THE RIVER OF LIFE, PROCEEDING OUT OF
THE THRONE OF GOD, AND OF THE LAMB:
This sermon was preached immediately before the celebration of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, at Dunfermline, July 6, 1735.
“And he showed me a pure river of water, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God, and of the Lamb.” Revelation 22:1
At the last sacramental action that fell to my share here, I took occasion to speak of our Lord Jesus Christ as the Lamb in the midst of the throne, (Rev. 7:17). And now I would speak a little, as the Lord may assist, of the great blessings that proceed from that throne, to the everlasting salvation and consolation of all the redeemed.
Some understand all that is said in the two last chapters of this book, of the state of the Church even here on earth, in the glory of the latter days. Others view it as a representation of the perfect and triumphant state of the Church in heaven. I reckon it safest to exclude neither of these; and apprehend it takes in the heavenly state of the Church, and the happiness thereof, commenced in time here, and consummate through eternity thereafter. That glorious state begins here, since grace is the beginning of glory and glory the perfection, of grace. Now, this happy state is described here, in allusion to the earthly paradise that was lost by the sin of the first Adam, as another, a better paradise, restored by the righteousness of the second Adam.
In this verse you see a revelation made to John of the river of paradise; and by this river I understand the Spirit and all spiritual blessings: for so I find the Spirit frequently in scripture, represented as a river, or a flood of water; “I will pour water on him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground,” (Isa. 44:3). What is that? Even my Spirit, and my blessing; as it is explained in the words immediately following. But then you have the quality of this river: it is a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal. All the streams of earthly comforts are muddy and polluted, and polluting; but these are pure, clear, healing, and refreshing; giving life, and preserving life forever to them that drink thereof. You have the rise of this river, or whence it flows and proceeds, namely, “Out of the throne of God, and of the Lamb.” The Spirit, and all the blessings and comforts of grace and glory, proceed from a God in Christ. As the Spirit with reference to his personal property, proceeds from the Father and the Son; so, with reference to his office in the economy of redemption, he, as a Spirit of all grace and comfort, proceeds like “a pure crystal river out of the throne of God, and of the Lamb;” the Spirit, and all spiritual blessings being from God, through the mediation of the Lamb. But I shall further explain the words, upon the prosecution of the following doctrine.
Observation: That the living Spirit of God, communicating all the blessings of everlasting life, graciously here, and gloriously hereafter, proceeds like a pure crystal river out of the throne of God, and of the Lamb.
And here I shall, as the Lord may please to assist, essay to do the following things.
Offer some remarks for clearing and confirming the doctrine.
Observe the property and quality of the water of this river.
Show what may be imported in its being said to. “proceed out of the throne of God, and of the Lamb “
Inquire whence it is, or assign the reasons why this river of life is said to proceed out of the throne of God, and of the Lamb.
Deduce some Inferences for the Application.
I. We are to offer some remarks for clearing, confirming, and illustrating the doctrine.
Remark 1: —“That communion with God in Christ, “in his blessings and comforts at his table, whether above or below, is by his Spirit.” For, as through Christ we have access to the Father by one Spirit, (Eph. 2:18); so all the blessings and comforts of the new covenant are communicated from the Father, through the Son, by the Holy Ghost: and hence we enjoy the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, through him, in the communion of the Holy Ghost, (2 Cor. 13:14).
Remark 2: —“That all spiritual blessings, thus communicated, are everlasting.” They are the blessings of everlasting life begun in grace here, and consummate in glory hereafter. God himself; the prime and principal blessing, is the everlasting God; and the everlasting light, the everlasting life, the everlasting heaven and happiness of his people. And all the streams of blessings that flow from this fountain of living waters are everlasting. For example, is peace a stream of this river? “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God,” (Rom. 5:1). This peace is everlasting: and hence departed saints are said to enter into peace whenever they die, (Isa. 57:2). Peace here enters into them, and there they enter into peace. Is pardon of sin a stream of this river? Yea, “We have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sin,” (Eph. 1:7); and this pardon is everlasting: and it is said of the inhabitants of heaven, “The people that dwell there, shall be forgiven their iniquity,” (Isa. 33:24). Here they are pardoned, and there the pardon is lengthened out to eternity. Is sanctification and holiness a stream? Yea, “Beholding his glory, we are changed into the same image.” Well, it is an everlasting blessing, for in heaven it is perfected; “We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is,” (1 John 3:2). Again, Is the life of comfort here a stream? Yea, we joy in God through Christ. This blessing is everlasting, and therefore called everlasting consolation, (2 Thess. 2:16). And hence the Comforter is said to abide in us forever, (John 16:25). Even when the sensible comfort is withdrawn, yet the Comforter abideth forever. Again, is the begun life of communion with God a stream of this river of the water of life; What is this fellowship with the Father and the Son, but the beginning of everlasting communion? In a word, Is grace a stream of this river of the water of life? What is the life of grace here, but the beginning of the life of glory, which is everlasting, and commenced whenever the soul believes in Christ? “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life. This is life eternal, to know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” Thus you may see what I mean by the blessings of everlasting life, to be enjoyed graciously here, and gloriously hereafter, called the water of life in the text. And so far I have here designedly prevented myself the necessity of explaining much further this water of life, or the streams of this river.
Remark 3: —“That the Spirit of God, as the great blessing of the covenant, and all the other spiritual blessings of everlasting life, are compared frequently to water in scripture, (John 4:14, and 10th verse compared).” There Christ is said to give us living water; and again, “The water that I shall give him that drinketh it, shall be in him a well of water springing up to everlasting life.” And, “If any man thirst, let him come to me and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly, out of his very heart and soul, shall flow rivers of living water,” (John 7:37). This he speaks of the Spirit. But I insist not on all the instances I might offer; only the Spirit and his influences, graces, comforts, and blessings, may be on many accounts compared to water. I insist not upon the parallel; only, as water is for quenching of thirst, washing of stains, cooling of heats, healing of wounds, softening of hard earth, and fructifying of barren earth; so the Spirit, in his various influences and operations, is of manifold such like use to the souls of all his people.
