The Fountain of Life
The Fountain of Life opened up: or, a display
of Christ in his essential and mediatorial glory
by John Flavel
The fifth excellent Saying of Christ upon the Cross
"After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now
accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, said--I thirst!"
It is as truly, as commonly said, death is dry: Christ
found it so, when he died. When his spirit labored in the agonies of death,
then he said, I thirst.
This is the fifth word of Christ upon the cross, spoken a
little before he bowed the head and yielded up the Spirit. It is only
recorded by this evangelist; and, there are four things remarkable in this
complaint of Christ, namely, The person complaining: the complaint he made:
the time when, and the reason why he so complained.
First, The person complaining. Jesus said, I thirst. This
is a clear evidence, that it was no common suffering: great and resolute
spirits will not complain for small matters. The spirit of a common man will
endure much, before it utters any complaint. Let us therefore see,
Secondly, The affliction, or suffering, he complains of;
and that is thirst. There are two sorts of thirst, one natural and proper,
another spiritual and figurative: Christ felt both at this time. His soul
thirsted, in vehement desires and longings, to accomplish and finish that
great and difficult work he was now about; and his body thirsted, by reason
of those unparalleled agonies it labored under, for the accomplishing
thereof: but it was the proper natural thirst he here intends, when he said,
I thirst. Now, "this natural thirst," of which he complains, "is the raging
of the appetite for moist nourishment, arising from scorching up of the
parts of the body for want of moisture." And, among all the pains and
afflictions of the body, there can scarcely be named a greater, and more
intolerable one, than extreme thirst. The most mighty and valiant have
stooped under it. Mighty Samson, after all his conquests and victories,
complains thus, Judges 15:18. "And he was sore athirst, and called on the
Lord, and said, You have given this great deliverance into the hand of your
servant, and now shall I die for thirst, and fall into the hands of the
uncircumcised?" Great Darius drank filthy water, defiled with the bodies of
the slain, to relieve his thirst, "and protested, never any drink was more
pleasant to him." Hence, Isa. 41:17, thirst is put to express the most
afflicted state, "When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and
their tongue fails for thirst, I the Lord will hear them;" that is when my
people are in extreme necessities, under any extraordinary pressures and
distresses, I will be with them, to supply and relieve them. Thirst causes a
most painful compression of the heart, when the body, like a sponge, sucks
and draws for moisture, and there is none. And this may be occasioned,
either by long abstinence from drink, or by the laboring and expense of the
spirits under grievous agonies and extreme tortures; which, like a fire
within, soon scorch up the very radical moisture.
Now, though we find not that Christ tasted a drop since
he sat with his disciples at the table; after that no more refreshments for
him in this world: yet that was not the cause of this raging thirst; but it
is to be ascribed to the extreme sufferings which he so long had conflicted
with, both in his soul and body. These preyed upon him, and drank up his
very Spirits. Hence came this sad complaint, I thirst.
Thirdly, Let us consider the time when he thus
complained. "When all things were now accomplished," says the text, that is
when all things were even ready to be accomplished in his death. A little, a
very little while before his expiration, when the pangs of death began to be
strong upon him: and so it was both a sign of death at hand, and of his love
to us, which was stronger than death, that would not complain sooner,
because he would admit of no relief, nor take the least refreshment, until
he had done his work.
Fourthly, and lastly, Take notice of the design and end
of his complaint: "that the scripture might be fulfilled, he says, I
thirst;" that is that it might appear, for the satisfaction of our faith,
that whatever had been predicted by the prophets, was exactly accomplished,
even to a circumstance in him. Now it was foretold of him, Peal 69:21. "They
gave me gall for my meat, and, in my thirst, they gave me vinegar to drink;"
and herein it was verified. Hence the note is,
DOCTRINE. That such were the agonies and extreme
sufferings of our Lord Jesus Christ upon the cross, as drank up his very
spirits, and made him cry, I thirst.
"If I, (said one) should live a thousand years, and every
day die a thousand times the same death for Christ that he once died for me,
yet all this would be nothing to the sorrows Christ endured in his death."
