"Broken Cisterns"

    "My people have committed two sins:
    They have forsaken Me,
        the spring of living water,
    and have dug their own cisterns,
        broken cisterns that cannot hold water." Jeremiah 2:13

Sin has created a deep and an agonizing void in the soul of man. There was a period- Oh that its joys should now be enshrouded in a cloud so dark!- when every affection and aspiration of the human mind soared towards, and centered in, God. Possessing a nature assimilating with the Divine nature, and a heart capable of loving God with a compass and a grasp of affection worthy of its object- dwelling near the habitation of His holiness, and holding the closest communion with Him in all the privacy of his walk, man sought and desired no other happiness than that which flowed from God, the "Fountain of living waters." God was in all his mercies, and all his mercies led him to God.

But a woeful change has taken place. A fearful chasm has followed. The moment sin invaded paradise, touching with its deadly taint this glorious and happy creature, he swerved from the center of his repose, and becoming sensible of an instantaneous loss, his restless and craving soul went in quest of a substitute to occupy the void which his guilt had created. In a word, he forsook the Fountain for the cistern, the Creator for the creature; and God, in return, abandoned him to all the dire consequences of so foolish and so fatal an exchange. To the contemplation of this state, as it is portrayed in the history of the unrenewed mind, let us now bend our thoughts, gathering from it those lessons of wisdom which it is, so eminently calculated to supply.

The first great truth that meets us is, God's figurative revelation of Himself- "Me, the Fountain of living waters." Do we predicate this of the FATHER? Then, here is a truth which, for its vastness and its preciousness, is surpassed by no other. It meets a phase of Christian experience not often glanced at. We allude to the secret tendency which there is in us to a partiality in our estimate of the cost of redemption. There is a proneness to keep out of sight the interest which the Father took in the salvation of His church; and to look upon the work of the Son as though it originated and purchased all the love, and the benevolence, and the allurings which God the Father is represented as manifesting towards his revolted but recovered family. You have studied but imperfectly the wonders of redemption- have but partially seen its glories- with shallow line have fathomed its depth- and with feeble pinion have soared to its height, if you have not been accustomed to associate the Father's purpose of grace and love with every step which the Son took in working out the recovery of a lost church.

So wont are we to fix our admiring and adoring gaze upon the incarnate Son- so wont to entwine our exclusive affection around him who for us 'loved not his life unto the death,' as to come short of the stupendous and animating truth, that all the love, grace, and wisdom which appear so conspicuous and so resplendent in salvation, have their fountain-head in the heart of God the Father! May we not trace to the holding of this partial view, those hard and injurious thoughts of his character, and those crude and gloomy interpretations of his government, which so many of us bear towards him? And was it not this contracted and shadowy conception of the Father which Jesus so pointedly, yet so gently rebuked in his disciple, "If you had known me, you should have known my Father also: and from henceforth you know him and have seen him." To this, his incredulous disciple still objected, "Lord, show us the Father, and it suffices us. Jesus said unto him, Have I been so long with you, and yet have you not known me, Philip? He that has seen me, has seen the Father; how do you say then, Show us the Father?"

What further testimony, and what more conclusive proof need we? "He that has seen me, has seen the Father." Do we see the glory of Jesus beaming through the attempted concealment of his humanity?- it is the glory of the Father shining. Do we follow Jesus in his walks of mercy, and behold him lavishing the exuberance of his tenderness and sympathy upon the objects of misery and want who thronged his way?- strange though it may seem, yet, in those displays of love, and in those meltings of compassion, and in that voice of mercy, and in those tears of sympathy, we see and hear the Father himself. Do we contemplate the love of Jesus, laborings, suffering, dying?- we see the Father's love in equal vastness, strength, and intensity. He that has thus seen the Son, has also seen the Father.

Would we breathe a syllable, or pen a line, tending to lessen your attachment to the Son? God forbid! Rather would we heighten your love, and elevate it to a standard never reached before. We claim for Christ your highest admiration and your supreme affection; and unhesitatingly declare, that there is not an object in the universe so worthy of them as he. But we are jealous for the Father's glory; and we wish to guide you through the channel to the Fountain from where it flows- even the eternal purpose, the everlasting love, the covenant mercy of God the Father. Here is the grand secret revealed of God, so loving to the world. His love originated the salvation of His Church- the salvation of the Church did not originate His love. Think not, then, that the work of Jesus was the procuring cause of God's love to sinners! O no! You do him great injustice and wrong if so you interpret his affection. He loved the Church long before He sent His Son from His bosom to die for it. There was the love, thirsting, panting, and longing for an outlet, and only finding it through the riven bosom of Jesus. Oh! to see that every step which Jesus took to work out our redemption from the curse, was in perfect harmony with the purpose, the mind, and the heart of the Father! He could, with all truth, say, as he travailed in soul, "I and my Father are one." "I do always those things which please him." "The Father that dwells in me, he does the works." "I am in the Father, and the Father in me."

