A Series of 4pp. Gospel Tracts by W.K. for distribution after preaching.
1 The gift of God
2 Who it is that saith to thee
3 Living water
4 A Well of water
5 Go call thy husband
6 Worship of the Father
7 The Father seeking
8 Worship in spirit and truth
9 I that speak unto thee am He
10 The Woman then left her waterpot
11 We have heard Him ourselves.
12 The Saviour of the world
1."If thou knewest the gift of God." John 4:10.
Gospel Words, 1st Series. No. 1.
(B.T. Vol. 18, p. 346. Gospel No. 1:1.)
The woman of Samaria knew it not, nor did the Jews a whit more; nor does the natural man in Christendom. It is wholly beyond the heart and mind till renewed from above. The heathen could not but regard their deities as the projected image of themselves, of like passions and lusts, envious of man's complete happiness. Had men known them to be as they really are, demons availing themselves of man's guilty conscience to set themselves up as gods and turn away their votaries from the true God, they would have understood that demons could only reflect the hatred and malice of the devil.
God is love, as well as light. In Him is no darkness at all; but being love He sent His Son to shine in this world darkened as it is through sin. Nor is this all the love He shows, but rather the beginning of what is infinitely superior to every difficulty and want. God is not demanding but giving, and only this, as regards eternal life and redemption. Both are His gift in Christ. Thus only, must He be known by the sinner, not as a receiver but as the Giver. It would be beneath His majesty to take any other place; it denies His nature, falsifies the truth, and leaves no room for love.
This was not at all manifested under the law. There man is prominent. "Thou shalt not do this," "Thou shalt do that." Man was by it required to do his duty to God and man, in order to prove that, being fallen, he could not; and so force him, if he bad a conscience as to his own state and faith in God's word, to look to another, the Messiah, as all the saints did from Adam downwards. But the law, as it made nothing perfect, so it fell in with the natural thought of man that all depended on him, on the obedience he should render to God. As law, it excluded grace; and therefore those who saw nothing beyond the law stood on their own merits, not on the coming Messiah. All taught of God whether under the law or before rested their hopes on Christ, not on themselves. Therefore man as he is may admit the reasonableness of the law, as he doubts not his own competency to fulfil it; but, grace he hates and understands not. The gospel flows from God's love in Christ to the world. It is not a call for man to love God, but the revelation that "God so loved the world."
The Samaritans were only heathen who adopted somewhat of Jewish elements and were darker still than the Jews. But the True Light was that which, coming into the world, sheds its light on "every man," not on Israel only, but on any, be they the vilest. This is the moral glory of Christ, as also of the gospel, God's testimony concerning Him and His work.
The woman who came and found the Lord sitting at the well was just the one to prove the virtues of grace. In truth He was there to find her as she was, and to bless her according to the riches of grace for ever. It was not the time when women came to draw water. She was alone, and might well in her circumstances shun the society of others. She had ardently sought happiness in the flesh and had not found it. She could not now but feel herself degraded, despised, and wretched. But here was One yet more alone in the world He had made; with a heart toward all to bless them, but the loneliest Stranger through man's selfishness.
But grace sought her. "He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not." He sought her wholly ignorant of Him, He perfectly knowing her, as He knew and knows all men. Bent on giving her "living water," He asks a drink, as one wearied with the journey; for indeed though true God He was not less really man. She was astonished that a Jew would so humble himself. Ah! had she known that He was the Lord of glory; but this was as unknown to her as to the princes of this age, who crucified Him. No doubt He was athirst, but He sought an avenue to her heart and would not work a miracle for Himself. He would give the best gift, and have her learn that every good giving and every perfect gift comes down from above from the Father of lights.
Are not you as dull and dark as she of Samaria? Do you really know "the gift of God" any more than she did when the Lord accosted her? Do you believe in Him as a giver, and not an exactor? He is giving eternal life in Christ to every needy soul that hears the Shepherd's voice, as the Samaritan did. It is therefore without money and without price. It is wholly independent of the demerits it finds. Who could be more depraved than this sinful woman? God in the gospel is a giver of His best. What more blessed than eternal life? What more necessary to enjoy God and please Him, to serve and to worship Him here and in heaven?
This is Christianity. There may be and there is much more; but less than this is not Christianity. Beware lest you rest on some external sign, which your unbelief exalts into an idol to your extreme peril, perhaps to your utter ruin. Eternal life is inseparable from faith in Christ. "He that believeth hath" that life, and none else. Therefore is it of faith, that it might be according to grace, as every eternal blessing is. For God will not give up His love and glory as a Giver. When you have received life in Christ, He loves to accept your little offerings and to graciously put honour on that which lacks it. "Ye are they which have continued with Me in My temptations," said the blessed Lord to His feeble disciples. Why! to every other eye it was He Who deigned to continue with them, to sustain and uphold them in all pitiful love: else had they too gone back and walked no more with Him.
Yes! Jesus our Lord alone vindicated and set ,out in attractive brightness the grand essential truth, so new to mankind in all states and ages, "the gift of God" — the truth that every soul needs to face and learn for itself, — that God is the Giver and will be nothing else to sinful man. Our pride likes it not: rich or poor, high or low, we want to earn of Him, and are unwilling to be debtors to nothing but mercy in Christ. "If the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? "is the feeling of the heart now, as truly as of Naaman the Syrian. May you, if yet unblest, give up "Behold, I thought," and, believing in Christ, be enabled to say, "Behold, now I know."
2 Who it is that saith to thee
"AND WHO IT IS THAT SAITH TO THEE, GIVE ME TO DRINK." John 4:10.
Gospel Words, 1st Series. No. 2.
It is not only that God reveals Himself now as a Giver, but a Giver of what the sinner needs for earth and heaven, for time and eternity; and He reveals Himself in His Son. The glad tidings He sends are concerning His Son; but His Son became man on behalf of man, His Son Jesus Christ a propitiation for our sins, that there might be a perfectly righteous ground for God to justify the believer, however evil and guilty he might have been before.
And so the Lord Jesus, the lowliest of men could not disguise the all-importance of His person when speaking to the woman of Samaria. She wondered that a Jew would condescend to ask a favour of a Samaritan. She was at an immeasurable distance from suspecting that in the humble Jew the Creator was before her eyes; and this too that you or any other might "hear and live."
But so it was, and so it must be, if God was to be glorified in the salvation of sinners. Of this she had as yet not the remotest conception, any more than the natural mind in Israel, or even in Christendom. The truth no doubt is confessed in the ordinary creeds; but people in general assent without heart or conscience. They repeat what their forefathers repeated; they believe what the church believes. So the Jews believed in Jesus when they saw the signs He wrought in Jerusalem at the first passover of which the fourth Gospel speaks (John 2); they believed on evidences as much as, or more than, the mass of the christened in our land or any other. But it is written that "Jesus did not trust Himself unto them, for that He knew all men, and because He needed not that any one should bear witness concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man." He knew that man in his best estate is altogether vanity, for all is said when he is pronounced a sinner, as all are. Now Jesus, God Himself, cannot trust sinful man. The real question is, will sinful man trust Jesus? Man is best — indeed is only aright — trusting God by believing in Jesus, in Jesus come, not merely to work signs but to save sinners at all cost to Himself, a sacrifice to God for them.
