Wayside Springs from the Fountain
by Theodore Cuyler, 1883
The Song at the Well
From there the Israelites traveled to Beer, which is the
well where the Lord said to Moses, "Assemble the people, and I will
give them water." There the Israelites sang this song: "Spring up, O well!
Yes, sing about it! Sing of this well, which princes dug, which great
leaders hollowed out with their scepters and staffs." Numbers 21:16-18
There was once a sermon at a well. The teacher was Jesus
of Nazareth, and the discourse was delivered to one poor sinful woman as the
entire audience. The Son of God felt (what we ministers too often forget on
stormy Sundays) that a single immortal soul is a great audience.
Other wells in the Bible are historic besides the well of Sychar.
One, at Bethlehem, is associated with a princely act of chivalry;
another, at Nahor, with the beginning of a singular courtship. We
venture to say that there is one well beside which most of our readers never
halted—and out of which they have never drawn either a song or a sermon.
It was situated on the borders of Moab, not far from
Mount Pisgah. It bears the name of Beer, which signifies a well-spring. Up
to this spot thirsty Israel came on their journey from Egypt to Canaan. The
Lord had just said unto Moses, "Gather the people together—and I will give
them water." Here is a promise; but, like most of God's promises, it
is coupled with a condition. The condition in this case is that the
leaders of the congregation were to dig for the water.
A striking scene unfolds itself. The leaders of the host
begin to open the loose sand with the staves which they carried. Moses
directs the work, and the dirt is thrown out fast. While the digging goes
forward the people sing a simple song—one of the oldest snatches of song
that has come down to us: "Spring up, O well! Yes, sing about it! Sing of
this well, which princes dug, which great leaders hollowed out with their
scepters and staffs."
Presently the cool water begins to fill up the cavity.
The water bubbles up to music. The splash of the cool liquid mingles with
the song of the multitude as they press forward and draw the sweet
refreshment for their thirsty tongues. It is an inviting scene and is
brimming with spiritual instruction.
Many a sweet lesson may we draw from this outgushing
well at Beer. We learn afresh the good old truth that—the Lord will
provide. It is a grievous sin to doubt God or to limit the
Holy One of Israel. He can open rivers in the midst of the desert, and can
make the dry land to become springs of water. As long as we remain
unbelieving, our souls parch up with the dryness. Poor stingy, faithless
professors find their religious life little better than a dull march over a
very barren Sahara of formalities. There is no joy in their souls—and
no song on their tongues. As long as Christians neglect duty and prayer, and
disobey God they must expect nothing else than drought and barrenness.
God puts his well-springs of blessing inside the gateway
of faith, and our faith is to be proved by our obedience. As
soon as Israel believed God enough to dig, and as soon as the staves were
thrust into the sand—the waters began to bubble up. The people began
to work—and God began to work also. They began to pray also; their
prayer took the form of a song. They sang their prayer: "Spring up, O well!"
Really the deepest, richest, and devoutest hymns we
sing—are full of aspiration and petition. They are yearnings towards God—and
outcries for blessings. That matchless hymn, "Jesus, lover of my soul," is
the soul's passionate call upon Jesus to open his bosom of love and let us
hide ourselves there. "Nearer, my God, to you" is a prayer which has floated
up on the wings of song from thousands of yearning hearts. "Guide me, O you
great Jehovah!" is another.
When a long-thirsting church is beginning to arouse into
a revival, its hymns begin to become fervent soul-cries for the power from
on high. Such song is irrepressible. The soul bursts into it. Petition
mingles with praise, and the heart's deepest desires are blended with the
heart's fullest gratitude. While we are digging for the water and
praying for the water, we are singing for thankfulness that the
water begins to flow.
This complex idea runs through all of David's richest
Psalms. They are blended prayer and praise. This triple process
belongs to every Christian's best labors and sweetest joys. He yearns after
Jesus, and after a fuller tasting of Jesus' love, and after a fuller filling
with the Spirit. With his hands he is digging—but with his lips he is
singing. Duty is no longer drudgery—it is delight.
Witness, all you beloved brethren who have experienced
the richest joys of revival seasons—has not preaching the Word, and praying
for the conversion of sinners, and honest work for the Master been a
spiritual luxury? As you plied the staves and the waters of salvation gushed
out, you have taken out Israel's strain, "Spring up, O well!"
That gathering at the fountain of Beer was a primitive
praise-meeting. We should have many such in our churches, and if we were
filled with the Spirit we would multiply our "sacrifices of praise. "The
more the blessings—the more the joys; and the more the joys—the more the
music. While Israel continued to murmur against God—they were parched with
drought. When they began to work and to pray and to sing—the fountain burst
forth. An ounce of song is worth a ton of scolding. As a group
of sailors on the deck, when they pull with a will, always pull to the
cadence of a song, so God's people will always pull with more harmony and
strength when they join in the voice of praise.