At this time the bridegroom Christ might have borrowed the words of his
spouse, the church, Lam. 1:12. "It is nothing to you, all you that pass by?
See and behold, if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow which is done
unto me, wherewith the Lord has afflicted me in the day of his fierce
Here we are to enquire into, and consider the extremities
and agonies Christ labored under upon the cross, which occasioned this sad
complaint of thirst; and then make application, in the several inferences of
truth deducible from it.
Now the sufferings of our Lord Jesus Christ upon the
cross were two fold, namely, His corporeal, and spiritual sufferings: we
shall open them distinctly, and then show how both these meeting together
upon him in their fullness and extremity, must needs consume his very
radical moisture, and make him cry, I thirst. To begin with the first.
First, His corporeal and more external sufferings were
exceeding great, acute, and extreme sufferings; for they were sharp,
universal, continual, and unrelieved by any inward comfort.
First, They were sharp sufferings; for his body was
racked or digged in those parts where sense more eminently dwells: in the
hands and feet the veins and sinews meet, and their pain and anguish meet
with them; Psalm. 22:16. "They digged my hands and my feet." Now Christ by
reason of his exact and excellent temper of body, had doubtless more quick,
tender and delicate senses than other men: his body was so formed, that it
might be a capacious vessel, to take in more sufferings than any other body
could. Sense is, in some, more delicate and tender, and in others dull and
blunt, according to the temperament and vivacity of the body and spirits;
but in none as it was in Christ, whose body was miraculously formed on
purpose to suffer unparalleled miseries. and sorrows in: "A body have you
fitted me," Heb. 10:5. Neither sin nor sickness had any way enfeebled or
Secondly, As his pains were sharp, so they were
universal, not affecting one, but every part; they seized every member; from
head to foot, no member was free from torture: for, as his head was wounded
with thorns, his back with bloody lashes, his hands and feet with nails, so
every other part was stretched and distended beyond its natural length, by
hanging upon that cruel engine of torment, the cross. And as every member,
so every particular sense, was afflicted; his sight with vile wretches,
cruel murderers that stood about him; his hearing with horrid blasphemies,
belched out against him; his taste with vinegar and gall, which they gave to
aggravate his misery; his smell with that filthy Golgotha where he was
crucified, and his feeling with exquisite pains in every part; so that he
was not only sharply, but universally tormented.
Thirdly, These universal pains were continual, not by
fits, but without any intermission. He had not a moment's ease by the
cessation of pains; wave came upon wave, one grief driving on another, until
all God's waves and billows had gone over him. To be in extremity of pain,
and that without a moment's intermission, will quickly pull down the
stoutest nature in the world.
Fourthly, and lastly, As his pains were sharp, universal
and continual, so they were altogether unrelieved by his understanding part.
If a man have sweet comforts flowing into his soul from God, they will
sweetly demulce and allay the pains of the body: this made the martyrs shout
amidst the flames. Yes, even inferior comforts and delights of the mind,
will greatly relieve the oppressed body.
It is said of Possidonius, that, in a great fit of the
stone, he solaced himself with discourses of moral virtue, and when the pain
twinged him, he would say, "O pain you does nothing, though you are a little
troublesome, I will never confess you to be evil." And Epicures, in the fits
of the colic, refreshed himself, ob memoriam inventorum, that is by his
inventions in philosophy.
But now Christ had no relief this way in the least; not a
drop of comfort came from heaven into his soul to relieve it, and the body
by it: but, on the contrary, his soul was filled up with grief, and had an
heavier burden of its own to bear than that of the body; so that instead of
relieving, it increased unspeakably the burden of its outward man. For,
Secondly, Let us consider these inward sufferings of his
soul how great they were, and how quickly they spent his natural strength,
and turned his moisture into the drought of summer. And,
First, His soul felt the wrath of an angry God, which was
terribly impressed upon it. The wrath of a king is as the roaring of a lion;
but what is that to the wrath of a Deity? See what a description is given of
it in Nahum 1:6. "Who can stand before his indignation: and who can abide in
the fierceness of his anger? His fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks
are thrown down by him." Had not the strength that supported Christ been
greater than that of rocks, this wrath had certainly overwhelmed and ground
him to powder.