Remark 4: —“That this river of water of life, that waters the church, militant and triumphant, with all spiritual and everlasting blessings, proceeds out of the throne of God, and the Lamb: I mean, the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.” Not only doth he so, as he is the third person of the glorious Trinity, and that by an eternal and ineffable procession; but also, as he is clothed with the peculiar and glorious office of applying the purchased redemption. He comes forth from the Father and the Son, by a voluntary subordination. This is plain from several scriptures, particularly; “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth,” (John 14:16). “When the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me,” (John 15:26). “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things,” (John 14:26) And again, “If I go not away, the Comforter will not come; but if I depart I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will convince the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment. He will guide you unto all truth. He shall glorify me, for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you,” (John 16:14). Whence then shall we have a good communion with God this day? Whence shall we have the Spirit, or any spiritual blessing and comfort? It is from the throne of God and of the Lamb: it is from the Father and the Son. This water is from God, through the mediation of the Lamb.
II. The second thing proposed was, To point out some of the qualities of this great blessing, comprehending all other blessings of everlasting life. The text calls it a “pure river of the water of life, clear as crystal; “where the water is described four ways, namely, from the plenty, the purity, the virtue, and the splendor of it.
1. It is described from the plenty, or great store of it, and therefore it is called a River. This is that river, the streams whereof make glad the city of God, (Ps. 46:4). No pleasures are like these that flow from the Spirit of God. “The fruit of the Spirit is peace and joy “but here it is only the streams of this river that we enjoy; but in heaven, the river itself will be enjoyed. The Holy Spirit is a river, not a cistern, to show his infinite plentitude and fulness, and the great abundance of heavenly blessings that flow from him. Our Lord Jesus hath received of this river, above measure, and yet the river is as full as ever. All believers, in all ages, from the beginning of the world, thousands and ten thousands, have drawn out of it: yet it is still an overflowing river. O let us bring all our empty pitchers here! For there is enough here for every son of Adam, if he would come; enough for time, and enough for eternity: the river is flowing by our door; O may we draw water out of this well of salvation!
2. It is described from its purity, it is a pure river. The Spirit of God is a pure and holy Spirit: and all his blessings and comforts are pure and holy, purifying and sanctifying blessings. A pool or a standing water may be impure; but a river though it should run through a loathsome ditch, will carry away the pollution of it; no man’s heart, be it never so polluted, like a stinking ditch, but if a stream of this river be let into it, and have a free passage, it will carry away all the filth, and pollution thereof. And why is it said of heaven; that “There shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth?” (Rev. 22:27). Because there is the river ever running. Here we have only the streams running sometimes, but there is the river itself; the pure river continually running. O let impure polluted souls come now to the streams of this pure and purifying river, as they are running from Christ in a gospel-dispensation: and never rest till they win to the river of perfect purity.
3. It is described from the quickening virtue of it: it is a “pure river of water of life.” This river of water is the living Spirit of God: the Spirit of life that quickens whom he will: he hath life in himself, and by him dead souls are quickened, and made to live forever. All earthly elementary waters have a beginning; but this river, the Spirit of God, is from everlasting to everlasting, without beginning, and without end. Other rivers are fed by springs and fountains; but this river of the spirit is himself the fountain of living waters, as well as a river. This river proceeds from God, and yet the river is God himself. “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Spirit, and these three are One.” Though God hath provided a channel of ordinances to convey some of the water of this river to us, for quickening and refreshing us; yet the river cannot be circumscribed or limited as it is in itself. O let dead souls conceive hope of life! here is the living and life-giving Spirit of God, to give the life of grace, the life of peace and pardon, the life of holiness and sanctification, the life of joy and consolation, the life of communion and fellowship with God, which are all the beginning and commencement of everlasting life, as I have already shown.
4. This river of water is described from the brightness, splendor, and glory of it: it is clear as crystal. This, I think, may point out both the pleasure and perspicuity of the river. What a pleasant river is the Spirit, in the everlasting emanation and flow of his influences and comforts! How sweetly do the redeemed drink of this river of pleasure; “In the presence of God there is fulness of joy, and pleasures for evermore,” (Ps. 36:8). And what a perspicuous river is that of the Spirit, “clear as crystal?” (Ps. 16:11) The Spirit as a Spirit of wisdom and revelation, in the knowledge of Christ, makes clear discoveries as a crystal glass, or a crystalline transparent river. It is by the Spirit we behold, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, (2 Cor. 3:18). It is the Spirit that glorifieth Christ, by showing the things of Christ; he giveth clear discoveries of the glory of Christ, and the glory of God’s perfections in him. The Spirit of life is the Spirit of light, that giveth the fiducial vision here, and the beatifical vision hereafter.
III. The next thing proposed was, To show what may be imported in this river being said to proceed out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.
1. It imports, that God and the Lamb have but one and the same throne, from whence the river of the Spirit and all spiritual blessings do proceed. Here is good news to us this day, when we are to commemorate the sufferings of the Lamb of God; that, as the Lamb that was slain upon the cross is now sitting upon the throne, so that God and the Lamb have not two thrones, but one and the same throne. The throne of God is the throne of the Lamb, and the throne of the Lamb is the throne of God; “I am set down with my Father in his throne,” (Rev. 3:21). He is the Lamb in the midst of the throne of God: but of this I have formerly treated.