"Whoever offers praise glorifies Me." God never loves to
hear us murmur or scold or revile each other. He loves the prayer of faith
and the upspringing of joyful praise. It was not only Paul's prayer—but
Paul's midnight song of praise, which shook open the old dungeon at
One other thought must not be forgotten as we stand by
that well of Beer. Those inflowing waters are a beautiful type of the Holy
Spirit. As the previous scene of the uplifted brazen serpent is a type of
the atoning Savior, so the fountain of Beer is a symbol of the influences of
the Spirit. Christ himself employed the same emblem, as we read in the
seventh chapter of John's Gospel. When the divine Spirit flows into our
souls—then come refreshment, peace, strength, holiness, and the sweetest,
purest of all joys. Then we work for Christ with elastic hope. Then we see
the fruits of our toil springing up like Beer's bursting well. Then we have
the new song put into our mouths—and our hearts make melody. Life becomes an
foretaste of heaven. We are becoming attuned for those hallelujahs
which we shall sing with rapturous sweetness beside that crystal stream
which flows out of the throne of God and of the Lamb!
Christ the Fountain
"If any man thirsts—let him come to Me and drink!" John
This was an astonishing announcement. If Plato had
uttered it from his Academy, it would have savored of boastful presumption.
Yet a Galilean peasant, whose whole "school" of followers scarcely went
beyond a dozen fishermen and publicans, makes this proclamation to all human
kind: "If anyone is thirsty for pure happiness—I will satisfy him; if any
one is suffering from a sense of guilt—I will relieve him; if any one is
heart-broken—I will comfort him."
There is no alternative. Either this carpenter's son from
Galilee is an insane impostor—or else he is a being clothed with divine
power. No madman ever talked for three years without uttering one foolish
syllable; no impostor ever pushed himself before the public eye for three
years without doing one selfish act. Jesus of Nazareth, then, was what he
claimed to be—the Son of God. He does not draw from others, his supplies for
human needs; he invites everybody to come and draw from him. He is not a
reservoir filled up from some other sources and liable to be exhausted; he
is an original, self-supplied fountainhead!
Never had the face of humanity been more parched and
dusty and barren, than was that Oriental world when Jesus burst up through
it like an artesian well. Even Judaism had become like a desert, and lo!
there breaks forth this gushing fountain of crystal waters. He is more than
a teacher, giving instruction on all profound and practical
questions. He is more than a miracle-worker, giving sight to the
blind, ears to the deaf, and healing to the diseased. His supreme gift to
man is himself! From himself flows forth the recovering influence;
from the inexhaustible depths of his own divine being—a whole thirsty race
may draw refreshment!
"The water that I give, shall be in you a well of water
springing up into everlasting life." It is not simply profound truths
that Jesus offers, or a system of doctrine, or a beautiful model
of right living. He offers himself as the Satisfier! Drink
me, take me into your souls—and I will relieve your soul-thirst! What a
thirsty crowd fills all the thoroughfares of life!
Quacks offer their panaceas on every hand.
Ambition sets up its dizzy ladder and proclaims: If any man thirsts for
happiness, let him climb up come here! Mammon puts up over the doors
to his temples of gold: If any man thirsts, let him come to me and get rich!
Pleasure lights her saloons and strings her violins and sets out her
flagons of wine, and cries aloud to the passers-by: If any are wretched and
thirst for enjoyment, let them turn in here and drink! And all these are but
miserable, broken cisterns, which hold no water.
In every human soul is a crying need, a hunger
which such husks cannot feed, a thirst that grows the keener the
longer it is trifled with. My soul recognizes sin—and thirsts for relief
from it. I am so weak that I have been overthrown again and again; I need
strength equal to the conflict. My earthly sources of happiness are
precarious. Death has already shattered more than one beautiful pitcher at
my domestic fountain. God has put within me desires and demands that no
uncertain rivulet can satisfy. My soul thirsts for the living Christ! When
he opens up the well-spring within me—peace flows like a river. Pure motives
well forth, desires after holiness, and love in its satisfying fullness.
Conscience is kept clean and sweet by the presence of Christ, the
This fountain never dries up. It is never frozen over. No
sediment defiles it. Every good thing that I ever sought for outside of
Jesus Christ—has had its defects, and the very best has brought a shade of
disappointment. But whenever I got a deep draught of Christ's wonderful
words, they were like Jonathan's honeycomb, they "enlightened my eyes."
Whenever I have swallowed his promises, they have put new strength into
every muscle for the hard climb.
But we must drink from the fountain—if we would
receive strength, joy, and life. The proclamation is not, Come to the
Bible and read; or Come to the church and listen; or, Come to the
altar and pray; or. Come to the font and be baptized; or, Come
to the sacramental table and partake. It is, "Come unto ME and drink!
This is a voluntary act, so simple that a babe
understands it by instinct. On a hot summer day we dip the vessel into the
cool spring, and, as its delicious draught passes into the lips and through
the whole system—an exquisite refreshment steals through every nerve and
fibre of the frame. So does faith take in Christ, and his grace reaches
every faculty and affection of the soul. Coleridge said that the best proof
of the inspiration of God's Word was that is the only book in the world,
which finds me at every point of my nature. "The best argument for Jesus
Christ, is that he alone satisfies me. His grace goes to the right spot. His
comfort soothes the sore place; his atoning blood makes me sure of pardon;
his love cures my wretched selfishness as nothing else can do! Of almost
everyone and everything else we can get tired—but what true child of Christ
ever got tired of the water of life? With joy does he ever draw water from
this well of salvation.
