledge subservient to their lusts (2 Peter 2:20–22). Some receive the rain of God, and the droppings of his clouds, because they continually sit under the means of his grace. But, alas! they receive it as stones receive showers, or as dunghills receive the rain; they either abide as hard stones still, or else return nothing to heaven for his mercy, but as the dunghills do, a company of stinking fumes. These are they that drink in the rain that comes often upon them, and that instead of bringing forth herbs meet for the dresser, bring forth briers and thorns; and these are they who are nigh unto cursing, whose end is to be burned (Heb 6:7, 8).

By this word PURE I understand sometimes the chiefest good, the highest good. There are many things that may be called good, but none of them are good as grace is good. All things indeed are pure, that is, all creatures in themselves are good and serviceable to man, but they are not so good as grace (Rom 14:20; Gen 1:31). “There is a generation that are pure,” that are good in their own eyes (Prov 30:12). There are good men, good consciences, good works, good days, good angels, &c., but none so good as grace, for it is grace that has made them so. Grace, this water of life, therefore is good, superlatively good, good in the highest degree, for that it makes all things good, and preserveth them good. And whatever it be that this water of life washeth not, it is soil, and given to the curse, as the prophet intimates where he saith, “But the miry places thereof, and the marshes thereof, shall not be healed; they shall be given to salt” (Eze 47:1).

But who understands this, who believes it? Its goodness is kept close from the fowls of the air. Men, most men, are ignorant of the goodness of it, nor do they care to inquire after the enjoyment of this pure, this good water of life. The reason is, because though it is good in itself, good in the highest degree, and that which makes all things good, yet it is not such a good as is suited to a carnal appetite. There is good; and there is suitable good. Now suitable good is of two sorts: either such as is spiritual, or such as is temporal. That which is spiritual, is desired only of them that are spiritual; for temporal good will satisfy a carnal mind. Now grace is a spiritual good; this river of grace is the goodness of spiritual good. It is the original life of all the grace in our souls. No marvel, then, if it be so little set by of those that are carnally minded. They will serve a horse, and mire will serve a sow; so things of this life suit best with the men of this world; for their appetite is gross and carnal, and they savor not the things that be of the Spirit of God. “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God,” the things that be of this river of God; “for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor 2:14). This is the river of OIL which the prophet speaks of, the river of SPIRIT. Were it a river of gold and silver, there would be old fishing on the banks thereof. But it is a river that runs “like oil, saith the Lord God” (Eze 32:14). This rock pours us out “rivers of oil” (Job 29:6)—“fresh oil” (Psa 92:10)—“soft oil” (Psa 55:21)—“the oil of joy” (Isa 61:3)—“the oil of gladness” (Psa 45:7)—oil to anoint the head withal (Eccl 9:8)—oil to make the face to shine (Psa 104:15)—oil by which thou wilt be made able to honor both God and man in some good measure as becomes thee (Judg 9:9).

I might have enlarged upon this head, and have showed you many more particulars wherein this term of pure might serve for the better setting forth of the excellency of this water of life, but I shall proceed no further upon this, but will come to that which remains.

[Second. The clearness of this water of life.]

As this river of water of life is said to be pure, so it is said to be CLEAR. “He shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear.” This term has also its particular signification, and, therefore, ought to be heeded.

1. CLEAR is set in opposition to dark; therefore some are said to be “clear as the sun” (Cant 6:10). And again, “the light shall not be clear nor dark” (Zech 14:6). In both these places, clear is to be taken for light, daylight, sunlight; for, indeed, it is never day nor sunshine with the soul, until the streams of this river of water of life come gliding to our doors, into our houses, into our hearts. Hence the beginning of conversion is called illumination (Heb 10:32). Yea, the coming of this river of water of life unto us is called the day-spring from on high, through the tender mercy of our God (Luke 1:78). It is also called the dawning of the day (2 Peter 1:19). And hence, again, these men unto whom this river of water of life comes not, are said to be dark, darkness. “Ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord” (Eph 5:8). Wherefore, this water is like Jonathan’s honey; it hath a faculty to open the eyes, to make them that sit in darkness see a great light (1 Sam 14:27; Matt 4:16). The light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the faith of Jesus Christ; “God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts to give the light”; the Spirit that enlighteneth and giveth the light, “of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor 4:6). This river casteth beams where it goes, like the beams of the sun; it shines, it casts out rays of glory unto those that drink thereof. The streams of this grace were they that overtook Saul when he was going to Damascus; they were the waters of this flood that compassed him round about. And if you will believe him, he saith this light from heaven was a great light, a light above the brightness of the sun, a light that did by the glory of it make dark to him all the things in the world (Acts 9:3, 22:6, 26:13).

2. CLEAR is set in opposition to that which is not pleasing. For to be clear is to be pleasant. Hence it is said, “truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun” (Eccl 11:7). I read of rivers that looked red as blood, that stank like the blood of a dead man, but this is no such river (Exo 7:19, 20; 2 Kings 3:22, 23). I read of rivers whose streams are like streams of brimstone, fiery streams, streams of burning pitch, but this is none of them (Isa 30:27–33; David 7:9–11; Isa 34:9). “There is a river” besides all these, clear and pleasant, “the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God” (Psa 46:4).

There are the waters that the doves love to sit by, because by the clearness of these streams they can see their pretty selves, as in a glass (Cant 5:12).

These are the streams where the doves wash their eyes, and by which they solace themselves, and take great content. These streams are instead, as I said, of a looking-glass; their clearness presents us with an opportunity of seeing our own features. As in fair waters a man may see the body of the sun, and of the moon, and of the stars, and the very body of heaven; so he that stands upon the bank of this river, and that washeth his eyes with this water, may see the Son of God, the stars of God, the glory of God, and the habitation that God has prepared for his people. And are not these pleasant sights? is not this excellent water? has not this river pleasant streams?

3. CLEAR is set in opposition to dirty water and muddiness. I read of some waters that are fouled with the feet of beasts, and with the feet of men, yea, and deep waters too. Yea, saith God to some, ye “have drunk of the deep waters,” and have fouled “the residue with your feet”; and again, “As for my flock, they eat that which ye have trodden with your feet, and they drink that which ye have fouled with your feet” (Eze 34:18, 19). These waters are doctrines contained in the text, muddied and dirtied by the false glosses and sluttish opinions of erroneous judgments, of which the poor sheep have been made to drink. And, verily, this is apparent enough by the very color and hue of those poor souls; for though the truth of God was in them, yet the very stain of tradition and superstition might be also seen in their scales. For as the fish of the river receive, by being there, the changeable colors of the waters, so professors, what doctrine they hear and drink, do look like that. If their doctrines are muddy, their notions are muddy; if their doctrines are bloody, their notions and tempers are bloody: but if their doctrines are clear, so are their notions, for their doctrine has given them a clear understanding of things.

Now, here we have a river of water of life that is clear—clear without dirt and mud—clear without the human inventions and muddy conceptions of unsanctified and uninstructed judgments; yea, here you have a river the streams whereof lie open to all in the church, so that they need not those instruments of conveyance that are foul, and that use to make water stink, if they receive it to bring it to them that have need.

