The Gospel Fountain!
by William Nicholson, 1862
"On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity!" Zechariah 13:1
The text must be regarded as a very striking representation of Christ's efficacious sacrifice, which was the hope of the Old Testament Church, and the delightful theme of inspired prophets. Other interesting matters formed the subject of their prophecies, but none were so weighty, so interesting as this, "On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity!"
It is a vital subject, intimately connected with the salvation of the soul. None can truly appreciate its value, but those who are made by the Spirit to groan under the pressure of sin and guilt before the thrice holy God.
The prophet refers the opening of this fountain to Gospel times. "In that day." That was a day, compared with which all preceding ages were but as the morning dawn. Then the mists of Jewish superstition and Gentile ignorance were dispelled before the Sun of Righteousness. "That day" may refer to, "And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son!" Zechariah 12:10
The Spirit shall cause them to mourn for sin; but they shall not mourn without hope; "a fountain shall be opened."
I. Christ Is Called a Fountain.
The word "fountain" must refer to Christ, of whom it is said, "Behold the Lamb of God," etc. John 1:29. This was the evangelical subject of the predictions of the prophets. 1 Peter 1:10-12.
God is spoken of as a fountain. Jeremiah 2:13. So is Christ, Isaiah 12:3. And Christ represents himself as such. John 7:37, 38. The Jews, after their return from Babylon, were accustomed in the last great day of the feast to fetch water in a joyous and triumphant manner from the pool of Siloam, in allusion to Isaiah 12:3. Then Christ pointed them to himself as the fountain or spring of salvation. "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him!" John 7:37-38
He is similarly described by the same character even in Heaven. Revelation 22:1. He justly answers to this description, being an inexhaustible fountain of spiritual blessings. His fullness is original and boundless. "In him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, and of his fullness have we all received, grace upon grace."
1. Christ is called a fountain, to signify plenty, abundance. A fountain shall be opened; not a cistern, but a spring. A cistern may be very capacious, but if much frequented, will be soon exhausted. In a fountain there are constant ebullitions, and supplies by secret passages. The virtues of Christ's sacrifice are not lessened by all those needy souls that have flocked to him from age to age.
Common fountains may be drawn dry, and require time to recruit. But this fountain has its rise in Heaven, and is supplied so plentifully, that millions of worlds drawing at it, at the same time, for millions of ages, could not exhaust, nor in the least degree diminish it! O the height and depth of the love of Christ!
2. Christ is called a fountain, to denote its perpetual efficacy. Water in a cistern may at first be sweet and wholesome, but, if kept for a long time, it will become putrid and offensive; and if it had originally any medicinal quality, it all evaporates. Not so the blood of Christ — like the waters of a fountain, it is ever fresh and beneficial. He has obtained an "unchangeable priesthood" "he ever lives to make intercession for us." Do not you, Christians, feel his blood as efficacious, as precious, as ever?
3. Christ is called a fountain, on account of the supplies it furnishes. "The water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life!" John 4:14. The Christian shall possess a plenitude himself; but the fullness of the Christian is limited — is derived — it is the fullness of a vessel, derived from Christ, the great Fountain.
Whatever streams of pardon, peace, and joy, flow into the sinner's heart — all have come from this Fountain. Whatever streams of happiness and foretastes of glory are drunk by the Christian, they come from the great Fountain. Whatever are the raptures realized by perfected spirits in Heaven, they are derived from that pure river of bliss proceeding out of the throne of God and the Lamb! Revelation 22:1.
II. This Fountain Was to Be Opened.
From eternity Christ was as "a fountain sealed," having in himself all fullness, before there existed any creatures whom he might supply from it. However valuable the contents of a fountain, they would avail us nothing — if that fountain was inaccessible. And what would be the unsearchable riches of Christ to us, if they were unattainable?
