The Nether Springs
"Caleb gave her the upper springs and the nether springs." Judges 1:15
When Caleb's daughter found that her field had no springs of water, she came to her father, and he gave her "the upper springs and the nether springs."
In the same way, God gives his children two sets of springs—the nether and the upper. Religion has "the promise of the life that now is" as well as "of that which is to come."
He gives us springs which burst out on the earth. He bestows rich spiritual blessings and comforts upon us in this life. He sends rills and rivers of grace through our poor, parched, sorrow-smitten earthly portion—fertilizing and enriching it. Who can begin to enumerate the blessings which religion brings into our lives, even in this world?
There are those who think that the Christian's life is cheerless and gloomy, empty of happiness and joy. But is it so?
Let us see what religion brings. It brings the revelation of the love of God. Is it a gloomy thought to a man that God loves him, that he loves him with an everlasting love, with a love infinitely deeper and more tender than a mother's love, with a love that never changes, and whose warm currents—no unfaithfulness, no wandering, no imperfection, can chill or turn back?
Religion brings redemption. Is it a gloomy thing to a weary prisoner to leave his dark dungeon and find himself in the open fields, in the sweet sunshine, enjoying all the blessings of liberty? And does it make a man sad, does it darken his life, to be led out of Satan's gloomy prison-house into the glorious liberty of the children of God?
Religion brings full and complete salvation. And is it a gloomy thought to know that you are saved from eternal perdition, and have everlasting life?
Religion brings peace. In the midst of a great battle, while a thousand cannons shook the hills, and the whole Heaven quivered with the reverberations—there was a moment's pause. Not a gun was heard far or near. And during that pause a sparrow sang sweetly out from the branches of an old tree that stood in the midst of the plain of battle. When the cannon thundered again, the sparrow was silent. It only sang in the brief pauses of the awful strife. And so it is with the peace of this world. Now and then you hear a single voice singing sweetly out of a man's life, in the brief pauses of struggle, care, and discontent. But soon the strife begins again, and the bird-note of peace is hushed.
No worldly man has unbroken peace. Only a single silver strain is heard now and then. There is only a brief moment of calm here and there, in a life full of anxiety, unrest, and discord.
But religion brings peace, the peace of the Lord Jesus, a peace that is not broken by any storm, which sings in the bosom, not merely a single voice in the pauses of earth's battle—but a whole choir of voices, unceasing through all the din and strife.
Here is a little cottage by the sea. The night is dark and stormy. The waves break and thunder on the shore. The clouds pour out their rains in angry torrents. The tempest beats and roars about the cottage. But all the evening, there is joy within. The lamp burns with bright beam. The cheerful fire glows upon the hearth. A happy circle gathers about the table. Joyful songs ring out into the gloom. The dark night of storm flings no shadows inside. The angry tempest breaks not the gladness of that sweet home.
Picture this of the peace which Jesus brings. The world is full of storms, but there is joy in the Christian's heart through all. Songs ring out in the blackest night of trial. Job had this peace, and it was not broken by all his adversities. Paul had it, and he went singing through all his tribulations, persecutions, and trials.
An aged Christian woman whom I know has the peace of Jesus. She is poor. Every joint in her body is drawn out of its place. For thirteen years she has suffered the most excruciating pains—without one hour's relief! But no little child on its mother's bosom is happier than she. She knows that she is the Lord's child, and that he is fitting her for eternal glory. She knows that the Lord sends in tender love—all she has to bear. The cross of Jesus sweetens all the bitterness of her life. Does such blessed peace make men gloomy? Does it make life cheerless and sad?
Religion reveals a loving providence, running all through the Christian's life, weaving out of all its tangled threads, a web of beauty. It shows a Father's hand in each event, taking the poison out of trouble, drawing the serpent-tooth out of every evil thing, bringing good out of all things, sheltering, guiding, and blessing his redeemed children. Is the thought of such a loving, overruling providence—a saddening or gloomy one?