Therefore does the Lord present to the Samaritan this great truth, without a miracle, and far beyond miracles. "If thou knewest . . Who it is that saith to thee, Give Me to drink." This she was as far as possible from knowing, any more than the grace of God. But He was there to make known the truth; and He is Himself the truth, and became man that it might come in divine love to man. Could there be asked a better proof that "grace and truth came by Jesus Christ" than the one here afforded to her, and through her to any needy, guilty, soul on earth? For as creation throughout has divine design, and not a single thing happens day by day without our Father, so is scripture written with divine adaptation to every soul that reads or hears, that they may know what God is to a sinner, which can only be known perfectly in Jesus, the image of the invisible God.
Oh! have you weighed these words for your own soul? If you despise them now, learn from His lips that he who rejects Him and receives not His sayings "hath one that judgeth him: the word that I spake, the same will judge him in the last day" (John 12:48). You know that you are a sinner, utterly unfit to sit down with Jesus in the presence of God. Where then must your portion be if you reject the Saviour Son of God? Whose sayings are comparable to His for light and love, for God and man? Very likely you think yourself far better than the poor Samaritan He was addressing, in order to reveal God and win her to God, that she might not perish but have everlasting life. You will scarcely say that you are so much worse that His grace to her has no voice for your soul. She was at that moment living out of all moral relationship, indifferent to God's known will. If grace did not produce what it can never find in a single sinner, it would indeed be all over with every one of us. If we are all guilty and lost, as scripture declares, it is in vain and unwise comparing ourselves among ourselves. We need a Saviour, and we find the only adequate Saviour in Him Who, as the Jews with murderous hatred said, made Himself equal with God (for He was God); Who became flesh — man; Whom, absolutely free of sin, God made sin on the cross that we might become God's righteousness in Him.
And Him, in this mystery of His person, we believe in and confess, to have the blessing. "If thou knewest . . . Who it is that saith to thee, Give Me to drink." If thou knewest that He, the Eternal no less than the Father Who sent Him, emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, coming in the likeness of men, and being found in fashion as a man, humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death — yea, even the death of the cross. All this the Samaritan could not yet know; but He was on the way to death, come to do God's will. For without the offering of Christ sacrificially His will was not done and no soul could be saved. His asking of such a one as the Samaritan was no small, no obscure, sample of that humiliation which culminated in His cross. Hence the bearing of His words to her, "If thou knewest . . . Who it is (there is the glory of His person) that saith to thee, Give me to drink" (there is the grace of His humiliation, as far as could be then).
On Him thus revealing God, her soul, in due time learning the wonderful wisdom of His ways, rested that day. How is it with you who have heard more of His glory and of His grace than she then could? May you believe, as she believed. If you despise Him and refuse His words, you must see Him on the great white throne of eternal judgment and prove God's truth in your perdition.
3 Living water
"THOU WOULDEST HAVE ASKED OF HIM, AND HE WOULD HAVE GIVEN THEE LIVING WATER." John 4:10
(B.T. Vol. 18, p. 375. Gospel No. 1:3.)
The Lord proceeds to lead on the woman and inspire confidence in her heart; and the Holy Spirit records it for others who were to hear His words when written: for they surely are spirit and life, words of life eternal. As yet she was spiritually dull and dark. She saw not the True Light, she believed not yet on Him in Whom is life, the light of men — guilty but favoured men. Had she known God as the Giver (not exactor, as all hearts naturally conceive), had she believed in the glory of Him Who had humbled Himself to save (of which she had a sample in His asking of her a drink of water), she would have asked of Him, and He would have given her living water.
For the blessing of the grace of life to a needy lost sinner (and so it is with every child of man) is no question of self-effort or even self-sacrifice, of a charm or a rite, but of faith in the Son of God to Whom the word of God boars witness. On the one hand, "what is born of the flesh is flesh," and sinful man, Jew, Greek, Samaritan is dead before God. On the other hand, life comes solely to us in the Light of life, it is in Jesus the Lord. Hence said He (John 5:24), "he that heareth My word and believeth Him that sent Me hath life eternal, and cometh not into judgment, but hath passed out of death into life." The Lord therefore, Himself the quickening Spirit (1 Cor. 15), said not a word to her of baptism; nor did the disciples any more than the Lord baptise her in fact. Whatever the importance of baptism, to impart life is never attributed to it once in all scripture. "He that believeth," says the Lord (John 6:47), hath life eternal;" and so in substance often, and never otherwise. "I thank God," says the apostle Paul, "that I baptised none of you but Crispus and Gaius, lest any should say that I baptised (or, that ye were baptised) unto mine own name. . . . For Christ sent me not to baptise but to preach the gospel" (1 Cor. 1:14-17). "In Christ Jesus I begat you through the gospel" (1 Cor. 4:15). So James 1:18, and 1 Peter 1:23-25, and 1 John 5:1. The divine testimony is uniform and full, clear and conclusive.
But the word was not yet mixed with faith in the Samaritan's soul. Else self-judgment had been produced, and such a sense of sin in herself, and of goodness (if not yet salvation) in Him, as would have drawn her to the Son of God in earnest. To be saved the individual soul must meet God now, and meet Him about its sins: otherwise it cannot evade Him in the person of the Son of man, the Judge of quick and dead, on the great white throne. Then it is too late. Judgment is irreparable and everlasting perdition. To hear Christ's word, to believe God Who sent Him, is to have life, eternal life. This was exactly what the sinner needed, but had not yet. If His word had penetrated, she would have asked of Him, and He would have given her living water.
But it will be asked, What of the church? what of the sacraments? Now it is a notable fact that in the Gospel of John, where eternal life is pre-eminently set out, not a word is said of either. There is always harmony in divine truth. The church, baptism, and the Lord's supper, are fully treated in the apostle Paul's Epistles, to say nothing of the inspired history in the Acts. But nowhere does scripture connect eternal life with the church any more than with the public Christian institutions. As everything is ordered aright in scripture, so are souls inexcusable who fall into so grievous an error as to stake life eternal on church or sacraments. It is contact with Christ by faith, it is His word applied by the Spirit, that gives life in the Son of God. Christ is the way, the truth, and the life.
Faith therefore is always individual, even if a thousand believed at the same instant out of a multitude listening to the word of God. The church does not preach, but a servant of Christ or as here the Lord Himself; and when the soul accepts it not as the word of men but, as it is in truth, the word of God, it effectually works in such as believe. Its earliest effect is deep anxiety before God and calling on the Lord. "Thou wouldest have asked of Him, and He would have given thee living water."
"By grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God."
Eph. 2. Such is the blessed standing and assurance of the Christian in due time. Nor is it otherwise now than it has ever been, though far greater light and privileges be now enjoyed. "For therein [i.e., faith] the elders had witness borne to them," or obtained a good report, as the A.V. says. Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. There was not, there certainly cannot be, another Saviour; and by God's word and Spirit He was always received. Righteousness, as the apostle proves, was reckoned to Abraham himself in uncircumcision. He was circumcised afterwards, as a seal in the flesh. He believed God long before; and this was reckoned to him for righteousness. It is the same now in principle, when souls are baptised, not circumcised.
Salvation like faith is individual. From first to last one must come to God believingly, for without faith it is impossible to please Him; with genuine faith ever is genuine repentance. We judge and condemn ourselves when we truly believe Him, and trust His grace in giving His Son. "Already are ye clean because of the word I have spoken to you." John 15. We are born of water and of the Spirit. The truth thus sanctifies; which a ceremony never can, nor a body, were it even the church, however important and of immense moment in other ways. "He that disbelieveth shall be condemned," i.e. damned, even if baptised by Peter or Paul.