Secondly, As it was the wrath of God that lay upon his
soul, so it was the pure wrath of God, without any allay or mixture: not one
drop of comfort came from heaven or earth; all the ingredients in his cup
were bitter ones: There was wrath without mercy; yes, wrath without the
least degree of sparing mercy; "for God spared not his own Son," Rom. 8:32.
Had Christ been abated or spared, we had not. If our mercies must be pure
mercies, and our glory in heaven pure and unmixed glory, then the wrath
which lie suffered must be pure and unmixed wrath. Yes,
Thirdly, As the wrath, the pure unmixed wrath of God, lay
upon his soul, so all the wrath of God was poured out upon him, even to the
last drop; so that there is not one drop reserved for the elect to feel.
Christ's cup was deep and large, it contained all the fury and wrath of an
infinite God in it! and yet he drank it up: he bare it all, so that to
believing souls, who come to make peace with God through Christ, he says,
Isa. 27:4. "Fury is not in me." In all the chastisements God inflicts upon
his people, there is no vindictive wrath; Christ bore it all in his own soul
and body on the tree.
Fourthly, As it was all the wrath of God that lay upon
Christ, so it was wrath aggravated, in divers respects beyond that which the
damned themselves do suffer. That is strange you will say; can there be any
sufferings worse than those the damned suffer, upon whom the wrath of an
infinite God is immediately transacted, who holds them up with the arm of
his power, while the arm of his justice lies on eternally? Can any sorrows
be greater than these? Yes; Christ's sufferings were beyond theirs in divers
First, None of the damned were ever so near and dear to
God as Christ was: they were estranged from the womb, but Christ lay in his
bosom. When he smote Christ, he smote "the man that was his fellow," Zech.
13:7. But in smiting them, he smites his enemies. When he had to do, in a
way of satisfaction, with Christ, he is said not to spare his own son, Rom.
8:32. Never was the fury of God poured out upon such a person before.
Secondly, None of the damned had ever so large a capacity
to take in a full sense of the wrath of God as Christ had. The larger any
one's capacity is to understand and weigh his troubles fully, the more
grievous and heavy is his burden. If a man cast vessels of greater and
lesser quantity into the sea, though all will be full, yet the greater the
vessel is, the more water it contains. Now Christ had a capacity beyond all
mere creatures to take in the wrath of his Father; and what deep and large
apprehensions he had of it may be judged by his bloody sweat in the garden,
which was the effect of his mere apprehensions of the wrath of God. Christ
was a large vessel indeed; as he is capable of more glory, so of more sense
and misery than any other person in the world.
Thirdly, The damned suffer not so innocently as Christ
suffered; they suffer the just demerit and recompense of their sin: They
have deserved all that wrath of God which they feel, and must feel forever:
It is but that recompense which was meet; but Christ was altogether
innocent: He had done no iniquity, neither was guile found in his mouth; yet
it pleased the Lord to bruise him. When Christ suffered, he suffered not for
what he had done; but his sufferings were the sufferings of a surety, paying
the debts of others. "The Messiah was cut off, but not for himself," Dan.
9:26. Thus you see what his external sufferings in his body, and his
internal sufferings in his soul were.
Thirdly, In the last place, it is evident that such
extreme sufferings as these, meeting together upon him, must needs exhaust
his very spirits, and make him cry, I thirst. For let us consider,
First, What mere external pains, and outward afflictions
can do. These prey upon, and consume our spirits. So David complains, Psalm.
39:11. "When you with rebukes correctest man for iniquity; you makes his
beauty to consume away as a moth," that is look, as a moth frets and
consumes the most strong and well wrought garment, and makes it scary and
rotten without any noise; so afflictions waste and wear out the strongest
bodies. They make bodies of the firmest constitution like an old rotten
garment: They shrivel and dry up the most vigorous and flourishing body, and
make it like a bottle in the smoke, Psalm. 119:83.
Secondly, Consider what mere internal troubles of the
soul can do upon the strongest body: They spend its strength, and devour the
spirits. So Solomon speaks, Prov. 17:22. "A broken spirit drieth the bones,"
that is it consumes the very marrow with which they are moistened. So Psalm.