Yet tens of thousands around us are perishing, not from
the lack of the life-giving water—but because their foolish, depraved hearts
do not thirst for it. A lady who visited one of the tropical islands for
health, wrote home to her friends, "This is a lovely spot. I have every
kindness, and abundance of food and fruits and luxuries—but I have no
appetite. If I could only get an appetite I would soon recover." Alas,
within a month she was gone! She died, not from lack of food—but from lack
of hunger; not for lack of refreshing drinks—but from the lack of thirst for
It is the worst symptom of sin in the human soul—that it
kills the appetite for holiness. We crave other sources of enjoyment than
Christ offers. Drugged with the devil's treacherous draughts, we cry
constantly for more, and yet refuse to touch the water of everlasting life!
Blessed are those who thirst after purity and pardon and peace and power—for
in Christ they may be filled.
"Whoever is thirsty, let him come! And whoever wishes,
let him take the free gift of the water of life!" Revelation 22:17. These
words are written for those who are thirsty. You who have a real
aspiration for a nobler and purer life, you who have never yet been
delivered from the plague and power of sin—listen to that celestial voice:
"If any man thirsts—let him come to me and drink!" There is a flock at the
fountain now. Go and join them. Draw for yourself. Drink for yourself.
Drink, that your joy may be full. In heaven there is a perpetual
Thanksgiving Day; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne is their
Shepherd, and he leads them to ever new fountains of waters of life.
The Great Promise
Many of the sorest sorrows in this world are caused by
broken promises. Oft and again the tradesman is brought to bankruptcy,
because the promissory notes which he held proved to be worthless. How many
a home is shadowed by the sins of violated vows; hearts are broken by the
broken promises of wedlock. "Until death us do part" is the solemn
engagement fluently spoken—but it is the "death" of affection or of moral
character which brings the real parting.
While human promises are so often broken by either
willfulness or weakness, it is a glorious thought that there is one Faithful
Promiser whose word is surer than the everlasting hills. Sometimes his
providence seems to be contradicting his promises, as when he
assured Paul of the safety of all on board the ship; but all in good time,
the shipwrecked crew and passengers escape safely to land on the broken
pieces of the ship. We are often too hasty in judging our Heavenly Father,
and as often mistake what he has agreed to give us. He never agrees to give
us wealth or health, or freedom from care or sharp affliction. But "this is
the promise that he has promised us, even ETERNAL life."
A great deal more than deliverance from the condemnation
of sin is signified by this word "life". It is the inbreathing of a new
principle by the Holy Spirit; it is the vital organic union of the soul, to
the Son of God. Because he lives—we shall live also. Our whole spiritual
nature is elevated, ennobled, purified, and strengthened by having this
Christ-life infused. We do not lose our individuality or our responsibility
to do our utmost in watchfulness or in work. The disciples on Galilee in the
night-storm must all pull at the oars, even though Jesus was on board both
as pilot and preserver. Christ's almighty grace bestows the new life, and
maintains it, and most lovingly aids it; but after all, you and I must do
the living. If we have only a gasping, feeble, fruitless life when he
offers to give it "more abundantly," then it is our own criminal fault. We
must work out our own salvation, even while he is working in
us and upon us.
The real grandeur of this grand promise, is that Jesus
guarantees never to desert us. "My grace is sufficient for you" means all
that it asserts. "No man shall be able to pluck you out of my hands" means
that the hand that holds is omnipotent; all our concern must be to stay in
that hand. We are kept by the power of God, through faith, unto
A young minister, while visiting the cabin of a veteran
Scotch woman who had grown ripe in experience, said to her, "Nannie, what
if, after all your prayers and watching and waiting, God should allow your
soul to be eternally lost?" Looking at the youthful novice in divinity, she
replied, "Ah, let me tell you, that God would have the greatest loss. Poor
me would lose her soul, and that would be a great loss; but God would lose
his honor and his character. If he broke his word, he would make himself a
liar, and the universe would go to ruin." The veteran believer was right.
Our only real ground of salvation lies in God's everlasting word. This is
the promise which he has promised; let us cleave to that.
If the title-deed to my house is safely lodged in the
register's office of Brooklyn, why should I lie awake at night for fear of
ejectment from the premises? It is my business to continue in the house, and
it is the city's business to keep secure my title to it. Just two things are
essential to a Christian's hope of salvation. The first one is that he must
be sure that he is alive—and life is self-evidencing. A corpse never
breathes or answers questions. As long as you really breathe out honest
penitence and desires after God, as long as you feel any degree of genuine
love to Jesus, as long as your lips move in sincere prayer and your
hands move in obedience to Christ's commandment, you are not a
corpse; you are alive. The life may be too languid and feeble—but it is
alive. Make sure of that by honest self-searching, and by a comparison of
yourself with what Christ demands. When your state corresponds to the
Christian's state, as described in the Bible, you have the witness of the
Spirit that you are his. Having this actual life, strive to have it more
abundantly; the more you have, the richer, purer, stronger, and more useful
Being assured that we are born again and are living
today, the other essential is from God, and belongs exclusively to him. You
and I have nothing to do with it—God will take care of his own promises. If
he said, "He who believes has everlasting life," you have nothing to do
except believe and obey.