In believing God's word the soul hears and answers the call of God. All the blessing may not be at once; but the Lord is confided in and the heart goes out to Him Who came to die for us, for our sins. "Thou wouldest have asked of Him, and He would have given thee living water." And in truth it is not only life in believing, but the Holy Ghost subsequent on it, that peace and joy might be full, and God's love be shed abroad in the heart. The gift of the Holy Spirit is more than life, however blessed life may be. It is the Spirit of adoption whereby we cry, Abba, Father. It is the Spirit not of fear or bondage: but of power and love and soberness.
Dear reader, have you got this blessing? or do you still lack it, like the Samaritan at first?
4 A Well of water
"IN HIM A WELL OF WATER" John 4:14.
(B.T. Vol. 19, p. 9-10. Gospel No. 1:4.)
To the unrenewed mind there is nothing so foreign as grace. God's grace to a sinner seems to a moral man making light of sin; and therefore the higher his idea of divine holiness, and the greater his reverence, the less is it credible. The sinner himself regards it as too good to be true. Only when we stand convicted in our own consciences before God, revealed as He is in Jesus, do we believe it; and only as we walk by faith, are we enabled to use His grace without abusing it. Nothing so needful to the sinner, nothing so blessed to the saint, as grace unless it be the God of grace in Christ, the source and fulness and display of it all in the Only-begotten. Here the woman of Samaria was at first bewildered, though struck and attracted by the wondrous Man that brought God so near her in compassionate love to meet her sin, misery, and want. She answers the expression of infinite grace with the difficulties she considers insuperable. "Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: whence then hast thou this living water?" Art thou greater than our father Jacob who gave us the well, and drank of it himself, and his sons, and his cattle?" (vers. 11, 12.) It was but natural thought and natural religion; wholly inadequate for man's case, now that he was sinful and an outcast from God; and how much less adequate for God, dishonoured and disobeyed, unknown and disliked, because He must judge sins? What then must become of the sinner? How can he save himself?
Jesus spoke of another well incomparably deeper, of which as yet she had no comprehension. Jesus had yea, — was — everything to draw with; Jesus has and gives the living water. He is the Son of the Father, and entitled to give the believer eternal life, and, more than that, the Holy Spirit as the power of enjoying it in fellowship with the Father and the Son; and all this on earth now, in spite of what we naturally are, by virtue of His redemption. He is both the life eternal and the propitiation for our sins. He had the living water as the Son; He could and would give it to the poorest sinner that believes the gospel as the Saviour of the world, fruit of His sufferings unto death of the cross, and of His resurrection.
"Greater than our father Jacob"! ay, immeasurably greater than Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; than Moses, Aaron, and Samuel; than Noah, Daniel, and Job; than all the saintly men and women that ever were; than Michael and all angels and principalities, to say nothing of powers. For He is God, the eternal Word, the Only-begotten of the Father. He is therefore divinely competent as He is absolutely reliable. And He is full of grace and truth — the very thing that lost man has not and can find nowhere else. Could the law, truly of God as it was, save the guilty? It could only condemn; and to this. an awakened soul sorrowfully but humbly and thoroughly submits. Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. The Son of Man came to seek and to save that which is lost. Is not this grace, the saving grace of God?
But no one receives it who doubts the full glory of Christ's person. For indeed there is otherwise no sufficient basis before God for sinful man. No mere man could dispense the living water. The Samaritan saw Jesus wearied with the journey, sitting just as He was at the fountain; and she heard Him to her surprise ask of her to drink, though then she judged Him but a Jew, though she could not but feel increasingly as He spoke how extraordinary He was. Come of woman indeed He was to save lost man, come under law to redeem those under law, that either and both might receive sonship as a gift of God's grace, and not this only but the Spirit of God's Son sent out into their hearts, crying Abba, Father. This could only be because Jesus is the Son of God, as no other is or could be, though by grace every believer is truly child and by adoption son of God.
Hence, that the faith should be of divine source and character, the necessity of believing that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (1 John 5:1, 5). As yet, the Samaritan was in the dark, though moved and drawn by His gracious ways and words; and so she understood not His words no less plain than marvellous. God's grace was no more believed than Christ's person, and thus the blessing was to her inscrutable. Yet to her unbelieving and unintelligent question the Lord replies with what, when she did believe, would prove a truth full of comfort to man as of goodness from God. "Every one that drinketh of this water shall thirst again; but whosoever drinketh of the water which I shall give him shall never thirst. But the water which I shall give him shall become in him a well [or, fountain] of water springing up into eternal life" (vers. 13, 14).
The Lord thus explains more clearly than ever how the living water is the great supernatural gift man needs. The water of an earthly spring, however good, like every natural boon, lasts but for the moment. It quenches thirst, only to recur soon and constantly, as is the nature of all things seen and temporal. The soul, immortal as it is, needs more to satisfy, as God delights in giving when He is looked to in felt want. But here the Lord vouchsafes what satisfies the believer and God Himself, what forms a blessed and permanent and intimate relationship with the Son and the Father. It is not only eternal life, as in John 3, but the Spirit of adoption given, and therefore said to become in him, the believer, a fountain of water springing up into eternal life. Not only are creature things no longer an object of desire, but a fountain of divine refreshment is within through the indwelling Spirit, Who ever leads the believer to worship by His own power, to rejoice in Christ Jesus, and to have no confidence in the flesh. It is not holy longings only as of old, but present possession and enjoyment by virtue of Christ come and redemption. It is inexhaustible and leads the soul to the sources on high.
My reader, have you thus found rest and everlasting joy in the Son of God? The Holy Spirit is given, now that His atoning blood is accepted for the believer, to glorify Him. It is as free as air, but only to faith in Christ. "Whosoever"! Forsake not your own mercies; despise not God's grace. Receive Christ, believing on His name: and all is yours for ever. For God Who calls is faithful.
5 Go call thy husband
"GO, CALL THY HUSBAND." John 4:16-18.
Gospel Words. Series 1, No. 5.
It is the way of grace to speak and act in a love beyond creature thought to one that deserves only blame. This had the Lord Jesus shown thus far to the Samaritan. In every way He is the image of the invisible God. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have eternal life."
Nevertheless grace alone suffices not; for man is fallen, evil, and hostile to God without knowing it aright if at all. Now his ruin morally must be known if he is to be saved and blessed. He must therefore know himself as well as God, and himself in God's presence as God sees him. How can this be? Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. And He is "full" of grace and truth. Grace and truth came by Him; and both shine as none can deny, through His person and words on the Samaritan. She felt already in a measure His grace; but truth enters through the conscience in order that both grace and truth should be really known in the soul. Therefore, when the woman betrays by her dark request in ver. 15 ("Sir, give me this water that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw") that she was still outside the marvellous light of God, "Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband and come hither." It seems abrupt and at first sight strange. It was the direct path to her conscience and divinely wise. For grace cannot accomplish its purpose, God's purpose of love, till man is brought to see and own the truth of his own state. Then only can one appreciate the truth of what God is in the holy mercy that saves the unholy through Christ our Lord; and righteously too, for sin must be judged as it deserves.
The woman was still walking like the rest of the world in a vain show. From this the Lord delivers her. "Go, call thy husband, and come hither." "I have no husband," she answers quickly. "Jesus saith unto her, Thou saidst well, I have no husband; for thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband. This thou hast said truly" (ver. 18). How overwhelming, yet how gracious! Not a reproach in His mouth, but He Who knew all men drew from her, by a word of His, the confession of her actual state of sin and shame, and set before her such a sketch of her life as testified to her conscience, that in her case at least all things were naked and laid bare to His eyes with Whom she had to do.