Behold, then, the Fountain of living waters! The infinite, the eternal, and inexhaustible Fountain- the Father's love! Do you now marvel at redemption? Do you now wonder at His unspeakable gift? The mystery is explained in the Father's love. "In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only-begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him." "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that be loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." Learn, dear Christian reader, to entwine the Father in the affections that cluster around the Son. Eternally welled in His infinite heart, was the love which constrained Him not to spare His own Son, that He might spare you. Give to him an equal place in your thoughts, your affections, your worship, and your service. Blend him with every view which you take of Jesus. Associate His love who gave, with every hallowed remembrance of his love who was given. And when you see the heart of the Son broken with sorrow, think that it "pleased Jehovah to bruise him and to put him to grief" for the love which He bore the Church. Behold what a fountain of life is God! All intelligences, from the highest angel in heaven, to the lowest creature on earth, drawing every breath of their existence from Him. "In Him we live and move and have our being."

But he is more than this to the Church. He is the Fountain of love as well as of life. The spirits of "just men made perfect," and the redeemed on earth, satiate their thirsty souls at the overflowing fulness of the Father's love. How much do we need this truth! What stinted views, unjust conceptions, and wrong interpretations have we cherished of Him, simply because we overlook His character as the Fountain of living waters. We "limit the Holy One of Israel." We judge of him by our poor, narrow conception of things. We think that He is such a one as we ourselves are. We forget in our approaches, that we are coming to an Infinite Fountain. That the heavier the demand we make upon God, the more we shall receive, and that the oftener we come, the more are we welcome. That we cannot ask too much. That our sin, and His dishonor, are, that we ask so little. We forget that He is glorified in giving; and that the more grace He metes out to his people, the richer the revenue of praise which He receives in return. How worthy of such an infinite Fountain of love and grace is His "Unspeakable Gift!" It came from a large heart; and the heart that gave Jesus will withhold no good thing from those who walk uprightly.

The same figure will apply with equal truth to the LORD JESUS CHRIST. It is a most expressive one. He thus appropriates it to himself- "Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink." And in another place he describes the water which he gives, as "living water." Jesus is essential life. But he possesses also mediatorial life, held in covenant for his people. To this life he alludes in these words: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and those who hear shall live. For as the Father has life in himself; so has he given to the Son to have life in himself." Thus clear is it, that Jesus is the "Fountain of living waters." What moral death is in the soul of man until he drinks of this living water! We cannot, nor dare we, close our eyes to the truth, such are the precious interests at stake. The soul of man, as to everything that is holy and spiritual, is spiritually dead. His professed faith, and works, and prayers, and religion are dead. All he does while in an unrenewed state, springs from death. He may be powerfully operated upon by a kind of religious galvanism. There may be apparent alarm, and conviction, and excitement, under the preaching of the truth, and solemn providences; and yet (to illustrate his condition by a more scriptural figure), like the bones in Ezekiel's vision, though there may be a shaking, and the outward covering of skin and flesh, yet "there is no breath." "Having the form of godliness, but denying the power thereof." It is by the quickening of the Spirit alone, that he becomes a, living soul.

But what a Fountain of life is Jesus! The dead, on whose ear falls the sound of his voice, live. There is a grace in Christ- quickening, regenerating, life-giving grace; and to whomsoever that grace is imparted, he that was lying cold and inanimate in the valley, begins to move, to live, to breathe, and to arise. One touch of Christ, a whisper of his voice, a breath of his Spirit, begets a life in the soul that never dies. That faint and feeble pulsation which often the most skillful touch can scarcely detect, is as deathless as the life of God! A stream from the Fountain of essential life has entered the soul, and it lives, and will live, a glorious life, running on parallel with God's eternity. What a Fountain of life is Jesus! Think of its limitlessness. There is the fulness of life in Christ. The grace that is welled in Jesus, is as infinite in its source as it is divine in its nature. "In him dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily." "It pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell."

An uncreated fulness, it must possess an inexhaustible infinity. Had the Father deposited this life-giving grace in all the angels in heaven, it had long since been exhausted. Think of the myriads, thirsting for holiness and for happiness, who have knelt and slaked their thirst at this Fountain- think of the myriads who have here filled their empty vessels, and have gone away with joy and hope springing high in their minds. Think of the myriads whose sins his blood has washed away, whose souls his righteousness has clad, whose corruptions his grace has subdued, and whose sorrows his love has comforted. Think of the iniquities which he has pardoned; of the backslidings which he has healed; of the grief which he has removed; of the tears which he has dried; of the souls which he has saved. Think of the myriads, once drinking from the stream below, but who are now drinking from the Fountain-head in glory.