Last year I sat at eventide on the battlements of the
castle of Mar Saba, and looked down into the deep gorge of the Kidron. All
night I lay secure in the strong fortress while the jackals howled and the
Bedouin prowled without. So may every child of God who has lodged himself in
the stronghold of the divine promise rest securely, and let the devil's
jackals howl as loudly as they choose, or the adversary lie in wait outside
the solid gateway. "This is the promise that He has promised us—even eternal
life." Cleave to that! As long as we trust God in Christ, and attest our
faith by our conduct, we may roll the responsibility of our salvation upon
But will this life outlast the grave? Will it reach
across that great mysterious chasm that separates us from the unseen world?
Will it be eternal? These are the questions which sometimes torment
the survivors when they have gone down to the shore of the unbridged river,
and watched a beloved child or husband or wife disappear slowly out of
sight. "Can I feel sure that there is a heaven for that loved one to land
in?" But nobody comes back from that other world, nobody ever will come
back, to bring a single syllable of assurance. The boats on that river of
death all head one way; there are no "return trips."
Suppose that one should come back and tell us that he had
actually found a heaven, and entered it, and participated in its splendors
and joys. If we believed the statement, it would have to be on a single
human authority. But if we would believe the witness of a man, is not
the witness of the Almighty God infinitely greater? If we are only to
feel sure of a heaven on the testimony of somebody coming back to each one
of us, then would we consent to exercise a faith that glorifies a worm of
the dust and dishonors the God of the universe. For one, I would
rather trust a single word of divine promise—than a million human
Just open to the first chapter of that epistle which the
Holy Spirit wrote by Peter's hand, and read the third, fourth, and fifth
verses. If you, as a follower of Christ, do not feel sure of an "inheritance
reserved for you"—then you would not believe though an army of saints came
back from the skies. Then trust God! Let your faith be
"The living power from heaven,
That grasps the promise God has given;
Securely fixed on Christ alone,
Your trust shall ne'er be overthrown."
Patching the Old Garment
Some of our Lord's parables are to be weighed
rather than measured. Brief as to space, they are most profound and
practical in their significance. In a single verse is compressed the
following parable: "No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment.
If he does, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear
worse." No sensible man would patch an old, threadbare, outworn garment,
with a piece of unshrunk cloth, and for two good reasons: the ill-matched
patch would make an ugly appearance, and the strong cloth would soon tear
out from the weak, rotten fabric, and the whole process would end in
failure. By this pithy parable, the Great Teacher taught that the old
dispensation of ceremonial observances had had its day and become obsolete.
His gospel was a new system of religious faith and methods, entirely
complete and adequate for all persons and all time. Any attempt to engraft
it upon the out-worn system of Judaism would be abortive. The new faith was
to be embodied in renovated forms of speech and forms of service.
This parable has a very practical bearing upon the vital
point of 'character' and the vital process of conversion. Hardly any simile
describes character better than that of a fabric, made up of
innumerable threads, and put together by numberless stitches. The earliest
stitches are commonly put in by a mother's hand; and the subsequent work of
Sunday-school teachers and pastors may do much in the making or the marring
of the fabric. A great many poor, glossy fabrics have a smooth and
substantial look—but in the wear of life they betray the weak spots,
and ravel out. Some people also are not stoutly sewed; they are only basted.
When the warp and woof of character is weak and
worthless, when it is badly rotted by sin, there are two methods of repair:
the one is to patch up the old; the other is to discard it altogether and
procure an entirely new fabric. The first is man's plan; the second
is Christ's plan. The fatal objection to the first method, is that a
patched character does not look well and will not last. Harmony is a prime
essential of beauty, and a bright strip of virtue pieced in upon a godless
life—only makes the rest of the fabric look more unsightly. Nor is there
strength enough in the fabric to hold the incongruous patch.
We ministers make a sad mistake when we direct our main
efforts against particular sins, instead of striking at the source of all
sins—a godless, unrenewed heart! Make the tree good, and the fruit will be
good. Many a drunkard, disgusted and horrified by his own loathsome vice,
has made a solemn resolution to break off his evil practice—but has not gone
the whole length of seeking a new heart and the mighty help of God. He has
attempted to patch a new habit on an old unregenerate heart. Even his
temperance pledge may soon tear out and the tear be made worse. What the
inebriate needs, is the new fabric wrought by the almighty power of the Holy
Spirit. So with all kindred sins of falsehood, lechery, covetousness, and
the like. A man may be shamed out of certain public acts of sin, and
yet hide away a sinful heart. An eloquent appeal may wring a contribution
out of a stingy soul; but he will lock his purse the tighter the next time,
and confirm his covetousness. What he needs is the melting power of a new
afiection; if he does not give from a right motive, he is none the
better for having his money extorted from him. Barnabas gave his land to the
Christian church because he had first given his heart to Jesus.
In all my long ministry I have never been able to
patch up a sinner so that he will look and act like a genuine Christian.