4. By clear we sometimes understand purgation; or that a thing has purged itself, or is purged from those soils and imputations of evil wherewith sometimes they have been charged. “Then thou shalt be clear from this my oath”; or, “How shall we clear ourselves?” (Gen 24:8–14, 44:16). Something of this sense may be in the text; for if men are not afraid to charge God with folly, which is intimated by “that thou mightest be clear when thou judgest” (Psa 51:4), will they, think you, be afraid to impute evil to his Word, and grace, and Spirit? No, verily; they are bold enough at this work. Nay, more than this, even from the foundation of the world, men have cast slanders upon, and imputed based things into the blessed grace of the gospel. But not to look so far back. Paul was one of the pipes through which God conveyed this grace to the world; and what was he counted for his so doing, but “a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition—throughout the world” (Acts 24:5, 6). But, behold, no imputation can stick on the grace of God—not stick long; for that, like honey, will purge itself of what filth is put upon it, and of all bad imputations of evil men’s springs, and rivers are of a self-purging quality. Now, here we have to do with a river—a river of water of life; but a river more slandered than ever did Naaman the Syrian slander the waters of Israel in preferring those of Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, beyond them (2 Kings 5:10–12). But behold now, at last, when all the world have done what they can, and cast what reproaches and slanders upon it they are able, it is a river pure and clear. It has purged itself before kings—it has purged itself before princes and judges, and all the Naamans in the world; it is still a river—a river of water of life—a river of water of life CLEAR.

5. By clear we sometimes understand purity manifest, or innocency and goodness made known. “In all things ye have approved yourselves to be CLEAR in this matter” (2 Cor 7:11). That is, you have made it appear, and stand upon your justification, and are willing to be searched and sounded to the bottom by those that have a desire to undertake that work. So this river of water of life in the fountain, and in the streams thereof, offer themselves to the consideration and conscience of all men. To this end how often doth God, the head of this river, and he out of whose throne it proceeds, call upon men to challenge him, if they can, with any evil or misdoing towards them, either by presence or doctrine; hence he says, “Put me in remembrance; let us plead together; declare thou,” if thou canst, “that thou mayest be justified,” and I condemned (Isa 43:26). So again: “What iniquity have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from me, and have walked after vanity, and are become vain?” (Jer 2:5). So Christ: “Which of you convinceth me of sin?” (John 8:46). And “If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil” (John 18:23). So Paul: We “have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the Word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God” (2 Cor 4:2). All these sentences are chiefly to be applied to doctrine, and so are, as it were, an offer to any, if they can, to find a speck, or a spot, or a wrinkle, or any such thing in this river of water of life.

Some men fly from it as from a bear; and some are afraid to drink of it, for fear it should be poison unto them. Some, again, dare not take it because it is not mixed, and as they, poor souls, imagine, qualified and made toothsome by a little of that which is called the wisdom of this world. Thus one shucks, another shrinks, and another will none of God. Meanwhile, whoso shall please to look into this river shall find it harmless and clear; yea, offering itself to the consciences of all men to make trial if it be not the only chief good, the only necessary waters, the only profitable, for the health of the soul, of all the things that are in the world, and as clear of mischief as is the sun of spots.

[Third.—this river is clear to the most perfect comparison.]

As John saw this river pure and clear, so he saw it clear to a comparison. Clear to the best of comparisons, clear as crystal. Crystal is a very clear stone, as clear as the clearest glass, if not clearer; one may see far into it, yea, through it; it is without those spots, and streaks, and smirches that are in other precious stones. Wherefore, when he saith that this river is clear as crystal, it is as if God should say, Look, sinners, look to the bottom of these my crystal streams. I have heard of some seas that are so pure and clear, that a man may see to the bottom though they may be forty feet deep. I know this river of water of life is a deep river; but though it is said to be deep, it is not said we can see no bottom. Indeed, as to the wideness of it, it is said to be such as that it cannot be passed over; but I say, it is nowhere said that we cannot see to the bottom; nay, the comparison implies that a man with good eyes may see to the bottom. It is clear, as clear as crystal. So, then, we will a little look down to the bottom, and see, through these crystal streams, what is at the bottom of all.

1. Then the bottom of all is, “That we might be saved” (John 5:34). “These things I say,” saith Christ, “that ye might be saved”; and, again, “I am come that you might have life, and that you might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). This is the bottom of this great river of water of life, and of its proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb: it is that we might be saved; it is that we might live. What a good bottom is here! what a sound bottom is here! But few deep rivers have a good bottom. Mud is at the bottom of most waters in the world; even the sea itself, when it worketh, casts up mire and dirt, and so do the hearts of sinners; but the bottom of this grace of God, and of the Spirit and Word thereof, is that we might be saved, consequently a very good bottom.

2. As the bottom of all is, “that we may be saved,” so that we may be saved by grace, and this is a bottom sounder and sounder. Our salvation might have been laid upon a more difficult bottom than this. It might have been laid on our works. God might have laid it there, and have been just, or he might have left us to have laid it where we would; and then, to be sure, we had laid it there, and so had made but a muddy bottom to have gone upon to life. But now, this river of water of life, it has a better bottom; the water of life is as clear as crystal, look down to the bottom and see, we are “justified freely by his grace” (Rom 3:24). “By grace ye are saved,” there is the bottom (Eph 2:5, 8).

Now, grace, as I have showed you, is a firm bottom to stand on; it is of grace that life might be sure (Rom 4:16). Surely David was not here, or surely this was not the river that he spake of when he said, “I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me. Deliver me out of the mire, and let me not sink” (Psa 69:2, 14). I say, to be sure this could not be the river. No, David was now straggled out of the way, was tumbled into some pit, or into some muddy and dirty hole; for as for this river it has a good bottom, a bottom of salvation by grace, and a man needs not cry out when he is here that he sinks, or that he is in danger of being drowned in mud or mire.

3. The bottom of all is, as I said, that we might be saved, saved by grace, and I will add, “through the redemption that is in Christ.” This is still better and better. We read that, when Israel came over Jordan, the feet of the priests that did bear the ark stood on firm ground in the bottom, and that they set up great stones for a memorial thereof (Josh 3:17, 4:1–3). But had Jordan so good a bottom as has this most blessed river of water of life, or were the stones that Israel took out thence like this “tried stone,” this “sure foundation?” (Isa 28:16). O the throne! this river comes out of the throne, and we are saved by grace through the redemption that is in him. We read that there is a city that has foundations; grace is one, Christ another, and the truth of all the prophets and apostles, as to their true doctrine, another, &c. (Heb 11:10). And again, all these are the very bottom of this goodly river of the water of life (Eph 2:19, 20).

4. There is another thing to be seen at the bottom of this holy river, and that is, the glory of God; we are saved, saved by grace, saved by grace through the redemption that is in Christ to the praise and glory of God. And what a good bottom is here. Grace will not fail, Christ has been sufficiently tried, and God will not lose his glory. Therefore they that drink of this river shall doubtless be saved; to wit, they that drink of it of a spiritual appetite to it. And thus much for the explication of the text.