2. It imports, that God and the Lamb have but one and the same Spirit. The river proceeds from the throne of God and of the Lamb. The Spirit of God is the Spirit of the Lamb; and the Spirit of the Lamb is the Spirit of God. Happy they that have the Spirit of Christ in them; for the Spirit of Christ is the Spirit of God. He is the Spirit of both, of the Fattier and of the Son: “All things that the Father hath, are mine,” says Christ, (John 16:15). And particularly, the Father’s Spirit is the Son’s; hence it is said; “Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father,” (Gal. 4:6). This river proceeds not out of the throne of God, or the Father’s throne only; but out of the throne of the Lamb also, the Son’s throne. The Spirit of life, for quickening dead souls into everlasting life, proceeds not out of the throne of God as an absolute God, but as a God in Christ; and therefore is said to proceed out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.
3. It imports, that the fulness of the Godhead that is in Christ, is a communicative fulness; and hence the river is said to issue from the throne of God and of the Lamb. The everlasting spring of the river is within the throne of God, where the Lamb sits; and the Lamb is anointed with the Spirit above measure; for the Father giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him, (John 3:34). And this ocean of divine fulness that is in him, is not shut up within the throne, but proceeds like a river out of it, that we, out of his fulness, may receive and grace for grace, (John 1:16). This communication is free, as free as the run of a stream out of a spring. And as the river proceeds freely out of the throne, so we may as freely come and drink of the water of life that runs out towards us. But again it imports,
4. That the giving out of the Spirit, and of all spiritual blessings, is a part of the royalty of Christ, and the fruit of his mounting the throne of heaven after he had finished his work upon earth; and hence, “When he ascended up on high, leading captivity captive, he received gifts for men, even for the rebellious,” (Ps. 68:18). The giving out of the Spirit, in the most plentiful manner, was deferred till the Lamb that was slain should be in the midst of the throne. It is said: “The Holy Ghost was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified;” (John 7:30), but whenever he is glorified, then the river, in a plentiful manner, was to proceed out of the throne of God and of the Lamb: “If I go not away, the Comforter will not come: but if I depart, I will send him unto you.” Whenever I am glorified upon the throne, then I will show the river of the water of life proceeding out of the throne. The giving, then of the Spirit of life, is a part of the Mediator’s royalty. Christ, as a King, hath the giving of the Spirit; this belongs to his administration, as the Lamb now upon the throne: hence says Christ; “The Father will send him in my name,” (John 14:26) even in my name and authority, as the crowned Sing of Zion; and “I will send him,” (John 16:7). Thus God and the Lamb agree from the imperial throne, to send from thence the river, the Spirit of life as an evidence of the Mediator’s exaltation, and of his glorious kingdom and royalty. Our Lord Jesus Christ sways his scepter of grace, and erects and maintains his kingdom, by sending his Spirit. The Lamb was sacrificed to purchase eternal redemption, and is enthroned to give the Spirit; and, O but the Spirit is a royal blessing! As Christ is a Priest upon the throne, so these that share of his Spirit are a royal priesthood; and, having the Spirit, they are kings and priests to their God. Let us wait this day about the throne for this glorious fruit and effect of his royal bounty.
IV. The Fourth thing proposed was, To inquire into the reasons, or whence it is that this river of life, for quickening dead souls to everlasting life proceeds out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.
1. It is to show, that as the grace of God towards sinners is reigning grace, enthroned grace; so it reigns through the righteousness of Christ to eternal life, (Rom. 5:21). And that no life, no spiritual life, by the word and Spirit of God, is to be expected, but as it runs in this channel. No life by the law or covenant of works is now to be expected. God and Adam are now separate; and the channel of the communication of life, or of living waters, by his covenant with the first Adam, is quite cut off: but, behold, God and the Lamb are joined together in an everlasting covenant, to sit together on an heavenly throne. The fulness of the Godhead is gone in to the second Adam; the fulness of the Spirit of life is given to the Lamb above measure, (John 3:34). And now the Lamb, being the Lord our righteousness, is exalted to the Father’s throne; a throne enriched with the river of life. Grace reigns on that throne, through the righteousness of Christ, to the communication of all the blessings of everlasting life. Mercy vents through the blood of Christ, through the blood of the Lamb, once hanging upon the cross, and now reigning upon the throne.
2. This river of life is discovered as proceeding out of the throne of God, and of the Lamb, to show the distinct economy of the glorious Trinity in this business of our redemption, and of the eternal salvation of lost sinners. God the Father, the first person in the order of subsistence, sits upon the throne of his sovereign grace; God the Son, the Lamb that was the purchaser of life on the cross, is made the administrator thereof upon the throne; God the Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father and the Son, is the great Applier, bringing home the blessings purchased to all the redeemed in a perpetual egress the flow of divine communications: and hence all the store of divine things and blessings, that the Spirit communicates, are said to be the things of God the Father, and Christ the Son, discovered and dispensed by the Holy Ghost: “He shall glorify me, for he shall receive of mine, and show it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine; therefore said I, He shall take of mine, and show it unto you,” (John 16:14-15). And hence also believers are said to receive the Spirit which is of God, that they may know the things that are freely given them of God, (1 Cor. 2:21). Thus we see the distinct economy of each person of the glorious Trinity in this matter, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, one God in three persons; and how we are equally indebted to each of them for the benefit of redemption.