Christ's method of dealing with human character is the only thorough and
successful method. He says, "Behold, I make all things new." If any man be
in Christ, and Christ in him, he is a new creature. The rotten garment has
been discarded, and the complete righteousness has been put on, so that the
shame of his nakedness might be hidden. How sharply Jesus clove to the core
of the matter, with Nicodemus! He does not tell the inquiring Pharisee to go
home and reform certain bad habits—but "you must be born again." The
rich young ruler was able to display some very bright patches of virtue, and
expected to be praised for them; but when the Savior offered him the
entirely new garment which cost self-denial, and would pass him into
heaven—the poor fellow went away with his old patched robe, disappointed and
God has ordained this principle: that no pardon of sin
and no spiritual blessing can ever be obtained, except through an inward
acceptance of Christ, and an entire regeneration by the Holy Spirit. The
supreme gift of the Lord Jesus is a new character. The apostles never
wasted a moment on a gospel of patchwork. Their twofold text was,
"Turn to the Lord," which meant repentance; and "Cleave to the Lord," which
meant a life of faith and holiness.
It is quite in line with this idea of spiritual
clothing, that the apostle exhorts everyone to "put on the Lord Jesus
Christ." That signifies the entire inwrapping and infolding of ourselves in
the holy texture of his perfect righteousness and all-sufficient grace. We
walk inside of our clothes. So a consistent Christian walks inside of the
beautiful garment which Christ has woven for him and wrapped about him.
Bear in mind, that it is a "seamless robe" which the dear
Master provides for us; we must have it all—or none. How warm it is in its
ample protection against all weathers! How beautiful it is when washed white
in the blood of the Lamb! How well it wears! I have seen it look brighter
than new—after fifty years of hard service! In heaven, that wedding-garment
will make even a pauper to shine like an angel of light. With such a beauty
of holiness offered to us, why should so many professors of religion be
content to be only "patched up"? Inconsistent professors simply disgust the
people of the worid, and lead them to say, "If that be Christianity, I don't
want it; my coat is as good as that, and better."
A poor fabric is made none the better by the patchwork of
public prayers or professions. A real conversion, a new heart work, and a
renovation of the very warp and woof of character, is what God requires.
What a new power and beauty and irresistible influence, would go forth from
all our churches if we were all freshly clad in Christ Jesus!
"This spotless robe the same appears
When ruined nature sinks in years.
No age can change its glorious hue;
The robe of Christ is ever new."
A Good Life—How to Begin it
Some people who honestly desire to begin a better life
are puzzled about the first steps. They imagine that some intense
excitement, either within themselves, or around them in the form of a
"revival," may be indispensable. This is a grievous mistake. Many a genuine
conversion has been attended by the anguish of a pungent conviction of sin,
and the joy of a sudden relief and inlet of peace; but we doubt whether
one-half of the sincerest Christians have had precisely this experience. For
anyone to wait for such an experience is folly; for anyone to demand it from
God is insane presumption.
There is one case of conversion mentioned in the New
Testament which affords a beautiful illustration of the right way to begin a
good, honest, useful Christian life. The man himself was not a genius, and
his spiritual change had nothing dramatic or sensational about it. He
belonged to a very odious class—the tax-collectors of Palestine. The average
Jew regarded the publican who wrung out of him tribute for Caesar, as very
odious. The Jew never paid his tax without a grudge and a growl; if the
publican himself were a Jew, he was excluded from the temple and from all
social fellowship with his countrymen. Our Lord, in the course of his walk
from Capernaum to the country, came across one of these detested publicans
sitting at the tax booth—which was not a permanent building—but a shed or
arbor by the roadside. The collector of taxes who sat at the booth was a Jew
named Levi; he is elsewhere called Matthew—a name which signifies "the gift
of God." Jesus was probably no stranger to him, for every well-informed man
must already have heard of the wonderful prophet from Nazareth whose words
and works were the talk of all Galilee.
Christ approaches the publican kindly, and addresses to
him that short, simple sentence which seems to have been his frequent
formula of invitation. He just said to Levi, "Follow me." That is precisely
what he says to every immortal soul through his Gospel of Love. Christ
wanted Matthew—and Matthew needed him. Those two brief, pithy words changed
the whole career of the publican; they killed the old covetous self—and gave
birth to a new and noble character. We are told that Matthew "left all, rose
up, and followed Jesus." There was no outbreak of compunction that we read
of; certainly there was no dallying or delay. He saw his duty—and he did it.
Now what did the publican leave? Not his property, for he
soon after gave our Lord a hospitable entertainment in his house. He left
his old and odious business; he left his spiritual errors and blindness; he
left his worldly aim and his wicked heart behind. He found a new calling; he
found peace of conscience; he found a field of amazing usefulness (as a
disciple and afterwards as an inspired evangelist); he found a Friend; and
he found an everlasting inheritance among the crowned ones in the New
Here is a model for you, my friend, if you are willing to
yield to the Holy Spirit, and to begin a new style of acting and living. Can
you make a wiser choice than Matthew made? He was a plain, every-day man,
busy at his offensive line of work. By no means an extraordinary personage
like Saul of Tarsus, and by no means awakened by a lightning-flash like the
brilliant and bloody persecutor. He did not wait for a Pentecost, nor for
any external pressure of excitement. Neither should you. Under the influence
of a strong call from the Lord Jesus himself, he decided. So can you. There
was entire free agency. Matthew was moved by the divine love that appealed
to him; his reason and conscience were convinced; his heart was in the step
when he rose up and followed the divine Teacher from Nazareth.