And yet is this Fountain as full as ever! Not one hair's-breadth has it sunk. Jesus is as full of pardoning grace for the guilty, and of justifying grace for the vile, and of sanctifying grace for the unworthy, as ever: full enough to meet the needs of every poor, thirsty, panting soul who ventures near. Oh, what a precious truth is this! Precious indeed to him who feels his insufficiency, poverty, and need. What, reader, is your need? what your sorrow? what your trial? what your infirmity? what your burden? Whatever it may be, repair with it to the Fountain of living waters, and despair not of a gracious welcome, and of an adequate supply. It is a Fountain, and a living Fountain. It needs no persuasion to flow, for it flows spontaneously; and wherever it flows there is life.

This reminds us of its freeness. The grace that is in Christ Jesus must, from its very nature, be unpurchasable. It implies absolute poverty in the creature, and infinite affluence in God. Could it, by any possibility, be purchased, it would cease to be what it now is, the "grace of God." Because it is so great, so rich, and so infinite, God has made it as free as the sun-light and the air. Nothing can procure it. Tears cannot- convictions cannot- faith cannot- obedience cannot- prayer cannot- yes, not even can the most costly work of God's Spirit in the soul procure a drop of this "living water." God gives it, and he gives it, as the word implies, freely. This is its glory- it is an unpurchasable, and a freely bestowed gift. Upon no other terms is it granted. Consequently, no condition of human character, and no case of human guilt, are excluded. The vilest of the vile, the poor insolvent sinner, the needy, the wretched, the penniless, the voice of free grace welcomes to the "living waters."

What has kept you so long from this fountain? You have thirsted, and panted, and desired; but still your soul has not been replenished. You have, perhaps, long been seeking the Lord, asking the way, and desiring salvation. Why have you not found him? You have borne the heavy burden of sin, month after month, and year after year, knowing nothing of a sense of pardon, of acceptance, of adoption, of rest. And why? Because you have stumbled at the freeness of the gift. You have expected to receive it as a saint, not seeing that God will only give it to you as a sinner. But hear the word of the Lord: "By grace are you saved;" "Redeemed without money;" "Nothing to pay;" "Whoever will, let him come and take of the water of life freely." O receive into your heart this truth, and you will be a happy man! All creation will seem to smile upon you- the heavens will smile- the earth will smile- yes, God himself will smile. Dropping its chain, your emancipated soul will spring into the glorious liberty of the sons of God. What sovereignty, sweetness, and glory will now appear in the very act that forgives all, forgets all, and which introduces you into a new world, redolent of joy and delight. And while this precious fountain of grace and love, proceeding from the overflowing heart of the Savior, thus flows, you will exclaim, "My soul is caught, Heaven's sovereign blessings clustering from the cross, Rush on her in a throng, and close her round, The prisoner of amaze."

One other quality of the life-giving water of grace yet remains to be noticed- we allude to ITS SATISFYING NATURE. Can this be affirmed of any other bliss? Is this an ingredient in the thousand cups of creature good which men so eagerly put to their lips? Select your choicest, fondest, sweetest, temporal mercy, and say, is it satisfying to your soul? Does it, in its fullest enjoyment, leave no lack unsupplied, no desire unmet, no void unfilled? Does it meet the cravings of the mind? Go into the garden of creature blessing, and pluck the loveliest flower, and taste the sweetest fruit; repair to the cabinet of friendship, and select from thence its choicest pear; pass round the wide circle of earth-born joy, and place your hand upon the chief and the best- is it the feeling of your heart, and the language of your lips- "I am satisfied, I want no more?" Does it quench the spirit's thirst: does it soothe the heart's sorrow; does it meet the mind's cravings; does it quiet the troubled conscience, and lift the burden from the aching heart? O no! The height, the depth, the length, the breadth, exclaim, "It is not in me- am I in God's stead?"

But how blessed is that which truly satisfies! Listen to the gracious words of the Savior. "Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him, shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him shall be in him a well of water, springing up into everlasting life." Did language ever utter a sentiment more true than this! Jesus is an all-satisfying portion. They who have tried him can testify that it is so. His is not a satisfaction in name, but in reality and in truth. There is a felt, a realized sense of holy satiety. The MIND is content. The believer wanders no more in quest of happiness or of rest. He has found them both in Jesus. He is satisfied to stake his eternal all upon the finished work of Emmanuel- to live upon his smile, to abide in his love, to draw upon his grace, to submit to his will, to bear his cross, to be guided by his counsel, and afterwards to be received by him, and to him, into glory. "Whom have I in heaven but you? and who is there upon earth that I desire beside you?" "My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed; I will sing and give praise," - are the breathings of his adoring, loving, fixed heart.