32:3, 4. "My bones waxed old, and through my roaring all the day long: for
day and night your hand was heavy on me: my moisture (or chief sap) is
turned into the drought of summer." What a spectacle of pity was Francis
Spira become, merely through the anguish of his spirit? a spirit sharpened
with such troubles, like a keen knife, cuts through the sheath. Certainly,
whoever has had any acquaintance with troubles of soul, knows, by sad
experience, how, like an internal flame, it feeds and preys upon the very
spirits, so that the strongest stoop and sink under it. But,
Thirdly, When outward bodily pains shall meet with inward
spiritual troubles, and both in extremity shall come in one day; how soon
must the firmest body fail and waste away like a candle lighted at both
ends? Now strength fails a-pace, and nature must fall flat under this load.
When the ship in which Paul sailed, fell into a place where two seas met, it
was quickly wrecked; and so will the best constituted body in the world, if
it fall under both these troubles together the soul and body sympathize with
each other under trouble, and mutually relieve each other.
If the body be sick and full of pain, the spirit
supports, cheers, and relieves it by reason and resolution all that it can;
and if the spirit be afflicted the body sympathizes and helps to bear up the
spirit; but now, if the one be over laden with strong pains, more than it
can bear, and calls for aid from the other, and the other be oppressed with
intolerable anguish, and cries out under a burden greater than it can bear,
so that it can contribute no help, but instead thereof adds to its burden,
which before was above its strength to bear, then nature must needs fail,
and the friendly union between soul and body suffer a dissolution by such an
extraordinary pressure as this. So it was with Christ, when outward and
inward sorrows met in one day in their extremity upon him. Hence the bitter
cry, I thirst.
INFERENCE 1. How horrid a thing is sin! How great is to
that evil of evils, which deserves that all this should be inflicted and
suffered for the expiation of it!
The sufferings of Christ for sin give us the true
account, and fullest representation of its evil. "The law (says one) is a
bright glass, wherein we may see the evil of sin; but there is the red glass
of the sufferings of Christ, and in that we may see more of the evil of sin,
than if God should let us down to hell, and there we should see all the
tortures and torments of the damned. If we should see them how they lie
sweltering under God's wrath there, it were not so much as the beholding of
sin through the red glass of the sufferings of Christ."
Suppose the bars of the bottomless pit were broken up;
and damned spirits should ascend from thence, and come up among us, with the
chains of darkness rattling at their heels, and we should hear the groans,
and see the ghastly paleness and trembling of those poor creatures upon whom
the righteous God has impressed his fury and indignation, if we could hear
how their consciences are lashed by the fearful scourge of guilt, and how
they shriek at every lash the arm of justice gives them.
If we should see and hear all this, it is not so much as
what we may see in this text, where the Son of God, under his sufferings for
it, cries out, I thirst. For, as I showed you before, Christ's sufferings,
in divers respects, were beyond theirs. O then, let not your vain heart
slight sin, as if it were but a small thing! If ever God show you the face
of sin in this glass, you will say, there is not such another horrid
representation to be made to a man in all the world. Fools make a mock at
sin, but wise men tremble at it.
INFERENCE. 2. How afflictive and intolerable are inward
troubles. Did Christ complain so sadly under them, and cry, I thirst? Surely
then they are not such light matters as many are apt to make of them. If
they so scorched the very heart of Christ, dried up the green tree, preyed
upon his very spirits, and turned his moisture into the drought of summer,
they deserve not to be slighted, as they are by some. The Lord Jesus was
fitted to bear and suffer as strong troubles as ever befell the nature of
man, and he did bear all other troubles with admirable patience; but when it
came to this, when the flames of God's wrath scorched his soul, then he
cries, I thirst.
