Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water." John 4:10

In the preceding chapter, we considered the astonishment expressed by the woman of Samaria at having her religious scruples so tampered with, as to be solicited by a member of the rival tribe for a draught of water from the well of Sychar. We saw to what painful excesses these neighboring kingdoms had pursued their jealousies, social and ecclesiastical; indulging in mutual anathema and excommunication, such as has seldom been equaled in the war of race, and the often fiercer war of opinion. To such extremes, indeed, was this repulsion carried, that it would doubtless form matter of wonder to this female, how He who now sought the boon, unless very different from others of His countrymen, should have no conscientious scruple in touching rope or pitcher that had been defiled by alien hands. While, on the other hand, we might have expected her to repudiate the thought of these being polluted and desecrated by the fingers or lips of a Jew.

His answer in the circumstances must have sounded startling. Instead of the retort and retaliation for which she was doubtless prepared, He arrests her attention, and at once softens and subdues any resentful feeling by the reply, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water," and He would not have refused you; He would not have been so ungracious as to reject the request given by a toil-worn traveler. Uninfluenced and unbiased by any such selfish and contracted feelings, "He would have given you;" and given you something better, nobler than that earthly element: "He would have given you living water."

Living water! The mysterious suggestive words could not fail to arrest her attention; and more arresting still, as it always is, the magic power of kindness. Who could this be, in Jewish attire, speaking in the Jewish dialect, yet in words strangely conciliatory? so different, probably, from other Judean pilgrims she may have met, time after time, at the same spot, with whom she was used to engage in virulent and fiery debate and banter, meeting and parting with expressions of mutual contempt and scornful hatred. "Living water"—The expression may have stimulated better, profounder thought. She was evidently not a stranger to religious truth. Apart altogether from her knowledge (derived from their revered Pentateuch) of Father Jacob, and the great theme of ecclesiastical dispute as to the worship on Gerizim and Zion, she expected "Messiah, who is called Christ," one greater than the greatest of the prophets, who was to "tell all things," and the blessings of whose kingdom she may have heard that these prophets had, again and again, described under the similitude of refreshing water.

Be this as it may, the Divine Speaker, in rising above her sectarian prejudices, seemed at once to secure her interest. With a divine sagacity, He seizes on what was most likely to rouse and sustain her attention and gain the great end in view, her everlasting salvation. He makes nature His text. He who, on other occasions, took the sower at Gennesaret, the bread at Bethsaida, the vine on Olivet, the golden goblet and its contents at Siloam, to discourse of Himself and spiritual truths, takes the water at their side to symbolize and illustrate the better "wells of salvation." No more is said about the quenching of His own thirst. He merges His own lower needs in the higher, deeper necessities of one who has never as yet risen above the material to the spiritual. "Living water!" How that image from that day forward must have been enshrined in her heart of hearts. It must have been to her like the never-to-be-forgotten look which the Savior cast upon Peter; or the "Do yo love Me?" on the shores of Tiberias or the pronouncing of her own name to Mary on the resurrection morn; or the "Peace be to you!" breathed on the gathered disciples. Yes, ever afterwards, when, as a new creature, she trod her native valley, the ear of faith must have caught in every murmuring brook divinest music, every stream that furrowed the mountain sides must have sang the song of redeeming love, or been like an angel whispering to her, and beckoning her nearer to her Savior-God!

But giving these words a general application, let us refer more particularly to the two salient points in this reply of Christ—the two hinges, so to speak, on which this golden gate turns: "THE GIFT OF GOD, and THE LIVING WATER."

First, THE GIFT OF GOD. There is nothing in this world which is not a gift of God. Every morsel of the bread which perishes, the sunlight which gladdens us, the atmospheric air which sustains us, the fuel garnered deep down in earth's storehouses to warm us, the succession of seasons, the living streams which fertilize our fields, the waving harvests which crown the year with their plenty, the thousand tints of loveliness and beauty in garden, and dell, and forest; far more, the blessings which rejoice and consecrate social life—the wellsprings of gladness in our domestic circles; these are severally and collectively "gifts of God." "Every good and perfect gift is from above."

But what are these to the gift here preeminently spoken of?—the Gift of gifts—a gift whose magnitude transcends all thought and illustration—the Son of the Highest to become of human virgin born—the lisping babe of Bethlehem's lowly cradle—the God of eternity condescending to be a pilgrim on life's highway, that He might open living streams for the lost and the perishing? "God so loved the world (and who can ever fathom or exhaust the meaning of that so?) that He gave His only begotten Son." God's "Gift"—it was unpurchasable by money, the unmerited benefaction of Heaven—free as the desert pool to the thirsty wayfarer, who has only to stoop and drink!

And this greatest and mightiest Gift, moreover, consecrates and sanctifies all minor ones. As the sun glorifies with his radiance the tamest landscape and transforms the barren rock into a pyramid of gold; so are all earthly and material blessings glorified and beautified and sublimated by the beams of the Sun of Righteousness. Christ gives a new and enhanced value to every subordinate gift. He has been well likened to the numeral which, put before the unmeaning ciphers, invests them with peerless and untold preciousness. The very outer world of nature wears a new aspect when seen through eyes spiritually enlightened: all earthly discipline has a new meaning and when the minor gifts are blighted or diminished or withdrawn, there is ever the imperishable Gift remaining beyond the reach of vicissitude or decay so that we can say, as the woman of Samaria doubtless could, in all time following this devout conversation, as she looked around the beautiful valley of her habitation, "Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no food; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation."