Who that has fully received Christ into his heart, finds that heart sighing to return again to the bondage and the flesh-pots of Egypt? No man, having tasted of the old wine of God's everlasting love in Jesus, desires the new wine of the world's ever-changing joys. Satisfied with what he has through grace thus found, he exclaims, "The old is better." The Lord Jesus imparts contentment to the soul in which he enters and dwells. Vast as were those desires before, urgent as were those necessities, insatiable as were those cravings, and restless as was that mind, Jesus has met and satisfied them all. The magnetic power of his love has attracted to, and fixed the mind upon, himself. "He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness." The believer is satisfied that God should possess him fully, and govern him supremely, and guide him entirely, and be the sole Fountain from where he draws his happiness, gratefully acknowledging, "All my springs are in You." Thus is he content to be just what, and just where, his Father would have him. He is satisfied that he possesses God, and that possessing God, he has all good in God. He knows that his Father cares for him; that he has undertaken to guide all his steps, and to provide for all his needs. The only anxiety which he feels as to the, present, is, how he may the most glorify his dearest, his only Friend, casting the future on Him in the simplicity of child-like faith, which has "No care a day beyond today; No thought about tomorrow.

Nor is the satisfaction thus felt limited to the present state. It passes on with the believer to eternity. It enters with him into the mansions of bliss. There, in unruffled serenity, in unalloyed joy, in unmingled bliss, it is perfect and complete. "You will show me the path of life: in your presence is fulness of joy; at your right hand there are pleasures for evermore." Happy saint! who have found your all in Jesus! Glorified spirit! would we recall you to these scenes of sin, of suffering, and of death? No! the needle of your soul no longer varies and trembles, diverted from its center by other and treacherous objects- Jesus fixes it now, and fixes it forever. Drink on, you spirits of the just made perfect, drink! "O Naphtali! satisfied with favor, and full with the blessing of the Lord, possess you the west and the south." Yes, range the entire compass of infinite good, for all things in God, in Christ, and in the covenant, are yours, and yours to all eternity!

But man has his WRETCHED SUBSTITUTES for this "Fountain of living waters." This is the solemn charge which God here alleges against him. "They have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewn out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water." There are three circles into which we will introduce the reader, each one affording evidence and illustration of the truth and nature of this charge. The first circle, perhaps the widest and the most melancholy, is, the circle of a self-righteous world. In no instance does the truth of this statement receive so affecting a confirmation as in this. What is the sad history of man in relation to this indictment? Has he not forsaken the righteousness of God, and sought a substitute in his own? What is man's own righteousness, the best that he ever made, but the hewing out of a created cistern, in the place of the infinite fountain? When Adam fell, he forsook God; and when expelled from paradise, he came out with a fig-leaf covering, a wretched substitute for the beautiful robe which he had just cast aside, and a melancholy and expressive emblem and badge of his own shame, and of our ruin. It was then that the solemn charge was first laid at the door- of forsaking the Fountain for a cistern. And what a wretched cistern it is! See how contracted and how shallow!

In vain he "goes about to establish a righteousness of his own, not submitting himself to the righteousness of God." At every step he fails. "For the bed is shorter, than that a man can stretch himself on it; and the covering narrower, than that he can wrap himself in it." His obedience, at best, must be but a partial and an imperfect one, and failing in a single point, entails eternal despair. "For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all." But not only is it a shallow and contracted, but it is also a "broken cistern." It can hold no water of life or of peace, of consolation or of joy. In vain his spirit, tormented with guilt and agitated with fear, repairs to it for satisfaction and repose- it supplies it not.

Let a man, for example, who is thus seeking salvation by the law, take the holiest day in the calendar of his life; let it be as free as it is possible for a fallen creature to make it from sin; let it be filled up with religious duties and services- it closes, and the curtains of night have drawn around him. Reposing on his pillow, he throws forward a glance into the eternal world- he thinks of the holy God, of the righteous law, of the solemn judgment, and the question, "What, if this night I should be summoned to stand before my Judge! -what, if tomorrow's sun should rise upon my corpse, and I, a departed spirit, should be mingling with the dread realities of an unseen world!" -and he trembles and turns pale. What! has not his best obedience, his holiest day, his strictest observance brought peace to his conscience and quietness to his soul? What! does no bright hope of glory play around his pillow, and no loving, peaceful view of God cradle him to rest? Ah, no! he has "forsaken the fountain of living waters, and has hewn him out a cistern, a broken cistern, that can hold no water," and his night closes in upon him hung with the drapery of hopeless gloom.