[the application of the whole]

I now come to make some use of the whole

You know our discourse has been at this time of the water of life, of its quantity, head-spring, and quality; and I have showed you that its nature is excellent, its quantity abundant, its head-spring glorious, and its quality singularly good.
FIRST. Let this, then, in the first place, be a provocation to us to be more free in making use of this water. There are many, now-a-days, that are for inventing of waters, to drink for the health of the body; and to allure those that are ill to buy, they will praise their waters beyond their worth. Yea, and if they be helpful to one person in a hundred, they make as if they could cure every one. Well, here you have the great Physician himself, with his water, and he calls it the water of life, water of life for the soul: this water is probatum est.17 It has been proved times without number; it never fails but where it is not taken (Acts 26:18; Isa 5:4, 5). No disease comes amiss to it; it cures blindness, deadness, deafness, dumbness. It makes “the lips of those that are asleep to speak” (Cant 7:9). This is the right HOLY WATER,18 all other is counterfeit: it will drive away devils and spirits; it will cure enchantments and witchcrafts; it will heal the mad and lunatic (Gal 3:1–3; Mark 16:17, 18). It will cure the most desperate melancholy; it will dissolve doubts and mistrusts, though they are grown as hard as stone in the heart (Eze 36:26). It will make you speak well (Col 4:6). It will make you have a white soul, and that is better than to have a white skin (Eze 36:25, 26). It will make you taste well; it will make you disrelish all hurtful meats (Isa 30:22). It will beget in you a good appetite to that which is good; it will remove obstructions in the stomach and liver. It will cause that what you receive of God’s bread shall turn to good nourishment, and make good blood. In a word, it preserveth life (John 4:14). They that take this water shall live longer than did old Methuselah, and yet he lived a great while (Gen 5:27).
Wherefore, let me continue my exhortation to you. Be more free in making use of this water; it is the wholesomest water in the world; you may take it at the third, sixth, ninth, or eleventh hour, but to take it in the morning of your age is best (Matt 20:3–6). For then diseases have not got so great a head as when they are of long continuance, consequently they will be removed with far more ease; besides, those
Bunyan, J. (2006). The Water of Life (Vol. 3, pp. 557–558). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software. (Public Domain)

Psalm 9 Giving Arrows Title.jpg

Psalm 9

Psalm 9

“I will praise You, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will tell of all Your marvelous works. I will be glad and rejoice in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High. When my enemies turn back, They shall fall and perish at Your presence. For You have maintained my right and my cause; You sat on the throne judging in righteousness. You have rebuked the nations, You have destroyed the wicked; You have blotted out their name forever and ever. O enemy, destructions are finished forever! And you have destroyed cities; Even their memory has perished. But the Lord shall endure forever; He has prepared His throne for judgment. He shall judge the world in righteousness, And He shall administer judgment for the peoples in uprightness. The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, A refuge in times of trouble. And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; For You, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You. Sing praises to the Lord, who dwells in Zion! Declare His deeds among the people. When He avenges blood, He remembers them; He does not forget the cry of the humble. Have mercy on me, O Lord! Consider my trouble from those who hate me, You who lift me up from the gates of death, That I may tell of all Your praise In the gates of the daughter of Zion. I will rejoice in Your salvation. The nations have sunk down in the pit which they made; In the net which they hid, their own foot is caught. The Lord is known by the judgment He executes; The wicked is snared in the work of his own hands. Meditation. Selah The wicked shall be turned into hell, And all the nations that forget God. For the needy shall not always be forgotten; The expectation of the poor shall not perish forever. Arise, O Lord, Do not let man prevail; Let the nations be judged in Your sight. Put them in fear, O Lord, That the nations may know themselves to be but men. Selah” (Psalm 9:1–20, NKJV)


THIS psalm expresses, in a series of natural and striking alternations, gratitude for past deliverances, trust in God’s power and disposition to repeat them, and direct and earnest prayer for such repetition. We have first the acknowledgment of former mercies, ver. 2–7 (1–6); then the expression of trust for the future, ver. 8–13 (7–12); then the petition founded on it, ver. 14, 15 (13, 14). The same succession of ideas is repeated: recollection of the past, ver. 16, 17 (15, 16); anticipation of the future, ver. 18, 19 (17, 18); prayer for present and immediate help, ver. 20, 21 (19, 20). This parallelism of the parts makes the structure of the psalm remarkably like that of the seventh. The composition was intentionally so framed as to be a vehicle of pious feeling to the church at any period of strife and persecution. The form is that of the Old Testament; but the substance and the spirit are common to both dispensations.

1. To the Chief Musician, Al-muth-labben. This enigmatical title has been variously explained. Some understand it as descriptive of the subject, and make labben an anagram of Nabal, the name of one of David’s enemies, and, at the same time, an appellative denoting fool, in which sense it is frequently applied to the wicked; see, for example, Ps. 14:1. The whole would then mean on the death of the fool, i.e. the sinner. Such enigmatical changes are supposed to occur in Jer. 25:26, 51:1, 41; Zech. 9:1. Others, by a change of pointing in the Hebrew, for al-muth read alamoth, a musical term occurring in the title of Ps. 46, or a cognate form almuth, and explain labben to mean for Ben, or the (children of) Ben, one of the Levitical singers mentioned in 1 Chron. 15:18. Neither of these explanations seem so natural as a third, which supposes muth-labben to be the title, or the first words, or a prominent expression of some other poem, in the style, or to the air of which, this psalm was composed. After the manner, or to the air, of (the song or poem) Death to the son, or the death of the son. Compare 2 Sam. 1:18, where David’s elegy on Saul appears to be called Kesheth or the Bow, because that word is a prominent expression in the composition. As it cannot be supposed that the expression was originally without meaning, the obscurity, in this and many similar cases, is rather a proof of antiquity than of the opposite.

2 (1). I will thank Jehovah, praise him for his benefits, with all my heart, sincerely, cordially, and with a just appreciation of the greatness of his favors. I will recount all thy wonders, the wonderful things done by thee, with special reference to those attested by his own experience. The change from the third to the second person is entirely natural, as if the Psalmist’s warmth of feeling would not suffer him to speak any longer merely of God, as one absent, but compelled him to turn to him, as the immediate object of address. There is no need, therefore, of supplying thee in the first clause, and construing Jehovah as a vocative.

3 (2). I will joy and triumph in thee, not merely in thy presence, or because of thee, i.e. because of what thou hast done, but in communion with thee, and because of my personal interest in thee. The form of the verbs, both here and in the last clause of the preceding verse, expresses strong desire and fixed determination; see above, on Ps. 2:3. I will praise, or celebrate in song; see above, on Ps. 7:18 (17). Thy name, thy manifested excellence; see above, on Ps. 5:12 (11). (Thou) Highest, or Most High! see above, on Ps. 7:18 (17). Here again there is special reference to the proofs of God’s supremacy afforded by his recent dealings with the Psalmist and his enemies.