1. This fountain was opened by Christ's sufferings and death. "A fountain shall be opened" — and it has been opened. "When the time had fully come, God sent his son." Galatians 4:4. During his ministry its waters flowed in partial streams. He bestowed his mercy and grace prospectively; that is, through the sacrifice he would offer for transgression.
Behold the process of opening this fountain. The Redeemer said, "Father, the hour has come!" That hour, when all the purposes of God, and all the types and prophecies respecting this Fountain, were to be completed; that hour when the wrath of God was to be poured out upon God's Beloved Son; that hour when all the claims of Divine justice were to be fully satisfied, and the law to be magnified and made honorable; that hour when the Divine mandate was to be issued, "Awake, O sword, against my Shepherd, and against the man that is my Fellow; smite the Shepherd!" verse 7.
That hour is approaching. The bloody baptism is at hand. The cup of wrath must now be drunk!
Hence, in the garden of Gethsemane, Christ realized the hour and power of darkness, and so great was the struggle, that the blood flowed through every pore, Luke 22:44. An apostate disciple betrayed him into the hands of sinners, who dragged him to Pilate's bar, where his back was torn with scourges, John 19:1; Psalm 129:3; where he was crowned with poignant thorns, Mark 15:17-19. There he was buffeted, spit upon, and treated with derision, while the voices of infuriated men exclaimed, "Away with him; crucify him; crucify him!"
This fountain was broken open on the cross to which he was transfixed. His hands and feet were nailed to the accursed tree, Psalm 22:16. And his side, pierced with a spear, emitted blood and water, John 19:34, an indication that his sacrifice would cleanse both from the guilt and power of sin. It was then that the wrath of God, due to man, fell upon him. It was then that he was smitten of God and afflicted, and by his stripes we are healed.
"Here," says the kind redeeming Lord,
And shows his wounded side,
"See here the spring of all your joys,
That opened when I died."
Your cruel thorns, your shameful cross,
Procures us heavenly crowns;
Our highest gain springs from your loss,
Our healing from your wounds!
Thus Christ, at the time of his death, properly became a fountain opened, having obtained peace for us, and "broken down the middle wall of partition," etc. Ephesians 2:13-16. Then was the fountain opened, and the dying thief was made a monument of its cleansing efficacy!
"There is a fountain filled with blood,
Drawn from Immanuel's veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood,
Lose all their guilty stains.
"The dying thief rejoiced to see
That fountain in his day;
And there have I, as vile as he,
Washed all my sins away!"
2. It was proclaimed by the apostles, as a fountain opened. This was in accordance with his injunction, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature" Mark 16:15, 16; Luke 24:46, 47.
On the day of Pentecost it was exhibited as an opened fountain; many of Christ's murderers were cleansed by it; the blackest guilt was purged, the most ferocious natures changed, and multitudes of souls saved and made eternally blessed!
3. This Fountain was appointed to remain open until the end of time. Christ, as the Fountain, is with his people always, even to the end of the world. The Priesthood of Christ, who officiates at this fountain, is unchangeable. As long as there exists a redeemed sinner on earth requiring cleansing — so long shall this fountain remain open. Its healing streams shall flow to every part of the globe, Romans 10:18; it will flow until that prophecy is fulfilled, "For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea!" Habakkuk 2:14
4. This fountain being open, indicates the willingness of Christ to receive and save perishing sinners. It is open for that purpose night and day, and every moment the invitation is sounded forth, "Ho! all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost!" Isaiah 55:1
5. This fountain being open, indicates the clearness of Gospel revelation superior that of the Mosaic dispensation. Christ was a fountain for sin under the law, but like a sealed fountain he was hidden and veiled under many types, shadows, and ceremonial washings. But the stone is now removed that lay upon the mouth of the well. That which was then sealed up in types and prophecies — is now laid open to the understanding of the most common capacity, Isaiah 35:8. It requires no great strength of genius, and none of the accomplishments of human learning, to understand the way of salvation.