To you, reader, is this solemn word now sent. Ah! while your eye has been scanning this page, has there not been in your heart the secret conviction of its truth? You have forsaken the righteousness of God, and for years have been digging into the law, hoping thus to find in its strictest observance, some well-spring of life and peace to your soul. But all your toil has been in vain, and all your time mis-spent. And why? because, "by the works of the law shall no man living be justified." And as true peace flows only through the channel of justification by faith, turning your back upon that channel, there is, there can be, no peace for your soul. O that this voice, now sounding in faithfulness in your ear, may awaken you to a sense of your delusion and your folly, and win you to the "good and the right way!" O that you may be persuaded to abandon the implements of a self-wrought righteousness, with which you have so long fruitlessly labored, and, just as you are- poor, guilty, vile, helpless, and hopeless- betake yourself to the "righteousness of God, which is by faith in Christ Jesus!"

The law is a "broken cistern;" it holds no sweet waters of salvation, it gives out no streams of peace. But the Lord Jesus is the living fountain. He is the "end of the law for righteousness to every one that believes." He has "brought in a new and an everlasting righteousness" for the full justification of poor sinners, such as you. Abandon at once and forever the broken cistern of a creature righteousness- too long has it allured but to deceive you- and repair to the fountain of the Divine righteousness, which never has and never will deceive a believing sinner. Drink, O drink, from this life-giving fountain! Here are peace, joy, confidence, and hope. Clothed in this righteousness, you can look your sins in the face, and death in the face, and hell in the face, and fear nothing. "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifies."

We introduce the reader within another circle. In THE UNRENEWED, UNGODLY WORLD, what accumulated and melancholy evidence presents itself of man's abandonment of an infinite for a finite good- the fountain for the cistern! It matters not whether he is found in the intellectual, or in the sensual world, the world of science, or of sense; whether he drinks from the more refined, or the more polluted source- he has forsaken God, and has sought out some false and wretched substitute. Man is an inventive creature. And from the moment that he first turned away from the infinite source of happiness, until the present, he has been bent upon "finding out many inventions" of creature good. Not a day returns but it finds him still delving into the earth in quest of that which will quench the burning thirst of his soul. He formed the cistern, and lo! it proves a "broken cistern that can hold no water!"

The man of science has effected his ingenious discovery, the geometrician has solved his abstruse problem, the scholar has completed his production, the statesman has carried his measure, the warrior has gained his battle, the speculator has amassed his wealth, and the competitor has won his prize- are they happy? Follow them into privacy, and behold them, when the fragrant incense of flattery, and the low murmur of applause, and the delirious excitement of success, and the burning flush of victory have, like a beautiful vision, passed away, and they are alone with themselves. Are they happy? Oh! that melancholy countenance, pale with thought- that deep-drawn sigh- that languid look- that restless pace- too painfully reveal that 'happiness'- that 'heaven-descending creature'- has not her home and her dwelling-place there!

And why do you marvel at this? They have committed two great sins- they have forsaken the Fountain of living waters, and have hewn out broken cisterns that can hold no water. Survey the daughter of worldly pleasure. She has retired from her evening fascinations to her couch of repose, intoxicated with the incense of adulation offered to her intelligence and her beauty. But the excitement evaporates, and the mind turns in upon itself- is she happy? Ask that heaving bosom- ask that aching head- ask that burning tear- ask that feverish restlessness- ask that sleepless pillow; each would exclaim- "It is not here!" And still do you wonder? Wonder not- she has forsaken the Fountain of living waters, and has hewn out a broken cistern that can hold no water.

Take the testimony of one who had ransacked the world of earthly good: "I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit." And what is the history of creature idolatry, but a mournful record of beautiful and inviting cisterns, which, nevertheless, God has destroyed? This is a wide and an affecting circle. We enter it cautiously, we allude to it feelingly and tenderly. We touch the subject with a pen that has often sought (though in much feebleness, it is acknowledged) to comfort the mourner, and to lift the pressure from the bowed-down spirit. We enter the domestic circle; oh! what beautiful cisterns of creature good, broken and empty, meet us here! The affectionate husband, the fond wife, the devoted parent, the pleasant child, the faithful friend, laid low in death. They were lovely cisterns, and the heart loved to drink from them its bliss. But lo! God has smitten, and they are broken, and the sweet waters have passed away! Was there not a worshiping of the creature rather than the Creator? Was not the object deified? Was not the attachment idolatrous? Did not the loved one occupy Christ's place in the heart? Ah! the wound, the void, the desolateness, the lonely grief of that heart, but too truly tell who was enthroned upon its strongest and its best affections.