Her answer proves that His words had entered her conscience, and that her soul fell under them. There was no effort to parry, no attempt to excuse, no seeking to hide or escape from His presence. On the contrary, she stood there a convicted sinner and owned, not merely that He spoke truly, but that she perceived Him to be "a prophet" (ver. 19). It was the word of God living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart. She was manifest in His sight, but by the grace now applied, however humbled to the dust, content to own what she really was and to receive from Him as from God's mouth. For His is not man's word, but, as it is truly, God's word, which also works in every soul that believes.
Thus divine light must act on the soul now, in order that for it all things may be real before God. Hence where His word enters, discovering a life of sin and self, yet in full grace on God's part, the soul bows to God in confession. There is moral reality truly begun, however little developed in detail. How wondrous is God's intervention in Christ, as worthy of Him as suitable and cleansing to the sinner! It is the washing of water by the word, as says the apostle, speaking of Christ's love to the church all the way through. And this the woman here proves.
So it ever is. The message of God to sinners (and all are such), when by grace received, deals with the conscience and not merely with the affections. Repentance ensues no less than faith, repentance by God's word judging all within, and faith in receiving God's word and God's gift from without. This now is fully revealed in Christ; and He is life, " Christ our life." For the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining, and in Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, and consequently the seal of the Spirit. For it is of God that the soul, repentant and believing, should know grace and truth, beyond even what the Samaritan could then bear. Nor does any falsehood more dishonour the gospel than the dim religious light or rather darkness, which would plunge souls and even believing souls in uncertainty, and belie the God of all grace as if He begrudged the blessing to the contrite spirit.
Listen not, dear reader, to those enemies of the cross of Christ, who are so blinded as to teach that our Lord practised reserve about His own precious work. It was He that announced, even before His Galilean ministry, that the Son of man must be lifted up (that is, on the cross) that whosoever believeth on Him may have eternal life; and that God so loved the world, the sinful, guilty, Christ-rejecting world, as to give His Only-begotten that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish but have eternal life. It was He, that in its course and in the presence of incredulous and blaspheming scribes, would have a most crowded company to know that the Son of man hath power, yea rightful title, on earth to forgive sins — a title assuredly not less since He died and rose, and has all authority given Him in heaven and on earth, saying to His servants, Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all the creation. It was He Who even before this lovingly rebuked the aspiring or murmuring twelve, who were in danger from vain-glory, with the words, "The Son of man came not to be ministered to but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." That Satan would stick at nothing to cloak from needy souls such words of grace is as certain as that the Holy Spirit was sent at Pentecost, among other ends worthy of God, to empower those that preach the gospel unto all the nations, beginning from the city wherein our Lord was crucified.
It is thus that the soul meets God, not in truth only but in grace; it is in His Son, Jesus Christ. "This is the true God and eternal life." It is after the sin, but before the judgment, that the dead may hear and live — believing, have eternal life and come not into judgment, but have passed from death into life. Less than this is not the gospel of God — is not Christianity — as the Holy Spirit has revealed it.
6 Worship of the Father
(B.T. Vol. 19, p. 41-42. Gospel No. 1:6.)
When the conscience is awakened, the need and the duty of Worship are felt. So we see of old in Naaman when cured of leprosy by the prophet Elijah (2 Kings 5:27). Yet the difficulty is great for souls, as men differ in nothing more, and too often plead this patent fact to excuse themselves from all concern. Not so does the Samaritan now at least. He Who had told her the truth and brought her conscience before God could surely solve the dilemma. Directly therefore after owning Him as a prophet, she presents the case. Divine authority must clear up what was contested so stoutly. And she is the more bold to ask after the wondrous persevering grace she had experienced.
"Our fathers worshipped in this mountain, and ye say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship, Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what; we worship what we know, for salvation is of the Jews" (vers. 20-22).
A venerable antiquity has a strong hold on human feeling, and especially in religion. Even a Samaritan could go back a long way and boast of succession. "Our fathers . . . in this mountain." It was a serious thing virtually to condemn their race and ancestors! It is more serious still to leave God out of a question which He has the right to answer. The Samaritans after all never had been a great nation. Yet what great nation ever had God so nigh to them as Israel had their covenant God Jehovah whensoever they called on Him? But did ever people hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as Israel heard, and live? They alone were His chosen nation, as Jehovah is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath: there is none else.
Therefore the Lord Jesus could not but allow the plea for Jerusalem as against "this mountain" of Samaria. The Samaritans worshipped that which they did not know. The Jews were used to worship that which they knew; and this on a firm foundation, because "salvation is of the Jews." Theirs are the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the law-giving, and the service, and the promises; theirs the "Fathers" in the best sense; and of them as concerning the flesh is the Christ, Who is over all, God blessed for ever, Amen. He as the woman's seed, as David's and David's Lord, Son of God (Ps. 2) and Immanuel, had been evermore the One to Whom Israel looked and on whom faith rested; and this Himself here vindicated.
"Salvation is of the Jews"; in that line only is the promised Seed in Whom dead and risen shall all the nation be blessed. For if the promise be to the Jews, pre-eminently to their Messiah, never was it for them alone, but that the grace of God might bless faith wherever it wrought, and so in particular where need was greatest and man could least boast.
So did the Lord now deal with the woman, guiding her to boast only in the Father, the only true God, far from the vain confidence of man; and assuredly Samaria had nothing better than others. The truth comes not by succession. Natural descent is no guarantee, any more than human priests or sacred places, still less scribes and lawyers. Jerusalem was proving itself as far from the Father as Gerizim; for His Son was "rejected by men," and by none so bitterly as by the Jews. This gives occasion to the richest display of grace in the gospel; and the Saviour announces it more fully than ever before, not to Nicodemus who heard much but to her of Samaria who heard far more. "Woman, believe me, the hour cometh when ye shall neither in this mountain nor yet at Jerusalem worship the Father."
That hour is now come. When the crucified Lord died, the veil of the temple was rent from the top to the bottom. This solemn act on God's part ratified the Saviour's sentence. The place of worship is changed from earth to heaven. The earthly people refused, even to the death of the cross, the Lord of all the earth. But He is no less the Lord of heaven; and on high God has highly exalted Him Whom not man only but His own people chiefly cast out, and thus proved their own evil and ruin to the uttermost. This is just the moment for God to prove His own good; for through that very death of Christ propitiation was made for sins. Thereon the Holy Spirit was sent down to proclaim God's glad tidings to guilty sinners; so that the vilest may be forgiven by the faith of Christ and His blood, yea become thereby sons of God, free and called to worship the Father. Even the babes or little children of God's family know the Father (1 John 2:13), and are capable of worshipping Him, not as Jehovah now, but as Father.
Nor is any other worship now acceptable. For God is thus fully revealed: the Only-begotten Son Who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him. The partial measure of Judaism has passed away, no less than Samaritan pretension or any other. Grace and truth came through Jesus; and the testimony of the Holy Spirit is to Him as the sole way to the Father.
My fellow-sinners, renounce self, renounce man; for all sinned, all are lost, and are seen to be so when the true light shines as it does now, as truly as in the day of judgment. This, however true, would be the saddest news, were it all. But the Son of God is come and has given us an understanding that we may know Him that is true; and we are in Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. If we believe in Him, our sins are forgiven us for His name's sake. For this is He that came by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because He is the truth. The Son of God is the Son of Man Who came to seek and to save that which is lost.