4 (3). In the turning of my enemies back, i.e. from their assault on me, which is equivalent to saying, in their retreat, their defeat, their disappointment. This may either be connected with what goes before, and understood as a statement of the reason or occasion of the praise there promised: “I will celebrate thy name when (or because) my enemies turn back;” or it may begin a new sentence, and ascribe their defeat to the agency of God himself: “When my enemies turn back (it is because) they are to stumble, and perish from thy presence, from before thee, or at thy presence, i.e. as soon as thou appearest.” The Hebrew preposition has both a causative and local meaning. The form of the verbs does not necessarily imply that the deliverance acknowledged was still future, but only that it might occur again, and that in any such case, whether past or yet to come, Jehovah was and would be the true author of the victory achieved. The act of stumbling implies that of falling as its natural consequence, and is often used in Scripture as a figure for complete and ruinous failure.

5 (4). This was not a matter of precarious expectation, but of certain experience. For thou hast made, done, executed, wrought out, and thereby maintained, my cause and my right. This phrase is always used elsewhere in a favorable sense, and never in the vague one of simply doing justice, whether to the innocent or guilty. See Deut. 10:18; 1 Kings 8:45, 49; Ps. 140:12; and compare Isa. 10:2. And this defense was not merely that of an advocate, but that of a judge, or rather of a sovereign in the exercise of those judicial functions which belong to royalty. See Prov. 20:8. Thou hast sat, and sittest, on a throne, the throne of universal sovereignty, judging right, i.e. rightly, or a judge of righteousness, a righteous judge. See above, on Ps. 7:12 (11). In this august character the Psalmist had already seen Jehovah, and he therefore gives it as a reason for expecting him to act in accordance with it now.

6 (5). The forensic terms of the preceding verse are now explained as denoting the destruction of God’s enemies. Thou hast rebuked nations, not merely individuals, but nations. God’s chastisements are often called rebukes, because in them he speaks by act as clearly as he could by word. Thou hast destroyed a wicked (one), i.e. many a wicked enemy, in former times, in other cases, and that not with a partial ruin, but with complete extermination even of their memory. Their name, that by which men are distinguished and remembered, thou hast blotted out, erased, effaced, obliterated, to perpetuity and eternity, an idiomatic combination, coincident in sense, though not in form, with the English phrase, for ever and ever. This verse does not refer exclusively to any one manifestation of God’s power and wrath, but to the general course of his dealings with his enemies, and especially to their invariable issue, the destruction of the adverse party.

7 (6). The enemy, or as to the enemy, a nominative absolute placed at the beginning of the sentence for the sake of emphasis—finished, completed, are (his) ruins, desolations, for ever, i.e. he is ruined or made desolate for ever. The construction of the first word as a vocative—O enemy, ended are (thy) desolations for ever, i.e. the desolations caused by thee—affords a good sense, but is neither so agreeable to usage nor to the context as the one first given. Still less so are the other versions which have been given of this difficult clause. E.g. The enemies are completely desolate for ever;—the enemies are consumed, (there are) ruins (or desolations) for ever, &c. The address is still to Jehovah, as in the preceding verse. And (their) cities, viz. those of the enemy, hast thou destroyed. According to the second construction above given, this would mean, thou (O enemy) hast destroyed cities, but art now destroyed thyself. The same reasons as before require us to prefer Jehovah as the object of address. Gone, perish, is their very memory. The idiomatic form of the original in this clause cannot be retained in a translation. The nearest approach to it would be, gone is their memory, themselves. This may either mean their memory, viz. (that of) themselves, i.e. their own; or, perished is their memory (and) themselves (with it). There seems to be an obvious allusion to the threatenings against Amalek in the books of Moses (Exod. 17:14; Num. 24:20; Deut. 25:19), which received their literal fulfilment in the conquests of Saul and David (1 Sam. 15:3, 7, 27:8, 9, 30:1, 17; 2 Sam. 8:12; 1 Chron. 4:43). But this is evidently here presented merely as a sample of other conquests over the surrounding nations (2 Sam. 8:11–14), and even these as only samples of the wonders wrought by God for his own people, and celebrated in ver. 2 (1) above.

8 (7). And Jehovah to eternity, for ever, will sit, as he sits now, upon the throne and judgment-seat. He has set up for judgment, for the purpose of acting as a judge, his throne. It is not as an absolute or arbitrary ruler, but as a just judge, that Jehovah reigns. This recognition of God’s judicial character and office as perpetual is intended to prepare the way for an appeal to his righteous intervention in the present case.

9 (8). And he, himself, with emphasis upon the pronoun, is to judge the world, the fruitful and cultivated earth, as the Hebrew word properly denotes, here put for its inhabitants, in justice, or righteousness, i.e. in the exercise of this divine perfection. He will judge, a different Hebrew verb, to which we have no equivalent, he will judge nations, peoples, races, not mere individuals, in equities, in equity, the plural form denoting fulness or completeness, as in Ps. 1:1. As the preceding verse describes Jehovah’s kingship as judicial, so the verse before us represents him in the actual exercise of his judicial functions.

10 (9). And (so) will Jehovah be a high place, out of reach of danger, hence a refuge, for the oppressed, literally the bruised or broken in pieces, a high place, refuge, in times of distress, literally at times in distress, i.e. at times (when men are) in distress. God’s judicial sovereignty is exercised so as to relieve the sufferer and deliver those in danger.

11 (10). And in thee will trust, as now so in all times to come, the knowers of thy name, those who know the former exhibitions of thy greatness and thy goodness, all which are included in the name of God. See ver. 3 (2), and Ps. 8:2 (1), 7:18 (17), ver. 12 (11). For thou hast not forsaken thy seekers, or (those) seeking thee, O Lord, Jehovah, i.e. seeking thy favor in general, and thy protection against their enemies in particular. The certain knowledge of this fact is laid as the foundation of the confidence expressed in the first clause.

12 (11). Sing, make music, give praise by song or music, to Jehovah, as the God of Israel, inhabiting Zion, i.e. the sanctuary there established. Or the words may mean sitting, as a king, enthroned, (in) Zion, which agrees well with the use of the same verbs in ver. 5, 8 (4, 7) above, although the other version is favoured by the obvious allusion to the symbolical import of the sanctuary under the Mosaic law, as teaching the great doctrine of God’s dwelling among men. See above, on Ps. 3:5 (4), 5:8 (7). Zion is here represented as the centre of a circle reaching far beyond the house of Israel, and indeed co-extensive with the earth. Tell, declare, make known, in, among, the nations, his exploits, his noble deeds, the wonders mentioned in ver. 2 (1). We have here, in his inspired formula of worship, a clear proof that the ancient church believed and understood the great truth, that the law was to go forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem, Isa. 2:3, Mic. 4:2.

13 (12). For seeking blood, or as an inquisitor of blood, he has remembered, he remembers, it, i.e. the blood; he has not forgotten the cry of the distressed. God is here revealed in the character which he assumes in Gen. 9:5, where the same verb and noun are used in the first clause of the verse before us. The word translated blood is in the plural form. See above, on Ps. 5:7 (6). Hence the literal translation of the next word is, he has remembered them, i.e. the bloods or murders. The cry meant is the cry of suffering and complaint, with particular reference to Gen. 4:10. According to another reading of the last clause, the cry is that of the meek or humble, not of the distressed. But the common text affords a better sense, and really includes the other, as the innocence of the sufferers is implied, though not expressed. The general import of the verse is that God’s judgments, though deferred, are not abandoned, that he does not forget even what he seems to disregard, and that sooner or later he will certainly appear as an avenger. Murder is here put as the highest crime against the person, for all others, and indeed for wickedness in general.

