George Everard, 1884
In a village near a large seaport town, there are several springs of water which are subject to very remarkable changes. Sometimes for months they are perfectly dry. Then suddenly they send forth, as at the time I visited them, vast quantities of water. This will last occasionally for weeks or months together, and then the water ceases to flow; and perhaps for a long time there is no further flow.
It struck me that these springs are an exact picture of a certain class of people in the professing Church. Whatever religion they have, it is by fits and starts. There is nothing constant and abiding about it.
You take such a man as Jehu. When first called to the throne, you might imagine that he would be a staunch and faithful defender of the worship of Jehovah. He speaks well. He says, "Come and see my zeal for the Lord!" He slays the wicked Jezebel and the seed of Ahab, as God had commanded. He destroys the prophets of Baal, and breaks down the house of Baal, and thus roots out this form of idolatry from Israel. But Jehu stops here. His zeal for Jehovah is at an end. "Yet Jehu was not careful to keep the law of the LORD, the God of Israel, with all his heart. He did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam, which he had caused Israel to commit." 2 Kings 10:31
It was the same with King Joash (2 Chronicles 24.). For a time he was zealous for God. While Zechariah, the good priest, lives — he cannot do too much for the house of God. He bids Zechariah chide the workmen because they did not restore the breaches. He gathers money from the people, that the work may go forward. But this does not last. When Zechariah is dead he hearkens to the ungodly princes of Judah, and forsakes the Lord. He worships idols, and brings great wrath upon the land.
Perhaps we might name King Herod as an example of the same thing. We read of his calling for John the Baptist. He hears him gladly, and will do many things. But there is no depth and permanence about his religion. When something evil must be renounced, he shuts up the Baptist in prison — that he may not reprove him for his sin. His adulterous passion for Herodias is stronger than his desire for truth. So we find him from this time going farther and farther away; and he ends by joining Pilate in mocking and dishonoring our Lord.
It is just the same with people now. We have constant proof of it. There is something hopeful — but it does not last. The waters begin to flow; there is apparent life and earnestness and zeal — but they soon cease. Interest flags. Prayer becomes a burden. The Bible is left unread. Other things come and engross the mind.
You find many aroused to a temporary interest in religious truth in times of awakening. Perhaps there is a mission in a town, and a very real power is put forth. The preacher speaks in the power of the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit awakens many to begin a new and holy life. But others are drawn in by that which they see around them, and perhaps for a time they are somewhat changed — but a few weeks pass, and you find them exactly as they were before!
You find, too, sometimes a temporary manifestation of some particular grace, but without any real depth of purpose. I have known a man kneel down and shed bitter tears at the recollection of a sin he had committed — and yet he would yield to the very next temptation.
A person will take up some work for God, perhaps in the Sunday school. But there is no steadfastness or perseverance — the work is soon neglected, or the class left without a teacher.
A member of a family will endeavor to be more considerate and kind toward the others. Self-denial is practiced for the moment, and duties performed which add much to the comfort of the home. But there is the same evil. There is no continuance in the path of well-doing. It is only a flash in the pan. It is only a stream which presently dries up, and leaves no mark behind.
The secret of the evil in all these cases, is very similar. It is lack of depth. The regenerating and renewing work of the Holy Spirit is lacking. Religion has touched the feelings — but the will has not been yielded up to God, nor the conscience purged by the blood of sprinkling. There has been no true self-condemnation, no taking the place of a guilty sinner before God. Neither has there been any true union with Christ by faith. There may have been attendance on the ordinances of grace, but there is no reliance on the Spirit of grace.
Let our prayer be for reality and depth. "O Lord, give me life, and give it more abundantly! Humble me in the knowledge of my sin. Exalt me in the assurance of Your mercy. Make my heart sound in Your statutes. Work in me to will and to do of Your good pleasure. Put Your Spirit within me, and make Your work in me lasting, deep, and true! Empty me of self — and fill me with Your own fullness. Give me patient continuance in well-doing now, and at length the crown of glory that never fades away."
There is a promise for the godly man in Isaiah 58:11, which presents a striking contrast to the thought upon which I have been dwelling. It is true there are many like "intermittent springs;" but it is said of the servant of God, that he shall be "like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail." Isaiah 58:11
He has drunk of the great River, and he has received the grace found there. He shall not be one whose religion is fitful and uncertain. His graces shall not dry up and pass away. No, it shall be the very reverse. "His waters never fail." Others around may go back — but he abides the same. Difficulties may perplex, and trials harass him — but he has grace sufficient for him. Weeks, months, and years may roll on. Youth may pass into mature life, and middle life into old age — but his fruit shall not cease, nor Christian principle be loosened. He is "like a spring whose waters never fail." Faith, hope, love, patience, prayer, and praise still continue and follow him to his last hours.
This promise in Isaiah is exactly parallel to the words of our Lord: "Whoever drinks 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 eternal life" (John 4:14). Or again, "If any man thirsts, let him come unto Me and drink. He who believes on Me, as the Scripture has said — out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water" (John 7).
There is something strange and remarkable about this promise. We know that Jehovah is the Fountain of living waters. We know that from the throne of God and the Lamb, there flows a River of the water of life — as pure as crystal. But here is something quite different. Here is a poor, frail child of dust, a weak, trembling believer, one who is himself the chief of sinners. Yet such a one, believing in Christ, has within him this well of life — from such a one we read "flow rivers of living water."