Nothing but your own stubborn, selfish, sinful will has
kept you so long from accepting the precious gift of eternal life. All the
surrender that has been required of you—is to give up what is sinful. All
the duty that is required of you—is to do what is right. You must abandon
your besetting sins—and do so voluntarily. This may cost you some struggle
and self-denial, but God will help you through. The publican "rose up"
without losing any time, or tampering with the loving invitation. It was
now or never. Even so must your acceptance of Christ be prompt, and your
obedience be sincere and practical. Matthew did the very first thing that
Jesus bade him to do. Are you ready to do as much? If not, you are rejecting
Christ, and throwing away all hope of a better, purer, safer, and holier
The chief thing, observe, that the publican did—was to
follow Jesus. He did not dictate, or mark out a course for himself, or
insist on having his own way. He chose to go in Christ's way—and precisely
so must it be with you if you would be a Christian in this world, and have
the Christian's home in the next world. Christ goes before you—follow him.
He gives you his illuminating Word—study and obey it. He offers you a line
of usefulness—enter it. If he demands of you a cross, you may so bear
it as to make it a crown. Do not linger, I implore you. Death will
soon find you, and cut you down in your guilt; your last chance will be
Up to that hour at the toll-booth, Matthew's life was
chaff; thenceforth it was precious wheat. Your life without Christ is chaff
for the flames of perdition, listen to Jesus; obey him; follow him; and you
may open a new life whose golden grain will be a part of the glorious
harvest of heaven!
The bravest man of his time in Jerusalem stood up in the
temple gateway, on a public occasion, and delivered a very short but a very
searching sermon. It was a model of plain, pungent preaching. He did not
utter any message evolved from his own brain; he gave them God's message. It
ran in this way: "This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says:
Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place!"
The moral condition of the people had become deplorable. The command to them
is, thorough reform of character and conduct.
A rich promise is made to them—if they obey; if they
remain wedded to their sins, their temple and their homes would be left to
them desolate. Jeremiah's pithy address to his countrymen is a capital text
for our times. Finney, in the days of his greatest power, used to take such
passages as this to drive them like a plough—deep through the consciences of
his auditors. So he broke up the fallow ground and got it ready for the seed
of the gospel. He believed in thorough work, in a thorough exposure of the
wickedness of human hearts, in a thorough conviction of sin, in a thorough
reformation of character under the mighty workings of the renewing Holy
The fatal mistake of many people, is that they seek for a
cheap religion. Some preachers and teachers, in their desire to
recommend the glorious freeness of the gospel and the simplicity of faith,
hold out the idea that it is the "easiest thing in the world to become a
Christian." They hold up very attractively summer-religion, which is all
clear weather and sunshine, and Christianity as a sort of close-covered
carriage, in which one can ride for nothing and be safely landed, without
too many jolts, at the gateway of heaven. Very little allowance is made by
these rosewater teachers for the stubborn depravity of the human heart, for
the tremendous power of the adversary, and for the poisonous atmosphere
through which one must fight his way to the "prize of the high calling."
Grand old Samuel Rutherford, in his incisive way, says,
"Many people only play with Christianity, and take Christ for almost
nothing. I pray you to make your soul sure of salvation, and make the
seeking of heaven your daily work. If you never had a pained soul for
sin—you have not yet lighted upon Christ. Look to the right marks; if you
love him better than the world, and would leave all the world for him, then
that proves that the work is sound." Probably no writer has ever combined
the richest, sweetest ecstasies of devotion—with a more pungent exhibition
of the plainest rules of everyday morality.
The first step towards a genuine, abiding Christian
character—is true repentance of sin. John the Baptist made this the keynote
of his ministry, which was a preparatory work for the Messiah, just at the
door. Jesus himself struck the same note. Matthew tells us that "from that
time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent!" When the apostle Peter
delivered that Pentecostal discourse which pricked into three thousand
hearts, and they cried out, "What shall we do?" his prompt answer was,
There is a logical necessity in this; for no man can
cleave to his sins—and lay hold of Christ with the same hand. No
man can turn to the Lord—until he has turned his back upon his evil
practices and is willing to thoroughly amend his ways and his doings. Our
beloved brother Moody, indeed, once declared that he had had far more
success when he has preached Christ's goodness—than when he has preached
upon repentance; and this reveals the only weak point we have ever
discovered in the methods of this most popular and powerful preacher of the
An immediate and temporary "success" may be gained by
inducing a person to rise up and declare that he believes in so lovable a
being as Christ Jesus—and yet that same person may soon drift back under the
dominion of the sins which he had never sincerely abandoned. We doubt
whether any person ever lays thorough hold on the Savior—until he feels the
need of one who can save him from his sins. Certainly no one in that
death-trap of a hotel in Milwaukee even dreamed of flying to the
fire-escapes until he was aroused to the dangers from the crackling flames.
Why should any man betake himself to a Savior, if he does not realize that
he needs one, and that there is an abominable and deadly evil in his own
heart and life that he must be saved from?
When David's eyes had been opened to behold the loathsome
depravity of his own conduct, he asks for no compromise—but cries out, "Wash
me thoroughly from my iniquity!" So abhorrent was his sin—that like a filthy
garment, he was ready to be rubbed and mauled and beaten—until the black
spots were cleansed away from the fabric!
Such an abhorrence of sin—it is the office of the Holy
Spirit to produce; therefore should we pray for the Spirit. Such a view of
his guilt—it is the office of the minister to bring before every unconverted
man; therefore should the minister hold up the exceeding sinfulness of sin.