14 (13). Have mercy upon me, or be gracious to me, O Jehovah, see my suffering from my haters, raising me from the gates of death. The view previously taken of God’s faithfulness and justice is now made the ground of an importunate petition for deliverance from present dangers and distress. My haters, those who hate me. From my haters may be taken as a pregnant construction, meaning, see my suffering (and free me) from my enemies. Thus in 2 Sam. 18:19, “Jehovah hath judged him from the hand of his enemies,” means “hath done him justice (and so freed him) from the power of his enemies.” See a similar expression in Ps. 22:22 (21) below. It seems more natural and obvious, however, in the case before us, to give from a causal meaning. “See my distress (arising) from, or caused by, those who hate me.” Raising me does not denote an accompanying act, as if he had said, see my distress, and at the same time lift me up, &c. It is rather descriptive of a certain divine character or habit, and agrees with the pronoun of the second person understood. “Thou that liftest me up,” that art accustomed so to do, that has done so in other cases, with an implied prayer, do so now. The gates of death may have reference to the image of a subterranean dungeon, from which no prisoner can free himself; or it may be simply a poetical expression for the entrance to the grave or the state of the dead. Compare Isa. 38:10, and Mat. 16:18.

15 (14). That I may recount all thy praise in the gates of the daughter of Zion, may joy in thy salvation. This is one important end for which he asks to be delivered, namely, that God may have the praise of his deliverance. There is a trace, in the Hebrew text, of an original plural form, praises, which might then denote praiseworthy deeds, actions worthy to be celebrated. But the singular form occurs with all in Ps. 106:2 below. The gates here mentioned are contrasted with those of the preceding verse. The God who saves him from the gates of death shall be praised for this deliverance in the gates of the daughter of Zion. This last expression is supposed by some to be a personification of the people inhabiting Zion or Jerusalem, who are then put for Israel at large, as the church or chosen people. Others regard the genitive construction as equivalent to a simple apposition, as in river of Euphrates, or in our familiar phrase, the city of Jerusalem. The personification is then that of the city itself, considered as an ideal virgin, and on that account called daughter, by a usage similar to that of the corresponding word in French. In either case, there is an obvious reference to the ancient church, as the scene or the witness of the Psalmist’s praises. The verb in the last clause may be made to depend upon the particle at the beginning of the verse, (that) I may exult: or it may be still more emphatically construed as an independent proposition, I will exult in thy salvation. The form of the verb is the same as in Ps. 2:3 above. The second verb itself occurs in ver. 11 of that psalm, and as in that case, may either denote an inward emotion or the outward expression of it, I will shout. In thy salvation, i.e. in the possession or experience of it, and in acknowledgment of having thus experienced or possessed it.

16 (15). Sunk are nations in a pit they made; in a net which they hid, taken is their foot. This may be either a confident anticipation of the future as if already past, or a further reference to previous deliverance, as a ground of hope for others yet to come. Nations, whole nations, when opposed to God. Compare Ps. 2:1. The accessory idea of Gentiles, heathen, would be necessarily suggested at the same time to a Hebrew reader. Most versions have the definite forms, the pit, the net; but the indefinite form of the original is equally intelligible in English, and therefore preferable as a more exact translation. The ellipsis of the relative, a pit (which) they made, is common to the Hebrew idiom and our own. The figures are borrowed from ancient modes of hunting. See above, on Ps. 7:16 (15). Their foot, their own foot, not that of the victim whose destruction they intended.

17 (16). Known is Jehovah, or has made himself known. Justice has he done, or judgment has he executed. In the work of his (own) hands ensnared is a wicked (man). Higgaion, meditation. Selah, pause. God has revealed himself as present and attentive, notwithstanding his apparent oblivion and inaction, by doing justice on his enemies, or rather by making them do justice on themselves, converting their devices against others into means of self-destruction. In view of this most striking attestation of God’s providential government, the reader is summoned to reflect, and enabled so to do by a significant and solemn pause. The sense of meditation or reflection is clear from Ps. 19:15 (14), and Lam. 3:62. See below, on Ps. 92:4 (3). The addition of Higgaion to Selah here confirms the explanation already given of the latter word. See above, on Ps. 3:3 (2). With this understanding of the terms, we may well say, to ourselves or others, in view of every signal providential retribution, especially where sin is conspicuously made its own avenger, Higgaion Selah!

18 (17). The wicked shall turn back even to hell, to death, or to the grave, all nations forgetful of God. The enemies of God and of his people shall be not only thwarted and repulsed, but driven to destruction; and that not merely individuals, but nations. For the meaning of Sheol see above, on Ps. 6:6 (5). The figure of turning back, retreating, failing, is the same as in ver. 4 (3) above. The idea expressed is not that of being turned directly into hell, but that of turning back, first to one’s original position, and then beyond it, to the grave or hell. In the last clause there is an allusion to the implied charge of forgetfulness on God’s part in ver. 13 (12) above. He had not forgotten the “poor innocents,” as they feared, and as their enemies believed; but these very enemies had forgotten him, and must now abide the consequences of their own forgetfulness. The future forms of this verse may have reference to the same things mentioned in the verse preceding as already past. It seems more natural, however, to explain them as a confident anticipation of results precisely similar to those which had already been produced by the same causes. As Jehovah had already caused the heathen to become their own destroyers, so he might be expected to renew the same judicial process in another case.

19 (18). For not for ever shall the poor be forgotten, (and) the hope of the humble perish to eternity. However long God may appear to be forgetful of his suffering people, even this seeming oblivion is to have an end. Still another allusion to the charge or imputation of forgetfulness implied in ver. 13 (12) above. The difference between the readings humble and afflicted (ענוים and עניים) is not essential, as the context shews that the humble meant are humble sufferers.
20 (19). Arise, Jehovah! Let not man, frail man, be strong. Let nations, or the heathen, be judged, and as a necessary consequence condemned, before thy face, in thy presence, at thy bar. Here again, as in ver. 13, 14 (12, 13), the expression of strong confidence is made the occasion of an earnest prayer. So far is an implicit trust from leading men to cast off fear and restrain prayer before God. On the exhortation to arise, as from a state of previous inaction, see above, Ps. 3:7 (6). For the full sense of the word translated man, see above, on Ps. 8:5 (4). Let him not be strong, i.e. let him not so appear, or so esteem himself. Let him have no occasion, by indulgence or prolonged impunity, to cherish this delusion, or to practice this imposture. The absurdity of making man the stronger party in this strife with God is so preposterous, that God is summoned to arise for the purpose of exploding it. To be judged, in the case of the wicked, is of course to be condemned. To be judged in God’s presence, or at his tribunal, is of course to be condemned without appeal.

