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The Works of Gilbert Beebe
THE WATER OF LIFE
Signs of the Times—March 1, 1858.
“But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” John 4:14
This text presents a part of what our Lord said to the woman of Samaria, and like all the words which proceeded from his mouth, is full of interest and instruction to those who are divinely prepared to understand and appreciate the doctrine which he taught. The circumstances attending this interview are calculated to impress the mind with a sense of the perfection of the divine arrangement in the counsel of God, and the connection of his providence with the purpose of his grace. In the execution of the great work assigned our Redeemer when here in the flesh, he had occasion to go from place to place, and many circumstances which to the natural mind might seem trifling or accidental, are shown to be of vital importance, and highly essential to the accomplishment of the work which as the Mediator was given him to do. Such was the case in this instance; he had departed from Judea to go into Galilee, and he must needs go through Samaria. We are not informed of any other reason for this necessity or needs-be, but what appears in the circumstance of his meeting the woman at Jacob’s well, the interview and conversation which took place, the effect produced on the woman, and also on the citizens of Samaria, who came out to see him, and who professed faith in him as the true Messiah. As he must needs go through Samaria, this woman must needs come out of the city at that very time to draw water, and every other incident recorded was equally important. And thus we believe in every instance of the calling, quickening and conversion of the children of the kingdom, the special providence of God may be clearly traced. God has appointed the bounds of our habitation, so that we cannot pass them.
“His decree who formed the earth,
Fixed our first and second birth;
Parents, native place and time,
All appointed were by him.”
By a well directed train of providential events, we find the Redeemer in conversation with the woman of Samaria. He asks of her drink from her pitcher; she expresses her surprise that he, being a Jew, should ask drink of a woman of Samaria, as the Jews and Samaritans had no dealings together. “Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knowest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.” The woman, like all the Arminian world, entertained the false impression that God is as dependent on means and instrumentalities for the accomplishment of his purposes, as we are, for she knew not the gift of God, nor the Son of God, whom to know is eternal life, therefore she betrayed her ignorance of both by saying to him, “Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep.” This is a prevalent delusion among all will-worshipers and work-mongrel religionists, that God is dependent on his creatures to furnish him with means and instruments with which to supply the waters of life. Sinners are now represented as sinking by thousands into hell, not because they are sinners, but for the want of means, men, money, tracts, schools, or something to draw with, and it is published far and wide that if men would be more active and liberal in supplying the Lord with something to draw with, multitudes would be converted, and the earth would soon be all evangelized. Whence, thought this ignorant woman, can he supply the water of life of which he speaks, unless he draw it from the well, and as the well is deep, how can he draw it thence without means? “Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever shall drink of this water shall thirst again.” And it is even so with all whom drink, religiously, of the religious systems, doctrines, works and inventions of men, which result from their popular means using machinery, who for the time being feel their natural passions of fear, remorse and terror somewhat allayed, but surely as there is a God in heaven, they shall thirst again. Their hopes which are predicated on their works and instrumentalities will fail them, when God shall execute the words recorded, (Isa. 28:17,18). Like the waters of earthly fountains, which may satisfy our natural thirst for a time but the draught must be repeated as often as the thirst recurs; so with false religious impressions, they only satisfy a carnal, depraved propensity which will recur from time to time as their fleshly passions are excited, and their natural fears disturbed; but in all such cases a revival, through the agency of a protracted meeting, exciting preaching, or some other instrumentality to draw with, is required at short intervals, to prevent their falling from what they call grace, and losing their religion; for they shall thirst again.
“But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” On this part of the subject our views are called for, and while we cheerfully give them, we will remark that our views, or the views of any other person, are of little worth except so far as they are sustained by the Word of the Lord. Whatever views may be entertained on the Scriptures, cannot change the truth which they express. From what we have written, the reader will perceive that we understand our Lord to draw a striking contrast between the earthly fountains, which are relied upon for salvation, and which are only available by the use of humanly devised means and instrumentalities to draw with, and his own method of salvation by grace, which is altogether superior to and independent of the agencies, means and instrumentalities of either good or bad men.
Three propositions are suggested. First, the figurative import of the water, which Jesus gives. Second, his purpose to give it to some, but not to all of the human family. And third, the lasting and blessed effects of the water of life resulting to those unto whom Christ shall give it.