But we will seek an illustration of our subject from a narrower circle. Let us pass within the world of RELIGIOUS PROFESSION. What numerous and affecting proofs meet us here of the truth of God's solemn charge! Look at the false teaching of the day. What are the heretical doctrines which are now defended with such ability, and propagated with such zeal, but so many cisterns of error hewn out by man as substitutes for the fountain of revealed truth? -doctrines that sink revelation and exalt tradition, and so deny the word of God; that ascribe regenerating grace to sacraments, and so deny the Holy Spirit; that teach the "real presence" in the Lord's Supper, and so do away with the sacrifice and atonement of Christ; that make religion to consist in a mere observance of external rites, and so deceive and ruin immortal souls; that obliterate the revealed truth of future and eternal punishment, thus weakening the power and shading the glory of God's moral government. We hesitate not to say, that these, and their kindred heresies, are the inventions of man, and designed to beguile souls from the pure fountain of truth. They are cisterns of human contrivance, which hold no water but the water of death.

Shall we find nothing in the still smaller circle of the true Church of God which would seem to indicate a proneness to substitute some object in the experience of the believer for Christ? Verily, we think so. To adduce an example, alas! but too common- When the act of faith is substituted for the object of faith, what is this but the hewing out of a broken cistern? Whatever I put in Christ's place necessarily becomes a substitute for Christ. If I look to my faith for comfort, and peace, and evidence, instead of my faith looking to Christ for these, I exchange the Fountain for the cistern. We are now touching upon a truth of vital moment. Jesus is the fountain of all life, light, grace, and love to the believer. Faith is but the channel through which these blessings are received. And yet, who has not detected in his heart a tendency to look to faith for the evidence of his Christianity, instead of to Christ thus making the act of believing a substitute for the object in which we believe.

You have long been pleading, as your reason for the unsettled and unhappy state of your mind, the weakness of your faith. What, I ask, is this, but the making a Savior of your faith? It was not faith that died for you- it is not faith that saves you. It is Christ, and Christ alone. Your evidences, your peace, your joy, your hope, all, all must flow from Jesus. "You have made me glad through your work," was the Psalmist's experience. And your soul also will be made glad through the atoning, finished work of Christ. That you should have found faith a broken cistern of soul-comfort, should create in you no surprise. The Lord is jealous for his glory- he will not give it to a creature, nor will he give it to a grace. Precious as that grace may be, it never can be a substitute for Christ's precious work. If by any means I exclude the sun from my garden, should I wonder that my seed did not germinate, and that my flowers did not appear, and that my plants drooped and died? Surely not. And if I veil the Sun of Righteousness from my soul, if some intervening object is allowed to arrest his beams, so that they fall not directly and warmly upon the "incorruptible seed " sown in my heart, need I wonder that it springs not forth in blossom, or that the blossom falls before it sets in fruit? But turn, O believer, from this broken cistern to Jesus the fountain. Draw your comfort, not from the channel, but from the source where it proceeds. Stumble no longer at the weakness of your faith. Turn your eye from every object but the Lord our Righteousness, in whom you may stand before God, the object of his love and delight.

Again, when we substitute spiritual frames and feelings for a simple resting on the Lord Jesus, we hew out broken cisterns that afford no true refreshment to the soul. These feelings are perpetually varying. The billows of the sea, and the winds of heaven, are not more restless, fluctuating, and uncertain. But if the mariner incessantly watches the heaving ocean, guiding his bark by its ever-changing undulations and currents, what progress towards his haven will he make? And you will make no advance in the divine life, if your eye is ever upon yourself instead of Christ. What though the experience of today is the opposite of the experience of yesterday- yesterday all brightness, today all cloudiness; yesterday your soul like a well-tuned harp, today every string loosed and uttering no melody; yesterday Jesus felt to be so near and precious, today seeming to awaken not a loving emotion in your heart; yesterday communion with God so sweet, today none whatever; yesterday desiring to walk uprightly, holily, and humbly, today detecting so much that is vacillating, weak, and vile; -nevertheless, Jesus is not changed.

The work of Christ is the same- your acceptance in him is the same- his intercession in heaven for you is the same; then why should you fly to spiritual experiences for support, strength, and consolation- rising when they rise, falling when they fall- when all your standing, joy, peace, and hope are entirely out of yourself, and are solely in Christ? What though you change a thousand times in one day? Jesus never changes. God may vary His dispensations; He may alter His mode of dealing- He may change the nature of His discipline- He may vary the lesson, but His loving-kindness and His truth are as unchangeable as His very being. He may dry up the earthly cistern, but He will never seal up the heavenly fountain; that will flow on in grace through all time, and In glory through all eternity.

And is it not an evil thing thus to have forsaken the Fountain of living waters? God speaks of it as involving two evils- the evil of forsaking Him, and the evil of substituting a false object of happiness for Him. "My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me the Fountain of living waters, and they have hewn out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water." We are now touching upon, perhaps, the most solemn and important part of this chapter- THE SINFULNESS OF FORSAKING GOD, AND OF SUBSTITUTING SOMETHING ELSE FOR GOD.