21 (20). Set, place, or join, O Jehovah, fear to them. Let nations know, or then shall nations know, (that) man, not God, (are) they. Selah. God is entreated so to frighten them, that they may become conscious of their own insignificance and weakness. The word translated fear is elsewhere used to signify a razor. Hence some would render the first clause, apply the razor to them, i.e. shave them, in allusion to the oriental feeling with respect to the beard. But this seems far-fetched, and the masoretic reading yields a better sense. The precise import of the first phrase seems to be, set fear as a guard over them (Ps. 141:3), or join it to them as a constant companion. The word translated man is still the same as in the foregoing verse, and was therefore intended to suggest the idea of human frailty, as contrasted with divine omnipotence.

Alexander, J. A. (1864). The Psalms Translated and Explained (pp. 40–46). Edinburgh: Andrew Elliot; James Thin. (Public Domain)

Circumstances of Prayer

Circumstances of Prayer

1.      Kneeling, humiliation.

         He kneeled down and prayed.  Luke 22:41.

         He went a little further, and fell on His face, and prayed. Matt. 26:39.

         My soul is brought low, even unto the dust, my belly cleaveth unto the ground.

2.      Sinking the head, shame.

         Drooping the face.

3.      Smiting the breast, indignation.

4.      Shuddering, fear.

5.      Groaning, sorrow.

         Clasping of hands.

6.      Raising of eyes and hands, vehement desire.

7.      Blows, revenge.

3-6 2 Cor 7:11

Andrewes, L. (1865). The Devotions of Bishop Andrewes, Translated from the Greek, and Arranged Anew. (J. H. Newman, Trans.) (A New Edition, pp. 4–5). Oxford; London: John Henry and James Parker. (Public Domain)

John 2.11 Miracles Water Made Wine Alford.jpg

Miracles: Water Made Wine

Miracles:  Water Made Wine

“This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory.” (John 2:11)

It is very instructive, particularly when any course of teaching like our present one is undertaken, to notice the way in which the Church has chosen the passages of Scripture which are to be read on the different Sundays. I told you, that in our series of doctrinal sermons I should follow the great events of our Lord’s life as brought before us by the Church. Now let us observe what she has done for us about this time of the year. We have passed the nativity of Christ: His circumcision: His manifestation to the Gentiles. Last Sunday the Gospel contained the narrative of the only event recorded as having happened during His youth. On that I did not preach to you: both because I had once treated it fully before, and because I had already said so much on the perfect manhood of our Lord, which that wondrous story most concerns.

But now let us observe the six following Sundays, beginning with this one, the second after Epiphany. Today we have for our Gospel the miracle of the water turned into wine: next Sunday, the healing of the leper and of the centurion’s servant, which occur together in Matt. 8: the Sunday after, the three miracles of the stilling the storm, the casting out the devils at Gadara, and the destruction of the swine, which also occur together in the same chapter. Then on the next Sunday, the fifth after Epiphany, we have the parable of the tares of the field: and missing the sixth, which occurs but seldom, and has a peculiar subject of its own, on Septuagesima Sunday we have another parable, that of the laborers in the vineyard: and on the next, Sexagesima, that of the Sower: the next Sunday to that introducing the solemn season of Lent with a Gospel pointedly announcing our Lord’s sufferings for our sins.

Thus we have before us, as there are this year five Sundays after Epiphany, three Sundays of miracles, and three of parables. And this circumstance will guide me in choosing our subjects for those Sundays.

Our Blessed Lord’s Person is the great center of all Christian doctrines. According as you do, or do not, see clearly who He is, and what was and is His work, you will or will not be sound in the faith, and led on to true and blessed belief in the other great verities of His religion. I shall need therefore no apology for devoting these six Sundays to the subjects thus pointed out to us; three to our Lord’s miracles,—three to His parables and discourses. May God guide me to speak, and you to hear, that which is according to His will, and the mind of His Spirit.

We are then to speak of CHRIST’S MIRACLES.
And first, WHAT IS A MIRACLE? This is a most important question: for on the right answer to it depends, whether we understand or not of what use Christ’s miracles were when they were wrought, and what purpose they are intended to serve for us now, and for the Church to the end of time. A miracle is an interference with the common course of nature by some power above nature. Thus an earthquake or a volcanic eruption is not a miracle, because it is a result, though an unusual result, of natural causes: a comet is not a miracle, because it is, though a rare thing in nature, yet brought about by no divine interference, but occurring in the course of nature herself. Divine interference might exalt either of these into miracles, by specially announcing them as sent for a purpose: as the prophetic voice of Samuel did thus exalt into a miracle the thunderstorm in the wheat harvest, when he foretold it as a sign of God’s anger for Israel’s sin. The healing of a disease is not a miracle, if brought about by ordinary means, although we know that God’s blessing must be given on those means; but it is a miracle, if it is produced by a word, or a touch, and would at once shew that he who did it possessed some power greater than that of nature, and of man, nature’s servant. Some power greater, I said: and I said it purposely: for all miracles do not come from God: some come from God’s enemy and ours, the devil, and from his agents and subordinate powers. The magicians of Egypt were able to perform the same miracles as Moses, up to a certain point: and we have it from the lips of our Lord himself, that the Antichrist of the latter days, when he shall appear, shall shew signs and wonders, so as to deceive, if it were possible, even the elect of God. St. Paul also speaks of the same Antichrist as “him whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and might and lying wonders.” Mere miracles then are no proof of a divine mission, but only of some power from heaven or hell superior to that of man, and of nature in her ordinary working.

I shall have occasion to return to this point again by and by, and to say a good deal upon it. Meantime one general remark must be made here in the outset. It will be plain to you that any one who believes in a personal Author and Governor of nature, will have no difficulty in believing in miracles. The same Almighty Being who made and upholds nature, can interfere, whenever it pleases Him, with the ordinary course of nature, which He has Himself prescribed. To say that He cannot do this, is to deny His almightiness, and consequently His existence. To say that He never will be pleased thus to interfere, is manifestly foolish and presumptuous in the extreme: we cannot set bounds to His purposes, nor tell beforehand how He may be pleased to accomplish them. It does not follow, because we have never witnessed an unusual exertion of His power, that such never take place. By the same argument we might refuse to believe any wonderful thing which we have not ourselves seen. Then again, every one who believes in the existence of spirits and powers of evil must allow that they exist and act only by permission of God, and for mysterious purposes of His. And the trial of our faith and obedience is certainly one of those purposes. There is then no antecedent difficulty in believing that miraculous powers are granted, or have been at certain times granted, to these evil spirits, to exercise the faith of men: and Scripture positively assures us that such is the case. Whenever a man refuses to believe in miracles, one of two things must be the case: either, believing the possibility of miracles, he does not think the evidence enough on which the miracle is sought to be established; or, disbelieving their possibility, and thinking no evidence sufficient to establish them, he must, if he be consistent, also disbelieve the existence of,—or the continued government of the world by,—an Almighty Creator and Upholder. We, while we believe the evidence of the Scripture miracles to be sufficient to prove them to be facts, take the former course, with regard to the recorded miracles of the Saints of the Church of Rome, and to those which she from time to time reports in our own days: we believe well-attested miracles, but we do not believe these, which we find will not bear the test of a searching examination into their facts. The unbeliever takes the latter course, when he refuses to receive the miracles related in Holy Scripture, on the ground of its being impossible or improbable that they should have happened. I say, the unbeliever; meaning he who rejects Christ and Christianity: for it is clearly impossible to receive Christ as the Savior, and not to credit those very works to which He constantly appealed for the truth of His mission.