3. This river of life is discovered as proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb, to show the essential unity and glorious harmony of the ever-blessed Trinity, notwithstanding of their personal distinction according to; “There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one,” (1 John 5: 7). And this essential unity or natural oneness is, I think, pointed out in our text, where the throne being called the throne of God and of the Lamb, declares what Christ himself declared; “I and my Father are one,” (John 10:30). And if the Spirit were not the fountain of living water, equally and essentially one with the Father and the Son, how could he proceed like a river out of the throne of God and of the Lamb? So that, as in this clear glass of the gospel we see the distinct economy of the glorious Trinity, in the work of redemption, and their personal distinction, so we may see their essential unity or natural oneness:
These three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory.” And in the same light we see their glorious harmony in our redemption work. As it is said of the Three that bear witness on earth, “the Spirit, the water, and the blood,” that, as these Three are One, one in nature; so they agree in one, in one great and glorious work and design towards the salvation of poor sinners. There is a perfect harmony and agreement between God and the Lamb upon the same throne: and how doth the Spirit agree with the Father and the Son proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb like a pure crystalline river? And thus showing that everlasting life is from God in Christ, by the Spirit. Again, another reason is,
4. To show the excellent firmness and stability of the new-covenant blessing, and on what a sure ground and bottom the eternal life and happiness of the church militant and triumphant is built. These blessings are equally secured with the throne of God and of the Lamb, and the perpetual flow of the river or the water of life that proceeds therefrom. The everlasting life of the redeemed is some way interwoven with the personal properties of the glorious Trinity: for, as the Spirit, personally considered, proceeds from the Father and the Son; so he proceeds communicatively out of the throne of God and of the Lamb, to water all the redeemed as an ever-flowing and overflowing river of everlasting life. A glorious Trinity may be seen in every spiritual blessing: hence may a believer say, This pardon, for example, is a divine blessing, it is from the throne of God; it is a purchased blessing, it is from the throne of the Lamb; it is a sealed blessing, by the Spirit, as a river running from the throne of God and of the Lamb, so as the happiness of the redeemed, cannot fail, nor the river cease to run out to their everlasting life, no more than God can cease to be God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, one everlasting God in three persons. The stream of grace here, and glory hereafter, proceeds from a fountain that can never be drained: here they will drink, and bathe, and swim forever, if we may be allowed the expression. The throne of God will still be the throne of the Lamb; he will still be a God in Christ: and the throne of the Lamb will still be the throne of God; for to him the Father says, “Thy throne O God is forever and ever.” And the throne of God and of the Lamb will still be a throne whence the everlasting Spirit will proceed like a pure crystal river; for he will never cease to be a free Spirit, a free fountain of living waters. O glorious and blessed security!
V. The Fifth thing proposed was, To deduce some inferences for the application. Is it so, that the living Spirit of God, communicating all the blessings of everlasting life graciously here, and gloriously hereafter, proceeds like a pure crystal river out of the throne of God and the Lamb? Then,
1. Hence see the harmony between the church militant and triumphant; they drink of the same river: only here we have but drops, but there they have the ocean, and drink at the fountainhead: the utmost here is a staying us with flagons, but there the redeemed swim in the river of life. The saints in glory, as well as believers on earth, hold their title unto everlasting life of Christ their everlasting happiness is grounded upon the blood of the Lamb, and flows from the throne of God and of the Lamb. Christ will be the glass, even in heaven, wherein the glory of God will be seen through the pure river of the water of life, clear as crystal.
2. Hence see the happiness of every believer who has got but one saving drop of this river poured out upon his heart: for this Spirit of God and of the Lamb will be in him a well of water springing up to everlasting life, (John 6:14); and that because this water proceeds from the throne of God and of the Lamb. It is a royal blessing from the divine throne; and the blessings of the throne are the best blessings. Many are content with the blessings of the footstool, and hunt only after these, saying, “Who will show us any earthly good?” But, blessed are these that cannot be satisfied with anything less than throne-blessings; “Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon me: then shall I have more gladness than the wicked world, in the time that their corn and wine increase,” (Ps. 4:6). O see what a royal gift it is to get the Spirit; Christ ascended up on high, and led captivity captive, and received gifts for men, (Ps. 68:18).
3. Hence see the glory of God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, shining in the work of redemption through Jesus, and in the way of our salvation through his blood and righteousness. Here, as in a glass, we may see the glory of God the Father, sitting on the same throne with Christ, that is, appearing as a God in Christ; the glory of Christ the Son, our Redeemer, exalted to the Father’s throne, after he had finished his work; and the glory of the Holy Ghost in his breathings and blessings, graces and comforts, proceeding like a pure crystal river, out of the throne of God and of the Lamb and also the glory of all the divine attributes; their honor is secured in this throne of grace, from whence grace and mercy vents, to the credit and honor of justice and truth, through the justice-satisfying blood of the Lamb; therefore it is said, “Justice and judgment are the habitation of his throne.”
4. Hence see how glorious the gospel is, and how powerful, while it is in the channel wherein the Spirit of life, and the river of the water of life runs from the throne of God and of the Lamb; “Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” (Gal. 3:2). It is by the hearing of faith; and hence the Spirit and the word are put together in a promise to Christ, and in him to all his seed: “This is my covenant with them, saith the Lord, My Spirit is upon thee, and the words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the Lord, from henceforth and for ever,” (Isa. 59:21). This river of life, for quickening dead souls, runs always in the channel of the word of grace and promise; and the gospel is the ministration of the Spirit, in the hands of his sent servants: and this ought to be highly prized by all that are followers of the Lamb, and would enjoy the witness of his Spirit from the throne. There are, indeed, in our day, many that are but ministers of the letter; these ought to be discouraged and discountenanced: but there are some evidently ministers of the New Testament, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; these ought to be highly encouraged and countenanced; for, though the letter kills, the Spirit gives life, (2 Cor. 3:6). It is dangerous to desert a ministry wherein the Spirit of life runs; this was to run away from the river that proceeds out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.