Dear reader, the true painfulness of this subject consists not in the sorrow which your heart may have felt in seeing your cistern broken. Ah no! the true agony should be, that you have, in your wanderings and creature idolatry, sinned, deeply sinned, against the Lord your God! This, and not your loss, ought to lay you low before Him. This, and not your broken scheme of earthly happiness, ought to fill you with the bitterness of sorrow, and clothe you with the drapery of woe. Oh! to have turned your back upon such a God, upon such a Father, upon such a Friend, and to have supposed that even a universe of creatures could have made you happy without Him, ought to bring you to His feet, exclaiming, "God be merciful to me the chief of sinners!" Is it no sin to say to God, as you have said a thousand times over- "I prefer myself to You- my family to You- my estate to You- my pleasure to You- my honor to You?" Is it no sin to have taken the gifts with which He endowed you, or the wealth with which He entrusted you, and forming them into a golden image, to have fallen down before it, exclaiming, "This is your God, O my soul!" O yes, it is a sin, the guilt and the greatness of which no language can describe.

There is coming a period, unconverted reader, when you will know it of a truth to be a sin. A dying bed! Ah yes! a DYING BED! the last cistern broken! the last joy fled! the last hope expired! And now, without God, and without Christ, and without hope! What! is there not one drop of your many earthly cisterns left to cool your spirit's burning? Have all your creature blessings fled, as if appalled by the horrors of the scene? Yes! all have fled, and have left you alone upon the dreary precincts of an eternal world! "Oh! how this eternity haunts me!" exclaimed a gay votary of worldly pleasure, the moment before her young, trembling spirit plunged into the dark and measureless abyss. "O Lord, the hope of Israel, all that forsake you shall be ashamed, and those who depart from you shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living waters."

And is it no sin, O believer in Jesus, to have turned away in your unbelief and inconstancy, from the glorious redemption which the Lord has obtained for you at such a price, and to have sought the assurance and the joy of your salvation from other sources than it? What! is not the atoning work of Jesus sufficient to give to your believing soul solid rest, and peace, and hope, but that you should have turned your eye from him, and have sought it in the polluted and broken cistern of self? O, slight not the precious blood, and the glorious righteousness, and the infinite fulness, and the tender love of Jesus thus! No! you dishonor this precious Jesus himself! Shall he have wrought such an obedience, shall he have made such an atonement, shall he have died such a death, shall he have risen and have ascended up on high, all to secure your full salvation and certain glory, and will you derive the evidence and the comfort of your acceptance from any other than this one precious source- "Looking unto Jesus!"

Look away, then, from everything- to Jesus. No matter what you are, look away from self- to Jesus. The more vile, the more empty, the more unworthy, the greater reason and the stronger argument wherefore you should look entirely off yourself- to Jesus. His atoning work is finished by him, and is sealed by the Father. It is impossible that God can reject you, entirely renouncing yourself, and fleeing unto Christ. Coming to Him in the name of Jesus, God cannot deny you. He has pledged Himself that whatever is asked in that name He will grant. Take Him at His word! Ask Him for the sense of His reconciled love- ask Him for the spirit of adoption- ask Him for the filial, loving, and obedient heart- ask Him for the meek, lowly, and submissive will. Yes, pour out your heart before Him: God waits to grant your utmost desire breathed out to Him in the name of Jesus. He has given you His beloved Son- O beneficence worthy of our God! O gift of gifts, priceless and precious beyond all thought! -what inferior blessing will He, then, withhold?

Allow, in closing this chapter, AN AFFECTIONATE EXHORTATION. Turn every loss of creature-good into an occasion of greater nearness to Christ. The dearest and loveliest creature is but a cistern- an inferior and contracted good. If it contains any sweetness, the Lord put it there. If it is a medium of any blessing to your soul, Jesus made it so. But forget not, beloved, it is only a cistern. And what more? Shall I wound you if I say it? Tenderly do I speak- and if, instead of leading you to, it draws you from, the Fountain, in unerring wisdom, and in tender mercy, and in faithful love, the Lord will break it, that you may learn, that while no creature can be a substitute for him, he himself can be a substitute for all creatures. Thus, his friendship, his love, and his presence, are frequently the sweetest and the most fully enjoyed, when he has taken all things else away. Jesus loves you far too much to allow another, however dear, to eclipse and rival him. "The day of the Lord will be upon all pleasant pictures," and then the poor, imperfect copy will retire, and give place to the divine and glorious Original; and God in Christ will be all in all.

One thought more- to some, perhaps, the sweetest in this work- the door of return is still open. The Fountain is still accessible! The waters of life still flow. "Ho! every one that thirsts, come to the waters and drink." "The Spirit and the bride say, Come." "Return, backsliding Israel, says the Lord, and I will not cause my anger to fall upon you; for I am merciful, says the Lord, and will not keep anger forever." Let your restored heart respond, "Come, and let us return unto the Lord; for he has torn, and he will heal us; he has smitten, and he will bind us up."