But now it is time to return to the more interesting matter which we just now left. If there are good and had miracles,—miracles of divine goodness, and miracles of lying spirits,—one thing must be very plain to us: viz. that by miracles alone no man can be proved to be sent from God. He may be proved to be sent either from God, or from God’s and man’s enemy: but miracles alone will not determine which.

And now we have come to the point as regards our blessed Lord Himself. Our enquiry to-day, on which we wish to gain some information for ourselves, is, What were our Lord’s miracles, as regards their place in His great work? They held a very important place, but they did not hold the chief place, in the evidences of His mission. He often appeals to them in proof that He came from God: but He does so in a peculiar manner, and one very instructive to us. He himself actually at one time had to reply to the charge that he wrought them by Satanic influence. “This man casteth out devils by Beelzebub the prince of the devils.” And the way in which He answered the accusation is most instructive. He did it, not by appealing to the greatness, or even to the beneficence of his miracles alone, but by asserting that if it were so, Satan would be divided against himself. Our Lord was his well-known opponent,—the man of truth, the man of purity, the man of God; whose meat and drink it was to do God’s will; and the idea of Satan working by means of this man would imply that Satan was his own enemy, and therefore could not stand, but must have an end. And this is just the course which our Lord ever took with regard to His miracles. You will find it in St. John’s Gospel most plainly set forth. There the Evangelist’s purpose evidently is, not merely to relate the events as they happened, and the discourses as they were delivered; but so to collect and group them together that they may best illustrate our blessed Lord’s purpose and method of manifesting himself to men. And you will ever find Him in that Gospel insisting on this point in all His conflicts and controversies with the Jews,—that His life was holy and blameless; that He was a good man, and spoke good, and did good, and shewed them good. This was the great and firm basis on which Jesus rested for the acceptation of his ministry and mission; that none could convict him of sin; that He was like God, and of God. And now came in His miracles; not as chief proofs, but as proofs in aid, of this pure and holy life and mission. They were wonderful works; they were suspensions of the course of nature: this shewed Him to be one endowed with supernatural power. He turned water into wine:—He spoke and the winds were silent:—He commanded diseases with a word. So far the power might be from above or from beneath. But, coupled with his holy and blameless life, and his love for God, and obedience to God, these works of power took another character, and became signs, St. John’s usual word for them; signs whence He came: they could have but one source,—they could not be from Satan; He could not be a magician, in league with the powers of evil:—they were proofs that He was what he asserted himself to be,—from God, and the Son of God:—they became, when viewed together with the consistent and unvarying character of his teaching and life, most valuable and decisive evidences to his Messiahship. “No man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him,” said the Jewish Rabbi to Him: “the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me that the Father hath sent me.”

But besides that our Lord’s miracles came in aid of His spotless and holy life to prove Him the Son of God, they have a distinct and most important meaning and teaching of their own. This will be best introduced by for a moment comparing them with the thousands of reported heathen and middle-age miracles which have been reported in history and legend. What was the meaning and import of all these? What good did they do? What result came of them? Can any instruction be got from them, or is any meaning for men’s souls concealed beneath them? But with every one of our Lord’s miracles, this is otherwise. They are full of goodness to the bodies and souls of men. Each of them has its own fitness as adapted to His great work, and to the will of the Father which He came to accomplish. Each one tends, in its place, as St. John says of this one in our Gospel, to manifest forth His glory: shews forth some gracious attribute, some deep sympathy: testifies to Him as the light, or life, or consolation, or sustenance, of man and man’s world. Let us take general instances, which we shall be able afterwards to follow out into particulars, in the miracles which are brought before us in the Gospels for these three Sundays.

Sin is, as we have seen, the great disease of our nature, which this divine Savior came to heal. Bodily disease is not only a type, it is the consequence of sin. So that when our Lord puts forth His hand to heal, or speaks the words which are followed by healing, He is forwarding, at the same time that He is prefiguring and illustrating, His healing power for the whole world, for men’s bodies and souls alike: when He raises the dead, He is conquering Death, the result of sin, and He is giving a foretaste of the day when all that are in the grave, shall hear His voice: when He feeds the five thousand or the four thousand in the wilderness, He himself teaches us that He is not only doing a beneficent act to men’s bodies, but is teaching them that He is the Bread of life for their souls: when He casts out devils in relief of the peculiar spiritual affliction of that time, He is teaching us that He came to destroy the works of the devil. Some of the miracles are acted parables: similar lessons of instruction are conveyed by them to those which at other times He expressed in his teaching. We have a notable example of this in the miracle of the withering fig-tree, in which He sets forth to us, in connection with his well-known parable, the barrenness, and the punishment, of unfruitful Israel.

So that our Lord’s miracles form a precious and most important body of proofs of his holy mission and his Sonship of God: and not only this, but they come powerfully in aid of his discourses, in setting before us the truth of his divine Person and Work. We know his Power by them; we are assured of his Wisdom and his Love. The faithful soul, in its wants and its weaknesses, finds these testimonies to his loving-kindness a rich treasure-house of personal comfort.

I will devote the rest of my sermon to considering how this is so with regard to the class of miracles to which that in our Gospel to-day belongs.

That class is a very remarkable one. And it is especially worthy of note, that our Lord should choose a miracle of such a character with which to open his whole course of supernatural working. For it is one in which we have not the healing of disease, not the abolition of death, not the freeing men from any of the plainer and more obvious consequences of sin, but the supply of a want which was not a need, the ministering to mere festive joy, not to destitution and distress. It may at first sight appear strange that such a miracle should be selected by our Lord as one especially calculated to manifest forth his glory, and to cause his disciples to believe on him. There is then all reason why we should closely examine it and try to discern its worthiness for such a place and office.

Our first observation shall be this: that whereas other of our Lord’s miracles concern some particular portion of human infirmity, or divine power and mercy, we might well expect this one, which was to begin and head them, to convey a lesson of a more general nature respecting both ourselves and Him who wrought it. And such indeed it does convey. We see Him here as the true source of all joy and happiness: we see Him in his highest and most blessed influence on man and that which belongs to man. For He came, as we insisted last Sunday in preaching to you on the universality of His Gospel, to heal and elevate and bless our whole nature, in all its wants, all its employments, all its joys.