This, by the bye, may show us a rule for our conduct in this day of division, when many of the Lord’s own children are ready to run to some dangerous extremes, with reference to their countenancing this or the other minister. Why, if they are ministers of the letter, that have nothing of a gospel spirit, or of the Spirit of faith or faithfulness in preaching or managing; and if this be evident, why not? Let us testify duly against them; but, if we have to do with ministers of the Spirit, let us remember, that some of these are appointed of God for such a work; and some for another work: and some of them have a greater measure of the Spirit of faith and zeal than others; and some of them have a lesser measure given them of God, according to the work he hath for them: but, if they have any measure of a gospel-spirit, and of the Spirit of faith and faithfulness in their station, though they come not up to the same measure and degree with others, nor be set upon the same ground, beware of slighting and despising them; for the great river of the city of God runs out in many streams, some greater and some lesser, and to despise the least stream, is to despise the river; “He that despiseth you, despiseth me.”
5. Hence see what it is that would make good and happy days in the church militant; namely, the running out of this river more plentifully: “Until the Spirit be poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness be a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be counted for a forest. Then judgment shall dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness remain in the fruitful field. And the work of righteousness shall be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance for ever,” (Isa. 32:15, 17). O when may we expect such a day! Indeed, such is the universal corruption of church and state, and such has been our perjury, covenant-breaking and blood-shed, unrepented of; and such is the profanity, error, and blasphemy of the day we live in, that in all appearance, before the happy day of the outpouring of the Spirit, we may expect a terrible day of the outpouring of blood. Our national bloody sins are crying for bloody vengeance; and many see it hastening on. But, sirs, what is it that will wash away Scotland’s bloody guilt, and bloody gore at once? What but a flood from heaven; even a flow of the pure river, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb! Whatever sad days may come before it, yet this is the happy day you ought to seek, for Zion’s sake, and for the sake of the rising generations in Scotland, and of future ages.
6. Hence see what would make a heartsome communion solemnity among us this day, amidst all the sad signs of the times, namely, the running down of this river. And see, at the same time, what ground we have to expect this river of life to run out: the ground of hope is, because the Lamb is enthroned. The time was that the Spirit, the Holy Ghost, was not given plentifully, “Because Jesus was not yet glorified,” (John 7:39). But now Jesus is glorified, the Lamb is sitting on his Father’s throne; therefore, we may seek and expect that the Spirit may be poured out. Let faith act, for supplies of this water, upon Christ’s exaltation to the Father’s right hand to give repentance and remission of sins; exalted to give the Spirit of faith and repentance, to give the Spirit of holiness and comfort; exalted to the well-watered throne to let out the river plentifully. Again,
7. To raise our hope and experience, let us from this doctrine see, that the throne of God and of the Lamb is no penurious throne, that hath little to spare; as in our Father’s house there is bread enough and to spare, so about our Father’s throne, the throne of God and of the Lamb, there is water enough and to spare, the pure river of the water of life fully and freely proceeding out of it. The seven Spirits are said to be before the throne, (Rev. 1:4); that is, the one eternal Spirit of God as a river flowing out in all his various streams of gifts, influences, operations, breathings, blessings, and comforts; this river is before the throne. Which says, by the bye, that it is good to go boldly and frequently to the throne of grace; for this quickening river will meet us by the way; and whenever our feet touch the river, then, like a flood, it will carry us off our own feet, and bear us up towards the throne, as the water did the ark to the top of Ararat.
8. Hence see how we may attain communion with God at a communion table, and how we are to go there: you ought to go with as great awe and reverence, as if you were going to the throne of God, for his throne is at the head of the table. But then, how shall we go to the throne of God, who is an infinitely holy and just God, whereas we are guilty, guilty sinners? Why, we cannot go to the throne of God but through Jesus Christ; and through him we ought to go boldly, because it is not only the throne of God, but of the Lamb, by whose blood we have boldness to enter into the holiest. But again, if you think, how shall we go thus to the throne of God and of the Lamb, having no life or power to do anything? Why, indeed, we cannot win to it, but, as it were, swimming in the river that is before the throne, the river of the Spirit’s influences and graces, that proceeds out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. That which brings us to the throne, must proceed out of the throne; therefore we are to go believingly and dependently, being strong only in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, the grace that is in the throne of grace to be freely communicate from it.
9. Hence we may see the marks and characters of right and worthy communicants. They are such as have got a discovery of what is here showed unto John: “He shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.” I do not mean, that every true believer gets such an extraordinary discovery as John here got the revelation of; but there is something of the mystery thereof in some degree that, I think, every believer gets some view of, particularly in these three things, by which you may examine yourself.
(1.) Have you got a view of the throne of God; I mean, of God himself, in his infinite holiness and justice? For God sits upon the throne of his holiness, justice, and other glorious attributes: and to see the throne of God, is to see and know him to be Majesty itself; for a throne points out majesty. Have you ever apprehended the majesty of his holiness and justice, and that the throne of iniquity cannot have fellowship with him; that he is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity; that he is a God that will by no means clear the guilty. And hath ever the view of this made you tremble and quake, and fear, lest you should never have fellowship with him, because you are nothing but a mass of sin and guilt?
(2.) Have you ever, upon the back of this, got a view of the throne of God as the throne of the Lamb, so as the terrible majesty of the throne, hath been allayed by the apprehension of divine mercy, venting through the blood of the Lamb that was slain; slain virtually from the foundation of the world; slain actually on the cross at Jerusalem, and now sitting gloriously upon his Father’s throne? In this light have you seen infinite holiness honored and vindicated by the obedience of the Lamb, and infinite justice pleased and satisfied by the death and blood of the Lamb? And hath the view of this turned the throne of God from a terrible to an amiable throne in your eye? The throne of God and of the Lamb is nothing else but a God in Christ reconciling the world to himself; a God declaring himself well-pleased in Jesus Christ. Hath the view of this turned your fear to hope, and your terror to triumph?