Say not that you are too bad for Jesus to receive and bless, and bring you to God. You are indeed too bad for anyone but Jesus, Who has assured us that "him that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out." Fear not then to cast your soul on His grace just as you are. Beware of Satan and his ministers who would persuade you to make yourself more worthy before you believe on His name: there is no surer way to put Him oft and lose your own soul for ever. Undoubtedly your sins apart from Jesus deserve perdition; but Christ and His death have infinitely glorified God as to sin, so that the door of salvation is open to you or any other that believes in Him. Then and not till then will you worship the Father. There is nothing higher in heaven; yet you on earth begin that worship, which is of heaven and will never end.
7 The Father seeking
THE FATHER SEEKING WORSHIPPERS. John 4:23.
(B.T. Vol. 18, p. 314-5. Gospel No. 1:7.)
This chapter shows God's grace and truth in dealing with a sinner by Jesus His Son; and the sinner not convicted only, but brought to worship the Father in the relationship of a child, to worship God according to His nature as a saint. It is the revelation in short of Christianity; and this the more impressively, because the one thus blessed on the spot was just before a wretched guilty woman of Samaria, saved to worship Him Who is God and Father in spirit and in truth.
Doubtless men ought to worship, as they ought to obey and love God. But their state unfits them: they are sinners, in their sins, and alienated from Him. As they are, to take the place of worship and of obeying the law is to deny their ruin. For it is too late to talk of your duty when you are all wrong and lost, as His word declares, in order to bring men to repentance. Again, it is worse than vain, "in the hour that now is," to pretend to worship our God and Father unless we are genuine worshippers. The apostle adds, that the worshippers, having been once purged, or cleansed, have no more conscience of sins (Heb. 10:2). Adam, now that he had conscience of his sin, hastened to hide from God when he heard His voice in the garden. So would all unpurged worshippers, if they heard His voice today. It is no question of sincerity, but of salvation; cleansing by the blood of Jesus is absolutely requisite. Impossible to worship Him in spirit and in truth, till we know Him by faith as revealed by and in His Son; and we never know Him thus till convicted of what we have done and are by His word as the Samaritan was.
Nor are any so guilty as those who seem so near in Christendom. Christening or a catechism does not purge the conscience. The servant who knew his lord's will, and made not ready nor did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes: but he that knew not, and did things worthy of stripes (the heathen), shall be beaten with few. God is not mocked: evil unjudged and unremoved cannot escape His judgment; and none are so far from Him really as those that hear the gospel and despise it, unless it be those who profess the Lord's name hypocritically, or such as from a bad conscience become apostates from Christian profession.
For there is grace enough in Christ to meet and save the vilest, as this chapter proves. Hear Him, "wearied with His journey," sitting at the well, and asking a drink of the sinful woman, to win her heart to God's love, to awaken a just sense of her state, to give her faith in Himself, and in fact to make her a true worshipper. And the Father, as He told her, is seeking such: wondrous truth! not they seeking Him, but He them. Sinners, convicted and believing, are made true worshippers. They contribute nothing but their sins. Grace does and gives all that is of price. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, all take part. The sinner has but to abhor his sins and submit to be blessed by God's grace. No wonder, that the result is immense, as the work is; but it is of faith that it may be according to grace, that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, Whose is the glory and the dominion unto the ages of the ages, Amen.
And this is "the hour that now is." Have you yet listened to the Saviour Son of God, as did the Samaritan? Then you too are a true worshipper, bound to worship God in spirit and truth, not formally like a Jew, nor of course falsely like a Samaritan. Yea, if a simple-hearted believer, you are entitled to adore Him evermore as Father; for you are a child of God by faith in Christ Jesus. Grace does not find in any sinful man what pleases God; it creates and confers all that pleases Him, when it has brought us to confess that in us, that is in our flesh, dwells no good thing. Naturally I am a man, a wretched man that needs a deliverer; and this is none other than the Lord Jesus, Who went down below man's sin and God's judgment that we might be set free in His righteousness, yet all in pure and sovereign grace. For grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our. Lord.
But have you owned your sins, your life of sin, as the Samaritan did when convicted by the word of Jesus? Or will you hide your sin like Adam and set yourself as far as you can from God? Oh the infatuation! Do you not know that you must be made manifest another day before Christ? For He is the appointed Judge. What will it be with you then? Assuredly everlasting perdition, unless you have all out with Him now and here. But repenting, and believing God's love in Him, you become the true worshipper that the Father is seeking. So the Samaritan became that very day: why should not you today? Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. The mountain of Samaria can bring you no blessing, nor can Jerusalem, or those that follow in the wake of either, remove your curse: none but Jesus can avail, Who became on the cross a curse for all under curse. But He is all-sufficient; He is the Giver of the living water. The water that He gives the needy one that asks of Him shall become in him a fountain of water springing up unto eternal life. Such are the true worshippers that the Father seeks; and they only then worship God in spirit and in truth.
"To him that worketh the reward is not reckoned as of grace but as of debt; but to him that worketh not but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is reckoned for righteousness." It is God reckoning righteousness apart from works; yet it is the only principle that produces good works as its fruit. Oh let not the pride of unbelief blind you to your truly lost estate; but may you turn to God as you are, a poor lost sinner, and find in the grace of Christ all you want!
Then and thus, met with the free-giving of God, and sealed of His Spirit, as one resting solely on Christ and His finished work, your heart will go out in praise and adoration. This is to be a true worshipper; and such is the Father seeking to the praise of His Son, Whose things the Holy Spirit takes and declares to us who believe. As the Son glorified the Father, so does the Father glorify the Son on high; and the Spirit glorifies Him here below and bears witness of Him. Are you a witness of Jesus, God's Son, the Saviour of the world — ay, of a poor unworthy Samaritan? Or are you, alas! a witness of yourself or of other men? Such are not those to be saved. The saved are true worshippers.
8 Worship in spirit and truth
(B.T. Vol. 19, p. 57-58. Gospel No. 1-8.)
God never accepted in His worship the efforts of man or the imitations of self-will. But He gave a system of beautiful and instructive forms to Israel, who had His law till Christ came to Whom they all pointed, and, Who superseded all by a fulfilment which more than accomplished all. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believes. The law, having a shadow of the good things to come, not the very image of the things, can never, with the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, perfect those that approach. Else would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshippers, having been once purged, have no longer conscience of sins?
Totally different is the standing of the christian through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, Who came to do perfectly the will of God. "He taketh away the first (i.e. Levitical offering) that He may establish the second (i.e. God's will), by which will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Heb. 10:9, 10.) Yea more; "for by one offering He hath perfected for ever (uninterruptedly) them that are sanctified" or set apart to God (ver. 14).
Our Gospel here views Christian worship from another point of the highest importance, the need and blessing of eternal life in Christ and of the consequent gift of the Spirit that dwells henceforth in the believer. The Epistle views him as in himself at a distance from God, needing propitiation, and his conscience to be purified from dead works to serve religiously (or worship) the living God. Both blessings attach to faith. They are the portion of the believer only. For Christ is his life; and his sins are forgiven for His Name's sake; and the Holy Spirit seals him as having believed the glad tidings of his salvation.