First, the water, and what is figuratively signified by it. It is here called, in distinction from that drawn by instrumentalities from earthly fountains, living water; and it is elsewhere called the water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and the Lamb; and, as defined on the last day of the feast of tabernacles, it signifies that Spirit which they that believe shall receive, (John 8:37-39). Having reference to that Spirit which he promised to send resurrection, “Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you,” (John 14:17). Hence, when preaching the doctrine of the new and spiritual birth, he said to Nicodemus, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God,” (John 3:5). Our natural birth, by which we are made manifest as the members of the old Adam, is of the flesh, and the life developed in that fleshly birth is not abiding, it is mortal and transitory, like the waters drawn from Jacob’s well. But that which is born of the Spirit is spirit, and it is life, and unlike our natural life, it is spiritual, immortal and eternal. Those who are born of it, receive it, are sealed by it, as the Holy Spirit of promise, and they are sealed unto the day of redemption, that is the day of the redemption of our body, (Eph. 1:13,14; Rom. 8:23). This Spirit of life and immortality which is called the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, (Rom. 8:2) and which is not the spirit of bondage, again to fear, like the spirit of will-worship, instrumentalities, bondage and fear, but it is the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead, and which shall in due time also quicken the mortal bodies of all who possess it, by the spirit that dwelleth in them, (Rom. 8:11). This Spirit of life and immortality is the Spirit of Christ, and if any man have it not, he is none of his; and it is Christ, as the apostle declares, “They that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life, because of righteousness,” (Rom. 8:8-10).
From these, with numerous other Scriptures, it is clearly demonstrated that the living water which Christ gives, is the Spirit of life and immortality, the Spirit of holiness, the Spirit of adoption whereby we cry, Abba Father. Water is an appropriate and instructive figure of the Spirit of life, and the fitness of the emblem may be contemplated in the following particulars.
1. Water is an indispensable element; natural life cannot be sustained without it. So in the absence of this spiritual life, we are represented as being in a pit wherein is no water, (Zech. 9:11). And the fruitless inventions of the carnal Israelites, in working for life and salvation by their own carnal works and instrumentalities, are charged with having committed two horrible things, for says God, “They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water,” (Jer. 12-13). Likewise the presumptuous wretches who are offering salvation to sinners, pretending to be commissioned to aid in the conversion of sinners, are by the apostle Jude denominated, “Clouds without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots,” (Jude 12). Being twice dead, they cannot contain any of the water of life which they pretend to offer to their deluded hearers. Peter says of them, “These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved forever,” (2 Pet. 2:17). When the children of Israel were in the wilderness and without water, they were in a dying condition, until God commanded, and Moses smote the rock which was in Horeb; thence from the rock the water flowed in streams of salvation. In this figure, Paul says, “And that Rock was Christ.” God, according to what we have quoted from Jeremiah, is the Fountain of living water, and God was manifest in the flesh of Christ, when he was smitten by the rod of Moses, and the waters of salvation broke forth, to follow all his redeemed family to their journey’s end. Isaiah says of Zion, the city of our solemnities, “But there, [in Zion] the glorious Lord will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams, wherein shall go no galley with oars, [or instruments to draw with] neither shall gallant ship pass thereby,” (Isa. 33:21). This is that river of which David sung, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High, (Ps. 46:4). It was seen by Ezekiel, proceeding from the threshold of the sanctuary of God, of which God said to the prophet, “And it shall come to pass that everything that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come shall live, (Ezek. 47:1-9). John also had a pleasing view of it; “And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb,” (Rev. 22:1). Of these waters God has said, “The beasts of the field shall honor me; the dragons and the owls, because I give waters in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert; to give drink to my people my chosen,” (Isa. 43:20). “When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the Lord will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers 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). “And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea: in summer and in winter shall it be,” (Zech. 14:8).
2. We may also speak of the cleansing quality of water as applicable to the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost. Although the carnal, depraved nature of man remains in his flesh, and keeps up a perpetual warfare in the children of grace, between the flesh and Spirit, the old man and the new man; yet it is certain that the grace of God, developed in his children, will produce a reformation. They cease to fight against the truth, and they no longer feel opposed to God’s people, to his method of grace and salvation, but the things which they once hated they are made to love, and the society in which they had no pleasure or interest, now becomes the society of their choice.
3. The harmonizing, mingling, or unity of waters, is well calculated to set forth the unity of the Spirit as it is manifested in the saints of God. Let two who are born of the water and of the Spirit, come together, the one from Hindostan or Africa, and the other from a more refined part of the world, however hostile to each other in their natural prejudices as soon as they pronounce the Shibboleth, or manifest that they have both drank of that living water which is in them as wells of water, springing up into everlasting life, all their prejudices melt away, and they come together as two drops of water, and are of one heart and mind.