6. This fountain is very accessible, and perfectly free. The cities of refuge of old had great facility of access; they were situated in the most convenient places; the road to them was always kept in repair, and the plainest directions were given. But still the manslayer might, through mental excitement and great hurry, mistake the way, and be overtaken and slain by the avenger of blood.
But the way to Golgotha, who can mistake? The desponding soul, terrified by the loud thunders of the law and conscience, and flying from the wrath to come — will find the way to the cross short and easy, and partake of all the blessings of the Fount without money, and without price.
The Gospel brazen serpent may be seen from the most obscure corner, and a crucified Jesus may be savingly looked to, even from the ends of the earth.
III. The People for Whom this Fountain Is Opened."For the house of David," etc.
It is opened for all believers, who, as the spiritual seed of Christ, are of the house of David, and as living members of the Church, are inhabitants of Jerusalem. All who believe are spiritually of the same lineage as Christ was naturally, "the seed of Abraham," and of the "house of David," Galatians 3:6-9, and they are inhabitants of the Church called Jerusalem, Hebrews 12:22, compare with Galatians 4:25, 26. Through Christ, all who believe are justified, are washed from their sins in his blood, that they may be made kings and priests to God, Revelation 1:5, 6.
The language may also indicate that this Fountain is opened for all classes and degrees of men. For men of royalty — for the kings and princes of the earth, like those of the "house of David." And also their subjects, even the basest and poorest on earth, if they only come to this Fountain, and believe. All need this Fountain, whether high or low, rich or poor, learned or ignorant, etc. Colossians 3:11; John 6:37; Revelation 22:17.
IV. The Gracious Design of Opening this Fountain."To cleanse them from sin and impurity!"
Under the law of Moses provision was made for ceremonial defilement — the brazen sea, fifty feet in circumference, and about ten in depth, in which the priests washed their hands and feet. There were also ten layers in which the things offered for sacrifice were washed, from which the water was taken to sprinkle the offerers, 2 Chronicles 4:6. There were also fountains for bodily diseases, as the pool of Siloam, John 9:11, and Bethesda, John 5:2-4. Probably a preternatural quality was imparted to them, at that period, to stimulate the mind to expectation, of the great Physician of souls. Observe:
1. Sin is impurity. So it is described, Isaiah 1:4-6; Ezekiel 16:6; Born. 1:24. Paul reminds the Romans that this was their state before conversion, Romans 6:19; also the Corinthians, 1 Corinthians 6:11. He describes the deeds of impurity, Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 4:19.
2. The seat of this impurity is the heart, Matthew 15:19. It lies too deep for any human means to eradicate. It spreads through every faculty of the soul, from the highest intellectual faculty to the lowest animal appetite. The conscience is defiled by it. The actions of the life, like streams from a filthy fountain, correspond with the state of the heart.
3. Sin leads to condemnation, and will exclude from Heaven. Hence it is a defilement the most abominable and dangerous. It disfigures the soul in the sight of God, and renders it odious in his sight! Ephesians 5:5.
But from this impurity and condemnation, this Fountain delivers the penitent and believing sinner, for it is opened for that purpose for crimes the most aggravated and detested — for the worst of wretches! "Your whole head is injured, your whole heart afflicted. From the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness — only wounds and welts and open sores, not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with oil!" Isaiah 1:5-6
Christ's sacrifice delivers from guilt and condemnation.
Christ's sacrifice and the power of his Spirit deliver from the filth and power of sin. The soul is washed, the heart is renewed.
The water of life from this Fountain, exhilarates and strengthens the soul to follow after holiness.
1. How important it is to know ourselves as impure and under the wrath of God. The reason why so few are healed, is ignorance in this respect.
2. This Fountain is the only appointed method of salvation. All self-righteousness is forever excluded.
3. Let no penitent believing sinner despond. It was opened specially for you.
4. Adore the rich and sovereign grace of God for providing this over-flowing, ever-flowing Fountain, to cleanse from sin and impurity!