Thus pardoned, furnished, and blessed by grace, the Christian draws nigh to God, instead of standing far off like a Jew; he is exhorted to approach with boldness, as may well be, since it is "unto the throne of grace" (Heb. 4), to enter into the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, a new and living way which He dedicated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh. There alone is a Great Priest over the house of God. All others are human pretenders over their own society, even if they have ambition enough to claim the whole of Christendom, or all the world. In this respect an apostle or a prophet takes common ground with all the faithful; for the blood of Christ is equally efficacious for all that believe. It perfects them each and all before God, and this here and now; so that all various efficacy of that blood is excluded, whatever the different positions in the church the sovereign will of God may assign as He does (1 Cor. 12:28), and whatever the differing place in glory, as we know from Matt. 25:14-22, Luke 19:15-19, 1 Cor. 3:8, and elsewhere. But the inspired word to all brethren is, Let us approach " with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an' evil conscience and, our body washed with pure water."
And what is worship but thanksgiving and praise? Thanksgiving for what God has done in Christ and gives freely to us who believe; praise for what we know by His word and Spirit He is, not only to us, but in Himself, His majesty, holiness, truth, goodness, mercy, love, and delight in us, the eternal self-existing One, now revealed as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost?
Dear reader, do you know the only true God? Do you know the Father? From 1 John 2:13 we learn that the little children, the babes of God's family, know the Father. But Only he that confesses the Son has the Father also. God is no party to His Son's dishonour. "Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father." Faith is the operation of the Holy Spirit by the word. But to worship we need, besides, the gift of the Spirit, which is received when we rest on Christ's redemption; as in the O.T. oil was put where the blood (not merely the water) had been. Indeed as we see in Lev. 8, though Aaron alone had the oil without blood (12), Aaron's sons as well as he were sprinkled with the oil and the blood after the blood sprinkling (23, 24).
Is it so with you? Are you resting by faith on the sacrifice of Christ? Then you are anointed also; you are sealed with the Holy Spirit for the day of redemption — the redemption of the body, as you already have in Christ redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of your offences.
See then that you worship the Father in spirit and truth. We have in the N.T. the clear impression how the believers worshipped since redemption. No doubt there were at first the effects of their old religious associations. But the fresh grace and mighty truth of a risen and exalted Saviour led them out surely if slowly. And the Lord's Supper became by His institution the central symbol and ever recurring observance every Lord's day at least. Nor did the now sent and ever abiding Spirit fail to work in the assembly, not only in teaching, and exhorting and edifying but in singing, blessing, and giving thanks. Flesh might deceive and intrude; but the holy responsibility of all was to worship in spirit and truth-to worship the Father in that near and blessed relationship, as the Son revealed Him and the Spirit gives us to enjoy, to worship God in that holy nature and majesty Whose perfect love has cast out our fear; for He has reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ made sin for us that we might become God's righteousness in Him.
It is not enough to be "true worshippers," blessed though this is. "God is a Spirit; and they that worship him must worship in. spirit and truth." How sad for the true worshippers to swamp themselves with notorious men of the world, and in acts and words suited to a mixed multitude! This He called not for nor accepts. It is not worship in spirit and truth which our Lord declares "must" be.
It is a necessity of His nature, and of theirs too, seeing that believers are become partakers of it in His grace (compare James 1:18, 2 Peter 1:4, 1 John 3:9). If true worshippers, look to it that your worship be, according to His will, "in spirit and truth," not in forms or falsehood, but as we have been taught by the Lord ]Himself and His, inspired servants. Since the Son of God is come and has given us understanding that we may know Him that is true, formal and false worship is hateful to Him and a shame for "true worshippers" who have the Spirit and know the truth, and are, called to worship consistently.
9 I that speak unto thee am He
(B.T. Vol. 19, p. 72-73. Gospel No. 1:9.)
Now that the conscience of the Samaritan was reached and in exercise before God, the grace of the Saviour was not in vain for her heart. She had listened to words that brought home to her unmistakeably the love of God, whereof His Son was at once the witness and the fulness. One thing more she needed, which He was waiting to grant, the knowledge of Himself come, the Father's sent One, without which there is no Christianity. He is "all," as He is "in all" that are His; but He is also for any, as the gospel announces, and the woman here discovers. She felt that the flood of light which the Lord shed on the worship that was at hand, was too much for her apprehension, and accordingly says to Him, "I know that Messiah cometh (which is called Christ): when He is come, He will tell [declare] us all things. Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am He."
The Lord had declared the Father's name, little as she took it in; He had also confessed and denied not but confessed, that He Himself was the Christ. And we have His word for it, whatever the difficulty and the darkness unbelief pours over all, that this is life eternal, that they may know the Father, the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom He sent. For such knowledge is of the Holy Spirit, and, unlike all other knowledge, is inseparable from life. "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is begotten of God." Grace had opened her heart, the truth had searched her soul; and the Lord laid hold of the confession she made (however feebly) of a coming Messiah, to declare Himself the satisfying object of trust. It was far from being His highest title; it was not the everlasting glory of His person; it was what He became as man on earth the promised One, and what He, rejected of men, is now also made on high. For His death that seemed to disappoint all hopes was essential if only to efface our guilt, and His resurrection restored (and more) what death took away. Thus He graciously met her, in that recognition of what He truly was, to her unspeakable comfort and rest.
Faith always meets Christ. He is the great divine discovery to the soul. All must meet Him on the throne one day; but this will be everlasting ruin to such as do not meet Him now. For them it will be judgment. Now it is the grace of God which gives and forgives. The unbeliever refuses Him now and comes into judgment then. To meet Him now by faith is life and salvation, as the Samaritan proved. Thousands saw and heard Him while on earth; but where no faith was, there was no life. It was when the woman believed that she received the blessing. And this blessing is no less offered to all that believe on Him without seeing or hearing. Indeed there is emphatic blessing as He told Thomas, for those who have not seen and have believed.
The Holy Spirit has recorded the tale for your soul, dear reader, that you too may believe, and be saved if you are not already. To you the word of salvation is sent; for Jesus is still a Saviour, not yet a Judge. By and by He will be Judge and not Saviour. Never are the two functions mixed. Nor does the believer, as He assures us, come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. His work fails no more than His person; and he that believes has eternal life. The unbeliever will hear Him pronounce all, but too late. "Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation." (2 Cor. 6.) "See that ye refuse not Him that speaketh; for if they escaped not who refused Him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape if we turn away from Him that speaketh from heaven" (Heb. 12). He is the truth: rely on Him.
The unworthiness of the Samaritan up to that very day did not hinder His race nor her blessing Why should you doubt His willingness to receive and help you just as you are? For the blessing depends entirely on Him and His sacrifice. To receive it through Him, confessing your guilt and need, is to submit to the righteousness of God; to prefer your own efforts and sacrifices is going about to establish your own righteousness, as the unbelieving Jews did. Those who are indifferent to their sins, God's warning, and Christ's salvation, defy judgment and despise mercy. Alas! they assuredly must meet the due reward of their deeds and unbelief. For God is not mocked; and those that sow to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption.
Hear then His words in faith. He pleads with your soul. "I that speak unto thee am He." And He is the same, yesterday, and today, and forever. Doubt yourself; for indeed you have the gravest reason. Believe on Him; for God's word bears the fullest witness, that as He declares all, so He endured all to save the foulest sinner and His worst enemy, if they repent and believe the gospel. His was all the worth, His all the suffering, His all the grace. Give Him then all the glory, as He willingly gives you all the blessing. This is God's truth, God's love, and God's way. It is His gospel, His glad tidings, sent that you may believe. He does not begrudge you life and salvation in Christ; He delights in blessing; and this too, most rich and needed blessing.
But He warns too. "If the word spoken by angels (i.e. the law) was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation? " Thus judgment at the close vindicates the God Whose saving love in His Son is set at nought. The sanction is as solemn, as the blessing is full and plain, immediate and everlasting.