The clearer the view of sin—the more thorough is likely to be the
"You must be born again," said the Master to his anxious
inquirer, Nicodemus. But the new birth, or regeneration, is the production
of a new principle in us, which is antagonistic to sin—as well as obedient
The only evidence of true repentance—is
thorough reformation. This takes hold both upon character and
conduct; character as what we are—and conduct as what we do.
This amendment must be thorough and go to the roots—or it will be as
evanescent as the morning dew.
The shallow "conversions" that are so often trumpeted as
the result of shallow, sensational preaching—end in very shallow and
short-lived religion. That dark and dismal fountain-head of the heart, is
not purified by the Spirit, and pretty soon the foul streams begin to
trickle out again into the daily conduct! Bad habits are not pulled up. The
deceitful practices are soon resumed in business transactions, or the young
man soon drifts back into his sinful haunts; the unconquered bad temper
begins to take fire and explode again; the covetous spirit gets hold again
with a fresh grip. In short, the new emotion passes away—but it does
not leave a new man. Christ has no hand in such conversions. They are a
delusion—and often an unmeasured curse.
When Jesus is presented and pressed upon a sinner's
acceptance, he must be presented as not only infinitely beautiful, tender,
compassionate, and lovable—but as so infinitely holy, that his eyes flash
flame through everything wrong. The very bitterness of his sacrificial
sufferings for us on the cross, arose from the bitterness of the sin he died
One thought more. Genuine conversion demands thorough
amendment of conduct, and no exception must be made for what we call
little sins. Small leaks, left unstopped, are equally fatal. Maclaren
well says that "the worst and most fatal sins—are often those small
continuous vices which root underneath and honeycomb the soul. Many a man
who thinks himself a Christian, is in more danger from the daily commission,
for example, of small pieces of deceitful practice in his business, than
ever King David was at his worst. White ants pick a carcass
clean—sooner than a lion will.
There is a transcendent promise that accompanies such
thorough amendment of character and life. "I will let you dwell in this
place." This bespeaks peace and permanence under the benignant
smile of God. This means room to root and to grow. A soul that is rooted
into Christ—will thrive like a tree planted by the rivers of water; the
leaves shall never wither, and death will be only a transplanting
The Lord Jesus when on earth, was one of the poorest of
men. He was bom to poverty; he was cradled in a stable; he went through his
brief life on foot; he had no home during his ministry in which to lay his
weary head; and his crucified body was buried in a family tomb borrowed
from a stranger. Yet he was all the time laying the foundations, for the
most magnificent possessions in the universe of God. He was accumulating the
only treasures which can outlast this fleeting globe. They are
innumerable human souls redeemed by him unto everlasting glory! To them, his
prophetic eye looked forward when he said, "They will be Mine—in the day
when I make up My jewels!" Malachi 3:17
Christians are Christ's jewels! They are purchased at the
infinite price, of His atoning blood. As the pearls are only won from the
depths of the sea by the dangerous dive of the fishers, so were the pearls
for Messiah's crown brought up from the miry depths of depravity by the
descent of that divine Sufferer who came to seek and to save the lost!
The most brilliant and precious gem known to us—is of the
same chemical substance as the black and opaque coal of the mine.
Crystallization turns the carbon—into the diamond. In the same manner, the
grace of the Lord Jesus transforms a black soul—into a jewel which reflects
the glory of Christ's countenance! All the luster that the ripest Christian
character possesses, is but the reflection of that Sun of Righteousness. He
who lives nearest to Jesus shines the brightest.
A "pearl cast before swine" is not more out of place than
is a professed follower of Jesus, in the society of scoffers or in the
haunts of revelry. Not all precious jewels glitter in conspicuous positions.
The Master has his hidden ones; there are costly sapphires beneath
coarse clothing—and up in the dingy attic of poverty. That
self-denying Christian daughter who wears out her youthful years in nursing
a poor infirm mother—is a ruby of whom the Master says, "You are
Mine—in the day when I make up My jewels!"
Many a precious pearl, do our faithful
Sunday-school teachers fish up from the dregs of ignorance. From an awful
depth did Jesus rescue that converted inebriate, near whom we sat last
Sunday at the communion-table. All soul-saving work is a
pearl-fishery for King Jesus! "We are His workmanship," said the great
The luster of a gem—depends much on the
polishing. This is often a sharp and a severe process. Many of God's
people can recall the times when they were under the harsh file, or
were pressed down to the grinding-wheel. Blessed be the affliction,
however fierce—which gives new luster to the diamond! The Master spends no
time upon worthless pebbles; only his jewels are polished for His
Nor is this process only wrought by the divine hand;
every Christian must strive to make his or her own character the more
shapely and beautiful. The roughnesses must be smoothed by careful,
painstaking self-control; the sharp edges must be cut down by
self-sacrifice; the surface must be evened by daily work and
spiritual exercise—even trials and sorrows must be borne patiently, knowing
that they will give the character an added luster which will more worthily
reflect the Master's image.
When these jewels are made ready for his crown—Christ
will take them home unto himself! Luther said that there is great divinity
in the personal pronouns of Scripture. "They shall be mine
says the Lord." This claim is founded on the purchase made in redeeming
blood. Regeneration by the Holy Spirit confirms it, and every true believer
is also self-surrendered to the ownership of Christ.