(3.) Have you ever hereupon seen and felt, to your experience, living waters proceeding from the throne of God, and of the Lamb? Have you seen the fulness of the Spirit to be in Christ, as anointed therewith above measure? And have you ever found this living water gushing from the throne, as it were, in a sweet blood of influences? When you were pouring out your heart before the Lord, he was pouring out this flood upon you, and making you, as it were, to swim in this river. Believer, know you not something less or more about this? Well, what was the quality of the water which you were then baptized with? Perhaps you came to the throne empty and destitute, and like dry ground; but, before you went away you was filled as with the fulness of a river gushing out upon you. Possibly you came to the throne very dead and lifeless, saying, Oh! is it possible that these dry bones can live? But your soul was quickened, and brought to life and liveness, so as you found the river to be indeed a river of the water of life; of life to your dead soul. Maybe you came polluted and unclean, crying out, “Behold, I am vile!” Will ever such a vile beast have access to God, or be washed from stains? Yet behold, you found your soul surrounded with purifying waters, with the pure river of the water of life, insomuch that perhaps, at that time, though it was a mistake, yet you joyfully imagined, that all pollution, corruption, and impurity, was washed away with the happy flood that sweetly overwhelmed you, and drowned all your lusts? Was not the river they in your view, as a pure and purifying river? Again, perhaps, you came to the throne under many doubts and fears, and dark clouds; but, say you, before I went away, I got a clear view of the mercy of God in Christ, a clear view of his everlasting love, a clear view of the door of hope open to me; or, at least, that there was hope in Israel even for me. You thus found the pure river of the water of life to be clear as crystal, when a gush of that water was able to clear your eye when it was dim; to clear your mind when it was dark and confused; to clear your conscience when it was black with guilt; the streams of the river, clear as crystal, running through your heart made all clear before it.
Have you ever got any view and experience of these things in some measure, however small the degree is? Then you have the mark and character of such as have a right to the communion table; but, if you never got a view of the throne of God, or of the majesty of God, so as to fear his wrath because of your sinfulness; and if you never got a view of the throne of the Lamb, or of the mercy of God in Christ, so as to hope in his mercy, as venting through the blood of the Lamb; and if you never felt any drop of this pure river of the water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of that throne; if you never found one gush of that river of the Spirit’s influences, either filling your empty soul, quickening your dead soul, purifying your polluted soul, or clearing your dark mind; then surely you have no right to the communion table, as being a stranger to communion and fellowship with a God in Christ, by the Spirit.
It may be some poor, weak believer, will tell me, “Sir, I think, indeed, I am no utter stranger to what you have been saying: there was such a time, and such a time, wherein I thought I got a view of these things; but, alas! all is now gone the throne of God and of the Lamb is out of view, and the gush of influences from the throne, that I was watered with, is all dried up, and I am nothing but like a piece of parched ground.” Well, it may be so; but here is good news: the throne of God and of the Lamb still remains; the pure river of the water of life is still subsisting; and the throne of God and of the Lamb is still the fountain of living waters, that can never be dried up or drained, but is as full as ever. Therefore, wait about the throne for the pouring out of the Spirit, as waters upon the thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground.
10. Hence see the duty of all that hear this gospel, namely, to come and take of the water of life freely; to come to Christ, and drink of the river that proceeds out of the throne. This inference is drawn from this doctrine, in the 17th verse of the same chapter; “The Spirit and the bride say, Come; and let him that is athirst, come; and whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely,” —“Ho, every one that thirsteth, come to the waters,” (Isa. 55:1) —“On the great day of the feast Jesus stood and cried, if any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink; for he that believeth on me, out of his belly, out of his heart and bowels, shall flow rivers of living water. This he spake of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive,” (John 7:37-39).
He who then stood and cried in this manner before he ascended to the throne, he appointed us to be criers in his name, with this encouragement, “Lo, I am with you always, to the end of the world.” Indeed, if it were not for this encouragement, in vain would we cry to you, but, O regard the cry of the Son of God, saying, “If any man thirst, let him come to me and drink of this pure river of living water.” I cannot offer you the sacrament safely, till I offer Christ to you, the substance of it; and you cannot take the sacrament honestly, till you accept of the offer, otherwise you will eat and drink unworthily. Let me therefore press this exhortation on you, before I close, with a few considerations: and, O look up for power to accompany them. I shall go no further than my text and context.
(1.) Consider the authority by which you are called to come to Christ, and drink of these living waters. It is a divine authority; the orders are issued from the throne of God: “This is his commandment, that ye should believe on the name of his Son, Jesus Christ,” (1 John 3:23). Are orders from an earthly throne to be regarded, coming in the name and authority of the prince? O what infinitely more regard is to be had to the throne of God! to the divine authority! If a poor man only were calling you to come to Christ, you might safely sit the call, and say, “By what authority do you these things?” But all the authority of the throne of God and of the Lamb is here interposed; and you cannot sit the call, without trampling on the authority of God.