The message meanwhile bespeaks God for its author; He is the God of all grace. But it is grace reigning through righteousness, for Christ suffered for sins, Just for unjust. Not otherwise could the defiled and guilty be brought to God. Our ransom is not with corruptible things, as silver and gold, but with Christ's precious blood as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. And faith honours both Christ and the God Who gave Him, as unbelief adds rebellion and contempt of God to our other sins which are many and deep. No doubt you deserve nothing from God but judgment, which, without faith in Christ, is perdition. But Christ deserves, and has secured by His work, that every believer should be saved. If this does not gratify man's pride, it suits God's love and glory, in which the believer finds his everlasting blessedness.
10 The Woman then left her waterpot
(B.T. Vol. 19, p. 86-7. Gospel No. 1:10.)
Blessed effects follow faith when it is the work of God's Spirit as here. "He that believeth hath everlasting life;" and life from God does not fail to show itself in ways pleasing to Him if not to man. A faith of mere tradition, or founded on evidences, is powerless. The conscience being untouched, in no case is it before God; nor is He trusted for everlasting life.
Little acts as well as matters of great moment disclose the work of God in a believer. The Holy Spirit notices both in the Samaritan woman. In the opening of the interview her pre-occupation with present things was evident. When the Lord seized the figure of living water in contrast with that before her, we see her total insensibility. She was unable to rise above earthly wants and desires. Only when her conscience was reached, did God and His word deal with her soul, however amazed and attracted she might be by the grace of Christ. Even when her life was suddenly laid bare by the wondrous stranger, so as to convince her that everything was known to Him divinely, she has no wish to escape into the darkness in which she had heretofore lived; she desires light in what most nearly touches the right state of the soul with God. She is assured that He could and would guide her aright in the worship of God, where men differ most and so keenly. She had to learn of a new worship superseding Jerusalem no less than her vain traditional mountain — the worship of the Father. This He, the Son, was alone competent to announce; as also the Holy Spirit is the needed power to enable the worshipper, even the true worshipper, to render it suitably to God's nature as well as His relationship as Father. But the work in her soul was not complete till He stood revealed in her spirit as Messiah come, the Declarer of all things to us: so she expected and confessed, and yet how much more the reality and fulness!
At this point, the most solemn and blessed for every soul that knows it, when God reveals Himself in Christ to the needy and guilty but now the sinner repentant, came His disciples marvelling that He was speaking with a woman. For even they still shared the Jewish pride which despised the sex. How much greater their astonishment, had they known what she was, and what were His communications of infinite grace! "The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, Come, see a man which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?"
It was the simple effect of divine truth acting on her heart, now that her conscience was before God. To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose, or matter, under heaven, a time to seek, and a time to lose. So she rightly felt the all-importance of the moment, not for herself only but for others. Her ordinary duty could well wait. It was nothing to her now to avoid the concourse of women at the well, for she clearly had been alone there. What were censorious tongues now? She had heard the Shepherd's voice. Had He not called her, knowing all she was and had done? She left her waterpot therefore. To know Him was the great business. Another time was equally good for the waterpot. But here was the Messiah, the Christ; and if He deigned in His compassionate love to make Himself known to her, convicted as she was, surely no sinner need despair. Without a command, as the fruit of His grace, she leaves aside what was earthly and perishing, she seeks to spread the blessed news, which filled her soul and made her forget herself and every consideration but of Christ and His goodness to such as she had been. "Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation," just expressed her new-born feelings, the activity of that life she had in Christ.
And so it is with souls born of God, who learn from Christ that the Father seeketh such to worship Him. As yet she was ignorant of dogma, but by grace She had received Christ, the despised Messiah, and the more despised because He was and is infinitely more, the Son of God, the Only begotten, full of grace and truth. Little she knew of "Him ; but she believed in Him as the Promised One, the destroyer of Satan, the Redeemer, not merely to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved of Israel, but given for a light to the Gentiles, that He might be God's salvation unto the end of the earth.
The Samaritan woman had already proved that His divine knowledge of her sins did not in the least hinder the outflow of divine grace to her soul. Grace had used truth to search her and put her in her true place, that she might be fully blessed of God and able to draw near in adoration as a true worshipper. Nor is there anything so humbling as the grace and truth that came by Jesus Christ When the prodigal came to himself, he made up his mind to say, "Make me as one of thy hired servants." Had he adequately judged himself, he could not have asked even this; he must have felt his unworthiness (so far as he was concerned) of any place whatever. But when his father ran and fell on his neck and kissed him in his rags, he owned his sin and unworthiness; but not a word of being made an hireling. It was, he now learned, no question of himself, but of the Father's love. So is it with our God and Father. He acts in His own love and for His own glory. And Christ alone has made it possible righteously by His propitiation; as He alone is the truth, the way, and the life, revealing Him as Father and God, that we may know the true God Whom we adore.
The woman in the energy of faith, not only leaves her waterpot for a more fitting season, but in her own way shows the effect of the truth that the Father is seeking true worshippers, as she also knew that grace can and does make poor sinners such. So it was with her. Now the positive power of the truth discloses itself. She seeks others, any, in the faith of His grace. "She saith to the men (that is, of the city), Come, see a man which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?" And she was right, truly guided, where human learning and genius have utterly failed and prove their possessors to be but blind guides who only lead and fall into the ditch. She was right and testified of, and in, the grace that blessed her. For Christ is man, yet as truly God, the only Man Who ever thus told all to the sinner, the only bearer of his sins on the tree, that we being dead to sins should live unto righteousness. It is a suspicious faith that does not subordinate earthly claims to Christ, and that burns not to make Him known to the lost.
11 We have heard Him ourselves.
(B.T. Vol. 19, p. 104-105. Gospel No. 1:11.)
There is no salvation without the revelation of God to the soul, and this is in Christ His Son. The warrant is the word of God, and now the written word (or scripture) on which rests all the authority of what is preached or spoken. This the Holy Spirit in quickening power carries borne to the soul, not only convicting the conscience but winning the heart to God through faith in the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
God graciously employs, not an angel, but a sinner born anew to convey the truth to others, as we see herein Samaria. "And out of that city many of the Samaritans believed on Him because of the word of the woman testifying, He told me all things that I did." It was a true work of God, and in the ordinary way of grace through the word dealing with the conscience. There was no miracle, any more than persuasive words of human wisdom, but demonstration of the Spirit, that their faith might stand in God's power.
And the Lord Jesus acted in that grace which the apostle only learnt in their measure years afterward when propitiation was made and the Spirit was sent down. For when the Samaritans came to Him, they besought Him to abide with them, and He abode there two days. "And many more believed because of His word, and said to the woman. No longer because of thy speaking do we believe; for we have heard Him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Saviour of the world."
It was the simple and blessed fact for these Samaritans, the beautiful foreshadowing of the true and unchangeable ground of faith for all that should hear and believe the gospel when the Lord would not be personally on earth. Any one and any thing may arrest souls by revealed truth; a man, a woman, a child; a sermon, a conversation, a book or a tract. But whatever the means, the soul believes God; and without believing God there is no true faith, no divine authority and grace over heart and conscience.