Up to the hour of conversion we had other masters—self,
sin, and the devil. Now Jesus says to each Christian, "You are mine; I own
you. I will instruct you, and polish you, and put you wherever it pleases
me. I will take care of your salvation, and no man shall pluck you out of my
hand. You shall be my special treasure in the day of my triumphant
appearing. I will place you in my crown!" What a coronation day that will
be! All else on this globe will be but as lumber and rubbish—fit only for
the flames—in comparison with his choice ones.
Then shall the homeless man of Nazareth come into full
possession of his magnificent trophies. On the head once bleeding with the
thorns—will flash the diadem of his imperial glory! And then will all the
universe confess that the ransom was worth all its bitter cost of agonies,
when the King shall ascend his throne of victory, and be encircled with the
constellations of his jewels!
CITIZENS OF HEAVEN
There is no meaning at all in the first clause of
Philippians 3:20, "for our conversation is in heaven"—if we use the
word "conversation" in its ordinary modem sense. But if we render the
sentence according to the original Greek—we have the vividly impressive
truth, "Our citizenship is in heaven." To the Christians at Philippi
this expression had a peculiar point, for Philippi was a Roman colony. The
people were proud of the fact that they belonged to imperial Rome,
and received their laws from the city of the Caesars. While living in
Philippi, their citizenship was in that proud capital which ruled the world.
Just so, is every true child of God a citizen of heaven.
Our homestead is on high. A part of the blood-bought family are there
already, and every day witnesses the home-coming of thousands more. Only a
thin veil separates me—from the multitudes around the celestial throne; when
death drops the veil—I am there! Here on earth—I am but a pilgrim—a
transient lodger, for this world is not my rest. Here on earth, we who are
Christ's have no continuing city; we are seeking for and pressing towards
the magnificent city which has foundations, whose builder is the Almighty
God. "Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims,
to abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul." 1 Peter 2:11
A wondrous comfort does this thought bring to us—amid the
discomforts and the sharp trials on the weary road. This life is only our
training-school, to purify us and make us more "fit" for the heavenly
community among whom we expect to dwell.
If we are citizens of the New Jerusalem, then our laws
come from thence. The best citizens of this republic are those whose lives
are loyal to the higher law which God has written in his Word. No earthly
statute is fit to be enacted, which contravenes God's truth; and that
professed Christian is a coward and a traitor to his Master—who does not
carry his religion into his politics as much as into his business pursuits
or his household. "If you love me," said our loving Redeemer, "keep my
commandments." The world around us has its unwritten code of morals and of
manners. It sets up its standards and fixes its fashions to
suit itself. But they are no rule for the Christian. Jesus has "chosen us
out of the world," and given his own life to be our standard and our
pattern. Every consistent Christian's motto should be: "I must live in this
world, and yet not be of it!" Daniel did his best service for wicked
Babylon, by keeping his windows open towards Jerusalem, and by loyalty to
its everlasting King.
"Do not be conformed to this world; but be transformed by
the renewing of your mind." Romans 12:2. This world never will be
converted—by conformity to it; but it would be overwhelmingly impressed
by the sight of a vast body of people who would live and speak and act as
the citizens of heaven itself. What a salt would our influence
be; what a power would our example be; what a trumpet
would our every word be! Every Christian, therefore, should
dare to be singular. It is of little account to be judged of man's judgment;
he who judges us is the Lord. We are members of society, and bound to
contribute our very utmost to its benefit; but we do that best by
remembering that our first allegiance is to that society whose leader is
Christ. We report to headquarters.
The first question of a Christian should be, "What does
my Master command? Would he approve my mode of doing business, my style of
living, my amusements, my temper, my whole daily conduct? If so, that is
enough. My citizenship is with him, and I must see to it that other people
recognize that fact. I am not to copy the behavior of this world, when
sinful customs make their claims, or worldly seductions offer their bribes.
If I am Christ's servant, then I am a citizen of no small city—a member of
no insignificant family!"
Let every Christian assert his high birth—by his high
bearing. He is never to stoop to anything base, never to be caught at
contemptible tricks, never found in suspicious places. As high as the
heavens are above the earth, so much higher should a Christian's ways and
words and whole conduct be above the ways of the world. He should never
apologize to the world, for daring to do right. If we are citizens of
heaven, let us be ever setting our affections on things above, on the
treasures which are laid up at His right hand.
Just as surely as we set our hearts on any lower
objects—our hearts are apt to be broken. But when I climb high enough to put
my heart, my aims, my most treasured things in the keeping of my Savior—then
Satan himself cannot reach them. Is not this the true "higher life," after
The amazing grandeur and glory of this citizenship of
heaven will be fully realized when we get there. John says that once
"there was silence in heaven for the space of half an hour." Surely if you
or I reach the Celestial City, and are ushered into its transcendent light
and rush of melodies—we may well be struck silent with unutterable wonder
that we are there! Yet we shall be there, if we secure our title through
Christ's atoning blood, and if we walk worthy of our high calling, and if we
endure as seeing him who is invisible. Then we pilgrims on this planet shall
go home to our mother country—and be forever with our King!