David's heart was, for courage, as the heart of a lion;
but when God exercised him with inward troubles for sin, then he roars out
under the anguish of it, "I am feeble, and sore broken; I have roared, by
reason of the disquietness of my heart. My heart panteth, my strength fails
me: As for the light of mine eyes, it is also gone from me," Psalm. 38:8,
10. "A wounded spirit who can bear!" Many have professed that all the
torments in the world are but toys to it; the racking fits of the gout, the
grinding tortures of the stone, are nothing to the wrath of God upon the
conscience. What is the worm that never dies but the efficacy of a guilty
conscience? This worm feeds upon, and gnaws the very inwards, the tender and
most sensible part of man and is the principal part of hell's horror. In
bodily pains, a man may be relieved by proper medicines; here nothing but
the blood of sprinkling relieves. In outward pains, the body may be
supported by the resolution and courage of the mind; here the mind itself is
wounded. O let none despise these troubles, they are dreadful things!
INFERENCE. 3. How dreadful a place is hell, where this
cry is heard forever, I thirst! There the wrath of the great and terrible
God flames upon the damned forever, in which they thirst, and none relieves
then. If Christ complained, I thirst, when he had conflicted but a few hours
with the wrath of God; what is their state then, that are to grapple with it
forever? When millions of years are past and gone, ten thousand millions
more are coming on. There is an everlasting thirst in hell, and it admits of
no relief. There are no full cups in hell, but all eternal, unrelieved
thirst. Think on this you that now add drunkenness to thirst, who wallow in
all sensual pleasures, and drown nature in an excess of luxury. Remember
what Dives said in Luke 16:24. "And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have
mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in
water, and cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame." No cups of
water, no bowls of wine in hell. There, that throat will be parched with
thirst, which is now drowned with excess. The songs of the drunkard turned
into cowlings. If thirst in the extremity of it be now so insufferable, what
is that thirst which is infinitely beyond this in measure, and never shall
be relieved? Say not it is hard that God should deal thus with his poor
creatures. You will not think it so, if you consider what he exposed his own
dear Son to, when sin was but imputed to him. And what that man deserves to
feel, that has not only merited hell, but, by refusing Christ the remedy,
the hottest place in hell.
In this thirst of Christ we have the liveliest emblem of
the state of the damned, that ever was presented to men in this world. Here
you see a person laboring in extremity, under the infinite wraths of the
great and terrible God lying upon his soul and body at once, and causing him
to utter this doleful cry, I thirst. Only Christ endured this but a little
while, the damned must endure it forever: in that they differ, as also in
the innocence and ability of the persons suffering, and in the end for which
they suffer. But, surely, such as this will the cry of those souls be that
are cast away forever. O terrible thirst!
INFERENCE. 4. How much do nice and wanton appetites
deserve to be reproved? The Son of God wanted a draught of cold water to
relieve him, and could not have it. God has given us variety of refreshing
creatures to relieve us, and we despise them. We have better things than a
cup of water to refresh and delight us when we are thirsty, and yet are not
pleased. O that this complaint of Christ on the cross, I thirst, were but
believingly considered, it would make you bless God for what you now
despise, and beget contentment in you for the meanest mercies, and most
common favors in this world. Did the Lord of all things cry, I thirst, and
had nothing in his extremity to comfort him; and do you, who have a thousand
times over forfeited all temporal as well as spiritual mercies, condemn and
slight the good creatures of God! What, despise a cup of water, who deserves
nothing but a cup of wrath from the hand of the Lord! O lay it to heart, and
hence learn contentment with anything.
INFERENCE. 5. Did Jesus Christ upon the cross cry, I
thirst? Then believers shall never thirst eternally. Their thirst shall be
There is a threefold thirst, gracious, natural, and
penal. The gracious thirst is the vehement desire of a spiritual heart after
God. Of this David speaks, Psalm. 42:1, 2. "As the hart panteth after the
water-brooks, so panteth my soul after you, O God. My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God, when shall I come and appear before God?" And this is
indeed a vehement thirst; it makes the soul break with the longings it has
after God, Psalm. 119. It is a thirst proper to believers, who have tasted
that the Lord is gracious.
Natural thirst is (as before was noted) a desire of
refreshment by humid nourishment, and it is common both to believers and
unbelievers in this world. God's dear saints have been driven to such
extremities in this life, that their tongues have even failed for thirst.