Second, we propose to notice the purposes of God, as implied in our text to give this water to some, but not to all the sons of men. The words, he that drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst, fully imply that there are those unto whom he will give it. But we do not depend upon any logical deductions, or mere inferences however clearly deduced, but on the most positive and emphatic declarations of the word of God. First we will present the testimony of the Redeemer himself, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live,” (John 5:25). This passage most positively declares not only a fixed and irrevocable purpose, but also a pledge in which the veracity of Christ is involved, that some who are dead shall hear his voice and live, but whether all the dead or only some of the dead are included, must be ascertained from other portions of the word. To determine this matter, turn to the tenth chapter, twenty-seventh and twenty-eighth verses, and there we are informed who of the dead shall so hear and live. “MY sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand.” But perhaps a more direct declaration could not be expressed in our language, than that found in the appeal made by our Lord, to the Father, when he “lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: as thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent,” (John 15:1-3). But to settle the matter forever beyond all cavil, turn to his words in John 6:37,44 and 45: “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out”. “No man can come to me, except the Father which has sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.” As the water which Christ shall give, is the water of life, or living water, we see that those and those only are partakers of it, who are drawn by the Father, taught by God, quickened by the voice of the Son of God, and thus being quickened, are qualified to appreciate the waters of life, because they, and only they, are capable of thirsting for living water. And the thirsty only are called to the waters. “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters,” cries the inspired Isaiah, (55:1). To which Christ himself responds, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.” As none but quickened sinners are thirsty, none but the thirsty are called, and as none but such as are drawn by the Father can come to the place of these “broad rivers and streams,” so all who are so drawn shall come, shall live, shall in no wise be cast out, but shall be raised up at the last day. All therefore who know the gift of God, and who the Savior is, will ask of him, for they being taught of God, have learned that God alone is in Christ, and that all the waters of life are in him, therefore it is that they shall come to him, and that they shall ask for him, and he shall give, not offer, to them the waters of life freely, not conditionally, and the water which he shall give them shall be in them. We now come to our last general proposition, which is,
Thirdly, to speak of the lasting and blessed effects of this living water to all those unto whom Christ shall give it. He shall never thirst, but it shall be in him a well of living water springing up unto everlasting life. That he shall never thirst, does not mean that Christians do not thirst after God, holiness, happiness, &c., in the sense in which the psalmist expressed in Psalm 42:12, “My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God,” also Psalm 143:6, “I stretch forth my hands unto thee; my soul thirsteth after thee as a thirsty land.” But the peculiar sense in which the figure is employed in our text, is that they who receive from Christ the water of life which he shall give them, shall never be deprived of it, for it shall be in them a well of water springing up to everlasting life. Christ, who is the fountain, is himself in them and from that living fountain the waters of life shall be ever springing up. Of this life which is called water it is said “God hath given us eternal life and the life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life hath life, and he that hath not the of God has not,” (1 John 5:11-12). Hence Paul, in describing the difference between this living water and that which hath to be drawn with human instrumentalities, says, “But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;” (Rom. 10:6-8). This well being in them, and the waters of life springing up in their hearts, moves their lips to proclaim his goodness, and to talk of his power. Water may be conducted by pipes to any depth and then elevated to a level with its fountain head; but, without some other power or agency, it can never rise above its own level or fountain. Hence the water, or life, which may be obtained by work-mongers who fancy that they have something to draw with, will never elevate them above themselves, as the fountain from whence they draw the life of their religion, is in the passions, will, resolutions and determinations of their own carnal nature, it will rise no higher than themselves. But the water of life which Jesus gives, is clear as crystal, and proceeds forth from the throne of God and the Lamb, it therefore is springing up into everlasting life. However dark and disconsolate the children of God may feel, all their trials are wisely appointed for the trial of their faith, and in every other respect, for their good and the glory of God, and the more they are exercised by the springing up of these living waters within them, the more they may expect to see and feel, and mourn their own carnal, depraved nature, and the more they may expect to be tempted by the adversary. But rather this proves the existence in them of the well of water, than otherwise. But it is consoling to be assured by our Lord Jesus that all unto whom this water is given, are secured forever and shall never be deprived of that life he gives to them, and which he is in them. They shall in that sense never thirst, because he has given them eternal life and they shall never perish.
What we have written we cheerfully submit to the criticism of all who wish to criticize, as we have no motive other than the advancement of the truth; if anything shall be found in our views which is not fully sustained by the Scriptures, let it be rejected. Prove all things, and hold fast only to that which is good.
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