Hence the Samaritans, struck by the converted woman's testimony, justly bore witness to the word of the Lord Himself. Hearing Him, they knew and believed the love that God has to us. Having received His testimony, they set to their seal that God is true. And as they thus believed God in the full revelation of Himself in Christ, we may surely say of them what scripture attests of Abraham when he believed God in a far less measure of light, that it was counted to them for righteousness. For living faith ever brings the soul before God, where it has His light whereby to judge itself. But God revealed in Man, and that Man His only-begotten Son, brings His love near to the heart in a reality beyond all thought, and rises above all sinfulness, proved (as we can add) in His death, that we might possess known remission of sins through His blood, and thus the conscience purged from dead works to serve a living God.
It is a, universal truth, in short, that the sheep hear the Shepherd's voice, and that they follow Him, for they know His voice. What these Samaritans enjoyed as a literal fact is no less true of all who believe the gospel. And Christ came that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly; or, as His servant wrote, died for all, that they that live should not henceforth live to themselves but to Him that for them died and was raised. Thus all things are of God Who reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ and gave us the service of reconciliation, the spirit of which is plain for the Samaritan woman; as the contrary of it appears in such as place themselves or other men between God and the soul, denying His grace and intercepting His right.
The Lord Jesus was just the One to do the work of God; for as on one side He was God, so on the other He was Man, in one person, come here below to declare God and reveal the Father, to bear the sins in His own body on the tree and thus enable the believer to draw near to God without fear and assured of His perfect love. "Lo, I come to do thy will, O God" said the psalmist prophetically (Ps. 40) of Jesus. More than a thousand years after inspired David, wrote one equally inspired to expound him, "by the which will we have been (and are) sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Heb. 10.).
Christ alone reveals God as light and love. By Him alone mercy and truth are met to-ether; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. All other systems, all adversaries of Him, are but thieves and robbers whom the sheep hear not. But His word is as divine as His work. As one of them said, Thou hast words of eternal life; as He said Himself, The words I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. When He went away on high, the Holy Ghost was sent down to abide for ever with those that believe, to glorify the Son that glorified God the Father, and to guide into all the truth. So that no excuse for unbelief is valid on the score that Jesus is gone. It is expedient for you, said the Lord, that I go away: for if I go not away, the
Comforter (Advocate) will not come unto you but if I go, 1 will send Him unto you. Thus the Spirit ever fully takes of the things of Jesus and declares them to us, teaches all things, besides bringing to remembrance all that He had said, bears witness of Christ far beyond what the apostles saw or heard though with Him from the beginning. For the Spirit was sent forth from heaven where Christ is now exalted, as He had indeed many things to say to them, which they could not hear till He was glorified.
How blessed then that, when we hear the apostles' words, it is still Christ speaking in them! If any believe not, it is because they are not of His sheep, the test of whom is that they hear His voice. But He adds "I know them, and they follow Me; and I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall pluck them out of My hand. My Father who gave them to Me is greater than all; and no one is able to pluck them out of My Father's hand. I and the Father are one" (John 10:27-30).
12 The Saviour of the world
John 4:41, 42.
Gospel Words Series 1, No. 12.
The Samaritans besought the Son of God to abide with them, and there He did abide two days (ver. 40). What confidence on their part! what grace on His! Others more favoured, who despised them, besought Him with one consent to depart from them (Luke 8:37). Who else are recorded as ever preferring such a request for His presence? But those who asked received a blessing both now and evermore, as faith in Him ever does. "And many more believed because of His own word, and said to the woman, No longer because of thy speaking do we believe, for we have heard ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Saviour of the world."
Truly a noble and most suited confession! No Jew did or could then have uttered it. It was God choosing the foolish things of the world that He might put to shame the wise, it was God choosing the weak things of the world that He might put to shame the things that are strong; and the ignoble of the world and the despised things God chose, the things that are not, that He might bring to nought the things that are; so that no flesh should boast before God.
It was an anticipation worthy of His personal dignity, which faith saw and testified, as grace created and sanctioned it. The Son of God is recognised in the fullest sphere of divine mercy. It is the more striking because He had maintained the place God had given the Jews as compared with Samaritan pretension. As surely as He was the Messiah, so salvation is of the Jews. But the Jews, blinder than their blind whose eyes He so often opened, were rejecting Him though trusting their own thoughts and indulging their own will. And the rejected Messiah, about to taste its bitterness to the uttermost, was displaying grace and truth open to any needy soul, and pressing home the reality of that need, that He might bless according to the love of the Father. His own word deepened the conviction which the woman's testimony had awakened, and the faith of the many that believed expressed itself in the confession, "This is indeed the Saviour of the world."
Was it not all worthy of God and His Son? The sin of His ancient people, in despising the grace of the Messiah because He did not come in power and glory to exalt their nation and confound their foes, only gave occasion to more grace. So the Samaritans believed without a miracle, and entered into the blessing all the more deeply. They take their own place: not a word of rivalry with the Jew. They were sinners: Jesus is the Saviour. They were of the world. But "this is indeed the Saviour of the world." God saves not because we deserve but because He, Jesus, does; and we believe on Him.
As long as the Jew was under probation, this could not be manifested. But one of the peculiarities of the Gospel of John (and each has its special design, not merely from the writer's style, but from the particular purpose of the inspiring Holy Spirit) is that the Jews received not Christ, as we learn, from the very first. Hence a larger and deeper scope of blessing begins to shine through the clouds, even before the Lord's public testimony and right through it. This chapter is an unmistakable witness.
And is it all nothing to you, dear readers? Is not this, and more than this, expressly written that "ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing ye might have life through (in) His name"? John 20:31. Is it in vain that the Holy Spirit has perpetuated for you the grace that reached the many Samaritans? Or are you disposed to follow the proud and stiff-necked Jews in nullifying as to yourselves the counsel of God? If so, beware of perishing, as they did.
Beyond doubt, as all scripture declares, whatever be the grace of God, you forfeit it by unbelief. It is of faith that it might be according to grace. It is here you have sinned, and now you must be saved; and there is no means other than believing on Jesus. You in Christendom have heard more than either the Jews who refused, or the Samaritans who believed. And whoever you are, whatever you may have been, their testimony is for you, for anyone: "This is indeed the Saviour of the world." Such is the spirit of the gospel that went forth in due time to all the creation, as the Lord came expressly to call not righteous men, but sinners "To him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt; but to him that worketh not but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness" (Rom. 4:4, 5). Were it otherwise, no sinful man could be justified. Whereas, "when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly." It is the distinctive blessedness that God loves with no motive in the object loved, but because He is love. Hence says the apostle, "God commendeth His own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
And as the Samaritans at the beginning were divinely led to own the Saviour of the world, so the apostle John in his First Epistle, avowedly written for the dangers and evils of the last time, repeats the testimony when unfolding the love of God superior to all changes. "And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son as Saviour of the world" (1 John 4:14). Yes, but how am I to receive certainty for my own soul? "Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God" (ver. 15). It is the Spirit of God anticipating conscientious difficulty and satisfying the just desire of assurance from above in one who might otherwise be overwhelmed with the sense of sin. One cannot too much judge one's self, provided that along with it there is no distrust of grace. The person and the work of Christ account for salvation and the highest privileges to him that believes, were he chief of sinners. God puts all honour on the name of His Son, whether in blessing the believer or in punishing the unbeliever by-and-by.
To believe God's testimony is the first of duties, and Christ is the object of that testimony. So, when the trembling jailer at Philippi fell down before Paul and Silas he said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" The answer was, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house." The way is simple, the warrant sure, the salvation rich and full. The call of God is to believe on His Son, the Lord Jesus, the result is salvation for all that believe, the house no less than its head. Hence it is His commandment that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ: loving one another follows, as He gave us commandment. But it is in vain to urge love, holiness, or anything else till we believe on Him.