And what is it that we find Him here doing? The holy estate of marriage was instituted of God in the time of man’s innocency. It is an institution still in full force among us, and dating from before the time of the first ravages of sin. Sin indeed has abused it, and counterfeited it, and interfered with its blessedness: but for all that, its own holiness and purity, and capability for blessing and elevating humanity, still remain for those who use it aright, in the faith and fear of God, and in holy forbearance and love. What occasion then so fitting for the Son of God to shew his divine power of blessing and hallowing humanity, as that of a marriage? He might have entered the abode of sickness and healed with a word, as often afterwards: He might have stood over the bed of death and called back the parted spirit: each of these miracles would have had, as each ever has, its own deep and blessed significance: but we may venture to say, that neither of them would have spread so wide, or risen so high, in its manifestation of the Redeemer’s glory, as did this one. Those would regard more the means whereby the great work of Redemption was to be accomplished,—the healing of sin, the overcoming of death: but this shews us the blessed work completed, and in its most glorious result. “These things speak I to you that your joy may be full.” This was the tendency of his discourses, and of the writings of his apostles:—and thus, in ministering to the fulness of human joy, He is going further, and shewing more completely the glory of his Incarnation in our nature, than if He had ministered to human sorrow,—because under Him and in His Kingdom, all sorrow is but a means to joy,—all sorrow ends in joy. “Ye now therefore have sorrow,” He says to His disciples of their orphan state in the world: “but I will come and see you again, and ye shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.”

Take yet another view of this miracle. The gift which our Lord bestowed in it is ever used in Scripture, however it has been perverted by man’s evil and sinful lusts, as setting forth to us the invigorating and cheering effects of the Spirit of God on man’s heart. “The Lord will make a feast of wines on the lees well refined:”—“Come ye, buy wine and milk without money and without price:”—these are the prophetic representations of the rich blessings of the Christian covenant. And so our Lord, in opening His treasure of these rich blessings, does so by imparting the lower gift, the type of His better and more lasting bestowal. And St. John has thought it worth while to record, that the wine which He bestowed was the best of its kind, as all His gifts are better than any other gifts: as His works of nature and His works of grace are ever the best and the noblest, marvels of skill and mercy:—for He doeth all things well.

All this was manifesting forth His glory, and the character of His work on earth: and so it was, when He turned water into wine, the baser element into the nobler, the weaker into the stronger. For thus He ever does with all that is merely ours, when He comes with His transforming power and His heavenly grace. By that power the weak becomes strong, the earthly becomes heavenly, the transitory becomes abiding and eternal. It is He alone who can turn the mere flashes of human joy into a holy and steady flame which even the grave shall not extinguish: He alone, who can change the sorrow of the world, which worketh death, into godly sorrow, which bringeth forth the peaceable fruits of righteousness:—who bestows the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.

But more manifestations of His glory yet remain behind. He did all this simply by His own creative power. And the process was hidden from human view. In the vessels, or in pouring from vessel to vessel, did His power in a moment work that wondrous change, which is yearly during a whole season wrought by Him in nature, when the moisture of the earth is taken up by the vine, circulates as sap in the branch and the bud and the bloom, becomes ripened into the juice of the grape,—and yet more, being by man’s labor gathered, pressed, fermented, put by, after years mellows into the good wine. He, who commonly creates by means and secondary causes, can do without them when He will; will do without them, when it pleases Him, in the bringing about of His great purposes.

Yet again. There is something in the very order of His course here which is instructive to us. “Thou hast kept the good wine until now,” says the ruler of the feast. Ever His best, last:—not even His best first, as the world, anxious for present shew, present effect, careless about the distant future. It is not His way to be very gracious at first, and then to cool towards His people: to invite them to Him, and then fall back from them: His mercies are new every morning: He giveth more grace,—grace for grace: and evermore those who have loved Him longest love Him best, those who have served Him longest can tell most of His loving-kindness. He keeps His best until last. Never, till we sit down in the Kingdom of God, shall we know the fulness of joy which is in His presence, and the pleasures which are at His right hand. There none will be disappointed: every one will know and confess that He has kept His best bestowal, till body and soul and spirit were ready to be filled full with it.

But lastly, all this He will do, not at our time, but at His own. See how His blessed Mother urged him forward, being convinced in her own believing heart that He could and would do, what He eventually really did. But mark the reproof which even she earned from Him—“Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.” And so do many of us, my brethren, without half her faith and clearness of insight into His purposes, often urge Him forward for our own ease or consolation, or as we fancy, for His greater and speedier glorification: but the same answer awaits us,—if not from His lips, yet from His Providence: we shall be thrust back, and kept standing without and disappointed of our earnest wish, till His time is come: and then, but not till then, will He help us, and clear us, and justify us, and save us, and glorify us:—then when we are fittest,—then when His will is ripest,—then, when it is best.

Such, my beloved, are some of the lessons to be learned, some of the rich consolations to be drawn, from this one miracle of our Blessed Lord. Notice the effect in our text:—His disciples believed on Him. O may this same result be produced on every one of you. You have heard in these sermons of your deep need of Him,—of His eternal Godhead,—His grace in becoming man for you,—and now to-day of His glory as manifested by His miracles generally, and by this one in particular. And to what purpose shall I have spoken and you have heard these things, unless some hearts here be brought to receive Him for their Savior and Lord: to trust in His power and mercy, to thirst for a share in His glory?

Go and think of Him, and pray to Him, and serve Him: strive by prayer, by obedience, by patience and hope in believing, for more of His spirit and His likeness, that one day your vile body may be changed, by a far more wonderful miracle, to be as His glorious body, according to the mighty working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself.

Alford, H. (1862). Sermons on Christian Doctrine (pp. 82–96). London: Rivingtons. (Public Domain)

Places of Prayer

Places of Prayer

In all places where I record My Name, I will come to thee, and I will bless thee. Exod. 20:24.

Letb Thine eyes be open towards this house night and day, even toward the place of which Thou hast said, My Name shall be there; that Thou mayest hearken unto the prayer which Thy servant shall make towards this place. 1 Kings 8:29.

Thou that hearest the prayer
unto Thee shall all flesh come.
The fierceness of man shall turn to Thy praise,
and the fierceness of them shalt Thou refrain.

As for me, I will come into Thy house
even upon the multitude of Thy mercy,
and in Thy fear will I worship
toward Thy Holy Temple.

Hear the voice of my humble petitions,
when I cry unto Thee;
when I hold up my hands
towards the mercy-seat of Thy Holy Temple.

We wait for Thy loving-kindness, O God,
in the midst of Thy Temple.

1. Among the faithful and in the congregation. Ps. 111:1.

2. Enter into thy closet, and, when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret. Matt. 6:6.

3. They went up into an upper room. Acts 1:13.

4. He went up upon the housetop to pray. Acts 10:9.

5. They went up together into the Temple. Acts 3:1.

6. We kneeled down on the shore, and prayed, Acts 21:5.

7. He went forth over the brook Cedron, where was a garden. John 18:1.

8. Let them rejoice in their beds. Ps. 149:5.

9. He departed into a desert place and there prayed. Mark 1:35.

10. In every place lifting up holy hands without wrath and doubting. 1 Tim. 2:8.

Andrewes, L. (1865). The Devotions of Bishop Andrewes, Translated from the Greek, and Arranged Anew. (J. H. Newman, Trans.) (A New Edition, pp. 2–4). Oxford; London: John Henry and James Parker. (Public Domain)


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