(2.) Consider the glory of that Jesus, who invites you to come to him and share of this living water, and drink of this pure crystal river. O that in this clear stream of the Spirit’s illumination, you could see the glory of Christ, who says, “He shall glorify me!” There is a twofold glory of Christ here: he presents, 1. His imperial throne: 2. His glorious mediatorial fulness. His glorious throne: how glorious soever the throne of God is, so glorious is the throne of the Lamb; for here you see the throne of the Lamb is the throne of God; and though he be the Lamb that was slain, yet he is God equal with the Father, and thinks it no robbery to be equal with God; and the Father thinks it no disparagement to him to set the Lamb in the midst of his throne. O glorious Jesus! His blood was the blood of God: his righteousness the righteousness of God; his wisdom is the wisdom of God; his power is the power of God; and his throne is the throne of God. Angels and archangels worship with reverence before his throne. His glorious fulness is here also presented, all the fulness of the Godhead is in him: all the Father’s fulness is in him, and all the Spirit’s fulness is in him. The fulness of the Sprit, that ever any mere creature had, is but like the fulness of a vessel; but the fulness of the Spirit that is in Christ, the Lamb of God, is the fulness of a fountain: and hence it is, that the Spirit, and all spiritual blessings, proceed like a pure river of water of life out of the throne of God, and of the Lamb.
(3.) Consider the qualities of these waters which Jesus calls you to come to him for. They are such as, whatever be your sad natural state, or your miserable present case, there is suitable relief presented therein.
[1.] Are you destitute and empty of all good, empty of all grace? O let that be no hindrance, but a reason to move you to come to Christ, and look to the Lamb that is on the Father’s throne; for here is a full fountain, a flowing river: he calls you not to come and give, but to come and take what you need. O bring all your empty vessels here; this river comprehends no less than God himself, and all his perfections; Christ himself and all his fulness; the Spirit himself and all his graces, blessings, and comforts.
[2.] Are you dead in law, and dead in sin, dead in state, and heart, and frame? Let that be no hindrance, but a reason to move you to come to Jesus for a drink of this river; because it is the river of the water of life. Christ’s great complaint is, “Ye will not come to me, that you might have life: “the life of absolution from the sentence of the law condemning you to eternal death; together with the life of grace here, and glory hereafter: life to your dead souls; present life, future life, everlasting life.
[3.] Are you polluted with the nastiness of hell about you, and altogether filthy and unclean? This is another reason why you must come to Jesus, and share of this pure river, and purifying water. This is the quality of the river to which you are invited to come; the streams of this pure river will wash and cleanse your impure heart, and wash you from all filthiness of the flesh and of the Spirit.
[4.] In a word, Are you dark and ignorant, and unclean in your mind about the knowledge of God, and the things of God: and in your conscience about peace with God? Why, here is no bar, but a motive to come to Christ and take of the water of life freely; for another quality of the waters is that they are clear as crystal. And how shall you get either the mind cleared from darkness, or the conscience cleared of guilt, but by looking, as it were, through this crystal flood that proceeds out of the throne; I mean, the clear glass of the Spirit’s illumination, to see by this means that the throne of God is the throne of the Lamb; that is, that God is a God in Christ, whom, to see and know, is life eternal; there is clearing to the mind. And to see also, that the Lamb upon the throne of God now, is the Lamb that was slain to be a sacrifice to satisfy justice and expiate guilt; there is clearing for the conscience, when discerned, that, being justified by faith, you may have peace with God. Consider then the quality of these waters which the Lord Jesus calls you to come and take, to come and drink; they can answer every case.
(4.) Consider what is the quality of those that are invited to come to these waters, and upon what terms you may have a drink here, and live forever: why, the exhortation here says, “Let him that is athirst come; and whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely,” (v. 17). Here is the quality, “Let him that is athirst come.” Who is the thirsty person? I answer, It is the man that stands in need of a drink. If you need a drink of this water; if you need Christ; then you are invited to come and drink. Why, say you, we all need Christ; then say I, you are all welcome for to come to Christ; and I dare seek no other qualification of you.
“But pray, sir, say you, tell us plainly what you mean by this thirst: for I thought I would have been excluded by this qualification, because, perhaps I have not a right thirst? “Why, man, I dare not, upon my peril, add anything to this word, only, “Let him that is athirst come; “because of the word that follows that text, (v. 18). “If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book.” Now, if I should add anything to this word, “Let him that is athirst come,” by saying, The call is only to you that thirst rightly, to you that thirst greatly, to you that thirst vehemently, to you that thirst spiritually, to you that thirst after nothing else but this water of life, then I would run the terrible hazard of adding to God’s word, and also the hazard of scaring you from coming to Christ, saying, I fear I want this and that qualification. God hath set down the word universally, without qualifying what kind of a thirst it is, that so the call may be widely extended to all that thirst under heaven: therefore says Christ again; “If any man thirst, let him come to me and drink,” (John 7:37). If any man, that is, any man or woman under heaven; for God created man male and female: if any man, any person of Adam’s race, needs a drink of these waters of life, let him come. But some are thirsting after the world, after their vile lusts; are not these excluded? No, no: the Spirit of God comments upon this thirst, and invites even these by name, as persons that stand much in need of Christ; “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come to the waters, &c. Wherefore do ye spend your money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not?” (Isa. 55:1-2). That is, All ye that are seeking and thirsting after satisfaction in the muddy waters of the world, and in the filthy water of your lusts, come to me, and you will get better water for nothing, even the pure river of the water of life; and so it is all thirsters under heaven that hear this gospel, even all that need a drink of this water. And why doth Christ, think you, offer himself to you all, and every one of you? Not only because you all need him, but because his Father gives him to you, as he says; “My Father gives you the true bread from heaven Even so, which is the same thing, his Father gives you the true water of life, everlasting life is given in the word:” (John 6:32). “This is his record, that God hath given you eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” You have a right to it, and a right to take what God gives. Say not, If he be given to me, there needs no more, I am happy: Why, man, you might die of thirst, though one gave you a cup of water, if you would not take and drink what is given you; so you may die and perish forever, though Christ, and the water of everlasting life be given you, in this word, if you do not take and welcome the gift of God to your heart; and you perish fearfully if you reject and neglect what was thus given you. If you ask, What is the least qualification required, in order to come to the throne of God and of the Lamb for this river of the water of life? Indeed, I cannot tell you what is the least: for, let us seek from you never so little a qualification, Christ will seek less; let us go never so low, Christ will go lower. He that came down as low as hell to make the purchase will come down as low as hell to make the application. Therefore, sinner, though you be in a deep hell of sin and misery, out of the belly of hell look to him and be saved. If you need Christ, and think he can do you any good, it is qualification enough. For God’s sake, shut not the door of hope against yourself, when God is opening it to you. Though your thirst be no other than like that of the dry ground, that needs a shower, O come to him that says; “I will pour water upon the thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground,” (Isa. 44:8). God is at pains to find out words to fit your condition, and to shut all back doors, that your unbelief may have no excuse, and that none here may have it to say, The offer was not made to me.