Be your posture, in view of the cisterns which the Lord has broken around you, one of high and holy expectation. The Lord often removes one mercy, preparatory to the bestowment of another. And he never gives less, but always more, than he takes away. You may have thought, in the depth of your heart's deep sorrow, that your wound was incurable, and that your blessing could not be replaced. But, ah! if Jesus now enters your heart through the breach which his own hand has made, and occupies the vacancy which his own providence has created, then will you know of a truth, that there is One who can heal your wound, and replace your mercy, giving you back infinitely more than he took away, in giving you HIMSELF.

You have, in the matter of your sorrow, to do with One who himself was wounded, who himself was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and who well understands the language of grief, the meaning of sighs, and the eloquence of tears. Do you go to your lonely chamber to weep there, thinking none are mindful of your grief? You, too, may chant a song in the night of your woe, in the language of a suffering brother-
"There was I met by One who had himself
Been hurt by the archers; in his side he bore,
And in his hands and feet, the cruel scar.
With gentle force, soliciting the task,
He drew them forth, and healed and bade me live."

Who can tell what thoughts of peace, what resolves of mercy, and what purposes of grace and love, may now be treasured in the heart of God towards you? The present mournful dealing may be but the dark background of a beautiful picture- portraying the brightest, the holiest, the happiest period of your life. And this broken cistern of earth-born hope, over which the eye weeps, and around which memory loves so fondly to linger, may but give place to those waters of renewing, sanctifying grace, which shall be in you a springing-well, rising into everlasting life.

All things and all events point us to, and are leading us towards, eternity. O how we absorb in our present sufferings and light afflictions, the thought of the coming death- the coming grave- the coming judgment- the coming heaven- the coming hell! Our sojourn here is but brief. We flit away like the shadow across the sun-dial. We weep today, we are wept for tomorrow. Today we are toiling, and fighting, and suffering; and anon, if believers in Jesus, we are with him, and "are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first-born, who are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaks better things than that of Abel."

Then, let us "gird up the loins of our minds, be sober, and hope to the end, for the grace that is to be brought unto us at the revelation of Jesus Christ." Christ will soon appear in the clouds of heaven. "The coming of the Lord draws near." "The Lord is at hand." Let us hew out no more cisterns of earthly good; but following the stream of the Lord's love- deepening and widening as it ascends- let us rise to the fountain-head in glory, having our conversation in heaven, and our affections on things above, where Christ sits- and from where he will come again at the right hand of God. "Drink, yes drink abundantly, O beloved!" of this river, is your Lord's loving invitation. You cannot take to it too many vessels, nor vessels too empty. The precious "fountain opened to the house of David, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem," is "for sin and uncleanness." Then, as sinners, plunge into it, "wash and be clean."

Think not that you are alone in your grief at cisterns of creature-good thus broken. A 'cloud of witnesses' surrounds you, all testifying that the 'fleeting joy of earth' gives place to the full and permanent bliss of heaven; that Jesus now turns his people's sorrow into joy, by the sustaining power of faith, and the sweet-discoveries of love; and that he will perfect that joy when he brings them to drink of the "pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God, and of the Lamb." May sanctified sorrow enable you to sing, as one has done before you,

"O Savior! whose mercy, severe in its kindness,
Has chastened my wanderings, and guided my way,
Adored be the power which illumined my blindness,
And weaned me from phantoms that smiled to betray."
"Enchanted with all that was dazzling and fair,
I followed the rainbow- I caught at the toy,
And still in displeasure, your goodness was there,
Disappointing the hope, and defeating the joy."
The blossom blushed bright, but a worm was below;
The moonlight shone fair- there was blight in the beam;
Sweet whispered the breeze, but it whispered of woe;
And bitterly flowed in the soft flowing stream."
"So cured of my folly, yet cured but in part,
I turned to the refuge your pity displayed;
And still did this eager and credulous heart
Weave visions of promise, that bloomed but to fade."
"I thought that the course of the pilgrim to heaven
Would be bright as the summer, and glad as the morn;
You showed me the path- it was dark and uneven
All rugged with rock, and all tangled with thorn."
"I dreamed of celestial rewards and renown;
I grasped at the triumph which blesses the brave;
I asked for the palm-branch, the robe, and the crown;
I asked- and you showed me a cross and a grave."
"Subdued and instructed, at length, to your will,
My hopes and my longings I sincerely would resign;
O give me the heart that can wait and be still,
Nor know of a wish or a pleasure but Thine!"
There are mansions exempted from sin and from woe,
But they stand in a region by mortals untrod
There are rivers of joy, but they roll not below;
There is rest, but it dwells in the presence of God."
 -Robert Grant