While feeling alive to God's goodness in His diverse other gifts, can we heartily join in the transcendent estimate of the apostle, "Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift!" Truly with this gift, having nothing "we possess all things." In Christ's glorified person as the God-man mediator "all fullness dwells." No earthly gifts can compensate for the lack of this. But the Gift of God can make up for the absence of every lesser earthly mercy. "All my springs are in You!"

"Oh bounteous Giver of all good;
Who are, of all Your gifts Yourself the crown,
Give what You can, without You we are poor
And with You rich, take what You will away."

The second main topic of the Savior's reply in this beautiful verse, is THE LIVING WATER. As by the expression "the Gift of God," He points to Himself, to His glorious Person and character and work—so, by "living water" He would seem to designate all purchased blessings of His salvation, beginning with pardon and acceptance here, and culminating in eternal glory and bliss hereafter. The twofold symbol or similitude seems to accord with a striking kindred figure in the closing chapter of Revelation, where this Gift of God, the glorified Mediator, is represented under His apocalyptic name of 'the Lamb,' as seated upon His throne; while proceeding from these sublime recesses there flows "living water," "the river of the water of life, clear as crystal." It is the magnificent stream of gospel salvation to a dying world, life and luxuriance and beauty up-springing wherever it wends its way. In other words, the expressive symbol of those priceless spiritual benefits which flow from the Person and meritorious work of the divine Redeemer—forgiveness, peace, adoption, sanctification, tranquility in life, victory in death, triumph in eternity.

And observe, it is living water. There is no glory in anything from which life has departed. The tiniest mountain stream that sings its living song on its way through moor and rock, has more true glory and beauty than the dark, inky, stagnant lake or pool. The tiniest flower or moss, or grass, have more true glory in them than the inanimate trunk of the giant tree lying prone on the ground. Why? Because the one is living and the other is dead. "A living dog is better than a dead lion." So is it with all dead lifeless things, wherein the soul has no part, and which are of the earth earthy, springing from the earth and returning to earth, the mere accidents of this fleeting existence, such as wealth, possessions, rank, worldly honors; in one word, mere material good and prosperity. You may call them streams, but they are not living streams. They dwindle and evaporate as they flow; they warble no music in the ear in the hour of waning nature; they are only summer brooks which are congealed in death's wintry, sunless valley. But these blessings of salvation are living, they touch the immortal part, they belong to the soul, they are deathless as the God who gives them.

And as the blessing of salvation (the water) is living, so also is the Fountainhead—He who is here called "the Gift of God." "If you knew the Gift of God, and who it is (the Person) who says to you, Give me a drink; you would have asked of Him." It is not dead doctrine, dry formulated dogma which the soul needs, but a living Being. "My soul," says the psalmist, "thirsts for God, for the living God." Paul, in words often misquoted, and in the misquotation their sense and beauty mutilated and destroyed, thus exults, in what may be called a dying testimony, "I know," (not "in whom") but, "I know whom I have believed." It was not sects, or creeds, or doctrines, or churches, or ecclesiastical organizations, that the dying hero clung to, in the hour of departure, but the glorious Person of the divine Immanuel, the living Presence of the ever-living, ever-loving Savior—the Brother, the Friend on the throne, whom he had learned to love more dearly than all the world beside!

Two other thoughts still claim our consideration. We have incidentally likened this verse to a golden gate on two hinges. Expanding the figure, it may be added we have here two keys to open that gate.

First, There is the key of FAITH. How was the woman of Samaria to appropriate that "Gift of God" and that "living water," symbolizing the blessings of a priceless salvation? If she had apprehended at the moment, which she did not, all the meaning of this divine utterance, how many conflicting thoughts, we may well imagine, would rush to her soul, ready to overwhelm her in confusion and despair. What a barrier between her and mercy must be her life of flagrant guilt; lock upon lock, bolt upon bolt, must exclude her from all participation in these spiritual privileges. Truly, in her case she had nothing to draw with, and the well was deep—too deep for such a sinner as she! Or, if she can dare dream of pardon and peace, what a long process of preparatory reformation and self-mortification must be undergone; how often must she climb the heights of Gerizim to load its altars with penitential offerings and costly expiatory sacrifices. It must be through long months of tears and penances before she can weave the rope of creature-merit to reach the living water!

What says that Divine Being standing before her, and who has made to her the glorious revelation she as yet so dimly comprehends? Belief in His word, in His ability, in His willingness, is all that is required. "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that says to you, Give me a drink, you would have asked and He would have given you." It was in figurative language what Paul translated into plain words in an analogous case of conversion, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved." Yes, Faith can remove mountains—mountains of sin! Faith is a key which can fit the wards of every lock, the intricacies of every heart. Faith brings the soul into immediate contact with the Savior. It reveals salvation as a glorious free gift, without works, or preparations, or merits, or penances; no rope to weave, no "golden goblet or jeweled cup" to fashion, before the living water can be brought to quench the soul's thirst.