There are sorrows in the Christian's life. Religion does not save from suffering. But while sorrows, like hot, desert winds, desolate the life of the worldly man—they fertilize, enrich, and bless the portion of the child of God; for God has given him springs of comfort whose waters flow through every valley of tribulation. Are the consolations of religion calculated to make men sad—or to make life cheerless and gloomy?
Nay, there is no such joyous life in this world as that of the believer. Springs of heavenly blessing burst out all over it. It has not a single desert spot. It matters not how small it may be. The Christian's little cottage and garden are better than the worldly man's thousands of acres. The poor widow's one garret-room is better than the gorgeous palace of him whose splendors are not blessed by the smile of God.
I cannot even name all the blessings which religion pours into our lives through its nether springs. It changes a desert, into a garden. It pours sunshine into our hearts. It enriches our poverty. It makes our hard crust as soft and sweet as angels' bread. It surrounds us with beautiful things. It fills our hearts and lives with tokens of divine love. It sings to us in our weary hours. It cheers us when we are disheartened. It takes all the anxiety, fear, and unrest out of our lives. For it makes us children of God.
And what does it matter that this life is sometimes bitter, that burdens are heavy, that work is hard; that you get no rest from toil; that night and day your poor, tired fingers must ply the needle, or be busy in household duties; that there come no pauses in your weary life? What does it matter that your heart's song is hushed every now and then by the cry of grief, or choked by tears? What does it matter that you are poor, that your clothes are threadbare, that sometimes you have only a piece of crust and a cup of water? The Lord knows what things you need. And what does it matter that your earthly portion is so small and so poor—while you are but a pilgrim here, while Heaven is your home, and while you have a glorious possession laid up there in reserve?
There was a godly man who built a house for himself. It was a pleasant home. There was joy in it. But he said that the best thing about that home was, that, sitting at his own fireside, he could see his father's house away on a distant hill-top. No matter what the weather was," said he, "whether winter or summer, spring or autumn—no matter the sky, whether cloudless or stormy—when I sit by my east window, my father's roof and chimney-tops, and the door into my father's house, are always visible to my sight. And when night comes on, no matter the darkness—far away over the fields and valleys gleams the light in my father's windows."
Blessed and happy is he who builds his earthly dwelling so high that from its doors he can ever see afar off his heavenly Father's house with its many mansions; and that, in the darkest nights, its lights shine down upon him. He will never be lonely, nor afraid. He will never lose hope. He will breathe Heaven's sweetness and catch the accents of Heaven's songs, and his eye will be charmed with glimpses of Heaven's beauties.
Say not that religion makes life gloomy. However dreary the Christian's earthly lot may be—hidden springs burst up all over it. There is no sorrow, which has not in it a hidden well of comfort. There is no lack, up through whose dry crust blessed supply will not burst, if we but dig for it.
In the West, on the broad prairies, I have seen the tall water-drill looming up like a ghastly skeleton in the distance. It tells a story of disappointment and vain search. Here men dug and drilled for water. They spent a fortune on this spot, hoping to strike a living spring. They went down a thousand feet or more, but found nothing.
But there is no such vain search in the believer's field for wells of blessing. The worldly man may dig down ten thousand feet in his portion. He may find gold and silver. He may find diamonds. But he will not find water. Ghastly water-drills stand all over the broad fields of many an unbelieving one—showing where he has sought for joy, for peace, for satisfaction, for comfort, all in vain.
But the child of God may strike his pick in anywhere—and fresh water will flow out. Every spot of his portion is blessed and full of blessing. He has only to drop the bucket of faith anywhere—to draw up heavenly gladness, comfort, and good. The deep furrows which sorrow ploughs in his life—are only channels through which the blessed waters flow to irrigate his field and enrich his heart. The strokes that he feels so often and that give him so much pain—are but the smitings of the rod of God, to bring out fresh water from the rock. These nether springs burst out all over the believer's field.