If these considerations and arguments were duly pondered, they might have weight: but, alas; no argument will do but an argument of power; no motive will do, if God be not the mover. You remain dead carcasses, dead souls, notwithstanding all the words that can be said concerning these living waters that issue from the throne of God and of the Lamb. But, O! since it is life eternal to know God and the Lamb, I must tell you, that this moment, that spiritual life, which is and will be eternal, will begin to stir in your heart and soul, be it never so dead; if this moment you begin to know, that this God that sits upon the throne with the Lamb, is the living God; and that this Lamb that sits upon the throne of God, is the Lamb that was dead and is alive, and lives for evermore; and that this river, that proceeds out of the throne of God and of the Lamb, is the river of the water of life, the living Spirit of God and of the Lamb: “They that know his name, will put their trust in him.” If you know the name of this living God, though you were never so dead, the life of faith, and hope, and trust in him, will begin. And there are two parts of his name, that, I think, I am commissioned to declare among a company of dead souls here, which you shall no sooner savingly know, but you shall instantly live.
One part of his name is, “I AM THAT I AM,” (Ex. 3:4). And, I think, he, whose name is, I AM, hath sent me to tell you, that this is his name; the God of beings, who hath life and being in himself: He is being itself, and none can say, I AM, but himself. All the creatures in heaven and earth are nothing before him: He brought them out of nothing, and they are reducible to nothing if he pleases.
Another part of his name is; “The God that quickens the dead, and calls the things that are not as though they were,” (Rom. 4:17). Now, O dead and lifeless soul! if you have but ears to hear this gospel, do you know that this is the name of God? I ask not, if you think and fancy so; but do you know and believe that he is the God that quickens the dead, and quickens whom he will, and is able to quicken you? Do you know and believe that he is the God that calls things that are not, as though they were: who with his bare word can give a being to that which is nothing, and create light and life, where there was nothing but darkness and death, saying, “Let there be light: let there be life! Now, if you know your own name to be darkness and death; and if you know this name of the Lord to be the Lord of light and life; the God that quickens the dead; then I know there will be some stirring among the dead and dry bones and hearts here: “Ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, and shall put my Spirit in you, and ye shall live,” (Ezek. 38:13-14).
There is no room then for any to object, Why is the minister calling us all to come to Christ, and take of this water of life? How can one come to Christ for life that hath no life enabling him to come? Indeed, I could not well answer that, if it were only the word of the minister that was calling: but he calls you who hath the words of eternal life, and whose word creates life, whose word recovers life, whose word maintains life, whose word perfects life, quickening whom he will to everlasting life, and whose words are Spirit and life; insomuch, that one drop of this river of the water of life, mixed with this word, will make it a life-giving word: Therefore, in his great name, who says, “I am the resurrection and the life, he that believeth on me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; “in his name and authority, we say, O dead and dry bones, rise and live; for, the God that quickens the dead calls you. O lame and diseased souls, that cannot stir, rise and come, for the Lord of life calls you. O dead sinner, dead Lazarus, that hath been so long rotting in the grave of sin and sloth, come forth, come forth; for he that is the resurrection and the life calls you. However long or short time you have been dead in sins and trespasses, and stinking in that filthy sepulcher, yet if there be any stream of the water of life running from the throne this moment, any motion of the living Spirit about your heart, then a quickening voice from the throne of God and of the Lamb is calling you. Words without power will not do with you; the words of men and angels cannot give you the least degree of life, nor quicken that dead heart of yours; but, “Where the word of a king is, there is power.” Rise then, dying, drooping soul, the Master calls you. The King of glory that sits upon the Father’s throne, is speaking to you, and saying, “Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away: “however foul and filthy, black and ugly in thyself. Lo! “The winter is past, and the rain is over and gone;” the storm of divine wrath, that should have fallen on thee forever, is over thy head, and hath fallen on my head, when I sweat in the garden, and hung upon the cross: and now I have mounted my Father’s throne, to draw thee up to me, and to send down my Spirit as the river of life, to run into thy heart, and quicken thee to hear my voice, and answer my call. Come then, though you see yourself black like hell, and like a devil; “Rise my love, my fair one, and come away. Come with me from Lebanon; from the lion’s dens and mountains of leopards.” Come, away from this vain world, this vile world, this venomous and viperous world; come and share of my grace in time and my glory for ever after time.” Blessed are they that hear his voice, and open to him. If the river of life that proceeds out of the throne of God and of the Lamb be running through any heart here, the work is done, life is begun, and open doors are made for the King of glory: if it be otherwise, I have no more to say, but, Glory to God and the Lamb, that “As many as were ordained to eternal life, shall believe,” and live forever.