As the beggar kneels by the running stream at the wayside, and bears the refreshing draught—the free gift of bounteous nature to his lips on the rough palm of his hands—so the vilest spiritual beggar in the rags of sin—nothing to draw with, the well of his own sins deep—can partake, without money and without price, of a free, full, everlasting redemption—"the gift of God which is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."

Like 'Christian', immediately on reaching, with the outstretched hand of faith, the cross on the top of the hill, the load of sin rolls down to the bottom. Oh for faith, simple faith, to credit the divine testimony and accept the free invitation. If not at this stage in the narrative, the woman of Samaria could, doubtless at least subsequently, and that too until her dying day, thus sing of the "living water" and the "Gift of God," in the Spirit of the Simple words of Cowper—
"E'er since by faith I saw the stream,
Your flowing wounds supply;
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be until I die."

And as Faith is one key here spoken of, so PRAYER is another. "You would have asked, and He would have given you."

How many blessings are forfeited by failing to use this key? How many are doomed to a life of spiritual poverty and starvation, for this reason, "You have not, because you ask not." While, on the other hand, how often is the divine saying verified and fulfilled, "I have not said to the seed of Jacob, Seek my face in vain."

We have, in another scripture example, a beautiful illustration of the combined power of these two instrumental means—faith and prayer. Blind Bartimeus, despite of his sealed, rayless eyeballs—despite of the thronging crowd that would intervene between him and the Great Physician, and drown his suppliant cry for help, knew the Gif of God: "When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, Jesus, son of David, have mercy upon me." See how faith and prayer together arrest the ear and the footsteps of Christ! See how, together, they bring the blind soul, like this blind wayfarer, near to the Savior! In the sublime simplicity of the narrative, "Jesus stood still." "And he, casting aside his garment, rose and came to Jesus. And Jesus answered and said to him, What do you want Me to do for you? The blind man said to Him, Lord, that I might receive my sight. And Jesus said to him, Go your way, your faith has made you whole," (Mark 10:46-52.)

Faith and Prayer! Would that we may know, experimentally, this blessed composite—the two golden keys of the two-leaved gate of salvation! To use the homely figure suggested by Sychar's well, Faith is the rope and Prayer is the bucket let down for the living water. The two are joined in the briefest and simplest of creeds and confessions—"Lord," (that is prayer)—"I believe," (that is faith)—"Lord, I believe;" and deep conscious unworthiness adds the supplementary petition, "Help my unbelief!"

Have we known, do we know, the Gift of God? or, sad alternative, are we among the number of those of whom it shall be said, "They knew not, the time of visitation;" over whom a despised Savior will utter the wail of rejected mercy, unrequited love, "If you, even you, had known in this your day?" "This your day." Blind Bartimeus, and the woman of Samaria, had, each in their different experiences, probably but that one day, the one chance of a Savior passing by; in the case of the former, to have the eyes unsealed, and in the latter to have the deeper blindness of the soul removed. That one opportunity, foregone and forfeited, might never have been renewed.

Doubtless, with respect to this female of Sychar, the Savior saw how all-important was her immediate acceptance of the gift of salvation. As the omniscient Shepherd, He discerned her infinite danger—how this erring sheep was plunging deeper and deeper amid the wilds of an ever sadder ruin—how a few more days or months of wandering, among these bleak mountains of sin would have made her irrevocably and irrecoverably, "the sheep which was lost." But He has followed after her "until He finds her." He pleads with her—reasons with her—tells her of her dreadful danger and peril, amid these savage deserts of her wandering, and of the peaceful pastures and living waters she was guiltily disowning. In the beautiful but expressive imagery of the Song of Songs, thus does the Heavenly Bridegroom address her—"Come with me from Lebanon, my spouse, with me from Lebanon; look from the top of Amana, from the top of Shenir and Hermon, from the lions' dens, from the mountains of the leopards."

And what is her experience, as, obeying His summons, these perilous mountain heights are left forever? She is enabled to exult in the Gift of God, under the very image of these verses—"A fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon," (Sol. Song, 4:8, 15.)

And the same grace that was free to her is free to us; the same living water offered to her is offered to us. The gospel is replete with invitations to the Fountain of life. The vision of Jacob's Well mingles with the closing utterances of inspiration: the last accents which "He who sat on the throne" bequeathed to the Church, when the vision and the prophecy were on the point of being sealed up, were these: "Let him who is thirsty come, and whoever will, let him take of the water of life freely." We are empowered and warranted to echo, in His name, the words of the Great Inviter—no barrier, no condition, no qualification is there in approaching that living stream:
"Just as you are, without one trace
Of love, or joy, or inward grace,
Or fitness for the heavenly place,
O guilty sinner, come.

Come, here bring your boding fears,
Your aching heart, your bursting tears,
'It is mercy's voice salutes your ears—
O trembling sinner, come.

Come, say 'the Spirit and the Bride;'
The stream is full, the channel wide;
Who wills may drink the living tide;
Your Savior bids you come!

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