« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
THIS HIS term, like the preceding, implies the continual nourishment and sustenance, derived to the church, from him who is the supporter and head of it. He himself is the bread of life; and from him flows the water of life, or the Holy Spirit, which saturates and replenishes the soul.
The application of water to washing or purification relates to another act of the divine agency in believers: and, though all the effects proper to salvation are inseparable from each other, and must more or less be found in one and the same subject; yet they may and ought to be considered distinctly for our better comprehension; and therefore this idea of sanctification, under the image of cleansing water, will be found treated of under another name.
When Israel came out of Egypt, they travelled three days into the wilderness, and found no water. They afterwards came to the bitter waters, which were miraculously made sweet; and from thence to twelve wells of water at Elim, where also were seventy palm trees. After leaving these in their progress, they were supplied with manna from above, and then again were fainting and falling under the want of water in Rephidim. Here they tried the Lord and his truth, who relieved them
with water out of the stony rock, which followed them afterwards; and therefore the name of the place was called Massah or Temptation, and Meribah or Strife.* When the Lord brought them forth out of Egypt, he did not immediately bring them into the land of promise, but led them through a great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents, and scorpions, and drought, where there was no water-that he might humble them, and prove them, and do them good at their latter end; and that they might not presume to say, that their power and the might of their hand had gotten them their wealth. All these things tried them indeed, as we may read in the history of this prophetic event; and those, who had no faith, left their carcases in the wilderness, and entered not into rest. Their enemies, doubtless, who observed them through their course, and who heard, it appears, of their destination, jeered at their apparent distress, at the strange and to them unaccountable march of the people hither and thither so contrary to the ordinary methods of human reason and resolution, and at the very tedious progression of so many years for the accomplishment of a purpose, which might have been obtained in less than so many days. All this was matter of severe probation on one side, and of surprise or derision on the other.
But this was also prophetic or descriptive of the spiritual progression of the church of God through the world, which is a wilderness between them and their heavenly Canaan and a terrible wilderness it frequently is, and hath been, to the strangers and passengers through it.
* Exod, xvii. 7,
† Deut. viii. 15, &c,
↑ Exod. xiv. 3.
When these have been rescued from the spiritual Egypt and Pharaoh, from the bondage of corruption and slavery of the prince of darkness; though at first they are enabled to rejoice in the sense of their deliverance, their faith is afterwards to be tried; and full proof is frequently to be made, that it is a true faith, and that all the deeds of it are wrought in God. Under this trial, the mere professor sinks. Like the faithless among the Israelites, he is for returning again into Egypt; and recollects his former flesh-pots, and his bread to the full. Like Esau, he prefers a morsel of meat to the blessing and the birthright of God's children.
The real Christian is annoyed with thirst after happiness, as well as others, in this dreary world; but he thirsteth for it in God, and seeketh for the happiness which cometh from him. His language is, O God, thou art my God, early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is.† And the Lord supplies his thirst in due time. He may cause him to wait, but he shall not want. When his faith holds the faster for the trial and under it, then comes either fit relief or more strength: and then the bitterness itself is turned into sweetness and joy. He leadeth them beside the still waters, affording the calmness of peace; or to living fountains of living waters, yielding life and abundant replenishment; or he turneth the flint itself into a fountain of water for unexpected relief. Christ appears as the smitten rock, pouring forth a flood of consolation and support, which follows his people through the wilderness. The fiery
Exod. xvi, 3.
+ Psalm lxiii. 1.
serpents, the scorpions, and the drought, shall not hurt them, nor any other deadly thing; but they are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation. The valley of Baca itself, the valley of humiliating perplexities, which they pass through below, shall become a well of refreshment; while the rain of heaven filleth the pools,* and pours in abundant satisfaction from God. They ga from strength to strength; every one of them appeareth before God in Zion. Their lowness of circumstances, their out-of-the way course, so different from that of other men, the various and trying providences they meet with in the world, and a thousand other things which seem to mark them out rather as the children of misery than of mercy; excite the scoff, the contempt, the detestation, or the persecution, of the rest of mankind. These deride their walking by faith and not by sight; that is, their living in confidence upon the truth and faithfulness of God to his word, instead of depending upon their own reason and strength. They jeer at their trusting God in the dark, and at casting their whole burden upon the Lord. Their reason (and what is so great or convincing to them as their reason?) teaches them to ground all upon seen principles, and to draw all from what bears a self-evident or tangible demonstration to their fleshly mind; and therefore nothing, in their opinion, can be so incomprehensibly stupid, or so enthu siastically presumptuous, as the rushing on upon no other security than a naked promise, and the giving up the delights of sense, and what all men agree to call fair and great and good, for the expectation of an inheritance
*Psalm lxxxiv. 6,
in a future world, tinseen, unknown, and (from the very description given of it) altogether unlike to the present. But these things, and many others which worldly men know not of, the children of God must be content to bear, and must continue to bear too, with faith and patience, to their journey's end. Then every difficulty shall be removed, every mystery solved, and the whole work of grace and providence in them and for them appear fair and good; yea, the very best that could have been for their security and welfare.
Thus God's church, as a people, are watered and refreshed and they are also thus nourished and supported, under the idea of a vineyard, a field, or a garden; according to our former considerations of those terms. In the mean time, we may reflect, and with thankful joy, at the prospect before us. 'Tis true, we have an unpromising wilderness to go through, and many disagreeable things to encounter in it; but the perspective glass of faith can carry the mental eye beyond them all, and give a view, such as Moses had from Pisgah, of the beautiful scene beyond. The dark shades in front of the picture only serve in truth to heighten the brightness of the lights in the back-ground. Nor should the way, or length of the way, discourage us,* nor its present inexplicable course; for we should remember, that God is our guide, that his eye is ever upon us, that his almighty hand is under us, that he is our provider upon the road, and that he leads us both safely for our souls, and as softly and sweetly as may be, consistently with our watchfulness and final success. He doth not propose to give us uninterrupted rest in such a
Numb. xxi. 4.