"Living waters" are thus traced to a believer's heart. They "flow" not occasionally bursting forth — but constantly flowing on. They "spring up" until they reach their source, even "everlasting life." Nor are they simply waters, but "rivers". Not a tiny stream, not a single river, but "rivers" — abiding, plenteous, rich streams, ever flowing forth and spreading blessings wherever they flow!
Here then we have the great truth that the believer, receiving from the one Divine Fountain, becomes himself a little fountain of the water of life. Constantly receiving out of the great reservoir of grace in Christ — he is enabled to give back to others that which has been first given to him. Freely he receives — freely he gives. And just in proportion as he keeps in close connection with the source of life, as he abides in fellowship with the living Savior — he is a channel of blessing to those around him.
This hidden, secret spring of life and grace within the soul, is no less than the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter. As you are in Christ and abide in Him — the Holy Spirit dwells within you and stirs you up to holiness of heart and life, and to active zeal in the service of God.
If therefore you wish to be useful, if you wish to do good to the souls of your fellow sinners — remember that it is not natural gifts, it is not wide opportunities or much leisure time, or powers of eloquence, that determine this. But it is your daily dependence upon Christ, and your continually realizing His presence and help. The great secret of success is, that you should "live by faith in the Son of God, who loved you and gave Himself for you."
You will not then be "an intermittent spring," but will ever be giving forth out of your own heart, something of what you have received from Christ, and that which His Spirit will bless to those around.
But HOW can you do this?
Think of the power of a faithful witness for Christ. "The mouth of the righteous is a well of life." You may speak words that may lead many to know and love Christ. You may tell of His Word, of His promise, of His blood, of His free salvation. And in doing that, you may lead those who hear you to come to Him and be saved.
Think of the influence of a holy, Christlike life. A wicked or a worldly life has been compared to a filthy stream, which leaves a black mark on the meadows through which it passes, and spreads pestilence and disease abroad. But a truly Christian life, is like the fertilizing river, that in all its windings spreads fruitfulness wherever it goes.
Nothing is more certain than the power exercised by the example of one who in small and great things — endeavors to adorn his profession by a very holy and consistent walk. It becomes again and again a great means of conversion or edification to others. Let me give an example.
A conceited young Hindu attended a government college in India. One day he heard a missionary preach in the bazaar, and in a very rude way he put a question to the missionary. He expected a sharp reply; but, instead, the missionary kindly invited him to his house. He accepted the invitation, and when he called, he found the native servant had been neglecting his duty in preparing the tent for a mission journey. The neglect had just come to light, and the young man expected the missionary would have punished his servant by blows, or at least by a torrent of abuse. Nothing of the kind! A quiet reproof was all; and at once his visitor was persuaded there was something in Christianity to make him so gentle and forbearing. It was this which led him to earnest inquiry, and at length to his embracing the truth.
After a time he fell, through the bitter and determined hostility of his wife. But again he was restored through the Christian love of a missionary who did not upbraid him, but threw his arms around him and wept over his apostasy. Henceforth he followed Christ without wavering, and became eminently useful in winning others for the Lord.
Christian, let your influence and example be felt in the same way. In the thousand little things of daily life, in your conduct towards your children or your spouse, towards those in your employ — let your religion be proved to be real and genuine. It has been pithily said, "Let Christ have the best room in the house, and let Him be seen looking out at the window." Every look, every word, every action should manifest something of the mind and spirit of the Master.
Think again of the benefits that may flow from a believer's prayers.
Let the Christian cultivate the gift of intercession for others, let him believe the mighty and prevailing power of prayer through the name of Christ, let him pray in faith for those in his own circle of relations and friends, and then enlarge his petitions until he takes in the various needs of the whole Church of Christ. And who shall tell the limit of blessing that will follow?
Perhaps, when no longer able to engage actively in work for Christ — he may be touching the spring of blessing on high, and thus showers may fall, bringing grace and salvation to those he has never seen.
Think of a believer's gifts and active endeavors to do good. How many through these, may have found the hope of life in Christ, or fresh peace and consolation on the way.
Think of a believer's godly home. Each member of his family may one day become a center of good. If the piety of the parent is reflected in the children, how vast the effects may be in the next generation!
Think of the good that may be left behind after death. How many a Christian, long since sleeping in the dust — has yet, for years or even centuries, been a blessing ever since his departure. Abel being dead, yet speaks. Paul and Peter and John speak to us through the Epistles they were inspired to write. Martin Luther speaks by the glorious Gospel which he was permitted to set free from Romish error. Richard Baxter, John Bunyan, Robert Leighton, John Hall, and multitudes beside, are speaking to us by their writings — and many others by the Christian hymns they have penned.
Believer, if you cleave to Christ, you cannot live or work in vain. You will fill your niche, and leave behind some good that will never be lost. Remember, the smallest drop may become the mightiest river. A single word of prayer, or of Gospel truth spoken in faith — may set at work agencies that may be instrumental in saving hundreds or thousands!
Only "abide" in Christ. Beware of all mere fitfulness in religion. Be not "an intermittent spring." "Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as you know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord!"