"When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue
fails for thirst," Isa. 41:17. And of the people of God in their captivity,
it is said, Lam. 4:4. "The tongue of the sucking child cleaveth to the roof
of his mouth for thirst. The young children ask bread, and no man breaketh
it unto them. They that feed delicately are desolate in the streets; they
that were brought up in scarlet embrace dung hills." To this many that fear
the Lord have been reduced.
A penal thirst, is God's just denying of all refreshments
or relief to sinners in their extremities, and that as a due punishment for
their sin. This believers shall never feel, because when Christ thirsted
upon the cross, he made full satisfaction to God in their room. These
sufferings of Christ, as they were ordained for them, so the benefits of
them are truly imputed to them. And for the natural thirst, that shall be
satisfied: for in heaven we shall live without these necessities and
dependencies upon the creature; we shall be equal with the angels in the way
and manner of living and subsisting, "isangeloi eisin", Luke 20:6. And for
the gracious thirsting of their souls for God, it shall be fully satisfied.
So it is promised, Mat. 5:6. "Blessed are they which hunger and thirst after
righteousness, for they shall be filled:" They shall then depend no more
upon the stream, but drink from the overflowing fountain itself, Psalm. 36:8
"They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of your house, and you
shall make them drink of the river of your pleasures: for with you is the
fountain of life, and in Your light shall we see light:" There they shall
drink and praise, and praise and drink for evermore; all their thirsty
desires shall be filled with complete satisfaction. O how desirable a state
is heaven upon this account! and how should we be restless until we come
there; as the thirsty traveler is until he meet that cool, refreshing spring
he wants and seeks for. This present state is a state of thirsting, that to
come of refreshment and satisfaction. Some drops indeed come from the
fountain by faith, hut they quench not the believer's thirst; rather like
water sprinkled on the fire, they make it burn the more: but there the
thirsty soul has enough.
O bless God, that Jesus Christ thirsted under the heat of
his wrath once, that you might not be scorched with it forever. If he had
not cried, I thirst, you must have cried out of thirst eternally, and never
INFERENCE. 6. Lastly; Did Christ in the extremity of his
sufferings cry, I thirst? Then how great, beyond all compare, is the love of
God to sinners, who for their sakes exposed the Son of his love to such
Three considerations marvelously heighten that love of
First, His putting the Lord Jesus into such a condition.
There is none of us would endure to see a child of our own lie panting, and
thirsting in the extremity of torments, for the fairest inheritance on
earth; much less to have the soul of a child conflicting with the wrath of
God, and making such heart-rending complaints as Christ made upon the cross,
if we might have the largest empire in the world for it: yet, such was the
strength of the love of God to us, that he willingly gave Jesus Christ to
all this misery and torture for us. What shall we call this love? O the
height, length, depth, and breadth of that love which passes knowledge! The
love of God to Jesus Christ was infinitely beyond all the love we have for
our children, as the sea is more then a spoonful of water: and yet, as
dearly as he loved him, he was content to expose him to all this, rather
than we should perish eternally.
Secondly, As God the Father was content to expose Christ
to this extremity, so in that extremity to hear his bitter cries, and
dolorous complaints, and yet not relieve him with the least refreshment
until he fainted and died under it. He heard the cries of his Son; that
voice, I thirst, pierced heaven, and reached the Father's ear; but yet he
will not refresh him in his agonies, nor abate him anything of the debt he
was now paying, and all this for the love he had to poor sinners. Had Christ
been relieved in his sufferings, and spared, then God could not have pitied
or spared us. The extremity of Christ's suffering was an act of justice to
him; and the greatest mercy to us that ever could be manifested. Nor indeed
(though Christ so bitterly complains of his thirst) was he willing to be
relieved, until he had finished his work. O love unspeakable! He does not
complain, that he might be relieved, but to manifest how great that sorrow
was which his soul now felt upon our account.
Thirdly, And it should never be forgotten, that Jesus
Christ was exposed to these extremities of sorrow for sinners, the greatest
of sinners, who deserved not one drop of mercy from God. This commends the
love of God singularly to us, in that "while we were yet sinners, Christ
died for us," Rom. 5:1. Thus the love of God in Jesus Christ still rises
higher and higher in every discovery of it. Admire, adore, and be ravished
with the thoughts of this love!